Children of the Cosmos

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“I can still remember the stars twinkling above us in that field,” she thought, electrical impulses being captured by the chip in her brain and cast over the ultraband straight into another’s brain sitting on the far side of the cosmos, “I hope one day to lie there with you again.”

“I love you, you know?” he thought back across the chat connection, “I can’t wait to touch you in the Slow World again. One day it will be my Slow Lips touching yours. One day, we’ll again lie in that field at the center of the cosmos.”

The secure connection between their brains opened up and a skin-app allowed him to download into and reach out with the arm of a synthetic human’s body. He reached out and touched her. The synth was just a hollow body, but the two-way connection between him and it allowed him to feel what it felt and control it as it was his own. His own original body lay back across the cosmos in a state close to dreaming as its consciousness streamed across the Quick World.

He leaned into her and pressed the synth’s lips against hers. He felt the kiss, as did she, and his hand slid to the curve on the low of her back. Her eyes fluttered closed and she pulled him closer to her…

***

The activation light flickered red, as the connection between him and the synth severed. She saw its eyes grow dull and lifeless, and suddenly she was alone in her bedroom again. The temperature app in the synth had turned off once he had disconnected, and she could feel its synthetic skin growing cold.

Emotionally, she sympathized with it.

She stood up from the bed and retrieved her scattered clothing. Once she had put it all back on, she commanded a house-robot to pack the synthetic body away. It would not do to leave such things lying around, besides, they were expensive.

Her husband would be back soon, and she wanted to freshen up before then.

***

It took a second to get over the dislocation as the disconnection brought his consciousness back to his Slow Body. His eyes opened and he blinked, and then he was back in the Slow World.

He stood up from the chair he had been casting from. He grabbed a cigarette and walked out onto the balcony overlooking this planet. He lit the cigarette and contemplated the scene before him.

Three moons circled silently overhead and cast an eerie glow onto a predominantly night-world below him. Days here only occurred once every second century. Far below the lonely tower he lived in, luminous plantations of alien tree species stretched out before him. They were growing galactic fruits that would later be distilled down into rare liquors and distributed throughout the known worlds.

It was all automated–run by Artificial Intelligence–and he was the only sentient life for a couple of light years in any direction. He was there as a fail-safe if anything went wrong in the plantation AI, which it had not for close on a millennium.

He was so bored.

He finished his cigarette and flicked the butt off the balcony. He turned and strolled back inside, his Conduit browsing through news, movies, media and elicit apps in a desperate attempt to stave off boredom.

He poured himself a drink. It was from this plantation and its sweet, tingling liquid glowed slightly in the glass. Back in the central planets, this drink would be worth some people’s annual salaries, but out here and in this plantation, it was free. One of the few perks of his job.

He decided on party-casting app, leaned back in his chair and opened his Conduit’s connection to its menu.

Somewhere out there, a field beneath twinkling stars existing waiting for him and his distant lover. He missed her and her lips. Someday, when he had earned enough money to buy his way back into civilization and be with her again.

Until then, though, he was going to drink tequila and dance in a synth on one of the party planets…

***

“Appreciated, ma’am,” the suited man said, “Its productivity is up and its reality matrix remains robust. The risk with these high-end AI’s is always that they hit a terminal loop, kind of what we would call an existential crisis. Anyway, this seems to be working, so, if you are comfortable with this arrangement, we would like to continue using you. We will keep the same narrative, as well, just for continuity. Do you consent?”

She smiled and nodded. Her husband stood up, shook the man’s hand and showed him out.

When she was all alone, she leaned back in the chair and sighed. They needed the money–even her husband agreed so–and it was not actually cheating on him, nor was it prostitution. Not really.

No, it did not count when it was just an AI.

The arrangement was simple, lucrative, and she was happy to continue with it. The owners of the off-world plantation kept the AI that ran it from going mad by coding it to think that it was human. They placed the conscious portion of the AI in a high-end synth and let it wander around overseeing the plantation. They also coded it with a history and narrative. Her job was simply to play the part of the AI’s distant girlfriend and keep it entertained, thus, motivating it to keep working.

AI’s–like humans–worked better when they had a goal to strive for.

“You alright, dear?” her husband asked as he walked back in, reaching out to hug her.

She smiled and tucked her head under his.

“Yes,” she whispered, kissing him gently on the neck, “Yes, I am. It’s not real anyway. It’s just a synth with an AI, and the money will allow us to handle the debts, so, yes, I am fine, my love.”

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