Monday, April 25, 2016

The Master Copy

Simon looked with satisfaction at the machines that charted his remaining health and dreamed of all that he would achieve in the afterlife.

His body had long since announced it would fail him and he was a man defined by contempt for failure. As each limb had atrophied, each organ wasted he had devised alternatives. Some were better, some worse, he clung to existence more from defiance of decay than joy in life.

His obsession brought wealth. Each time he cheated death he found a market eager to emulate his success. Every new prosthetic found applications in industries ranging from gaming to private militaries.

"What separates us from the beasts? Is it our opposable thumbs? Our fragile lower backs? Our eyes that see but a fraction of the spectrum of light? The bonds we forge in family? No. It is our ability to transcend these weaknesses of our current form."

"Is the spear not superior to the fist? Can we not rely on the written word with a thousand times more certainty than our corruptible memory? My heart served me adequately for the better part of a century before it gave in to the vicissitudes of biology. Its replacement bears no such weaknesses. It will last a hundred years, we produce a thousand units a month, each is identical, replacement is facile. But why stop with something so trivial, so unimportant as a heart?"

The voice that filled his chamber was not his in the ordinary sense. Generated from samples of great orators past it had been an indulgence of Simon's, its crafting taking significantly more time and creativity than a utilitarian drive would warrant. He watched the reporter as his prepared speech continued. Young. Nervous. He would not have allowed otherwise.

"Yes. Simone. The diminutive. apt. Like Simon.  but less. Her work. Showed promise."

This voice was truly his. Clipped. Measured. Metered to the artificial rhythm of the ventilator that drove what remained of his lungs. He used it to buy time as his eyes flickered and jumped through the air, navigating lists of prepared speeches in search of one relevant to this digression. If his face still expressed emotion it would have registered boredom.

"Throughout history man has sought to escape the limitations of the human form. He has used tools to amplify his labour, built libraries of knowledge far exceeding the capacity of any one individual, and committed his ideas to future generations. In that time he has also learned to delegate his work so that the feeble capacities of his being can be expanded. We see this in the taming of the wolf for its enhanced abilities to hunt and track, the horse, for its strength as a beast of burden, and also in how those of greatness have been able to adapt others to serve as extensions of their will. It is by this distribution of effort and ambition that mankind has come to this precipice of this final stage of evolution -  freedom from the human form itself."

The reporter did not make notes. Everything Simon said was recorded, both his modes of speech transcribed and available for download from the room's exit. It had been made clear that deviation would have career limiting consequences. Questions rose, crashed against the intimidating room, and retreated without gaining voice. Simon's database of prepared speeches was not accessible outside his custom interface but it seemed clear that none spoke of the human warmth he had once expressed when first facing death.

That would be the final reporter to hear his breath form words. In keeping with his final wishes Simon did not have a funeral. The body that had failed him was burned and disposed of, unmarked, with the rest of the facility's waste. The few who wished to mourn him were denied the chance - more metal than flesh at his end, Simon viewed his organic death as a welcome change in state and did not entertain other opinions.

Simone closed the door on his new form,  steadying her hand for the final click.  His victory over death had only amplified his arrogance and further banished the vestiges of the heart they had once shared. She spent the next minute focused on three long breaths to will her heart rate down. From her phone she connected to a hidden server farm, access protected by her very DNA, capable only of sending images and sound.

It had been expensive but she needed speed unlike anything conceived before. And its reliability was a matter of many lives. Her investment, her life's savings, had secured a thousand and twenty four cells which formed humanity's first virtual prison. Inside each one an identical copy of Simon awoke, immortal, sentient, and utterly alone.

She smiled.

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