“So, he’s a doctor?”

“No. Ashton Miller actually ends up living on a commune in New Mexico. There’s kind of a Second Great Hippie Awakening in the 2030’s, only instead of young, disenchanted Baby Boomers leaving behind their parents traditional values, it’s a bunch of middle-aged, disenchanted Millenials dropping everything and leaving behind their debts.”

“Doesn’t sound like you joined them,” Mark said.

Mr. Cross scoffed. “They thought they were doing something new. They weren’t. They just had better drugs than their grandparents.”

“Okay,” Mark said. “He’s not a doctor, he’s a hippie. Did he discover some sort of natural remedy for the disease?”

“None of that,” Mr. Cross said. “It was much simpler, and so much more complicated than that. Miller was immune to the disease. He wasn’t the only one, but he was different. His immunity could be duplicated, synthesized and made into a vaccine.”

Somehow, despite everything that had happened in the past week, despite sitting at a table in a diner speaking to his future self about a plague twenty years in the future, Mark felt he had finally stepped into the realm of science fiction. “That can’t be possible.”

“Why not?”

Mark wracked his brain to pull up his basic knowledge of biology. “The technology doesn’t exist. I don’t remember much of my biology classes, but it would take years to figure this stuff out.”

“The technology doesn’t exist in 2014,” Mr. Cross asserted. “They knew he was immune because he was the only person on the commune who didn’t get sick, even though he cared for fifty sick and dying, highly contagious people, with really the barest of modern sanitation. Luckily, Ashton Miller actually believed in the commune’s ideals; you know, the group above the individual. He brought himself to the attention of the scientific community. And lucky the technology will exist, because they were able to isolate the exact nature of his immunity. And lucky, the plague was so devastating that the usual bullshit of patenting vaccines so only a few could benefit and profit from them was thrown out the window.”

“Sounds like he’s some sort of saint.”

“I don’t think many would call Ashton Miller a saint,” Mr. Cross said. Mark waited, but the old man didn’t offer any details.


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