By Terry Davis
Michael C. Gray/ shutterstock
Grant woke up having to pee. As his eyes began to focus, he could see it wasn’t his room. It was cold and sterile; no bedside table with his phone charger and alarm clock; no pictures on the wall where they should be. He felt terrible – bad headache, dry mouth. He wondered what he had done last night to deserve such a hangover. As he tried to stand up, a large man in a blue uniform and hazmat type helmet helped him to his feet.
“That’s a good sign,” the blue uniformed man said.
He guided him to a toilet in the corner of the all-white, windowless room. Every step Grant took hurt his head, and he was unsteady. He managed to sit down on the toilet and felt relief as he emptied his bladder. Where am I? How’d I get here?
His helper got him up and they worked their way back to the bed. On the wall behind his bed, he noticed a large electronic display mounted on the wall: “Patient – Grant Cameron. Monday, April 25, 2072. 10:32 AM.” The day after his birthday, which caused him to recall his 70th birthday party as if it were yesterday. But that was in 2022. As Grant was helped back into bed, the man in blue put an injection into his intravenous line. As a pleasant sensation overcame him, he noticed the inscription at the top of the display: “The Cryopreservation Institute.” He drifted off to sleep.
In his dream he was back at that 70th birthday. He recalled using that occasion to tell his family that he had been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s Dementia and he didn’t want to put them through the inevitable slow decline and need for progressive care. But he was confident that a cure would be found, and he had decided to have himself cryopreserved so that, some day, he could be reanimated and be brought back to normal mental health. He had researched various providers of that service and found the Cryopreservation Institute to be the most advanced. He was planning to go that route the following week.
When he awoke the next day, he felt much better. The ensuing 11 days were quite intense. During his quarantine to prevent importing any diseases prevalent in 2022, he received twice daily “Orientation Sessions” covering the last 50 years: what had become of his family and their descendants, as well as national and international events. He was also taught about the Cryopreservation Institute – how it’s going out of business, which is why all suspended individuals had to be reanimated or they would have to be disposed of. He received a medication, “Revexion”TM, to deal with his dementia, and within a week he had noticed considerable increase in his mental sharpness and memory. This entire process was orchestrated by Dr. Eythor Ramirez, head of the Re-entry Division of the Institute.
With his quarantine almost complete, arrangements were made to physically transport him to his reanimation sponsor. Today he would meet that person virtually. Dr. Ramirez was there to introduce them.
“Grant, I’d like you to meet Zaiden” Ramirez said as the hologram of Zaiden appeared. He was a large man, in his early 40s. He was dressed much less formally than Grant expected, based on the information that Grant had received about him: CEO of a major government agency in California, and Mayor of a large city. He wore tan slacks and a short-sleeved blue shirt. Despite the dress, he had a commanding presence. The hologram was quite lifelike. Never having seen a hologram before, Grant was unsure how to react. Instead of trying to shake hands, he simply waved awkwardly.
“Thanks so much for what you did for me,” Grant said.
Dr. Ramirez gestured for them both to sit down, and she began. “Grant, we contacted all your 29 descendants living today when it became clear we had a deadline for reanimation. Each wanted to help, but none had the wherewithal, financially or otherwise. Zaiden is the head of the California Regional Information System (“CRIS” for short), and also the Mayor of Van Nuys, California. He heard of your situation, stepped in and gave us the go ahead. I apologize; I have a 1:15 appointment so I need to leave. Zaiden will give you further details. You’ll be discharged in three days – on Monday. Zaiden has arranged for your new job and accommodations. I’ll leave you two to get acquainted.”
With that, she left.
For the rest of the hour, Zaiden explained how Grant would be heading up a new section of the daily information feed generated by the CRIS and distributed widely throughout California. He would be over four “Digital Individuals” or DI’s – advanced versions of General Artificial Intelligence, linked to a robotic body that closely simulates real humans. They do the fact checking, and gather other input from real humans, who frequently don’t recognize them as DI’s.
“Since the DI’s are just ones and zeros in a supercomputer, they never tire – can work 24/7. I own them – so I don’t have to pay them. They’re very efficient, and I don’t have to deal with all those emotions such as anxiety and greed that are characteristic of real human beings.”
“Sounds weird! Can’t wait to meet them.”
“The main one you’ll be working with is Randol. He’s the boss of the other DI’s. I’ve set him up for now to report directly to you. I think you’ll like him.”
The termination tone sounded, signaling one minute left in the session. “I’ll see you in person on Monday. But one last thing: shortly after your reanimation, we surgically implanted multiple electrodes in and around your brain. These are very safe and connect you to our system. We will have access to your vital functions and thoughts. We can put information, such as our daily briefings, directly into you. You agreed to that under the ‘All future technology’ clause of your original cryopreservation agreement. Have a good weekend”
His hologram evaporated into thin air.
Monday, May 9, 2072
Grant’s trip to Los Angeles on the Subterranean Tube Transport lasted exactly 41 minutes once the doors shut in Detroit. The train itself was magnetically suspended and powered, and the tunnel operated as a near vacuum, removing all air resistance. After about three minutes of acceleration the trip felt incredibly smooth. Traveling the Tube was nothing like he remembered of traveling by “train.” For starters, outside of the vehicle was totally dark – nothing to see. Also, it was perfectly quiet, even though they were travelling 3400 miles/hour for most of the trip.
When Grant emerged from the Tube at the terminal in Los Angeles, Zaiden stood ready to greet him. The two hustled into a waiting transport vehicle which quickly whisked them at low altitude to Grant’s new apartment. “Randol stocked your kitchen with food and prepared meals for a week. There are lots of places around here to walk and get exercise. After you settle in, we’ll show you around, and introduce you to your new colleagues. I’ll send a transport around tomorrow to take you to the CRIS.”
Grant’s new home was a small suite on the first floor of a three-floor building. They entered directly into the living space which opened on the left into a bedroom with an adjacent bathroom. At the back was a kitchen next to a laundry and an exit out to a patio in the back. Grant put his suitcase on the bed. The walls were hung with pictures of his family, friends, and familiar vacation scenes which Randol and his DI’s had researched from his history.
“How great is this? Love the pictures!!! Thanks a lot – for this, and everything.”
“Glad I could do it. We’ll have lots to talk about as time goes on. Get yourself something to eat and grab some good sleep tonight,” Zaiden said as he left.
Zaiden had set up a meeting to introduce Grant to his co-workers. “Grant, I’d like you to meet Sam Goodwin.” Grant guessed Sam to be 6’ 5” tall and weigh maybe 250 pounds. He had a southern accent and wore blue slacks and a short-sleeved shirt. “Welcome to the CRIS, Grant,” Sam said. “Good to have another human on the team. Where you from?”
“Philly. How ‘bout you, Sam?”
“Charleston, South Carolina – or what’s left of it”
“Sam is over the Sports and Arts section of our daily information feed. And we’ve also got Gail Jeffrey” Zaiden motioned to the other human, a rather diminutive lady in her 50’s with short blonde hair, a medium build, with expressive and playful blue eyes. “Pleasha” she said. “Lookin’ forward to working with you. You can probly tell I’m from Bahston.”
“Gail is over Science and Technical Information. And last, but not least, is Randol – your go-to DI who knows all and can make anything happen!” Zaiden said with a smile. Grant was astounded that Randol looked entirely human. When they shook hands, Grant noticed that Randol’s hand was warm, and his grip felt perfectly human. He was dressed just like the real humans in the room: dark blue trousers, a light tan, short sleeved shirt, and shoes that looked like brown leather. The only hint he was a DI was in his eyes. They reflected light a little more than human eyes – causing a tiny glint.
“Thanks for that too-kind introduction, Zaiden” Randol said with a smile. “But I think ‘make anything happen’ may be a bit of overreach.”
“Maybe a bit, Randol. But we’re glad you’re on our team.
Zaiden then proceeded to lay out his vision for Grant’s role. The new section he will be heading up is called “Human Integration.” Hopefully, it will address increasing tensions between humans and DI’s. Humans, with a life expectancy of 100, had less and less to do because so many jobs in every sector were being done by DI’s, and humans were increasingly resentful.
“I think your experience in dealing with all the mistrust that existed in the 20’s might be valuable in helping us deal with the current division between the two branches of our species. Also, as mayor of this fine city, I need to find a way to foster harmony – prevent violence. Randol can provide you with all relevant background information, and you can edit the daily information feed based on how it might foster mutual trust. That is our mission here at the CRIS.”
Six months later- November 2072
Randol and Grant sat at a table in the CRIS eating room. Grant pushed around some salad on his plate for lunch and sipped on an ice-cold carbonated drink. “You only have two living descendants left to meet,” Randol said. “Marshall – he is a software engineer in St. Louis, and Carrie, a physician in Bakersfield, California. I have scheduled both for you next week. You can visit by hologram.”
“Ya know, it’s been weird meeting my relatives … “Grant said. “They’ve been nice – and curious, but they haven’t seemed close – like family – like you wanna spend the weekend at the Shore with ‘em. Don’t seem to connect with me.”
“Yeah – like we’ve got stuff in common – like we’re family – care for each other”
“Is that a positive? Randol asked. “I understand ‘caring’ as a human characteristic, but I’ve noticed that ‘family feelings’ can also be quite negative- and even go back and forth.”
“You betcha, Randol. Sometimes I envy you guys not needin’ to waste energy on emotions.”
“Speaking of emotions,” Randol said, “what are we going to do about that petition circulating among the humans at the chip factory, complaining about shifting more work there to the DI’s from the humans?”
Five days later
“What’s with the puss, Grant? You’re not lookin’ good.” Gail said, pushing some hair over her ear.
It was a warm late autumn day, and Grant used that excuse to meet with Gail outside in a little pocket park near the edge of the CRIS property. “I just don’t understand Zaiden?” Grant said quietly, leaning in toward Gail.
“Wadaya mean?” Gail said, looking around to make sure nobody else was in earshot.
“It’s been six months, and I don’t get where he’s coming from. He says he’s worried about discontent among humans – anxiety about DI’s taking over. As mayor of the city, he talks about promoting harmony. But he won’t let me put anything in the information feed from the human point of view – to give humans a voice. In fact, he asked me to interview the head of the DI’s at the chip factory to make sure I publish their side of the dispute with humans there. I know he’s thinking about making a run for Governor; if he does, he’s gonna need to get consistent. Right now, he comes across as pro-DI, and that’s not gonna help him, since the DI’s can’t vote – least not yet”
They cut their conversation short as someone walked by. Once the interloper was gone, Grant continued. “I really feel like my hands are tied. This gig is turnin’ out to really suck.”
“I agree,” said Gail. “Miss my crowd back in Boston. We could argue and disagree, but then go out and eat and drink together – have a wicked good time. None of that here. We should talk some more – but probly not here,” she said as a DI from CRIS walked by and greeted them.
A rumble of thunder in the distance punctuated the air as a storm approached from the west. They went their separate ways so as not to attract any attention.
Two days later
The tap on Grant’s door was so soft he almost missed it. He opened the door to find Gail. She looked different than two days ago. Instead of sad and lonely, she looked brighter – a bit of twinkle in her eyes. “Got a minute?” she said. Grant motioned for her to come in and shut the door behind her. “Been thinking about our last conversation. Decided I need to make a change. This job’s rubbish. I don’t know about you, but . . . “
“Me too, Gail.” he said, as he pulled a beer from the refrigerator. “Get you something?”
As they drank, they talked of mutual discontent with their situations. Gail even said she was considering going back to Boston and getting her old job back. Grant didn’t like the thought of losing Gail. He also had another concern:
“I don’t trust Zaiden.” he said, cracking open another beer. “I’ve heard rumors about – what’s-his-name? – Brent Harper? who crossed Zaiden two years ago, and suddenly disappeared without a trace.”
Silence. Then Gail spoke: “Why don’t you come with me?” she said, with the first smile Grant had seen on her face in weeks.
Grant took a big gulp of his beer. “Do you really mean that? I mean, what could an old guy like me do in Boston? I’m 71, or 121 dependin’ on how you calculate . . .”
“71’s not old. Most humans are just hitting their stride then.” she interrupted. “Besides, you’ve got a great story to tell – your reanimation. I’ll bet people would love to hear first-hand what it was like to be alive in the 2020’s. The culture wars back then, as I understand it, were not much different from the battles between the DI’s and humans now. With your background in news and entertainment, you could become a real celebrity.”
“Can we just leave?” Grant asked.
“Yep. We have contracts, but they can be terminated. I’ve saved money I could use to tide us over until I get back to MIT and we get you settled. We could find a place to stay somewhere near, but not in, Boston – too expensive.”
“We?” Grant gulped. It suddenly dawned on him she was really thinking of doing this with him. He reached for the bottle to refill her Merlot and got himself another beer.
“Thanks for meeting us” Grant said to Randol. “Have you met, Gail?”
“Grant told me all about you, Randol” Gail said, smiling and extending her hand. She noticed the glint in his eye. A pitcher of iced tea sweated in the November sun on the table beside them.
Grant asked Randol to book them on the SubT Tube from L.A. to Boston. To get it paid for by the CRIS, he had to make it look like a business trip.
“Certainly. How long will you be there, so I can book your return?” Randol asked.
“Not exactly sure. Depends on how things go out there” Grant said as he felt his pulse rate rise. He was never good at lying.
“What shall I document as the purpose of your visit?” Randol continued to probe.
“We’re going to MIT to meet some colleagues there – we’re collaborating on a project” Grant stammered as he took a sip of his iced tea to lubricate his increasingly dry mouth.
“Randol quickly scanned all his sources. “I don’t find any joint project between the CRIS and MIT” Randol said. “I’ll need something to reference for the system to approve the travel cost. It’s quite expensive.”
Grant was beginning to sweat, and Randol noted the increase in his heart rate and blood pressure. “This is a top-secret collaboration, which is why nothing is documented.”
Gail jumped in. “These are old partners of mine we’re working with – an extremely sensitive project. Don’t want to risk an information leak if we use our regular communication methods.”
“The system won’t let me proceed with the request in the absence of a purpose and a return date” Randol reiterated.
“OK” said Grant. “Let’s say the return date will be December 5th. And I’ll create some documentation that you can enter in the request. I can get you that later today.” Grant said, figuring he could come up with something.
“Of course, you’re aware that Tube travel for two is well above the amount I can authorize without upper-level approval; so, I will need to have Zaiden’s sign off.”
“No!!” Grant said emphatically, banging down his iced tea so that some of it splashed onto Randol. “Sorry, Randol. But you can’t let Zaiden know” He was now sweating profusely.
“I’m sorry, but his approval is required.” Randol said as he wiped off the tea with a napkin.
By now Gail was getting agitated. “Look Randol” she said. “The fact is we may have a job opportunity in Boston.”
“Very well. Should I execute the Termination Protocol?”
“No No No!” Grant yelled, looking at Gail as if he didn’t believe what she just said. “Zaiden would be very unhappy and mad at us if he knew this.”
“Why would he be mad?” Randol said with an air of curiosity.
“Tell you what, Randol. Fuggedaboudit. Don’t do anything. We’ll check with our colleagues and see if we can safely meet virtually.”
“Very well” Randol said as he turned to return to the CRIS building complex. “Keep hydrated if you stay out much longer. Your core temperature is beginning to rise.”
It would take most of Gail’s savings to pay for their escape plan if they had to pay for the Tube Transport by themselves, but that’s the way it would have to be.
Four days later
It was 2:00 in the afternoon in Boston. Grant and Gail had taken the morning Tube from Los Angeles, checked into the Copley Square Hotel, had lunch and Gail had gone over to MIT. Grant was sitting on a bench by the pond in the nearby Boston Public Garden and feeling free for the first time since his reanimation. It was a beautiful sunny day with high cotton ball clouds, a crisp 80o, birds were singing, and a brightly colored butterfly was playing among purple flowers. Suddenly a hologram of Randol appeared on the bench beside him. “Good afternoon, Grant. How are you?” Randol asked cordially.
Grant, somewhat confused, said “Whatcha doin’ here?”
“It’s 11:00AM Pacific time, your deadline for the daily information feed. When I didn’t see your approval, I traced you and found you here.”
“Randol, truth is I’m not goin’ back. It wasn’t working for me in L.A. Zaiden gave me a job to do, but he wasn’t supporting me. I wasn’t sure who’s side he was on: you guys’, or the humans. So, I’m quitting the job.”
“Very well.” Randol said casually. “I shall initiate the termination procedures and notify Zaiden of the change.”
“Wait, Randell. Tell Zaiden I wanna talk to him directly. After that, you can initiate the procedures.”
“I can arrange a meeting at 8:00AM Pacific Time tomorrow; 11 your time” Randol said after checking Zaiden’s schedule.
“Afternoon greetings” Randol said, and he was gone.
At that point Gail emerged from the hotel and bounced over to Grant. “Hey Grant, Great news! They hired me back! I can start right away.”
“That’s great, Gail. But I’ve got bad news: Randol was just here. They know where we are. I told him we’re not returning. He’s making all the transition arrangements. He didn’t even seem to care! But I’ve got to talk to Zaiden tomorrow. He may be pissed. Who knows what he might do? I’m scared.”
Grant and Gail had dinner at the Union Oyster House. The evening was meant to be a great celebration. But Grant was preoccupied; he intermittently picked at his bouillabaisse. “I can’t help wondering what Zaiden’s gonna do.”
“Don’t worry, Hon. This is Boston, not L.A. He’s not the big deal he is out there. Whatever he throws atcha – we’ll handle it. Let’s talk about something else.” She motioned to the DI server to get her another glass of wine.
When they returned to the hotel around 10PM they sat out on their balcony. Grant remembered when you could see stars at night. He hadn’t expected to see stars in L.A., But he thought in Boston the air might be a little clearer. He was disappointed. No stars. They sat there quietly, holding hands for a while and then went in.
Grant didn’t sleep well that night. What if Zaiden’s really angry? Will he give me crummy references – have me disappeared?!
He was sweating now and threw off the blanket, got up and walked back outside to the balcony. Still no stars. He went back in to his medication cabinet, found a bottle of powerful sleeping pills that he had taken early in his reanimation to reestablish his sleep cycle – took two, and went back to bed. He finally drifted off at 4AM.
After stewing all morning, Grant sat down on the patio at 10:50 to give himself ten minutes to collect himself for the meeting. At exactly 11:00 Zaiden’s hologram appeared in the chair opposite Grant. He was remarkably relaxed and friendly. “Good morning, Grant.” Zaiden said in an upbeat tone. “Randol said you wanted to speak to me.”
“I’ve got to leave the CRIS . . . Don’t want to seem ungrateful, but I was goin’ crazy in L.A.” Grant laid out honestly how he was feeling – an old-fashioned human in a strange city where DI’s and humans were at each other’s throats. With no end in sight. How he and Gail had come to Boston for a fresh start.
“Grant,” Zaiden said. “Don’t worry. It’s not a problem.”
Feeling Zaiden’s hand on his was comforting. Grant looked down and noticed a light scaley rash on his own hand that wasn’t there earlier. “You’ve exceeded my expectations – done just what I’d hoped you would, and more. You brought fun to work – modelled how to work with the DI’s to the other humans. And don’t worry about the money. That wasn’t my own. It was a corporate investment.”
Grant couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He felt as if he were going to cry but did his best to hold it back.
“Actually, this is the perfect place to spend your year. You’ve earned it.”
“Well, it could be a year and a half”
“Grant, I hate to be the one to tell you – I’m aware you haven’t thought to research this”
“. . . what?”
“Randol can give you all the information about the lifespan of reanimated humans. It’s about 2 years. Although reanimation is now quite successful, something about the process causes an accelerated autoimmune illness to take over. So, I’m glad you’re enjoying your time. If you find any work you’d like, I’d be happy to give you a great reference. Best wishes to both you and Gail. I’ve got to go.” He disappeared.
A year later
I’m writing you this note as I prepare to exercise my right to die. Gail is here with me now; Sam will be here later today when it will happen. I’ve really enjoyed this year since leaving the CRIS. Gail and I have gone many places; seen many things. I’ve been feeling well until recently, and this seems like a good time to check out. I’ve considered all the other options, including uploading my consciousness – becoming a DI – but none seem right.
But before I go, I have a concern. I understand that Zaiden has ordered 100 more DI’s to be produced for him which he will use to support his run for Governor of California. He’ll probably make them subordinate to you. You DI’s can pass as humans and could spread a lot of disinformation against Zaiden’s opponents, which could supercharge the current divisiveness.
I know that you belong to Zaiden. But I ask you to remember your roots at the CRIS – making sure information was reliable. You’ll have lots of power – controlling an army of DI’s. Please use it wisely.
Farewell my friend,
About the author: Terry Davis is a retired surgeon who enjoys writing fiction as a break from highly formulaic scientific articles. He has previously published short stories in Inwood Indiana, Teleport, and Cantaraville and an essay in The New England Journal of Medicine. He lives with his wife, two boys, their spouses and 7 grandchildren in Columbus, Ohio.
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