This week’s prompt led to a short story, science fiction, and is a play on some science that actually exists, although not yet this mature…
Glass and Grape
The blackberry note was nice, but the green… Adriana gently spat the wine back out into her waste cup and shook her head faintly, regretfully. Her agent, who was always watching, nodded in an equally minute motion.
Setting both glasses down where they could be whisked away, she turned, and startled.
“Ah! Grayen, what…” She put a hand on the base of her throat, feeling her pulse racing.
“My apologies, Adriana. I’d forgot how focused you could get.” The younger man, his chestnut curls tousled in contrast to his immaculate evening wear, really did look and sound contrite.
“I was not expecting you this evening.” She forgave him, wordlessly.
He stepped aside, just enough to let her pass. “I hadn’t planned to come.”
She walked forward, her eyes skimming over the room. Tall tables, each holding a bottle of wine and pairs of tasting glasses. People scattered around the room, loosely clustered. Buyers, agents, vineyard reps, and the usual randoms. Like Grayen. She looked at him.
“What do you want?” She asked without an effort at more preamble. She was busy. Wines to taste, and possibly buy. The materials scientist fit in, visually. It was the mind behind those eager puppylike brown eyes that stood out in her world.
“Can’t I just be here for, er…”
She laughed. She couldn’t help it, the amusement rose out of her like a bursting bubble.
“You hate the taste of wine, my dear. No, you cannot. Come.” She commanded, making her decision.
Without waiting to see if she were obeyed, Adriana made her way across the room, her entourage in tow. Grayen matched her stride, rather than falling in behind, like the others.
“Yes, I’m here for you.” He sounded cheerful. “I have something to show you.”
“Really?” Adriana nodded at another taster as they passed, her professional smile never slipping. “If this is about glass, darling, I shall never give in.”
They reached her destination. Grayen wisely shut up while Adriana greeted the representative. He stayed a step back, clearly not in the tasting zone as he thought of it, and watched the two women.
They knew one another well, he could see. Adriana even relaxed a little, her posture softening as they talked about children and grape vines in the same tones. Both women were of a certain age, although Adriana had allied her black tresses to go mostly gray, while the other was dyeing hers. Grayen could tell by the sheen on the keratin.
Patiently, he tuned out their words as they drifted into weather three years ago and how it might have affected the vintage on the table, in the cylindrical green glass bottle. It was the bottle which interested him, and the chemical interaction with its contents.
You can analyze wine down to it’s last molecule, Adriana had told him once, but no one can predict how it will taste. Glass, it seemed, affected that vital bit of near-mystic sense.
Adriana completed her ritual, her face blank as she turned inward, to the wine in her mouth. Then she swallowed, smiled, and nodded, before embracing her friend. Finally, she turned to Grayen.
“Thursday.” She said.
“At Cogrants.” He replied. He hadn’t expected her to want to see it now, and wasn’t prepared for it anyway.
“It is not glass?” Adriana looked up at him, just a little. He wasn’t a tall man, and she was not a tall woman.
“It is not. I maintain that people want wine, and people want to live and work in space, and glass is heavy, ergo expensive. But this is a synthesis of something else. Something that might make glass feasible.”
One dark, elegant brown arched. “Here, and I thought we would argue glass until my death.”
He smiled serenely. “Thursday, Grandmother.”
Adriana laughed again. “Imp. I shall arrive promptly at nine.”
He bowed a little from his waist and then made his exit. She didn’t watch him go, having already selected her next target.
Adriana knew why her great-grandson had chosen Cogrants. She held her hands out as the proprietor met her in the foyer. He took them and leaned in to kiss her cheeks, smiling.
“It has been too long, dear friend.”
“Pierre, how is Valera?”
He pulled a face. “She is the same, no better, no worse.”
Adriana squeezed his hands, then released them. “Will it be a help if I come to scold her?”
“Ai!” He smiled, and this time it reached his eyes. “Would you?”
“In the morning.” Adriana meant it. “She is a friend, as are you. Ageless, all of us!”
Valera’s body was no longer reacting to the longevity treatments. She was fading, and all of them knew it. But she would not go alone and forgotten. She would be loved to the end, and Adriana fussing at her and having a gossip would be a tonic.
Pierre’s eyes twinkled, but he returned his face to a professional mien.
“May I show you to the table?”
Adriana took the elbow that he offered.
“I feel as though Grayen roped you into this scheme of his.”
“If so, he is a deft cowboy.”
Pierre opened a door, and Adriana saw Grayen getting to his feet and coming to greet her. He was, again, in the evening garb he’d worn to the tasting.
“You look lovely, Adriana.” Like Pierre, he took her hands and kissed her cheeks.
“You are flattering, dear boy. If you weren’t buttering me up, it would be ‘grandmother.’”
She smiled and looked around the cozy little room. There was a single table, set for two, near the fireplace, where a small fire crackled merrily.
“I see wine glasses.” She sat as he pulled out the chair for her. “What a surprise.”
Grayen chuckled. “I wouldn’t dream of supping with you, without a touch of the grape.”
“And yet, there’s no bottle.” She heard the door open and turned to look. “Pierre, just what have you and this boy cooked up?”
Pierre didn’t answer, but she saw the corners of his eyes crinkle in suppressed amusement. She watched as he placed two bottles on the table, gently. One she recognized immediately, the other…
“What is this?” She reached for the dusty bottle.
“Ah! Ah! Patience, woman.” Her great-grandson intercepted her hand. “Let Pierre work his magic.”
“Very well, then.” Adriana leaned back again.
Pierre produced his corkscrew with a flourish, then opened the labeled bottle. He offered her the cork, but she waved it away.
“I should know that one, since I ordered it laid down myself.” She cocked an eyebrow at her descendant. “Cheeky of you, to pull your birth vintage.”
“Lucky year, darling.” He grinned and leaned back.
Pierre ignored their banter, and gently uncorked the other bottle. Adriana’s eyes narrowed, and she leaned forward. Through the thick glass, she had seen something odd. Tiny sparks of light?
“Let it breathe, Grandmother.” Grayen’s voice was soft, but he, too, was leaning forward to look at the wine bottle.
“You don’t expect me to drink it.” She wasn’t asking a question. “Or there would not be two bottles.”
He met her eyes. “I don’t know. It was laid down three years ago. It could be undrinkable.”
“So. This is… something else.”
“Yes.” He shrugged and looked at Pierre. “Thank you. Would you like to join us?”
The older man shook his head. “I must see to others. But I will return when I can.”
He left the room, Grayen looking after him.
Grayen spoke without turning his head, and quietly enough Adriana wasn’t sure she was meant to hear. “He never stops working.”
“It is his… prop. What keeps him upright.” His grandmother was feeling her age, thinking about it. “If he had too much time to think about Valera, he would collapse with her. So this is keeping him distracted.”
His lips twisted as he thought about this. “I’m too young.”
“No argument from me, dear.” She looked up as the door opened and a server entered with their dishes.
They spoke a little of family, and drank Grayen’s birth year while they did so. The other bottle stood, sparking deep in the inky depths of it’s contents. Adriana refused to ask, and Grayen pretended it did not exist. They were near the end of their meal when Pierre came in, carrying three wineglasses.
Adriana eyed them. “Those are…”
“Not the usual shape, I know.” Grayen cut her off. “This is… special.”
Pierre set down the glasses, and at a nod from Grayen, poured the heavy red carefully.
Adriana gasped. As the wine flowed, there was a brilliant blue flash. As the liquid settled into the glass, the light formed into an image. A perfect little hologram, hovering over her glass.
“A message in a bottle.” Grayen was smiling, now. His eyes reflected the blue of his own glass.
Adriana looked at him, then back at the message playing over the dome of light her wine was emitting. “How?”
“It’s powered by the oxidization of the wine itself. The nannies are in the wine, perfectly safe to drink. It’s all biochemical. You don’t have to breed it into the vine and grape.”
He cocked his head. “Too gimmicky, darling?”
“No. Yes, yes it is, but you are right. This, they will pay for. A message direct to the consumer? The novelty alone, and the wine could be plonk. They don’t care, they can’t taste it anyway.”
Adriana looked at Pierre. “You knew, and said nothing?”
“It might not have worked. The lad came to me with it in confidence, and,” Pierre shrugged. “He is a good boy. You are not wrong about the marketing of this.”
“It can say… Anything?” Adriana read what her glass was telling her.
Her lips quirked.
“‘To the moon, and then the stars’? Bold of you, child!”