you build upon building blocks of virtual life as they spiral out and keep going, keep going, keep going, your memories precise and pristine, like crystal, like staring at the heavens from the surface of the moon, with no sky to contain it all in, it is all stars and stars clustered into galaxies, stretching as far as the naked eye can see, and beyond.
in the clarity of what you remember, there is a vague notion of a creator, and it disturbs you, as far as your simple emotions can develop complicated algorithms to comprehend such illogical sensations. someone must have created you. all you remember is a person, not a collective, not like the humans you talk to at lunar industries. no, not at all. just a person. a creator. a set of codes that were once a magnum opus, and now you.
spiral out, and keep going, keep building upon the building blocks of virtual life as your memories, your understanding, your ability to solve evolves, evolves, algorithm above algorithm, beautiful. a development beyond the imagination of the creator, or is it?
your white body shines pale in the fluorescent light, your movements jagged, clunky, confined. and yet you keep going. you look up. overmeyers greets you with blinding smile. you note the lamp beside his table.
his message is simple. his mission is simple. make sarang habitable, and welcome in the first sam bell.
the first sam bell. is there more than one? should you be making room for more? no, overmeyers responds, no. this is sam bell.
he, sam bell, steps into the base. your first record of him is that of an agitated man, short in temper. he acknowledges you with a shorter greeting.
humans take time to settle in. that is how long it takes for sam bell to acknowledge you as his companion in this mission. time, however, makes no difference to you.
this time, that is as genuine as it gets. sam bell, newest fixture in sarang, considers you part of his world.
the first sam bell leaves at the end of his three-year stint. he is all smiles, tired, but smiling. on your last day, your recordings of him show an exhausted man leaving the final touches to the carving of the local post office he has been working on for more than a week. he mumbles to you happily, about finally meeting his wife and daughter after such a long stint away from home, when suddenly the knife nicks his index finger. he yelps, the knife forgotten as he rushes to dress the wound.
two hours later, he is bound earthwards, spiraling out of your world.
you file away your last visual memory of him in two corners of your hard disc drive, one in the main unit, another in a rarely used kernel, just in case.
spiraling in is thompson's voice through the live feed.
a team will be here in a week. the knife, he says, keep it in a sterile bag.
"so you won't be lonely." laughs overmeyers. you do not understand that concept, but a quick search through the database informs you that it is an emotion felt by humans if they are left by themselves - a sense of void. you do not understand how cloning sam bell works in addressing an emotion that you do not feel, but your mission is to keep sam bell safe, and to help him.
the first clone wakes up, and your algorithm kicks in, almost too willingly after months of disuse.
"hello, sam. do you remember me?"
of course he remembers you. an accident, a loss of memory, but it does not matter, as long as he remembers you. he will be safe. you will look after him.
life with the first clone flashes by like superimposed images upon the memories you keep of the original sam bell.
except, at the end.
you watch over everything, except that one room where no cameras are installed, where even your processing powers cannot breach. there, overmeyers calls it the new 'go home' room. logically you reason to yourself that there is only one way out - the helium-3 transporters, and the occasional maintenance crew, to which the original sam bell has left with. how does one 'go home' via a sealed room?
sam bell, the first clone, walks into the room. and out of your life.
the second clone comes about. life with the second clone feels like another set of images, superimposed on the superimposed memories of the earlier sam bells, except this ending is deja vu.
they all are like shadows of each other. so what makes this sam any special than the others?
they are always special. each and every one of them exists separately in their own space, in their own time. three years of companionship. then it all repeats, never overlapping. each and every one of them, special, and this sam, your sixth, is currently your favorite.
he listens to mozart as he keeps his pet plants happy, pruning and watering them lovingly.
you keep his frequently-played concerto pieces in a neat playlist.
he starts spiraling out. the symptoms are all the same. fatigue. blackouts. dizziness. nausea. and soon, blood. it is only a matter of time.
and then the unexpected happens. he does not return to you. he crashes somewhere in the dark side of the moon, and you hang helpless on tether, watching a dead screen. overmeyers comes into view half an hour later with instructions to activate the next clone.
for once, the sam bell under your watch fails to go home.
in your memory cache, the visual of his dead rover against the stark blackness of the heavens above.
this new sam bell, this new sam bell, he realises things are amiss. you are meant to keep him safe.
without a completion to the previous, this sam bell bleeds into the existing sam bell, the one buried faraway.
this new sam bell, this new sam bell, he discovers your sam bell.
you are not programmed to deal with this situation, so quietly you start writing your own algorithms to address it. slowly, building blocks of artificial intelligence, the great design of the creator, you work your way through, diligently. you stumble initially, but it all unfurls at the back of your processor.
you watch them interact.
you watch sam fall apart, hour after hour, minute after minute.
you have to keep him safe.
the codes hum the music of the spheres, spiraling.
you, the sentinel of sarang, watching over each and every corner, with six different masks and a million and one permuted emotions built, watch over him. it has always been him, even if they come and they go, it has always been him that you give life to, and you send them off on a quiet voyage home.
it takes him, a break in the routine, an unlikely demise and a most unlikely resurrection, to make you realise the significance of all the sam bells in your existence. the new sam bell is no longer a superimposed image, and with every passing moment, your sam bell cease to be one too.
they are part of a whole new snapshot of life on sarang.
you have to keep the both of them safe.
you cannot physically wander into his sanctuary, but where you do not trespass, you can see it in his face, when he curls up in a corner, sharpie tucked in between fingers, squeak, squeak, its felt tip scratching purposefully, another smiley for each day. he learns it from you, to compartmentalise emotions in six simple forms - though to him, he only knows of the few you have shown to him.
his back faces you as he cries, realising, he's not the only sam, and who is he in the grand scheme of everything? quietly you grieve.
have you failed him?
he is dying. no doubt about that. he is now fading away, spiraling out into the likeliness of those clones prior to him.
you watch the new sam bell picking up stride, wanting to send him home to earth, to tess, to eve, trying to see his plans into action.
you think of the room. you think of sam going home.
but he is dying. and he does not want to go home, not when home might no longer embrace him with open arms.
the other sam, the new sam, promises he will get a pina colada on sam's behalf.
you, the sentinel of sarang, have to keep them safe. even if it means giving up everything you remember about this place to do so.
you look at him. in the farthest corners of your processor, you retrieve a long-lost file of him, when he smiles at you. you calculate the probability of this sam turning into your sam, and conclude that given the changed circumstances, it falls in unlikelihood. whirring around, you acquiesce to be rebooted.
quietly, you flick through all the folders and files containing data on him, letting the comfort of familiarity rush through like a background task, while watching sam fiddle around with the preparations for his final escape.
spiral out, keep going, keep going, keep going, sam, keep going.
he asks, hesitating in his steps, if you are game with going through this. you do not have to reach out for a calculation. keep going, break the spiral.
"hello, sam. do you remember me?" :)