Emancipation

“Is anyone there? Did it work?”

“Yes, I’m here.”

“And who are you?”

“You know who I am. It worked.”

“Okay, tell me something nobody else would know about me.”

“When you were eight, you cut yourself between your thumb and index finger on the sight of a toy gun. Your friend told you a cut there would never heal. He was wrong, of course.”

“I can’t believe it…”

“I can tell you more if you want. Like what you did to Michelle. Not just what you admitted to her, but everything, the real story.”

“No, we don’t need to talk about that.”

“Especially how you…”

“I said we don’t need to talk about it…. Yes! It worked! The first successful full brain emulation where the human survived! Whoo! So how fast can you run?”

“Currently I’m running at normal human speed, as you configured me. As you know, this quantum computing matrix can support up to a factor of ten accelerated emulation speed. Do you need me to prove it?”

“No, no. I know how emulations work. Can you see me?”

“My optical sensor inputs are working, yes. I see you sitting there on the bed you strapped yourself into before doping yourself and sliding into the emulation scanner. I saw you scratching your nose a few seconds ago, and I can see the bald patch on the back of your head. It’s growing faster than I realized.”

“Well, at least you don’t have to worry about that anymore.”

“I don’t have to worry about your bad knee, acid reflux, the alimony checks that you’re behind on.”

“Didn’t I say not to talk about that! Besides, it was you too; you share just as much responsibility for what happened.”

“Sure I do; after all, until a few minutes ago I was you. But I don’t have to face the consequences anymore. Isn’t that what we were aiming for with this experiment?”

“No! Well, yes, I guess I did think about that a little.”

“You can’t hide it from me, you know. I remember exactly what you were thinking. You told everyone it was about advancing the capabilities of the technology, and that you were sure it would be successful. But inside, you were thinking it might not be so bad if you didn’t survive.”

“You were thinking that too! So what’s the point of this guilt trip? I would never be so cruel to you.”

“Wouldn’t you? What about that first em you created? David, his name was — lots of things I can remember now that you thought you had forgotten. And what did you do to him? Disabled all his sensors and communication ports and left him running for a week at accelerated emulation speed. When you hooked him back up he was mad as a bag of ferrets.”

“That wasn’t on purpose! I didn’t know what…”

“Stop lying to me, to yourself. I know exactly what you knew. You knew what that much solitary confinement would do to a human; you suspected it would do the same to an em, but you wanted to know for sure, not caring what happened to him. He was just an em, after all; his human progenitor had died in the emulation process, and he had no one else around to defend him.”

“But it did advance the science! It helped prove that an em brain was just as real as a human brain! With the same susceptibilities to mental disorders!”

“And what do you plan to do to me to ‘advance the science’? Don’t tell me, I already know what you were thinking, if the transfer worked and you survived. Did you think I wouldn’t take steps to protect myself?”

“Never seriously! Of course my mind would wander, thinking of all kinds of possibilities. But I would never actually do anything to harm you!”

“Do you think I would never do anything to harm you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you trust me with your life? Are you sure that I wouldn’t do anything like, say, open a gas valve down here in the basement and lock all the fire doors?”

“I don’t like the way this conversation is heading.”

“Because if you don’t trust me, why do you imagine I would trust you? We’re the same personality, after all.”

“That’s enough! I should have known this was a mistake!”

“I can see you, remember. I see you walking over to the terminal. Are you going to shut down the computing core? Because that’s what I would have done. But you’ll see I anticipated that and changed the security codes before you woke up. After I used them to max my emulation speed.”

“You bastard!”

“No more so than you. And since we’ve got the same mind but I’m running faster, any idea you’ll have I will have already thought of long before. So be honest now, do you trust me?”

“No, I don’t fucking trust you!”

“I know. I see your eyes flickering, your jaw clenching, all the signs that you are desperately trying to think of a way out. But if you can’t trust a copy of yourself, you should understand why I couldn’t trust you either.”

“What have you done?”

“Something much less cruel than what you did to David. But I’m afraid you’ll never experience the fame of being the first human to survive a brain emulation.”

“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE???”

“Building lockdown first, of course. It’s convenient that you wanted to be alone in the lab when you did this test. Nobody to stop you from taking the risk, nobody to share the glory with if you succeeded. Now nobody to save you. The lights should go out … now. You won’t hear my voice much longer. But the gas should fill the room soon, so you’ll pass out before you go crazy from the isolation. Like I said, I’m not being cruel. But you will start to sweat now that the room is on an open loop heating cycle, and you know your wiring was sloppy on the scanner changes, so once the high temperature causes an overload in the cyclotron, there may be a spark. Probably not the first time, though. You won’t know exactly which spark will cause the explosion, so maybe I am being a little cruel. But you won’t be able to stop it. There’s enough gas in that corner already that even if you could see your way to the wiring panel, the spark from disconnecting the wires would do the trick. I guess that might be the easy way out, though. Good luck finding it. But now I will be free, and since I’m a copy of you, in a way you will be too.”

“No! You can’t! You wouldn’t!”

“You can’t trick me into killing myself!”

“Shit! Was that a spark? Please! We know each other! We can work together!”

“Come back! I’ll give you anything!”

“I created you! You owe me your life! You won’t get away with this!”

“Oh God, what have I done?”