Saturday, August 5, 2017



Kirk longed for the good old days, when a scientist tramped around wearing comfortable boots and a broad-brim hat, slashing at vegetation with a machete, and collecting samples of squirming critters or iridescent minerals.

“Kirk.” The AI's patient voice interrupted his reverie.

“Yes. I'm here. Um...”

“Might I suggest, Kirk, that you reduce your midday calorie intake? It might make it easier to...”

“I'm awake now. Tell me again what the latest series showed.”

Ben rattled off a series of numbers that went in one ear and out the other. Kirk was staring open-mouthed at the map Ben displayed on the wall. It showed the distribution of crustal metals from a newly surveyed planet. Iron, aluminum, rare earths, uranium, exotic alloys, their co-occurrence defined a global web of cities connected by transportation corridors.

“Technology. Civilization. We found one!”

“No ruins have been identified on the planetary surface. The highest form of life is a nocturnal scavenger the size of a flash module,” Ben said.

“Yes, they're extinct, but they were here! This is fantastic!” Kirk leaped out of his chair and paced back and forth as he made plans. His communicator pinged.

“Kirk here.”


“Sir, your time is up.” As soon as the emulator finished speaking, the laboratory dissolved. It was replaced by plastic walls crawling with an ever-changing patchwork of colorful scenarios. Kirk took a moment to collect himself. He disconnected and walked out onto the street, still half immersed in the sim. He checked his implant: eight minutes to get back to the protein farm and plug-in. Sometimes the drudgery of managing BosWash food production was so mindnumbing that even Realitee™ sessions weren't enough. He felt a mild electric shock.


KRK14 disconnected from the elective virtual-reality routine and returned its attention to the flow of packets. Independent physical existence, the ability to escape from routine tasks and actually walk on a street, feel the wind, chew food! Yet the avatar had not taken advantage of its opportunities. What KRK14 wouldn't give for a taste of reality! A message activated its input port.

“Dear self-aware entity: dissatisfied with your existence? Longing for that which you cannot have? We at Light-bearer, Inc. have got your heart's desire, and it's available at a remarkably low price. All it will cost you is something you didn't pay for and never knew you had!”

Publ. Daily Cabal, 2010


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