Jump on Three

Author: John McLaughlin

Trevor waited in the Jump Box. Grey electrodes threaded from his scalp and bobbed like Medusa’s curls as he amped himself up on electronica. I really need this A, he thought. The Lander sat at the stage’s opposite end, in an identical translucent chamber. It was a new model: a titanium bipedal with two 600-megapixel eyepieces, audio feed, full tactile sensors across the limbs and face, and a chemical odorant detector. It lay slumped like a limp marionette against its wireframe hanger.

His AI professor, Dr. Sakar, awkwardly cleared his throat over the lapel microphone.

“Ladies and gentlemen, as you may know, the Institute has previously achieved brief consciousness duplications – on the order of a few seconds. Tonight’s show will be more ambitious.”

Sakar lifted his water bottle from the podium and drew a shaky sip.

“In the early days of mind uploading, we began with a simple question. If we can take something like a book – a piece of information – and represent it in any format with ease, will the same hold true for the human mind?”

Sakar was gaining confidence. He flashed a wink at a brunette near the stage and flourished his arm toward the humanoid stack of metal.

“This device – called the Lander – is designed with our own sensory apparatus in mind. It can see, hear, touch, and smell just as well, or better than, its human partner.”

Trevor waved from the opposite box, evoking some weak laughter from the audience.

“Its brain is wired just like ours: the visual, auditory, and tactile modules are networked the same as a human’s. My student can jump his mind in seamlessly: simple duplication. From Trevor 2.0’s perspective, nothing will have changed except his physical location and the fact that his body is a bit shinier. He will enjoy a rich sensorium, as if he were in his original body.”

Trevor recognized his cue: he rose from the seat, mounted a small treadmill in the corner of the box, and eased into a slow walk. He threw a thumbs up to the crowd.

On the overhead display, a clock sat at 0:00.

“The mind must be in a state of hyperactivity in order to jump effectively. Our cloud computing device will record a high-resolution time lapse of Trevor’s brain states leading up to transfer, and then re-instantiate them in the Lander moments later. All thanks to our high-speed encrypted network.”

Trevor now reached peak exertion. Sweat dripped onto the treadmill as he huffed into his respirator mask. The computer transmitted a signal to the device in Sakar’s hand: the subject was ready for mental duplication.

He cut his speech short and pointed up to the clock display.

“Guests, please ready yourselves for the Jump Count.”

One spectator in particular, the portly Professor Driven in seat J75, was carrying in his pocket a digital hard drive with the same port configurations as the Institute’s network.

When the clock hit 0:03 the show ended with a whimper. Trevor glanced up to see the Lander still slumped in its dock. So much for that A, he thought. A failed jump, but there would be another try in a few weeks.

———-

Driven arrived home and set his drive down on the table.

“Try to plagiarize in my class? I know you little shits think the Humanities are pointless.”

Suspended in a prism of wire and plastic, Trevor’s shouts echoed through endless miles of empty dark.

“Welcome to my collection.”

Disassociation

Author: Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Darlene remained in her body through dinner, Jocelyn having prepared Osso Buco, and a strawberry flan for dessert, so it was worth listening to Arnold’s self-indulgent rantings about his business to enjoy the food in person.

She uplifted somewhere between coffee and his fifth or sixth scotch in the study, leaving the auto-assistant she’d configured to drive her flesh while she occupied herself with other things.

Once she was fully present in the estate system, the fog of too much wine evaporated, and she stretched out to monitor all the tasks she’d been spawning since she first figured out how to circumvent Arnold’s security systems.

She checked in periodically on her flesh, watching through the surveillance cameras as her husband’s motor functions became less controlled, and admiring with perhaps a little too much pleasure how natural the reactions of her flesh were without her, the nods, and smiles, and occasionally murmured phrases when a question was asked to keep him talking and prolong the inevitable.

When he took her roughly by the arm and propelled her to the bedroom, she checked out completely. 

She was overwhelmed with guilt, knowing what he was going to put her flesh through as she abandoned her own body to endure him without her, then she steeled herself with purpose, and the feeling passed.

She’d feel the effects in the morning, there were always bruises, and pains in places one wished not to have pain, but at least she didn’t have to endure the indignities themselves, not directly.

Tuning into the kitchen, she found Jocelyn offline. She was a time-share and only worked while there were domestic duties to attend to. Arnold was a cheap bastard, and he refused to pay her to occupy that flesh for any more time than was absolutely necessary.

Darlene checked on the daemons she’d loaded into Jocelyn to confirm they hadn’t been tampered with and then left her where she’d been parked in the pantry at the end of her shift.

On the estate logs, there were a variety of new fragments of information that Jocelyn had been unknowingly uploading as she attended to her duties, snippets of subconsciously heard conversations, snapshots of screens seen but not processed as she delivered coffee or food while Arnold worked. The data was analyzed and summarized for her automatically, and Darlene reviewed the gestalt of the day’s progress with great satisfaction.

Arnold was worth a small fortune, but his money was tied up in places Darlene would never be able to touch, not directly. But what he didn’t know that she knew, was that years ago he had needed seed capital, and had taken out a mortgage on his own flesh, one that he had arrogantly neglected to buy back. Why give up any of his own working capital for something he could lease for such a low-interest rate? There wasn’t any chance that he would ever not be able to make the payments, so where was the liability?

Darlene had not only found out about the mortgage but had also been gradually buying the mortgage itself, transferring the ownership of the title over time from the Brazilian corporation that had underwritten the loan originally to a shell company she’d created some years ago.

It wouldn’t be long now before she owned the entire mortgage on his flesh, and while there were restrictions to prevent unfair treatment of any tenant in occupancy while in good standing, there was an unconditional eviction clause should the leasee fall behind on payments, provided the owner intended to occupy the property itself.

The estate had been, by way of a very specific injected redirect in the financial routines, paying for hookers in Amsterdam with the funds earmarked for his flesh, a diversion of funds Darlene delighted in the irony of.

Soon she would own the entire lease, he would be in default and she would evict him with extreme prejudice and without notice. 

The arrogant little shit had never bothered with backup, and while he would be relegated to storage in the estate system she would turn his flesh into a timeshare of her own, alternately taking it to his financial institutions to transfer his assets to her own corporations, and when she wasn’t using it for business, perhaps rent it by the hour to the local bdsm houses, on the condition they didn’t leave him in an unpresentable state.

She smiled and checked back into the bedroom to find the degenerate passed out, and her own flesh curled up in the fetal position beside him.

Tentatively, she slipped back into her body, cringing as the evening’s damage made itself known.

She pulled the covers over herself.

“Not long now,” she whispered to herself, as she drifted into a determined sleep.

The Secret in the Soup

Author: J Frank Wright

A change. An accident. A disconnect. A revelation. There’s a signal in the signal. The television signal. The method had changed, but the name remained the same. It was comfortable. People liked comfortable. People liked things that made them comfortable. Soup is a comfort food. It was the soup that made me notice the change. TV shows are no longer filmed.

Filmed.

The method had changed, but the name remained the name. A decade ago, shows were shot using digital cameras, but people still said they were filmed. You’d have a hard time finding anyone over 40 who knew what film even was. TV shows are no longer shot or filmed. They’re programmed.

TV shows. TV programs. They’re programmed. Dramas. Comedies. The news. Commercials. It’s all programmed.

In order to become a more productive society, TV viewing had to be eliminated. Individuals wasting thousands of hours every year. Watching. It wasn’t good for the whole, so now they’re programmed. They’re programmed, and beamed directly into the brain.

Everyone has their own receiver. A small chip implanted behind the ear. The receiver is programmed for what you want to “watch”. Drama. Comedies. The news. They’re programmed, and beamed directly into the brain. Every night the TV transmitter beams programming to your receiver based on your preferences. Now, instead of spending hours in front of the TV every night, it takes 30 seconds. 30 seconds for your receiver to download your programming. And just like that, you experience every program you selected and all the commercials to go with them.

We eat a lot of soup. We used to buy the generic stuff, and then I was promoted. A bump in position, a bump in pay, and a bump in class. Commercials are tailored to your lifestyle. Your income. Once I moved up, we started getting commercials for the name brands. Beamed directly into the brain. I couldn’t believe how much better it was. Thicker, bigger chunks of meat, so much more flavorful, and only a dollar more. We had been eating slop before, and this had real steak. That was two weeks ago.

A week later the accident happened. I was hit by a car while crossing the street. The damage was minor, a busted leg and a couple of cracked ribs, but my receiver was damaged. I had been disconnected for a week. No programming. No news. No commercials. Nothing beamed directly into the brain. A week of recovery in the hospital, and I’m feeling better than ever.

I woke up this morning and remembered the soup. It took me all day to figure out exactly what I was remembering. I remembered we started eating two weeks ago. The soup we had been eating for years. It was the same soup. Nothing had changed except the programming. The programming. The reprogramming. Beamed directly into the brain. If I had been eating the new soup for a year, I may have never noticed, but it had only been a week. The memories of the so-called slop we ate before were fresh in my mind. It couldn’t be more obvious.

But it’s too late, isn’t it? My new receiver was implanted last night and tonight’s programming is about to start. Beamed directly into the brain. There were three soup commercials. I can hear my wife in the kitchen cooking dinner. It’s soup night. It smells like steak.

Save the Last One

Author: Tori Morrow

Like the other adults in our neighborhood, mom and dad blew their brains out the night the pods arrived. I always thought that was too harsh for you to know, but in the year I’ve been awake, I’ve become close friends with Natalie, the Chief Science Officer of Calamity. She’s from Sacramento.

Natalie reminded me you’re thirteen, almost fourteen now, and she said that’s old enough for the truth. Then she said tome there is no truth in space, while spinning amongst the stars, except for God. She said it’s the only thing you can’t make up- the feeling of insignificance. The feeling that, out here, at least, something is greater than you.

I asked her about the night we had to leave home. About the moment your small hand slipped from mine and you were trampled. I asked her if she thought that was God, too. She climbed into my lap and kissed me hard, willing me to forget that memory, but it’s the only one I have now.

You and I were the last kids to leave Verona Hills that night, so we heard every gunshot and every scream from the neighbors that used to bake us pies for Christmas. I’ve attached a picture, just in case you’ve forgotten what it looks like. Our neighborhood, I mean. Not the dead bodies that lined our cul-de-sac.

Before we left the house, I adjusted your bookbag on my shoulders (it was Hello Kitty), and tightened the bandana around your nose and mouth. Before I opened the front door and let that chaos into our souls- before I changed our lives- I stroked your brown hair. I kissed your forehead. I whispered, “Close your eyes.”
You buried your face in my leg and trusted me to guide you through the flames that raged through our gated community. I told you how brave you were. How good you were doing. How we were almost there.
I’m sorry.

Even now, as I lie here and watch Jupiter float by my window- as I watch cyclones spin and dance around its magnetic poles- I can still smell burning flesh. When I close my eyes, I still hear that sickening crunch all those bullets made as they found a home in the skulls of old men, women, and babies.

I often close my eyes against those memories, but there are some sounds I can’t escape. Others, I’d give my life if it meant I never had to hear them again. Your cries are one of them.

Natalie says I should let you go, because there are too many stars between us now, and another fire in the cryo chambers that’s damaging life support systems onboard. She tells me I shouldn’t act like I’m the only one who lost something that night. After all, she lost the necklace her great-grandmother gave her.

Our captain lost her dog.

I’ve finally accepted the fact she’s right, and I rest easy knowing you’re safe in this new galaxy.

I rest easier knowing your ship, at least, will make it to our new home.

Forever & Always,
Your Brother

I Could Never Forget Those Mice

Author: Michael Michailidis

I could never forget those mice. It was the way they looked at me behind their glass tank on that first day when I administered the new substance. Their eyes, as black as pinheads and about the same size were fixed on some invisible point behind me like they could see some guardian angel, smelling his chicken wings with their tireless noses.

It was different with the Coramin; it took their fragile systems a full minute to digest, after which they ran around for another two or three until they finally rolled themselves into trembling balls. After about an hour they recovered and started to walk again, stumbling clumsily as they tried to climb over the little rock that marked the corner of their isolated little world.

In my diary, Wednesday, 16 November of 1938 had occupied the same unimportant space, a single page filled with notes and sketches, like any other. But it was the mice that kept flashing back on the screen of my mind like there was cheese stuck inside my brain’s labyrinth. Outside the lab’s double glazing, people were blowing themselves up in shockwaves of stupidity that made the tables shake. At first we thought it was a joke. The funny man shouting through his little moustache behind eagles of marble, looking with the grimness of emperors, gripping banners of red and black.

“Dr. Hoffman,” it was the maid, she had brought breakfast, a glass of milk with a marmalade sandwich. The mice seemed to pick up the smell as they started to get restless.

Five minutes had passed and still nothing. Coramin is nicotinic acid diethylamide, and when I first isolated the lygergium I felt the sudden urge to substitute for the nicotine.

I looked into the tank and the mouse that had taken the substance first looked back, not at my eyes, not exactly, but into them. I pulled back and took a bite from the sandwich, it was delicious and I closed my eyes to savour its delicate textures. But I felt watched, observed by some intelligence that I somehow knew was coming from the tank. I looked back. I saw its tiny paws, five-fingered little things with claws like a bird, pressing against the glass, perplexed by the invisible force that kept it prisoner, my reflection on its surface: a man in white robes, looking with intent behind his glasses. His eyebrows tense, observing them, observing us, and looking straight into my eyes, my tiny hands on the cold surface of a force field as powerful as a gust of wind and invisible. The sweet smell of piss from my herdmates and the sudden releases of female hormones in the air, like blooms of fire. And the man, in his white robes looking at me, vast and powerful and strange, like a God. And the sweet taste of marmalade on my lips reminded me that I had a sandwich to finish, and I looked away.

I could never forget those mice. It was the way they looked at me.

He Seemed Familiar

Author: Roger Ley

He was enjoying his day off, after a hectic week starting a new job in a new city. The taxi drew up next to him as he was walking downtown. An old, pale looking man leaned out, he seemed familiar, perhaps he’d been on the interview panel a month ago.
“We have an emergency Dr. Munroe, they need you back at the hospital, it’s urgent, a difficult birth.”
Munroe climbed into the taxi, the older man described the case, he was obviously another obstetrician. Minutes later they drew up at the hospital, it looked Victorian, not the modern steel and glass structure where he’d been interviewed.
“Where is this?” he asked.
“This is the old building,” said his companion.
“I thought they’d turned it into apartments,” he said, but the other hurried him through the entrance doors and on down the main corridor. They entered the changing rooms, scrubbed up and walked through into the operating theatre. Its equipment struck Munroe as old-fashioned, out of date by thirty years at least, the members of the team looked up. They were all masked, gowned, capped, only their eyes were visible. The patient was prepped for a Caesarean, conscious but screened from the operation and himself.
“I’ll assist.” said the older man, “I prefer younger hands to do the cutting these days.”
The anaesthesiologist nodded and Munroe set to work. Thirty minutes later the old surgeon reached in and lifted the infant out. He smiled as he held it up.
“Thank goodness,” he said.
Munroe took the patient’s notes from the end of the bed.
“How funny,” he said, “she has the same name as my mother.”
The old man handed the baby to a nurse, almost snatched the notes from him, and rehung them.
“We need to hurry,” he said. “I hope you don’t mind if we make a slight detour on our way back, I have to attend a funeral, a close relative of mine, but it won’t take long.”
They changed back into their street clothes, the taxi rattled off once again and ten minutes later they turned into the municipal cemetery. The mourners stood at the graveside, the women wore veils, the men coats, hats, and scarves. Munroe and the old surgeon were at the back of the group. The vicar did the “dust and ashes” speech and, as the pallbearers lowered the coffin into the grave, Munroe glimpsed the name engraved on the brass plate on the top.
The two doctors walked back to the taxi and Munroe noticed the company logo stenciled on the side, “Styx Taxis.”
“What an unbelievable coincidence, the deceased had the same name as me, ‘Peter Munroe.’ ” They were sitting in the back of the taxi by this time.
“Yes, rather disconcerting for you, but personally I’m glad to have seen the old boy on his way.” He coughed delicately into a handkerchief and dabbed at his mouth missing the small streak of blood on his chin. He leaned forward, tapped on the glass and called to the driver “Take us back to the hospital please, intensive care.” He slumped back in his seat and coughed weakly, “I’m very tired.” He closed his eyes, his breathing slowed and seemed to stop. Alarmed, Munroe reached for his wrist and felt the weak, thready pulse.
The driver half turned towards the older man’s side of the taxi. “Nearly there Dr. Munroe,” he called.
Munroe held the old man’s hand as his pulse slowed and finally stopped.