Dr. Campton leaned back in his chair and looked at the disembodied head on the table before him. He wondered at the miracle of it. It’s eyes tracked with his movement, easily following his lab-coated 6’2″ frame. He held his chin and felt the 3-day growth of gray beard scratching his fingertips.
The head began its test sequence, running through a stunning variety of expressions. All were reproduced smoothly and naturally by the artificial head. There was nothing new in this for Campton. He’s been producing artificial bodies for 80 years. That was the easy part. The true miracle copied the mind of a living human and downloaded it into an artificial body. Oh, some of the first tests went horrifically. In the last 15 years the technology matured. The cases of insanity dwindled down to nearly nothing as download procedures developed into a fine art.
When the artificial head finished its test sequence with a double-blink, Campton opened a comms channel. “Tell Mr. Enderby we’re ready at this end.” Campton leaned back and crossed his arms to watch the next miracle. The face of the elderly-looking head squirmed for a moment as Mr. Enderby’s mind entered the head from across the continent in Holyoke, Massachusetts. The face sagged as it took time to download the petabytes of a human mind’s information. In mere seconds the download finished and Mr. Enderby occupied the head entirely. He shifted its eyes, looking around Campton’s lab. Finally they settled upon him. The face smiled with astonishment and pleasure.
Campton chatted with Enderby for a while and ran tests to help teach the retiree how to control the body. Acclimatization before permanent installation into an artificial body was necessary to reduce the initial shock which characterized the earliest installs. Mr. Enderby disconnected and Campton leaned back and sighed. The ability to shift petabytes of information wirelessly in just a few seconds was the 2nd miracle. It made downloading into an artificial body practical, and even easy, from any location on the planet.
Campton picked up the envelope he’d delayed opening until then. Postal services were archaic. Teenaged kids didn’t even know what a postal service was. He opened the envelope, and found only one thing: a picture. It was the beloved window in his lab. Because of the trees outside, the light shining through the window took on different colors. It was green in Spring, orange in Fall, and blue or white in Winter. In the photo sent to him, it had been edited. A distinct bullet hole shattered it at the center. He looked up to the window in his lab. It was intact.
The message was clear. They were going to kill him.
He’d been threatened before. Hundreds of times, in fact. Religious zealots believed his work with artificial bodies was heresy and blasphemy. They believed he violated God’s will. For them, the cycle of life and death was inviolate, and shouldn’t be tampered with. Paradoxically, they were willing to kill him early to make their point. He’d survived three assassination attempts before. Campton tossed the picture onto the desk. He’d survive a fourth.
He went on working with Mr. Enderby and others. While everyone had the option of inhabiting a youthful-looking body and all the benefits that came with beautiful bodies, many preferred a body that looked older. They enjoyed their their persona as “Grandpa Jones” or whatever and preferred to stick with it, albeit without the aches and pains of old age.
The color of his favorite window turned orange as fall colors fell upon the land. Campton attached an arm to his testing panel. He sighed, feeling a little tired. Eighty years of this work sometimes took its toll. He paused to look out the window. It spiderwebbed suddenly as a bullet crashed through it. 145 nanoseconds later, it shattered his cranium.
He awoke 3.4487 seconds later in a duplicate body, one of 24 scattered throughout the US and Europe. Wireless downloads saving him, again. This body received a priority download because it rested in an apartment building merely one hundred yards from his lab in preparation for this moment. He strode to the balcony where a point-defense robot waited. Its twin 30mm cannons shifted anxiously. “Ballistics calculating…calculating, calculation complete.” Guns capable of pulverizing buildings suddenly steadied. “Target identified,” it intoned.
Campton glared out the window. “I build artificial bodies. You idiots didn’t think I could do this for eighty years with my original body did you?” He smirked, “Got a backup plan?”
Through the study of Ballistics, it’s quite easy to track a projectile by it’s trajectory, speed, and mass and calculate where it came from. Artillery units use ballistics for counter-battery fire. Distance and even cover isn’t necessarily protection. In the future, snipers won’t be nearly as well-hidden as they are now. If you shoot at me, you’ve just told me where YOU are. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballistics
This week in Grammar Ghoul Press’ Mutant 750, the media prompt may be found at the beginning of this post. The word prompt is: Envelope. Look here to read more stories answering this week’s prompts: http://www.grammarghoulpress.com/gg-writing-challenge-32/