Image from Bernd Helfert
My eyes came open.
Soft light came in, a window, perhaps, a turquoise sky.
Serah was sitting at my bedside.
"It's okay, you are fine. You have arrived, everything's fine, " she said.
Liar, I thought. I focussed on her face; she looked troubled. What's the problem, I thought, aren't you pleased to see me? But I said nothing.
I lifted up my arm; it was wrapped in polymer and cooling fluid. Inside the wrap my skin was hot, like new baked bread.
"Whuguh?" I said, speaking round some soft tube in my mouth I couldn't spit out. Serah took it out for me.
"You need to put on another ten kilograms but you are doing fine. Well. Here you are "
"Yes, here I am."
" I didn't really expect you so soon. You said you were going to send a copy after six months, once you had finished your ocean research."
Liar, I thought. You didn't expect me at all.
"I exercised my option early."
"Good, good. How are you getting on back on Terranova? How am I getting on as well? I mean my original. How is she doing?" she asked.
"Fine," I said. I can lie too.
"I - she hasn't written to me for more than a month. Last thing she said, you were all going on a trip in that old yacht round the islands."
"Yes. We did that." Oh, yes, we did that.
I pretended to be bored. "So this is Roanoke, is it? Pretty sky you've got here."
"It's artificial, a membrane to keep the atmosphere in. They change the colour every so often. This is a small world, it can't keep hold of its atmosphere very well without a membrane to hold it in; but it is a small community, everybody knows everybody, you know what I mean. You will like it here, I think," she said. "Did you send a copy to the other worlds as well?"
"Yes. I expect I am waking up on Nadia and Hammerstein and Twinkle around about now, and talking to you, just like this. It is more personal than writing a letter."
I wanted to scratch my new body under the plastic, but my fingers were too clumsy.
"It is odd how she hasn't written to me," Serah said.
"Your original?" I asked her, in what I hoped was an innocent voice.
"Yes, she used to write every week. Of course I wrote back, but my mails won't get to Terranova for another twenty years. But there is no time lag from there to here, is there? Mail travels at light speed, just like full copies for engeneration, doesn't it?"
"Yes, just like me. I have just beamed across twenty light years like an e-mail just to see you."
A copy of a person's mind state, and of their DNA, can be sent by laser from one system to another; here, on Audubon and on a number of other new worlds a new body can be grown in a matter of days. It is much easier than sending us by starship. However, it feels a little odd, to say the least. I was literally growing a new body moment by moment, and was as weak as a kitten. For now.
She didn't seem too happy to see me.
"Was Thom on the boat with you? With us? Round the islands?" she asked, nervously.
"Yes, for a while. Then he ran off with some island woman; we never saw him again." Another lie.
"I was worried, the three of you in that rickety old boat, with no computers."
Yes, you would worry, wouldn't you, after a month with no word about how your sordid little plan had unfolded.
"About Thom... we are seeing each other, here on Roanoke," she said, carefully. " You did know he had sent his copies to these new worlds as well, didn't you?"
"Actually, we want to get married, I really need to talk to you about a divorce. I'm sorry," she said. That was no surprise at all, of course.
Ha! You never realised that my wristwatch had a personality as well. A little partial copy of myself to keep an eye on the wind and the tides while I was asleep; a little cheat to keep us safe. You didn't realise that my watch would see both of you when you crept in and killed me.
I don't think you even realised I had a backup copy of myself in the University library. You didn't realise that my watch would communicate with my virtual in the library, and that my copy would tell the rickety old boat to scuttle itself.
With you, and him, on it.
Far from land.
It was my duty as a husband to arrange for my only remaining consciousness, the University Library copy, to be sent to the four distant worlds where you were still alive, and break the bad news in person.
Yes. I will tell you, and Thom. Just before I kill you.
An eye for an eye for an eye for an eye.
By Steve Bowers (2008)
More informationThe Audobon Engenerator
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