Author : Rosalie Kempthorne
“Are you quite sure you want to do this?” He was asked that question again.
And once again he answered “Yes.”
“This is a one-way trip.”
“Yes, I understand.” I know what I’m signing up for.
But not without signing yet again. Another form, crawling with fine-type, a cramped little box at the bottom for him to try to fit his signature. Rogan signed. There was no need to think about it, he’d already signed these documents five – no, six – times since he’d first been approved for the expedition. He’d had all the time he needed to reconsider his choice. Why would I? What the hell do I have keeping me here?
Somebody must have been satisfied, because the doors slid open and a hallway lit up – glowing green footprints on the floor showed him where to go.
When he reached the completion chamber, he saw that about half the pods were already occupied, the other half open, inviting their next guest inside. To the right of him a woman had just completed her cycle. Rogan didn’t mean to be rude, didn’t mean to stare so openly, but this was the first time he’d seen the process in real life.
She was wet with translucent gel, and still groggy, her hair knotted and plastered against the sides of her newly sculpted head. Her skin had turned golden, not really skin now but very fine scales. Gills stood out clearly against her neck. Third and fourth eyes were only just beginning to open. Heavy shoulders, stretched limbs – they’d be weird getting used to. But necessary. This form was ideally suited for survival on the planet’s surface – cheaper and less restrictive than a life spent in environmental suits.
The whole process took only a couple of hours.
It made sense.
It was all just so… permanent.
A company technician in a green, knee-length coat was waiting beside the pod, holding out another form for Rogan to sign.
“Are you sure you want to go ahead with completion?”
“Yes, I’m still sure.” He wondered if he’d grow to find them attractive: transformed women like the one he’d just seen. How long before the face he’d see in the mirror would start to seem like his own again? How long would it seem like an intruder in his life?
I’m sure, he thought to himself, I’m sure.
“This is a one-way trip,” the technician reminded him.
“Yes. Yes.” He scrawled a signature over the screen and waited for the pod to open. Two glowing footprints showed him where to stand; the green, fetal image of a human figure showed him where to lie, how to curl into the bright, fiber-glass womb. Well, this time, he thought, I’ll remember being born.
He resisted the instinct to close his eyes as a thick gel seeped into the chamber. It was warm and fizzing against his skin, then cool, as his skin adjusted. Once submerged, there was only brightness, over-white lights shining and refracting through gel, pinpoints of light impersonating stars, a sense of void, just outside the reach of his vision. As wires came out and found their target in the last few minutes of entirely human flesh, as a cool silence oozed down around him, Rogan felt perfectly calm at last. Whatever came from this he would be new, rewritten, repaired – in a genuine sense, reborn. He’d open four eyes and he’d see another universe.
Author : Rosalie Kempthorne
Gerald stood in his green-walled study surveying the view-screen with interest. The screen itself was state-of-the art, thin-holographic, with life-like resolution, and convincing 3D effects. But what it displayed was far more interesting. Gold along much of the top; with threads of green burrowing into the gold and stretching out into the blue-grey that occupied much of its surface. At the bottom it was ice-white, striated with the same deep gold. And all of it covered by a fine white veil of cloud.
His agent was speaking: “J-Ibius 4. It’s located in the Whirlpool Galaxy” – a star-chart flashed up in one corner – “fairly deep in on the near side. The stars will be twice as thick as they are from earth.”
Night as if it were day. Very nice. Keep talking, Arnold…..
“There are two suns, and six other planets. You’ll get about sixteen hours daylight for most of the year. If you look at the mineral table here,” – it popped up on screen – “you’ll see there’s a lot of methane locked up in the polar ice. The surface is about 60% ocean, 20% ice-caps and 20% landmass. It looks as if there’s some vegetation growing over a lot of that landmass. The gold stuff you see all along here,” – he gestured with a little blinking cursor – “that’s a kind of plant-life. It flowers every three…”
He said “I’ll take it.”
“It’s beautiful. I’ll take it. How much do they want for it?”
“30 billion g’los.”
“Done. Make the deal.”
Gerald played around with the viewer, letting the planet spin around from different angles. It really was beautiful. The golden vines that covered the land – and much of the ice – would be amazing to see up close. The green-grey fissures he’d noticed around the outside were likely to be valleys, maybe lush and full of flora. The ocean: it might look like silver when the two suns shone on it together. Gerald was willing to gamble that that ocean might have islands. And if not – well, he’d have islands made. He would just have to think up a name for the place….
His agent was back on – a face in the left corner.
“I was hoping you’d say that.”
Arnold smiled, “Ever glad to help.”
Ever glad of that fat commission I pay you. But, well, the guy did earn it.
“I have to say, sir, I admire your courage.”
“It could be hundreds of years before the technology exists for you to even visit that place, let alone settle there.”
“I’m a patient man.” And look where that’d gotten him. So now he intended to have the best of everything; the best clothes, the best house, the best longevity this modern world could offer one of its wealthiest citizens. Since such extravagances now included the purchase of planets in other galaxies, he fully intended to have his share of the pie. He could only view it now, only saviour the image, and know that it was his. But that was enough for the moment. He played his new planet around a few more times on the screen, zooming in on some of its barely-glimpsed features, allowing himself to imagine what some of these shapes and colours might reveal when that world could be properly explored by drones. He zoomed in for a moment on a cobalt-blue lake, edges surrounded in terracotta-rose.
Yes, this was going to do very nicely.
Author : Rosalie Kempthorne
The creature was hideous. It was lopsided for one thing, and where its left arm should be there was only a stump. To say nothing of the slimy green tentacles that hung off its shoulder where a right arm was meant to go. Its misshapen face had one good – almost beautiful – eye, but the other was a bulging, white mess, and its chin drooped, green, in the way candle wax does when it melts. Even the clerk was staring at it with dismayed, somewhat helpless eyes.
This was definitely not what she had paid for.
The clerk was clearing his throat nervously. He barely mumbled out the words: “All care, of course, all care but no responsibility. I mean the thing is….”
“You are not serious?!”
Daphne rounded on him. He wanted to see a temper did he? Well, she could show him a temper. “I paid for a new husband! A new husband, you shrivelled up little hackla worm! Do you expect me to marry that?”
Was it her imagination or did the thing look almost hurt? No, it didn’t even look as if it could be sentient. Some heads were going to roll for this. She was a valued customer!
The clerk was starting to say, “Well, look-”
“No, you look. I want a proper husband, a replacement, and I want it asap.”
“It doesn’t work like that-”
“I don’t think it works at all!” She couldn’t quite bring herself around to looking directly at certain parts of it she doubted would be functional.
“The contract you’ve signed, you see,” and he clearly, clearly wished he were anywhere else but here in this room, “the customer bears the responsibility in the rare incidence of failure.” He looked as if he was about to transmit her a copy of the document.
“I know what I signed. But do you call this fit for purpose? Do you think any women in the known galaxy is going to take this on as her husband?”
“Well, I don’t know…. I mean he’s got one very nice eye….”
Silver and emerald. Just like she remembered. Sure, gazing into just that…. But then the other one swivelled to look at her. Digusting.
“I’m very sorry Ma’am but a replacement….”
“I should think so-”
“….would require full payment.”
“I’ll be making a complaint.”
Relieved. Of course he looked relieved, this was about to sail right over his head, off his shoulders, and onto somebody else’s desk. He said “There’s a form. And if you want to order another….”
“Huh! Believe me, I’ll be taking my business elsewhere!” She turned on her heel, tossing her head for dramatic effect.
“Ma’am…..” He was gesturing at the thing.
“Do you really expect me to take that with me?!”
“Well, it’s just…”
The thing turned its head to look at her. In her husband’s dead voice: “Daphne.”
“You see…” the clerk was going to try and explain about the memory implants, the bonding process.
“That’s your problem!” she fired back.
And the thing said “Hello darling, how was your day at work?”