Trillion wondered what it was going to be like to lose her body. All the training had put her in peak mental health but it felt like such a waste of training. During the academy they explained that being in peak shape helped the brain become more accepting of what she’d be able to do. Once she’s a simulation. Once she left her body. She pushed those existential thoughts to the back of her head as they arrived at the office.
She swiped the card. The door unlocked.
“Icarus, you open the safe. I’m going to find a weapon. I know Atlas keeps something in here.”
She rummaged around in the drawers. A paper knife. A paper weight. Something.
“So we’re going to die today?” Icarus said as he opened the safe. He started going through all the boxes, putting the ones with each of their names on them in a pile.
Trillion raised an eyebrow. “I’m not sure it counts as dying if we wake up in the same body.”
“I’m getting a new body. I’m going to come back as an anime cartoon.”
“A cartoon? Icarus, that’s gotta be the most cliché Japanese thing ever.”
Trillion smiled a little when she thought about what Icarus would look like as an anime character. She thought he’d look funnier as a Simpsons character.
“I think I might change my last name to von Neumann,” she said, thinking about what changes she’d make.
Icarus stared at her blankly. Then she watched as it turned around in his head. He smiled when he finally understood. “You and Atlas are the same. You both have a creative way of naming things.”
“What do you mean?”
“Okay, changing von Nichol to von Neumann is clever. But have you heard about the eleph-ants?”
“No, what are they?”
“Just wait until you see them on your spacecraft. One of Atlas’s inventions.”
Trillion found what she was looking for. A small knife. More of a butter knife. But still a weapon.
Icarus handed Trillion a box. “I’ve got all four. Here’s yours.”
She opened it. There was a small earpiece in the box. She placed it in her ear.
“Hello. Ship, is that you? Hello?”
“Mine’s not working either,” Icarus said, tapping on his ear. “We can’t connect to the Ship’s AI if they’ve disconnected the satellite network. Maybe this network is down too.”
Trillion looked at her other earpiece. She turned it around.
“Trillion fun fact. Each of these AIs are unique to each of us. That’s why we all have separate headphones. They will all start off the same, but should evolve with us.”
Trillion found a little button. She clicked it. “It should work – the communication network from the Ship should be independent of Mars. Them hacking that network shouldn’t impact us.”
She placed the earpieces back in her ears.
“Hey Ship, do you know what happened?”
“Yes, I’ve been monitoring everything from onboard. Are we leaving soon?”
“Yes. It’s time to put all our practice into action.”
Icarus and Trillion both spoke to their respective Ship’s AIs, instructing them to prep each spaceship for launch.
Getting Atlas and Angelique’s ships to capitulate was a little harder. They did not recognise the voices, so a randomly generated string of ten numbers had to be read out. Luckily the box had a little calculator device that produced these numbers.
Both Trillion and Icarus could feel the pressure. They felt like they had been in the same place for too long. They closed Atlas’s office and took off with a run.
As they ran, Trillion started to question everything. Did she really need to go off into space? Had she had enough time to think about everything? Was she really going to be the same person?
She stopped running and began to walk. “Icarus, I don’t think I fully understand why we can’t just wait until we get old before uploading our mind.”
Icarus slowed down too, walking in lockstep. “It’s a long journey. You’ll be bored out of your mind travelling through space alone. At least as a simulation, you can turn off and then wake up in another system.”
Trillion nodded. “Okay. But then why do we have to be changed? Why can’t I stay myself? Why does my personality need to be changed?”
“It’s simple, Trillion. We’ll be on this journey for thousands of years. Maybe even longer. Humans get bored of things easily. If we don’t hardcode us to ‘want to seed worlds’, in five hundred years we probably won’t want to seed worlds with life. Besides, Trillion, as soon as you achieve that goal, that desire is deleted from your matrix. It goes away.”
“What do you want to do after that?”
“Not sure. Explore the galaxy. Come back to Earth. What about you?”
“I might write a book about this adventure.”
They picked up the pace again, rounding the final corner. Up ahead they could see Angelique and Atlas hastily putting on spacesuits.
“We need to leave now!” Atlas urged, indicating two suits nearby. “Hurry!”
Trillion could see the fear in Atlas’s eyes. He was afraid of something. His hands were shaking. She had handed him the gun. “What happened, Atlas?”
He didn’t answer. He looked over her shoulder and turned white with fear. Trillion spun around and saw five men running towards them. She recognised one of them because he had a bandaged hand. He was the guy they had tied up and left in the conference room. They were all armed, pointing guns at the four of them.
“Freeze right there!” one of them yelled. “You’re under arrest.”
Trillion hoped they wouldn’t be stupid enough to shoot at an airlock door. Although they had shot Peter. This was obviously serious enough to shoot first and ask questions later.
It was a race now. The four of them jumped into the airlock and closed the door, frantically attempting to get their suits on. Trillion hadn’t got her helmet on yet. Only Atlas had his helmet on, she realised.
Atlas put his hand over the airlock switch. “Sorry team, I need to start decompressing the chamber now.”
Trillion took deep breaths out, trying to expel the oxygen being sucked out of her body. She managed to get the helmet onto her head, but she was fumbling with the four clips she needed to close. She was running out of breath. One at a time she managed to clip down each of the four latches, finally securing her helmet in place. She was light-headed but she could finally breathe. She stood there waiting for the airlock to cycle out all the air.
Their pursuers were now on the other side of the airlock but they were making no attempt to open the door. They stood there smiling, clearly happy with themselves. Strange, Trillion thought. Soon she and the others would be safely on the Martian landscape. On the way to each of their launch pads.
A shiver went up Trillion’s spine. The man with the bandaged hand was staring at her, an evil look on his face. He smiled wickedly at her. She imagined a spider grinning at its prey stuck in its web. She had broken his hand. And he was coming for her.