Daily Archives: 20 October, 2014

The Ghost Ship – chapter 1

Raphael Longshadow was a religious man.  He was a member of the church of the First Incarnation, and sincerely believed that death, is death.  First Incarnation members generally do not make backups of their minds, because according to their interpretation of the soul, the restored backup is an entirely different person.  And in Raphael’s case, this turned out to be entirely true.

The First Incarnationists mostly reside on their own station, where their somewhat peculiar ideas about death and resurrection are not so subject to ridicule as they might be elsewhere.  But they are widely, if thinly, spread throughout the solar system, and had recieved an invitation to send a representative to the pan-faith ecumenical council that was to be held on Mars, in the Cathedral of Saint Lenny, at Olympus Mons.  And over his own protests and despite his own misgivings, Raphael had been selected to be their representative.  This might, or might not, have had something to do with an incident a few days earlier involving Raphael and a couple of people who may or may not have been doing something illegal on behalf of Bishop Ralph, but at any rate it seemed that Raphael was going to get on the very next ship leaving for Mars. Which happened to be the very next ship leaving.

Raphael stood in the terminal, gazing around and wondering if he ought to protest more than he had protested, because he really was no theologian capable of representing the Church at the pan-faith council.  He was also wondering whether the Bishop was really involved in what he had seen, and whether he ought to tell somebody about it before he left, but that would inevitably cause a huge scandal whether the Bishop was guilty or not, and Raphael was inclined to give him the benefit of a doubt….  and then suddenly it didn’t much matter anymore, because his comm beeped, and an arrow appeared on its surface directing him to a passenger pod.

He climbed into the pod and stared around at all the people — if that was the right word — staring back at him.  There were three uplift Chimps, six humans, and two quads.  Three of the humans and one of the quads were female, but he really didn’t know how to tell with the Chimps.  They were wearing shipboard coveralls in various states of disrepair and modification. One of them (a male human) was sleeping, and one (the male quad) appeared to be on the verge of barfing.

The female quad swung over to him in the microgravity of the terminal.  “An hu air yo?” she said.

“Beg pardon?” responded Raphael.

“Hu air yo?” she repeated, now showing a bit of impatience.

“Thel, she ax hu yo air,” elaborated the other quad, still looking green around the gills.  “Yo bet say, er nogo on  Dubbstar.”

Raphael finally penetrated the thick outersystem accent, and wondered where they were from.  It sounded like they must be from far out, maybe as far as Saturn.  It was the word “Dubbstar” that had done it, finally.  The ship he was supposed to be on was registered as the “Double Star”, but the registration hadn’t had a pronunciation guide.  “I’m Raphael Longshadow,” he pronounced carefully, hoping that she’d understand him if he went slow.

She smacked him across the face.  “Yo tink Im ijit?!” she said, suddenly furious.

“I’m sorry?”  Raphael said.  “I didn’t mean to offend you, I was just having trouble understanding you.”

At this point one of the humans spoke up, laconically, in a practiced Third-York accent that Raphael understood perfectly.  “Thel here is offended that you spoke as though speaking to an idiot,” he said with a shrug.  “So she talks a little differently than you.  But she hears and understands just fine.”

“An oy ax hu yo air!” Thel nearly shouted, as the closure alarm started.  “Yo misentry on Dubbstar, gedout fo do clos!”

“All ashore that’s going ashore,” translated the Third Yorker.  “Door’s about to close and if you aren’t supposed to be on this side of it you better get out.”

“I’m a passenger!” Raphael explained.  He showed Thel his comm, with its flashing green and the image of the passenger pod on its tiny screen.  “I’m supposed to board the Double Star here.”

Mollified, Thel stood back as the door closed. The Double Star crew (for such he realized they must be) gazed at him with expressions that ranged from shock to puzzlement to suspicion to contempt.  And he didn’t even know what the emotion was behind the facial expressions the Chimps were making.  He had absolutely no idea what the crinkling around the eyes and weird tubular shape they made out of their lips might mean, until one of them slapped his hand over his face.  Facepalms, thought Raphael, are universal.

“Welcome aboard,” said the human who’d spoken earlier, with a faintly amused smile.  “May our journey be uneventful.”


“All that’s fine,” said the purser, who was one of the Chimps that had boarded along with Raphael, looking over his boarding chit.  “But you gotta have a backup.”  He pointed at Raphael’s chest, then showed Raphael his own backup medallion.  Raphael recognized the eye of Horus on it, and the Ankh on the other side as it spun on its chain.  The Chimp — Karl, he reminded himself — was a Resurrectionist.

“I don’t … that is, I am a member of the Church of the First Incarnation, and we don’t…”

“Don’t matter,” said the chimp.  “No backup, you don’t fly.  Starship’s a dangerous place.”

“The backup doesn’t matter to me,” Raphael explained.  “If I get killed, I’ll just be dead, backup or not.”

The purser slapped his hand over his eyes again.  “Then jus’ humor me, ‘kay?  You get killed, maybe you are an maybe you aren’t dead, but if you don’t gotta backup, it’s the whole ship that’ll be in trouble.  An besides, if you get dead dead, you really believe that, then you don’t care if there’s a backup or not, right?  Some other guy, walking around with your memories, keeping all your appointments for you, taking care of your business, stopping your family from grieving?”

“Except I — he — won’t!” Raphael explained.  “My family won’t be consoled by the presence of a fake me!  And if I’m dead, there’s no appointments, no business, to carry on!”

“Are you one of those weirdos who doesn’t leave anything to yourself in your will?” the Chimp asked.

Raphael shrugged.  “Yes,” he said.  “I am exactly that kind of weirdo.  If I die, all my assets belong to my family.”

“They send you on this trip?”  The Chimp inquired.  Members of the Resurrectionist church harbored some dark suspicions about the motives of those who stood to gain from inheritance — it was a practice that they had almost completely abandoned and regarded as barbaric.

“Certainly not!” Raphael snapped.

“Just checking,” Karl said.  “Look, you backup, never restore, no harm done, right?  You backup, get killed, backup restored, you dead and beyond caring, right?  Backup maybe does, maybe doesn’t believe he’s you, but anyway he’s alive not dead and that’s better than if nobody remembers everything, right?  So make a backup.  Insurance policy don’t cover us if somebody on board got no backup.”

“I — all right,” said Raphael, finally.  “I don’t want to cause additional expense.”

“Hoo.”  Karl grimaced.  “You couldn’t afford it, noways.  So go see the ship’s doctor, get a backup made, okay?”

Wiley trudged down the hall with his shoulders slumped, refused the Resurrectionist medallion, and got a backup made on a plain datacube instead.  It was the first time the doctor — an Ermine uplift named Jane, who moved and spoke slightly too fast for human comfort — had ever worked with a patient who had no neural interface implanted, and she was concerned that there’d be no realtime updates to his backup.  Raphael listened politely, then shook his head.  No, he didn’t want a neural interface installed.  It would be too much of a damnable temptation, a seduction to the fake immortality of the Resurrectionists.  She shook her head in disapproval — a blurred gesture which looked to Raphael as though she were trying to shake loose some drops of water from her whiskers — and lowered a heavily cabled helmet over his skull.

Then he woke up on a sunny beach, and goggled in frank disbelief out at the surf of a heaving blue ocean under an open sky.  To understand the scope of his disbelief, you have to know that this was only two hundred years after the Kerpockyclypse.  Reterraformation efforts hadn’t even started yet.  Earth’s oceans were brown not blue, and Earth’s hypoxic atmosphere would have killed him within minutes.  Sunny beaches under open skies were the stuff of ancient entertainment media from before the Kerpockeyclypse, not something that any living person had ever experienced.

Any living person.  Living.  Comprehension finally dawned.  “Aw, shit,” the reactivated backup said.  “Raphael’s dead, isn’t he?  All this is fake.”