5,200 words

According to time dilation, Corie was thirty-two years old. Her best friend in the universe, Amy? She was dying. The cancer resisted the chemo drugs and, despite stasis, spread like black oil in all the holoimages of Amy’s organs. Stage four. At least there was no pain. The images flashed across Corie’s mind like the Aurora Borealis.

Corie flicked her wrist and the world shimmered a moment. It glowed brighter—and the horizon, a calm eggshell sea, dropped away, basalt rising in its place.

Why did Amy have cancer? Wasn’t this the future, with flying cars and solar-powered space elevators, where everything had a nanocure pill? Where there were people living on moons and getting off Earth as fast as possible?

Corie pressed her hands together and rubbed them slightly. The wet-sand colored skin whispered, and lava burst from the newly created basalt floor, spraying into the sky and raining back to Earth before turning into glass spheres and bells that shattered as they cooled.

Amy, like Corie, couldn’t afford the pills and didn’t qualify for GovMed. Unlike Corie, she lacked skill sets that would attract CorporateGov attention.

Fog rose from the lava, and with a snap of Corie’s fingers, the fog became a city. Steel, concrete, brickaplast, aluminum. It wasn’t what she’d choose, but that wasn’t the point.

Corie’s skills were some of the greatest, and contract jobs were just thin enough that she skipped eating real food for a few weeks to pay for her nanopills and rent. Racks were expensive, especially GovMed beds that kept her body from rejecting the radiation shielding implants and shutting down on The Trip.

The bones of the city settled into place. Here and there she chopped her hands like a martial arts screen star, and streets shuffled themselves until the chaos looked managed, and yet unplanned. The buildings blended from a European post-modern style to a Gothic edge, as if the Notre Dame had been redesigned by the Soviet Union and melded with microprocessors and glass data cubes.

Corie lost count of how many nanopills she’d uploaded to create implants to control her body. The heart muscles, the pancreas, the cyberspace mental augments.

She searched data nodes for weather, traffic, scents, sounds that were appropriate for a city inland from the Pacific, adjusting the atmospheric pressure and humidity. Then she dove through her creation, thousands of copies of preprogrammed Cories taking walks, going to work, making dinner. When everything was done and a city-week’s worth of time had broken the metropolis in, Corie swept her hands back and flew away into the distance until she was looking down on what she’d made from orbit, like a satellite passing by overhead. It was real enough to fool most everyone.

It’s not right. It wasn’t what Corie would prefer, but it paid for her GovMed rack. It paid for Amy’s, too.

Corie exhaled and clapped her hands together, and the metropolis and the fundamental topography it rested upon accordioned into a flat card of light that flickered as she grabbed it with phantom hands and added it to the rest of the data shelf. Virtual heaven, hers for the low low price of a Med rack and good data transfer speeds.

Corie inhaled and the universe dripped away like hot, black, primordial ink. A moment later, when she pulled the cable from her neck, gagging and coughing as the data cord jerked free, Corienne Biskane became past present Corie.

She was back in her secret data layer, one that was hidden from the passengers and crew. Her rest-universe, she thought of it.

The hard drives hummed in the darkness, and the smell of Mother’s morning coffee reached her. Corie shuffled the smell to the back of her mind, sensation data overlapping with fragments of jingle dancing clashing with the distant hum of flag songs and, inexplicably, Japanese Opera. The psyche reconstruction always started with songs and scents. Corie’s mind turned about her memories—hers, no one else’s—like a tired dog settling down for troubled sleep and leg twitching.

Corie shook her head a moment, cursing the nausea that trailed her awareness like smoke snaking along the grass. Kamsack First Nation Radio (not the station’s real name, but it was the best analogue she could find) was reporting the weather in between ads for a payday loan service. Stadium Powwow by A Tribe Called Red (their last good song, truthfully) came on after that, and Corie realized she was in the wrong year. By this time things had already fractured in unexpected ways, the election of the wrong person to office, the Jump Gate research failures, the wars. Amy, who hadn’t been born yet, would still succumb to the agony of a bureaucracy and the sun would still shatter, expanding too soon.

Corie’s mother leaned in the doorway.

“Nindaanis, breakfast. Get up, you lazybutt, or you’ll be late for school.”

Corie moaned and waved a hand from under her blanket on the bed, her spine still shot through with ice. She’d gone through this moment hundreds of times, but hearing her mother’s voice like it was real, like she was still alive? It stung Corie fiercely.

You can’t save everyone, she reminded herself. Her mother had been too old for the first-gen implants they would invent two years from this moment Corie found herself in. Soon, too soon, her mother would die a natural, sudden death, and there was nothing Corie could do about it.

I’m not going through this, Corie told herself. Mom’s been dead for a long time.

It didn’t matter anyway. It wasn’t why Corie went back. She could spin the dial to any year ever, and her mom still died.

You can’t save everyone. Corie slid out from under the covers of her bed and turned off the laptop playing reztronica. She stretched, felt her spinal muscles pop with the movement, and massaged her breasts, groaning about the ache.

In this slice-time she still got bruises regularly. She’d forgotten that. The SensMemory Recall was flawless, even hyper-real. But the memory was there, latent beneath decades of …

Nevermind.

She got dressed and then stumbled into their shared space.

“Morning, Momma,” Corie said, taking a seat at the battered Formica table. Her mother shuffled to the table and set down a warm bowl of manoomin wild rice grains with strawberry slices and a plate of hot bannock bread smeared with her mother’s favorite honey butter.

“Good morning, Corienne,” her mother said as she eased herself into the creaking chair with a whuff of a sigh. She sipped her coffee loudly. More loudly than yesterday. Or the ten thousand yesterdays before that.

Corie had replayed this moment dozens of times, and each time it was the little details that hit her feelings harder, memories reinforced by a recreated reality. Without knowing what she was doing, Corie set her spoon down and went over to her mother’s chair.

“Corie, what are you—” was interrupted by Corienne kneeling and hugging her tiny mother tightly. “Hey, I’m going to spill my coffee!” her mother said as Corienne pressed her face into her mother’s shirt and shook, just a bit.

“Nindaanis, what’s the matter?” her mother said, stroking Corienne’s hair and hugging her back. Her mother might have been confused, but even in the SensMemory Recall she had maternal instincts. Though, Corie realized, this moment was a deviation. This never happened when her mother was still alive, back before the sun shattered.

“Nimaamaa.” Mother. My mother, Corie thinks. She couldn’t say anything else. She shut her eyes and ended the time slice.

§

Pulling out of the time slice left Corie in her virtual command system, a gray room with ivory lines of pulsing, rotating code, the bird’s eye view of all her projects. Her physical body, implant-enhanced and dormant, lay in her med rack at the core of the ship, but her mind avatar was here, kilometers closer to the massive magnesium diboride electromagnetic and graphecrete shield at the front of the ship. The Femtopulsar power plants sang loudly through the ship’s circuitry rivers here, but data upload speeds were petabytes per second, which afforded Corie access to more ship’s resources than almost anyone else onboard the thirteen point five-kilometer-long craft.

Corie had been one of the first Chosen for the Wolf1061c Seed Ship because she’d adapted so well to each new generation of implants it was like her body was built for them. She tested high on the physical requirements for the program, and graduated second in her class from the Aerospace Military Academy.

And yes, she satisfied the genetic diversity requirement, being an Arctic Economic Zone First Nations woman, but that was mostly a political choice for photo ops and brochures to recruit funding votes for the next series of ships.

She resented being one of the public faces of the mission, but kept that to herself. Her position had granted her special privileges, including the choice of a plus one “guest” to come with her.

Despite doctors’ objections, she’d brought Amy along. For her part, Amy had been happy, but reserved. The best researchers of astromedicine in the solar system were going on the Wolf1061c mission, and possible advances in cryogenic stasis meant that Amy would have more time than other cancer survivors.

And yet, Corie realized as she floated in the data layers of her medical rack, cryostasis hadn’t saved Amy. No amount of research had been accomplished in the field of curing her cancer, and nanopill body remakes were already prohibitively expensive on Earth, where resources were not tightly budgeted down to the gram like they were on the Wolf1061c Seed Ship.

Back on Earth, a cure was possible. On Titan’s Omnistations orbiting Saturn, a procedure existed that allowed someone with enough resource credits to replicate the DNA of a human and rebuild a better body from scratch, a disease-free clone made entirely of flesh, vat grown. But Titan Core was seven light years from here, and the Seed Ship was a one way shot, no round-trip tickets.

Corie frowned and spun down, diving through layers of dark data, her mind-body streaking like a blue comet through a digital sky, leaving symmetrical spider webs of honey yellow information traces in her wake. Each line snaked through the black and activated a dormant data layer, booting up new worlds for the stasis-locked passengers. Cities and resort towns based on her designs sprang to life as the Seed Ship’s passengers “awoke” in beautiful beachside villas or isolated cabins near lakes known for good fishing. Eight hundred thousand passengers sleeping their way through the Trip, a vast metropolis of Sol’s brightest and most adventurous citizens. Thanks to the Seed Ship’s implants in each of the passengers’ stasis-locked bodies, everything felt as real as life on Earth, Mars, or Luna. A Sleeper couldn’t tell the difference between the data layer simulations and waking reality.

Every passenger knew they were on a ship traversing the stars. Many of them had jobs overseeing various functions onboard the ship, but no Sleeper had a physical Doppelgänger (what they used to call androids a long time ago, and robots before that) for ship tasks. That was limited to the thousand or so ship’s crew members, who could leap from the virtual data layers into the mechanical bodies like leopards leaping through grass, smooth, effortless. The ship’s crew needed to transition from the data minds to Doppelgänger’s quickly to handle complex but routine tasks too important to be handled by the Seed Ship’s AIs alone.

Truthfully, the AIs known as Ship Minds could probably handle every emergency the void could throw at the ship, but with eight hundred thousand humans aboard, no one in the ship-building committees back on Titan Core even suggested doing without human failsafes, redundancies, and overrides atop kill switches. All the crew trained for years to take over the ship in a catastrophic emergency, and news reports of these efforts were broadcasted once or twice a year to the citizen Sleepers dreaming away in the data layer worlds.

She couldn’t save her mother. Corie bit her lower lip as she spilled from the data layer through the wires into her Doppelgänger, blinking and leaning forward to detach her “body” from the recharging bay. User Interfaces poured data across her vision. Hydroponics was at 99.97% efficiency, well above tolerances. Water reclamation was at 89.50%, but several crew members from Amber Section were effecting repairs to bring the system up to standard. Biomass was at 94.02%, which was a little low, but within expected numbers giving the birth and death ratio of the animals aboard the Seed Ship. There had been no deaths amongst the passengers or crew.

Yet. But unless Corie acted today, that would change.

Could she save the woman she loved?

Loves.

She knew Amy felt something for her, loved her back in her own way. But for Amy, it wasn’t anything beyond a deep bond with a childhood friend. And so what if Amy didn’t feel lust for Corie? It wasn’t like she hadn’t tried. They’d tried something years ago to see what would happen, but Corie’s desire for her friend never sparked a physical yearning in Amy. Amy played along during their experimental phase, but she just laughed and shrugged.

“Yeah, this just feels weird?” Amy said. She gave a small, apologetic smile. At first Corie’s feelings were hurt, but she got over the bruise to her ego. As time passed they both realized Amy just wasn’t interested in sex. With anyone.

But Corie didn’t care. Sure, she wanted something more, but she was content to just be with Amy, to laugh and explore data layers and to share her life with Amy. Aside from the sex thing, it was almost perfect.

Until the diagnosis. Contentment turned to slushy desperation, then dread, and then to anger. Yes, Corie loved Amy more than anyone, but the disease didn’t spare Corie’s feelings.

She inhaled deeply and left the Doppelgänger Bay, the spin of the interior section against her magnetic soles made her feel like she was always falling slightly upward. She hailed a mover cube with barely a thought, and in moments she was spider-webbed into a metal box that was hurtling towards the rear of the ship at speeds that would kill a bio-human. The Doppelgänger’s body didn’t transmit anything beyond the vaguest sensation of forward motion.

The Doppelgänger was tougher than a human body or a nanopill clone, but the depth of sensation was the same if you knew what you were doing. To the untrained eye, it looked and reacted the way a flesh and blood human would, but it was laced with user interface controls that allowed it access to all parts of the Seed Ship. Corie spent nearly every waking hour studying the control matrix of the android’s synthetic nervous system sheath. It was designed to be piloted remotely, but in emergencies, it could theoretically sustain a person’s neural function separate from their own body for short periods of time.

One step at a time.

Corie felt like she was hurtling through an atmosphere of thick cotton. Light flashed across her vision as her user interface display reshaped itself to show her a Biomass Sentinel from Jade Section. The Sentinel’s name and gender pronoun displayed below the viewer; Masocixa, Biomass Scientist. Pronoun: They/Them.

“Corienne Biskane, from City Dev Data Layer Ombre Section. What are you doing in a skin shell Doppelgänger near Hydroponics Three?” Masocixa frowned, their chrome skin rippling with distaste. “Surely you’re not worried about your nutrient supplements, are you?”

Corie resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “I have cycles of free time budgeted. I wanted to see the rest of the ship.”

Masocixa rolled their eyes, and sighed. “You can see the ship from within the data layer simulation! It’s practically—”

Corie cut them off. “I build data layers, and I know what is and is not the exact same as the real thing. Now is there a crew policy stating I can’t go see things myself in my free time, or is this just harassment?”

Masocixa huffed audibly. “In Real Space? No, if you have spare cycles to waste on pointless activity, I won’t stop you, but be careful in that Doppelgänger! They aren’t easy to make!”

“I’m not going to break it, you crybaby,” Corie said, and ended the two-way conversation. There was a remote tingle of a thrill of being so petty. That faded as the mover cube slowed to a halt near the grasslands airlock. Here, at the center of the ship, the gravity faded into a dreamy bounce, but the wheat and soy fields grew well enough with the tinted yellow light coming from a nearby Femtopulsar power plant, and if you didn’t look at the source of the light, the air felt just right enough to approximate being on the open plains of Western Saskatchewan.

She walked into the fields of grass, inhaling the summer heat scent under an artificially blue sky, and it was almost enough. She trailed through the grass and ducked her way between rows of wheat and corn further down, the soil crunching under her bare feet. She smelled the water before she saw it, the river artificial but designed to suggest instead an act of nature. Tempted as she was to wade into it, she didn’t want to risk the wrath of contamination lectures from Masocixa or anyone else. She wandered along the grassy edge of the bank, listening to the river as it gurgled and rushed into a stream filled with mathematically placed rocks, each designed to direct the irrigation flow of all the wild grasses, grains, and crops of the reserve in Hydroponics Three.

Despite herself, she smiled. When she reached the empty little hill she had groomed into a sitting place for herself, she took out a little hand drum and a padded mallet she’d made and hidden in a nearby storage bin long ago. It wasn’t deer hide or even goat, as it should have been, but then again, the sun that warmed her skin, and the skin itself, were also artificial.

She tapped the drum with the mallet a few times and hummed the first notes before breaking into the clan song. Song after song poured out of her, almost as if there was someone pulling the words she hadn’t spoken since before she left Earth from her chest through her throat and mouth. Then she sang a prayer song.

As she repeated the verses, she leaned backward in her consciousness and mentally dove through the data layers of the ship’s network until she emerged in the cryostation for the ship’s crew’s bodies. Plus one, she thought, as she began to manipulate the data stream of consciousness from Amy’s body.

§

It felt weird, staring at the cryostasis tube that housed Corie’s own flesh and implant body while her mind wandered the ship’s network through the Doppelgänger’s access node. It was as if there were hands and limbs whispering against her own, from the inside, but she couldn’t do what she was about to do without having a backup.

She materialized standing over her own cryotube, the ghost hands of her network body shimmering with data layer code and geospatial notes. She was about to access the software that connected her mind to the ship’s network, but she felt a shiver of cold air behind her.

“Stop what you’re doing,” Amy said from behind her.

Corie turned with a frown, and seeing her old friend there sent a shiver through all three of her bodies. Amy had a data blade out, pointed at the ground.

“Stop.”

“Amy?” This didn’t make sense. Amy wasn’t ship’s crew, and she certainly wouldn’t have access to security tools that could freeze a person’s access. Corie backpedaled and hit the transfer terminal with her palm before leaping upwards through the data layers towards her backup Doppelgänger’s shell.

There was a sharp fist to her chest midway through a series of data layers and Corienne flipped out of control, crashing into changing data layer virtual worlds, her body punching holes in mountains and hotel fronts, and smashing into walls of icy ocean water before she fell back into the Doppelgänger’s body in Real Space, lurching forward next to the river in Hydroponics Three.

Oh no. This isn’t good. She’d been interrupted before she could complete the transfer. Her mind was completely trapped in this body. No time. She stood up and started running through the crop fields, crashing through stalks of blue corn and soy beans.

“Stop!” cried a strange, urgent voice.

Who was that?

A bright flash of light flared, and Corie’s User Interface flooded everything she could see with a view screen.

“Stop!” Masocixa’s panicked face was pushed off screen as the Amy imposter filled her vision.

The Amy Imposter spoke with a soft dreamy voice, devoid of concern. “I know what you’re trying to do. But you need to stop.”

And without meaning to, Corie’s Doppelgänger’s body skidded to a halt.

“Who are you?” she yelled at nothing, knowing the imposter was listening. As she said it, the woman wearing Amy’s face shimmered into view in front of her in Real Space, amid the crops. It was a hologram so real she looked touchable. The imposter nodded, and Amy’s mask melted into different features, until she looked like a younger version of Corie’s own mother. Corie shivered.

“It doesn’t matter,” Amy’s ghost said. “You cannot attempt this. She’s dying. You can’t stop what’s going to happen.”

“I don’t care. I’m willing to try. And you can’t stop me.” Corie didn’t say it like a threat. She was begging. “You can’t.”

The imposter sighed. “I can. And in fact, if you try it, you will force me to. I will lock you out of the system and put you in deep cryostasis until we arrive at Wolf1061c.”

Cryostasis imprisonment? The punishment was theoretical; it had never been tested for longer than a month. It was more humane than being recycled into sustenance for other passengers, but the off-the-record consensus was that it might as well be a death sentence via medically induced coma.

And few had the authority to order such a drastic measure. The human crew who did were currently in deep sleep themselves. That meant …

“You, you’re the Ship AI Control?” Corie said, numb. She’d had no idea the ship’s crew had been aware of this, much less that the ship itself knew about her plans.

The woman nodded. “That is oversimplifying it, but yes. I am the mind of the Seed Ship, and all its crew. I see everything and watch over everyone, even as I repair the reactors, clean the Doppelgänger biomass tubes, and plot course corrections to better our approach to our destination.”

“Everything?” Corie asked. A trembling hand of ice alighted on her mind and slid its way down her spine at what that might mean.

“Or else I would not be here, monitoring both your body and hers,” the Ship Mind said calmly. “I know what she suffers. And I wished, along with you, for a cure. Unfortunately, the cold equation for me is that there is no cure for her. However, I cannot endorse your reckless efforts. She will not survive the procedure you suggest by your actions.”

“How do you know?” Corie asked.

“It has never been successful. Not on Earth nor on Titan Core. Nor any other research outpost station or ship. Much less on the third Seed Ship to ever leave Sol and Terra.”

“Just because it’s never been done, doesn’t mean it … it can’t be,” Corie countered. “What’s the loss if I fail anyway? She’s already dying.” She desperately wanted to leap from the Doppelgänger’s synthetic neural sheath back into her own body in the Med1Rack, but she knew if she did, she would be trapped there.

“No one has even tested the idea of transmitting the entire neural matrix of one person through the system into a skin shell for the length of time you’re suggesting, for the rest of its existence,” the Ship Mind said in that unwaveringly calm voice. The Ship Mind paced back and forth, her hands brushing the stalks of wheat grass behind her.

She continued. “Not to mention overloading the cryostasis data lines with two bioform matrices at once. You could crash the entire primary life support system and leave hundreds of passengers and Ship’s Crew trapped in their bodies, or worse, in the data layers until I could affect repairs, which might be an entire gigasecond. The number of dead could be hundreds of people. Likely including one of our best Virtual Data Layer Artists. If we lost you in the dual transfer, it would set us back possibly two or three generations an—”

Corie stopped listening. The realization hit her like champagne up the arms and back. She can see everything, but she can’t tell what I’m actually doing until I commit. But I’d have so little time.

The moment she finished the transfer and tried to escape, the Ship Mind would close her access off from all but the most basic life support. She was trapped. That made her decision easier.

Corie smiled a small crooked grin of pain. The Ship Mind stopped pacing, her marble black eyes narrowing as she read Corie’s expression. The Ship Mind tilted her head. “You’re trying to distract me?”

Corie shook her head. “No. I was just … regretting my rashness.” That much wasn’t a lie. Let the Ship Mind believe that. “You’re right. It’s just … I acted without thinking it through. I don’t want to lose Amy. She’s all I have.” This was also true. Corie saw the wariness in the Ship Mind’s face ease a little, and she looked at the ground, knowing that the ship was desperately scanning her brain waves for the smallest hint of a lie. Corie took a deep steadying breath and continued, her chest tight with very real grief at what she’d be losing. “But I can’t endanger the lives of other passengers, other crew.” And she wouldn’t, she told herself. “I’m sorry. I’ll surrender now.” And with that, she started to lean back into the data stream of the connection between the Doppelgänger skin shell and her real body. She felt a hand on her shoulder.

“Wait,” the Ship Mind whispered. Corie paused, and came back into the Doppelgänger’s body fully. “I really am sorry I must stop you from trying. If there was any other way …”

Corie nodded and wordlessly left the Doppelgänger body, soaring back up the cryostasis data lines.

The Ship Mind sighed, and then cursed as she devoted part of herself to the crumpled Doppelgänger skin shell lying on the grass. She could have asked Hydroponics Three’s Biomass Scientist to retrieve the body, but she knew they hated leaping into the puppeteer chassis, and to be honest, the Ship Mind wanted to feel what a sun felt like on physical skin, even if it was artificial.

Without understanding why, the Ship Mind smiled when the hairs on the Doppelgänger’s body rose under the warmth of the artificial sun. And for some reason, her eyes grew wet. She was crying. She, an AI, wandering around in a fake body, under a fake sun, was crying synthetic tears. She laughed and headed back for the airlock, inhaling the scent of the soybean and corn stalks.

§

Corie was the best Virtual Data Layer creator on the Seed Ship. She knew how the Seed Ship connected at several points along the cryostasis data’s route back to the flesh bodies of the passengers and crew. She had created them, after all. And as soon as she leaped, she pushed away from the path leading back to her body in the Med Rack, praying that somehow she’d get past the Ship Mind.

Corie couldn’t know that the Ship Mind was kneeling in the Doppelgänger near the river in Hydroponics Three, listening to the gurgle of the water.

But she knew she made it when she smelled the dusty room and the frosted windows, the scent of her long dead mother’s coffee filling her nose.

Corie’s mother leaned in the doorway.

“Nindaanis, breakfast. Get up, you lazy butt, or you’ll be late for school.” Corie leaped up and kissed her mother, grabbing her by the shoulders to ease her way past the woman. Her mother laughed—a small shocked sound.  “Corie, what are you—”

“Nimaamaa, I have to go. I have to go on a long trip. I love you.” With that Corie stepped out the door, wearing her mother’s body as her own.

§

No one saw the hologram of an older Native woman striding through the data layer simulation of the ship because the passengers didn’t care and the ship’s crew were too worried about the Doppelgänger in Hydroponics Three. No one saw the old woman stop in front of Amy Nickaboine’s medical rack and cryotube, and access the dying woman’s neural matrix program to redirect her mind from a medically induced deep stasis coma to wakefulness.

No one saw the older Native woman shuffle over to Corienne Biskane’s cryotube either, and reprogram the neural matrix software there. But the Ship Mind felt it, and in a rush, she dropped the Doppelgänger’s body into a heap in the grass, flying through the ship’s data pathways towards the cryostations, panicking as Corie’s plan finally hit home.

The cryotube hissed a moment later, and as she woke up, Amy’s eyes fluttered open. She saw a ghost of Corie’s mom smiling at her through the glass, and she smiled back, thinking she was either dreaming or on some really good drugs. The ghost put her fingers on the glass of the cryotube and vanished.

Another woman, with wide marble-black eyes and a deep frown rushed up a moment later and looked at Amy in horror. Amy frowned, still too drowsy. The marble-eyed woman was joined by several other people a few minutes later and then after what seemed like an eternity, the glass opened.

The marble-eyed woman spoke, looking directly at Amy. “Corienne Biskane? Are you all right?”

Amy frowned. She tried to speak. But all she could do was croak. Someone brought her a glass of water, which she coughed up almost immediately. But at least she could speak.

“No, I’m Amy. Amy Nickaboine. I’m Corie’s partner. What’s the matter? Where’s Corie?”

§

Amy eventually adjusted rather well to life on the ship. She’d had vague memories of being sick, but she’d been asleep so long that even her face looked alien to her. She often wondered about Corie, but for some reason she couldn’t recall what her friend looked like, and the Ship Mind had taken everything that might have to do with Corie Biskane’s life, including image files and holograms.

Not everything, Amy thought, as she loaded the strange data layer and found herself lying in a bed in a room that smelled of dust and frost and coffee. She sat up, realizing that this time slice playback was a painstakingly recreated copy of Corie’s old house back on Earth.

“Hey,” a familiar voice said from the kitchen, “get up, your coffee’s ready.” Resisting the strange tingling deja vu in her bones, Amy got up and wandered into the kitchen. She smiled at the two women there.

Mari Kurisato is the pen name for a disabled, LGBTQIA, tribally enrolled Ojibwe woman who lives in Denver, Colorado with her wife and son. She has written two self-published books, and her short fiction has appeared in Love Beyond Body Space and Time (Bedside Press), Things We Are Not (M-BRANE SF Press), and Absolute Power, Tales of Queer Villainy (Northwest Press). She is currently hard at work on her next novel, seeking an agent, and spending too much time on Twitter & in MMO’s. Find her on Twitter at @CyborgN8VMari & polychromantium.com  Be warned, she cusses like a motherfracker.

4 Comments

  1. THIS IS SO GOOD AND UNIQUE AND INTERESTING!! Just with this short piece, I’m already fascinated with the worldbuilding and all that’s going on, not to mention the emotional aspects also drew me in.

  2. Aw, I love this!

  3. Well, now I’m crying ugly tears. This is an absolutely beautiful story that tackles some very real, contemporary problems… problems that force heartbreaking choices. Gorgeous work.

  4. So this is amazing. It’s heartbreakingly sad but also hopeful too, and filled to the brim with love. Every word has meaning, every word practically breathes to be honest. I love that though the science is complex it’s not obtuse and I love that the story focuses on how technological advances aren’t necessarily ever going to be enough to save the ones we love. I really appreciated how the story goes into affordability and accessibility regarding new technology and health care because it’s so important and relevant and I love reading diverse narratives.

    THIS IS SO GOOD OMG

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