Author: Vanessa Kittle

Robert Stolz looked at the body on the table. The problem seemed simple. He had to get into that thing. It was only centimeters away. The best scientists in the Solar System had been working on this problem for two decades, and now Stolz was ready to try the procedure. His body was so frail he could blink out into nothingness at any moment. So much work wasted. To no longer be… that was not going to happen. He had devoted billions of dollars to ensure his survival. The last human test was very promising. The subject survived with his memories intact, though they lacked the data to assess personality changes.

He looked again at the body. It was a clone of himself, though nearly 70 years younger, and without any memories. The clone never had a conscious thought during its five years of growth in the lab. It would be nice to get around again easily in a fit body, but Stolz didn’t care much about that. It was his mind – whatever made him himself – that is what he needed to survive. Stolz looked up to see the lead scientist enter the room. He announced, “We are ready, sir, if you are.” Stolz nodded yes and lay down on the table next to the blank. During the process, they would record every atom in his brain, store the data in the computer, then make a copy into his blank. As they put the mask, he looked down at his shriveled hand and made a fist. Before he could release it, he was unconscious.

Robert Stolz opened his eyes. He looked down at his hands. They were young and strong. He sat up swiftly and without pain. He remembered everything. He tested himself, picturing his childhood home of Dresden. He could almost feel the cobblestone streets beneath his feet. He could almost smell his mother’s Dresdener Stollen baking. He had come through the fire and made it safely to the other side. It was as if he had visited a sorcerer who had waved his wand and turned him forever young, for he knew his backup was now safely stored away on the computer.

Stolz looked over at the next table. Why should he be afraid to see himself? Those sorts of feelings were for lesser men. And there he was – the old Robert Stolz – just waking up from the anesthesia. The broken body was no longer useful. The old man sat up very slowly and turned his head to look at Stolz. The old man’s eyes were glazed, but suddenly they came into focus. Stolz could see what he was thinking. He leapt from the table and stumbled to the floor. His legs did not work properly. They did not know how to walk. But he forced himself up and closed the distance. He seized the old man by the throat and squeezed with all of his strength. The old man struggled and flailed at him pathetically, then he went limp.

Stolz looked down at the corpse. Was that really me? What was it that made him himself? Was it just the memories and choices? There was so little to that. Most virtual characters had stories just as rich. Then he had a warm and wonderful thought. Even if a man was only a collection of memories and thoughts, likes and desires, he was more than that now. He was in the computer, too. He could always come back. And next time there would be no old man to kill.