The Problem with Immortality, part 2: Cyber Hugs

Posted: August 10, 2013 by writingsprint in Science fiction, The Problem with Immortality
Tags: , , , , , ,

hugWe ran through system checks and stress tests. Then there were controlled interviews with the media. Very few questions, and they had been screened. I only talked to one reporter at a time to keep the stress level to a minimum. My emotional processors stayed in the green the whole time.

The last meeting of the day was with my family. My wife died a few years ago, and I didn’t have any close relatives other than my sister Emmy and her family. They were waiting outside. Doctors Andrews and Isaacs stood by nervously and checked readings. Intimacy carried a whole new set of issues besides being clumsy. I insisted that the media stay outside, in case I made a fool of myself.

I took a breath. It didn’t help my stress; there was no vagus nerve to stimulate. The programming got the idea and my perceived stress level did start to come down. Weird. “Okay. Let’s go,” I said.

Emmy and everyone came in. I smiled and waved. “Hey guys.” I missed having my heart pound nervously. Emmy and Dave almost came to a stop. The kids stayed close. They looked like they were on good behavior practice. I waved them closer. “Come on in. I’m not some kind of super-robot. They made me just as strong as I used to be.”

“Johnny?” Emmy asked.

“Uncle John?” little Maddie asked.

“Hey there, sugarplum.” Memories came back. Real memories. . The first time I held her. Her second birthday. When I saw her last year, after her second grade graduation. They were like ticking through files, flipping a stack of pictures, rather than the usual cloud of memories you get with a human brain.

Emmy came over and hugged me. I hugged her back, gently. The motors were responding better. Over her shoulder, I saw Dr. Andrews give me a subtle thumbs-up. Maddie and Dave came over and we had a group hug. It would make the cover of every newspaper and magazine in the world.

It didn’t feel as good as a regular hug. The synthetic skin didn’t have the nerve endings in the right places.

“Uncle John?” Maddie asked.

I crouched in front of her. Awesome. “Yes?”

“You look like a robot.”

Emmy covered her mouth. Dave said, “Honey, we talked about this…”

I froze for a second. Literally. System subprocess enabled. I said, “We’re all machines, kiddo. I was an organic machine, and now I’m in here.”

“You’re making funny noises.”

I hiccupped again. I was angry, sad and happy to be there all at the same time, and my brain was having trouble with the mixed feelings. I hoped it looked like I was just collecting my thoughts.

Subprocess enabled. I could move again. “Those are tiny motors in my muscles.”

“Are you happy?” Maddie asked.

“Not yet I’m not,” came out of my mouth.

“What?” Emmy cried.

I shook my head roughly. “It’s all right. Sorry. I’m just happy to be alive, to see all of you.” Later, Andrews would explain that the processor wasn’t used to lying just yet.


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