The Sleeping Hand

Twenty years after her Alzheimer diagnosis, the person who had been the third-richest on Earth still ran her company with ever-sharper attention to detail, her focus on business absolute, her ruthlessness indistinguishable from her younger days.

Year after year activist investors in her company's board challenged her fitness to manage it. Year after year her cognitive test results moved further past the human limits, her rivals challenged the validity of the test, and the challenge was dismissed by a court. A billion dollars in political contributions had bought an airtight law and test case at the Supreme Court: her constantly improved software aids were an integral part of her self. She could not be tested without them any more than a driver's test would be valid without prescription glasses.

Ten years after she last remembered where she was or what she had set in motion, the richest person on Earth began a PR, academic, and political push to set up the legal basis for corpses being people, which turned out to be a cheaper purchase than the previous law.

The Uncounted

How many people die every year of the Forever Virus?

Media estimates are at best guesses, worsened by the necessity of systematic FOIA requests, both expensive and slow.

The CDC —forbidden since 2022 to "meddle in politics"— is not allowed to count.

But Apple and Google managers, those whose job is to monitor phones as they move, browse, shop, and suddenly stop, have the highest turnover rate in the industry, military-grade NDAs, and a nearly middle-class propensity to kill themselves for undisclosed personal reasons, often preceded by a nervous breakdown.

Dream Job

Thinking back about it, the name "Human Resources" was the only clue we needed.

"I can't sleep," I complained to my therapist. The inhumanly empathetic rendering nodded.

"That's very common in the industry. Opinion management is a very fast-paced job." Her voice sounded familiar and reassuring, and I wondered idly whose recordings it had been synthesized it from.

"But don't I need sleep?"

"That's a myth. You are doing a good job at something important. Think about it this way: if you lose your job, it'll only make your parents happy."

We laughed together. It was true.

"Well," she said. "There goes our session time. I'll see you tomorrow."

I said goodbye as she disappeared from my visual field, replaced by the graphs and chatrooms where I lived twenty hours a day. As always, the company psychiatrist (mandatory, but also the only one I could have consulted with my schedule and my "smart" health insurance) had made me feel much better. I still fancied I could feel the electrodes deep in my brain keeping me awake during the long shifts, but they no longer felt alien, and in a way I was grateful the company was giving me a discount to rent them.

The Recursive Grammar of Progress

Good engineers never have to solve the same problem twice.

It wasn't terrorism to install robots with machine guns in every schoolyard and street corner.

And it wasn't terrorism to program them to kill you if you looked and behaved like those the people who paid for the robots had paid others to kill in the past, sometimes with hands and authority, sometimes with much bigger machines.

It was, however, terrorism to hack the robots' programming to kill people that looked and behaved like the people who paid for them to kill people who looked and behaved like you.

Luckily, the people who paid for robots quickly called the people who made them, they found and killed the hackers and, henceforward, those who looked and behaved like them.

Frankenstein's Angel

A "miracle" is an object of wonder, while a "monster" is a strange creature portending evil. Those are not mutually exclusive.

Every boy in the orphanage tried to look weak and sickly when the Angel visited, but there was no point. She had been taught medicine by her father, Dr. Frankenstein himself. She would poke at them with a girl's delicate finger, look them over with the sharpest clinical gaze, and pronounce them fit donors or not. The blood tests were mere formalities, or rather tests of a different kind. My predecessor had manipulated some to keep safe a boy he had grown attached to, a choice that had led him to the camps in Australia, and me to his post.

I wouldn't make his mistake. The camps might not mean immediate death - with his racial background, he had probably even avoided sterilization - but life, real life, was only to be found in service to the Empire.

The Angel (I couldn't stop myself from using the boys name for her, but never aloud, not even alone) made some quick notes on a clipboard, pushing half a dozen children past the threshold of death so a member of the high nobility, a favored industrialist, or a compliant enough foreign ruler could be pulled back. I could see her mind was elsewhere, but made no comment. The decades since her death and rebirth had not mellowed Lady Frankenstein, if rumor was to be believed; younger-seeming than many of the boys, she was older than me, so I couldn't say.

She gave me the clipboard, already turning away. "That will be all, Director."

"Thank you, Lady Frankenstein," I answered, bowing, but she didn't see and probably did not hear. Although what changes her father had made to her unaging body over time, what powers of mind or sense had been added, and at what cost (and to whom), only the two of them knew, and the Doctor hadn't left his castle in decades. Some said he no longer looked human, and maybe no longer thought like one, if he ever had.

But the vast estates of Castle Frankenstein weren’t where his daughter was going. I could see her helicopter already speeding towards London, where the camera crews were probably already waiting for her arrival for the first of many events that would celebrate Queen Victoria's first century of rule.

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