In the early days of science fiction in movies and on TV, cloning was rarely portrayed accurately; I wanted to change that.
This is the first of three stories I wrote about artificial immortality through memory taping and cloning. I chose not to display it in Serial as it was not up to that level of quality, but I am including it in Backfile as a matter of completeness.
Sometime later I wrote the novel A Fond Farewell to Dying. The first third, slightly modified, appeared as a novella in Galaxy under the title To Go Not Gently, which will be presented September 25 through November 5 of 2015, in Serial, and then archived here in Backlist.
It will be the policy of Backlist to provide virtual chapters in longer stories for the sake of navigation. Click a link to go to a virtual chapter. HIt the back arrow to return to this introduction.
Who is Jacob Tanner?
1 Jacob Tanner woke in a strange bed. He was disoriented; his eyes refused to function. He found a trace of perfume and sent his hands exploring, but the bed was only a narrow plank which ended on either side of his hips. His breathing deepened and he became aware of restraints across his chest; squirming, he found himself bound tight.
Motion. He sensed it, and caused his eyes to follow, willing them to focus. A female, surely, but in uniform. She hoovered over him; her hands moved somewhere outside the range of hisvision. He felt a pinprick and enveloping blackness.
The next time he woke, it was as from a sound sleep and everything made sense as soon as he opened his eyes. The nurse was gone, but the pressure on his restraints must have beenmonitored because a doctor came in when he tried to sit up. After a prefunctory examination,the restraints were released. Whatever had brought him here was apparently cured or mended for he felt completely normal.
“I’ll ask the typical questions and get them out of the way,” Jake said. “ Where am I and why?”
“Metro General. You were the victim of an accident. It seems that you had a footrace with a Rapitrans vehicle and lost. Now get up on this treadmill, I want to check out your muscle tone.”
Jacob drew his brows together. No, there was no memory there, but that probably wasn’t unusual. “How long have I been here?”
“The accident occurred three days ago.”
“Well then, I have to get out of here. I have and important meeting over the weekend.”
The doctor gave him a strange look and continued to check the monitors. “You might as well forget that meeting. You attended it nearly a year ago.”
Jacob jerked the treadmill to a halt. “You said that I’ve only been here three days.”
The doctor frowned. “I believe I said that the accident was three days ago. As to how long you have been here, I am afraid that there is no way to adequately answer that. One gets into a linguistic trap over just who ‘I’ is.” Seeing that Jacob didn’t comprehend, he went on, “You see, the accident was fatal; your former body was unsalvagable. And you were five months overdue for taping.”
The room swayed about him – five months overdue; why he would never do that. But apparently he would – had – no, would. Which was it?
He was momentarily looped; the body he wore and the memories he carried were the same ones he had recorded – when? Why his last memory was the taping, so he had just been taped.
No, that could not be. This was the exact reaction one could expect no matter when the tapes were pulled; his last memory would have to be of taping.
Five months overdue! Since he only taped semi-annually that meant he would miss the next eleven months of his life. No, that wasn‘t right. He shook his head. He had missed the last eleven months of his life and was now living eleven months in his own future.
There were attendants all around restraining him as the room bulged and shrank. Pinprick again, and blessed blackness.
2 They held him in a state of semi-consciousness for twenty-four hours and by that time he had matters pretty well sorted out. He left the hospital wearing his new body and set out to findwhat he had made of himself these next/last eleven months.
At his apartment there was a different name on the door and it did not respond to his thumhprint. The manager couldn’t give him a forwarding address, but did place his leaving atsix months earlier. Then he went to find Jayne.
She, at least, had not moved, but her door also refused to respond to his thumb. Jacobwondered if it had anything to do with the fact that this wasn’t really his body, but dismissed that as fancy. He dialed her room; when she came to the video, her face was frankly hostile.
“What do you want?” she demanded.
Jacob recoiled. Why just last night . . . but that wasn’t last night, that was eleven months ago. He said, “I need to talk to you,”
He hesitated. “You see, I’ve been in an accident.” She made no response. He started to say, “Iwas killed,” but couldn’t get the words out. It was too unreal,to melodramatic even now that resurection was commonplace.
“Snap it up, Jake, I haven’t got all day.”
So much change!
“I was hit by a Rapitrans. And killed.“
Jayne stared through him as if trying to decode some puzzle, but her eyes had lost none of their hostility. “Don’t joke with me, Jake. I’m in no mood.”
“Jayne, please, this is no joke. I was hit; my body was beyond repair so they cloned me a new one from the cells I had left and fed it my memories. But they say I didn’t come in for my last scan, so I’m eleven months out of date. Jayne, you’ve got to help me regain touch. Whatever happened between us since I last saw you – I mean since eleven months ago – you still have to help me. Even if you hate me now, help me for what we were.”
She stared in plain disbelief. “Wait,” she said. He stood for long minutes staring at the blank video screen until the door opened.
She greeted him at the foyer of her apartment and ushered him to a rest. A drink stood ready at hand. “I’m sorry, Jake, for the way I received you. You see, a lot has happened in the last eleven months and what you told me didn’t make sense in the light of it. I called the hospital to check it out.” She seated herself with obvious unease. “Jake please understand my position. For me you are unreal – a ghost out of my past.”
He smiled wryly. “I know better than you think. For me the whole world is unreal and you area . . . a phantom out of my future. And not a future I would choose viewing it from this perspective.You look haggard and it is apparent that I will -have – done something to hurt you very badly.I’m sorry.” He looked away, then went on. “No, Jayne, sorry is too weak a word. In my memory you and I went out dancing just yesterday evening and I spent the night here with you. October twenty–first. Do you remember it?”
“Well that is where my memory ends, except for getting up the next morning and going down for my taping. Try to remember what you felt for me then, because that is the world I am still living in.“
“I’m sorry, Jake. I can’t“
3 There was a long silence, then he went on, “Well, if you feel that way, I guess I‘ll just have to get used to it. I always promised you I wouldn’t cling when the time came to part. But you will haveto tell me why. What did I do to you, and what did I become to cause you to hate me?”
“I don’t hate you, Jake.”
“Yes, you do. A blind man could see it in your eyes. Tell me what I became and then I’ll leave.”
She swirled her drink, stalling. Finally she said, “I don‘t think I should tell you.“
“Why not? You have no right to withhold my future – my past, I mean – from me.”
“Jake, I can‘t explain without telling you about your missing time. I don’t think you should pry into that period. Believe me, Jake, you are better off not knowing.”
“I can’t te11 you why without telling you everything. And I won’t.”
“Jayne, you can’t do this to me. What did I become – a criminal, a murderer? Should I fear the law? Whom did I hurt and why? Don’t you see, I can’t function in this world without knowing those answers.”
“No, nothing like that.”
“Well, what then?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“Dammit, Jayne, you have to. You don’t have the right to withhold it.”
She was silent. The noise of the city outside filtered in through the varicolored windows. Very softly, she answered, “You say I hate you. That isn’t quite true. I hate what you became, not what you were – what you seem to be again. In the name of the love I had for the person you think yourself to be, I beg of you, don’t pry into those eleven months. You will destroy yourself if you do.“
Jacob Tanner was a man of many acquaintances but few friends; certainly no one but Jayne was close enough to entrust with the delicate job of educating him in what he would/had become. He would have to find out for himself. His next stop was at his place of work, but he was told that Jacob Tanner had quit there some months earlier. The computer readout gave him full details, but none were pertinent to his quest.
As a part of his job he had made contact with members of the press, so he used those contacts now. Don Emerson greeted him cordially enough; apparently whatever was haunting Jayne had not extended to his business contacts. Jake had not intended to bring up his death and resurrection immediately, but Don already knew more details than he knew himself.
“I was surprised to find that you had missed your last scan. I found that out when I was doing a follow up story on your death. That puts you, let‘s see, ten months out of touch?”
“Yes. Why did you miss that scan?”
Jake favored him with an elaborate shrug. “How should I know?”
“Of course, how stupid of me. You must be trying to fit together pieces of your own puzzle, and I’ll bet you want some help.“
“Right. You mentioned a follow up story.”
“Yes, I guess I will have to put myself in your place and remember that these last weeks are unknown to you. You were an unwilling celebrity. We happened to be filming the street where and when your accident took place. Quite a bonus for us – no offense meant, of course. Anyway, we blew up the appropriate portions of the video to make us look like even better reporters than we are and it made quite dramatic footing. I was doing a follow up story on your resurrection when I found out that you had missed a scan. We intended to look you up later this week for a third story; you know, the Rip van Winkle thing.”
Jake didn‘t catch the reference. “Did you compile a dossier on me?”
“As a matter of fact, we tried, but it is quite thin. You seem to have been moving in circles which don’t leave many records and we had hoped you could help us out on that.”
“Of course. Sorry. This thing takes some getting used to.”
“You don’t know the half of it.”
“No, I suppose I don‘t.”
Jake examined the dossier but it was not helpful; most of the dates, names and places were over six months old. Then he viewed the film of his own death.
Since it had been blown up from footage shot for a different purpose, the resolution was substandard, but it had been well edited. It began with a panorama of the open park in centertown, pausing a moment on the gleaming Rapitrans rails, then moving on to catch the Rapitrans vehicle looking small in the distance but swelling rapidly as it approached. Crowd noises filled the viewing room. The camera cut to a knot of bystanders among whom Jake recognized himself. He looked gaunt and harried as the camera closed in upon his face. He glanced from side to side, then stiffened as he saw something off camera right. He lunged forward and the camera went to slow motion while fading back to catch the whole scene. Jake stumbled ahead, his hands and legs moving with viscid slowness while the Rapitrans plunged in on him. He realized his danger and shifted his weight in a vain attempt at avoidance. The film moved even slower and an insert at the top of the screen caught his face in a frozen closeup. Impact! Like a bug on a windshield, leaking life juices in slow motion. Then the camera went mercifully back to normal speed and the Rapitrans rocketed out of sight to the left carrying its grisly burden with it.
Emerson turned to Jake and shook him gently. “I warned you that was pretty heavy stuff. The viewers ate it up, but the viewers weren’t seeing themselves centerscreen.”
Jake shook his head and swallowed. “I’m all right. Don, how could you have missed the byplaythere. When I leaped in front of that Rapitrans it was because of something I saw off camera.Roll it again.”
Don hesitated. “Are you sure you’re up to it?”
Emerson shrugged and motioned to the booth overhead. The scene unfolded again until thefirst closeup of Jake’s face. Then Jake called out to stop the action.
Emerson nodded. “You could be right, Jake. You certainly saw something.”
“Can we zoom back and see what?”
“No, this is an edited version. Hey, Scott,” he called up to the booth, “can you get us the original?”
“Just a minute, boss; I‘ll ask the computer.” After a second, “Okay, rolling the original.”
This time there was no editing so everything was in long shots. The technician ran the video for a few seconds, then stopped it. He brought Jake’s face into closeup, then advanced the scene slowly. When Jake turned and was startled by what he saw, the technician stopped the action. Jake shrank jump by jump as the scene was enlarged. “There,” Don shouted, “that’s what he saw.” The picture shifted and this time came in as a closeup of another man, running toward the scene. “Scott, I want blowups of that man printed out. Now let’s see what he does.”
“No way, boss, the Rapitrans obscures that figure immediately after this shot. See that shadow on the right of the screen? That’s the Rapitrans.”
“All right, get those prints and run them through the computer. Find out who he is.”
Jake got shakily to his feet. “Let’s go,” he said, “I could use a drink.”
“Keli Jakson. He was a friend of mine.”
“Was. Or is; who knows?”
The figures were semi-representational. A charging bull and a bull dancer. They shifted gingerly, the dancer dodging and then darting in to grip the bull‘s horns and catapult himself over its back. The bull staggered to his knees in his eagerness to turn on his tormentor. Jake raised his face from the scene as Keli entered the room and the computer, sensing that it had no audience, released the magnetic field and let the figures dissolve into their component metal filings.
“Lovely work, Keli. Is it new?”
Keli looked ill at ease and said, “I finished it three menths ago. Don’t you remember?”
“How could I?”
Keli gestured toward a rest and dialed drinks. Jake went on, “I won’t fence with you. We were friends too long for that, and I hope we still are. You were there at my death.”
“How did you know that?”
“You saw the newstats? The unedited films caught you.”
“Oh.” He passed a drink to Jake.
“The first thing I did after they reconstructed me was go to see Jayne, and she all but threw me out. She refused to tell me anything about my missing time. I need to know what happened to me, Keli, and I expect you to tell me.”
Keli looked uncomfortable.
“What do you want to know, Jake? And don’t say everything.”
“I want to know why Jayne hates me.”
Keli sipped and laughed bitterly. “Better ask why she didn’t kill you. She hates you because you beat her.”
“What? No, I don‘t believe that.”
“Believe it, Jake. These last few months you have been unbearable. I damned near killed you myself, more than once.
“For Jayne, the last straw was when you put her in the hospital.”
“But why? Keli, I must have had a reason.”
Keli got up to pace the room. “Jake, I don’t really know how to tell you. It came over you so slowly that none of your friends – and that list now consists of one person, me – none of your friends realized what you were going through until it was too late. It started with a growing egocentrism. You became unbearably self-centered; you were so obnoxious that none of us realized you were just covering up something more serious. No one but Jayne, and when she tried to tell me, I didn’t listen. We only saw your manic side until one night you went into a suicidal depression right in the middle of a party.”
Jake shook his head; when physiological resurrection had taken away the fear of death, the enormous new vistas had spawned a dysfunction in those who were sensitive enough to understand their own limitations in the face of eternity – Ryerson’s syndrome.
“After that, we all tried to help you, but you know that one of the Ryerson characteristics is paranoia. We couldn‘t reach you. And no reputable psych would touch you unless you asked for treatment.”
Jake said nothing. How could he have come to this – to hurt Jayne so badly that she hated him.How could a man know himself so poorly. He began to understand why Jayne had refused to tell him of his past. But she had been wrong. Whatever seeds had led to his destruction were still there in early childhood experiences transmuted into personality. To keep from repeating his fate, he had to seek out and come to grips with them.
Sudden waves of remorse and loss swept over him, catching in his throat and spilling in tears from his eyes. Keli put his drink down and slipped in beside him, putting his arm around Jake as the sobs wracked him.
“Keli, I am not that person! I am the Jake Tanner who used to be. Last night, as I remember it, Iwas in Jayne‘s arms. Just last night! Oh God.”
After a while he wiped his face and left the room. Keli gave him a minute to regain his composure, then followed. He handed Jake a new drink and said, “Welcome back, Jake. I’ve missed you.”
“Keli, the imposter who took my place these last eleven months is as much a stranger to me as he was to you. I promise you that I will never become like that again.”
“I believe you, but what do you mean eleven months?”
“I missed my last taping.”
“No, you didn’t.”
Jake called Don Emerson to see him at the hospital. They met in the lobby.
“OK, Jake, I‘ve been thinking about what you told me,” Don said. “What do you propose?”
“I‘m going to find Dr. Blomfield and get some answers. What else?”
Don gave a lazy grin and said, “Follow me and I’ll show you what else. What day was your missing taping made?”
Jake told him; he digited in, then carried on a conversation in some kind of code. After he had hung up, Jake asked, “Who were you talking to?”
“Computer back at the home office. She always does my homework for me.” Five minutes later a return call came and Don noted down a string of numbers. Then they went up to confront Jake’s doctor.
“I told you,” Blomfield said, “your last taping was made eleven months ago. Do you realize what you’re accusing us of? Do you realize the panic it would cause if people didn’t think we could be trusted with their lifetapes? Good God, man; you could bring the government down with that kind of accusation.”
Don refused to be shaken. “That is exactly what we will do unless we get straight answers. Jake is here on a personal mission, looking for a key to his past, but I am responsible to the public to expose corruption – especially corruption in the institutions we trust most.”
“There is no corruption to expose.”
7 Don drew a slip of paper from his pocket and read, “On April eighteenth, Jacob Milner Tanner was lifetaped into storage cell TX18786 C45 DED4D. Your computer told my computer that, and I have an unassailable record of it. Shall we punch in that number and see what we come up with?”
Blomfield slumped into his chair and shook his head. “No need. That storage cell was destroyed.”
Jake looked surprised. “You mean wiped.”
“No. Physically destroyed.”
Jake and Don exchanged glances, and Don said, “Look, we expected to find some bungling, but not sabotage. You had better tell us how it happened.”
“Why? So you can spread it?”
“I‘m going to do that anyway. The best you can hope is that I will be gentle in slanting the story.”
Blomfield stared blankly at his desk top, then said, “We had a break-in. Someone found out the location of that cell by using an unattended terminal and then found and physically destroyed it.”
“What did the police say?”
“We didn’t call them in.”
“To avoid publicity!”
Don snorted. “Interesting.”
“Look,” Blomfield snapped, “what good will it do to run this scandal? We’ve tightened security now so that no one can penetrate again.”
Don tapped the scrap of paper with the cell number and said, “Really?”
In Don‘s viewing room the technician was setting up a patch-through to the Metro General computer – this one authorized in advance. The screen in front of them jumped into sudden life, showing a view of the corridor nearest the computer terminal that had been tampered with, as taped on the night of the break-in.
“What do you hope to accomplish by this, Don?”
“Maybe nothing, but then again you may recognize someone that we can follow up on. Faster,Scott.”
The cleaning ‘bot shifted from a waltz to a march and the humans moving down the hall beganto move with awkward rapidity. Scott called down, “That‘s a three to one speed up. Any faster and you will have trouble recognizing faces.“
“OK. Now, Jake, what did Keli Jakson tell you?”
8 “More than I want to relate. Apparently I was suffering from Ryerson‘s syndrome, and it was inone of my suicidal phases that I jumped in front of that Rapitrans. He was following to try to stop me from hurting myself.”
“Do you believe him?”
The time-compressed picture of the hospital corridor would have been humorous under other conditions, but it had been a long day and Jake‘s well of humor had run dry.
Ten minutes later he shouted for a stop. Scott reversed the sequence, then started the video again at normal speed. A figure came in from off camera left and walked out of the picture to the right.
“Damn!” was Don‘s statement, but Jake was too stunned to react.
It was himself.
Jake dialed depolarization and the multi-colored window went transparent. He could see the city spread out like a net of glowing jewels below him, just as he had seen it so many times before. It was nearly midnight. Jayne moved uncomfortably behind him, and he said, “You’re still scared of me, aren‘t you?”
She sighed. “Frankly, yes, although I know that I shouldn‘t be. It is all so unreal. Just last week you beat me badly, and now you are a different person. You‘ve started over, but I haven‘t. I don‘t think I can forget.”
“No more unreal for you than for me.”
“You finally figured it out, didn’t you?”
“Yes. I think so. What I don‘t know is how much you knew.”
“Everything. He – the Jake Tanner you had become – came to me during a period of rationalityand told me that he had destroyed his latest lifetape because when it was made the Ryerson‘s syndrome had already begun. That was a week ago, but I didn‘t think anything would come of it. Then you showed up.”
Jake moved his fingers down the transpane. Ryerson‘s syndrome includes suicidal depression, but what good is suicide if they only resurrect you anyway?
“Whatever that other Jacob Tanner was,” Jake said, “he was a man of resolution and courage. He saw a way out of his morass and took it, even though it meant wiping out eleven months of his life. He took a second chance on life through me.”
He turned away from the window to face her.
“Now it‘s up to you to give me the same opportunity he did.”
“Yes, Jake. Someday. But not tonight, and not this week or this month. It will take time to wipe out my memories. You‘ll have to prove yourself to me, Jake. Prove to me that you have the courage he had.”
Jake faced outward and whispered, “I will.” finis