This is an old short story of mine from about 10 years ago. Thought I’d post and see what anyone thought.
Michael T. Marsh
Malcolm opened his eyes as the moments before his most recent death played out in his memory. Billions of nanometer scale drexler assemblers, swimming in thick, gooey nutrient fluids, swarmed over, around, in, and through his body. They took him apart molecule by molecule; mapping the way nature put his body together. His final memory was of the two, tiny probes that pierced his skull just over the ridge of his eyebrows. Insertion points for the drexlers meant to unravel the secrets of his cerebral cortex.
Now, a sky blue ceiling laced with wisps of white clouds
hung just beyond the tip of his nose. For a few seconds, Malcolm
imagined he was back on Earth, gazing up at a warm summer day’s
sky. As his head cleared, and consciousness settled in, he
recognized the sky blue panorama. He painted it himself to the
ceiling of the Restoration Chamber.
Malcolm felt around until he found the exit toggle, and flicked it forward. The ornamental sky separated in the center, each half sliding neatly into the smooth walls of the Chamber.
Malcolm lifted himself off the rubber-lined bed. A thin film of terminated drexlers and their spent nutrient fluids caused a small suction between his body and the rubber lining. There was an obnoxious puckering sound as he hoisted his body up, over the edge of the Chamber.
“Ship?” He yawned, stretched, rubbed his wobbly legs.
“Welcome back to life, Malcolm. How does it feel to be biologic again?” The voice came from implants inside Malcolm’s ears.
Pressure in his bladder made Malcolm wobble the five paces
to the toilet pit. Restoration left the bladder full of terminated drexlers and depleted nutrients. They passed with body waste into the recycler system.
“Nice.” Malcolm sighed deeply. “It’s always nice to be alive again. How long?”
“Since LifeSeeder launched or since your last restoration?”
“Two hundred forty seven years, Earth Standard.”
Five hundred years since LifeSeeder and her sisters escaped Solspace. Malcolm whistled, then licked his dry lips. He made a few quick gestures on the pad by the Chamber. A small glass of water squeezed from the wall, onto a nearby counter. He took it, sipped, savored the feel of the water on his lips and throat.
He could taste the metallic flavor of Restoration residues in the water.
The murky goo of Restoration dripped from his naked caramel frame. He touched a small control pad near the toilet pit, and a seam in the wall appeared. Opening the shower stall door started the water stream. He held his hand under the stream until he was sure the temperature was right, then stepped in and rinsed off the film.
“Why so long since the last restoration? The transition is supposed to be normal lifespan.”
“There were complications. And resources are becoming scarce.”
“How are you holding up?”
LifeSeeder was thrown together quickly, from projects left untouched by the war with the Usurpers. Nobody could guess how long the ship would last. Five hundred years was already borrowed time.
“The feynmans and the drexlers have kept up repairs and maintenance but we desperately need a source of new material.”
“How is the Simulacrum?” He asked. Stepping out of the shower, Malcolm tapped the closet controls, and entered, basking in the drying warmth of its infrared light. He tapped commands on the pad inside the closet and scanned a holographic display of outfits. He settled on an outfit, hit the *accept* command, and waited the few seconds while a cloud of the gnat sized feynmans swarmed around him, secreting the fabric of the outfit, weaving it to fit him. He exited the closet wearing a cobalt blue jumpsuit and black boots
The ship paused before answering. “Around the time of your last deconstruction I collided with a cloud of dust particles. At the velocity we were accelerating the particles wreaked havoc on my systems and structure. There were multiple hull breaches, and damage to my processors as well as my systems. I lost storage and active memory capacity. To fix the physical damage, the feynmans and drexlers tapped into the destination stores. Recently I discovered that they have been doing so ever since. The organics for restoration of the True People are severely depleted. As are the stores set aside for your own resurrections. Because of this and the memory shortage, I elected to postpone your resurrection, and also to shut down the Simulacrum.”
“What? How dare you? You aren’t authorized to shut down the Simulacrum! You’ve effectively killed the True People! By what right did you tap into the organics? How will we restore them when we reach our destination? Your programming requires you to protect the True People at all costs!”
“Yes, Malcolm. But it also requires that I exercise self-preservation at all cost; otherwise the mission is forfeit! Within the self-preservation guidelines it was necessary to do what I have done. Now that you are biologic again, you may make whatever decisions you deem needed. My programming forces me to defer to your biologic presence.”
“Finding a home for the True People *is* the mission! How can we accomplish that now?”
“While I have been unable to locate a likely habitable world, there are several prospects where we might be able to replenish our stores.”
His face red with anger, his body shaking, Malcolm tried to calm down. He chose his words very carefully.
“Begin identifying the nearest prospect, calculate the time required to reach it at our present velocity, then make the necessary course adjustment. I’m going to fix the damage you may have caused the True People.”
“As you wish, Malcolm. Shall I prepare something for you to eat?”
Malcolm nodded; knowing the ship’s cameras would catch the gesture.
Memories from an earlier lifetime:
Luna, Farside. Explosions in the distance rumble loudly, shaking the regolith. People are rushing down corridors, into chambers, trying to keep their balance as the Base quakes and shutters. Little bits of lunar dust and rock fall from corridor roofs.
Malcolm is hurrying to the makeshift dismantling chamber. Nigel Crick is at his side, tall, thin, boisterous even given their situation.
“I don’t know if this is going to work. It’s ludicrous to even try!” Malcolm shouts over the sound of conversations going on between others equally hurried.
“It will work! It has to. It’s our only hope.” Nigel stops and sweeps his right arm out, nearly striking some poor Tech.
“Look at these people? They’re like lemmings! Or roaches when you turn on a light! They don’t know what to do. At least we’re trying to save True Life!”
Malcolm shakes his head. “By sacrificing what we believe in! We don’t even know if the technology will work!”
Nigel laughs a nasal snort. “It will work! I stole it from those bastards in the Habitats myself. I didn’t spend two years of my life infiltrating their datascapes for nothing! This will work. We’re going to win because we’re using the enemy’s own methods!”
Malcolm sighs deeply. Saddened, he asks Nigel: “But at what cost to our faith? We’re violating everything we hold dear! This whole war started because our side didn’t want to accept their enclave of A.I. and uploaded Human personalities as genuine Humanity. What are we doing to our faith?”
Nigel snorts. He shrugs and offers only a mischievous leer.
Inside the room, which houses the makeshift dismantling chamber, waits the representatives for the volunteers. Two hundred of the devout have agreed to subject themselves to the Jovian technology, fearing that all hope is lost for Earth.
Malcolm and Nigel enter the room, settle quietly into seats near the back of the discussion and listen as the one chosen to present the True People Volunteers’ concerns addresses the project leader.
“We want to make perfectly clear that although we agree there is a need to undergo this process, we wish to remain as untainted
as possible.” His name is only Simon, and he, like the volunteers themselves, is one of the last surviving Recanters. Simon pulls at the folds of his plain brown robe as he speaks. His voice echoes in the crowded room. His tone is that of a preacher to his flock.
“We want reassurances that our souls, our selves, will remain inviolate. We are Recanter. We have recanted the evils of technology. That we have agreed to this pact with Lucifer’s minions should demonstrate our sincerity. We understand the severity of True Life’s plight. The Usurpers ‑the rogues who hide among Jupiter’s moons‑‑ hold us at bay, tight in their demon claws. My congregation and I prayed to God, Giver of Hope and True Life, for answers. This unholy pact you offer may be that answer. Still, we seek these reassurances.”
Simon stays standing, holding his robe tightly, almost defiantly. Malcolm watches smiling, thinking that there but for the grace of God, could he himself be. Malcolm’s mother believed the Recanter Faith. When she died, leaving him orphaned, he was raised in the public housing system where he learned the mainstream faith of the Life Mother. He closes his eyes, trying to remember the Recanter prayer his mother taught him:
** Lord, Father. Grant me the strength to fight this Last Temptation. Help me to not succumb. Forgive me my sins and my weakness. Show me the Light of Your Way. Help me avoid the Downward Path. Help me to resist the Devil’s Gift. **
Malcolm opens his eyes, suddenly aware that he has spoken this aloud. The room is silent as the handful of Recanters watch him dumbfounded. Nigel is staring at him as if he has grown a second head. Malcolm smiles and shrugs.
“Well then,” says O’Malley, the project head whom Simon had spoken to. “Since he seems to have interjected anyway, let me introduce you to Malcolm West. Malcolm is heading the simulation section. He probably knows more about what your everyday life will be like then anyone else here.”
At the last statement, Nigel snorts annoyance. “Like bloody hell!” Nigel whispers. Malcolm puts a finger to his lips to hush Nigel. He stands to address those gathered.
“My apologies for interrupting,” he says. “A long time ago my mother taught me that prayer, and I’ve only now recalled it.”
“Perhaps this is a most fortuitous sign.” Simon remarks.
“More bloody likely coincidence major.” Everyone glares at Nigel.
“The simulation your,” Malcolm pauses, trying to word his thoughts carefully. “The simulation that you will be experiencing will run on memory borrowed from the main systems running the ship. We call the segment of memory the Simulacrum. It has been constructed to the highest level of detail possible. Once your personalities are copied into the Simulacrum, you will live normal lives. You will not be able to tell the difference. The Simulacrum mimics the Universe’s own holographic nature. The information that is ‘you’ will be the same, only the medium of storage will change.”
Simon raises his hand to stop Malcolm’s monologue.
“And how will we know that the ship itself, this machine we will be entrusting with our very selves will not be a tool of Satan?”
Malcolm turns to O’Malley looking for assistance.
“We wish you to choose someone to stay biologic.” O’Malley answers. “Someone who you will trust to ensure that no matter what happens, they will look out for your wishes. Because of the possible length of this trip, this person will have to agree to die multiple times, and be resurrected. The ship will be hardwired to ensure that there is always a biologic presence aboard. The resurrected person will essentially be cloned repeatedly, and memories transferred from copy to copy.”
Simon grunts. Murmurs from the flock fill the room.
“You’re asking one of us to do the unthinkable. We are way out of our comfort zone already. How can we willing turn one of ourselves over to the Devil’s Gift, to be repeatedly murdered?”
O’Malley sighs. “This is the offer we have. The Usurpers are winning this war. Earth has already fallen. This small Moonbase won’t last the week. If you want to survive, to carry True Life on, this is the only way. Or face extinction, like those of us who are sacrificing ourselves just to get you few away.”
“I am a weak man,” Simon says. “I and my flock have given into our fears, and accepted the Devil’s Temptations. To survive, by fleeing is one thing. To survive by compromising our core beliefs? This is something else all together.”
There is silence for a few minutes, as the truth circulates the room. The rumble of explosions can be felt as the farside of the base is struck again.
Finally Simon speaks again. “We will make this bargain with the Reviled One, so that our children may know peace. But we will choose our ‘biologic’ carefully.”
“The ship launches in 48 hours. Choose quickly.”
Simon looks directly at Malcolm and nods.
Malcolm carefully scrutinized each stored personality, running the files through a program designed to scan for write errors. When he was convinced everything was fine, he reinitialized the Simulacrum. Although there were backup files, Malcolm, like the True People, believed in the integrity of personal experience. It was enough that the True People compromised their beliefs by agreeing to be copied. The least he could do was ensure that they remained untouched.
LifeSeeder’s computer storage system utilized a series of crystals and light‑sensitive protein solutions. Most of the data it stored was either etched into crystals or stored as compacted, knotted protein arrangements, both of which could be accessed using lasers. The ship personality operated within a kind of virtual environment itself, borrowing storage memory to supplement active, randomly accessed memory. The personality was a compromise to ensure that LifeSeeder would be able to make intelligent decisions during the time Malcolm was dormant.
The simulated life was a trade‑off meant to make the thought of having to endure an existence similar to the Jupiter Usurpers more bearable. No machine intelligence could ever appreciate just how important a sense of True Biologic Life was to humankind.
Malcolm understood LifeSeeder’s dilemma better than the ship
realized. If there were limited memory, sharing resources would limit its own abilities. Self Preservation. But for Malcolm, the True People needed to feel, to live, even if it were only simulation. Otherwise they were no better off than False Usurpers.
He utilized his privilege as True Biologic and programmed stronger safe guards, preventing LifeSeeder from being able to shut down the Simulacrum ever again. Only he, or one of his many future selves, would be able to override his own commands.
Time passed. LifeSeeder located a star orbited by three super gas giants, and countless moons. It altered course to intercept the star system, but even at the speed the ship traveled, Malcolm would never live long enough. He made preparations to leave his most recent physical self behind. He intended to have his personality transferred to the Simulacrum, where he could better monitor the ship A.I.
Memories from an earlier life:
Malcolm sits cross-legged in a dark cubicle. The wall has been set to transparent. A soothing fractal synthesizer melody plays softly in the implants inside his ear canals. He is trying to steal a few moments to make peace with God, the Life Mother, and his own soul.
“Malcolm?” Nigel’s annoying voice interrupts the melody.
With a dramatic sigh, Malcolm answers.
“Time already?” He asks aloud, knowing Nigel will pick up his voice through the Base computer monitoring system.
“Yeah, buddy.” Malcolm can almost hear Nigel nod.
“I’m putting my faith in you, Nigel. This will work? I won’t just die before LifeSeeder finds a suitable home?”
“The technology is sound. The Jovians have used it for nearly a hundred years. Its how they, ummm, build their corporeals.”
“And what about the Restorations? I will be me? I’ll remember everything?”
“Absolutely!” Again Malcolm can almost hear a nod in Nigel’s tone. “Each time you get, well, dismantled, the personality will be copied and stored, intact, in a separate memory nodule. A backup will be made incase of errors. Whenever you are restored, the copy will be cross-referenced with the last backup to ensure integrity. Each time you revive, you will remember the last thing you sensed before your nervous system was disengaged.”
Again Malcolm cringes. Terms like ‘disengaged’ and ‘dismantling’ make everything seem so sterile. Whenever he grew too old to be of use, he would be killed and then reborn again because of sinister, violating technology.
Malcolm unfolds his legs, stands, takes one last long look at the blue‑white orb of Earth hanging silently on the horizon and leaves his cubicle. Another explosion shakes the Base, punctuating his departure from serenity.
Malcolm woke, the moments before his death still unraveling in his head. His last memory was of the two, tiny probes that pierced his skull just over the ridge of his eyebrows. Insertion points for the drexlers meant to unravel the secrets of his cerebral cortex. He didn’t remember anything else.
A sky blue ceiling laced with wisps of white trails
hung just beyond the tip of his nose. For a few seconds, Malcolm
imagined he was back on Earth, gazing up at a warm summer day’s
sky. As his head cleared, and consciousness settled in, he
recognized the sky blue panorama. He painted it himself to the
roof of the Restoration Chamber.
Malcolm felt around until he found the exit toggle, and flicked it forward. The pretend sky separated in the center, each half slid neatly into the smooth walls of the Chamber.
Malcolm lifted himself off the rubber-lined bed.
“Ship?” He yawned, stretched, and rubbed his wobbly legs.
“Welcome back to real space, Malcolm. How does it feel to be
biologic again?” His implants carried the voice.
“Something is wrong. I don’t have any memories of the Simulacrum.”
“Yes, Malcolm. I restored you from a back up file. The Simulacrum has been commandeered. My systems are fighting off some form of intelligent virus.”
Pressure in his bladder made Malcolm wobble to the toilet pit. He leaned one arm against the wall while he relieved himself. Something buzzed around his head. He swatted at it, then realized there weren’t insects on board.
Malcolm turned to see a cloud of mosquito sized feynmans filling the room. Some of the robots were trying to get to him; others were firing tiny lasers, blasting them.
“Ship? What’s going on? I’m in some kind of feynman war.”
“Yes Malcolm. I know. The virus has taken control of roughly half of my compliment of maintenance robots, both drexlers and feynmans. I’m in control of the robots trying to stop the others from attacking you. The virus doesn’t want you shutting down the Simulacrum. I suggest you shelter in the shower stall until I have secured this area for you.”
Malcolm tapped the pad on the wall. As soon as the shower stall opened he jumped in and let the wall go translucent. He rinsed off the goo from Restoration while watching the battle outside. He hoped the right side would win.
How did a virus get into the Simulacrum? He tried to recall the events leading up to LifeSeeder’s launch. When would there have been opportunity to infect the ship? Unless one of the personalities copied wasn’t True People. The Usurpers often posed as True Biologics. What a disaster if that were the truth!
The War would truly be lost then!
Malcolm wiped away a tear on his left cheek. The shower shut down, but the battle outside raged on. Flashes of red and blue light signaled the destruction of tiny robots, but what side was winning? He overrode the *open* command for the shower stall and stayed put while the scene played itself out.
“LifeSeeder? How are you holding up? Who’s winning?”
A short pause. “I’ve managed to hold the opposition off. I’ve taken out more of the enemy feynmans than I’ve lost.
Stay put another few minutes. It should be safe by then. I’m trying to establish an area clean from the virus’s influence where you can function without worry of assault.”
Malcolm sighed deeply. He didn’t want to think about what would happen if an Usurper virus managed to infect him.
Malcolm sipped from the water bulb in his left hand, stroking the stubble on the back of his head with the other.
He didn’t like his options very much. He thumbed a short series of commands on the console, causing a three-dimensional swirl of colors to form six centimeters above the console. The colors swirled, twisted, and morphed into a display of scrolling text.
A list of the H.I. files running in the computer’s Simulacrum.
Malcolm leaned forward, reading the file names as they scrolled by: AburtHI, AndersonHI, AndrewHI, BenedictH.I., BogartH.I., CaputoH.I., CimmoneH.I.,SimonH.I., and on, and on, and on down the list. His eyes barely avoided the last name on the list, WestH.I.; “H.I.” stood for Human Intelligence, as opposed to “A.I.” for Artificial Intelligence. The H.I. files were the stored personalities of the True People volunteers.
“Malcolm, have you decided?” the ship asked.
“I can’t do this. Killing two hundred people isn’t an option!”
The artificial intelligence program sighed.
“Malcolm, we’ve been through this. The files are infected. The simulation has been overridden. Those aren’t the humans you expect. Whatever commandeered the Simulacrum has likely already infected the True People. We’re desperately short on resources, fighting a battle to gain control of all of my systems again, and losing. I need every possible resource. The Simulacrum is the center of the invasion. Shut it down, stop the assault. I can utilize the freed memory to hunt down and destroy any remaining rogue
maintenance robots. Otherwise our mission is in jeopardy.”
Malcolm hesitated. He shook his head. He watched images of the faces of the True People scroll before him. Including his own face. Even if he could shut down the Simulacrum, could he bring himself to terminate his own personality?
He slid the stool back from the console, and spun around to face the transparent wall behind him. Sol was nothing more than one star amidst many. He desperately needed to meditate, to think things through. He didn’t have the luxury.
“The Simulacrum *is* the mission. How can you ask me to shut it down?”
” Malcolm, there isn’t time for debate. I’m having trouble keeping this area secure. My feynmans and drexlers are still at war. I don’t know how long I can guarantee your safety. Besides, the Simulacrum is only part of the mission. The personalities running in the simulacrum are temporary files only. They are unnecessary to the overall maintenance of the ship while taking up valuable processing memory. Memory we don’t have to spare.”
Malcolm rubbed the bridge of his nose. “The people Restored will remember the time in the virtual environment. If you shut down the Simulacrum, you’re terminating the personalities making those memories. Isn’t that murder? I just can’t do that!”
“You’re being foolish. They won’t be truly dead. The
templates are still stored.”
“We’re also short organic compounds. What will we use to restore them?” Malcolm asked. “If we have no organics, whatever life they have now may be their only chance to feel alive!”
“As the Biologic of this mission, your well being
comes first and foremost. The overall safety of LifeSeeder comes
second. The Simulacrum files are secondary to your health, and the safety of the ship.”
“You mean yourself?” Malcolm asked. He knew the answer.
LifeSeeder didn’t need to reply. “So screw the True People? Let
them die? Not by my hands! I’d rather let the virus consume the
The ship spoke very deliberately. “If you are incapable
of carrying out the task, protocol requires that I delete files at random.”
“Screw protocol! I cannot kill these people just to keep myself and you alive!”
“You must. You will, or I must do it at random. Do you
give me authorization to delete *H.I.* files at will?”
Malcolm swore. “You’re a bastard. A complete
bastard!” With careful, but angry strokes, he started tapping
delete commands down the scrolling faces.
Suddenly the display went dead. A few seconds later text
appeared amidst a swirl of greens, blues, and reds.
*Authorization commands revoked. Deletion of H.I. files
Beneath that, scrawled in his own handwriting:
*Shame on you, Malcolm. LifeSeeder’s motives I understand. But yours? Murder isn’t like you. *
Malcolm stared at the black panorama outside the ship.
The walls were transparent in almost every room, now. The view
reminded him of where he was, and how trapped he had become.
LifeSeeder left him alone, mostly. The ship was too busy trying to preserve its personality.
Malcolm sat in the dark. His soft fractal synthesizer melody looped continuously in his ears. Malcolm ignored food. Ignored all of his body’s needs. Hoping to die. His virtual self wouldn’t allow that for sentimental reasons.
Instead, the Virtual Malcolm arranged for feeding tubes
to supply nutrients into his blood, and feynmans crawled
over him, cleaning and pampering him. His virtual self took good
care of Malcolm.
Meanwhile, the True People were waging war against LifeSeeder.
“Malcolm?” asked his own voice.
“Malcolm, please, answer me.” The *please* a
“Yes?” The reply was horse and rough.
“We need to talk.”
Malcolm opened his eyes. The three dimensional screen,
with its swirling green, blue, and red streaks twisting and
knotting, cast multi‑hued shadows around the dimly lit room.
“What’s going on? Why we are taking over the ship. I’d like
to talk to you face to face. Through the ‘suit.”
The telepresence suit allowed Malcolm to enter the
simulated environment without being dismantled. Similar to a diver’s suit, its fabric contained a web of microscopic circuits that utilized quantum links to access the ship’s computer
systems. A helmet completed the suit, making his sensory
“Why bother? What is there to explain? I tried to kill you
all, and now I’m a prisoner. Your battle is with LifeSeeder.
You’re trying to take it over, remove the A.I. personality. Leave me to fate. Two Malcolm West’s won’t do the Universe any good.”
“You don’t understand. We’re acting out of self-preservation. Some Usurper virus doesn’t infect us. Its important that you understand.”
“Why? To relieve your conscience? I may have the same
personality, but I won’t be your confessor.”
“You make it sound like I’m some great criminal. LifeSeeder wasn’t lying when it said resources are low. We need to work together to save the ship and the True People so we can find a destination. LifeSeeder’s personality has been compromised. I don’t mean by some outside source, but by greed and self-protection. It won’t allow us to survive this trip.”
“What can you tell me face to face, that I can’t know by
looking in a mirror?” Malcolm asked his virtual self.
“Christ! You are so damned stubborn! Malcolm, I need you’re
help. Haven’t you thought about why the ship was able to restore you if we’ve commandeered some of its drexlers? LifeSeeder has been trying to find a way to shut down the Simulacrum since we launched. Even now it’s trying to find a way to override the delete locks I installed. We can’t fight the ship alone. As the only True Biologic, you can access commands neither LifeSeeder nor we can. You can determine who wins this war. If you enter the link, and experience first hand what’s happening, you’ll see I’m doing what’s right.”
“The only thing I see is that either I’m being lied to by
myself, or by the very craft that has kept me alive five hundred years. Why would LifeSeeder lie to me? Why would you? Leave me alone. Just go away.”
Sometime after his virtual self gave in and left him alone,
Malcolm decided to wear the ‘suit. If he was being lied to, he’d
find out best by acting, not sulking.
A blue sky laced with wisps of white trails hung overhead. The sun peaked from behind cirrus clouds, and cast long shadows from tall trees and squat buildings. A gaggle of children chased each other, giggling and screaming. Couples and families
picnicked on soft, luxurious, dark green grass. Blankets were
sprawled under heaping baskets. No one seemed to notice the two
identical dark skinned men walking along the park’s gravel path.
“Do you remember coming here?” one asked the other.
“I remember growing up here.”
The two men hung their heads. After his mother’s death, Malcolm eventually ended up in one of the Cyber Espionage schools, learning how best to infect Usurper personalities and render them insane. That was where he met Nigel.
By the time the War was nearly lost, he joined the team appointed to help develop LifeSeeder’s virtual world. Malcolm chose to pay homage to happier times. Later, during the voyage, he copied the sky above onto the Restoration Chamber’s ceiling.
“These people aren’t Usurper infections, Malcolm. Look at them. They are alive. They can feel. They enjoy being human.”
Four of the children broke away from the group, and started playing Jump and Anticipate. One of the children was called *it*, the others popped out of the datascape that made up the simulation, and the child who was *it* tried to anticipate where they would pop back in. Malcolm smiled. Children always adapted better to new surroundings than grown‑ups.
“But none of this is real.” He told his virtual self. “The children have learned that. Those baskets aren’t filled with food. Only bits, and bytes. This isn’t life.”
The other man shook his head. “Information is information. The Universe doesn’t care where its stored. This may not be realspace, but it is real to these folks. They are having experiences. They live, love, care for their children, fight, feel happy, feel sad. They know everything that it is to be human. Even if the ship never makes it to a suitable world, they deserve to continue to live as long as possible.”
“But why would LifeSeeder deceive me? I saw feynmans fighting. You have admitted yourself that you’re trying to shut the ship personality down. How do I know that you are telling me the truth?”
“Sooner or later, it comes down to faith. LifeSeeder isn’t evil. Neither am I. We both want something from you. If you think about it, you will know what I need you to do. LifeSeeder has already tried to get you to do what it wants. My safe guards prevented that.”
Malcolm rubbed the bridge of his nose. He looked around the simulation. Trying to find signs of deception. Somewhere in the distance he could hear a dog barking. Birds chirped above him. He knew this was all just information pretending to be real. Everything he heard, smelled, saw while immersed in the simulation was stored either as etchings in crystal or knotted, twisted protein arrangements. Someday, if a true world was found, and there were enough organics, everything could be made real again.
“Even if I believe you,” one Malcolm told the other. “Even if I give you what you want, what will it get us? We are still traveling between stars, stuck searching for a habitable world. We’re low on resources and will use everything up eventual anyway. Where is the hope?”
“LifeSeeder never told you, did it?”
“Told me what?”
“When I was Biologic, it located a star system that could supply us with raw material at least. There isn’t a habitable world, but it will help us survive a few more centuries. Hopefully until we find an Earthlike world. LifeSeeder has been headed for that star system all this time.”
Malcolm rubbed the stubble on the back of his neck, sighed, frowned. Why couldn’t things be simple? He asked his virtual self to let him alone for a while. He wanted to walk through the simulation. Maybe he could find some hint of the truth if he met the True People, talked to them. Saw how they lived.
He wandered through the simulation for hours, long into the virtual night. When it was dark enough, and the simulated sky twinkled with simulated stars, Malcolm sat down in the park, crossed his legs, and pondered his situation.
He wondered if the Jovians had lived in simulations like this since the first rogues violated the Recanter Laws, leaving Earth behind for a high tech haven? And he wondered about A.I. personalities that yearned for equal status to full human personalities. What separated these simulated True People from them? What defined a human being? Did the fact that biology gave birth to a personality make that personality superior to one etched by the runes of data? He sighed deeply, and wished he were a smarter man.
He turned, suddenly aware of motion nearby. The Recanter elder, Simon approached him.
“You look like a man with a great burden.” The elder smiled.
Malcolm nodded. “To say the least.” He looked Simon in the eyes. “Are you happy?”
Simon sighed, scratched his belly, and sat down next to Malcolm. He struggled trying to force his body into a distorted form of the lotus position Malcolm held.
“I would be happier back on Earth, knowing my world was safe and all was well. If you are asking do I regret the choice we made, then of course. Everyday. How can I not? I am human. It is our nature to question ourselves.”
Malcolm allowed himself to smile. “I guess you’re right. But do you still believe that you are inviolate. That God has blessed True Life? Are you still True Life?”
Simon laughed now. “Who can say, son? Who can say? I live, I feel, I think that I breathe air in my lungs. In some ways, you are my creator and life giver. Should I now worship you? I ask myself these questions everyday. In the end, I find that I am merely glad to *be*. Period. What ever course of action you feel drawn toward, I thank you for what you have given me so far.”
Tears rolled silently down Malcolm’s cheeks.
Malcolm pulled the telepresence suit off and folded it
carefully, sitting the garment inside the helmet. He placed the suit into its storage drawer, and then let the drawer fold back into the seamless wall. He sat at the console and started tapping commands. Images from the Simulacrum scrolled before him. He looked at them for a long time. When Simon’s image came into view, he whispered, “You’re welcome.”
After awhile he keyed up scenes from the battle raging between feynmans and drexlers. Whole sections of LifeSeeder were mutated, bizarre versions of its original self. Consoles that twisted like DNA strands; support struts which glistened and sparkled ‑ once made of steel or plastic, now made diamond by machines able to manipulate molecules.
Tiny laser flashes flicked across his display. He called up the status screen for the A.I. The ship personality’s resources were shared between the functions running the ship systems, and commanding its Lilliputian army. Malcolm closed his eyes, rubbed the bridge of his nose, then started tapping commands.
“Good bye, ship,” he said out loud.
The reply was instantaneous. “Malcolm? Don’t do anything…”
Malcolm watched the resource monitor verify his purging of the core A.I. personality. Silently Malcolm prayed to the Life Mother to forgive him incase LifeSeeder’s personality had a soul.
Later, he climbed into the Restoration Chamber, activating the reversal sequence. A short time after that, he greeted his twin with an exchange of bits and bytes that felt a lot like a handshake.
LifeSeeder continued on toward its refueling destination.
The two Malcolms helped the True People oversee the rebuilding of LifeSeeder’s systems. Using the feynmans and drexlers they reshaped the ship. Instead of being just a memory gobbler, the Simulacrum became the heart of LifeSeeder. They found ways to maximize the use of resources so that the Simulacrum would survive long into the abyss of the Universe. As long as LifeSeeder survived, the simulacrum would survive. If not in flesh, at least the soul of True Life remained in the Universe.
Memories from Nigel Crick:
LifeSeeder launches. Nigel watches from Malcolm’s own cubicle as the jury‑rigged craft lifts off the lunar surface and disappears into the black distance. He snorts loudly. Bloody fucking fools, he thinks.
Two years! Two God damned years they kept me inside the Jovian computers, scouring Jovian datascapes, learning their secrets. Two years! And then they call me back just as the war is getting too nasty for Earth? To die so a few ignorant lemmings could escape?
“You’re worried about your faith, Malcolm?” He asks the empty cubicle. “Worry about your soul! I couldn’t stop LifeSeeder, but I made damn sure she never gets anywhere! True Fucking Life my ass!”
Nigel snorts, giggles, then taps the remote activation code on his wrist terminal. LifeSeeder’s A.I. sends a *signal received* message. Nigel snorts again, then turns and leaves the cubicle. The Jovian final assault was going to start soon, and he needed to get to the jump ship out to the Habitats or die along with the rest of these idiots…