Saturday, August 15, 2020

Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida: Amoral (Part III)

My name is Tamerlane Pryce, and I’m not a bad person. Don’t listen to the rumors people spread about me. Did I break the rules? Yes. Do I regret it? Absolutely not. The establishment doesn’t want to admit it, but my work has been instrumental in the salvation of our species. Without me, people would still be stuck in their one body. There is no telling how many people I saved by not waiting for the science to catch up with our imaginations. The fact of the matter is that humans are true immortals now, and they couldn’t have done it without me, and a little bit of questionable ethics. That’s the thing about ethics; no one really knows what’s right, and what’s not. Everyone is just trying their best to do what they think is right. It may be right for only them, or maybe it’s for the whole world, but very few people actively try to do the wrong thing, and they know who they are, and that they’re not heroes. I’m a hero. Like I said, I saved lives. I gave people the ability to transfer their minds into new bodies. I won’t apologize for how I went about accomplishing that.
Now, some will say what I did, and how I did it, was unnecessary. Other people were certainly working on the same thing, but not like I was. They weren’t willing to take risks, and ignore the detractors. I don’t let myself get bogged down by the little things. I have a job to do, and I’m gonna do it. And now my job has changed to something else. Well, it’s not really new; it’s more of an extension of what I’ve been working on for centuries. The transhumanism movement has been attempting to improve the bodies that we live in since before it was possible to modify them with technological upgrades. Some think they’ve figured it out, and they’re happy with their own physical limitations. There’s still a lot they have to do, though. They keep having to drink, whether it’s gear lubricant, or regular water. They have to rest, and they have to worry about getting too hot, or too cold, and they’re still a little bit worried about dying. I’m trying to get rid of all that.
Now, technological implants are great. It’s really nice to be able to replace your body parts at will, or interface with computers. I’m personally not a fan of it, though. I’ve been looking for a wholly organic solution to the problem of mortality. I want to get this right, though, so I’m taking my time with this one. The year 2400 sounds like a good opportunity to finally turn myself into pure perfection, but there’s a step that comes before that. I need a test subject. The whole point of doing this is so that I can be the strongest, most powerful, impossible to killiest creature in the universe, but any defect could cause my death. To be safe, someone else is going to have to be the first one. Back in 2263, a man living on this planet decided to shut himself down. He had already been alive for 234 years, thanks to the tech I was telling you about. I’m not completely sure about his reasons, but it doesn’t matter too much. Like me, he plans to be around for trillions of years, so a few decades in power-saving mode is faster than the blink of an eye. He’ll be the perfect specimen for this test, and the best part about it is that he’s already incapacitated, so he won’t fight me on it. I complete the transfer before he knows what hit him.
“Tell me what you’re feeling.” I’m ready with a tablet to record my observations, and his responses.
I half expect him to flutter his eyes, and gradually reawaken, but he just pops his outer lids open, and looks directly at me. “Report.”
“I have uploaded your consciousness into a new substrate,” I explain to him.
“Why? What was wrong with my old one?”
“Nothing,” I tell him honestly. “I wanted you to be the first of a new species.”
He sighs, and takes a cursory glance at this body. “Transfer me back.”
“I’m afraid that’s not possible. I did destroy it.”
Most people would be extremely upset about learning this, but not Thor Thompson. Dude knows what’s up. “Then go back in time, and prevent yourself from destroying it, so I can have it back.” He does talk forcefully, though.
“Don’t you want to test this out first?”
“I did not consent to be your guinea pig,” he argues.
“No, I stole your mind, I admit to that. I think you’ll be pleased with the results, though, so I’m not worried about retaliation.”
He’s still pissed, but apparently willing to give me the benefit of the doubt. He closes his eyes, and tilts his forehead towards me, offering me the talking stick.
“This substrate is pretty much perfect,” I begin. “It’s cephalopedal, which means that brain matter is spread throughout the entire system. It’s nearly impossible to break apart, but if that ever does happen, any single body part should be able to remain alive, and independent from the rest, until such time you’re put back together. If you can’t be repaired, your thoughts and memories were copied and distributed, so the surviving parts can regrow whatever they’re missing, until you’re whole again.”
“What if multiple body parts survive, but separate from each other? Will that mean a bunch of different versions of me could regrow themselves?”
“Yes,” I reply. “You could create a copy of yourself, just by cutting off a hand. I don’t recommend trying it with just a single finger, though. I don’t think your entire consciousness can fit in an area that size. Now, understand that this does not make you more intelligent. These are constantly updating copies of the same mind. You’re still you, and you’re still responsible for learning new information, and exercising your mind, in whatever ways you choose.”
“Is that it?” he asks.
“Not by a longshot. Your body itself is also perfect. Like I said, your skin is impenetrable, but it can do more than that. It can process any atmospheric environment, and either filter out toxins, or convert it into energy. You can breathe underwater, or on a methane planet, like Titan. You can absorb solar energy to keep yourself moving, or even utilize the minimal ambient heat in a deep, dark cave, until you slowly crawl yourself out of it. You can turn air into water, and once that water is inside of your body, it will recycle it until it reaches diminishing returns, and then replenish itself with the moisture in the air again. Or you can just drink it, like normal people do.
Internal organs are programmed to replicate themselves upon being damaged, but these organs are different from the ones you’re used to. You now have two hearts, three and a half lungs, six of a kidney-liver filtration hybrid. You do have the equivalent of intestines, but they operate a lot more efficiently than the naturally evolved ones, and they take up a lot less space, which leaves room for all the other things. Now, back to the skin, it’s a pressurized system, which would allow you to survive extended periods of time in a vacuum. Should you ever find yourself in that situation, your throat will close up, and begin recycling the oxygen by scrubbing the carbon. If you don’t get yourself back to a pressurized atmosphere in time, you’ll revert to a tun state, which can last for decades, if need be.”
“Like a tardigrade?”
“Exactly like a tardigrade, yes. They’re the best preexisting example of an organism that can survive outer space, so I researched them extensively.”
“I don’t have any nanites, or neural implants, or anything?”
“Nope,” I say proudly. “You’re completely organic.”
“Anything else?”
“Just basic things, like you’re immune to radiation, and your cephalopedal brain consolidates information in realtime, so you never have to sleep—”
“I can’t sleep,” he interrupts.
“Well, I mean, I just activated you, so you haven’t been able to try, but...”
“No, you said I don’t have to sleep, but what you really mean is that it’s not possible for me to go to sleep. I have to be awake all the time, no matter what.”
“I don’t see where you’re going with this.”
“What year is it right now?”
“It’s 2399.”
“So, I’ve spent about a third of my life asleep.”
“I suppose, yes. But you weren’t dreaming; you were shutdown.”
“I didn’t say anything about dreams. I was off, because I wanted to be. That’s a choice I made long ago.”
“When were you planning to wake up? I didn’t see a reactivation timer anywhere.”
“It was internal,” Thor answers. “It doesn’t matter now when I was planning to reawaken, or for what reasons I shut myself down. You took that away from me. I didn’t just wake me up too early; you made it so that I can never go back.”
“I understand you’re upset, but you’re a part of history. In the future, this is how people are going to be. They don’t need the implants anymore; not when there’s an organic solution.”
“A solution for immortality? That’s not all we’re going for. You can’t just project your feelings onto everyone else. I didn’t get to know you very well before I went to sleep, but I know you’re an amoral, self-serving narcissist, who doesn’t care about anyone else.”
“I care about my daughter,” I contend.
“You have a daughter now? Well, I feel sorry for her, because no, you don’t.”
“You don’t know me.”
“You did this for you, and if you’re too weak to acknowledge that...” He effortlessly breaks free from his restraints, and grabs me by the collar. “...then you’re too weak to live.” He lets me go for half a second, so he can reach up, and literally tear my throat out.
I immediately transfer into one of my backup bodies, release it from its preservation tank, and make my way back to the other wing of my lab, where Thor is removing the rest of his limbs from the chair. “I was told you had anger issues, but the way I understood it, you got over those centuries ago.”
He crooks his neck, and shakes around to warm up his muscles. He’s capable of motoring a lot faster than I predicted. I thought he would be immobile for at least an hour, while I stimulated his muscles with electrical charges. “It comes out every now and then...mostly when someone fucking kills me!”
“Well, now you’ve returned the favor, so I guess we’re even.”
He shuts his mouth deliberately, and flares his nostrils. He walks over to me, but it feels like he’s going a hundred kilometers an hour, because I can’t get away fast enough. He goes for my neck, but this time, he either snaps it, or tears my head clean off. I die before I can tell the difference.
“Okay, okay, okay,” I say when I get back into the room, from a different door this time, knowing he would be trying to figure out how to escape through the first one. “I took your life without you even knowing it, so that gave me a bit of an advantage. Now we’re even, though, all right?”
“I’ll decide when it’s all right,” he spits.
“Any idea when that might be? Believe it or not, every time you do that, I can actually still feel pain, unlike you, who can detect medical concerns on your body without it hurting.”
He approaches again, just as angry as he was each time he’s killed me before.
“Wait, wait, wait!” I cry. “There’s one characteristic of your new substrate that I’ve not told you about yet!”
More curious than anything, he lets me go, and takes a half step back.
I straighten my lab coat, and clear my throat.
“What have you not told me?”
“I gave you this body,” I start. “I can do this.” I lift both of my arms, like a brave king, addressing his loyal subjects from the balcony. I tap my thumbs against my fingers. Inside of each one is a circuit, and every time it’s pressed, this circuit closes, and delivers a signal. Most of the time, they’re meaningless. I can tap my fingers all day, and nothing will happen, but when I tap them in a particular sequence, which only I know, the signal it sends at the end activates a command. It’s like a 24-character passcode I carry around with me at all times. If he knew what was coming, Thor probably would have had time to stop me, but he’s too confused to do anything about it. The final signal goes out, and instructs his consciousness to leave this body, and transfer over to the fairy substrate I have locked in a cage on the other side of the room.
His tiny little face seethes when he wakes up again, and sees a giant come over to pick up his wee cage. I peer at him, and start carrying him out of the room. “I could have killed you. I still can. Don’t test me. This is my life’s work, and I won’t let a maze rat stand in the way of my accomplishments. Now that I know a consciousness can survive at least a few minutes, I can try it out on my daughter. She and I will become perfect, and you’ll just be a mortal fairy in your tiny body. You can sleep as much as you want.”
“So can you, dad.”
Abigail has walked in with a gun. She lifts it up, and shoots me in the head.
At first I wonder why she bothered. She knows I can’t be killed, but then I find that my tank won’t open. I’m trapped in here, staring at my daughter, who is flipping me off with one hand, and holding Fairy Thor’s cage with the other.

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