by Pierre Pelot
Translated by Michael Shreve
To die on such a beautiful morning.
I was wondering what he felt. Should I say what I felt? I would not like to. So …
I did not like it, as far as I could tell what happened. What happened to me.
Such a beautiful morning. The sun high up already over the silver waves that spun out the long waves of the ocean as far as the eye could see. I could tell myself that the ocean belonged to me. To imagine it mine. I could easily play the master of the world, if I wanted. Yes, there is nothing strange in this. Nothing pathologically suspicious. It is a normal way of thinking for us, a completely safe reflex. I have been protected, since before my birth, against egomaniacal wanderings. Vaccinated.
Death had struck by surprise — there was, naturally, the three per cent risk: physical accidents, microbial attacks coming from the environmental improvisation phenotype modifier, etc. Three per cent. Accident. Risk probability: 0.07. And it happened. It feels like a calculated effort to weaken me and at the same time to attack SMECX, the politico-economic group in power … This eventuality had been disproved by the security, the databanks and the night watch.
Jiul Meredith, with his face torn apart by the explosion of a pedestrian ramp light while returning home under the trusty protective eye of the bodyguard cameras … Jiul Meredith had died from his wounds this morning, despite the efforts of the SMECX medical service.
Security had notified me. I thanked them in a flat voice while a ball of anxiety started growing in the pit of my stomach, squeezing me physically. And the others? How would they react? Would they also be told during the day?
It was the first time I died. The first time that we died, that they died. That he died.
Like an amputation? I could not know or even make the comparison — I had never been amputated. I was just a little dead. One sixth dead …
And I was not sad. Worried, maybe. I don’t know. Shocked, in a way. Aware of having definitely lost some of my odds. I would not live six hundred years, whatever they did.
I skimmed through the video mail that was addressed to me at the seaside hotel this morning. Nothing interesting (it was, naturally, mail selected for vacation since I was on vacation). Still, I engrammed it on a memory chip in case Jiul Meredith decided some day in the future, or even today, to look it over. I left the building. No, I was not sad.
I paddled around and swam for most of the morning. I really needed it — I mean, I was feeling ready to forget about business for months, years, oh yeah. I figured that I had sweated for long enough to run SMECX group as best as possible — it was crazy, but I wondered two or three times if, in truth, my fatigue and carelessness was not the real culprit of my death the night before. No, a crazy idea. I needed to rest, to roll around in the waves.
Before noon, Jiul Meredith got in touch with me. The group’s medical security had brought him up-to-date. He knew about Jiul’s death.
“Jiul, are you listening to me?” the voice in the phone disk said.
I was listening, but I did not say anything. I was watching the guests come and go in the seaside bar. I was watching the convoluted decorations of paneling and mirrors behind the bar and the human waiters in costumes of the past century; I was watching and I was listening to the ambient commotion. Of course, I was listening to him.
“We’re one sixth dead,” he said. I was thinking the same thing. Of course. I would have said so in the same way, with the same distress in my voice, for sure, when pronouncing the word “we”.
Jiul hung up. There was nothing else he could do. He was busy with a very difficult deal involving an important Japanese takeover — living crystal micro-Ps: it was huge! Jiul Meredith was battling with a network of Japanese commercial computers.
Jiul Meredith was Chairman of the Board of Directors of the American partners of the Chicago group.
Jiul Meredith was finishing up a social inspection tour in the buildings of the South African company and was not afraid to get involved with the worker-residents — he did his job with the utmost sincerity, of course. To the best of his abilities.
Jiul Meredith was with his legal spouse entering the grand hall of the Opera of Berlin E.O.
Jiul Meredith, on vacation, was sipping tequila in the bar of a quiet hotel on the blue shore of a calm sea in a resort, naturally reserved for nth-men.
Jiul Meredith was dead. The first of six. By accident.
I wondered how many of those coming and going around me were already partially dead.
I was not sad, but the afternoon was still hard to get through. Jiul from Berlin E.O. got hold of me on the phone. Paula was fine. We chatted a little.
In the evening I called London, the Center, the genecivic lab. I asked for Summer, that old friend, and they transferred me to his private home line. Summer smiled kindly, amiably, his wrinkles crumpled, his eye bluer than the sky here. Jiul from Chicago and Jiul from Berlin E.O. had already contacted him, briefly — me, I had time; I was on vacation.
“It’s rather … odd, Summer. Yes, odd.”
His sweet voice, peaceful and understanding. I know. How could he know? Of course Summer was not like any ordinary and unique man. He was the one who gave b … brought me into the world, multiplied in life. He was not the inventor of the process (there was no inventor of the cloning duplication process), he was one of the specialists. Summer was my genecivic arch-father, if you want. He had drawn up my contract. All nth-men have a contract that they obviously have to respect as best they can. How could we do otherwise? How, seeing that we were born for it? Genetically fabricated for this goal. Why dream of doing otherwise?
Summer had brought into the world Jiul Meredith multiplied by six. Custom-made from SMECX programming in order to concentrate the results and effects of around six hundred years of effort and work it into a maximum of one hundred years of real time living, by each fraction of the individual — fraction and complete at the same time. I have always been an outstanding salesman. An important politician. Made for it.
I said, “I’m only thirty-seven years old, Summer.”
He smiled. “Of course. But that leaves you a few hundred years yet … Believe me, Jiul … Try to enjoy your vacation.”
That was my plan. Work would not suffer. Except for accidents … I tried again to imagine what it felt like to die at thirty-seven, so stupidly, but I couldn’t. Jiul from Berlin E.O. was certainly going to interrupt his cultural holiday with my legal spouse to take over the current business from the deceased.
Summer had told me again that with five I was just as effective, far above average.
Pierre Pelot is a French author of around 200 novels. One of the great storytellers of our time, his multifaceted talent has traversed science fiction, thrillers, horror, fantasy and more. His works have been adapted to both the big and small screen and been awarded numerous prizes. His novels But What If the Butterflies Cheat? and The Child Who Walked on the Sky were published by Black Coat Press in 2012. He can be found on the web at http://pierre.pelot.pagesperso-orange.fr/