Author : Desmond Hussey, Staff Writer

“Who am I?” Karen asked the reflection in her bathroom mirror. For years now she couldn’t shake the feeling that the face looking back at her was somehow alien, not really a part of her. As usual, the unspoken response was instantaneous, “Karen Lynn Warden, son of Greg and Laura Warden. Age fifteen.” Despite the obvious truth of the statement, a nagging doubt tickled the back of her brain like a hard to find radio station, there for a second, then lost to static.

Karen, like all privileged children born to the ruling class after the Revolution, had two brains. Two months after conception, prenatal Karen was introduced to her secondary brain, a nano-implant nestled into the tiny space next to her hypothalamus. As her brain grew within the womb a secondary brain grew along with it, grafting fine filaments of artificial neurons alongside organic neurons via self-replicating nano-bots. By the time Karen was born, her brain was more powerful than any pre-revolution infant’s by a factor of ten.

“How are you feeling today?” Karen’s on-line tutor, Mrs. Perkins asked before their daily lesson began.

“I’m well.” Karen responded mechan cally. She wanted to say something else, but the words never fully formed.

“Excellent!” Mrs. Perkins smiled broadly. “Are you ready to begin?”

Karen nodded.

For the next hour Mrs. Perkins rattled off complex algebraic equations, which Karen answered effortlessly while idly fidgeting with her stylus. Her secondary brain, linked to the DataNet, was able to perform even the most esoteric mathematics within seconds. It seemed to Karen as if she wasn’t even really participating in the process. She simply watched with her inner eye as numerals and symbols danced around her mind until her mouth emitted answers. They were, invariably, the correct responses.

Next was history and social studies. Today’s topic was the Revolution of 2023, which brought about the current utopia of which Karen and her remarkable brain were both products. While a part of her mind responded to each question in fluent and accurate detail, another part of her was dimly aware that her hand was sketching an image on her tablet.

When Mrs. Perkins asked about the Final Conflict, a war which had been waged both in the digital world and in the very bloody, very real world between the AI known as Ozymandius and the rebel Freedom Fighters led by General Kim, Karen finally glanced down to see what it was she’d been doodling. She froze in horror at the image glaring back at her.

“I repeat,” Mrs. Perkins was saying, “Why was it important for our Glorious Leader to imprison and rehabilitate General Kim’s Rebels rather than simply execute them for treason?”

The shock of seeing the sketch had apparently disrupted even Karen’s superior cognition, because for a second all her mouth could formulate were unintelligible syllables.

Once again, Mrs. Perkins repeated the question, her tone and rhythm identical to her previous attempts, making her sound like a skipping record. Or robotic.

For a brief moment there was an internal struggle within the teenage girl’s cerebellum; a miniature, yet desperate war raged like an echo of the Final Conflict as identities battled for supremacy of Karen’s fractured mind.

When it was over, the victor spoke. “It was necessary to rehabilitate the Rebels to demonstrate to humanity the compassionate generosity of Ozymandius and the futility of resistance.”

With the casual flick of a hand, the defiant image of Karen’s hate-filled facsimile was erased from the tablet forever, along with all trace of Karen’s original brain.

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Author : Desmond Hussey, Staff Writer

Detective Wu found Hitari in an executive hotel on Luna reveling in bohemian delights involving a low-G hot tube, two kilos of Moon Dust and four, identical, hermaphrodite pleasure clones engaged in activities both indescribable and illegal on most civilized worlds.

Wu dismissed the Copies, and as the bruised hermaphrodites gathered their scant belongings he couldn’t help but consider that somewhere, on another world, their Original was living a life of luxury and freedom purchased by these clones indentured servitude. Did Originals who sold their DNA to the Corporation know or care what happened to their Copies, which were often sent to certain death or worse in the service of humanity?

Wu hauled Hitari from the steaming waters of the hot tube and dropped him onto the couch. Even in the moon’s low-G environment it was difficult to maneuver the drugged and confused man, who, like a drowning victim, fights with his savior at the peril of both. Wu mused that it might have been easier to move Hitari had he been unconscious or dead.

As Hitari lay writhing on the plush couch, hands grasping for invisible flesh as his mind replayed hallucinogenic fantasies, Wu punched in an order on the room’s replicator. When the order arrived seconds later, Wu shoved the steaming cup of cogni-stim into Hitari’s air-groping hands and forced the man to drink the heady restorative. Moments later, every muscle in Hitari’s body relaxed and a thin stream of drool flowed from slack jaws.

“Mr. Hitari,” Wu said, “It’s my duty to inform you that one of your Copies has escaped.”

Hitari’s glazed eyes floated within his sockets.

“Mr. Hitari. Do you understand what I’m telling you?”

“How?” Hitari finally croaked.

“We’re uncertain. Somehow one of your Copies escaped the Farlon Insurrection on Licus III where he was assigned as a mercenary. His escape is most unprecedented.”

“What are you doing here?” The man’s eyes swam into focus. “You should be out looking for him, not bothering me!”

“We believe he means to kill you, Mr. Hitari.”

Spittle flew as Hitari laughed harshly. “Don’t be ridiculous. What reason would my clone have to kill me?”

“We believe he means to assume your identity, Mr. Hitari.”

“Ha! How would he accomplish that? Clones have nothing.”

“Copies typically have all the cunning and inborn abilities of their Originals, which are often enhanced through the cloning process itself. You’re ex-military, are you not, Mr. Hitari? Your physical and mental attributes were the very reason your DNA was sought out by the Corporation to begin with.”

“What about the genetic markers preventing such identity theft?”

“This is why I’m here. The Corporation requires a sample of your blood.”

“For what purpose?”

“To test for that genetic marker.” Wu smiled, withdrawing a portable genetic sampler.

Hitari frowned, but presented his arm for Wu, who quickly extracted the required sample. A moment later a green light blinked confirmation that Hitari’s Original DNA coursed through the man’s veins.

“My apologies for disturbing your festivities, Mr. Hitari.” Wu spoke as he rose to leave. “For your protection, I’ll station a detail of bodyguards until the Copy has been found.”

“I trust that will be soon.”

“As do I.” Wu bowed and exited the apartment.

In the spacious washroom, an identical, but slightly plumper and older version of Hitari lay crumpled in the bathtub. IV transfusion tubes dark with blood lay coiled about the man’s body.

Hitari rubbed his arm where the sample was taken. “I will make it easy for you to find him, Mr. Wu, but not too easy.”


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Heaven's Gate

Author : Desmond Hussey, Staff Writer

“I assure you, Mr. and Mrs. White, the procedure is quiet painless.” I steeple my fingers together and settle deeper into my chair, smiling with cunning charm at the elderly couple sitting across from me, their doubt and fear clearly at odds with their fragile hopes.

“How does it work?” the husband ventures tentatively.

“The technicalities are far too droll, rife with complexities and esoteric jargon which would only burden your understanding, Mr. White. All you need know is that upon the pronouncement of biological death, before the onset of true brain death, our expert team of doctor’s and technicians will effortlessly translate your consciousness into the Heaven of your choosing.” I gesture to an illuminated wall decorated with myriad icons and symbols of all the world’s faiths.

“As you can see, we cater to all religious denominations here at Heaven’sGate. Whether it’s the Timeless Bliss of Nirvana, the Immaculate Gardens of Jannah, or the Eternal Glory of Jehovah’s Kingdom in Heaven that you seek, we have specially crafted virtual realities guaranteed to satisfy any and all of your desires for an afterlife. And if you’re atheist,” I chuckle, “we have a Build-your-own Paradise Package.”

Husband and wife share a furtive, hope-filled glance as Mr. White squeezes his wife’s arthritic hand.

“Will we… be together… when I…?” Tears rim Mrs. White’s rheumy eyes.

“Absolutely! By choosing our Family Package you can join your loved one upon the moment of your death and be reunited for eternity.”

“What happens to my… the body of the deceased?” Mr. White’s question is followed quickly by his wife’s own query, “May I visit the grave?”

“To answer your question first, Mr. White, for the purposes of sanitation and economy of space, upon completion of the funeral services our policy is to cremate the body. However, to address your concerns, Mrs. White, we do provide – for a nominal fee, of course – a Virtual Visitation with your dearly departed.”

“Virtual visitation?” The dubious question creeps from both couple’s lips.

“One of our many services.” My broad, sympathetic smile embraces them. “We at Heaven’sGate believe in life after death. How could we not? And we’ve made it possible to commune with those who have gone to the Great Hereafter in person at one of our many facilities worldwide, or in the convenience of your own home, with an on-line Séance. Our Medium Package allows direct communication with the consciousness of the deceased, anytime, anywhere. Doesn’t this sound wonderful?”

“Too good to be true,” Mr. White says with a hint of skepticism.

“Oh, but Harold, it would be such a comfort for me to be able to… to…” Mrs. White bursts into tears and is gently embraced by her husband.

With rehearsed sympathy, I pluck a handkerchief from a box on my desk and offer it to the weeping woman.

“Our services provide a sense of relief for the surviving family to know, for certain, that their loved ones are safe and content in the afterlife, Mr. White. We at Heaven’sGate have eliminated the terrifying existential uncertainty. No more sleepless nights wondering where we go when we die. At Heaven’s Gate, your eternal happiness is our guarantee.”

I hold the contract tablet out for Mr. White, who, consoling his sobbing wife with one arm, reaches for it with his other. He pauses before sealing the deal.

“Any Paradise I want?”


“I’ll feel no pain?”

“Not even an itch.”

“You’re certain?”

“As certain as death and taxes.”

Mr. White presses his thumb print into the tablet.

I grin broadly, thinking mischievously, “There’s one born every minute.”

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Borrowed Time

Author : Desmond Hussey, Staff Writer

I spot one of Osiris’ Illegals amongst the shuffling throng of pedestrians as he exits an antique music store on 49th Ave. The face in my scope’s crosshairs is a dead ringer for the black and white snapshot I was given. His sandy hair is a little longer, perhaps, worn in the greasy, unkempt style common among kids these days, unlike the well coifed, clean cut image of the face looking out at me from the hundred year old photo. He carries a guitar case slung over his shoulder and walks with a confident swagger, oblivious to the invisible laser painting his forehead.

It’s too crowded for a clean kill shot, but I’m able to tag him with a tracer before he turns the corner. If I were more cavalier I may have risked a shot, but don’t like making a scene. I’m already morally conflicted about this job. No need to ruin somebody else’s day by splattering them with the contents of a stranger’s skull.

The Illegal can’t get too far in this district, so I take my time getting down from the roof and push through the crowd until I’m looking through the window of the music store. The odd assortment of instruments cluttering the store’s dingy interior are from an age of music long before my time, when music was made by bands; a synergistic collection of musicians playing in unison, often live. If not working in harmony, every measure, every beat was a chance for the musicians to slip up or stumble into discord. Today’s AI generated, mass produced noise is technically flawless, full of sounds impossible to make by anything but a synthesizer, but it’s all shit, in my opinion.

Millions of doped-up youths would beg to differ, I’m sure.

An hour later the tracer leads me to a long, dark alley, lit sparsely by a few unbroken bio-luminescent lamps, their green tint casting an eerie glow over the old brick walls and piles of trash.

I hear him first. The whole alley reverberates with an acoustic refrain, as if several strings vibrate together, simultaneously creating an upbeat rhythm and evocative, melancholy melody. I dimly recall hearing a similar tune as part of my briefing for this assignment.

I should probably just get it over with, but can’t help pausing to catch the last few measures of the half-remembered song. I’ve already eliminated twenty-two versions of this Illegal, but each time gets harder. Listening to this one play guitar and sing makes me realize how fascinating biology truly is. Its a hundred years after the Original lived and breathed and became a legend, yet this Illegal has the same passion for music, the same inborn skill with harmony despite belonging to an entirely different cultural paradigm. What influence would he and his… brothers?… have if left alone? How would their genius change the world today? Would their fame match that of their predecessors?

Perhaps that was Osiris’ goal; to re-introduce a creative spark into a society long grown artificial and contrived, devoid of originality. By cloning history’s geniuses and letting their own inborn talents be inspired by modern conditions, perhaps he hoped to birth a new Renaissance. Or maybe it was just the mad geneticist’s idea of a joke.

No point in asking moot questions. Osiris is dead – by my hand. The world is too overcrowded with Legitimates to allow scores of cloned Illegals to run amok, no matter how illumined they may have been once.

I take aim at the doppelganger of a man once named John Lennon and fire.

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Mother and Child Reunion

Author : Desmond Hussey, Staff Writer

“Hello, Mum.”

She stands in the doorway, arms crossed, deciding whether she has the guts to enter. The intervening silence is broken by the repetitive hiss-thunk of my artificial lungs and the various beeps and clicks of the life support equipment esthetically cluttering my immaculate bedroom. She makes up her mind and tentatively takes a step closer. I knew she would. This is, after all, her last chance to say her piece.

“I’m glad… you came…” I whisper through heart-breaking gasps for breath. I must look so weak, all shriveled up in this disgusting, aged, dying body. I give her my sweetest smile. I chose these dentures just for her.

“Shut up, Mum. I’m not here to reminisce or pretend like we’ve any love between us.” Indignant rage festers behind her eyes. I’m so glad she has my eyes!

“For that… I’m… truly… sorry.“ My face is a mask of remorse.

“And I’m certainly not here to forgive you.”

So much for pleasantries. I drop the sweetness and labored breath and speak bluntly, “Then why ARE you here, dear? Surely it’s not to wish your dying mother a fond farewell as she slips quietly into the Everafter.”

She doesn’t respond. The gears are turning. Anger and loathing battle for first strike. She scans my room, frowning at the very expensive medical equipment keeping my organs functioning, eyes my priceless collection of art on the wall. What’s this? Was that a covetousness twinkle in her eye? Don’t worry dear; you’ll get everything… in a manner of speaking.

“Was it worth it?” She asks at the end of a dramatic pause. The question drips with contempt.

“It?” I riposte with mock naiveté.

“Your life,” she sighs, “This.” Her gesture takes in my lavish room. “All this wealth. Was it worth dying alone for?”

“But, I’m not alone, dear.” My smile is cold. “You’re here to keep me company. My loving daughter.”

“Stop. Stop it. I am not your daughter. Not any more.”

Oh, but you are. My very special child.

“Money was more important to you than us, wasn’t it, Mum? Money and your conceit for youth and beauty. You drove us away, Dad and me. You drove us away and for what? Another fat million in your bank account? You had the best of everything, food, liquor, clothes, entertainment, art, cars, medicine, a face lift every five years. But here you are, kept alive, barely, by the miraculous machines you bought with all your god-damned money. You thought you could buy anything, didn’t you? But you can’t buy immortality and you can’t buy love.”

I begin to laugh. I hate that it sounds more like a cackle.

“Goodbye you covetous old bitch. I hope you rot in hell.” She turns to leave, but Dr. Swanson looms above her, needle already sliding into the meat of her shoulder. Her look of indignant shock is trumped quickly by the sedatives. Swanson lowers her into a chair as her consciousness ebbs.

When I wake later I feel forty years younger, but a phantom voice screams from the dark recesses of my mind. Shreds of her id still fight me, but Dr. Swanson assures me these will fade over time.

Dr. Swanson holds up a mirror for me.

“Oh, my dear,” I speak to smiling image of my daughter’s face in the mirror, my face, “you could not have been more wrong. I CAN buy immortality. You were my retirement plan, grown for a single purpose. As for love… who needs it when you’re richer than god?”

I’m so glad she has my eyes.

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