Chapter 7: ICARUS – Preparation for Tomorrow
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Icarus found his back pressed into the chair. He had barely lain down when the rocket started to take off. It was getting harder to breathe too. Breathing out was easy, but he was struggling to breathe in.

He looked up at the ceiling, head pinned to the seat. A large donut-shaped device drifted over his head, obscuring his view. He realised what he was looking at. “I’ve changed my mind, Ship. I don’t want my mind uploaded just yet.”

Ship appeared in the room and moved the brain scanner backwards off Icarus’s head, replacing the donut-shaped device with his own head.

Icarus studied the robotic face of Ship. It had a subtle shimmering glow that accompanied all hapticgraphic projections. Ship’s skin looked like a patchwork of tiny metallic black squares, peppered with metallic white ones. The white squares made up a pattern of lines on Ship’s skin.

Icarus realised he had only ever heard the Ship’s voice during training over the speakers. This was the first time he had come into contact with its avatar – his avatar, Icarus corrected himself. Ship always referred to itself and a ‘he’.

Ship’s face blinked in front of Icarus. “I wouldn’t recommend taking this journey in physical form. Most of this spacecraft isn’t well protected enough. As soon as we leave the heliosphere your body will be subjected to so many fast-moving particles that the risk of cancer is enormous.” Ship moved his head out from in front of Icarus. “Then you wouldn’t survive very long.”

Icarus shook his head. “I still want to upload my mind. But there are a few things I want to discuss with you. I still have time, don’t I?”

An orb appeared in front of Icarus. It flashed a bright green, the colour spiralling hypnotically within the orb in an ethereal display. He pointed a finger at the orb, struggling to raise his hand above the G-forces he was experiencing. “Am I seeing things? Is that a hypersphere?”

Ship followed Icarus’s finger. Towards the object he was pointing to, “that’s Lex. Us two are your crew. He’s our resident supercomputer.” Ship paused for a moment, obviously thinking over Icarus’s question. “Yes, I do think he models his avatar after a hypersphere. I know Atlas found it mesmerising so he designed Lex that way.”

Icarus moved his eyes towards Ship, not wanting to risk moving his head. “And why did he just change colour? Does he constantly shift colours?”

“He flashed green to signal yes you still have time. Although if you’d like to stay here for more than a day you should know we don’t have any food.”

Icarus started to shake his head before realising the G-Forces might hurt him. He stopped shaking his head. “No. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. Do we really need to accelerate at this speed?”

“I’m afraid so,” Ship said, nodding. “There are Earth spacecrafts on their way here. We need to hit escape velocity as soon as possible to remove all risk of them coming after us. If you prefer, we could upload your mind and then have this whole conversation without you feeling the effects of an accelerating spacecraft?”

Again, Icarus had to fight back a headshake as he declined. He did not want to have his head stuck in an awkward position. “It’s okay. Ever since I got here I had a plan for what I would experience waking for the first time as a simulation.” He breathed in deeply, fighting against the heavy feeling created by the gravitational force equivalent. He was getting heavier, meaning their acceleration rate was increasing. “In my pocket there’s a memory stick. Can you grab that out?”

Ship reached into Icarus’s pocket, pulling out a pack of gum and a wallet.

“The other pocket,” Icarus said, realising his mistake.

Ship walked around to the other side of Icarus and reached into his pocket, pulling out a key ring with a cartoon duck on it. Attached to the key ring was a memory stick. Ship held it in front of Icarus’s face. “Is this what you want?”

Icarus squinted to see it. It was too close to his face. But he recognised the duck keyring. “Yes, that’s it. This is important, Ship. I’ve been planning this since the first day I got here.” It was becoming harder to breathe so he took a few deep breaths. “There are two folders in there. The one labelled ‘avatar’, I want to look like that avatar. The second is my wake-up sequence. I want to go through that the first time I wake as a simulation.”

Icarus took a few breaths in and out to steady himself against the light-headedness he was feeling. “Don’t wake me until we get to a new planet. Scan my brain, build my new matrix. But don’t turn me on until we are in a new system hundreds of years into the future. I want no chance of me wanting to turn around.” He paused for a moment to get the words out. “Or see my family.”

Icarus started to weep. The lack of oxygen made emotions even stronger. Similar to a flight on a plane. He decided he needed to get on with things quickly. “Okay, I’m ready, Ship. Scan my brain now. And remember,” he said, blinking away a tear, “I want tomorrow to be hundreds of years from now.”