Immortality has been a dream weaved through the history of humanity. In the past, many tried to extend their lives with medicines or spent their faith believing in a religion that would grant immortality once they left the mortal plane. These were tossed aside as more tangible steps were taken in the forms of technology. Many believed the key to living forever was to abandon their bodies and welcome artificial constructs. Though this brought them closer to their goal, it was soon realized that technology alone was not the solution as a human mind deteriorated within the data centers that held them.
It was a biotech breakthrough that brought immortality truly within reach. Trost Industries was the first to discover a seamless integration of technology and biology. A way to fuse flesh and machine into one harmonious entity without biological rejection or deterioration. The first successful case was a mouse. It was alive for two years before a rabbit became the second success. They both lived on base nutrients in the form of pellets. Not enough to sustain a normal member of their species, but enough to provide the materials needed to continue the regeneration of the biological components within these hybrids.
Within a century, ninety percent of humans had welcomed the bio-integration. Many social conflicts disappeared. Healthcare all but disappeared. Food became abundant as the need for it decreased. All prejudice and hatred was veered toward those deemed too stubborn to accept the integration, but no violence was acted upon as those outside of time simply waited for those within it to simply pass away into the past.
But the integration did not grant true immortality. It prevented time from killing those who had accepted the fusion of man and machine, but it did not prevent the heinous act of a violent death. Man could still kill man. Though their bodies were much stronger and could walk away from plane crashes and the crushing depths of the ocean with little protection, they were not truly impervious to destruction.
Astin Trost, owner of Trost Industries, was found dead on his island anchored above the city formerly known as Menlo Park. The following is a transcription of the final forty-three minutes of his life.
The sun was nearing the horizon of clouds casting an orange glow as Trost stared down through broken patches to see the city below.
“So that’s it then? We’ve given life while taking it away?”
A miniature hologram his board of trustees hovered over the table behind him.
“There is no need to worry,” Matthew said, the oldest of the group who still maintained the physique of when he first made the transition at fifty-six years old. “A few may be upset once we break the news, but our sample groups indicate a vast majority won’t be bothered. No one will care if they can’t have kids anymore. They will live forever.”
“I’m not so sure of that,” Trost said quietly.
“Speak up, Astin,” Miriam told him in the maternal tone he loathed.
“I said I’m not so sure of that.”
“Why would you say that?”
“Because people are still dying.”
“Only in the most extreme events,” Paul clarified.
“And only when the victim is left damaged longer than twenty-four hours,” Miriam added.
“The population if effectively stabilized,” Matthew said, “Which will stabilize economies and only increase the wealth of the individual. What we’ve done is create a utopia. No one will want for anything. If they truly want something, they can work until they have it. There is nothing out of their reach now.”
“Except building a family. A future.” Trost finally turned to face them. He crossed his arms and leaned back against the window.
“They are their own future. We no longer have pass on our lives to others. We can continue to live them ourselves.”
“What’s really bothering you about this Astin?” Miriam asked. The entire board looked at him expectantly.
“I’m starting to think we aren’t supposed to live forever,” he said.
“Hold on,” Paul waved Jackson down, “What do you mean by that Astin?”
“Physically we can thanks to this company.”
“Thanks to you,” Matthew said.
“But mentally,” Trost continued, “I’m not sure the human mind can withstand it. Remember when they first mapped a human mind onto an android frame? The mind deteriorated within a few years.”
“So? That was due to the risk of transference. It was impossible to get one hundred percent accuracy. With biotech, the mind remains in its original state.”
“Yes, but humans have always been selfish creatures. I look out there and I don’t see everyone taking the time to sit down and talk to each other as they had in the past. Without families, there is nothing to stabilize the mind as it progresses beyond what was previously possible.”
“You’re worried about development?” Matthew asked. He was surprised to find Trost worried. “We can invest in academia to promote the pursuit of knowledge. Hasn’t that always been a cornerstone of human curiosity? Combined with our exploration investments dated to begin next month, I think we’ve already addressed your concerns.”
“Perhaps,” Trost said and turned back to the window, “but let’s keep researching the reproduction issue.”
“We’ve depleted all possibilities,” Miriam said. She caught her next words as Matthew signaled toward her. After a second motion, the holographic figures all stood and left the table leaving only Matthew behind.
“What’s really troubling you Astin?” he said.
“I’m pushing one hundred and eighty years old Matthew. The oldest man alive. They cheer me for it but believe me when I say something is wrong.”
“An imbalance? Come to the lab and we can get you looked at and corrected within the hour.”
“It’s not an imbalance. It’s an intuition. A feeling that something is out of place. I’m beginning to feel like ghost. Clinging to this world when I should be in the next.”
“You don’t believe that. There is nothing after this life. What you need is to get out more. Go see some friends. Go have some fun. You’ve been isolating yourself too much lately.”
“Perhaps you’re right.”
“Of course I’m right. Let’s meet up at Vixels. We haven’t been there in decades. It’ll be like the good old days. Yeah?”
Trost turned and rubbed his face. He looked at the hologram of Matthew and nodded.
“Good,” Matthew said, “I’ll see you at eight.”
The hologram disappeared entirely. Trost went to the small bar in his study and grabbed tumbler and a bottle of bourbon. He turned his toxin receptors to the max and the filters off. He’d forgotten what it felt like to be truly intoxicated. All it took was a few sips to get him there. He held the small tumbler in one hand and fiddled with the inputs with the other. He perused news reports, videos, social sites, and took in everything humanity had and was making of itself the last several decades.
He poured himself another drink and continued his search to find worth in what he had done. An answer to the question burning within him. He searched and searched and searched. Drinking all the while. Refusing to stop until he found that answer.