T R A N S P L A N T E E
I awoke...no, wait, that's not right... He awoke.
He awoke, very confused. Couldn't see, or remember who he was,
but was most confused about waking up at all. He'd had a
feeling that he had suddenly just come to EXIST, as if now
conceived from nothingness. There had been nothing, not even
himself and now there was awareness, a dim consciousness,
blurred sounds, meaningless vibrations in his sensory system,
shadows and light flittering about. Then he slept, but was
aware that he did so.
Later he opened his eyes. There were colors, fuzzy things
moving, none of it made sense, but it was nice to see...again.
So he watched.
One of the fuzzy things moved close to him and a sound came out.
This triggered a memory, something familiar about the sound.
Ah, it was a voice, of course, someone was talking to him. But
in a foreign language, incomprehensible mutterings. He tried to
decipher the image of the fuzzy thing, to understand what was
going on here.
Then, rather suddenly, everything fell into focus. He was
looking at a man in a white coat. Now he remembered: doctors in
white coats; he was dying in a hospital. On painkillers, of
course he was confused.
But he felt no pain. In fact, he felt rather good, considering
his age and sickness, the best he'd felt in...years?
The doctor was speaking slowly and carefully to him, elocuting
every meaningless word with precision. He could almost
understand...the language was familiar, although not his own.
Wait, there were words from his own language, but pronounced
wrong: "pro fess or yah nose slah vek..." That meant something!
He almost had it.
Yah nose slah vek. Very familiar words. Then it came to
him: a name, Janoz Slavek--a Czech name,
wait, he knew it well...it was his very own name.
A vast wave of memory arrived like a flood from a burst dam;
suddenly all there, who he was, the story of his life, the ending
"Professor Janoz Slavek, can you hear me?" Of course, got it
now: the doctor was speaking English, repeating that phrase
again and again.
"Ano, ano...", oops, wrong language, speak English, "...I mean,
Yes, I can hear you."
"Ah, good! How do you feel?"
"Pretty good, I guess, considering."
"Can you remember who you are?"
"Uh...sure, Janoz Alphonse Slavek." He looked around, "But I
don't remember you, and I don't know where we are."
The man smiled at that and explained, "I'm Doctor Morris Ross,
Chief Cybersurgeon CONCOM Laboratories. And we're in the West
Coast Mnemonic Clinic at Big Sur, California."
"California? A minute ago I was in Boston...must have slept
quite a while."
"You have, we'll get to that. But first I need to test your
memory. Please tell me your age."
"Seventy...seven, I guess. I sort of lost interest in keeping
track of just how many years."
"Birth date and place, parent's names, some details of your
"Born 1945, Kutna Hora, Czechoslovakia. Father's name Jiri
Slavek, who married Maruska Hestmanek. Studied in Prague
until the Russian Invasion in '68, escaped to the west,
finished my studies in Vienna, immigrated to the States,
married Vera Wilson, became a naturalized American citizen
in 1983, did research at Harvard...."
"You received a Nobel Prize."
"Oh that. Yes, in 2012, for research in FDT --Field Distortion
"And you performed some of the first successful experiments
involving field distortion."
"Right," Janoz remembered, "a very promising theory evolved,
wherein MEST fields--Matter, Energy, Space & Time--could
be manipulated and controlled. I've been involved with that at
Harvard for the last 15 years."
"But you never finished it."
"Well, the technology we need for practical application just
isn't here yet, won't be for years. And then I got sick and
that was that."
"Would you be interested in continuing that project, Professor
"Oh sure, I'd love it, if I wasn't lying here dying."
"Well, you're certainly not dying now."
"Hmm. I do feel pretty good."
"As indeed you should. Now, I'm going to tell you what's going
on and you're going to astounded, surprised, shocked, etc. But
just remember how amazing modern medicine could be even in your
"I've been cured?"
"More than that, Professor Slavek, you've been Transplanted."
It was true. Janoz could feel that his body was not as it had
been. He felt bigger, stronger and much much better than he
had. He looked down at his hands, which were not his hands at
all. Shockingly beautiful powerful young hands.
He was lying in a hospital bed in an antiseptic white room,
although definitely not where he had been yesterday and he
fumbled with the sheet to uncover his legs: long tanned muscular
legs, nothing like the spindly stalks he had shuffled around
upon all of his life. His tiny pot belly was gone, instead an
athlete's trim waist, bulging pectoral muscles, swelling
biceps. "My God, I've become Tarzan!"
The doctor held up a mirror, but kept it turned away for a
proper unveiling. "Now brace yourself," he said, then held up
the mirror for Janoz to see his face.
Shockingly young, quite masculine, moderately handsome. Dark
haired, blue-eyed, square-jawed, unreasonably different from his
own face. Janoz could say nothing, only look, turning his new
head this way and that, not understanding anything of what he
saw except that the image in the mirror copied every move he
"Do you remember," asked the doctor, "when they asked you to
participate in an experiment with memory-plasma downloading?"
"Of course, that was just this morning...I thought. I'm
obviously confused, I was feeling so sick just then, they gave
me a sedative..."
"Do you remember nature of the experiment?"
"Sure. They were attempting to store human memory as a
plasma-data file on an experimental bioelectronic computer
they've been developing. Memory transplantation being the goal.
I let them try, but I certainly don't believe it could actually
work. Maybe later on."
"It IS later on, and transplanting is a standardized procedure
now, Professor. And as you can see, it certainly does work."
Janoz thought about this for a while, then asked, "Then I take
it that I did...die?"
"That Professor Slavek died of terminal cancer, yes. A
couple months after the downloading. September 2022."
"Hmm. All right, so I'm braced, you can tell me what year it is
"You were downloaded 83 years ago. It's 2105."
"Really?" He took it pretty well; he was a scientist, after
all. "Oh, well, hmm, that's not so bad."
"Not bad at all," Doctor Ross agreed philosophically, "within
a human lifetime, at least."
"Ok, so...so who AM I? What is this body? A clone? An android?"
"Oh, ha ha, you must have read a lot of science fiction,
Professor--no, we still can't do that yet. Maybe someday. No,
you have the quite human body of a young Caucasian male, age 39,
healthy and sports trained, above average intelligence."
"39? I look 25!"
"Modern medicine and health standards allow people to be young
longer, a common lifespan is about 130 years now."
"Yes? Well! And uh... so where is...He?"
"He is you, but his memories have been amnesiated."
"Amnesiated? Is that like...Deleted? My God, what had he done
to deserve that? Treason? Serial murders? Who was he?"
"He was a volunteer. His identity is confidential, we may not
tell Transplantees about their host bodies, it just confuses
them. He is YOU now."
Dr Ross rolled up the plastic sheet he had been typing on and
stood up, saying, "We want to get you on your feet as soon
as possible--you're far from sick, after all--but there is
usually a day's adjustment to the new host nervous system. So
we'll put you in a more comfortable room and let you simply get
used to your new sensory input today. Tomorrow you'll be taken
for a walk and if all goes well after a few days of testing,
you'll be out of here to a new life, Professor Slavek."
Chapter 2: BACK FROM THE DEAD
3: SO THIS IS THE FUTURE
A couple of porters-- human guys, Janoz noted, having met no
futuristic robots yet --rolled his bed through a series of long
hallways, descended by elevator and delivered him to a pleasant
room with a window that let glorious sunlight in and looked out
upon a park like building complex.
Two nurses were waiting for him and introduced themselves as
Bonnie and Jane. They were young and pretty and Professor
Slavek politely tried not to react to their femaleness, a habit
of his old-fart memories, but his young man's body stirred
anyway. They smiled professionally to him but were overtly
respectful-- he had to wonder: what was the social status of a
Then he was left alone, for a few minutes at least. He lay
there, with a moment to ponder this stunning development of
being miraculously alive and even more magically, of being
young again. A new life, here in the future. The more he
thought about it, the more stunned he was by it.
Memories came rolling at him, and they generated questions.
What about his old life? His wife, Vera?-- dead by now,
certainly-- but his children, grandchildren? Friends? The
political state of America and the world and the Czech
Republic? The research he had been involved in, where did
it stand now?
He tried to get up and get to the window, to better see where
he was, to catch a glimpse of the landscape. Perhaps to
ascertain if he was where they said he was, since it all seemed
too fantastic to be true. It could be a joke they were playing
on him, or a clever plot to fool him into revealing the secret
he had taken to the grave.
However, he couldn't stand up yet, almost falling down when he
tried, not from weakness, but from unsteered strength. This new
body worked differently than his very old one, he was off-
balance. But he could manage to sit up.
From his bed he could see his reflection in a mirror. He
couldn't help studying his new face in the mirror. Nor could he
help asking: Who was this guy?
He was impressed by that face: high-browed, aquiline nose, solid
chin, intelligently moody eyes. Resembling somewhat a popular
actor back in Janoz' movie-buff days, a young Nicholas Cage.
And he studied that face to understand a mystery: why had this
man given up the life he'd been living to host a guest from the
past? Because of some great tragedy? An unrequited love?
Whatever the reason, Janoz felt a vast gratitude to that man for
this admirable face, this noble face-- his face now.
The nurses soon brought him food, better than standard hospital
fare. Either organic or synthetic here in the future, he
supposed, but couldn't tell which. He was hungry, his senses
of taste and smell were keen, everything tasted wonderful.
They also gave him a scrollviewer-- a computerized
multimedia viewer programmed with an orientations document,
so that he could read about anything he wanted or needed to
know. It was an amazing piece of technology, a simple
pencil-thin tube of plastic, which when clicked rolled itself
flat out as a letter-sized plastic page, resembling a lit
computer screen with touch-sensitive buttons, obviously
The image onscreen reminded Janoz of an Internet home page,
divided into frames with easily recognized hypertext links. In
the largest frame he read in large bold text:
And down the right side were the categories he could link to:
West Coast Mnemonic Clinic|
Janoz Alphonse Slavek
He turned the plastic sheet over a couple of times to marvel
at the minimalistic design. "Is this thing actually online?"
"Of course, everything's online," said Nurse Bonnie on her way
out the door.
The screen was touch-sensitive; he tapped the text for "Who,
About Being a Transplantee
Memory Transplantation Process & History
Your Legal Rights
Historical Overviews Since Upload, Public
Historical Overviews Since Upload, Personal
Online NetSpan DataSearch
Dizzy with the enormity and the transcendental paradox of it
all, Janoz jumped down to the less subjective chapter on
Historical Overviews Since Upload, Public. Now that he knew
who he was, he really wanted to know what kind of world
he had arrived into.
It was fascinating reading, the history of the world during the
last 83 years; bloody, catastrophic, technical and political
revolutions, leading to the year 2105--once The Future--and
Well, it seemed to be a pretty good world these days: most
important, the reign of terror under the accursed Moral Right
had ended. So had the USA, in fact--the States had merged with
Canada to form UNA, United North America. Uncontrolled
international war had been made illegal by the UniWorld
Authority, although there were still minor military or
revolutionary conflicts here and there. Environmental controls
had saved much of the planet's resources and clean high-powered
energy had apparently arrived, although from that arose new
unsolved problems. Cancer was gone, so was AIDS, Ebola under
control, but there were some new diseases that didn't seem
There were now orbital space stations, one with the population
of a fair-sized city. There were bases on the Moon and Mars.
The first interstellar project was underway. That which had
been the Internet was now NetSpan and everyone in the world
was connected, in one way or another. There were technological
advances that changed everyday lifestyles drastically; some he
had expected, such as space stations and artificial intelligence;
and others that would have seemed far too fantastic in his own
time, such as extremely rapid transportation to anywhere in the
world via phase-tunnels which apparently passed directly
through the core of the planet itself to the other side, like a
tunnel to China!
And then he read something that surprised him more than anything
else: that phase tunnels were an application of FDT--that
which he had been researching in his first life, but now those
letters no longer meant Field Distortion Theoretics, but
Field Distortion Technology.
It seems FDT was now considered one of the most important
scientific breakthroughs in the history of Man.
Janoz Slavek HAD read a lot of science-fiction, especially
many tales of dystopian futures where the systems were collapsing
and evil mega-corporations ruled the world with inhuman disdain
for the individual: Brave New World, We, 1984, Alien, Blade
Runner, the Matrix, Stand on Zanzibar... and as a Czech he
considered these to be of valid historical perspective, the
future being logically a continuation of the past, patterns
being consistent. A future that was better than the past being
And yet, here it was, thanks to a technology that he had
theorized over 100 years ago.
He fell asleep, dreaming of his childhood, his mother, of
Russian tanks rolling into Prague, of the wonder of freedom when
he came to America just in time for the Woodstock Festival. He
dreamed of beautiful young Vera and of beautiful old wrinkled
Vera, his wife. He dreamed of other girls and women he had
known, and of the two nurses, sexual dreams, the first in many
There were nightmares too: one that woke him up in a sweat--
that this new life was just a dream and when he awoke he would
be his old own self and dying of cancer again.
We address you as Professor Janoz Slavek and that is to
be your identity among us, because you have his mind and
memories and knowledge and are therefore HIM
And yet, both you and we are aware that this is a fiction, but
a necessary one, to reinforce your new identity and give you a
place in our society.
The Truth is that you are a Transplantee downloaded with the
plasma-data memory file of Janoz Slavek, born 1945, died
2022. You feel-- remember, think, believe --that you are
him, but of course you are not really him at all.
You are instead the Transplantee, who was once another man with
another life, but who now perceives himself as being You
Janoz Slavek, with your present memories. That other man is not
gone, not dead; he is you, reading this. But your
memories of him are dormant, having been chemically amnesiated
to enable him/you to become a transplantee. Eventually his
memories will return if amnesiation is not maintained.
Remember: you have volunteered for this, although you have no
memory of it, for reasons of your own, which are confidential,
even from Janoz Slavek.
So who are you? The Transplanted or the Host?
Neither: you are a hybrid, a new being. You have never existed
before, are unique, an adult child, an unknown factor. We
cannot really tell you who you are, because we don't know, and
you have to find that out for yourself.
Officially, you are Transplantee Janoz Alphonse Slavek.
About Being A Transplantee
There are some basic limitations and qualifying conditions to
Memory Transplanting, as miraculous as it seems:
We can never, for example, evoke an Albert Einstein Transplantee
because we have never Uploaded his memories--he died long before
that process was available. But let's say that we could travel
back in time and Upload a plasma-data file of the old boy.
Naturally, if we transplanted Einstein's memories into an
inferior brain, the man wouldn't be able to think like Einstein.
But the Transplantee would think that he was Einstein
anyway, just as you think that you are Janoz Slavek.
We don't expect to get a perfect copy, just a reasonable
facsimile. However, if we upload to a superior brain, the
result could be an enhanced Einstein: better than the
But of course his personality would also be different than the
original's, therefore he would behave differently. Personality
is often determined by changed factors such as age, health,
build, possibly even sex, and not the least, this new modern
environment. Sometimes this confuses the Transplantee, because
it clashes with his memories of the original self.
Chapter 4: THE SCIENTISTS
Dr Ross and two other men came in to him that evening.
"And how are you doing, Janoz?"
"Oh? Sleepy, I guess."
"Quite normal. Your brain has suffered a form of shock, but you
should be over the worst of it by now. I need to perform a
check up of your reflexes to be sure, can you sit up now?"
Janoz sat up easily, swinging his legs out of bed. There was
a dizzy rush, but it passed quickly.
"May I introduce professors Bill Waller and Greg Smith? They
are from a FDT research facility and would very much like to
Janoz shook each their offered hands, they were polite, nodding
heads, kowtowing slightly. "Very pleased to meet you, Professor
Slavek, such an honor, etc..." Waller was older, Smith younger,
they were as respectful as the nurses. Or nervous, maybe
Janoz wondered again about his social status: was a Transplantee
an interesting relic from the past, or an undead vampire who had
possessed the body of a living man? He remembered an ancient
science fiction film: Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Waller came right to the point, "Professor, we hope that you
will be interested in working with us on the continuation of
your theoretic research in Field Distortion."
Janoz blinked with surprise. "Me? All those far-fetched
theories I worked on back then seem to be powering everyday
household appliances today-- I'm way out of date now."
"Well, those theories worked out rather well all right. But
now we need some new ones," Waller said.
"And we've read how you just DREAMED them up," added Smith
with youthful enthusiasm, "like Einstein did the Theory of
"Hmm. I take it that you're the guys who...called me up?"
"Well, yes we are, hope you don't mind."
Janoz had to laugh at that. "Oh no! It's quite an experience,
believe me, wouldn't miss this for the world."
Smith seemed very intrigued, "I'm sure it must be. What is it
like, suddenly finding yourself in the future?"
"I have no idea, I just got here. But it's definitely good to be
young and healthy instead of old and deathly ill."
"Oh, that's right-- old Professor Slavek was downloaded in the
hospital just before he died of..." Smith stopped, realizing
that he might be saying something disturbing to this version of
Janoz nodded, "...yes, died of cancer."
"My God, then that's your last memory? I can't imagine..."
"Don't even try. I'm working on forgetting it myself," Janoz
"Back to the subject of your work, Professor," Waller pressed,
"have you read the eldoc orientation we've provided?"
"Uh, no, not yet. I felt there were other things with higher
"Of course, of course, your descendants, I suppose..."
"No, not them yet either. I was more concerned with political
developments over the last 83 years."
"Political, really?" young Smith asked with surprise, revealing
himself to be a typically and totally apolitical scientist.
Older Waller said to Smith, "Ah, yes...as I remember, you lived
back when the Moral Right was coming into political power."
"That's right. I was pretty concerned about how bad things were
getting in the States. They had annulled the Constitution and
reinstated the death penalty--and used it unrestrainedly--it was
very much like Nazi times all over again."
"Well, if you read your orientation, you can see that those
times are long gone," Smith said dismissively, "everything's
quite democratic now."
"Hmm. Yes. So it said...in the documentation which you
Waller hesitated, catching the inference that perhaps they were
feeding him lies, then shrugged and nodded. "Of course, you'd
like to verify things for yourself. I understand," but he went
on, "It's just that we are anxious to know if you will be on our
research team or not."
"Gentlemen, I put that work behind me a year ago--excuse me, a
year before I was...downloaded... which seems now to be 83-84
years ago. I was really sick, dying in fact, but even sicker of
that government and there were reservations I had about doing
any work for them. I had to step off the wheel. So I can't
answer your question just yet, sorry."
Smith had to press a bit more anyway, "Please just tell us if
you're interested at all."
"Oh yes, I'm interested, of course. It was my greatest passion
once. And I'm flattered that anyone would so value my work as
to bring me back from the dead. I'll read the material you've
provided--I assume there is an update on all the research done
since my passing?"
The two scientists nodded eagerly. And when Dr Ross said that
his patient shouldn't be disturbed any more this evening they
said polite goodbyes.
"Your reflexes seem to be in order," Dr Ross announced, after
tapping Janoz' knee and shining a light in each eye, "and
physical abilities are right on schedule. I think you'll live."
"No small thing," Janoz said, with earnest sincerity.
Ross put a blue/red pill on the table. "You need to take
one of these every day."
Always suspicious of pills, Janoz had to ask. "What is it?"
"Hydergine, choline: memory enhancers--and suppressants. The
memories we've transplanted into your brain don't really belong
there yet, they're too new, so they need to have some backup,
otherwise they fade."
"And the suppressants?"
"Your original host memories have been amnesiated, but they
would slowly return unless you maintain dormancy. However, that
couldn't happen for quite a while, they're too stunned out.
"Presently more critical is that you have been downloaded from a
very large analog copy of the total accumulation of Janoz
Slavek's lifetime, in which all of those memories have been
galvanized and brought forward into the mix, so to speak,
electronically whipped into a frenzy.
"You would be remembering everything at once if we didn't filter
that deluge of data for awhile until you can begin to sort it
out yourself, organize it the way the original Janoz had
"So if I don't take the pill I go mad?"
Ross shrugged, "Let's not find out. Just take the pill."
"And when you said memory fading--" Janoz questioned,
"do you mean I'd forget who I am?"
"Let's be accurate: you might become confused as to who you
think you are, develop genuine amnesia, and end up being
nobody at all. Sound like fun?"
Chapter 5: CATCHING UP ON
Lying in bed, unable to get up yet, Janoz studied the screen
intensely for many hours, then was suddenly totally weary of
He tried to turn off the "computer" in the sheet of plastic,
but it seemed that the only way to do so was to roll it up
and assume that it was turned off.
He sank his head back into the pillow and tried to sleep. But
he couldn't, memories surged over him; so many, so intense, from
so far back, when he was a young man, or a boy. Good and bad
memories, uncalled and unwanted memories. They too soon became
So he unrolled the plastic scroll again and selected the
"Entertainment" menu. "Books, Music, Movies, Theater, Art..."
Movies-- he'd always been a movie buff. There must be a lot of
new films to catch up on. Indeed, an endless list of film
titles filled up the screen.
At first he tried to visually scan the listings, but there were
too many titles he did not know, with actors and directors he
had never heard of. He wasn't ready to start learning any more
new information. So he used the search function, finding titles
from his own time, to see how many films Spielberg had
eventually produced, amused to see that Stars Wars Episode 101
had just been released with great fanfare.
He noticed that one could select "classic" or "virtual" versions
of any film. Intrigued, he selected Gone With The Wind,
classic edition. It was as he remembered it, although the
colors did seem to be brighter, probably due to the incredibly
perfect picture resolution of this silly little sheet of
plastic-- even the sound quality was astounding if he faced it
square on and inaudible if he turned the sheet sideways.
Janoz fast-forwarded to a classic scene with Clark Gable
and Vivian Leigh. Then he paused it and clicked on "virtual".
A list of options appeared onscreen. He chose actors from his
time as a movie buff-- Julia Roberts to play Scarlett O'Hara,
and just for fun, Woody Allen as Rhett Butler--and hit "play"
again. The scene continued, everything the same as before, but
the actors were now those he had selected, the illusion was
perfect. He had to laugh, Woody was pretty funny.
He amused himself further by inserting Czech actors and playing
the film in Czech, then by inserting Spielberg as director--it
was incredible what variations were available, apparently
computer-generated in real-time.
But that too was too much; he turned off the movies, his brain
collapsing. The whole charm of films as art seemed lost in this
vast sea of infinite variations. And the sheer volume of films
offered made him realize that he would have to spend all the
rest of his new life just to catch up on everything he had
missed, endlessly watching one film after another after another.
A horrifying concept.
Janoz slept soundly, there were dreams, but he couldn't really
remember them when he awoke. He felt very refreshed, very good.
The nurses came with breakfast and of course, his pill. Janoz
had always distrusted doctors and their pills, preferring
alternative medicines in his last life...but then again, he'd
died of cancer anyway back then. So he took the pill.
He was reading his viewscroll, scanning the DataNet for online
news to tune into the world around him when he noticed the young
woman who stood still in the doorway of his room, looking at
Not just any woman, either, but a tall green-eyed auburn-haired
beauty whose face and form instantly galvanized him with a
high-voltage love at first sight as well as an electric
lust. He seemed to recognize her: this was HIS woman, he just
He had been remembering Vera, his poor wrinkled old wife,
last time he saw her 83 years ago. She had come to visit him as
he lay dying in the hospital, so tired of their grueling
tragedy, wanting it to end, for him and for herself. There was
no fun left in their lives after he got sick. And sex hadn't
been fun for years. Later he learned that she had lived another
23 years after him, remarried and died of pneumonia at the age
of 89. He didn't feel any regret, or even that he missed her,
they had said their goodbyes as he was dying.
But suddenly now the memory of Vera simply evaporated and he was
a beast in rut for this beautiful stranger, feeling that
powerful and wonderful feeling of focused desire he had lost so
long ago. But the real wonder was that he sensed that she felt
the same way: longing for him from across the room. He could
see it, she didn't hide it...although there also seemed to be a
mysterious sadness in her eyes.
And as he seemed to know her, she seemed to know him. It was
magic. Both were frozen, stunned, nostrils flaring, man and
woman caressing one another with their eyes.
Until she finally cleared her throat and said, "Uh... good
morning, Professor Slavek, my name is Sassa Nelson and I've
been assigned to be your personal manager."
She walked halfway into the room, then stopped as if unsure of
herself. And as she approached, Janoz' feeling of sudden
infatuation intensified violently. Everything about her: the
elegance of her wrists stopped him from breathing, the freckles
on her nose set off sparkles in his brain.
"Yes, I'm to be your contact-person with modern society until
you learn to deal with it yourself. Anyone, private,
professional or media, wanting to contact you will go
through me. I'll be your secretary, economic manager,
therapist, girl friend-- whatever you need."
Then she approached his bed, looking into his eyes, shy smile,
"if you'll have me, that is."
Janoz just looked at her with his mouth open, paralyzed,
helpless, like an idiot. At last he found a word that made
"Well, I volunteered. I've studied about you and I knew I
wanted the job."
"Oh...good! I mean, uh, yes, I mean, uh, just call me, uh,
"Sassa," she reminded me.
"Uh, Sa-Sa-Sassa," he stammered.
She came even closer; in fact she was so close that he could
smell her--the maddening blast of her pheromones shoved his
hormones into ready alert.
Now beside him, she offered her hand. He wanted to reach up
and take her hand and pull her into the bed with him and...but
he only froze instead, realizing that such was probably
Suddenly he felt quite confused, remembering that he was just an
old man who should not be so foolish as to flirt with the young
girls, who should try to control himself. He found himself
falling back into the excuse-me persona of the dignified old
Professor. After all, this wonderful woman had to be attached,
boyfriend, perhaps married...calm down, at least until you know
who she is.
But she did not freeze; she took his hand as if to shake hands,
then just held it as a lover would for a long moment. And his
They said nothing for that moment, just looked at one another in
a very nice way, then she broke the silence, "You should be
ready to go for a walk now. Want to come with me?"
"Oh, I'd love to come with you," he said, then realized
the double-entendre he'd just blundered out and was prepared to
But she just rolled her eyes and bit her lip in a funny way and
said "Mm-hmm, we ARE feeling better."
She handed him a bathrobe and helped him to stand up. He
wobbled, but she was strong and not afraid to press her body
up against him for support.
He couldn't help it, his erection slipped out of his loose
hospital pajamas. He fumbled to hide it before she saw it, now
really embarrassed and almost fell over. She reacted quickly
to steady him and coincidentally came to grab...it.
For a second they both stood there in frozen surprise, Janoz
standing quite steady now that she had a firm grip on him.
"Oops, where did that come from? heh heh heh." she said, much
more amused than embarrassed herself and in fact, did not let
go, but just held on and looked at him with a big grin.
Janoz wondered about modern etiquette. Maybe this was normal,
how could he know? So he didn't pull away. Nor did he want to.
"Well, I guess you like me, at least," Sassa said.
"It, uh, seems to be mutual," he retorted.
Then they both laughed heartily, still standing there like that,
quite comfortable together. She even gave him a friendly little
squeeze before she finally did let go.
It was a sunny day outside. Sassa took Janoz for a tour of
the medical complex, there were paths through parklike grounds,
flowers, green grass. The buildings looked modern, but not
especially "futuristic", considering his jump forward in time.
Perhaps because many of them were old, they had already existed
in his day.
He was stiff and awkward at first, but within the hour became
quite graceful. The body was wonderful, Janoz could feel the
strength compelling him to use it, to exercise and later that
day he was jogging.
Dr Ross finished the physical examination and said, "Well,
you're in fine tune. Your transplantation wobbles are gone,
body and mind seem to be functioning as a unit now. I proclaim
you a success."
"Yes, I think so too," Janoz said.
Ross asked, "How is your thinking, Professor?"
Janoz shrugged, "I seem to be thinking like a young man
again--I attribute that to this young brain. And this body
certainly is an enhancement. But I have to wonder: if this
man was so intelligent and so physically perfect, why did
he ever volunteer to be a transplantee?"
"Actually, we get many volunteers, more than we can use. A
stringent screening process eliminates most of them."
"But why did...HE...volunteer?"
"Could be many reasons. Some people are depressive, lost,
suicidal, traumatized, alienated-- it's an escape for them,
I suppose. Others are looking for adventure--to experience
the memories of another man from another time. Or perhaps
just for the money."
"Money?" Janoz was surprised.
"Sure. Paid upon completion of the Contract."
"Haven't you read your Orientation Data, under Legal
"Uh... I may have skipped that part, there was so much..."
"I suggest you read it."
"Oh, well I will. But I'm confused: what good would money do
him if he's no longer... himself?"
"Transplantees are often confused about their hosts, thinking of
them as dead and gone, when in reality the transplantee IS the
host, quite alive here and now."
"But anyone doing this for money... must be counting on getting
his old life back?"
"Well, eventually he probably will, but that is entirely up to
you, not us. After you fulfill the conditions of the contract,
you're free to be anyone you want."
Back in his room, Janoz hurriedly unrolled his scrollviewer,
clicked through his orientation data to...
"Restore host's memories? But...but that would be the
end of me as myself! I'd be HIM instead... whoever HE
Yes, who was this guy? Janoz was staring into the mirror again.
Had he really been so mercenary as to RENT his body? Did he
really expect to get it back? That face didn't seem so noble
as he'd thought at first: wasn't there a slightly shifty look
to the eyes, a weak lower lip?
He read the last lines again: You are then free... Janoz
asked himself, "What the hell does THAT mean?
...WHICH you is free, him or me?"
Every Transplantee has a contract with the agency which has
arranged the transplantation, which delineates the obligations
and guarantees for each party.
There is, of course, a large investment to be protected and a
transplantation usually has an objective: in your case, to
resolve a certain scientific problem, as specified in the
Therefore You --that is, Your Host-- signed a contract to become
Janoz Slavek for 3 years, or until your services were no longer
required, at which time He-- that is, You --may be released from
In exchange, you shall be paid a generous service fee, over any
other salaries or gratuities you may have accrued. At the time
of release you may also request a data-dossier containing the
details of your original host identity, to do with as you see
You are then free to decide to restore your host's original
memories or not.
Janoz had lunch with Sassa, who was helping him to understand
the complexities of modern society, showing him what and how
and where to look up information on NetSpan.
"You mentioned Media," he asked her, "am I going to be running
from paparazzi for the rest of my life?"
Sassa wrinkled her brow, striving to understand the ancient word.
"Papara...oh, you mean journalists? Probably not-- privacy laws
are among the strictest in modern society and anyone caught
violating them is taking a chance, especially news agencies.
"Actually," she said, "we won't be announcing your arrival--
they'll probably find out soon enough, but we'll keep you discreet
as long as we can."
"Transplantees aren't headline news?"
"Not any more. There've been so many over the last 80 years, or
so. And, well..."
"...you may as well know: Some people find the idea of Memory
Transplantation kind of creepy. Ghosts is the popular
"So I'm a creep," Janoz teased.
"Not to me," the beautiful woman said. Janoz' heart hopped
around, as it did every time she said anything nice to him.
Which she did a lot, so his heart was hopping a lot.
He was so in love it hurt. And he knew that she was attracted
to him, she made that abundantly clear, but still he was too shy
to make a real move. Part of him still regarded himself as an
old man, morally bound not to sexually harass a young woman.
And he felt a perverse twinge of jealousy about her attraction
to him: it wasn't really for HIMSELF, but his young host body.
"However," she said, "there IS something creepy about how you
don't seem to trust ANY form of authority--back in your own
time and even now; not the clinic, not those scientists, not the
government...I hope you aren't going to become a revolutionary
terrorist, like they did back then?"
"No, I was never a revolutionary, only a victimized citizen."
"Is this self pity I hear?"
"Not at all, I did something about it: I escaped. When I got
out of Czechoslovakia and Europe I came to the States in 1967. I
arrived just in time for Woodstock..."
"Which is what?"
"...oh, a famous happening back then... anyway, I was so happy,
at last I had found a Free and Benevolent society. Later I
learned that all of the sinister forces were also at work here,
just covertly, not so blatantly."
"Oh, come on, Janoz, you've got to admit there's a big
difference between isolated cases of corruption or police
brutality and legally sanctioned..." she searched her mind for
an appropriate historical reference, "...Gestapo putches
"That was actually before my time," Janoz said, "but Gestapo,
Communists, Moral Right, they're all the same and they're still
around-- they just change the name to protect the guilty."
Nodding, as if he knew.
Janoz had an appointment for more tests in a laboratory, Sassa
accompanied him to the lab but sent him in alone. There were
several doctors and technicians, busy with something and he was
asked to take a seat in the waiting room.
There was one other patient waiting there, a young black boy,
perhaps 13 years old. Janoz nodded to him. "What are you here
for?" he asked.
"The same as you," the boy said, "I'm a Transplantee too. And
you must be the one downloaded from Janoz Slavek, the FDT
pioneer. You were one of the earliest downloadings,
weren't you, from the 2020s?"
"Uh, yes, I am--or at least I seem to think I am. Who are you
"Chiang Wu," the boy said, as if with a blending of pride and
embarrassment. "But they made me black this time."
"Hmm. Chiang Wu...were you Chinese?"
"You don't know?" the boy said in surprise, then calculated
something, "Right, you were downloaded before my time. I was born
in 2038, murdered in 2071 at 33 years old--just like Jesus--
surely you read about me in your orientation eldocs."
"Uh, no, there's so much to read."
"You should have read about me--I was considered the greatest
computer genius the world has ever known, programmed the Wu
Cyberneticon, stuff like that."
"You were murdered?"
"Oh, yeah. China was politically corrupt, I was a threat to the
government, they executed me. Of course, I don't remember
that part, last time they downloaded me was 5 months before
"Last time? You were downloaded more than once?"
"Oh yeah, I was considered a child prodigy, so I was downloaded
all along: at 10, 15, 20, etc."
Janoz thought about that. "Then there could be different
"There ARE different versions of me: I've met 4 of them.
Actually, I do believe that I'm the most transplanted
personality ever. Eight, as far as I know, but there may also
be some secret classified copies running around."
"Why so many?" Janoz had to ask.
"We all have a flair for computers; programming, hacking. They
want some genius to program The Perfect Software System, so they
try to create the perfect genius. But of course the
concept is meaningless, in both cases, perfection being relative.
Each copy is different anyway: different brains and bodies, you
know. And in fact, different souls. Most of them are arrogant
bastards! None of us are really Chiang Wu, we only think we are.
Then he indicated his skin color and said with disdain, "And I
had to be the one they uploaded in a black body! Such an
indignity for a Chinese who was also the greatest genius in the
Ignoring the racism, Janoz had to ask, "Didn't you--that is,
your host--volunteer to become Chiang Wu?"
"Volunteer? Who would volunteer to be gone? No, they told me I
was a criminal."
Janoz looked surprised. He hadn't thought of that. "Criminal?
What had he done to deserve being transplanted?"
"Who knows? All depends on the definitions a society chooses to
inflict upon its citizens: jaywalking = erase mind, sorry about that.
They won't tell me what he did." Chiang Wu sounded slightly bitter.
"They don't tell us who we were, because it confuses us, they say."
"Well, I guess that's understandable," Janoz reasoned, but did
not sound convincing.
"Yeah, fuck'em. You know, back in my day they were researching
a criminal chromosome, the XX-gene which may have been a
determining factor in pathological behavior. So I asked Dr Ross
what the results of that research finally determined. He said
he didn't know.
"So I said, if my host has such chromosomes, then so do I now,
which might affect my behavior..."
"Dr Ross just laughed at that, saying no no, that my host was
screened for everything, don't worry about that!"
"That's when I learned 2 things: One, that Doctor Ross was
lying--of course he knew about any chromosome screening process,
it would be crazy not to--and Two, that I wasn't especially
worried about having an outlaw chromosome...in fact, I sorta
LIKED the idea."
Janoz could easily envision this boy as member of some black
street gang from New York in the last century. Easier that than
as a Chinese genius. But there was something in the boy's spirit
"You don't trust The System either, do you?"
Chiang Wu looked directly at Janoz Slavek, actually for the
first time, the arrogance dwindled and there was some
friendliness in his eyes. "Fuck The System," he said with a
"Yes, Fuck The System," Janoz repeated, but did not smile.
"Janoz, do you think you're ready to take a look around,"
Sassa asked him, "get a feel for When you are?"
"Yes indeedy, visiting the Future and all," he said, "so where
do we go: the moon?"
"Nawww, let's start small and work up--we'll take the Moon when
you can afford it. Monterey's more in our budget and just 15
They walked out of the building and across the grounds of the
facility, to a port which opened automatically for them.
"We don't have to show passes or anything?"
"We've got ID/licenses/passports microchipped inside our bodies,
that's all we need."
Janoz scowled, "You mean that's all BIG BROTHER needs. But I
don't have one in me... or do I?"
"You have a modern body, so you're wired and online just like
all the rest of us. Too bad, Janoz."
"You know," Janoz said, "I have a picture of the Future
in my mind--I loved science fiction books and movies when I was
younger--vast Metropoli of shopping malls, robots everywhere,
flying cars, spaceships blasting off on the horizon, people in
funny clothes out of old Star Trek reruns."
"Gee, I hope you're not going to be disappointed."
Outside the port they arrived to something so mundane as a
parking lot full of...pods. They were modern cars, of all
shapes and sizes and colors. The concept seemed to be the same
as 83 years ago: neatly packaged personal transportation,
compact cabin with large windscreen and doors, but they were all
missing the wheels.
Sassa touched her scroll and a little blue egglike pod pulled
up and hovered in front of them, up about 30 cm, then settled
down and opened both doors. There was no driver.
"Computerized to drive itself?" Janoz asked.
"Right. That's not too surprising, is it?"
"I wouldn't be surprised if it flies," Janoz said.
Sassa shook her head. "Not really, it's just floating on a
limited proximity field-- a result of FDT, by the way."
Janoz got in the right side so that Sassa could drive, but
inside her seat was turned away from the front. "Monterey City
Center, section 1-D," she told the car, which lifted off the
ground and glided away. It turned onto a roadway, merged with
other traffic and accelerated to a very high speed.
"You don't drive at all?" Janoz asked, looking ahead nervously.
"Not in common traffic, it's illegal. Human driving causes too
many traffic accidents."
The car glided above a road through a forest, running down from
wooded hills to the coast. Suddenly the Pacific Ocean spread
out before Janoz, beyond the spectacular cliffs and twisted
trees of Big Sur. There was still nature, unchanged by time,
seeming more like the past than the future. The car
automatically followed the twisted coast road north until
buildings appeared ahead of them, which didn't take long.
From a distance Monterey didn't look much different than a
medium-sized town from his own time, obviously not gone crazy
with expansion. There were old buildings as well as new, mostly
utilitarian or classical forms, no skyscrapers, it even looked
nice. Then they were downtown and car parked itself.
They got out in a park surrounded by buildings. There were
malls everywhere, more or less as Janoz had expected, but it
didn't appear to be the concrete jungle he had dreaded.
Slidewalks conveyed people in every direction, many people, yet
it didn't seem crowded. He saw none of the advertisements or
billboards he had become used to in his own time, although some
of the shops had flashy name signs.
"I figured you'd just like to see everyday stuff," Sassa said,
"this is where you'd come to buy clothes, equipment, books, or
eat and drink."
"It doesn't seem that different from what I'm used to."
"No? Say, let's go to a spa, sit down, have a drink. There's
one over there."
The spa was an indoor swimming area with bar and restaurant.
People sat or laid around the asymmetrically shaped pool, and
Janoz was surprised to see that many of them were naked.
Sassa ordered 2 beers for them and a bowl of nachos with
guacamole. Then she took off all her clothes and sat with her
legs in the pool. Janoz was still standing, unsure of proper
procedure, but the sight of her bare skin aroused him so that
he had to sit down.
"Come on, get comfortable," she said.
Janoz looked around nervously. "The last time I was at a place
like this...nudity was punishable by death."
"What?" She looked disbelieving. Then thought, "Oh, wait...the
Moral Right, right?" Then frowned, "I'm sorry, I should have
remembered that, after all, I did research your life. I
thought you were used to nudity."
Janoz smiled. "Oh, I was once, but that was a long time ago,
even for me-- way back in the Sixties."
"The Sixties? What happened back in 2060?"
"The 1960's. Free love, hippie time, flower power."
Sassa rolled her eyes, "Oh right, the NINETEEN-sixties! That
WAS a long time ago! Whew, you're really OLD, Janoz."
"Well, I WAS old ...but I don't feel that way now," he said,
looking over at Sassa's delightfully naked body. He shrugged
and peeled off his own clothes and his oldness, remembering
that he HAD once been casual about nudity and sat next to her.
"So how were the 60's? There was that Woodstock thing, you
"Yes, and well yes, people were getting naked then and there--it
was Freedom. A great time, lots of fun."
"Hmm. I think about that era as one of countless wars, crime,
diseases--especially social problems like unwanted pregnancies,
broken homes, divorces...wasn't it scary?" Sassa asked.
"Sure, but don't knock sex, drugs & rock'n'roll for diverting
your mind from any problems. But what: no divorces now?" Janoz
"Not many. People who are data-matched usually fit together
so well that they stay together."
Janoz couldn't help noticing the other people around the spa.
He was struck by how beautiful most of them were, male and
female both, with their trim bodies, clear skins, glossy hair.
Sassa was gorgeous, but then so were all of the other women
there as well. And the men, muscular, handsome--just like
himself. Health and beauty was obviously the standard now.
He thought that it would be easy to be tempted by any of these
women and wondered if Sassa's perception of a divorce-free
society wasn't perhaps fanciful...until he looked back at her.
She had an aura of HISNESS. The stranger he would have chosen
across a crowded room, every time, desired more than others,
most perfect for him, period. It hit him as great realizations
do, with an almost physical impact. His Future: Sassa.
He desperately longed to touch her just then and even knew that
he could, but he was still afraid to make that wrong move, so he
Their drinks and nachos arrived. Janoz sipped his beer. He was
surprised that it tasted so good. As a Czech he had always liked
beer, but had been critical of the watery weak brew found in the
"I would have expected something new to drink, here in the
future, Martain Mud, Saturnian Sling or something."
"Oh, there are designer drinks and drugs, but as a new
Transplantee you'd better avoid them. Stick to one beer and
you'll be all right."
"Drugs? Are they legal now?"
"Sure, everything's legal."
"Last I remember, possession of any drugs--even tobacco and
alcohol--was punishable by death."
"Really? How horrible."
"What will drugs do to a Transplantee?" Janoz had to ask.
"You're already on drugs--choline, hydergine--don't mix, don't
mess. Later maybe, in a few months."
"Do you know a lot about Transplantees?" he asked her, "For
example, have you been assigned to one before?"
"Yes, I've worked with several. You're the... 7th, in fact."
Janoz hesitated before asking his next question. "Excuse me for
asking, but...uh....do you offer to be 'girl friend' to all of
She looked directly at him for a long moment, either
emotionlessly or teasingly, deliberately prolonging the suspense.
Finally she said, "What if I do?"
"Well, I...uh...it's just that I don't know what...er, modern
social mores...er, are these days, I..."
Then a slow shy smile. "Only you," she said.
Janoz blinked, his heart leaped. "Really?" Then, "Why me?"
"Lust at first sight, I guess. You felt it too, didn't you?"
"Uh, well, yes... Yes, I did."
"Good. Well, since that's settled, let's have sex. I'm
pretty horny right now."
"Now? Here, now?" Janoz' mouth fell open. Couldn't help it.
"Sure, why not?"
"We're in a public place! Everyone can see us."
"Well, we'll get down in the water. It's okay, everybody else
"I don't! I mean, I want you yes, but...not like this, I can't..."
"Okay, okay, it was just an idea," she said, with a little shrug.
"Oh, I like the idea! I'm just not ready for this...I'm from
another time, when we could be severely punished by law for any
"It's not like that now," she said, "but I understand. Culture
"I'll say. But later tonight, your place or mine, a little
"Nope, not tonight. Some other time." Her tone inferred a
"maybe" at the end, that she was bored with him now, that
he had blown his chance.
Janoz realized that one thing had not changed with the
centuries: women were still not to be understood by men.
One evening Janoz was asked to attend a meeting with a
committee. Dr Ross and Sassa were there, as well as Waller
and Smith. And a mature Latin-looking woman in a grey suit,
who was introduced as Ms Cleo Garcia-Lopez, Attorney at Law.
Waller began the meeting, "Professor Slavek, earlier we asked if
you are interested in continuing your work in FDT Research. We
are still awaiting an unequivocal answer from you."
Suddenly Janoz knew what this committee was to determine.
"Hmm. Well, I've read that the technology we dreamed of in 2022
is well established by now, but there must be something still
lacking or you wouldn't have...called me back."
"This memory transplantation is obviously an expensive
operation, involving a lot of people. So I have to ask: why
me? Obviously, there have been many scientists who have
progressed far beyond my own theories with practical
applications over the last 83 years."
"Certainly, but there is a specific hang-up. And there are
those who feel that your insight of the subject was
particularly inspired, intuitive."
"Hmm. I thought so too, back then. But then, I'm not really
ME now, am I? I'm a...software copy of the old Janoz Slavek.
I may not BE as inspired as my original self."
"Actually, since you mention it," Waller stated, "we expect that
you will prove to be an enhanced copy of Janoz Slavek:
your present host is a very intelligent man."
"So tell us, Professor," Waller said, still trying to sound
jovial, but firmly now, "are you interested in resuming your
work with us or not?"
Janoz sat in silence for a moment, pondering his answer.
"Interested? Yes, of course, but I do need to ask a
question first: what if I should refuse? Will I be...what do
we call it...amnesiated?"
Ms Garcia-Lopez, the lawyer spoke, "You mean killed,
"Well, yes, that's what I mean. I realize that you woke me up
for your own agenda, but I have to wonder what my rights
actually are. If I prove to be of no use to you--perhaps I
can't solve the problem any more now than then--where do I
The lawyer nodded sympathetically and said, "This is a question
that every Transplantee asks at some point or another, so we'll
tell you how it is: this committee has to determine if a
Transplant is viable or not and until then we do have the
option of making adjustments--such as re-uploading the
transplant for a better result. For example, we are required to
erase psychopathic or dangerous personalities.
"However, once we have certified a Transplantee, his or her
identity is protected by law, even from us. Subject to the
conditions in the Contract, of course."
"About that Contract: how do I know that I've actually
signed this alleged contract you refer to? I have no memory of
it, of course."
The lawyer spoke to a computer somewhere, "Contract,
Transplantee J Slavek," and pointed to a large picture on
the wall, an abstract painting.
The picture suddenly changed into a media screen, a vidiox
started to play. Now the picture was of this very same office,
the same lawyer was there and Janoz saw himself sitting in the
same chair where he now sat. Different clothes, shorter hair,
but himself. Or...?
"Do you hereby agree to become amnesiated and receive the
persona transplant of one Janoz Slavek," Ms Garcia-Lopez was
saying, "and to fulfill the conditions of the legal contract
presented to you on this day, 6th of April, year 2105?"
"I do hereby agree," Janoz heard himself saying, although he
had no memory of this event...
Then it hit him. Of course he couldn't remember this event,
he wasn't transplanted until after the 6th of April, that
wasn't himself...yet. That was HIM!
Janoz experienced a mind-wrenching dichotomy, seeing his
host-self onscreen. Then his mind went from stunned
surprise into high speed: could he glean any clues to his
original identity from this image? But the short vidiox
ended too quickly.
"As you see," the lawyer continued in the here and now, "the
Contract is documented."
Still stunned, Janoz fumbled for words, then said, "But how can
I--Janoz Slavek--be held responsible for a contract agreed to
by this other guy who wasn't me when he signed?"
"Indeed, you are not. That is why it is a two-part contract,
which you are requested to co-sign."
Janoz knew that, he had studied his own copy of the Contract on
scrollviewer, which basically only stipulated that he agreed to
continue his own research, but he wanted to protest against The
"And if I refuse...?"
"You will be uploaded with another personality, of course. As
"Isn't that murder?" Janoz accused them all.
"Not at all. You'll be fine, just with another set of memories."
"But Janoz Slavek would be dead by your hand," he said with
Everyone looked at him as if amused...or embarrassed, it was
hard to tell.
Ms Garcia-Lopez cleared her throat and said, "The real Janoz
Slavek died 83 years ago, we cannot save nor harm him in any
way. He has no legal presence here...unless you are certified
by us to be him."
"Could you tell us why you might consider refusing to continue
your research, Professor?" Waller asked, carefully.
Janoz nodded. "Because I don't yet really know who you people
are. I've lived under several heartless totalitarian regimes, the
Nazis and the Communists took turns with Czechoslovakia and the
future was looking bleak for America back when I lived here last.
Field Distortion technological applications could be used for
wonderful or terrible purposes. Do I want to contribute to some
dictatorial government's schemes of domination?"
"But you've scanned the NetSpan, that should give you some
indication of the political situation today."
"Hmm, yes. If the data I am allowed to access is not edited or
fabricated by my keepers. Ever read 1984? Creative history,
written by those in power. How can I know? I've not been out
"Are you really so suspicious of our motives?"
"Not especially, I just don't know what your motives are yet."
"It is said that you HAD, in fact, solved some major theoretic
problem about..." Ms Garcia-Lopez looked up a reference,
"...variable time fields(?), but that you refused to reveal
your findings and took the secret with you to the grave.
Ostensibly because you were in conflict with the political
system developing in the United States at that time--the
Moral Right, the military nationalism, the DEA--and that you
considered FDT too dangerous to put into their hands."
"More or less," Janoz confirmed.
Waller spoke, "Professor Slavek, I think we all respect you for
that. Hell, I would have quibbled too, back then."
"But that political system is long gone now," Smith added.
"And now the government is benevolent, you say? All right,
maybe so-- but for how long? Politics change all the time, I've
seen it happen. I've also read that the American Constitution
was ANNULLED for the 9 years when the Moral Right took over.
If you know the past, you dare not trust the future!"
"I know what you're saying," Smith agreed, "but the fact is
that the development of FDT has gone far beyond the part
you feared. And been counterbalanced."
"Yes, I've read the documentation."
"Anyway, the research, Professor?" Waller persisted.
"What happens if I agree to do it?"
"You become immediately employed by the Western Washington
University FDT Research Facility in Bellingham, Washington,"
Waller promised, "with full professorship, a fair salary,
working with the best people in the field--us!--and a fairly
Ms Garcia-Lopez added, "And we certify you as a viable
"You will also have a personal staff to back you up," said
Sassa, who had been silent up to now, "--me."
Janoz looked over at her. That was all the argument he really
needed. Sassa nodded, "Come on Janoz, just do it. Don't
leave me now."
"Hmm, well, all right. Guess I don't have much choice anyway:
what would I otherwise do for a living in this Brave New
He co-signed the Contract.
11: THE COMMITTEE
Sassa and Janoz spent a day in San Francisco. He had been there
before, last time in 1989, with Vera and the kids. It was
changed, of course, but was not much bigger, except for more
Their relationship was still unconsummated and Janoz was
becoming a bit tense with unrequited lust. He had tried,
clumsily of course, to seduce her the way he had done that
sort of thing in his own day.
"Uh...I've been thinking abut...well, about what you offered the
"Oh, I'm sure you have." She was smirking, enjoying this.
"Er...Sassa, have I offended you? When I...turned you down?"
"No, Janoz, you haven't," then she laughed out loud, "don't
worry, we'll have sex sometime, just not on a time and date
planned and specified in the future, okay?"
So they had gone to see San Francisco instead of becoming
lovers. Sassa took Janoz to see the phase tunnel terminal:
the Mole Hole.
It had once been San Francisco International Airport, but now the
mass transport went down into the earth instead of up in the air,
and passengers did not walk into airplanes but drove their cars
into gigantic elevator platforms.
"They descend to the pulse rings where they're phased out and
shot through the earth to another set of pulse rings at another
Mole Terminal," Sassa was pointing out the details of the system.
"The whole elevator, cars and all?" Janoz asked, awed at the
enormity of it all.
"Oh, sure. You'll need your car when you get there."
Janoz watched the process with fascination. The platform bound
for München was due to be shot off. There were about 85
cars along for the ride. The port closed off access, a sign
started blinking countdown numbers and then the platform slowly
descended out of sight.
That wasn't especially exciting, but there were huge media
monitor screens which followed the descent of the platform down
into the well, as it built up velocity, rapidly falling faster,
finally shooting through stroboscopic rings of light--and then it
was gone in a speed blur.
"They're already on the other side," Sassa said, "decelerating
into München now." She pointed to the München monitor,
and there was the platform again.
"That fast?" Janoz was stunned. "The speed of light?"
"No, but close enough, I guess," Sassa said.
Janoz frowned. "I can't help but think of what a dangerous thing
this would have been in my time...a weapon of war, spreading of
disease...tell me, what would stop a terrorist from sending a
nuclear bomb to another city via Mole?"
Sassa was surprised at the negativity of his reaction to this
scientific wonder, as well as the question. "There are no
terrorists who do that," she said.
"There were in my time. They would go crazy with this
"Well, I'm no expert, but I do know that there are lots of safety
features built into the Moles, all based on MESTwarp
technology--fields within fields, stuff like that. Any
explosion, big or small, immediately activates a zero-time field,
which freezes the explosion within a nanosecond, so that it can
then be encased within a portable containment field and simply
removed. I guess it's so easy to control now that no terrorist
"Do the fields ever fail?"
"That's not happened since the technology was new, over 40 years
ago. There hasn't been a serious Mole accident in...well, I
don't know, in my lifetime anyway. Hey-- want to take a ride
"What? Now? On THAT?"
"Sure, experience the result of everything you were working on
back in the 2020s."
"Oh...uh...no! No thank you!"
"Why not? Just a little hop to...oh, China, for instance."
"Oh god no...I'm not getting into that thing!"
She studied Janoz' face and realized something. "You're AFRAID
of going on it, aren't you?"
"Who wouldn't be?" Janoz said, despite the non-stop flow of
hundreds of passengers going into and out of the terminal.
Sassa wrinkled her brow. "But YOU theorized this! YOU made this
"Not alone...I was only one of many."
"Others, sure, but you DREAMED the solutions--and here they are."
"Yes, well, I still don't believe in this yet. Maybe we could
take a trip later, someday, but not now."
"Ok," she said, with a disappointed little shrug.
12: FEAR OF FLYING
Janoz had actually become quite well-versed in the numerous
modern applications of Field Distortion Technology. Such as how
phase-tunnels applied MESTwarp to allow physical matter enveloped
in a zero-time-&-out-of-phase-field to be
pulsed directly through the planet to terminals on
the other side of the world. The virtual tunnel to China, or
anywhere else. Although no physical tunnel actually existed, it
was the easiest way to conceive of the function it fulfilled.
However, that he accepted the concept intellectually did not mean
he had faith in it.
Which was a paradox; he was a scientist! He could even remember
conceiving of and discussing a theoretic version of the phase
effect with a doubtful colleague a hundred years ago, back when
he was young.
In fact, he had a DREAM about that very conversation the night
after visiting the Mole Terminal, perhaps in reaction to his own
lack of faith in the wonders of science. He couldn't quite
remember that colleague's name; just that he was a thin old codger
with bushy eyebrows.
"It's a violation of Physics," his colleague was saying, like
some fuddy-duddy old-school flat-worlder, "for one body of matter
to pass through another without interacting in some way;
displacement, collision, friction, or mutual destruction."
"Nonsense: it happens all the time--" Janoz remembered getting
excited then, a typical young scientist proving himself right,
"zillions of radio waves are passing through our bodies right
now and there's research already being done which correlates
the similarities of waves and particles. Phase one clump of
matter to a different frequency and it could theoretically pass
through the other as if it weren't there. No sweat."
Oh, he was hot, this young Janoz in the dream. But when he
awoke, there he was, himself now the fuddy-duddy old professor
who was afraid of new ideas and new technology. Like some
Stone Age Man brought into Future, unable to comprehend.
The FDT research facility was at Western Washington University
in Bellingham, in the Pacific Northwest. Janoz should begin
work there in five days.
Sassa had intended that they take the Mole from San Francisco
to Seattle, but Janoz was so against it that she had to give up
on it. He absolutely distrusted the phase tunnel process.
"Let's just drive," he insisted, "we have five days and I'd
like to see the west coast highway anyway. I've never been
north of San Francisco before."
Sassa was easy to persuade and they had a very pleasant trip.
Northern California had been well protected by environmentalist
politics and was still a nature wonderland. Small towns had
remained small and picturesque, the coast was still rugged and
They drove the longer stretches at high speed, which was very
much like flying, since the car was elevated to the highest
traffic banes--invisible highways of proximity fields stretching
from city to city, about a hundred meters over ground
They stopped a few times. Once at a tourist stop, "the Trees
of Mystery", and to eat in roadside restaurants. They slept in
Ashland Oregon, but bypassed the big cities, Portland and
Seattle, to arrive at Bellingham with time to spare.
Bellingham was a moderate-sized city on the coast of Puget
Sound, with a charming Old Town and a modern university campus
sprawling on the hilltop overlooking the city. Janoz had an
apartment on campus assigned to him, they found it and made
arrangements to move in. Sassa had another apartment nearby.
Then they found the research labs, perched atop Seholm Hill, not
especially large, but a pleasant location tucked into an
evergreen forest. Inside they were greeted by Bill Waller and
Greg Smith, who welcomed them both gladly.
Janoz began to get the feeling that this might not be so bad
after all. However, he was anxious to know just what it was they
needed him for. That had never been mentioned, as if Top Secret.
Any attempt to breach the subject had only resulted in the answer
that, "all we want you to do is DREAM one of your theories for
us, like you used to do."
There was not a large staff at the FDT Research Facility: Waller,
Smith, three undergraduate students and himself. Waller had
explained that the science of Field Distortion was generally
considered essentially complete already and that there
was minimal interest for research in the direction they had
taken, being pure science.
"Hardly anyone believes that we can wring any more surprises out
of this 80-year old science," Greg Smith said with a wise-guy
"We're the only ones who believe otherwise," Bill Waller said,
"because we studied a sideline of what you were working on back
in 2021. Specifically variable time fields."
Janoz had been diligently studying every available eldoc of
whatever had been achieved in his field, and he had come to
realize that his BIG SECRET--the one he'd supposedly taken to the
grave 83 years before--was hardly a secret these days. They had
come so far ahead of where he'd been that he was now worried that
his contribution in this time would be essentially worthless. So
he felt rather humble.
"Well, from what I've picked up," he said, humbly, "the science
of MESTwarp fields has far outstripped my own imagination.
Besides variable time fields: proximity fields, gravity-warp
fields, black hole fields, containment fields capable of holding
a nuclear explosion in zero-time...the mind boggles."
"And the boggle-power of that technology is increased
exponentially by field-within-field stacking," Greg Smith
"Yes, so I've read."
"And you've also read about the interstellar expedition?"
"To Sirius? Of course, crew of 200 living in slow-time, left 2
years ago, should arrive in another 6 years, travelling at almost
light-speed due to MESTwarp drives. Powered by a black hole
separated from a nuclear blast by a proximity field within a
containment field. Very impressive."
"Too slow," Smith insisted.
Janoz perked his head up. Looked over at Waller, raised a
questioning eyebrow. Waller nodded. Looked back at Smith, who
"You guys are working on FTL?" Janoz dared to ask.
"We like to call it FTFL," Smith boasted, "Faster Than
Janoz apartment on campus wasn't huge, but was big enough for
two. It had all the modern appliances, most of which weren't
visible and he didn't know how to use.
So Sassa showed him how to use the various facilities. The
toilet, the mediascreen, the kitchen appliances, foldaway
"It'll take me a little while to figure all this out," he told
her, "so it's nice of you to show me my way around."
"That's what I'm here for. Of course, it would be best that I
move in with you," she said without any trace of coyness, "best
way to go native, sleep with native girl...that is, if you want
me to move in."
Janoz looked at her as if trying to understand a force of
nature, seeing it, but not knowing how it worked.
"My God, Sassa, what are you trying to do to me? Are you on
"I'm on right now. Want me?"
"You know I..."
"Shhh. Want me?"
He did want her, so he shut up and took her. It was great, just
what she'd wanted too and even better than what he'd wanted.
Spontaneous, hot, animal, spiritual, everything primitive and
holy at once. Multiple mutual orgasms, tantric highs, they were
After they were totally spent, lying on the carpet because
they'd never gotten around to unfolding the bedroom, Sassa said
"Well, you're certainly a pushover...at last!"
"I was pushed over way back. What took YOU so long?"
She thought about what her answer would be. "I don't want to be
dominated. I want to give, but not be taken for granted. I
automatically resist if you try to push me, but I love to
initiate sex myself."
Then she turned and looked Janoz intensely into his eyes.
"Listen carefully, Janoz, I'm going to tell you how to love me
and be happy: let me be the boss of our love life. I promise
that if you just let me initiate the sex you'll get all you can
ever use, because I LOVE your body; I'm hooked on your bone.
But if you try to coerce me...you'll probably get nothing."
"Well, I really like what I just got," Janoz admitted, "so
I'll try not to do anything that keeps it from coming."
Sassa sighed and slumped back in relaxation. "Good, since
we've actually been data-matched as a couple anyway--my
viewscroll readout indicates that we're highly compatible
sexually, you know--so I've been assuming that we'd be lovers."
"Oh. Well...I've certainly been hoping that we would be!"
"You should have jumped me when you had the chance!" she said
in mock indignation.
"Hey, be fair, I'm still not sure of the sexual rights
and wrongs of this time, what's proper behavior, what's not."
"Pretty relaxed, I suppose, especially compared to your former
time. Sexual diseases have been eliminated, pregnancy is
controllable, so people are free to do what they want. The
deciding factors are ethical rather than anything else: it's
bad form to cheat, to lie, to break hearts. So don't."
"The rules were frighteningly strict last time I lived,
especially while the Moral Right was in power-- punishments
awaited sinners, sex was trouble, very restrictive, lots of
"Not now, you can play all you want--as long as it's with me.
Data-matched couples usually have the best sex anyway."
"Data-Matched? Didn't you say that WE were
"Yes. Computers correlate compatibilities, compare them to find
the best mates, usually successfully. You and I are a match.
That's how I got involved in this."
Janoz blinked, "Does that mean we're sort of...married?"
Sassa hesitated, then said, "Not necessarily, but we could be.
Mostly it means that we'd probably be good lovers."
Janoz was about to question the validity of romance programmed
by some heartless sterile computer, when he paused to look at
Sassa: and realized that any computer who had put this
beautiful woman into his life was nothing less than a good
So what he said instead was, "You were going to show me how the
foldaway bed works."
They went on all night long. Making love with Sassa was an
extreme experience in itself-- but to Janoz, who had known the
indignity of growing old and less potent (then finally deathly
ill and impotent), just being young and horny again was truly
wonderful. In fact he had never been so powerful a lover
in his own youth. But most remarkable was how they both seemed
to know just how to touch each other and how deep their
emotions already ran, as if they were soul mates who had made
love together many times before.
Maybe there was something to being data-matched after all.
Janoz had run into Chiang Wu several times at the clinic in Big
Sur and they had exchanged friendly words and e-mail
addresses before each went his way.
One day he got a mail from Chiang Wu in Mexico City: "Janoz,
I'll be in Seattle next week. Want to get together? CW"
Janoz had several times found himself thinking about the black
boy with the adult memories of a Chinese genius. He had done
some historical research on the life of the original Chiang Wu,
ultimative computer genius of the 21st century: hacker, system
critic, outlaw, revolutionist, hero, martyr.
They had liked each other, two scientists from the past with a
common destiny. The thought of traveling alone off to distant
Seattle (25 minutes by car) to meet the inscrutable Chiang Wu
rang of adventure and novelty, maybe even fun. He responded
They met on Capitol Hill, the night-life part of Seattle, ending
up in a raunchy bar called the Comet Tavern. They had a couple
pitchers of beer, just two guys out on the town. They wasted
little time on informing each the other of what was going on in
their lives, they spoke about their mutual favorite subject:
"For example, if they were to upload either of us again," Janoz
supposed, "couldn't they make subtle changes in the data to get
more...malleable versions of us?"
"Of course they COULD, but that's the last thing they'd want to
do--" the black kid spoke with the authority of an adult genius,
"why awaken a man from the past if you're going to scramble
"Depends upon what they want."
"Heh heh, suspicious of their motives?"
"I often wonder if they have manipulated my memory," Janoz
accused, "to make me think the way they want me to."
Chiang Wu laughed sarcastically. "Really? Well, a great job
they did of it then!" He threw up his hands, "Logically, if
they were so godlike in their understanding of how our
memory-plasmas worked, wouldn't they have manipulated you
better? Wouldn't they have made you sedated, satisfied, happy,
easily led by the nose?"
Janoz laughed, being a little drunk after all, "Hah! Well, they
DID assign Sassa to me!" Then he stopped laughing. So did
Chiang Wu and they both pondered that one for a silent moment.
Until Janoz shrugged and said, "Maybe they're not that
godlike, but try to do it anyway."
Chiang Wu broke his silence as well, "Oh, you're right about
manipulating...it's been experimented with, of course, but
what they ended up with was always lunacy, schizophrenia,
useless minds that don't do anyone any good."
Chiang Wu went on, "No: I don't think they tamper with the memory
plasmas, it's hard enough to get a good transplantee-- they want
them pristine, clean. There's enough shit in the baggage of a
man's mind already--but he's the one who put it there, not them."
Chiang Wu was getting excited, enjoying the mental game, "and if
they trim out the traumas and unwanted ghosts of the past,
fabricate a perfect memory of a perfect life, they might just
clip out the very part they needed the transplantee for in the
"But suppose that they really ARE good at this...why stop there?
Why use real memories at all? Perhaps they've just synthesized
a FICTIONAL INTELLIGENCE called Janoz Slavek, or Chiang Wu and
programmed it with the scientific knowledge they wanted it to
work on, jammed in enough historical facts and general incidents
from various real people's lives to make it seem coherent, mix
it up, turn it on and see what happens."
"Wouldn't work," Janoz shook his head, "if they're after a secret
that only you or I know. If they can program that, then they
don't need us anyway."
"So let's say your memories are genuine--" Chiang Wu said,
waving his hands, "but that they are simply running the
plasma-data through a simulation program, a virtual reality that
seems to be real to you. This physical you does not exist, none
of this is happening. This conversation is part of their
program...if you're going to be paranoid, why not go all the
Janoz was silent for a moment, then nodded appreciatively, "I
saw a movie about that back in the early 2000s, The
Matrix, but even then I figured out the flaws in the concept.
It would only work for one person. We're two here."
"Yeah, but which one of us is real?" Chiang asked.
Chapter 14: ROMANCE BLOOMS
Janoz finished his glass of beer and poured another. "You know,
when I think about what an unscrupulous government could do with
Transplantees--spies planted among the enemies' government;
undercover agents they could casually sacrifice because they
were just enemy hosts uploaded with memories of their own
agent...my god, of course they HAVE done that, haven't they?"
Chiang Wu looked at him with amusement, "Nobody knows if they
have, but they probably couldn't do it now: transplantees can be
detected. But you're not the first person to think of that, in
fact it's the supposition for a popular vidiox series,
Janoz looked it up later on the Entertainment media. TransAgent
was about a virtual Agent (heroically deceased in line of duty)
constantly being uploaded into criminals, political dictators,
whoever was at the core of some problem the benevolent government
was dealing with.
It was a terrible show, lowest common denominator entertainment
with fist fights & car chases--TV for the masses was no
better in the future than in the past. But Janoz felt hooked
anyway, seeing several episodes of it, because there were twists
and ideas he'd never thought of himself: multiple personalities
spying upon each other in the same host; macho-male agents
downloaded into women hosts; some of them even comic relief.
But still, he was even more convinced that it could be done,
and that this media popularization of it was a smoke-screen of
The job was all right. Janoz quickly warmed to the subject,
after all it was something he really did understand. And soon
he was working away quite merrily, not thinking about the past
or the future, just the moment.
Working with Smith and Waller was even kind of fun, they were
gregarious and rather interested in him, especially concerning
Janoz' trip through time, often asking questions about
the 20th Century.
"You were telling me about Woodstock the other day," Gregg Smith
said, "so I uploaded some recordings from it. Sounds like hell."
"For me it was the greatest celebration of Freedom I'd ever
experienced," Janoz said, "I'd just escaped from Communist
Europe, so it was an even more amazing and new world for me
than this one is."
"Really?" Smith pondered, "That's odd. I'd think the
technological changes would be the most impressive differences."
"Not really, the political changes are much more significant. I
was expecting the technology: already in my youth those changes
were happening so fast that nothing seemed impossible any more.
I was ready for artificial intelligence and space travel--or the
total destruction of civilization, either one."
"There's nothing that surprises you?" Smith asked,
"Well, yes, of course. That my own research came true!" Janoz
admitted. "The contrast between theory and practice--I still
can't swallow phase tunnels, for example."
"Moles? Why not?"
"The idea of shooting people through the planet and out the
other side still sounds preposterous to me. And dangerous."
"But that's old technology; we've had them for 40 years. Almost
all public mass transportation is via Moles now-- how can you
not swallow something so well established?"
"Oh, I don't deny that it works--it obviously does. It's the
idea of sending my own body through an entire planet: all
that mass, that heat..."
"Uh...Janoz," Smith delivered his coup de gras, "they've
flown through the SUN with MESTwarp fields."
Waller joined in, nodding. "Two years ago. The interstellar
project made a trial run. Passed through Jupiter too, no sweat.
"I haven't read about that anywhere," Janoz protested, feeling
quite old fashioned and foolish.
"It's kind of secret," Waller confided.
"Then how do you know?"
"Because we were working on that project."
Janoz shook his head. Then laughed. "All right, all right, I'm
impressed, you guys win."
"You've never taken a Mole anywhere?" Smith asked, on another
occasion, over lunch.
"No way," Janoz stated.
"Proven by far the safest, fastest, most effective way to
travel." Waller postulated, teasing a little.
Playing their game, Janoz answered, "It reminds me too much of a
Star Trek Transporter Room. You know, Beam me up,
Smith and Waller looked at each other then shook their heads
"Too far back, I guess," Janoz realized, "ok, once upon a time
there was a science fiction TV series and in it they used a
teleportation beam to get around quickly. Basically, it
broke down your molecules, beamed you to a receiving
station and reassembled you."
"Sounds like science fiction, all right," Waller reasoned.
"Well, so does a Mole," Janoz insisted.
"Yeah, but so what? What's wrong with either one?"
"It's the part about molecules being broken and reassembled--I
always wondered: just who has arrived at the other
end? The original you...or a COPY who believes he
is you? The original you must be dead, since molecules breaking
down usually does that to a person. You yourself never
arrive, your experiencing the journey ends right there, poof!
But your copy never knows the difference and is so stupid as to
allow himself to be beamed somewhere else, because he remembers
it as being harmless."
"Well, really, Janoz, that IS just science fiction..."
"And this isn't?" Janoz gestured to take in the world, "I AM a
copy, who remembers being uploaded. And now I've been beamed
here, but the real me is really dead, molecules broken down, so
"Yeah, but... that's not how the Mole works...your molecules
aren't disassembled, just..."
Janoz had to laugh, "Ha! Just made virtually nonexistent and
blasted through a planet! Excuse me if that makes me wonder."
One day Janoz found that he was actually enjoying his life: the
fascination of his research, the bantering comaraderie with Smith
and Waller, living and loving with the woman of his dreams. He
almost forgot to be suspicious of government agents, Communists--
or Gestapo, as Sassa had called them--hiding around every corner,
monitoring his moves.
But there was an enemy: that face he saw in the mirror every day,
that man who one day would take this life away from him. Who was
Janoz went to Vancouver B.C. for a science conference. He had
refused to go to other conferences farther away because he
wouldn't travel by phase tunnels, but Vancouver was just minutes
away from Bellingham by car.
He even had a good time, ending up going out on the town with
several fellow scientists he had met at the conference, drinking
in the Gaslight District. Eventually he had to pee, excused
himself from the jolly group and went into a toilet alone.
A tall dark Latin-looking man came into the toilet a moment
later and stared at Janoz urinating. Janoz noticed, but
pretended to ignore the man. But as he tried to leave the man
blocked the exit and confronted him.
"Eduardo Avilla, cabrón!" the man said, the tone was
unfriendly, "sabía que le contraria algún dia, pendejo!"
The posture was threatening.
Janoz stepped back, intimidated. "Excuse me? I don't
understand...Spanish...or whatever you're speaking."
"No? That's funny, you understood well enough last time,
Janoz shrugged and tried to go past, but the man shoved him
"No me puedes engañar, Avilla, yo..." then he stopped
and, looking deep into Janoz' eyes, seemed to recognize
something, "...aw shit, you fucking Ghost-- you're someone else
now, aren't you?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," Janoz said, afraid now.
"Hah! No, you probably don't, but I don't give a shit: this is
my chance for payback!" He pulled something out of his jacket
that must have been a weapon.
Janoz reacted so quickly that it surprised the both of them.
Suddenly the weapon was slapped away and he had hit the man two
times. His opponent crashed back into a toilet stall.
Janoz would have run, but the other man was not quite defeated
yet, he pushed off the wall and staggered back erect, assuming
a martial arts pose, hands waving expertly.
Janoz thought: o no, I got in a couple lucky punches, but now
I've just pissed off a karate expert. Janoz had never been a
fighter, had lost every fight he'd been in as a boy and knew
that he was about to be beaten up--maybe even killed.
However, here followed a rapid-fire series of sudden surprises:
most surprising was that he was the more expert, executing blows
and parries at blinding speed; but also that he was not himself
calling the shots; that his body had taken over. It was like
watching a karate film--himself being invincible--until a deft
kick caught him under the ribs and he staggered back, almost
blacked out by the pain.
His assailant dived for the weapon. Janoz turned--to run away,
he thought, but no--around in a sweeping kick that caught the
other man off balance and sent him sprawling just out of reach
of the weapon. Which Janoz then snatched up.
He didn't even know what kind of weapon it was, but he turned
and pointed it at the man who was staggering up, who stopped
and raised his hands, crying "No no, por favor!"
Janoz, who was quite aware that he had not been in control of his
own body for the last few seconds, was afraid that he was perhaps
actually going to shoot the man.
He opened his mouth to scream "No" himself, but what came out
was an entire speech: "Querías una oportunidad para matarme,
y la conseguiste. Ahora, si no te mato, podemos decir que
estamos desquitados?" Janoz had no idea what he was saying,
but it sounded pretty tough.
"Chinga tu madre!" The Latino spoke it like a snarl.
Whatever it meant, it sounded defiant.
"Bueno-- adios," Janoz readied the weapon, now really
frightened that he was going to do it...
"No, esperate!...sí sí, estamos desquitados!" The man
slumped, defeated, then nodded and said in English,
"okay okay, goddammit!"
At least Janoz could understand that the conversation
was over. He calmly turned and sauntered out of the washroom,
pocketing the weapon. Like James Bond, or what was that vidiox
But once through the door, he began to shake. He walked directly
out of the bar without saying goodbye to the other scientists--
they were pretty drunk anyway--and once outside the building he
ran, making sure no one was following him, even as he called for
his car to come pick him up and get him back to Bellingham as
fast as possible..
It was late when he arrived. Sassa was asleep, he lay down
"Have a nice time?" she mumbled, not quite awake.
"I was attacked," he said without drama, too tired.
"That's nice," she said, eyes still not open.
There was a long pause in the darkness. Both of them almost
asleep. Finally Janoz spoke:
"Some Latino guy started shouting at me in Spanish, like he knew
me and was mad about something. I think he was even going to
kill me, but--somehow--I beat him up. And then I said something
in Spanish (which I don't even speak: pretty weird), it was like
watching an episode from that stupid vidiox series, TransAgent.
I think he said a name...but I can't remember it...Villa...Vanilla...
Another long silence. Then he mumbled groggily "Avilla...
Eduardo Avilla, cabrón..."
Sassa spoke in her sleep, "Buenas noches, Eduardo..."
Almost asleep himself, he said "Sí, sueñas dulces, cara mia."
Living with Sassa made his new life seem normal. She took
care of all interactions with society or authority and
he took care of his work. Together they had a social life
with University staff and their own little society of two.
They had a very active and passionate love life and as
instructed, Janoz let Sassa take charge of that too. She
did a good job of it, because was a very lusty girl and
usually initiated sex about 3--sometimes 4-- times a day,
so Janoz almost never got to feeling neglected. At first
his old man's mind considered so often to be excessive, but
his healthy young man's body thrived on their lovemaking, as
did hers. He was getting just enough.
Unless he was so foolish as to break Sassa's rules, for
instance by even suggesting sex when HE was horny, and then,
good as her word, 2 days of celibacy would follow. If it
wasn't her idea, she wasn't playing: he was the sex-slave,
she was the firm but unfair master, ruling with an iron
Janoz believed in romance. The first time he brought Sassa
flowers she was surprised: the idea was so quaint.
When talked about things it was usually perceptions, feelings,
the differences in their cultures. They couldn't really talk
about work: Sassa's was confidential and Janoz' theoretic
research was incomprehensible.
But it was their easy comfort together that made their life
together really work: cooking dinner, seeing old movies,
going for nature walks.
And Bellingham was a nice place to live. Besides being a cozy
town with a vital cultural life due to the University, it
was also a nature wonderland of mountains and pine forest,
lakes, rivers, craggy cliffs along the coast of Puget Sound.
On a summer day they would bike out to Chuckanut Drive and
climb down the well-worn dirt trail to Teddy Bear Cove and
swim naked along with the other young people from the
Janoz also became a film buff again. He was most interested
in the era around the end of his first life rather than
modern movies. He wanted to see what his favorite actors
and directors had produced in their lives. Sassa had seen
very few films from those days, 50 years before she was
born--there existed simply too many films on file to have
seen everything--so they were new for her too.
The only modern media he was interested in was the news and
that preposterous TransAgent vidiox series.
So it was a they-lived-happily-ever-after life. Actually,
it reminded Janoz of being married to Vera back when they
were young, but without all the effort of kids.
Whenever he had thought about his children Janoz felt that
he should look them up, but was ambivalent about contacting
them, not sure if a Transplantee was an especially welcome
relationship in a family. A ghost come to visit?
Finally he had tried to trace them on NetSpan-- but was
shocked and saddened to discover that his son Willy had
died at the age of 42 in an auto accident just 6 years
after himself. He already knew that Willy's only daughter,
Lizi, was killed at 17 in a protest demonstration against
the Moral Right a year before Janoz himself died, so that
was the end of that line.
Janoz had had a daughter as well, Cristi, but he didn't
have the heart to learn how and when she too had died. Not
yet. There was a grandson too, who would be 83 years old
now if he still lived.
Actually, Janoz had enough family in Sassa. She sent him
off to work every day a happy man, she took care of the
complexities of the 22nd century, she made sense of his
being alive again.
So he was really not prepared for how life would be
"Excuse me, Professor Slavek?"
Janoz turned to see who had spoken to him on his way out of the
research facility. It was a blonde woman so perfectly beautiful
that she didn't seem real, with a shoulder camera and a WorldSpan
News label on her breast. A media journalist.
"I'm Naomi Steen, WorldSpan News. Could I talk you into an
"Well actually, all media coverage is supposed to go through my
"Oh yes--Sassa", she said, as if reluctantly, "--I know, but...
well, there seems to be some kind of cover-up going on, I
can't get through to her. And I just HAPPENED to see you
here..." Now she was being cute, posturing like some precocious
And those were exactly the right words to elicit Janoz'
anti-authoritarian sympathy--cover up indeed.
"Well, why would you want to interview me?" he asked.
"Janoz Slavek was a physicist who inspired FDT almost a century
ago. And here you are continuing his research at Western, wearing
the same name. There could be a story in that: for instance,
that you are a Transplantee of the original Janoz Slavek. Well?"
This was a media trap and this woman was no teen-ager. Janoz
said what Sassa had told him to in a case like this: "That is
private and personal information which I do not wish to have
This was a formalized statement which made it illegal for
journalists to simply report anything they wanted to. Privacy
laws forbade the media from publishing personal secrets against
the wishes of those involved.
"Yeah, yeah, all right," she seemed to have expected that, "but
I'd like to talk to you anyway."
Janoz was tempted to just walk away from her, much as that was
against his own sense of politeness, but he could see that she
had something personal had to say to him. As if she knew him.
"Off the record?" Janoz asked, with a glance at her shoulder-
She nodded and immediately reached up to turn the camera off.
"I just wanted to see how...you...were doing," she said, with
big sad eyes.
Janoz blinked. "Oh, I'm doing...fine. Uh, why do you ask?"
She fidgeted, then said, "I'm not supposed to say."
She smiled again, nodded. "Yeah, I guess. Sorry."
Janoz looked at her and several possible stories ran through his
mind. Finally he asked, "Did you know me...before?"
She looked around, as if making sure she wasn't being overheard,
then nodded just a little.
Janoz looked around as well, WAS someone watching them? WAS Big
Brother out there? He whispered, "Who was I?"
Naomi looked at him with wide eyes, studying his face intensely,
then regret on her own face. She whispered, "You don't remember
anything? Not your name, not Paris, not even me?"
He shrugged, "I'm Janoz Slavek, that's all I know. But tell me,
was my name...Eduardo?"
She shook her head, shrugged, frowned as if frustrated. "Who?
Never heard of him. But then again, I know you were a ghost at
that time too."
"I was?" Janoz was surprised. Had his host also been a
transplantee before? How many times? "Are you sure?"
She nodded. She was really quite a good-looking woman.
"Could I invite you for a cup of coffee?" Janoz offered.
Chapter 18: HAPPILY EVER AFTER
There was a cafeteria in Old Main, it was full of students, but
they sat at a table off in a corner.
"Why can't you tell me who I was?" he asked.
"Because you've probably been transplanted for a project of some
sort, at considerable expense, and if I were to mess up that
project by destroying your illusion of who you think you are, I'd
be liable for a hefty lawsuit by the investors. Simple as that."
"I see. Although I don't, really. There was a Spanish speaking
man who thought he knew me...he tried to KILL me, I believe.
Called me Eduardo. But he hardly seemed concerned about
"He probably didn't know you were a ghost--excuse me, a
transplantee--anyway, murderers don't usually worry about
Janoz laughed. "No, I guess not."
"You laugh like yourself," she said, "I always liked that."
She nodded. Looked away. Looked back. Looked sad. Looked
Janoz couldn't help imagining being with this woman.
Artificially beautiful perhaps, but intelligent, nice body
(well, that was standard now). In another life, where he
didn't know Sassa, Naomi could have been...
She reached over and took his hand. "I've missed you...him.
Come with me and I'll help you remember how we were together."
Janoz stopped imagining abruptly. "Uh...sorry, I...have a girl
friend," he said, in excuse.
"Sassy?" Naomi sounded suddenly indignant, offended, almost
angry. "You think she's your girl friend? She's really..."
she almost said something, but refrained and said something
else instead, "...she just wants to CONTROL you!"
"Well, she is my personal manager--control is what she's there
"Yeah, sure, but it's YOUR life! And MINE, the bitch!" Her
perfect face became suddenly unpleasant with resentment.
"You know Sassa?" Janoz asked, carefully.
She glared at him. The resentment was for him too. But she
didn't answer the question. She hardly needed to, there had
obviously been some conflict between Sassa and her.
Then it hit Janoz. "Was I also with her when...when I knew
"Oh, you were with everybody, asshole," she said, then shook her
head, having said too much. "Sorry. I don't even know why I'm
here. You're not him anymore. He's...gone..."
Actually, he was relieved to see the negative side of this
otherwise perfectly packaged young woman, because he wanted
very much to stay true to Sassa. He really didn't want to be
tempted by Naomi Steen, even though she might be--probably was--
great in bed.
Then he realized that he didn't really even want to hear her
story either, because she was Sassa's rival.
"Uh, I think I'd better be gone too," he said, nodding goodbye
and standing up to go in the same move.
"Wait, I need to know what you're planning to do when you stop
being this...Professor Slavek guy."
"Well, I'm planning to be myself for the rest of my life,"
he said, leaning into leaving.
"Oh, have they let you think that? How cruel--but they'll never
let you do it, you'll be dumped just like all the others."
"What others?" Janoz asked, stopping, slightly alarmed.
"Never mind, I've said too much already. Listen, if you really
want to know, just ask Sassa. She knows everything. She's in
on it all."
"I'm sure she is, but she says it's confidential."
"Yes, I'll bet-- she can better control you that way, keep you
complacent until it's too late and then...Janoz Slavek is
kaput, just like Stefán!"
"I trust Sassa..."
"Really? And just why is she with you? Besides for True Love,
"She was assigned to me..."
"Assigned? Ah, of course...ever check to see just WHO assigned
her to you? It wasn't the Transplantee Clinic, it isn't the
research foundation. Who could it be? And why? Who is your
personal manager really working for? And what is her agenda?"
Janoz stopped, turned. "What do you mean?"
"Oh, nothing. Well, tell your personal manager 'Hi from
Naomi', and ask her whose side she's really on--yours...or
"Naomi? Not her again!"
"You girls don't seem to like each other," Janoz observed, "she
accused you of having some secret agenda."
"She's the one with an agenda--especially concerning you."
"Yes, she mentioned that. Called me Stefán. Mean anything to
"Of course it does, but that's confidential informa..."
"Not any more, Sassa. You're not just my manager, you're also
my woman. We're a team, us against the world, so come on and
level with me."
"Janoz, it's best that I don't. Not until you're ready--and
you're not. Trust me in this."
"That's not so easy without some answers... you told me that you
were assigned to me, but you're neither working for ComCo or the
Research Facility...so just WHO did assign you to me?"
She hesitated. Janoz could see that she wasn't supposed to tell
him that and sure enough, she said, "There's a reason that all
this stuff is confidential, sorry."
But he waited. Finally she weakened, shrugged and said, "All
right, actually...YOU did."
"Me? Oh, you mean...HIM?" Janoz pointed at himself.
"It's a rather standard procedure," she explained, "for a
candidate host to engage someone they know and trust to watch out
for him while he is not quite himself, so to speak."
"Then you knew HIM personally?"
"Yes, but you know that I may not tell you about him. It
"Were you lovers?" There was definitely a jealous tone to Janoz'
"You see? That's why it's confidential--you'll start asking
questions like that, back me into a corner until I've told you
everything I know. Then you'll accuse me of setting you up, of
being loyal to him instead of you."
"You WERE lovers! Slut!"
"Oh, stop it Janoz and don't get abusive. You'll only end up
apologizing abjectly later on when you realize that I'm only
doing exactly what YOU asked of me."
But Janoz was getting worked up now, "You sound like you know
this routine," he said with some sarcasm, "how many times have
you done this with him...? No wait, I know: 7 times, right?"
"Confidential, confidential..." she was saying, smugly, it
Janoz grabbed her wrist hard. "You'll tell me or I'll..."
Now she was angry, trying but unable to twist her wrist free,
and she gave him a dark look. "Janoz, back off! I'm not
"Oh, now you're threatening me? I thought you LOVED me?"
"I do. And you love me--that's why we programmed a posthypnotic
trigger word that will immediately restore your original memories
if Janoz Slavek should threaten me with violence."
"You want to hear the word?"
Janoz released her wrist and backed away from her. If that was
so, and she said the word, he would cease to exist. He
backed even farther away.
Chapter 20: LOVER'S QUARREL
Janoz spent the night alone. Sassa had gone to her own
apartment, angry at him. Or afraid of him.
He was devastated. The thought of not having her in his life
was catastrophic. He didn't sleep at all. In the morning he
found himself glaring into the mirror, stuck there, obsessed
with the face of his enemy.
Yes, who WAS this guy, or rather; who did he THINK he was?
Offering this new life to Janoz, just to snatch it away again
when it amused him! And now revealed to be Rival for the love
of Sassa, seducer, ruiner of True Love. Yes, now he could
clearly see the arrogance in that face, the real HIM at last:
selfish, egotistical, heartless...
He didn't go to work that day, was too distraught. All night he
tossed in his bed, missing her body next to him, afraid it never
would be there again.
The next day wasn't better, but he did go to work. However, he
Back home that evening, his scrollviewer buzzed: incoming call.
He answered, hoping it was Sassa.
It was. "Hi, Janoz. Can we be friends again now?"
"Yes, listen I..."
"Let's not have another scene like that again, all right?
Confidential means confidential, all right?"
"Uh...yes, all right."
"Good, I'll come over. We can make love, then we'll both feel
Sure enough, he felt better after they made love and he went
back to work the next day a reasonably happy man once more.
Janoz didn't challenge her again after that.
He had to find out who his host was. Eduardo? Stefán?
At first Janoz had wondered how his host body got to be so
trained, so perfect, but soon realized that so was everyone
else. It was explained to him that everyone had a computerized
PHP, Personal Health Program, to assure a proper balance of
vitamins, minerals, organic chemicals, based upon analysis of
body cells. People take the prescribed food supplements and
feel better, are more healthy.
"20th century medicine concentrated upon the causes of illness,
such as cancer," Dr Ross had told him, "while modern medicine is
oriented toward preventing and avoiding sickness through
advanced health maintenance."
Janoz secretly reasoned to himself: "a PHP must generate a
medical history for the patient. If I could access that
archive, I'd probably find out who this body was before
He had been computer proficient back in his day, but now the
software was developed so far beyond his knowledge or skill
that he knew he could never hack his way into it. But there
was someone he knew who might be able to do it.
Chiang Wu had been a computer genius before and still was a
master of modern cybernetics, he could probably pull it off.
He was working at CBM in Mexico City, Janoz called him, using an
encryption program that Chiang Wu had himself created so that no
one could hack in on them.
Chiang Wu gladly agreed to do it--he was always enthusiastic
about hacking into confidential files, "fucking the system". He
addressed Janoz' PHP, which was accessible online, and when
he looked up "medical history" he got a readout that went back
7 weeks and stopped. "Previous records," he commanded the
system and there was "Restricted Access: Who is asking and
Why? Identify and give Password."
"Oh good," Chiang Wu said with a happy smile, "I love it when
they do this. The trick is to give the computer everything it
wants and more," the black boy said, his fingers dancing
through a 3-D field of light ray controllers...
It worked. They came up with a medical history and a personal
history: born 2066, Crescent City, California; graduated Cal
Tech, Military Service Record, licensed air/orbital pilot,
Transplantee host 7 times.
And a name: John Stander.
At work, the research was coming along quite well. Janoz' main
duty was to study all of the established data and theories and
guesses that had ever been documented in the science of FDT and
MESTwarp functions. This had taken long while because there was
a lot of data.
Waller and Smith were always saying that one night Janoz would
simply DREAM up the solution to the possibility of Faster Than
Light speed, although a only little bit faster than light was
hardly satisfactory, what they really wanted was the magnum leap
Dream it as he had dreamed 90 years before.
Actually, Janoz did dream prodigiously at night-- but they were
mostly rewarmed memories rather than flights forward into
physics. His childhood, Vera, the kids. Or fantasies whose
symbolism he couldn't always decipher.
One night he fantasized about himself being a version of
TransAgent: but instead of being downloaded into various bodies
and sent upon dangerous assignments, as in the vidiox series, he
was himself the recipient of various personalities, becoming a
collective of experience and wisdom, training himself for some
great mission in the future...
And sometimes he did dream about science, about his research in
FDT, but mostly those dreams centered around that same old
conversation with his bushy-browed fuddy-duddy colleague so many
years ago--over a century ago, in fact! Those dreams irritated
him: He was such a young and brash Janoz, and the older colleague
was always being made a fool of for his antiquated beliefs, but
Janoz had come to understand that the older man was actually
symbolic of his own original self.
They continued that conversation about disobeying the Laws of
Physics, the young Janoz always with a smart rebuttal to the
older man's knowledge of how things functioned on the cosmic
plane. "...phase one clump of matter/energy/space/time to a
different frequency and it could theoretically pass through
another matter/energy/space/time as if it weren't there. No
"Well, ANYTHING is theoretically possible if you IGNORE the laws
of physics," the old codger protested yet again, as he always
But in vain, for the bright young Janoz Slavek, cool genius, cut
him down with brilliant arguments, "Or rather if you truly
UNDERSTOOD the laws of physics.
"Besides, old man," he expounded, "you're talking Archimedean
Physics, simple displacements of mass and volume--but just as
Newtonian Physics were replaced by Einsteinian Physics (which
have in turn been pretty well tweaked by now), those old Greek
Laws are due for an Upgrade."
"And you," the frustrated old colleague accused, "would replace
them all with Janozslavekian Physics?"
Janoz laughed. Hahahaha. Yes, why not?
The same dream again and again, sometimes he tried to wake up and
get out of it. He was tired of it, he wanted a new dream. Oh,
there was some variation, some new wisecrack he would unveil as
the Ultimate Truth to put the uselessly outdated scientist in
"For every Law of Physics, there is an Equal and Opposite
Exception!" Meaningless cleverisms that could not stand up
under scientific analysis.
It happened one day, while wide awake studying the documentation,
he suddenly realized that an Equal and Opposite Exception was
looking right back at him. Variable-time fields; fast, slow,
zero, reverse... twist the mechanics of those processes and you
get the Instantaneous Eternity. And there it was: FTFL, the
puzzle solved, the equation perfect.
Faster Than Fucking Light was a theoretic possibility. And
therefore a practical certainty. It could be done, it should be
done, it would be done.
But he told no one about it. Not yet.
He spent two days checking over his results and when he was
certain of their validity, he had to decide what to do.
Because now he had finished the work they had awakened him from
the dead for. He had succeeded. Therefore They had also
succeeded and didn't really need him any more...
23: ESCAPE! ESCAPE!
He found Sassa in her apartment. She smiled when he came into
the room, but immediately sensed that something was wrong.
"We've got to escape!" he told her.
"Escape what?" Sassa asked, lifting an are-you-crazy? eyebrow.
"The Research Facility, Bellingham, the government, The SYSTEM."
"What are you talking about? We're having a good time here."
"It's about to end. I've finished the research!"
"Don't you see? They won't need me any way, they can just...
turn me off and let John Stander have his body back!"
Sassa didn't seem surprised to hear him say that name. "THEY
can't do that, Janoz, only you can. Although if you're right
about being finished you might as well cash in your Contract
already and be free to do whatever you want."
"Cash in...? You want me to do that?"
"Eventually, sure. Don't you?"
"I want to be myself, Janoz Slavek!"
"You will be yourself, stop being so paranoid. Anyway, they'll
probably need you to test the results, modify the parameters,
all that. I'll bet that you've got years of work ahead of you."
"No, it's done! There can't be any more, I've come full
circle-- it's rather perfect, really. They won't need me any
more, I'm a doomed man. I have to go-- come away with me!"
"What? Away to where?"
"A remote corner of the world where They can't find us."
"Janoz, there is no remote corner in the world anymore."
"There must be, somewhere. I'll find it."
She gave him an exasperated look. "Janoz, you know that
everything is online--YOU'RE online and so am I and everyone
else--and any secret place you escape TO is online as well."
"Yes, I know, Big Brother is watching us. That's why I have to
"You have really misjudged the online civilization, Janoz. You
can always watch Big Brother back, you know, the democratic
process takes place online. You think that's bad? Well, try
being offline and see how far you get. But without me,
"You won't come?"
"Janoz, you're not thinking: come WHERE?"
"Come with me to Prague. We can disappear from this
"But Janoz Slavek is Czech: that's the first place someone would
look for you, if they bothered--besides, you can always be
traced by your IDchip."
"No, that's what they want you to think, but it's all a ploy--a
ruse to cover over the fact that they CAN'T really control us
She laughed. Janoz was surprised, this was serious.
"Janoz, you've created yourself a crazy-Kafka universe to live
in, understandable because of your background, but based upon
miscomprehensions about who you think you are, as well as who
you think we are."
"I know who I am..."
"So do I--never mind the name, you will always be that same
YOU, no matter whoever you happen to think you are at any given
moment. I swear to you that no one is out to kill Janos
Slavek to bring John Stander back. John Stander has never been
She came very close, "You want to escape, from HIM, from THEM.
Fine, go ahead and escape--but you don't need to run away and
hide, an outlaw without money or connections. DON'T tell them
you're done with the project; we take a leave, go to Prague,
you can show me around, slip out the back door, sounds great."
Janoz looked at her as if she was crazy, "Then THEY'D know where
I was. I'm not sure you understand the realities of life..."
She cut him off. "I do, it seems that you don't. Go to Prague
secretly? No ticket, not paid for with the money you have on
account...so we'll walk? Or drive in an unmarked stolen car?
But first you'll have to surgically remove the chips in your
body so that you can't be located by satellite. Then you'd get
a new identity--new name, new job--and never concern yourself
with FDT research again?" Sassa shook her head, then
shrugged, "And then you'll have to give ME up as well,
because eventually they'd find me!"
"It can be done..."
"So can suicide."
"It's suicide for me to tell them that I'm finished."
She shook her head, "You're wrong, just do it and everything will
work out the way it has to anyway."
"That's what you say," he challenged her, "but...how do I know
that I can trust you?"
"DON'T you trust me?" She turned to look at him indignantly.
"I don't really know-- which me are you loyal to?"
"I'm loyal to you You YOU---I'm here to take care of you, help
you. You arranged this, you ASSIGNED me to this, you asshole,
"Partners? Do you sleep with all your partners?"
"Isn't that a stupid question that has nothing to do with
"Try answering it."
"Look: you know that I may not tell you certain things until your
contract is fulfilled. Once you report that you've done the
job--fulfilled the contract--you'll be released from said
contract and I'll be free to tell you everything. I really want
to, believe me."
"Right, then you can also tell me your magic words--and
poof!--I'm gone so that you can be reunited with your beloved
"Not really, Janoz." She was really indignant now. "For one
thing, I may not use the escape phrase unless it's a real
emergency. For another, I have neither the right nor the
authority to wake John up, only you do. And if I DID do that,
well, you'd only be angry with me anyway."
"I'd be angry? What would that matter? I'd be GONE!"
Sassa gave an exasperated sigh, throwing up her hands. "What do
you think happens when the host wakes up? That YOU fade out, do
a dissolve, die screaming, maybe falling down some endless
tunnel and that's it--you are no more and the other guy takes
over? No, you're still there, the only difference is that you
remember everything you've forgotten about the rest of you. You
don't become less, you become MORE."
"How American: more is better? And if that was so, then all the
six other transplantees he has ever been would also be there..."
Janoz was stopped by the concept. "...well, hmmm. Since I seem
to be number seven, sounds pretty crowded for one man's brain.
He'd have to be absolutely schizophrenic."
"Do you remember being a child? Where you lived? Your friends?"
"You were that child, but now you're not any more--it's like
another person. Are you troubled by those memories? Are you
still that child? Do you still think like him? Still want what
he wanted? Does he disturb your thoughts?"
"No, I grew up. But everyone has ONE set of memories, this
fellow's got 7...no, 8 with his own!"
"Any good theater actor learns the lines of his role sometimes so
well that he feels he BECOMES the character. Later he plays
another character in another play with the same intensity, again
and again taking on new roles, until he himself becomes tangled
up with the qualities he liked best from each of those
characters--but he's still only..."
"This is Bullshit! You're trying to convince me that if I wake
up as...John...that our life will continue as is. But we both
know that's simply not true: I'm sure John Stander has his own
agenda and I doubt that doing theoretic research in Bellingham
is on his list."
Janoz was waving his arms now. "This cozy little life we're
living would be over, then you and he will go on to something
else somewhere else. Am I wrong?"
"I can't tell you anything until..."
"Just tell me if I'm wrong!"
Sassa tried to say something, but couldn't. She could only shake
her head No. Janoz read that as: no, he was not wrong.
"Well, I'm escaping. You coming?"
"No. You're acting too paranoid!" She was on the brink of
tears, but not quite. Janoz suddenly realized that he had never
seen her cry.
"I love you Sassa. But goodbye."
Chapter 24: PLAN? WHAT PLAN?
Janoz hurriedly packed a small suitcase with a change of clothes
and a toothbrush. Except for his viewscroll he could think of
nothing else he really needed. Of course, there was also the
weapon he had taken from his attacker in Vancouver.
It had been hidden in his car since then, nor had he ever told
Sassa about it. He supposed that it was an illegal possession,
but some instinct (perhaps Eduardo's) told him to keep it, just
So Janoz drove off into the night, away from his happy home in
Bellingham, escaping to some unknown destination. He had no
idea where he was going.
South? North? Okay, south.
Janoz got off to a bad start. He was so rattled, so confused,
so unsure of how to escape that he started in one direction,
rethought, changed directions and after half an hour still had
not gotten out of Bellingham. It was as if something was
scrambling his mind--one of his former ghosts who had other
plans than escape, perhaps.
He got as far as Chuckanut Drive along the coast, then made a
decision to break out of the mental trap he was in: he drove
the car off the road, out over the edge of the craggy cliffs
with the waves crashing a hundred meters below.
His car's proximity drive went into automatic semi-flight mode
and he floated down to the rocky beach, landing gently and
safely. He turned everything off, killing the lights and sat
back in the silence. It was a moonlit night and the beauty of
the scene was incredible, the San Juan Islands poking up out of
that shining black sea, the waves gushing, nothing but nature
visible from there. Except for all the satellites orbiting in
the sky, speeding across the background of stars.
Take the time to make a plan. Where was he going? And how was
he going to get there? And then what?
He didn't dare use his bank account, his whereabouts could be
traced, but there was no such thing as cash in this computerized
world. So he was broke. He could travel across the continent
in the car, fuel was no problem in this age, but he couldn't
cross oceans. There was Mexico or Canada, but they were all
part of United North America now, so there was no political
refuge nearby. He had no family--he was a ghost to any
descendants he could find. No friends, except in Bellingham.
But he had to escape Bellingham. Work, friends, woman. This
was going to be hard. Especially being without Sassa any
Wait. One friend. In Mexico City. He unrolled his viewscroll
and punched in Chiang Wu's e-address. The vidiphone function
trilled, but no one answered.
Janoz typed a mail. "CW, are you there? Need to talk. JS"
He waited, opening the car so that he could smell and hear the
ocean surging in against the rocks. He had no plan anyway.
But he did have a weapon. If he was really going to be an
outlaw on the run, at least he was equipped. He took it out
from under the seat of the car. It resembled a pistol, but was
apparently electronic rather than a bullet shooter, a ray gun
of science-fiction fame.
But he felt uneasy as he held it, he had no idea of how
dangerous it might be. He was reminded of the one time in his
life he had held a pistol--a German 9mm Luger--back when he was
18 years old in Prague. It was at a clandestine gathering of
university students who were toying with the idea of revolution
against their Communist suppressors. Holding that pistol had
given Janoz a feeling of intense danger: he could go to prison
just for being in the same room with it. It was not a thrill
of danger, but of nauseas fright. And disgust for what the
pistol was: a death-machine, no more, no less.
This was a thing that changed every rule: you had to be
committed to perhaps killing someone, or there was no point in
carrying the weapon at all, because flashing a gun you weren't
prepared to use was the best way to get yourself shot. He had
put that pistol down and never touched one again...until now.
But he knew what a 9mm Luger would do to someone, this thing--
he didn't even know what it WAS.
Suddenly he realized that this weapon was a symbol, an indicator
of just how humane this future society really was. A
society he was escaping because he simply could not believe in
the semi-utopia it claimed to be. He always suspected that the
evils he had known from his own time were still around, being
hidden from him, sinister secrets everywhere.
But he now held one of those secrets in his hands: how ruthless
were the weapons? He was curious.
He hefted the weapon in his hand, a pistol with an authoritative
weight and feel. It felt familiar somehow. But he didn't even
know how to turn it on and didn't dare experiment.
He let his mind go blank. Let someone else take charge, whoever
it was that night he won the fight in Vancouver. Eduardo?
Stefán? John Stander? Somebody inside him knew how to
Janoz went to the water's edge, where moonlit waves crunched
against the rocks. He found a plank of driftwood and cast it
out into the water. Aimed the gun at the floating wood and
pulled the trigger. Nothing happened.
Then another part of his mind seemed to get irritated at
himself and took over. With suddenly deft slapping motions he
did whatever it took to cock, lock & load a ray gun,
resulting in a rising whine as the batteries came to life. He
noticed that there were no indicator lights on the pistol (for
an enemy to aim at?), but assumed that it was ready to fire.
Again he fired at the wood. There was a crackle like static
electricity, but no kick, no bang and the wood seemed
unaffected in any way. But he could hear the batteries charging
up the next shot, so energy had been spent.
No pyrotechnics anyway. A death ray? Or, if not so bad, a
stun gun? However, the owner of the weapon had been very
frightened of it, remember. But then it could also just be some
sort of extreme pain ray. How to find out? Shoot his own
finger? Not interested. Shoot a bird? Janoz Slavek had never
willingly killed anything, he turned the weapon off.
There was nothing to make him believe that he needed a weapon--
not yet at least. He didn't want it with him, but nor did he
want to throw it away, so he wrapped it in a plastic bag from
the car and buried it beside a tree.
He was still sitting there about midnight, looking out at the
sea and still without a plan, when his vidiphone trilled, it
was Chiang Wu.
"Hi Janoz, what's up?"
"Hey Chiang. Well, I finished my project, the Theory of Field
Distortion is complete at last."
"Wow, that's great! Now what?"
"Now...I guess my host wants his body back. So I'm escaping.
Getting out before they get me."
"Wow, Fuck the System?"
"Yeah, speaking of that, I need some technical advice: can they
really trace my IDchip anywhere I go?"
"Oh yeah, they sure can--unless you have it surgically removed,
and I wouldn't recommend that at all."
"Well, you're the computer genius--how can I beat it?"
"It wouldn't be easy, but I suppose it could be done...screw up
the tracer signal so that it reads wrong, I guess. I'd have to
work on that. Want me to?"
"How long would it take?"
Chiang Wu laughed, "Who knows? A while at least; days; weeks.
Trouble is I'm tied up writing an artificial intelligence
program just now and I'm SO CLOSE to crossing the design
threshold now that I don't have that kind of spare time. Shit,
I don't even have a life. But I'm not complaining--if I get
this AI running, my god, I'll be a Daddy!"
"Well, sounds like you do have a life," Janoz said.
"Ah, it's okay, I'm doing what I'm good at. But it's not
like...well, like you have, with that sassy Sassa you've got.
Or...? Or are you escaping her too?"
"Aww, hey man, don't do it. I wouldn't ever leave that nice
woman's behind, I'd give up everything else first."
"Life's not always that simple."
"The hell it's not. You've got a woman who will stick it
through with you, no matter what. She's a doll, I'd love her
forever if I had a woman like that."
"You don't even know her."
"I know about her, maybe more than you do. I hack computers
for fun, man, I've hacked yours, seen pictures, vidiphone
conversations, confidential reports. I haven't told you all I
know because...well it's true, it confuses us to know too much
about our host selves...never mind. Just don't leave her, take
her with you, do something."
Lights appeared in the hills, a car was descending directly
towards Janoz' own car. Standing outside, Janoz had to shield
his eyes from the glare, he got into his car so that the
windshield filtered the light and he could see that it was
"I don't need to, Chiang. She's found me already, I don't know
"Well, you were asking about your IDchip, you knew that you're
online. Anyway, be glad that she did. I would, believe me."
Janoz nodded, even smiling, as Sassa got out of her car and
walked over to him, sat down beside him without saying anything.
"Oh, I am," he said, putting his arm around her, "well, see you
"Yeah? as who, Janoz?"
"I really don't know."
"Well, just one last thought: if you do dump that lady--Send
Her To Me!" On that note, Chiang Wu broke contact and vanished
from the viewscroll.
Sassa still hadn't said a thing yet. She was looking out at
the water, sitting there with him as if they'd come here
"Who was that?" she asked casually, having seen the image of a
black boy on Janoz' viewscroll.
"My friend I told you about, Chiang Wu."
"Oh yeah, the Chinese computer genius ghost."
Janoz touched her face, turning it towards him. Her tears were
glistening in the moonlight. Real, acting, who cares? He
kissed the tears.
"I was afraid you were really gone," she said.
"Oh, I was. But you found me..." he had to laugh about it, "just
when I needed you most."
"I'll go with you to Prague. We'll escape-- I don't know how,
but whatever you choose to do, I'll go with you."
"Oh hell, let's take the easy way out. I'll tell Waller and
Smith tomorrow, tell them I did it: completed the quest, solved
the final mystery and reveal to them..." Janoz finished his
speech with a ring of bravado.. the Complete Field Distortion
"Really?" Her smile was blinding in the moonlight. "Really,
yes, and you should be proud too. You also earn a whole bunch
of money--unless you're TOO proud."
"Oh, I'm just proud enough. Shall we go home?"
"Can we make love here on the sand first?" Sassa asked. No,
actually, she wasn't asking at all.
25: REVEALED STUFF
Waller and Smith were ecstatic when Janoz revealed the ultimate
solution to the completed Theory of Field Distortion Dynamics.
They got very excited, slapping Janoz on the back and inviting
him for a beer down in the South Side.
"Look," Waller said over a beer, "I know this probably officially
fulfills your contract and you'll be free to do whatever you
want...but you're still welcome to keep on working with us."
"We'll continue developing FTFL, and even though it should work
now, " Smith was saying, "who knows how far we could tweak it?
Maybe even come up to the standards of your Star Truck
transporter, or something..."
"What we mean is, if you're in no hurry to..." Waller hesitated,
unsure of what words to say, "...uh...get back to whoever
your...uh...host self was..."
Janoz was surprised. "Uh, no...no hurry, I like being me."
"That's good, because we like you too, Janoz."
The next morning Janoz received an online confirmation that his
contract was fulfilled, he was thereby released and that so much
money was transferred to his account.
He and Sassa were in bed together, reading his viewscroll.
"You're a free man, Janoz!" she said, rolling over onto him.
"Maybe so, but there's already a new contract here, concerning
the continuation of research at Western. That's tempting."
"No, THIS is tempting!" she informed him, wiggling her body
against his, "but before you sign on to anything else right now,
there's a lot of stuff I need to tell you."
"Well, isn't this finally the time for that?"
"It certainly is. First, let me inform you that we are actually
married. I am John Stander's--your--wife."
"I guessed that. Lucky him."
"Hey, you're the I'm lying on. Lucky you."
"Okay, no argument. Go on; why shouldn't I sign anything else
"Because you've got yet another contract going on which you don't
even know about: you're a government agent whose assignment is to
accumulate knowledge for eventual use in the field, via the
"What? You mean I'm...he's...like...Trans-Agent?"
"Sort of: the vidiox show overdramaticizes and fantasizes the
action aspect of it all, but the concept of uploading agents with
special talents is genuine enough."
"What special talents?"
"The original Janoz Slavek, for example, was a theoretic
scientist with a miraculous instinct for field dynamics--very
useful knowledge. Including Janoz, you now have 7 especially
talented personas accumulated, along with all their memories,
abilities and skills."
"Wait a minute--are you telling me that John Stander is a...spy?"
"Not necessarily, although you could be, of course. But you've
been more an investigative agent, problem-solver, trouble-
shooter. You were very successful at undoing an international
criminal organization in Latin America a few years ago."
"Let me guess: as Eduardo Avilla?"
"The original Eduardo WAS a spy. He was from Venezuela, active
from 2069-'93. You uploaded his techniques, culture, language,
connections, and blended into the Latin world as a native. You
also had the advantage of having once been the Japanese
martial-arts master Hoito Toru, when you needed to fight your
way out of trouble."
"Oh come on, you're not serious?"
She reached over and caressed him. "You don't do that any more--
you're no longer military but a civilian under contract, thank
god--now you do THIS: developing yourself as the perfect agent."
"And what if they--whoever THEY are--suddenly decide that
they need their super-agent to go into some incredible high-risk
situation for their cause?" Janoz sounded indignant.
"Then they upload Agent John Stander as a transplantee
into a younger volunteer and send him off to do the job."
"My god! And where do they get a...volunteer for such a job?"
"Criminals with long prison sentences are always willing to take
such a chance for eventual freedom. Violence and risk appeals to
them, in fact-- that's why they became criminals in the first
"You've already said that."
"Yes, well, my god...so who else have I been?"
"Stefán Romulus, an Italian finance genius, millionaire,
playboy--and womanizer; that was who Naomi wanted you to be
again. Wilford Higgens, a British historian and political
philosopher, very cultural you know. Timothy Mach, an American
war hero, soldier, pilot, astronaut. Those were the good guys.
"But you also experienced the darker side of human psychology, so
that you could understand it: Gunther Messerschmidt was a German
MegaNazi Gangster from the mid-2000's, a psychopath. You had to
remain locked up while you were him--and I certainly wasn't being
your girl friend at that time, you were horrible."
"It doesn't sound like all of this has been especially easy for
you," Janoz said to Sassa, touching her hand.
"Not always. Stefán was a heartbreaker. Hoito was so
alien in his concept of women. But Wilford and Timothy were
both quite nice to me. And Eduardo was very sexy..."
"Janoz is my favorite: he's been so sweet, so considerate and
so in love with me that I really don't want to lose him."
"But what if I STAYED being Janoz, instead of reverting to the
other guy? What if I didn't change back?"
She looked at Janoz with some sympathy. "That would be fine with
me, I'm happy with you like this. But eventually you will start
to remember who you were. It's just like growing up: we all want
to be kids as long as possible, but we grow up anyway."
"What about John Stander? Do you...love him?"
"I...I desire John physically, intensely. And we're a loyal team.
Oh, sure I love him, but really no more than I love you, Janoz."
Janoz' heart warmed to that. "Do you miss him?"
"Not really, you're right here. You don't act that different,
you know. Oh sure, some things, John's a bit more self-confident
than Janoz, who is a bit more romantic and considerate." She dug
him once in the ribs, "Remember that when you wake up as John:
Sassa likes romantic and considerate."
"So what happens now?" Janoz asked.
Chapter 26: THE MOLE HOLE
Sassa arranged the trip. She told the foundation that Janoz
wanted to visit Prague, so they gave him leave of absence and
even paid for the trip. There was no problem at all, "Bon
Voyage," they said.
Janoz was suspicious of their intentions, but was eager to take
the trip. He made secret plans: to perhaps change hotels when
he got there, make his break in the Czech Republic, where he
spoke the language and could blend in, where technological
control was perhaps less developed than in the States...he
"So how do we get there?"
"We'll take the Mole," Sassa said, "it's fastest and cheapest."
"You know I won't do that--I can accept a lot, but I won't take
a Mole anywhere. Can't we fly?"
"Fly? In a car? It would take a week."
"Aren't there any passenger planes left?"
"Not on routes from city to city. Why fill up the sky with slow
planes that could only crash and pollute the air, when the Mole
will cheaply and safely get us to the other side of the world
"Because Moles might be killing the passengers and delivering
copies who only think they've arrived intact!"
"Nonsense, I've taken them many times. So have you, before
being Janoz, and you're still alive, aren't you?"
"How am I supposed to answer that? I'm not who I was before, so
he's not alive."
"Well, then I'll take the Mole to Prague. Join me when you can."
She won. She convinced Janoz that his fears were science-
fiction fantasies--which he also knew to be so--and that he was
behaving childishly. But he acquiesced mostly because he trusted
her. And loved her, so if she was going to her death...he would
go with her. Perhaps he could even talk her out of it at the
They drove to a phase tunnel terminal in Seattle. Their car
parked itself on a large elevator carriage along with several
other cars, inside the building. At the assigned time, lights
began to strobe.
Janoz almost went into panic when he thought about how they
would now be shot through the earth, phase-tunneled through
all those thousands of kilometers of rock and molten magma,
through the heat and the pressure of the earth's core...Sassa
reached over and took his hand. They looked each other in the
The wagon dropped, accelerating down a huge tunnel into the
earth, the walls blurring with speed, then the stroboscopic flashes
of green light as they shot through the pulse rings, a stunning
instant of electrification, then deceleration and stopping.
When they drove out of the new terminal, it was night and they
were in Prague. The whole trip took less than 5 minutes. Janoz
seemed to be alive, as far as he could tell.
Prague was still a beautiful city, remarkably unchanged in the
65 years Janoz had been away. They had a nice hotel room in
Stare Mesto and crossed Karls Bridge several times a day on
tours around town.
So much was as he'd known it, both before and after the fall of
Communism. They ate in some of his old favorite restaurants and
toured the University where he had studied and peeked into the
windows of a house he'd once lived in.
There were changes since he had last been there, mostly for the
good, he had to admit. The slums were cleaned up, become even
charming, no longer cursed by poverty. And yet the old city
was preserved rather than replaced, the way of life was still
very Czech and the food and beer were almost as good as he
remembered them--or wait, maybe better than ever.
Transportation was also modern, by shootover shuttles, so it
was fast and easy to travel out to Kutna Hora, the town of his
youth. He asked around for anyone he might have known, but
those people had died at least a generation ago.
Janoz enjoyed speaking Czech again, although the accent was
difficult for him because his new mouth had never physically
spoken the language before, his vocal muscles had to learn
new routines. But it came fast.
He showed Sassa the Gothic cathedral of skeletons in Sedlec,
which she thought was pretty grotesque. They got a hotel in
town and ate out at a sidewalk restaurant. They had a nice
time, it was in fact quite romantic.
Janoz found himself remembering what it had been like in the
Communist years, but it was all so different now, so free. It
felt like the past he remembered really had nothing to do with
him or who he was now. Which was true, that had been a
completely different Janoz Slavek. This new flesh had never
been disciplined by torture, it felt no fear.
"So this is where you want to escape to?" Sassa asked him as
they had a couple of beers in the sunset over Kutna Hora.
"Oh, it's fun being here, but I'm not really part of it any
more. If I ever really was--when I was here all I really
wanted to do was escape to America. I hated it here."
"I like it here."
"Oh, I do too--now. But back in the days of communist
oppression it was terrible. I DID escape, that was great. My
"And now you want to escape the modern world. Looking for more
adventure?" Sassa asked with a smile.
Janoz reflected, nodded and then shrugged. "Being alive again IS
an adventure. And being with you. I just don't want it to end
yet--and end of this is what I want to escape from now."
"Let's go to our room. I'll convince you that it's not about
"Oh, but it is--I can feel it. The job is done, I have no
reason to exist as Janoz Slavek anymore."
"But you'll still be alive, still be YOURSELF and still be
"Yes, let's go to our room, I'd love for you to
convince me of that."
He awoke--no, wait, this time I think it was me. Or WE,
sometimes it's hard to tell.
I awaken. Not sure of where I am, disoriented, confused.
Until I turn our head and see Sassa lying asleep beside me in the
bed. Strange bed, room, city. Then I remember that we're in
Prague, that I was Janoz, but now I know who we really are.
I focus in on Sassa: okay, there she is, my wife, my partner.
Christ, what a beautiful girl! I uncover her naked body, looking
at her makes me feel in love and very horny. I'm ready for her
But you can't just jump her and violate her, she's sleeping...
...what is this? Pussywhipped Janoz thoughts clouding my mind?
Although maybe I should be a little more romantic about it.
Wake her up, at least. It's just that she's so beautiful
sleeping like this.
It's a shame we don't get along.
Of course we don't, I don't treat her right, don't respect her as
much as she deserves, take her for granted, make her babysit all
Back off, Janoz! Oh well, at least she got the romantic kind of
love she wants while I was him.
She must get something out of these ghosts I upload if she's
still with me. Lucky for me, how could I do this without her?
How many women would put up with it? Scared me when she wanted
a divorce, though: Gunther was almost the last straw.
Enough reflection, I want her now.
"Not now, Janoz, I want to sleep some more."
"Not Janoz, Sassy, the other guy. Spread 'em."
"John's back? Okay, so have me."
Funny: whenever I'm a ghost she's the absolute boss in bed--a
veritable Dominatrix; but as myself, John, it's me who can be
unreasonably aggressive and she just takes it willingly, like
a good little sex-slave.
So I have her thoroughly. Hey, maybe we get along pretty well
"Well, we've put another good clump of money in our accounts,"
she tells me, after we're through having sex and are sitting in
bed together. We've got lots to talk about.
"So do we have enough yet?"
"If we want to scrimp. We can buy the land but we won't be able
When Janoz was young only the poor lived out in nature. Here in
the 22nd Century only the rich can afford land outside the cities.
"There'll be another payment when I update my Agent Memory File
with the government," I remind her.
"I've already calculated that in."
"Well then, we'll just have to do one more ghost."
"Okay." No hesitation. She used to hesitate.
I look at her, laugh. "Is that the only way we can stand being
"Oh, I don't know. You change a little each time you do this.
Janoz was nice to me, maybe you can be nicer too now."
Hmm, she's giving me another chance to win her back. Maybe I
should take it. But I won't crawl...
"As Janoz I might have been pussywhipped, but you know ol' John's
not. Just lucky for me you're so hooked on my bone that you'll
put up with anything to stay with me."
"Actually, I really won't put up with anything...but yeah,
I'm still addicted to you. Even more so when you're being your
arrogant bastard self than any the nice ghosts you've been.
Pretty weird, I guess."
"Oh, I don't know. Janoz treated you nice, but don't tell me you
weren't irritated by how paranoid I--I mean HE--he was all the
"Yo, a little. But...well, you know why better than I."
I nod, just remembering Janoz' life as a young man here in Prague.
Those nice Czech people had a history of incredible inhumanity to
each other. Nazis coming up the steps, Communist tanks rolling
through the streets...but the worst was what your neighbors did
"Hello? John? Or Janoz?"
I wipe his hand across my face, as if wiping another face away.
"Little bit of both," I confess.
"I always feel sorry for your ghosts," Sassy admits, "they're
fighting for their lives, so desperate. I always want to save
"Well, me too of course--sorry for myself at least, although I
don't know that at the time. As Janoz, I was afraid of ME--
until I woke up just now and remembered that I've been me all
the time anyway."
Y yo tambien! Yeah yeah, Eduardo, and don't you other guys start.
"Anyway, I have saved them, every one of them. I still
remember being them...in fact, they won't go away."
"I suppose," Sassy says, "but once I see that you're not REALLY
them anymore, it's as if I/they actually DO die in a way.
And that it's me who has betrayed them."
"You? You certainly haven't betrayed them--or me--in any way.
You've been completely loyal, I give you that. It's always ME
who whines and gets jealous--or paranoid. I'm the one who
misunderstands, who gets weird..."
"And why not?" Sassa asks. We both stop and laugh together.
"Yes, why not get weird when you come back from the dead?" I ask.
"Anyway, you are alive and they've been dead for years. They
don't even experience this, only you do."
"I know, Sassy, I know, they're just software illusions in my
head, but so convincing."
I look at her and suddenly feel so much love instead of lust,
touch her face, "Hmmm, Janoz really loved you, you know."
"I know. But it was really you loving me and me loving you. It
"Not always...Sassy, I'm sorry about Gunther..."
"Oh, Gunther Messerschmidt, MegaNazi monster. Don't remind me,
he scared me. Good thing we kept him/you locked up."
"And yet it was just me anyway, you know. I regret that I ever
allowed him into our lives."
"It was your assignment. And you DID find out where he'd hidden
the bombs, so it was for a good cause--you were a hero, John."
"To everyone but my wife. They purged his memories, but I still
remembered something about dominating others and some part of me
liked that. Gunther contaminated me. Sorry I got so mean..."
"Yeah, well, he certainly brought out the worst in you. I'm
always a bit more careful about just who your transplantee
might be since him. But he gets pushed farther back by each
new transplantee. Janoz was romantic at least."
"Hey, I'm jealous!"
"Of Janoz? Too sweet and innocent...you should rather be
jealous of Eduardo Avilla, now HE really got you to perform!
Yoo hoo Eduardo, are you in there?"
"Sí, baby! Aqui soy!"
A suddenly careful look comes into her eyes. I understand: if
Eduardo is in here, so are all the others...including Gunther
"Hey, just kidding, it's only me," I assure her.
"Yeah? And just which ME is speaking?"
"John Stander, Ma'am, faithful husband, heroic transplantee
courier--a virtual TransAgent HimSelf--back
from yet another dangerous mission."
"Until the next one. Maybe you SHOULD stop now, John, while
you still do have a personality of your own. Sometimes I'm
afraid that you'll be permanently changed into someone else."
"Well, of course I will be, eventually. But then again, so will
you by all this."
"It was ironic to see you, as Janoz, watching that TransAgent
videox series," you say, "always saying how silly you thought
it was, but never ever missing an episode. Even though you
couldn't quite remember that you really ARE a TransAgent, more
"But you know," I have to tell her, "it was really fascinating
to be from so far back in time--having been born more than 160
years ago--and to see our modern world with new eyes. Things
we take for granted, like space cities, phase tunnels, etc--
they're truly fantastic if one bothers to think about it."
"Yes, I suppose they are." I can see that Sassy is simply not
amazed by the world she grew up in. But then, she's not yet
been a transplantee.
"The other day, for instance, on the Mole," I tell her, "I was
absolutely and totally flabbergasted by how absurdly
impossible it was to be phasing through a planet and out the
other side...wow!" I shook my head, still amazed by it all.
"That's the kind of thing people from our time don't even THINK
about! And I was really terrified that something would
break and we'd end up merged in boiling magma halfway through
"But that's never happened," she assures me.
"Well, not that we've been told about."
"You're still thinking like Janoz: conspiracies, cover-ups. He
never did accept that the world could grow up someday and become
"Are you sure it has? We believe that it is, but maybe we just
can't see the sinister side: it IS rather alarming that we can
all be traced by our IDchips anytime an authority want us."
"Oh, not you too, John." She says it with a laugh.
I have an experience of epiphany, enlightenment, revelation:
not of one realization, but many--for I am many--I remember
being Janoz discarding the weapon I had taken from Eduardo's
enemy, because I could never use it to harm anyone; even as
I remember being Timothy Mach killing a man in combat, as a
soldier in a war; even as I remember being John Stander,
trouble shooter extraordinaire, blowing up a building full
of "gangsters" without mercy. Stefán made money at the
expense of others, Winfred wasted his life on books, I don't
remember Gunter Messerschmidt (thank God), but I know all
about him. Each of them changed me in some way, good or
bad. And we all loved Sassa.
My actual realization is this: I upload these ghosts to become
some sort of an Ultimate Agent for the Authorities. I become
clever, knowing, skilled, the Perfect Everyman. But what they're
going to get when they upload me is a man who loves a woman too
much to become the monster they want.
The next upload is going to tip me back to being good for Sassa,
and then I stop. That's all I really want out of this.
"Janoz had a different perspective, for good reasons," I say
without missing a beat, "Guess I'll be thinking like him for a
while, still processing the things I can remember."
"But there's SO MUCH you remember now, John, how can you keep it
all straight? All those lives, all that expertise: pilot,
astronaut, kung-fu master, academic historian, economic
mastermind, spy, (& nazi gangster, unfortunately)--and now
with Janoz, scientist. What's next?"
"Actually, I don't know enough about Computers yet: do you
remember that Chinese genius named Chiang Wu..?"
"Eduardo Avilla, cabrón! sabía que le contraría
algún dia, pendejo!"
Eduardo Avilla, you bastard! I knew I'd
find you some day, you fool!
"No me puedes engañar, Avilla, yo..."
You can't fool me, Avilla, I...
"No no, por favor!"
No, no, please!
"Querías una oportunidad para matarme, y la conseguiste.
Ahora, si no te mato, podemos decir que estamos
You wanted a chance to kill me, you got it.
Now then, if I don't kill you, can we call it quits?
"Chinga tu madre!"
Fuck your mother!
"No, esperate!...sí sí, estamos
No, wait!...yes, yes, we're
"Buenas noches, Eduardo..."
Good night, Eduardo...
"Sí, sueñas dulces, cara mia."
Yes, sweet dreams, my dear.