Saturday, August 29, 2020

Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida: Beyond (Part V)

I was named for a play on science words, which if you knew my father, would make perfect sense. I’m not certain what he would have done if the woman he impregnated had any other surname, but I wouldn’t have put it past him to just make one up for me. Abigail Genifer Siskin. Abiogenesis is the process by which nonliving matter evolves into living matter. At some point in Earth’s history, nothing was alive. There were rocks, and gases, and lots of other elements, including carbon, but there were no organisms. Then later on, there was life. How long did that take, how did it happen, and why? These are questions scientists have still not answered, but we’re all pretty confident about the idea of abiogenesis, because any competing theory would be paradoxical. Life had to start somewhere—even if it happened a million light years away, a billion years ago—and my father says I’m the embodiment of that.
I’m nobody, though. I mean, I’m not nobody, but don’t expect some crazy story about how I came into being. Tamerlane Pryce didn’t create me by shooting a bolt of lightning into a stone. He conceived me with my mother the old fashioned way, so him calling me Abiogenesis is really just about his compulsion to make everything about science, whether it’s relevant or not. And again, he didn’t give me her surname to be progressive, hip, or woke. He did it for the nickname, because—and I say this with all the love he deserves—he a basic bitch.
I hate my father, which is why I locked him in his tank, and I haven’t let him out for months. He’s the stellar neighborhood’s foremost expert in consciousness transference. The good people of Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida asked him to come here so he could use his expertise to build up their recreational ventures. Well, he’s done that, and we don’t need him anymore. People come here to temporarily load their minds into artificial animal bodies, and explore those animals’ natural habitat without interfering with them. They use his technology on Earth now too, which is presently the only planet we know of with such diversity of life. Anyway, this obviously isn’t the only application of it. There are many ways in this day and age to be immortal, but one of the ways he uses to avoid death is to transfer his mind into a backup body whenever anything goes wrong with the one he was in before. What he didn’t consider is the fact that he can’t kill himself and trigger a transfer if he’s unconscious and trapped in a clone tank, waiting for his rebellious daughter to decide to let him out. I won’t do it, though. He’s not a good person, and he’s been around for centuries, and if I killed him, I would be doing the galaxy a huge favor. The only reason I haven’t is because I don’t know how. I don’t know how to prevent him from transfering, or from just having an outdated backup somewhere else. I don’t tell people that, of course. They all think I’m keeping him alive because killing is wrong, or whatever.
I’ve moved on from him, and I’ll only go back to worrying about it once I discover a weakness to mind transference. It’s pretty difficult, because there’s always a chance he’s set aside a contingency I never knew about. If I were him, I would send a darkbursting automated ship to the Andromeda galaxy in case a cataclysmic failure took out all my other clones.
Right now I’m with my new family. Thor Thompson is another immortal human, who Pryce used as his test subject for a new substrate that would have turned my father into even more of a threat. There’s also Trinity Turner, who literally created this world. Nearly everything here was toxic to humans when she set foot on it, so she spent decades altering the native organisms on a molecular level, without changing anything else about them. Good thing she’s from the future, or her dream would have been impossible. Our friend, Ellie Underhill also has a time power; one which Thor and I are presently learning more about. “You’re bringing everyone who has ever lived in the history of Earth, and the stellar neighborhood, back to life?”
“Yeah,” Trinity confirms. “I know, it’s—”
“I don’t think it’s crazy,” I assure her. “I’m just...what are ya gonna do with them?”
Trinity and Ellie give each other a look, which they’ve been doing a lot lately, since they keep a lot of secrets from me. “We’re going to put their consciousnesses in a simulation,” Ellie answers.
“Why?” Thor questions.
“We don’t think they would do well in base reality,” Ellie continues. “I mean, well, some people would. You take anyone from, maybe the 22nd century, and you can get them up to speed. Hell, it might even be okay if we tried to integrate someone who regularly used a personal computer while they were alive, because at least they can fathom the concept. Anyone earlier than that, though, is going to freak out.”
“So, will you convince them they’re in heaven, or are you going to simulate the world they were living in at the time, and make them just think they survived death?” Thor knows what kind of questions to ask.
“A little bit of both,” Trinity says. “They’ll know they died. We’re not going to try to convince them that nothing happened. They’ll eventually wonder why nothing else has killed them, or why other people aren’t getting hurt, and all that. We’re not sure where to go from there, though. Can we tell them this is the afterlife when it’s not true?”
“Well...” I start to say. “It will be true. If this is universal, it’s no less of an afterlife than a so-called real one. Perhaps this is all destined to happen, and every theory about the afterlife is partially true, because you’re building it for them.”
At that, we stop talking for a good period of time. We all sit down, and stay in the room together, but we think on the matter in our own heads. I don’t know exactly what they’re thinking about, but I know what I’ve come up with, so I speak first, hoping it’s something reasonable. “When are you planning to start this? Will we bring back our primate ancestors? What is a human?”
“We’ve chosen five thousand years BCE,” Ellie replies.
“That’s as far back as my camera will go,” Trinity adds. She carries a magical camera with her that lets her travel to the past, and even the future. Someone else apparently invented the camera for her, and it automatically took pictures from all throughout history.
“We don’t have enough data from before that. So when we say we’ll bring back everyone, that’s a bit of an exaggeration.”
“Either way,” Thor jumps in, “how are you going to explain that? I don’t know much about the brain, but this neural implant you came up with, you’re going to give it to everyone in the past? Won’t people notice they have one, but their ancestors didn’t?”
“Those are the logistical issues we’re still working on,” Ellie says with a nod. “Neurolemmocytes already exist, but there’s no difference between the ones found in the central nervous system, and the ones in the peripheral system. What we would have to do is replace the ones in the brain with ours.”
“Won’t people eventually figure out there’s something strange about them?” I presume.
“They’ll probably give them another name, because they will see a distinction,” Ellie explains, “but they will function just as the real ones do. They’ll just also have this mind transferring characteristic they would never think to test for.”
“And do our primate ancestors have them?” I press.
“They do,” Trinity answers. “Evolution invented them a really long time ago. Even invertebrates have them.”
“This sounds incredibly complicated,” I tell them apologetically. “And when I say complicated, I think I mean impossible.”
“That’s why you got me.” Oh no. It’s my father. He’s somehow broken free.
Trinity and Ellie have known him longer than me, so they’re not exactly pleased he’s awake, but they’ve developed coping mechanisms. I’m pissed because my plan didn’t work, and Thor’s the worst off, because he doesn’t fully understand what this guy’s deal is. All he knows is that they’re never gonna be buddies.
“Oh, don’t look so surprised and upset,” he says to me. “I always have another plan, and I don’t blame you for trying to sweep me under the rug.”
“What was your plan? How did you get out?” I ask.
He chuckles. “I obviously can’t trust you with that information. Just know that there’s nothing you could do to get rid of me.” He sizes Thor’s new body up. “I built this new substrate to make myself stronger, but I don’t need it to be a survivor. I accomplished that a long time ago.” He claps his hands together abruptly. “That’s not what we’re talkin’ about, though, are we? You’re trying to save the human past. You’re gonna need me to do this. Trinity’s got the connections, Ellie’s got the power, Abby’s got the ideas, and I got the brains.” He looks back over to Thor. “Oh, and I guess you’re still here too.”
Ellie and Trinity have another one of their infamous psychic conversations. I’m starting to think that’s not just a metaphor about their facial expressions. They may have actually formed some kind of psychic bond that either can or can’t be intercepted.
“Don’t do this,” I say to them, shaking my head.
Trinity sighs. “There’s a reason I brought him to this planet in the first place. To be honest, waking him up was probably inevitable. I don’t like it any more than you do, Abigail.”
“I doubt that,” I contend, standing up defiantly. “He’s my dad, and that can never be undone. You, on the other hand, chose to associate yourself with him, and I won’t be a part of it.”
“Wait,” Thor says calmly. “He was right when he said we need you too. These three are clearly strong and capable individuals, but they don’t have your creativity.”
“We just met,” I argue.
He smiles at me. “I’ve grown pretty good at knowing when I encounter someone who’s the polar opposite of me. Before he interrupted us, you were saying you had an idea. I would like to hear it.”
“His interruption wasn’t a single moment,” I say. “It’s still happening.”
Thor nods understandingly. Then he stands up coolly, and punches my father in the throat so hard, it collapses his windpipe, and kills him pretty much instantly. I think there’s something seriously wrong with me, because I’ve never been more attracted to anyone in my whole life.
Ellie rolls her eyes, and starts swiping on her device. “He was listening to our conversation before he walked into the room. He must have hacked into our security system, and I don’t feel like correcting that right now. So if we want to continue our conversation, Trinity can transport us somewhere he can never go. I honestly don’t know where this photo was taken, but the person who took it claims there’s nowhere safer, and I trust him with my life. He said I would know when I needed it. Maybe this isn’t it, maybe it is.”
Trinity takes a look at the photo. “You say you trust him? This could be anywhere, anywhen. Who are these people?”
“You trust him too,” Ellie says. “I don’t know who the people in the photo are.”
“All right. I could do with a break from this place,” Trinity decides. “I wanna hear your ideas too, Abigail.”
We crowd around Ellie’s device, which is displaying a jungle. My eyes burn, as they do when Trinity is traveling to a different time and place through one of her pictures. In a second, it’s over, and we’re standing in that jungle.
“Whoa,” I hear behind us.
We all turn around to find a small group of people. There’s only one person I recognize, though. I saw a clone of his body in a tank for decades of my life. Mateo Matic.
“Ah,” he says. “This is unexpected. We were told there would not be a transition window today.”
“Where are we?” I ask.
“This...” he begins, building suspense, “is The Parallel.”

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