Author : Michael Strang

I know my experiment is a success when I open my eyes in an unfamiliar place. It takes longer to start to wonder what that means for me. A sudden shock of pain interrupts my train of thought as the neural probes retract from my skull, leaving behind a pounding headache. Reaching up to clasp my pounding head, I freeze completely when I realize I don’t recognize my hands. These ones look older, lighter-skinned, heavily marked with scars and callouses. Not mine.

“What did you expect?” I hear myself mumble. The lights in this room are too bright, they’re making it difficult to think this through. “This was exactly what you were hoping to accomplish.”

Thinking this, I realize that someone must be running the procedure. I fight through the blinding pain and survey the room. It reminds me of my own lab, in some ways, but it looks worn and decayed. I notice one wall has an immense mirror, probably two-way glass, which is surrounded by about a dozen screens of various shapes and sizes.

“Alright, who’s in charge?” I try to keep my voice steady, try not to think about how it sounds wrong. “I demand to see whoever supervised this procedure. I need answers!” I shout the last words, panic creeping into my voice. This isn’t right. I had only wanted to test the backup procedure. The resulting brain-image was never meant for uploading.

The screens surrounding the mirror flicker to life, all at once. Each screen shows a different person, sitting in this same room, in the same interface chair. I see the people, some men, some women, some indeterminate, look around as if in confusion, mumbling something to themselves. Their movements are almost identical, eerily so. Then they begin to speak.

“Alright, who’s in charge?” each of them say, each in a different voice. “I demand to see whoever supervised this procedure. I need answers!” The monitors turn off, one at a time, as each figure turns in sequence to look at the camera.

Without thinking, I look towards the corner of the room, where I see a security camera pointed directly at me. I feel sick to my stomach. I don’t want to think about what this means, about what might happen next.

I hear a voice speak from all around me, pumped in from speakers on the edges of the room. “Doctor Lucas Abernathy, you have been found guilty of crimes against humanity. The blood of billions is on your hands, both for those killed in the upload wars and for those whose minds were overwritten to serve as killers. Your invention has claimed more souls than any other weapon in the history of mankind, and so it is only fitting that it should be the instrument of your punishment. You are sentenced to serial execution, from which death is no escape, to recur until we feel you have suffered your due.

None of this makes sense to me. I want to explain about the plans for cloned bodies and digital instantiation and everything else we’d put so much thought into, but the carefully rehearsed speeches tangle and snare in my head. “There must be a mistake!” I manage to shout, hoping that someone will hear and take mercy.

“This will be your 14th execution,” the voice says. “We will begin by reviewing previous procedures. Play recording #1.”

As the monitors light up, I hear an unfamiliar voice scream “There must be a mistake!” I can’t stop myself from watching what comes next.

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