24:3 Nature Always Wins

OUTER SPACE  |  2055

Bjoern woke from a brief and ultimately unfulfilling sleep. He couldn’t really say if he had even been asleep. When going for his doctorate, a younger Bjoern had once stayed up for three days working on his dissertation. The half-focused sense of unreality he was now experiencing reminded him of nothing more than the disassociated feeling of brain synapses having been pushed beyond their limits for far too long. Nature always wins, he thought. Even a geologist knows that.

“Oh, good, you’re up,” Zhang entered the clean area and began to take down the protective plastic sheeting surrounding Bjoern. “You are out of the proverbial woods, doctor. One good thing about not being down in the larger biosphere, there are actually fewer things that want to kill you in space … but I suppose it is a matter of perspective.”

“Why am I not soothed by that, Zhang?”

“Look, Ancher,” Zhang began. “There is something that we need to discuss before you figure it out for yourself. You may have been confused and perhaps frightened by the reaction of our colleagues earlier. I admit that this may be an … adjustment for you. I promise, it was the only way I could save your life.”

“What the hell, Zhang? What could be so bad … Oh, God, it’s not ‘Little Ancher’ is it?” Bjoern strained against the straps that help him supine and immobile.

“Who is … ” Zhang began, mystified for the moment. “Oh. Well, not exactly.”

“OK, now you are freaking me out, maybe you should just come out with it.”

“Yes, you are right, of course,” Zhang released his patient from his restraints and handed the geologist a polished steel mirror. Bjoern took the steel as he struggled to sit up, then gazed at his own reflection for what seemed like an eternity.

“Zhang?” he finally spoke.

“Yes, Ancher Bjoern?”

“Why do I look like a Chinese woman?”

“I’m sorry, Ancher, I had to work with the model we had at hand. So-to-speak.”

“Zhang?”

“Yes, doctor?”

“Did you, by any chance, upload my consciousness into your contraband love-bot?”

“It just sounds weird when you say it like that.”

“Zhang?”

“Yes, my love … erm, Bjoern.”

“When this mission is done,” Bjoern stared down the doctor from behind unfamiliar epicanthic folds. “I am going to fuck you up.”

“I understand.”

“I sincerely hope you do.”

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