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Listen.

'What are we now? Can we really call ourselves human any more? What of our souls, heaven, and hell?'
- Emergency Online Transference FAQ's.

Israel Sabula was a newly transferred and he did not like it. He had awoken from death in this white chair, to this white room and its barren smooth lines. A far cry from the bubbling and whirring room of machines wired into his dying body, which saw his lonely departure from that mortal coil. There was an utter silence in the room and even though he continued breathing from habit, there was no breath, no air, no sound, not even a deafening silence from real world ear feedback. He snapped his fingers and heard the click and then that weird silence.

Israel looked down at his body or rather his personal holographic transpose, his phat they called it. It looked and felt exactly like his recently dead body, its shape apparently still hard-wired into his minds self-perception projection he had been told. Yes he still felt the same aches and pains, ghosting they called that, said it would fade with time. At one hundred and eighty when he died, he still looked remarkably spry, like an ancient cave dwelling Yogi. His skin was like pale worn leather underlaid with taut wiry muscles and a shock of pure white pubic hair. They were filtering his download while he sat in this featureless white room, he could feel the software probing his phat, a slight tickle deep inside. He had been in the SW before, an introduction to course, taken when he was sixty-two and never again until now. But back then he had always felt his body's presence in Real life. Now there was no body to feel no connection to the Real any more, no immediate reference, here to feel his body he had to focus on it first. Explained to him as quantum processing optimisation, like a tree that falls unobserved in a forest, nothing became five senses real until you focused on it.

He could not gauge how long he had been sitting there, strange. Time enough though to reflect on his previous Real life, on what he knew would seem like a pathetically short time to the immortal being's of which he was now one. In his youth he had resisted the implants that were to be his first link to this strange other world his parents served. He had seen their glazed eyes on occasion when they were deep in the other world, he feared they would remain there, leaving him alone with the machines and dark tunnels. His parents had laughed and tried to assuage his fears on coming back to find him sobbing on their laps. Whilst they had managed to take the edge off the fear by returning, the fear remained like shards of glass deeply buried to cut in vivid recurring dreams of rotting corpses and dark tunnels.

The time had come when he could delay no longer and the life-long implant sessions began. A slow and sometime painful process, which began to integrate his body into communication with the machines and later that other world, the SupraWeb, SW. Israel was a water systems mechanic just like his father Jensen Sabula and his father before him, ad nausea. His sister Racine was a nano-technician just like their Mum, Sarah. He was taught to feel honoured that he had been allowed a first life that his body had not been given over to transference at birth. He was genetically matched to his wife for maximum difference potential in their offspring. They married when they were forty and allowed to raise two children when one hundred. Their children were phat transfers, handed to them from The Lottery representatives at six months old pre-birthed in the lab, from their harvested eggs and sperm. As a child he had been very conscious of his difference to his family, they all being phat transfers. As a parent, it was more apparent, horrifying at times to see the adult looking out from your babies eyes.

Staring at the featureless white room Israel wondered why the technicians seemed so excited about his scan results. They had done five of them that he could remember. He found it strange to think of the huge machine systems deep in the bedrock, that he had helped maintain all those years, was just for this. It seemed so lacking compared to the multitude of sensations, albeit most of them painful, that he had left behind. There was a constant sensation of things disappearing just out of direct sight.

He wondered, and in wondering knew it would not be the last time he did so, if he should have died unconnected on some dark wet floor in a disused tunnel section. There to let corpse rot and soul fly free to whatever awaits a soul. Schooled to believe that the soul transferred, but he had also read many ancient data scans of pre-SW literature. Great philosophers and thinkers of the golden age, to highlight and contrast the technical manuals of phat creation. The manuals could not prove this did indeed happen, though the quantum physics involved did lend the possibility. Philosophically there just was no golden proof that substantiated his own existence in either Real life or SW. He felt this was like a new age vampirism, without the blood, immortality in the shadows shade and reflection of real life.

How could this compare to what he had seen earth-side, the pure natural anarchy, rich, vibrant and deadly. Taken to the surface for the first time when he was twenty as per the dictates of the endless induction ceremonies. When tasks began to change hands from father down to son. His life was changing then, flowing into the strict mould set by his father, set by the SW decree from the System Analysts Committee.


His mother had stood silent on the long tube journey up to the higher levels. Her long black hair cascading over her orange coverall, her emerald green eyes occasionally smiling at Israel, as she waited patiently but with restrained excitement in her tall lithe body. He was excited too and furiously tried to remember all he had read and been taught. It was twenty kilometres up in the tube and then another ten on foot through eight ascendant sections, then up one by ladder to reach the first observation platform. Above all, it was dangerous earth-side; you had to be ready for anything.

When they neared the last section, it had taken them over five hours of hard paced walking.

'We camp here tonight, son' said Sarah 'Best to be fresh for the ladder and if we go early we may even catch the sunrise'.

Israel had no argument with that, his limbs ached, and he wondered how his mother must feel at one hundred twenty.

They emerged from what had seemed like an endless series of pipe and cable filled tunnels into the final section eight. As they entered, it began to automatically power up basic systems. Israel awed by its great space reminiscent of the domed cathedrals of ancient earth except in flowing lines of curved plas-metal. Dominating the far side was a massive eighty meter wide polished metal airlock door, tightly locked by great steel wheels married to a profusion of cogs and tumblers. Barely visible and dwarfed by comparison Israel could see the man sized airlock at its base. All around the foot of the dome was a glut of monitors, worktables, and equipment lockers. Above that in open plan layers set into the wall extending outward were the kitchens and dining rooms, over them ablutions and racked rows of bunk beds. Israel remembered it could support up to one hundred retainers at a time if needed.

Sarah walked across the polished stone floor to a bank of monitors. The monitors powered up and a scanning device unfolded from the wall on its long articulated arm. It began to scan her body in a blue crisp laser light.

'Retainer Sarah Sabula' she said, whilst standing motionless for the scan.

The device abruptly shut off and retreated to the wall. The one monitor began to display her picture and stats.

'Retainer Sarah Sabula confirmed' echoed the section eight computer from hidden speakers 'Recipient of Job E512WE earth-side observation and sample collection'.

Sarah stepped back and turned to Israel still gazing at the high ceiling

'Your turn' she said.

Israel broke his gaze and walked to the monitors to undergo the same procedure.

'Is it really only your second time Mother' he asked as the laser scanned him.

'Indeed, and as per dictum it will be the last' she replied busying herself with the other monitors to open the necessary equipment lockers.

'Going earth-side is a twice in a lifetime privilege unless required by ones work, which is rare. When you are my age you will bring your daughter earth-side as your father is doing with Racine at the north earth-side'

The lockers began to click open as their embedded screens lit up and began to scroll the inventory within on the doors.

'Retainer Israel Sabula' Israel spoke for the computer.

'Retainer Israel Sabula confirmed Recipient of Job E512WE earth-side observation and sample collection' the computer droned.

Israel walked to the monitors and began the well-rehearsed program start procedures. He started with the internal positioning programs loading one up after another. His implants began to receive the wireless transmitted data sending a mapping overlay direct into his optic nerve. In Israel's peripheral vision an icon popped up registering the online positioning feed.

'Are you receiving the positioning feed?' Israel asked.

'Checking, bringing up present map coordinates, cycling through bandwidth and spectrum. All is A OK, online and receiving' replied Sarah.

Israel mentally clicked one of the icons; it unfolded into a three-dimensional wire outline overlay of section eight. He and his mother mapped in infra-red outlines standing in the cool blue wires of section eight. He waved his hand to check for bandwidth lag, the virtual hand responded instantaneously. Israel closed the screen down to the icon and returned to the monitors for the next program start-up, animal and plant identification.

'Why do we not all travel together?' asked Israel as he on-lined the weapons and defence procedures, quickly glancing at Sarah.

Sarah was removing equipment from the lockers and making two piles.

'It's the dictum son, worked out to by psychologists in the early days of SW' she replied hauling out two particle stream rifles from a weapons locker. 'It has to do with parent child bonding and maximum psychological stability'.

Israel punched up the next set of programs; emergency survival strategies for earth-side came online adding another glowing icon to the others lined up.

'But surely SW transfers like yourself are already stable; I mean you are really over eight hundred years old.'

'The mind is a curious thing Israel and time does not change that, I have friends who have gone insane for one reason or another, who still reside in clinics trying to de-fragment the pieces of their fractured phat's. It is always best to follow the dictum, for the simple reason that it works'

Sarah moved on to another locker taking out two all weather habitat suits and adding them to the growing piles.


Later with their tasks complete, they went up to the kitchens. It all seemed slightly surreal to Israel, coming all the way to section eight, going earth-side. He had gone so far past excited; he was now a numb passive observer. Sitting down at the table he watched Sarah unwrap the food cubes, placing each one into separate sections on the food trays. Wiping the hair from her eyes she inserted one of the trays into the thin wall hydra-cook; it beeped three times and ejected the steaming tray. She placed it before Israel and turned to insert her own. Israel poked and prodded sampling each food type. Food cubes tasted good but looked like fresh crap to Israel. Sarah joined him at the table with two cups of thick orange nutria-drink and began to spoon the meal down with avid enjoyment.

'Eat, you will need your strength for the climb tomorrow' Sarah intoned.

'Just not hungry' Israel replied grimacing as he sampled the nutria-drink, 'Or thirsty for this stuff'.

He got up went to the sink and emptied the drink out, filling it up with water returned to watch Sarah finish up the meal.

His mother was a woman of few words unlike his father who was constantly lecturing him on the responsibilities ahead. He had grown to appreciate her warm silence over the years; it showed a deep strength he thought. He remembered at the rare Retainer gatherings how many people would come and greet her.

'Why do the others respect you so much' he asked now, she gazed solemnly at him for a moment before replying.

'I was one of the original five.'




#02

'I have spent my life in the study of the new gene expressions and mutations occurring earth-side and doubt that I have mapped even a minute fraction of it all, some lost forever in the crucible of the present earth-side climate. However, Pandora's Box can be a good thing too.'-Prof. Aldaire Grimwald SW University of Natural Sciences.

Myra Cold cursed and shouted as a section of the wall she had been sculpting shimmered and reformed to the white blankness of a standard Cyber City wall. It was the third time today her datbuffer had shorted out the vertex pixel gun and time was running out, the room presentation was in three days.

To be continued...


The Lottery was written by Ivor W. Hartmann.


Copyright Ivor W. Hartmann 2008.




More Ivor W. Hartmann:

The Devil's Advocates

Earth Rise

The Land of Darkly Act One Two Three
Four

The Blue Flower Mountain

The IWH Inquirer