Certain death, p.1
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       Certain Death, p.1
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           Leslie Lee
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Certain Death
th

  by

  Leslie R. Lee

  "Chou," Emily murmured. Her eyes stared at the ocean through the dining room window of her home. "Do you ever wonder why we are alone?"

  "Considering the traffic I had to fight to get here," he groused, tossing his jacket over a chair. "Alone is not how I would describe us."

  "You know what I mean," she said, smiling.

  He came to stand beside her so that he too could look over the calm water. She'd said that it reminded her of the Pacific Ocean back on Old Earth. That's why she'd chosen this place on this planet to live. It looked like California. He'd never been there so he had no idea. For him, this was just another ocean.

  "We human beings are alone in the Universe," he intoned, trying to sound as portentous as he could, "because we're the only ones here."

  She chuckled. "Silly me. I should have realized. All these years that I have spent researching this one question, and you answer it immediately."

  Dark waves rolled up onto the beach creating a gentle surf. The beach was deserted now though the footsteps in the sand reminded them that families had played here just a few hours ago.

  "If the Universe was a beach ball," he said, "the amount that we've explored so far would be a mere pin prick. And some say that we've not paid enough attention to even our own galaxy. It's hardly surprising that we haven't found any intelligent life."

  "Other than us."

  "Actually I was including us as well."

  Her laughter suited her appearance. Twenty five years old, young and vibrant. A good looking woman, who was poised and intelligent. She poured him wine, crimson in its crystal goblet.

  "I have spent centuries investigating this little conundrum, why we are alone. And you ahve summed it up perfectly. We are alone, because there is nobody else." She sighed.

  He wanted to ask but felt he shouldn't. After all this time, controlling his impatience was still so difficult.

  "You're really going through with it?" he asked finally unable to contain himself. The sun was setting turning the sky amber. It irritated him for some reason. The sunset seemed unreasonably beautiful considering why he was there.

  "Absolutely."

  "You're sure?"

  A quick burst of laughter. "Dear, that is what absolutely means."

  "Just because you can't answer your question?"

  "Of course not. I'm just finished. That's all."

  "Real Death. It's not natural."

  Again, a serene laugh that still caused his speech to stumble. "Real Death used to happen to everyone all the time. Probably will happen to everyone eventually, regardless of Mister Computer."

  He winced. Mister Computer. Slang for the Hyperspace Computer that allowed this version of immortality. The Hyperspace Technologies Company wanted everyone to call it the Hyperspace Humanity Information Database. It existed in the special realm where time and space had no meaning. Storage was infinite, access was instantaneous and ubiquitous. Power beyond imagining. Everyone called it Mister Computer. He hated that. Sounded like a kitchen appliance. People should have more respect.

  "I am tired, Chou," she continued on, sipping at her wine. "Do you know how long I have lived?"

  Such a personal question caused him to stammer. "I hadn't thought about it."

  "Liar. I don't know how long I have lived. That's the truth. I have lost track of the number of the incarnations. I have lost track of the years between the incarnations. And how long do incarnations last now? A hundred years? A hundred and fifty?"

  "The average has been 200 years."

  "Dear Lord. I cannot imagine living two hundred years."

  "I think your previous incarnation lasted somewhere around three hundred years."

  "Really? Time flies when you are having fun."

  "Why not just take a break between incarnations."

  "You have read my file at Mister Computer Company. " She touched his arm gently. Old friends. Good friends. "You know me too well."

  He liked everyone to know that he worked at Hyperspace Technologies. Mister Computer Company didn't sound very prestigious.

  "Your last incarnation ended more than five hundred years before this birth."

  "Asleep for five centuries?" she marveled. "Yet here I am. I look twenty five but feel... old.

  "Some people wait much longer. The record is eleven hundred years."

  Despite medical advances, every body wore out eventually. Then that person would simply be restored in a new clone, their preserved memories re-injected by Mr. Computer. An accident no longer meant the end of life. Old age held no fear. The implant in the base of the neck sent everything to Mr. Computer. No one was ever out of touch, no thought unrecorded. As far as the scientists could tell, death held no longer held dominion over the human race.

  She refilled her wine glass and led him to the kitchen. They were silent as together they laid out their meal. Simple fare that he recognized as her favorite.

  "It is scheduled for tomorrow," she said as they sat down.

  He almost choked. "What? Why so soon?"

  "There is no point in waiting further."

  "This isn't something to rush into." He'd come here with the plan to start dissuading her from this course of action. How was he going to do that now?

  She laughed. "I've been thinking on this for centuries. You don't have to be my witness."

  "Of course," he said stiffly. "I'd be honored to be there."

  "Oh do not be upset." She smiled and placed a hand over his and he squeezed her warm flesh.

  "Don't be upset? How can I be not upset? I'm losing a friend." He took a breath. "More than a friend."

  She pulled her hand free. "Been there, done that."

  "Doesn't mean that we can't go there and do it again."

  They ate in silence for a while.

  "It was a good time wasn't it?" he said, forcing himself to not sound plaintive.

  "Do not do this," she warned.

  "Emily, I'm not through loving you. I need more time."

  "It is time. My time."

  "Wait a minute," he said, suddenly understanding what she was saying. "Are you saying that you're not just going to delete your life, you're ending it as well? Tomorrow?"

  "It is all arranged."

  "What?" He found he'd risen from the table. He looked down at the wine he'd spilled upon the white tablecloth. He swore and started to dab it up.

  "Do not worry about it."

  "How can I not worry about it?"

  "The tablecloth, dear."

  "I don't give a crap about the tablecloth."

  She raised an eyebrow. "Excuse me, but this happens to be one of my favorites."

  "Emily." He couldn't help himself. He grabbed her by the arms. "Emily..."

  She touched his cheek. "It is just a table cloth. Speak no more of it."

  Though they went to bed, they didn't sleep. After becoming breathless from their love making, she evoked in him their best memories. More than three hundred thousand years of time together, time apart. Other partners. Friendships that remained.

  "What about our children?" he asked suddenly.

  "I have not been in touch with any of the children. Not even ours. Not for quite some time. Have you?"

  "Heard from Sally the other day. She's off on one of those galaxy explorations."

  "Really? Which one""

  "Don't know. I think we're into twenty or so last I heard but that's been a while. Kids these days, huh?"

  "She was always so adventurous. Is Mister Computer getting filled up with new births yet?"

  He snorted. "Not possible. Millions of new births are enrolled an hour."

  "And Real Deaths?"

  "Last I looked, maybe one every ten years."

  "We are virtua
lly immortal, but there is nobody else around. Does that not seem strange to you?"

  The way she changed subject puzzled him. It always had. "Doesn't seem like there's any kind of a connection."

  "I have spent thousands of years working with thousands of people trying to answer that question."

  "Sounds like you're just starting out. Maybe you need to work longer."

  "Do not start." She stretched. How many times had she stretched like this? How many times had he'd seen her stretch like this? Why hadn't he really watched her do this?

  "Life has been rare," he said. "Intelligent life may just be a fluke. Wait a minute, what about those primates?"

  "They were from Earth and they killed themselves off despite our best efforts. It does not count."

  "Hmm. Okay, maybe everyone else has killed themselves off as well."

  "And left no trace?"

  "Okay then. We're really special."

  "Are we? So special? So divine?"

  "You are."

  She sighed. "You sweet talker you. I chose this young age so that your last memories of me would be as a young thing. All these lifetimes and I am still so vain."

  'You think Real Death is going to give you the answers?"

  "No. I am just finished searching."

  "You're thinking that God's going to let you in on his little secret?"

  "He is not going to be pleased when he finds out that I have not believed in him for quite some time."

  "So that's it? We're alone because we're alone and there's no reason to continue on. There's other questions you know. There's some thought that everyone who's not a new birth don't have souls. We are mere constructs of Mr. Computer."

  She snorted. "I can only handle one metaphysical question at a time. And frankly, I have done a fairly miserable job on this one. Look, the sun is rising." Her bedroom looked out over the mountains. She put her finger on his lips. "I know what you are trying to do. Let us go
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