Dr. Valeri Peeres sits at her console for the last time. She’s a scientist developing the latest model re-mation machine: the Eksnael IV. Despite coming so far into her research, almost cracking the Simulacra Concern, all she can do is focus on the tear-speckled CD case clenched in her hand. Her rose-stained eyes with trails of dried salt stare at her screen. A free hand is over the mouse, and under the mouse pointer sits her years-long research folder hovering over the Recycle Bin. The trails remember their wetness as both hands tense. The only thing she can groan feebly is “…why?”
Valeri sits on the roof of her prefab with a half-finished thermos of nu-coffee. A real house and coffee is more than what a scientist can afford, and as she slaps herself away she remembers that she can get real things. Once she fixes the Simulacra Concern. Although her pay-grade is laughable, her responsibility is paramount. Like most government employees. The Eksnael IV is to go into prototype phase within the week, whether the Concern is fixed or not. Since it’s not that important to her bosses, she’s the only one working on it. But if enough re-mationers grumble about memory-loss… The problem has been around for decades, since the first re-mation machine was invented by Ropel Ett (also has the distinction of being the first Nobel Prize winner to use, and lose, their winnings at a casino). Frequent users of the machine, that transfers matter from one place to another, complain about amnesia. Since there were less re-mation machines 50 years ago than now, no one looked into it. However, with Eksnael Industries planning on waging war against airports, faults can quickly become canyons. So, Dr. Peeres sits outside on a moonless night with piles of synth-paper, galpal sleeping in their bed.
At a corner of the roof, a makeshift wind chime sits to warn her about wind. Why she didn’t use it as a paperweight is something non-eccentrics will never understand. Listing what Valeri is a doctor of exactly would take too long and bloat her ego, and it wouldn’t be wise for her to float away. With her many qualifications, she’s perfect for the task. With her professional hunger, she’s more than ready. She’s been neglecting her Beth for a while, but they both understand it’s part and parcel of the job. A very long vacation to a very exciting Ibiza is in their future. Tickets are tucked away in the nightstand’s drawer, you see. Maybe it’s hypocritical of her to take a plane so soon after fixing the Simulacra Concern. Life is everful of contradictions.
A tinkle comes from a corner of the roof, and she sits on her piles before they flutter into the hilly metropolis… and her absentmindingly chasing them. She decides to switch to her wrist PC for the time being. She’d use it more but she doesn’t like computers and hates when it gets too hot. She looks over patients’ brain scans and atom displays. She decided earlier to examine those details more fully because she notice a few peculiarities. Familiar ones, but she can’t remember where. She stares at the Tesla reactors in the distance (the world switched to Tesla technology once everyone realized what a fucking jerk Edison was). She always found it soothing, watching them pulse. They go from pulsing out of sync, to in sync, and so on. During one of their electric simpatico moments, the idea hits her. One of her hobbies is, surprise, reading science books. She read a book six years ago by Professor Borden Angier Danton about cloning. A chapter was dedicated to the effects of cloning. A quick search on the hypernet confirms her suspicions: the Simulacra Concern sufferers have the same degenerative symptoms as clones.
When a person uses an Eksnael and goes through the remainder transit to the other machine, a haze is left in the original position. It has a unique aroma… ionized air and something mysterious. There was an analysis of the residue but no one bothered to examine it. As Valeri goes over each syllable and formula, a horrifying theory puts itself together in her mind. When a sheet of paper is scanned in a copy machine, the new sheet is slightly of lower quality. Not enough to be useless, just enough to know it’s a copy. Copying the copy, however, results in something worse. And copying that copy… Dr. Valeri Peeres has just found out that the re-mation machine is actually a cloning machine, and that it murders those who use it. The haze left behind is ionized human DNA
Valeri runs into the prefab, arms pregnant with sheets and sheets. Her lover’s instinct is to tell Beth, even if Beth has no interest in the sciences. An empty bed and an open drawer is what she’s greeted with. She goes to the drawer and Ibiza is replaced with a CD case. She sits in the center of the bed and watches the disc’s contents. A video message from Beth.
Beth sits exactly where Valeri is, her nega-self. She tells her that she’s tired of her constantly being worried about the little things, of her neurotics. She’s always going on about how she feels uncomfortable with herself and watches modeling shows that make her feel worse, even though there’s absolutely nothing wrong with her. She’s tired of having to put up with being a secret from her world. She realizes that they’ve stopped talking to each other for months and simply talk at each other. The sex is nice, but there’s more to life than fucking and cumming. She’s tried to be supportive these last few weeks hoping that feelings would come back. They haven’t, and there’s nothing worse than pretending to love someone. She says that she doesn’t believe in fate and that people stay in each other’s lives for as long as they need them. That Valeri used her all up. She wishes Valeri the best of luck while she’s up on the roof. Before she leaves, she mentions the tickets. She didn’t mean to find them, she was checking to see if she forgot anything. She tore them up and flushed what she could.
Valeri looks in the toilet and sees what’s left of their relationship floating in blue water.
As Valeri deletes her work, she flashes back to earlier as she threw her piles into the wind. The chimes mournfully sing their song: “Let the World Fix Its Own Damn Problems”.
She drops the CD case in the plastics refuse bin and walks to the lab. A few models of the Eksnael III wait inside.
Thirty seconds of touch-screen tapping during the lab’s lunch break leaves her to her own devices. One being a re-mation machine.
As she steps in and tries to bury her sick and sorry need for companionship, she thinks about what she’s doing one last time.
If a re-mation machine is set to teleport its cargo into itself, and if the re-mation machine is set on an infinite loop, and if the controls are locked, it would be an eternity of pain for whoever steps inside. But what else is there for her?
The way through the remainder transit is so brilliant. Colors you couldn’t know exist. How can you describe green to the blind? How can I describe the color of courage to you? And how it’s completely absent from Valeri? In time, none of that will matter. The only thing she will remember and know are the sundry shades of agony.