Author : Bob Newbell

It was a typical day in the year 2841. The Lunar Stock Exchange, said financial analysts, was overvalued and a harbinger of an imminent economic crisis. The newly independent Mars was moving toward a civil war. The Union of Canada and New England announced they would accept no more American refugees. I had downloaded these and a dozen other news stories into my wetwork when she entered my office.

The woman was human, not transhuman, AI, or synthorg, something of a rarity in the Asteroid Belt. That meant she’d have to communicate verbally. I adjusted my subjective time perception down so our conversation, which might stretch on for minutes, wouldn’t feel interminable.

“You’re a detective?” she asked.

Detective, I thought. A rather antiquated term for a discloseur. “I am,” I replied. “Can I help you?”

“I’m looking for my husband. Five years ago he left me. He said he was going to Proxima Prime to start a new life.”

“He was an Archaic?” I winced. It’s not good business to insult a client with a racial slur. She divined my embarrassment.

“It’s fine,” she said. “I take no offense at the term. And, yes, my husband was a natural, unaugmented human.”

“No unaugmented human has ever left the solar system,” I said. “In fact, few natural humans live or work off Earth. The physical and psychological rigors of extraterrestrial life usually prove to be too much for them.”

“My husband cleaned out our bank account after he left me. I suspect he had himself reengineered.”

“That would be expected before trying to migrate to Proxima. But if he did that five years ago, he would still be en route there. I can see if he booked passage, but you could do that yourself.”

“I have,” she said. “He bought a ticket on an interstellar transport five years ago.”

“Then if you know he went there…”

“He didn’t. Two hundred people purchased tickets for that flight. Only one hundred ninety-nine passengers were on board when it left.”

“You think he remained in the solar system? Buying a ticket to Proxima would be a very expensive way to divert anyone trying to track him.”

“We had quite a bit of money at one time.”

“I see. If he had himself augmented, the facility where it was done would be the logical place to begin.”

“I agree. And I did that. That’s how I was able to finally track you down.”

“Track me down? I don’t under–”

“You got a partial memory revision with your wetware. All recall of your having known me was deleted and a memory patch implanted to cover the gaps.”

“That preposterous! I never–”

I grab the desk. For a moment, I think the asteroid’s rotation has become destabilized. It hasn’t. I have vertigo. My vision starts to blur.

“An enzyme that degrades the myelin sheaths of synthetic neural nets,” she says, “delivered by nanobots I’ve been exhaling the whole time I’ve been in this room.”

I collapse to the floor.

“They’ll be able to get you back to where you can walk and talk and not be incontinent again within a year or so,” she says as she walks out the door. “But if I were you, this time I’d skip the memory wipe.”

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