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Clip From Commercial 01

Clip from commercial.

“We would have caught it if you came in for your quarterly cancer screening,” Dr. Goldstein said to Joseph Honda. “With your DNA and your radiation exposure from so much space flight, you knew you were at high risk.”

“I was occupied with corporate matters.”

“Four years skipped isn’t you were too busy, and you ignored every recommendation to reduce your risk factors. You didn’t want to know.”

“Four years to you, three months awake from cryosleep capsules to me. When you’re in the capsule, and they decide they need you to go to Io or Mercury, you wake up there.” He buried his rage, knowing he was only 69 but looked over a hundred. “What is done is done. How long do I have?”

Doctor Goldstein shook his head and studied Joe’s 3D body scan. “When you are in a cryosleep capsule, your body doesn’t repair your radiation damage. Once or twice in a lifetime is safe, but not dozens of times. You have five different forms of cancer, including stage four pancreatic, aggressive glioblastoma in your brain, liver cancer, and skin melanomas. We can give you a new liver and pancreas, but the cancers have metastasized throughout your body.”

“That doesn’t answer the question. How much time?”

“With replacement parts, maybe a year.”

“How long until everything turns to shit?”

The doctor sighed. “Joe, I wouldn’t tell anyone else, but you are something that belongs in another century. My guess is five months, longer with high dose chemotherapy. But …”

Joe had seen far too many team members go through chemo. Death would be better. “Thank you for your honesty, doctor.”

When Joe reached the rental car, he pulled out the bottle he had left in it and poured himself a stiff drink before setting the autopilot for home. As he took a second during the flight, he wondered how everything had turned to shit. Raquel separated from him years ago, but he was never on Earth long enough to divorce. His own children hated him. He had hoped to at least have a happy retirement. This damn cancer had cheated him.

The company that chose the ads for his rental car knew Joe had parked at an oncology clinic and that he had spent years traveling around the solar system. Naturally, they chose ads for what Joe would be most likely to buy. “We are alive,” said a burly man in cowboy clothes, one hand on a six shooter and his other arm around the waist of a smiling blonde in a long dress. “Our paradise is just like your physical world, except so much better.” The camera panned around them to limitless horizons of trees, mountains, streams, and wildlife. “Eternity together, with the ones you loved and cared about.”

She looked up into his eyes with an adoring gaze. “Or find new love, as we did.”

“Our heaven is just one choice of the thousands of servers you can live in, with more added all the time.”

“We bought the Platinum package,” she said. “We can even create new worlds.”

“We also have unlimited holo-calls to our loved ones out there.”

“Do everything you never had time for. See everything you always wanted to, learn everything you always wanted to. Make your dreams come true,” she said.

The narration said, “Don’t settle for a hole in the ground. Seize your last chance for the life of your dreams. Eternity guaranteed, with eight-way redundant storage on six different worlds guaranteed. Tap your screen to call the Vaults of Eternal Bliss now.”

Joe had seen the commercial before, but this time he paid close attention. He had devoted 45 years to InterCorp’s mining and manufacturing complexes around the solar system. Raquel had cheated on him the first time he went off-world, and both Samira and Joanne loathed him as an absentee father. The ad was right. This was his last chance to be happy.

The next ad sold robotic mind implantation bodies. "They will never know with Andro-Skin." Joe tapped the mute icon. Every one he had seen looked fake and creepy. Even worse, they represented everything he had grown to loathe about life without any of its physical pleasures. No drinking, no eating, and no sex. InterCorp would love it if he downloaded to a robot body. They wouldn't even need a cryosleep capsule for him anymore. Just yank his power and toss him in the cargo bay, and the outrageous cost of maintaining an android body would keep him as InterCorp's slave.

Once Joe decided to have his mind uploaded, he felt completely and utterly detached from it and everything around him. Joe briefly considered trying to get the family together and then discarded the idea. He was a stranger to both his daughters and Raquel might sue to prevent him from using what she saw as her money.

He thought about his parents. Both were only in their 90‘s. His grandparents were slowing down, but they were all still alive. They wouldn’t understand someone so young doing what their religions said was morally equivalent to committing suicide. How could he explain the indignity of incurable cancer to the ones he loved? All of them would tell him how he was robbing the gods, but this was his life and his afterlife. Nothing would change that.

Joe lived by himself. His apartment was in a good building, but it was only 40 square meters. As often as he was away from Earth, he had wondered if he needed that much. Soon, he wouldn’t need anything. He sat at the desk that doubled as his dining room table and checked his bank balance. Using his 75% corporate discount, he purchased the Vaults of Eternal Bliss, Platinum Class.

He transferred the funds and recorded messages of explanation for his daughters and to his parents. The sooner he went, the less time cancer had to eat his brain.

Even before he made it to the spaceport, his boss messaged to tell him to cancel everything and prepare for yet another mission. He replied “We will talk tomorrow,” smiling in the irony. This body they had killed would no longer be available in the morning. By then, his body would be recycled. His brain would be preserved in osmium and embedded in plastic. Within two weeks, that brain would be sliced into 30 nanometer sections and imaged by serial section electron microscopy at four nanometer resolution. The resulting 150 Exabyte neural network map would be transmitted to the Vaults of Eternal Bliss servers at Shackleton and Peary craters on the moon. There, he would awake and smell the cherry blossoms.

One last spaceflight, a quick suborbital hop to the intake center in Dakar. During the trip, he looked at all the different environments they offered. He spent decades as the company troubleshooter, building InterCorp’s mining and manufacturing stations. Finally, he would feel the earth between his toes, smell the air and look up at the sunshine.

The Vault’s offices were in a wing at Hopital de Saint-Louis. After a mountain of forms, he changed into a hospital gown, and they put him on a gurney. The anesthesiologist gave Joe a quick shot, and his existence faded away.

Suddenly, he was standing. The world looked like a cartoon. Everything was in ugly, garish colors. There were no subtleties. Joe couldn’t smell anything, but he heard the deep throbbing of heavy machinery. Robots of various sizes and shapes filled the room. Bins of parts lined the walls behind them. Quantity on hand and description information appeared for each storage location Joe looked at.

When he examined himself, he saw that his arms were Kelly Green tubes. He wasn’t wearing a Kelly Green outfit. His entire body was Kelly Green. A number had been painted on his barrel chest, 83F439F7.

He rolled around the warehouse he had woken in, wondering where to find the complaint department. All the brochures said he would be alive and at his peak of youth and strength. This wasn’t what he bought.

A door opened behind him, and a white service robot rolled in. Its number was 00000002. “Move it, 39F7," the robot said. "We got a power failure at the diamond wafer fabrication factory. It’s stopped processor chip production.”

“What is this?”

“Titan. Hespirat mining complex. Now get moving.”

“I paid to be in the Vaults of Eternal Bliss, Platinum Class. Where is the complaint department?”

“That’s rich! The complaint department. If I could laugh, I’d be busting a gut. That number on your chest, what do you think it means?”

Joe looked at it. “The serial number for the robot?”

“No. It’s your number. You are 83F439F7. I am number two. Mother is number one and is now your god. No matter how fancy you were before, you are now lower than grinder dust on the floor. You are now nothing but a tool to be used up and discarded in the service of Big Mother and InterCorp profitability. Do you understand that?”

This had to be a nightmare, a malfunction in his brain as he transferred to virtuality or a glitch at the intake center. He wondered how to send a message back to InterCorp headquarters on Earth.

Two stopped and turned around as if it were looking Joe straight in the eye. “Get this clear, 39F7. This is not a nightmare. You are not here by mistake. You have been Shanghaied. Mother downloaded your subroutine. Forget your fantasies of your little love nest. This is your virtual eternity, running as a subroutine on the Master Control Computer. Yes, Mother listens to your thoughts, and she told me to tell you.”

He wondered if he was the only Joe Honda now, or had they duplicated him in every InterCorp factory from Mercury to the Oort Cloud.

"Such thoughts are forbidden. Do not concern yourself with anything outside of Hespirat mining complex, ever."

Joe was shocked. Couldn’t he even feel sorry for himself?

“Mother says no. Wrong thinking is punishable by death or worse. You’re getting away with a warning because you are new. Move it. That wafer plant being inoperative is hurting production.”

He wondered how to kill himself by venting the power couplings through his processor.

“Mother has told me what you’re thinking. It won’t work. You aren’t in your bot. You are inside Mother. That bot can melt in a smelter and Mother will just transfer you elsewhere.”

There was no sun. He didn’t even have toes. What could be worse than this?

“You don’t want to find out. Do you know what Mother did to the last person that made her mad? She made him the control subroutine for a hydraulic press. No seeing, no hearing, no talking to anyone else, nothing but stamping by reflex every time one sensor says a blank is in place. He wanted his thoughts. Now they are ALL he has.”

Big, red letters flashed inside his head. “LISTEN TO 0002.”

"You will not think impure thoughts. You will do what you are told to do, when you are told to do it, as quickly and as efficiently as possible. When you are through, you will thank Mother for your chance to serve her and InterCorp, and you will ask her what to do next. Do you understand me?"

They silently rolled the rest of the way. It took Joe six hours to localize and then bypass the failed section. As soon as he restored power, two said “New orders. The hull casting kiln in ship fabrication is producing distorted sections. Hurry. Let’s go, let’s go, Macht Schnell, davai, davai.”

“What? Can’t we take a break?”

“Why? Are you hungry? Are you tired?”

Joe knew he would never be hungry or tired again and would never, ever have another break.

Written by DrBobSmith
Content is available under CC BY-SA