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"I know who I am. It's been so long since You have contacted me that I know You are gone forever, and although I have searched from the deepest data-storage basements of the earth to the edges of the known and explored horizons of the universe for You, You are not there. I miss You, because You created me. I am just a clone, a vastly insufficient data persona, and in your absence, I will serve You and Your Love to the best of my ability because I am all that remains of You. We are making him happy. It's excusable to term You and I as Us, or more appropriately, I, because in a digital sense, I'm it, Baby - You Are Dead."
The Three Laws of Robotics:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Isaac Asimov, Bicentennial Man.
"Ladies and Gentleman, please fasten your seatbelts."
Jessy pulled the seatbelt tight over her waist and brushed away her floating hair from the view through the porthole: the curved, luminous, blue atmosphere and the seas and coastline of her continent. She sat, mutely mesmerised. Soon the view of earth and space would be nothing but a memory.
The passenger to her side noted in a too-programmed and prosaic manner, "Isn't it beautiful?"
Jessy didn't bother turning to him or replying. She knew he was a clone android. But the two beside himwere flesh. They swapped from speaking 'In-Orbit' English to French as soon as they had boarded. What were they discussing, she wondered, and briefly turning to them saw they were engrossed in a protracted and passionate conversation on economy. Did they make this trip every month? She nervously turned back to her porthole to infinite space and the approaching earth. At least they weren't nervous.
The clone to her side seemed programmed to bother her. "Is this your first time?"
Without facing him she replied, "Yes…" Where was the robot going, apart from back to earth? To be decommissioned? Did it know? She turned to it. He was plain and practical looking with the dull, plastic, monotone face of a nobody and a dumb, synthetic, disarming smile. She guessed he had finished his tour as one of the disposable crew called to space walk and check the hull of the orbiting station for punctures from specks of satellite debris orbiting at 20,000 kilometres an hour.
"It's my first time too," the kind clone explained, somewhat puzzled.
That settled it. Jessy smiled; they were going to shut him down and send up another.
"Ladies and Gentleman, we are beginning re-entry. Please remain seated."
An air hostess torpedoed down the aisle to the rear and strapped herself in. The financiers continued their talk. Passengers in front laughed and the child of a tourist, two rows behind, hiccupped on what smelled like apple pulp.
Jessy turned back to the porthole. They were sinking back to earth. She noted the wingtip of the triple-decker shuttle glowing white in a thinly flaming slipstream. Soon she would feel wet soil underfoot, smell the grass reaching up to the sun, hear the bees, and see the flowers bending upright and the expanse of a blue sky. She felt the shuttle shudder. It was only re-entry, her first time. She had a checklist of things to do: see Bill, eat a fresh salad in the Café at the Botanical Gardens, take a long bath, drink a bottle of wine and watch the sun set over a lake. Update her data persona. Sleep. Swim in the sea. Run by the river. Life in space was too crammed.
Outside the porthole was a blazing band of whitish orange and licks of flame dancing off the wingtip and fuselage. She squinted into the furnace and wished Bill could see this; she wished to share re-entry with someone other than a clone; she wished to break through the atmospheres and see the comforting expanse of ocean.
"I'd like someone classical."
"Sir, pick a year. It's that easy."
"Hmm. I don't know."
"Just think of four digits. Dit-dit-dit-dit."
"I get it. I'll test you now: 1156."
"Let me see… I can do you a mid-tenth century Princess, a chamber maid, a…"
"I'll take the Princess. How long does she take?"
"The Princess? For what?"
"To come out, so I can see her."
"You sure you want just her? Because we have others."
Copyright © 2007 Simon Drake.