Author: Roger Ley
by Roger Ley
It would be a long flight, I hoped that the window seat on my left would stay empty, but no such luck. A young woman took it. I checked her over as she moved past me, I mean, you can’t help it, and they do the same to us. Women, I mean. She was attractive, which was nice, wearing a black business suit, short jacket, knee-length skirt. I hoped she wouldn’t be talkative.
After take-off, I dozed for a while. As I opened my eyes, I glimpsed her working on a touchscreen. As I moved, she brought her hands together, and suddenly there was no sign of it. Holographic? Probably something we’d all be using next year.
The flight attendant brought drinks and somehow, we started talking. If I’m honest, I think it was me that started the conversation. I asked her what she did for a living.
“I’m an air crash investigator,” she said.
I was impressed. ‘So, you must have had a lot of training for that.’
“My original did but, I’m a partial copy. How do you do? My name’s Farina. At least that’s my original’s name.”
‘How can you be a copy of somebody?’ I asked.
“Well,’ she looked around and then leaned closer. ‘actually, I’m a synthetic, an artificial person.’
‘A synthetic, you mean you were grown in a tank? Like in the movies?” I laughed, but she didn’t.
“Yes, grown for this assignment.”
“Can you prove you’re a synthetic?” I asked.
“Not easily, I could arm-wrestle you but I’d probably break your wrist.”
“Do synthetics need to drink?” I asked, pointing at her glass and hoping to catch her out.
“Just a social convention, I can void liquids later.”
“So, you’re an investigator of air crashes?”
“Well, Farina is. She’s a researcher, a historian, she specialises in unexplained aviation accidents of the early 21st century.’
I was enjoying this, I wondered if she was making it up as she went along or whether she was delusional. She didn’t seem delusional, and she was nice looking. “So which air crash are you going to investigate?” I asked.
“This one,” she said. The plane bumped at just that moment, it took me by surprise, but it was nothing. I mopped up my drink. “I’ve already found out that some of the navigation systems are wrongly calibrated, and there is an unusual wind shear in the Jetstream. The pilots think they’re travelling faster than they are. Then there’s the fog over the mountain range we have to cross, it all adds up. It’s always a combination of factors that lead to an accident.” She nodded sagely. “The pilots will try to land too early and fly into a mountain. The plane will disappear, so I conjecture it will be covered in ice and snow. Difficult terrain, impossible to find, unusually the flight recorder will be destroyed.” She sat back and looked at me. “What a shame there isn’t room for us to fool around. I’d have liked to try it once.” She raised an eyebrow.
I realised that she was leading me on. She could see I was wearing a dog collar.
“So how come you can tell me all this?” I asked. “Isn’t it against the rules?”
“You’d be right, under normal circumstances, but as there will be no survivors….” She left the rest unsaid.
“No survivors? How do you feel about that?” I asked.
“I’ve transmitted all the data, fulfilled my function. Copies get deleted, it’s just a fact of life. My original lives on, that’s all that matters.”
Now she’d gone too far, she was obviously nuts. I decided to try to get a couple more hours sleep before we landed in Santiago. As I drifted off, I wondered if a ‘synthetic’ would have a soul. I chuckled to myself, we’d soon know, if her story was true.