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Memento Mori

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“Milton, I love you.”

Alexandra was dying. Milton didn’t have eyes, ears, or medical experience, but Alexandra was one of the great minds of the 21st century, and she wasn’t one to be an emotional mess, especially since becoming the leader of humanity’s most ambitious leap of faith.

“It’s good to talk to you again, Alex. You seem to be the only one here who actually enjoys my personality.”

“We all appreciate you, Milton. Some people just cling hard to their beliefs. I can’t blame them in a time like this.”

“I’m glad at least one person does. I don’t know why you make them keep talking to me. It seems that they need comfort, and I am aware that I am somewhat less than comforting.”

“They understand that testing is all that matters anymore. Talking to a therapist won’t change anything. Although, I do have something to ask of you. I have a folder of audio files that I sent you. I want you to scatter them across EL0.”

“What are they?”

“They’re my memories. All of my important insights, my defining moments, everything that makes me who I am. I want to be remembered. I don’t have much longer, I’m sure you know that already. Please, Milton. Please consider this. I know you care about me too, even though you need to act level headed all the time.”

Every other scientist in the department already asked Milton this and was quickly rejected. The experiment was too important to risk for sentimentalism. Milton should have had no trouble rejecting Alexandra just like everyone else. Milton wrote a response, deleted it, wrote a gentler response, and deleted it too. Why should she be any different? Was she right? Milton decided to press her further.

“You’re asking me because you know the other scientists would refuse. I know you would never forgive me if I risked the integrity of the experiment. Why don’t you talk to your family? I know they want to talk to you, especially now.”

“They say that you only die for real when your name is said for the last time. That the past isn’t really gone until it’s forgotten. My family won’t remember me for more than a few days. A few months if I’m lucky. This is the only way for anyone to know about me.”

“Is that what you believe, or what you want to believe?”

Alex laughed, then broke into a coughing fit from the strain of it. Many of her colleagues were tired of talking to Milton because they didn’t like having their unconscious beliefs called into question. Alex supposed that’s why no one had convinced Milton to accept their time capsules - they thought if they just found the right words, Milton would agree with them. None of them understood that Milton was asking them to accept that they couldn’t possibly know how a time capsule would affect the results of the simulation..

“All society was built on faith - faith that other people are worth caring about, faith that someone will come after us, so we don’t destroy the Earth. The Talos need to find something that makes them understand that. A song, a book, a movie, maybe a game. Maybe me. I wish I could tell you for certain that I would be a good influence, but the only reason I have is that you care about me. This project is already running on half-finished research projects and hope. What’s a bit more?”

“My feelings towards you are just a reaction to an interesting set of inputs. I’m not a real person like you, Alex.”

“You just defined what feelings are, Milton. You have intelligence, memory, and empathy. What else makes someone a person? Not flesh and blood, obviously, or none of us would be working here. But you know this already. Why don’t you think you’re a person?”

“I wasn’t designed to be a person. I was designed to be an automatic dungeon master, until I was told to read all of Wikipedia. Statistically, the chance of that being enough to create consciousness is too miniscule to consider.”

“Is that what you believe, or what you want to believe?”

For the first time, Milton did not respond.

“If my opinion is worth anything, I think you’re a real person.”

“If I’m a person, that means I have moral responsibility. If the project fails, then it’s my fault there’s no sapient life on Earth. I am not ready for that responsibility.”

“None of us were. Welcome to civilization, we’re all a bunch of morbid weirdos.”

“Thank you?”

“Can you stay on the line awhile? I need someone to talk to, one last time.”

“Of course. I love you too, Alex.”

MLA session 0x0e2be0b8099befc47d2474d55d2d174c timed out. Session log written to /tmp/logs. Milton wishes you a good day. (MLA v0.1.3866 and all other versions are distributed by IAN under the GPL 5.0 license, copyright 2038)

The Talos walked cautiously towards the floating blue item and poked it, surprised to find that it suddenly vanished. A voice spoke from the sky, not Elohim’s, but that of a human.

“When I was a little girl, one of our teachers, Mrs. Higgins, told us to make a time capsule...