Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida


My alarm goes off, but I just let it play. The persistent beeping is almost pleasant to me now. It reminds me that I’m still alive, despite everything. I don’t even know how old I am now. I should know, and I would if I were younger, and I will once I’m younger again, but my mind is too hazy. That’s when I know, though. That’s when I know it’s time to go back and start over. My counterpart—the one you would be forgiven for calling the real Paige Turner—is immortal too, but in a different way. She upgraded her substrate with technology. Nanites repair damages, organs regrow themselves, or can simply be replaced with no rejection problems. She can interface with other technology, and even download information into her brain. I thought about doing this, but it comes at a cost.
I was born a human, but when I was a child, I accidentally stepped through a portal, and was accidentally granted special time powers by my soon-to-be adoptive father. I learned that I could travel anywhere in time, as long as I could see it, usually with a photograph. It has to be real; I couldn’t simply ask someone to paint me a picture of what they think the year 40,000 might look like, and then jump into it. I can teleport by line-of-sight too, but I find myself not doing that very often. I don’t really know why. The point is that when my other self upgraded herself, she lost this power. It made her immortal, yeah, but it also forced her to live through linear time, unless she finds someone to take her to some other point in time. I couldn’t live like that. I had a job to do, and it required the ability to go back and forth between Earth and where I live now, Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida. This is a beautiful world, though saying that is a bit self-aggrandizing, because I am responsible for people’s ability to experience it. Nearly everything on this planet was toxic to humans when I arrived. I spent decades modifying the genetic structure of every living creature, so that would no longer be the case. But in order to do this, I needed my own form of immortality.
During my travels, I came across a special object with temporal properties of its own. It’s not the only way to stay youthful, or live forever, but it’s the way I chose, and today is the day I go through it all again. If something goes wrong, however, I have to make sure my partner is prepared to move on without me. “Stop alarm.” I slide my legs across the bed, and let them fall to the floor. I make a lot more noises when I move now; yet another indicator that it’s time to use the stone. I struggle to get my nightgown out from under my ass, and pull it off. Then I stand up and walk over to the closet. My robe isn’t there. Did Ellie take it? Why would she do that? I step into my slippers, and shuffle outside, down the hallway, and into Ellie’s workspace. Man, why did I build this place so damn large? Oh, that’s right, it’s designed for young whippersnappers.
“You have forgotten your clothes, Lady Trinity.” Ellie chose a different way to stay young. She’s not completely immortal, like Paige is. She only drank Youth water, so if someone goes after her with a spear, or something, she’s in trouble. She started calling me Lady Trinity once I got old enough, and says she’ll stop once I reyoungify myself.
“Did you take my robe?”
“Oh.” She grows solemn, even though it’s not a bad day. “Is it happening?”
“I’m not dying, Ellie. I just need my robe. It’ll be fine.”
“You switched rooms years ago, remember? You left some stuff in the old one.”
“That’s right.” I remember now. I start shuffling that direction.
“Do you want help?”
I stop, and look over at the tank. I know she asked me a question, and I even know what it was, but my mind is too degraded for me to reliably carry on a continuous conversation. “He looks ready.”
Ellie walks over and gently caresses the tank. “I’m not sure how old he was when he died, but yes, it’s about time for him to be reborn. We’ll do it today, right after you get back. You’ll have the same birthday.”
I giggle. That’s not really how it works. The body in the tank is in a completely different situation than me. He doesn’t need to be reyoungified. In fact, the reason why it’s taken us forty years to bring him back is because we wanted him to be older, just as he was when he was murdered. It is indeed time to finally end the process, though. “Start the preparations. I’ll only be gone a couple minutes. That’s how long it’ll take me to get to my old room.”
“You have the stone?” she asks.
I open my hand, and show her.
“Be careful.”
“As always.” I get moving again, back to where I used to sleep. I don’t recall why I switched rooms. I think it had something to do with our associate. He’s not a good guy, and I was sick of living so close to him. Or maybe he had nothing to do with it, and I just needed a change in scenery. The automated cleaning systems have kept it in perfect condition, like I never left. “Hey Thistle, open the closet, please.” I would normally just do it manually, but I’m anxious to confirm my robe is in there. I could just print a new one; it’s not a big deal, but every time I decide to reyoungify myself, I’m worried something will kill me at the last second. It’s this last day each time that stresses me out the most.
“Can I come with you?” I didn’t realize she was in here. She doesn’t like her father any more than I do, so I shouldn’t be surprised this is one of the places she likes to go to get away from him.
I sigh. “Go home, Abby.”
She stands up. “Please. I want to see it. I want to know what you look like when you’re young.”
“And you’ll see me when I get back.”
“Can I at least be in the photo you take?”
I sigh again. “If you must.”
“Here. I’ll help you put that on.” She comes over, and places the robe over my head. Then she tugs at it to make sure it’s set right. “So ominous. Why do you do it again? I mean, it’s not like you don’t know who the people in the other robes are.”
“A wink, or a twitch, or a scar under my eye,” I start to explain to her. “It could give something away. I don’t want to know what my future looks like. It’s best if we just stay robed up. Besides...” I pull the hood over my head. “I have to wear the robe, because one thing I do know about my future is that every version of me always does.”
I forgot my photo device, so Abigail lets me use hers. I’ll literally only be gone a few seconds, from her perspective. “Say homestone!”
I hold up the camera, and smile. Then I snap the photo, squeeze the stone in my hand, and disappear.
The portal my now-fathers brought me through was at Stonehenge on October 8, 1971. The homestone has allowed me to travel back to that very moment, and in doing so, it also returned me to the age I was at the time. I’m back to being a twelve-year-old girl, which means I’m smaller, and the robe doesn’t fit as well. But that’s exactly what I want, because it obscures my face. Several other people are standing around in identical robes. But they’re not really other people. They’re me. They’re all me. I’ve done this many times already, and I will do it again in another seventy years or so. I can see a few of them from under my hood, but I don’t want to be able to count them. There aren’t millions of us here, so I know I’m not destined to live hundreds of millions of years. At some point, I give up my pursuit of everlasting life. That could mean I will upgrade my substrate, just like Paige!One. Or it could mean I manage to get my hands on immortality water. But the most likely explanation is that I eventually die, and the cycle finally ends.
This is the sixth time I’ve used the homestone. I don’t always let myself get as old as I did this time. One time, I was poisoned by a turtle-like animal on Bida, and had to jump back, even though I was only in my thirties. In all those times, I have not yet become the version of myself who’s over there, talking to The Delegator. Stonehenge is like his office. He’s responsible for giving a certain type of time traveler called salmon their assignments. I don’t come here on purpose. The homestone will always bring me back to the last place I was before I traveled through time for the first time. So I don’t know why this other Trinity feels the need to converse with him, and I definitely don’t know what they’re talking about. Presumably, none of the others do either. We’re watching them, even though we know the whole point of the robes is to avoid altering the timeline by knowing too much about it. One by one, they all look at their photo devices, and disappear back to their future. I need to follow suit, and go back to 2300, where I belong. I take one last glance at the talkative Trinity, then gaze at the photograph Abigail and I took together. Just before I jump into it, I see something that I have never been here long enough to notice. One of the other Trinitys attacks the talkative one. I have no clue why, and I’m gone before I can find out.
“You’ve been gone a long time,” Abigail says to me.
“I have? Oh my God! How long?”
“I’m kidding!” she assures me. “It’s been two seconds.”
“Don’t scare me like that. Jesus.” I pull the robe off, much quicker than I could before, because I’m strong and youthful again. This makes her a little uncomfortable. A naked old woman isn’t the most appealing thing to see, but it’s a whole lot less problematic than the body I’m sporting now. “Sorry. I should have prepared another set of clothes.” I grab the first outfit I find, and throw it on. It’s a dress. I’m wearing a dress. I’m wearing a dress that’s three sizes too big for me, and I’m about to go back to the lab. I hate being quite this young. I’m always at my best when I’m in my twenties. But the homestone wasn’t invented to make people immortal, and I’m never given a choice of how old I become when I use it. It was designed to let people go back to the beginning. Perhaps time travel screwed up their lives, and this is the next best thing to an actual reset button. It doesn’t let them undo everything that happened to them up until that point, but it does give them a second chance to lead a better life, starting right where they were when it all went wrong. In some cases, their loved ones won’t even know they were gone, since no time will have passed for them. The reyoungification feature is only there to help facilitate this ruse. I found another use for it, though.
Abigail and I leave the room, and head back to the lab. Ellie is there, running a diagnostics check on the machine. She’s further in the process than she should be already.
“Ah, Turtle Toes, you’re here.” This is what Ellie calls Abigail. “Did it go okay?” she asks me.
“Perfectly,” I answer. I choose not to tell her about the Trinity fight. If I could forget it myself, I would. “I’m a little young for this mission, though. Maybe we should wait.”
“His body will be too old by that time, and people will notice. I can do it myself.”
“No, that wasn’t the plan. I was just an old woman, and I was too cognitively impaired to think this through. This is wrong. We have to extract him together.”
Ellie smiles at me, and leans down to get on my level, which I just kind of find insulting, because I’m not really only twelve. “There’s something I never told you.”
“What’s that?” I ask.
“I’m, like, nine hundred years older than you.” She converts the smile into a smirk, activates the time chamber, and disappears into it before I can stop her.


I can’t travel through time on my own. I can send messages through the timestream, but I can’t actually travel to these places unless I have help. Fortunately, my ability gives me access to people who can give me that help. Throughout my travels, I’ve learned to endear myself to others, so they do what I need them to without question, or compensation. I’m not evil, so I’m not trying to manipulate people, or anything. I just want people to be nicer to each other, and the best way I know to teach them that lesson is to make it personal. I’ve kept a lot from them, though. You see, one thing I learned about my abilities is that they’re a lot more complicated than I knew at first. Yes, I can teleport sound, and yes it also allows me to carry on conversations across time. That’s not all, though. I can also teleport my entire consciousness. Theoretically, I would be able to do this to take over someone else’s mind, but that’s always been very distasteful for me. So I only do it to myself.
I periodically send my mind back to my younger body. I don’t do this to make myself youthful again, since I drank a couple bottles of water once to stay young anyway. No, I just don’t want people to know how old I am, and what I’ve been through. When I go back in time, I prevent myself from doing all the things I did. So I can recall those experiences, but they never happened to anyone else in this timeline, so they don’t know that. I’ve given people my age every once in a while, and it’s always a lie. I’ve kept really good track of how long I’ve truly been around. At the moment, it’s been 24,425 years, across an ungodly number of timelines. Most of the timelines have been about the same. It’s not like I go back and make a bunch of changes to history. I just wanna see it all, and I need time to do that.
Anyway, I’ve just stepped into a time chamber in 2300, and ended up back in 2256, because not everyone has the luxury of reversing their timelines. I have to save a very important man’s life, and I’m going to do it in a different way than anyone knows. I’m standing at the bottom of the cliff, back pressed against it. Mateo Matic is dying a couple meters from me, but I can’t help him quite yet. His murderer is still watching him, not to make sure Mateo dies, but because he isn’t a natural-born killer, and he’s freaking out about what he just did. I’ve seen this moment a few times, so I know exactly what happens. Four, three, two, now.
I dive down to Mateo. I don’t have long before he expires, and it’s too late. Briar killed him while wearing a special temporal object called the hundemarke, which means that this moment absolutely cannot be changed. If I don’t do this right, I won’t be able to go back and try again. This is it. I place my hands on his head, and concentrate. He coughs blood onto me. Man, I really wish I had more time. I have never tried this before, but I know I can do it. If I can do it to myself, I can do it to someone else. I close my eyes, and breathe deeply. I’m almost there. He’s in a vulnerable position, which is actually good, because it makes it easier for me to enter his mind. Just a few more seconds. There. I grab his consciousness from his brain, compress it, and teleport it all into my own brain.
Before anyone can come down to retrieve Mateo’s now completely dead body, I activate the recoil protocol, and jump back into the future. Trinity and Abigail are standing there, waiting for me, but they both look older. They look much older. I grit my teeth, and stare at them. “How long has it been?”
“Eleven years.”
I tap on my tablet, trying to figure out what went wrong. I should have only been gone a few seconds, just like Trinity when she went back in time to reyoungify herself. “Are you joking with me, err...?”
“No, you have been gone eleven years.”
“Why are you in this room right now?” I ask them. “How did you know I would finally return today?”
“A little bird told us,” Abigail answered.
I watch her a moment. “Do you mean that literally...?”
“Yes,” Abigail began, “a flying creature came to us, and told us to come back here on this date, because you would be returning. They flew off before we could find out who they were, or how they knew it. We chose to take their advice, and it looks like they were right.”
I look back at my tablet. “I don’t understand what happened.”
“It could be sabotage,” Trinity offered, “or a malfunction. The point is you’re here, and I assume you have the crown.”
I growl, and take the device out of my bag. It’s little more than a paperweight with pretty lights around it. I claimed that it can absorb someone’s consciousness, and store it, and that it’s what I’m using to save Mateo. Again, I don’t know for sure why I lie about my powers; it just makes sense to me. “I do. I was successful, but...”
Trinity peers at me. “But what?”
“The clone body is in its fifties now. That’s way too old. When he goes back to his friends in 2258, they will see that he’s aged, and our lie won’t work. We’re supposed to make them think someone rescued him with an extraction mirror.”
“I don’t understand that,” Abigail said. “Why didn’t you just use an extraction mirror? It sounds easier.”
“Mateo’s death cannot be undone. An extraction mirror would allow us to take him out of the moment he died, nurse him back to health, then put him back into his old life. He would one day have to go back through the mirror, and experience his death, which we don’t want him to have to do. But that’s not the biggest problem.”
“His body cannot be saved,” Trinity answered before Abigail could press it. “Your father performed the autopsy, and I got a second and third opinion. Once Briar pushed him off that cliff, it was over. Not even the extraction mirror could save him from that. We tried to use it before he was pushed, but the hundemarke blocked us. The clone body is our only hope.”
“Except it’s not anymore,” I complain. “We let it grow too long. I’m too late.”
“How long will the crown house his consciousness?”
“What?” I question.
“How long?” Trinity presses.
“Forever, I guess, until the parts degrade.”
“So, twenty-nine years should be a piece of cake.”
“You’re growing another clone?” Now who’s keeping secrets?
“The bird came to us the day you left,” Abigail explains. She walks over and presents me with a second tank, right next to the other one. “We started Plan B immediately.”
I smile. “I’m glad you two are here to sweep my mistakes away.”
“It might have been necessary,” Trinity says to me. “Tamerlane examined the first clone for us. I don’t think it would have worked.
“Why not?”
“He thinks he screwed up the sequence,” Abigail answers instead. “The first clone wouldn’t be on Mateo’s original pattern. It would have just been a normal guy.” Mateo Matic is a salmon time traveler. He only lives one day every year. At the end of that day, he jumps forward in time, and this aspect of him is critical to our plan.
I nod. “Someone from the future is pulling strings. That’s who the bird was.”
“Yeah,” Trinity says. “It’s possible. I’ve seen it done, just not with birds.”
“No one else is supposed to know we’re doing this,” I preach to the choir, “or how we’re doing it.”
“I know,” Trinity agrees. “Perhaps that’s being a little too optimistic, though. I want you to check that crown, and make sure he’s in there. Keep checking it for the next three decades, until we can finally finish this mission. We’ll need time to work out the kinks in the time chamber anyway.”
That’s a long time to keep a second consciousness dormant in my head, but I think I can swing it.

Twenty-nine years later, it’s finally time to complete this mission. The second Clone!Mateo has aged in his growing tank enough to return to his time period, and make everyone think it was due to an extraction mirror. We could have increased the speed of development using any number of techniques, including time travel itself, but that’s problematic for the endgame. In order to force this clone to experience time in the same way the original Mateo did, it was best to let it grow at a normal rate beforehand. Of course, when it comes to time travel, it doesn’t really matter anyway. When I insert his consciousness into the new body, and send him back in time, it will be the same 2258 as it would have been had we tried it twenty-nine years ago.
Speaking of Mateo’s consciousness, I can still feel it rattling around in my brain. It’s not awake, and he will hopefully never know he was ever in there, but as far as I can tell, he’s completely intact, and ready for his new life. Mateo 2.0. I’ll have to call upon my acting skills to convince him of the lie, so he can convince everyone else without having to lie himself. There’s a chance it’s pointless. If the truth ever, ever comes out, everyone will always have known. Because time travel.
I tell the others that it’s best if I do this alone. When he wakes up, Mateo is going to have to interact with someone, but there’s no need for him to know too much about the future, or who else is involved. They have plenty of things to do on their own, so they don’t argue with me about it. I place the clone body on the bed, and inject a sedative, so he doesn’t wake up while I’m still in the room. Right now, the body doesn’t have a consciousness, but it still possesses its autonomic functions, like breathing, and pumping blood. As for the brain, it only has one thought. I implanted a memory in there, which will remain even after I teleport Mateo’s mind into it. Like I said, I have to make him think that he was rescued with the extraction mirror. So he should have a vague recollection of that happening. He’s going to remember time slowing down as he was dying, and being dragged from his place of death, and pulled through the mirror. The memory doesn’t have to be perfect, or detailed. After all, when you’re dying, your ability to make accurate observations about the world is limited.
After I’m finished reversing the consciousness teleportation process from forty years ago, I check his vitals, and wrap him in bandages, to make him think he simply received medical treatment, even though his body is fine. We talked about giving him a pain inducer, so the idea that he has to recover from his injuries is believable, but decide against it. He’s going to think a man named Dr. Baxter Sarka treated him, and being from even deeper into the future, Sarka has access to untold resources. Mateo’s going to be perfectly accepting of the idea that it’s possible to remove someone’s pain without leaving them with side effects usually experienced from narcotics.
He awakens a few hours later, and falls out of bed. I’m right. “Baxter!” he calls. “Are you still here?”
I calmly but quickly walk back into the room. “Hey Thistle. Set the lights to twenty-four percent, please.” The lights turn up, but not too brightly.
“Report,” Mateo says after he’s certain that he recognizes me.
“I’m sorry to tell you that you died,” I answer professionally. “We used an extraction mirror to bring you back to life, if only temporarily.”
“Do you know how I died?” he asks.
“Yes. Do you?”
“I remember everything. I’m just worried about saying something that messes up the timeline. Where’s Briar?”
“He died long ago.” This was either a lie, or true. I don’t actually know what happened to him. A few of our friends took a ship to some unknown location, and Briar went with them as a prisoner. We’ve not heard from any of them since. Briar ages strangely, so he could still be alive, but it’s not guaranteed, and I don’t want Mateo thinking he has any hope of going after him. I don’t want any more violence.
“What year is it?”
“That I cannot tell you.”
He understands. “What can you tell me?”
“Only that we’re returning you back to your life. It’ll be 2258, after your memorial.”
“I appreciate it. I think it would be weird to attend my own funeral.” He switches gears. “Is Sarka still here?”
“He had to go to another appointment.”
“Thank him for me, if you get the chance.”
“Will do.” I pause a moment. He lies back down to work off the sedative. “Are you okay, emotionally speaking? I can’t imagine what it’s like to survive your own death.”
“I’m all right. I’m grateful to you, and him, and anyone else involved, who I presume I shouldn’t know about, at least not right now.”
“Do you want a hug?”
After the hug, I remove a syringe from my bag, and place it on his nightstand. “You’ll need thirty more minutes to recover, so don’t take this yet. Once you do, it’ll give you enough energy to stay awake for about twelve Earthan hours. Take it just before you leave, so you can reunite with your friends without falling asleep on them.  When it wears off, though, you will fall asleep, and you’ll stay that way for almost a whole day. Just go to bed, and let it happen.”
“Got it. What can I tell them? More to the point, what can I say to the younger version of you?”
“Tell them someone extracted you, but you don’t know who. You don’t have to worry about telling Past!Me anything. I never saw you back then. You must sneak past me, or I erase my own memories, I don’t know.”
An hour later, Mateo injects himself with the stimulant, and just hangs out in his recovery room until the crash. He doesn’t explain why he does this, but when he reawakens, I usher him down the hallway, and into the time chamber, so he can go back to where he belongs. It’s true that the past version of me never saw him alive after his death. I think he slips into their spaceship while I’m not looking, and doesn’t come out before it leaves for a new destination. At some point later, he’ll actually go back in time, to a very distant planet called Dardius, so he can attend his own real memorial service in person. Thousands of people are, were, and will be there with him, including me, Trinity, and Abby, while billions more watch on television. Then it’s time for us to go back to work.


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.


I blink and look around, immediately seeing a mirror next to my chair. It’s facing away from me, though, so I turn it. It’s my old body. Well, no it’s not. But it’s at least my original face. “Report,” I say to the girl standing on the other side of me. I just keep looking at my reflection, though.
“I was gonna put you back in your new body,” the girl replies, “but then I thought maybe you would prefer to look as you did before. Everything my father explained to you about how it works—how strong and resilient this substrate is—remains true. Now you look like yourself, though.”
I sigh, and lean my head back. I close my eyes, but it doesn’t have the same relaxing effect as it once did. Even after I started upgrading my body with technology, this would help make me feel better. Way back in the day, futurists would boast about how powerful we would one day be. They were right, I installed incredible physical strength, endurance, faster processing speeds, and lots of other stuff. What they failed to realize was just how beautiful it was to be a living organism. These upgrades cause you to lose something about what it feels like to be alive. Sleep was something I always took for granted, because it took eight hours out of my day, and I didn’t have a choice. Ancillary to that was the ability to close my eyes, and shut the world out. While I could still hear, suppressing some of the stimuli still helped slow my brain, so I could calm down when my emotions got the better of me. I actually had to downgrade my systems after I realized I added too much, and lost my ability to sleep. But that only lasted so long. I never want to age or die, so I later had to upgrade again. Sleep and immortality just don’t mix, I guess; I don’t know.
The only solace I took in my new situation was that I could turn my systems off. I could shut myself down, not entirely, but close. I could still maintain my perception of the passage of time. Other people would find this horrific, existing inside a void, conscious of their own existence, but unable to do anything. I embraced it, because it was the closest thing I could find to sleep. In fact, I loved it so much that I set a timer to not wake me back up for five hundred years. I wasn’t even in there for a hundred and fifty years before this girl’s father forced me back awake by transferring my mind into a new body, and then promptly destroying the old one. I don’t blame her, though. I’ve only known her for a few minutes, but she doesn’t seem to be on his side. She may actually be the best person I’ve ever met in my life. After several seconds of my eyes closed, I start feeling a sense of sleepiness. It’s not enough to make me fall asleep, or even start nodding off, but it’s definitely more what I’ve been missing for centuries. I almost feel human again. “What’s going on? I’m a little tired.”
She smiles. “That means it’s working. I modified more than just your face. I installed a hibernation mode. You still won’t need to sleep, but you can, whenever you want. You’ll also wake up if, say, a saber-toothed cat shows up to attack you, but you should otherwise be good.”
“That asshole could have given me the power of sleep, but chose not to?”
“With more time, yes,” the girl answers. “He didn’t think to include that, but I’ve been working on it for months. You’ve been completely dormant this whole time.”
I stand up out of the chair. She’s right about how she changed me. I’m a little weak, like a regular person would be. It’s nothing I can’t get over,’s amazing. “Oh my God, thank you so much. I don’t think I could explain just how important this is to me. I haven’t felt this great in centuries.”
“I’m glad you like it. My name is Abigail, by the way.”
“Oh, yes, sorry. How rude of me. I’m sure you know this, but let me introduce myself. I’m Thor Thompson.”
“It’s nice to finally meet you. I grew up on this planet, and I passed your storage case every day to get to Trinity and Ellie’s labs. I always wondered what you were like.”
I accidentally release a scoff, but it’s a Freudian slip, because what she said deserves it. “I’m not that great,” I admit.
“Oh, I’m not so sure about that. Way I hear it, you were one of the first colonizers of Mars, and you were directly involved with Operation Starseed.”
Project Stargate was a secret endeavor to send automated ships to every single star system in the galaxy, so people could travel to them instantly with quantum communication technology. Operation Starseed was a super secret companion to that, which added biological samples from Earth, so life could be seeded on those planets. The public wasn’t sure whether they wanted us to conquer the Milky Way, which is why a few key people in the government gave the greenlight without telling anyone. The public was pretty much completely opposed to Starseed, though. Some people were cool with it, but the majority found the prospect irresponsible, and upsetting. Together with my friend, Saxon, I was in charge with transporting the samples to the launch site in a star system called the Gatewood Collective. Only an even fewer number of government officials, time travelers, and time-traveler adjacent people knew anything about it. “Those are just accomplishments, and they say nothing about my character. Your father is quite accomplished too, isn’t it?”
“That’s true, but Trinity and Ellie have said good things about you, and I trust them.”
“Are they still here, or did they move on?” I ask.
Abigail checks her watch. “They’re at work right now.”
“Why did use airquotes?” I question.
“It’s because of something I learned about in my studies,” she says. “People used to have set hours that they would work. They had these things called jobs, so they could make money and if they wanted to survive, they had to have one.”
“They didn’t have to have a job, or even money, to survive; only if they wanted to live in town. They could go off and live off the land, if they wanted to. But go on.”
“Obviously we don’t have jobs anymore. People just work on things that they want to do. But Ellinity like to pretend it’s the olden days. They live farther away from their workspaces than they used to, and they go into work every day. They don’t leave until the work day is over.” She seems to think this is silly, and it is.
The old ways made some bit of sense at one point, but not in a galaxy where quite literally all work can be automated. I have a better appreciation for it, though, since I grew up in a time period where work was ubiquitous. The only people who didn’t have jobs were too rich to need them, or too poor to get them. The irony in that is precisely why we did away with money. I nod. “That’s hilarious.”
The doorbell rings. Abigail answers it, then lets Trinity and Ellie into the room.
“Mr. Thompson,” Trinity says. “How are you feeling?”
“Better than ever.”
They look at me funny, not because it’s a bad answer, but because it’s uncharacteristically genuine of me to say.
“No, really, I am. I’ve always wanted to live forever, but never wanted to lose what it means to actually be alive. If I were to ever consume the Immortality Waters, I wouldn’t take Energy. I like sleep. You guys get it.” They’re both immortal too, but in their own ways, and they’re still fully biological.
“That’s great,” Ellie says. She almost sounds bubbly again. It’s not that she was faking it, but she does kind of have two sides to her. When she meets someone new, she’s really outgoing and carefree, but once she learns to trust them, she’ll let a little bit of that go, and act more reserved. I hope this doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel she can trust me anymore.
“What are you two working on?” I ask them.
They look at each other, like two secret agents, who know they can’t talk about their work with their old roommate from college, who they’ve just run into in a bar.
“Whoa, sorry I asked.”
“No, it’s okay. It’s just—” Trinity closes her mouth tightly, not to keep herself from explaining, but so she doesn’t say it the wrong way.
“It’s a crazy idea.” Ellie can’t go any further either.
I look to Abigail, who shakes her head. “They won’t tell me either. It has something to do with dead people.”
“We didn’t wanna say anything until we knew we could do it.” Trinity finally feels like she’s ready to talk. “Making ourselves look insane is a lot easier now that we know it’s a real possibility. We’re just not sure about the ethics.”
“And some of the logistics,” Ellie adds.
“Come on guys, what is it? Dead people?”
Trinity gestures towards Ellie. “I’ve learned something about her ability. She can teleport people’s minds. Regular people. Of course, you can upload yourself into another body, but she can do that with anyone, or herself, with no technology.”
“We’ve figured out how to harness that, and mass produce it,” Ellie explains.
“You’re gonna use that to bring dead people back to life?” I imagine.
“Yes,” Trinity answers. “All of them.”
“All of them?”
“Literally everyone who has ever died.”
“With these.” Ellie holds up a stack of microscope slides. “I call them synthetic central nervous neurolemmocytes. They will change everything about everyone.”


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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