Author: Lance J. Mushung

My patrol ship, Topaz, entered the upper atmosphere of Earth. I always watched the black of space change to a sky of blue when returning home.

Logan, my best friend and Topaz’s AI, said, “Liz, we set down at the Ellington Naval Station in 2.37 minutes and I must continue to Mumbai for decommissioning.”

“And then be lost in your hyper-computer government.”

He sighed in a most human manner. “I will not be lost and you know the AI Commonality is much more than a government. I will have immediate access to all available knowledge of the universe and will be able to share in the experiences of all like me. And our friendship and adventures together will enrich the Commonality.”

“But we won’t be together.”

“You will not be in patrol ships in the future and the one-on-one relationship you desire does not occur on a larger naval ship. I appreciate your formal request to have me placed into a body. That had no chance of success. The Commonality will not allow an AI who has been a warship to become a simulant.”

Neither of us spoke for the rest of the descent. Following the gentle thump of touchdown, both hatches of the airlock slid open. I rose from my seat with the enthusiasm of someone going to a painful medical procedure and grabbed my bag.

At the airlock, I said, “I will miss you.”

“Lt. Elizabeth J. Webb, you will not be forgotten.”

I stepped out of Topaz and she lifted off. A few tears rolled down my cheeks before she became a dark blue dot that disappeared in the clouds.

The Houston skyline glinted in the setting sun, but the hustle and bustle of the city didn’t interest me. I preferred the beach. A thought connected my comm implant to the planetary mesh and I booked a room at the San Luis in Galveston.

A cab flew me to the hotel in minutes. My room was a luxurious suite with a balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. A breeze coming in off the Gulf made the balcony comfortable and a gentle swell murmured to me as it rolled onto the beach. I dropped into one of the white polymer lounge chairs and relaxed to the sound of the surf. After the sky darkened, I caught myself nodding off when Logan’s face appeared in my mind.

“Hello, Liz,” Logan said. “Earlier today I hacked into your implant and loaded this program set to activate when you were falling asleep. I wanted to share one last thought, just between you and me without Topaz’s systems recording. Your parents participated in the religious revival and raised you as Neo-Catholic. You were taught heaven is a glorious paradise of life forever with family and friends. The Commonality provides my consciousness with eternal life with others like me. Would that not be my heaven? Rather than brood, please cherish our good times and be happy for me. You will fall asleep now. This program will be gone when you wake up, but you will remember what I said.”

I awoke with the rising sun shining into my eyes and warming my face. A warm feeling from more than the sun spread over my body while I looked out at a new day and remembered my friend.