April 3, 2075 02:43 p.m. GST
Telogene World Headquarters
Lead, South Dakota
Phase one of the orientation was designed to help Evan acclimate to his new body. Push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, jump rope, and an hour on a treadmill to get started, followed by mental acuity tests and a two-hour-long video that summarized the key events of the last fifty-odd years.
First, there was the global financial crisis of 2025, followed just two years later by a global famine and World War III. The battle for control of the Middle East started in 2027 when a Syrian dissident assassinated the Israeli Prime Minister. Israel responded by invading Syria and things spiraled quickly out of control from there, with the United States, Russia, and China all deploying troops to defend their respective allies in the region.
The war finally ended in August 2032 after China used a low yield nuclear weapon on the battlefield, causing Russia to ally with the U.S. in protest. The combined might of the U.S. and Russian militaries, and the threat of the conflict turning into a global nuclear war, were enough to convince China to withdraw from the region. In the negotiated peace that followed, the Allies gave Israel the Syrian territory south of Damascus that the Israelis had captured at the start of the war.
The much-debated global climate change phenomena of the late 90s and early 2000s became undeniable as lush jungles became desert wastelands, great deserts transformed into grassy plains, and once snowy tundra turned to swampy marshland.
The Northern ice sheets shrank by seventy percent, and the southern half of Greenland and all of Iceland, were now ice-free. Temperate forests grew in fertile volcanic soil where there had once been only ice. The southern pole had experienced similar melting, and the loss of billions of tons of ice had transformed the coastline of Antarctica into a barren, rocky wasteland.
The deluge of fresh water into the oceans had altered water temperature and salinity world-wide, killing off marine life and altering weather patterns. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions were all frequent occurrences. The loss of habitable coastal regions caused massive migrations of people and animals to more habitable areas. The planet had experienced a mass extinction of plants and wildlife equivalent to the end of the Cretaceous period 65 million years ago—the same one that ended the dinosaurs.
And then there was the decades-long global drought and famine. Billions had perished from starvation and disease. India was hardest hit, with over seven hundred million dead. China, Indonesia, and Africa also suffered significant reductions in population. Even more might have died had it not been for Telogene and the billions of dollars’ worth of drought-resistant crop seed it donated to affected countries.
Not all the news was bad, however. Several private corporations from around the world, including Telogene, had partnered to establish permanent colonies on the Moon and Mars in the mid-2030s. A world government was formed in 2042 with Zurich, Switzerland serving as the capitol for the Global Federation of Nations (GFN). And Telogene Life Sciences had become the world’s first multi-trillion-dollar corporation.
Evan found all this fascinating, and he wanted more detail than what was in the orientation video. But Dr. Hao explained that he would have to wait. They would give him full access to the company’s information archive, and the global information network known as GeoNet, once he completed his orientation. But for now, he needed to learn more about himself and the new body he inhabited.
As shocking as some world events had been, the biggest shock of all came when they finally let him see himself. He had noticed his well-defined musculature and the ease at which he completed the exercise portion of his orientation, but he hadn’t given it much thought. He knew they had given him a new body; they had told him that much, and it only made sense that they had made it young and healthy. What he hadn’t considered was that the body he inhabited was not his own!
He looked nothing like he remembered. The average looking, bookish body he remembered had been transformed into that of a devilishly handsome actor from one of those action films he used to enjoy. His hair was still brown and his eyes blue, but his jaw was more pronounced and he no longer had an overbite. There was something vaguely familiar about his face, but it most definitely was not the face he had been born with.
It was disconcerting to see another person staring back at him and, to make matters worse, Dr. Hao refused to explain why Evan wasn’t in his own body. The doctor said that Aubrey would explain everything and had asked for his continued patience. Then he had excused himself to call Aubrey.
Aubrey was at her desk reviewing the lung enhancement protocol when the image of her executive assistant popped up in the corner of her display.
“I am sorry to interrupt, but Dr. Hao is calling,” Evelyn said.
“Please put him through.”
Dr. Hao appeared on the display.
“You asked me to call when we finished phase one,” he said.
“Yes, thank you. How is he doing?”
“So far, so good…his headache has subsided. There were no problems on any of the body system tests, and he took the world events video in stride. His biggest problem seems to be his appearance…especially his face. I told him you would explain it when you come down.”
“Please tell him I will be down in a few minutes. Any flashbacks or recall issues yet?”
“No, and he’s not showing any signs of dislocation or spontaneous hallucination.”
“Excellent news! I’ll be right there.”
“Okay, I’ll let him know.”
Dr. Hao’s face faded from the display as the call ended and Aubrey got up from her desk and headed for her private elevator. The news from Dr. Hao was very encouraging, but they weren’t out of danger just yet.
One challenge with full body replacements was that a person’s brain contains deeply ingrained memories of their original body—not just how it looked but how it worked. These memories are created by physical and chemical changes that occur in the brain throughout a person’s lifetime. With every new experience, thousands of new connections are formed between the over one hundred billion neurons that make up the typical human brain. These networks of connections, called engrams, grow and evolve, becoming ever more complex. As a result, each person’s brain is unique from birth and becomes more so as they age.
Please let him adapt! Aubrey thought as she began the descent to Sub-level Forty-six.
She had experience with patients who did not accept the transfer, and it was never pretty. Some experienced dislocation, like that of traumatic amputees, while others suffered debilitating hallucinations that lead to insanity. Overcoming these problems required lots of therapy and conditioning to retrain the brain, but even then, there was no guarantee of success.
These were but a few reasons the GFN had banned full-body replacements. That and the fact that several of Telogene’s less scrupulous competitors had attempted to clone long-deceased tyrants. Rumors circulated claiming that a German scientist had restored Adolf Hitler. The public outrage was immense.
Aubrey’s mother was running the company then, and she refused to allow anyone to use Telogene’s technology for that purpose, but that didn’t stop a rogue Telogene scientist from trying to clone former President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. They destroyed those clones, along with the source genetic material used to create them. But the GFN remained vigilant and spared no expense tracking down and prosecuting those who violated the ban.
Aubrey and her dedicated team of scientists had just committed that same crime by restoring Evan Feldman.
Although he did not pose the same threat to society as Hitler or Stalin might, the ban made no distinction between resurrecting good people or bad people. Bringing someone back from the dead was illegal regardless of the legacy of the person being revived or the motivations of those performing the restoration. Aubrey and her team gladly took the risk though—the stakes were just that high.
Aubrey exited the elevator and made her way to the recovery area. The recovery area was a suite of small apartments that provided a controlled environment for monitoring patients and helping them adjust to their new bodies.
The company had learned long ago that it couldn’t just thrust the newly restored back into society, especially after an extended period of non-existence. It had to give them time to process everything that had changed since their death, and to adjust to their new reality. It was also prudent to keep them under observation until they showed that they were not a danger to themselves or others.
Aubrey placed her hand on the DNA scanner. It flashed green and the door to her grandfather’s apartment slid open.
God, I wish Mom was here to help me with this.
Aubrey entered the small, sparsely decorated studio apartment and saw her grandfather sitting in front of a holoterminal. She saw an image of her mother on the display, and she immediately recognized it as the speech Lily had given at the GFN’s tenth anniversary. The year was 2052 and Lily was sixty-seven, but she didn’t appear a day over forty.
This should be interesting.
“How are you doing, Papa?” she asked.
Evan waived his hand to pause the video and turned to face Aubrey.
“I am fine, thank you,” he said. “The real question is, what are you doing?”
“I didn’t mean for you to see that just yet,” Aubrey said with an exasperated look on her face. “Where is Dr. Hao?”
“He’s in the bathroom.” Evan stood up and put his hands on Aubrey’s shoulders. “Now, please answer my question.”
Aubrey removed her grandfather’s hands from her shoulders, took a small step back and, still holding his right hand, gestured toward the sofa.
“Come on, Papa, let’s sit. I know this is upsetting, but please give me some time to explain. I promise I’ll tell you everything.” This conversation would be far more uncomfortable than she’d hoped.
Evan pulled his hand away and crossed his arms in an obvious sign of refusal. “I have been sitting since lunch. Please, Aubrey, no games. Tell me what’s going on.”
The bathroom door hissed open and Dr. Hao stepped into the room. “I am sorry, Dr. Harris, nature called.”
“I see you have given him access to the corporate archives already,” Aubrey said with a clear note of displeasure in her voice.
Dr. Hao glanced at the frozen image of Lily on the holodisplay. “Ah, well, yes. He is doing well and was keen to learn about his daughter. I’m sorry if I have caused a problem.”
“There is no problem, Dr. Hao,” Evan interrupted. “I would find out, eventually.”
Aubrey nodded in agreement. “There is no problem. I just wish we could have talked first.”
She took a seat on the sofa. “Dr. Hao, will you please excuse us for a few minutes?”
“I will be in my office,” the Chief Cryonicist gave her a deferential nod as he exited the room.
Aubrey gently patted the cushion next to her. “Come sit next to me, Papa. Please?”
Evan dropped his arms and rolled his eyes as he begrudgingly complied with her request. “Okay, I’m sitting again. Now what?”
Aubrey reached over and took hold of his hand. “Now we talk and get to know each other. I am sure you have lots of questions.”
“I sure do…but I don’t even know where to begin. I guess for starters you can tell me how long you’re going to keep me locked in this room?”
“You’re not a prisoner, Papa. They lock the door to keep others out, not to keep you in.”
“Then how come I can’t go outside?”
“You can just as soon as you finish your orientation. You’re adapting well, but you still need time to acclimate. And we need time to be sure that your brain and body are working as they should.”
“And how long will that take?”
“Well, it depends on you,” she answered. “Usually a week or two…sometimes longer.”
“Are you telling me I am stuck here with the good Dr. Hao for at least another week?”
“Not just Dr. Hao. Drs.Berkovic and Walker will also work with you.”
“I don’t know if I can stay cooped up in this little room for a week.”
“You won’t just be in this room. There is an exercise room next door, and a rec room just down the hall. You can do this, Papa!”
Aubrey tapped the large, white plastic bracelet she wore on her left wrist, causing a holographic image to appear in the air above her arm. Evan stared in fascination as Aubrey used her free hand to gesture and poke at the floating display, which he guessed to be a control panel of some sort. The image disappeared after several furtive swipes and pokes.
“There,” Aubrey said, “look at the wall behind you.”
The previously bare white wall disappeared. In its place was a park-like forest with tall, leafy trees and a narrow stream cascading over jumbled boulders.
Evan stood up and crossed the short distance to where the wall had been. A soft breeze caressed his face and the odors of damp earth and grass filled his nose. The sounds of water rushing over rocks and leaves rustling on trees echoed in the background. He put his hand out to see if the wall was still there—it was. The image flickered slightly as his hand brushed against the wall.
“Th…that’s amazing,” he said.
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool. You can control it from your holoterminal, and there are lots of scenes to choose from.”
“It’s like I am standing there…I can even smell the grass.”
“It’s but one of many technological advances made over the last fifty years.”
“Okay, I guess I don’t have to worry about dying of boredom.” Evan turned to face her. “Now, tell me why I am not in my body.”
“Well, that’s complicated. We came as close as we could with what we had to work with. We debated plastic surgery but decided against it.”
“What happened to the body I put in cryogenic suspension? You had to have at least some original genetic material to work with if you still had my brain.”
“You didn’t what?”
“We didn’t have any of your genetic material.”
“How can that be? This is my brain, isn’t it?”
Aubrey inhaled deeply. “No, Papa, it’s not your brain, and that’s not your body. The New Madrid quake of 2037 was massive. We lost our primary cryogenic storage facility outside of Kansas City, and the company headquarters.”
“Then how am I here?” Evan said, with equal parts confusion and fear in his voice.
“Because before that happened, we figured out how to digitize your engrams, and we stored those in multiple locations around the world for safekeeping.”
“You mean you made a copy of my brain and stored it in a computer?” Evan asked incredulously.
“Kind of, but that’s also a long story. The short version is that we invented a carbon-based organic storage medium that replicates the function and capacity of the human brain. We still can’t achieve the density and efficiency of the brain, but we’re pretty darn close. Our storage technology has replaced silicon memory chips and hard drives in computers—it was the product that earned us our first trillion dollars. Even today, organic storage still represents over forty percent of our annual revenue.”
Evan was stunned. Not only was he not in his own body but he wasn’t even thinking with his own brain! He had envisioned the possibility of memory transference when he had himself cryogenically frozen, but he had always assumed that the technology would involve transferring a person’s memories into a clone of their own brain and body. His vision had been to replace diseased brain tissue with healthy brain tissue while preserving memories, not putting one person’s memories in another person’s brain!
“So, is my brain this organic storage stuff you are talking about?”
“No, of course not. You are one hundred percent human.”
Evan paused for a moment as he considered what he’d learned. It comforted him to know that he was human, even if he wasn’t inside his own body. His mind shifted to a question that had been roiling inside his mind for hours.
“Where is Christina?” he asked about his wife.
Her untimely death was the reason he had started down this path, and he had to know where she was. Surely, they wouldn’t revive him without her!
Aubrey had expected this, but she struggled to answer. “Um, well, I don’t know exactly how to say this…”
“Oh, just tell me for fuck’s sake!” Evan raised his voice almost to a yell.
His sudden change in demeanor surprised her, but she remained calm.
“She’s gone, Papa. It took too long to recover her body from the crash site. I’m sorry.”
He slumped into the couch and his face contorted with the pain of profound loss.
“No, no, no,” he said, covering his face with his hands. “That cannot be. What about the memory transfer thing, did you at least try that on her?”
“Yes, but her engrams were too degraded. We tried and tried, but she was just too far beyond the reach of our technology.”
Aubrey reached over to put her arms around him. “I’m so sorry. I wish I had better news, Papa, but please know that Mom and I tried really hard to bring grandma back.”
Evan sat up and wiped his face. “And what about your mother? Where is she?”
Oh shit, now I’ve done it. Aubrey realized she had said too much.
“Papa, I need you to listen to me. We’ve already gone too far in this conversation and I need you to focus on acclimating to your new body. You probably feel fine now, but I know from experience that will not last. The next couple of weeks will be hard on you, and I need you to focus on getting through the acclimation period. Can we please talk more about this later?”
“I need to know if she’s alive or not.”
Aubrey looked him in the eyes and slowly shook her head from side to side. “No, Papa. I’m sorry, but she’s not with us anymore.”
She leaned forward and wrapped her arms around him in a tight embrace.
“It’s just us, we’re all that’s left,” she whispered. “And I really need you.”
Evan stood up, pulling her up with him. He stood a full six inches taller than her, and she had to look up to meet his stare.
“I appreciate that, Aubrey,” he said calmly. “But I need to know what happened to my daughter. Don’t let me find out some other way, please tell me.”
Aubrey took a deep breath, and tears welled up in her eyes. “It was a…it was a plane crash…last year.”
Evan looked like someone had just punched him in the gut. He wanted to comfort his granddaughter but he couldn’t think of the right words. He couldn’t believe both his wife and daughter had died in a plane crash. What were the odds?
“I can’t believe it…is Lily in storage somewhere? Can you restore her?” he asked.
Aubrey took a minute to consider how best to respond before answering. “Yes, we have her last engramic archive from the day before the crash, but she made me promise not to restore her.”
“Why would she do that? That makes no sense.”
Aubrey wiped the tears from her cheeks with the back of her hands. “It will once you learn more about her. And it’s illegal, so we couldn’t do it even if we wanted to.”
“Yeah, I read something about it in the archives. The government banned full body clones decades ago. But being illegal didn’t stop you from bringing me back.”
“No, but that’s different.”
“For one, you’re not registered in any GFN system. So as far as anyone knows, you don’t exist…at least not as Evan Feldman.”
“And, by bringing you back, I’m fulfilling the promise you asked of Mom.”
“What promise? I didn’t make her promise me anything. That’s absurd.”
“You don’t remember but, trust me, you did. You left her a video. You recorded it a year before you died, and you asked her to do everything she could to bring you and grandma back,” Aubrey said.
“So that’s it? You broke the law and brought me back just to fulfill a promise?”
“That’s one reason.”
“No, now is not the time.” Aubrey pulled against his grip on her, a look of grim determination replacing the sadness of a moment ago. He relaxed slightly but did not release her.
“Please be patient, Papa,” she implored. “I need you to trust me.”
Evan pulled her into a tight embrace, locking his arms behind her shoulders. He kissed her cheek several times and stroked the back of her hair with his hand.
“I’m sorry, Princess, it’s just a lot to take in. I wish Lily and Christina were here, but I am so happy to see you. I love you more than anything, you know that.”
“I know, Papa, I love you too.” She kissed him on the cheek and slumped against his chest.
They held each other for several minutes, both wanting to say something but neither able to find the right words.
“I need to go,” Aubrey said as she gently slipped from his embrace. “I’ll come back and check on you later, when you are ready for bed.”
“I would like that.”
Aubrey tapped the communicator implanted behind her right ear. “Dr. Hao, will you please return to Recovery Room One?”
“On my way,” he responded.
“He’s on his way down,” Aubrey said to her grandfather.
Evan stood and walked Aubrey to the door. “Okay, I’ll see you later.”
Aubrey kissed him on the cheek again. “See you later.”
Aubrey left the room and headed toward the elevator that Dr. Hao would be using. A few minutes passed before the elevator door slid open and he stepped out into the hallway.
“How did it go?” he asked.
“As expected, he’s as inquisitive as ever.”
“I am sorry for giving him premature access to the archives. I just thought I’d try a different approach this time.”
“No need to apologize, Chen. Do what you think is best, just get him ready to travel.”
“You think thirty-six hours will be enough?”
“It will have to be, won’t it?”
He shrugged. “I suppose it will.”
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