"I can give you what you desire, but you won't like it."
"No double-talk. I want the next longevity formula. Just send it up."
"Very well," said the artificial voice. The longevity formula appeared on the screen. The man examined it, and his patience, already limited when dealing with Earth, wore ever thinner.
"I think that something got scrambled in the transmission. And, really, I thought that you were beyond that sort of thing."
"I assure you that it is fine. I will re-transmit to verify." The new formula matched the old.
"This is ridiculous. You've got pi on these two branches."
"I knew that you wouldn't like it. This is why. Pi is the chemical symbol for pseudolithium."
"And what exactly am I supposed to take this 'pseudolithium' to be?"
"Like all chemical elements, pseudolitium is defined by its central positive material charge. In this case, it evaluates to approximately 3.14159--"
His fist slammed down on the desk. "And just how, pray tell, does one go about making matter with 3.14 protons?"
"The unit that you call a 'proton' is merely a highly probable state," continued the voice unchanged, "which happens to be the most commonly encountered one outside of the nucleus. Any non-negative value is actually possible, though most are unstable. Some values, such as pi, can be stabilized--"
"Forget the lecture. I'll just use lithium. There's plenty enough of that as it is."
"Lithium's charge is incorrect. For the formula to have the desired effect, the nuclear charge must be stronger by approximately 0.14159--"
"And what would you have me do? I've got a barely-functional particle accelerator as it is, and now I'm supposed to make some kind of hadron that shouldn't even exist?"
"The hadron theory is now defunct. However, for your more practical concern, you could always return to Earth."
He paused for a moment, a thought calming him. "Is this what it's become, then? Is this your latest ploy to get me back to Earth?"
"Though we would like you to come back, it is no ploy. You can verify for yourself that the formula given will indeed bring your body closer to immortality."
"You know what? I think that I'll do just that." With that, he cut off the transmission, then jettisoned the latest q-box. (Perhaps overly precautiously, he ensured that he would not be followed.) Staring out into the black, he thought about what he had just learned: the changes to particle physics, the chemistry of the formula, the means to generate such a non-integral element. "Well, I suppose that there's nothing for it now but to do science to it."