“So, how are you liking life in a post-scarcity society?” Ruby asks, slumping down in a seat across from me in the mess hall. She’s an older Kate than me by about two years, and a doctor, an oncologist in training preparing for a foreseen need of the older Kates needing one soon, but she finds excuses to get involved in my engineering work. I don’t mind; engineering is way more interesting than biology, and I was only printed a couple of months ago and am still adjusting to the time skip, so it’s nice to have someone to help.

“This is hardly a post-scarcity society,” I remark, poking at my freeze dried dinner while I wait for it to rehydrate properly.

“We have a magic printer! Whatever we want, we can – ”

“Whatever we already have to scan in,” I point out. “We can make a lot of a very limited range of things.” I scowl at my food. Although, to be fair, the past couple of decades’ worth of Kates have made wondrous strides in the food variety department. With nothing to grow, there’s little to be done to expand the repertoire, but one thing we Kates are great at doing is pushing boundaries. Mostly through food separation – chocolate peeled carefully off chocolate-coated nuts and put through the foldgate separately gives us chocolate and nuts. The little spice packs in instant noodles had their ingredients separated grain by grain into individual spices, to be replicated up and remixed in different ways for variety. Chemists devoted their free time to synthesising simple artificial flavourings and food scents; most of them are a little too complex to make in the facilities we have, but you can do a lot with a few synthesised salts and esters. One of the doctors drew some of her blood to make blood pudding, which is so much more soft and succulent than the dehydrated foods we have available and feels almost like eating real fresh meat.

Whenever a Kate dies, there’s some talk of putting real fresh meat on the menu, but nobody’s made that copy, at least to my knowledge. It feels like going a bit too far.

“You,” Ruby tells me, “are a killjoy. I was so much more optimistic at your age.”

“To think, you had the full potential within you to be like me, and you chose to be like you instead. How embarrassing for you.”

“Can you imagine what Earth would do with this tech? Maybe they have it by now. I mean, we’re not the only genius foldgate technician in existence, surely. And there’s got to be an old foldgate with all the space and the shielding for old clunky foldfield tech in a museum somewhere, so maybe someone…”

“Earth would have no use for this,” I point out. “It’s a matter of energy efficiency. Using a foldgate normally doesn’t take much energy, but what we’re doing sure as fuck does. We’re sitting on top of a giant nuclear power generator designed to support a colony of, eventually, ten or twenty thousand people, and we’re already hitting limits at less than two hundred of us. Part of that is that it takes time to print goods for that many people, but mostly it’s energy. There’s nothing that Earth could produce with one of these that they couldn’t make far, far more efficiently without it.”

“Precious historical artefacts,” Ruby points out. “Instead of sending fragile things between museums in foldgates, just make a copy while sending them. Print one for every museum. Worried about them degrading over time? Print a new one from the data later. Ultimate storage.”

“Well, okay, it could have that one specific niche use, but in general the energy – ”

“Printing people.”

“People on Earth have no problem making people as it is. But man, can you imagine the social chaos? This thing would be outlawed everywhere immediately.”

“The wealthy would make copies of themselves as a way to cheat death. That’d be like a service, I bet, a special kind of life insurance. $100,000 per year and we’ll keep a copy of you in reserve to reprint when you die. Come make a new copy every six months.”

“People would train up one worker and make copies.”

“We already do that.”

“Yeah but they’d do it in a creepy corporate way, probably to prisoners or something.”

“If you copied yourself and your copy killed someone, would you be liable for murder?”

“I think only the copy would, since it did it. But if you killed someone and then copied yourself, is the copy guilty?”

“It’s in both of your pasts, so… yeah, I think so? It probably depends on what outcome makes the group who gets to decide the laws the most money.”

If you copy yourself on Earth and then kill your copy right away, is it legally murder or suicide? Do copies have rights? I mean, everyone gets human rights, sure, but are they citizens of the country of their original?”

“Or citizens of the country they were copied in, maybe? Or are they stateless?”

“If you make copies of yourself, do they get equal share in your assets? Or does the first one out of the gate, the ‘original’, get everything?” I eat a forkful of rehydrated stew. “Did you come here to eat, or just to bug me?”

“Both, kind of. Bug you now, eat later. I’ve been looking at the water system – ”

“There’s no point in starting up the water system,” I say wearily. It’s a conversation we’ve had before. It’s a conversation her progenitor had with my progenitor, still there in both our copied memories. “We switched over to the mechanical oxygenation systems awhile ago, yes, but it makes more sense to keep purifying our water by printing it with the foldgate. The water system is designed for thousands of people; if we’re not making thousands of Kates – and we can’t, we don’t have the energy to print that much food – it’s just not worth the work it takes to maintain.”

“We could print more Kates if we weren’t using the foldgate for our water, though.”

“Yes, but not enough to make maintaining the water system worth it. There’s been some talk about setting up a smaller water distillery, when we have time.”

“Sooo,” Ruby says in a kind of teasing tone that makes me immediately suspicious, “you’re saying that if I’d been down there looking at the condition of the old pipes and soforth, I’ve been wasting my time?”

“Yes, Ruby, you’ve been wasting – ”

“Even if I found this?” She whips a capped plastic tube out of her pocket and plonks it on the table in front of my food.

I stare, mouth open.

It’s water. Gross water, obviously. Probably swimming with dangerous bacteria after sitting stagnant in a pipe for literal decades, although given that there’s no animals or anything to shit in the pipe, maybe not. Whatever. That doesn’t matter.

What matters is that it’s green.

“It’s green,” I say, like there’s some chance that Ruby hasn’t noticed.


“Wh… what is it?”

She shrugs. “Haven’t checked yet. Algae is the obvious possibility. But the point is – ”

“That it’s green.”


“There’s photosynthetic life here.”



“I imagine it was probably contamination on the pipes when they were brought from Earth. Leave it alone long enough under the dim electric lighting on the outskirts where no one goes, and… well.”

“Is it edible?”

“That’s the main question, isn’t it?” she grins. “I have no idea. I’m going to get some chemists to screen it for common toxins, and then I guess we’ll see.”

“We’ll see? How? Even if they don’t find anything – ”

“Then unless we can positively identify exactly what it is, we can’t be sure. I know. But it’s a start, isn’t it? I mean, even if it isn’t edible, breeding it up under the lights can reduce strain on the oxygenation systems.”

We look up as someone new enters the mess hall, but it’s just Original Kate (well, a reprint of… it’s kind of complicated), flanked by two older Kates. I don’t really know her, except in the way that you could say all Kates know each other through our shared history. She was printed shortly before me and badly scarred in some kind of industrial accident shortly after, so she’s generally escorted everywhere by overprotective friends. They’re hardly likely to come over and talk to us, so we go back to our conversation.

“If we can grow our own food…” I say.

“I know!”

“Even if it’s not complete nutrition, even if it’s just a supplemental food source – ”

“I know! It’s not like we’re lacking the facilities to grow food in a colony designed to support thousands. Just something to grow. And now, we might have it.”

“This could be fantastic news. But why are you telling me?”

“I had to tell someone.”

“You’re not going to tell everyone?”

“Of course not! You know these people. They’re us. Can you imagine the absolutely fucking stupid things that a not insignificant proportion of Kates would do, jumping the gun on something like this?”

“Shove a bunch of raw algae into their mouths and die immediately, probably.”

“Exactly. Safety tests first. Then I’ll break the news, when I have all the data. You can keep a secret, right?”

“You know perfectly well that I can. After all, you can. Except for telling me, I guess.”

“Well, you can do the same thing and tell me,” she says magnanimously. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and find the most discreet chemist we have.”


“So, basically,” Dani says, “we’re fucked.”

I sigh, and rub my temples. It’s not like the answer was unexpected. I’ve been the head nuclear engineer of Kateopolis for over a decade, which isn’t long enough to become actually good at maintaining a nuclear reactor with no specialists and no training and just the most dense operating manuals you’ve ever seen in your life, but it’s long enough to get a pretty good sense of when you’re fucked. I glance from Dani to the other Kate in the room, the one I don’t know that well who was sent down from Logistics. She doesn’t look surprised, either.

“The energy output is already twenty five per cent less than what it’s meant to be,” she says. “Is it going to get worse?”

“Does it even matter?” I ask. “Aren’t we fucked either way?” That’s twenty five per cent less food, less water, less medicine, less replacement hardware and clothes and general life necessities. I’m not in logistics and even I know that that’s cutting things way too close to the bone.

“In theory, it’s surviveable,” Logistics Kate says. “We distill our water, cut back all luxuries, drop our calorie input, and put a strict ban on printing any new Kates, and as the older ones die off we can loosen the restrictions. But it’d be miserable, and permanently limit our population size. And if the power drop gets worse, we won’t have enough to support ourselves. So…”

“It’s going to get worse,” Dani says. “A control arm has broken and everything inside the reactor is very slightly out of alignment. It can’t correct.”

“Is there going to be some kind of meltdown or explosion or something?”

I shake my head. “This isn’t the twentieth century. That reactor is pumping out a lot more power for a lot longer with a lot less matter, but if the reaction is interrupted, it fizzles out. It can’t run away with itself. It needs perfect alignment or we get problems like this. So we have to fix it.”

“Mitzy,” Dani says in her ‘seriously we are fucked’ voice.

“Hmm?” I ask.

“Mitzy, it… it’s an internal control arm.”

I swear. Logistics Kate looks worried.

“You can fix it, right?”

What part of ‘we’re fucked’ doesn’t she understand? “Oh, yeah,” I say. “We can fix it. It’ll mean shutting the reactor down, sending someone in with a replacement, bolting it into place; a ten or fifteen minute job. We start the reactor up again and we should be at full power. We can even put our broken control arm through the foldgate to turn it into a new spare arm; we copied all of our critical replacement parts into the foldfield ages ago.”

“Then what’s the –?”

“The problem,” I say, “is that, once again, this isn’t the twentieth century. The startup process for this kind of reactor is very, very long, and we’d be on battery power the whole time.”

“How long?”

“Two months.”

Logistics Kate stares. “Two months?!”

“Yeah, it’s a long and complicated process. And I’m guessing we can’t keep the machines running that long on battery power.”

Logistics Kate shrugs. “Most of them aren’t a problem. This place was designed with the expectation of temporary problems like this, but it was also designed with the expectation of contact with Earth to resupply us in an emergency. The oxygen, lights, heating, all of those systems can run on battery power for six months, and we can rig up distilleries for our water needs. The problem is food. We could run the lights and water cycling for the farms on battery power, but it’s not nearly enough for the foldgate, not in the rigged-up, off-spec way that we use it. For this many Kates, we have 2 weeks’ worth of food stored, perhaps. If we had more time, some warning, while we were at full power, then we could print more reserves, but at three squarter power we simply don’t have that kind of leeway. We have two weeks and then we start starving.”

“What kind of civilisation can only feed its populous for two weeks in an emergency?!” Dani asks.

“Believe me, I’ve said the same thing many times. But the higher-ups insist on shaving things close to the bone. The more Kates, the less work anyone has to do, and we’ve been taking too many risks with our population. And now we have to pay for it.”

“So we sacrifice some Kates now or we all starve later? Is that what you’re going to propose to them?”

“If you have a third option, I’d love to hear it.”

“I have a third option,” I break in. I definitely don’t like the third option, but I have it. I take a deep breath and force myself to speak. “It’ll only take two months to power it up if we power it down. In theory, if someone knew what they were doing…” I swallow. “I could get in there and change the arm while it was active. It would take two minutes.”

“Mitzy, no,” Dani says.

“It’s got to be done, and it’s my responsibility.” The steel in my voice surprises me. I’m not the self-sacrificial type, on the whole. But then, this is really sacrificing one of me to save hundreds of me, right? It’s actually very selfish. Mathematically.

“Would you survive?” Logistics Kate asks.

“Long enough to do the job? Yes.”

“Long enough to get out?”

“… There’s a possibility, yes.”

“Yeah, but you wouldn’t be okay,” Dani says. “You could wear all the radiation protection we have and you’re still going to be cooked alive in there. If you do get out, you’ll just die over several hours instead of a few minutes.”

“It has to be done, Dani.”

Logistics Kate shakes her head. “That’s not acceptable. Your expertise about the reactor is far too important; you know more than anyone else. Send one of your lackeys.”

“No,” Dani and I say together.

“There’s the obvious solution,” Dani says. “She could just – ”

“No,” Logistics Kate says.

“It’d be simple! She goes and makes a copy of herself now and sends the copy. It’d cost us nothing but a single copy run!”

“It would cost us a new Kate.”

“Oh, so you’re happy for one of us lackey techs to go, but not a copy of Mitzy? Then I’ll copy myself and send her – ”


“What’s the difference? Other than by not copying ourselves, we lose someone permanently?”

“The difference is precedent,” Logistics Kate snaps. “If we do this, make a sacrificial Kate to deal with this issue, where does it stop? We both know – we all know – where that slippery slope leads.”

“How many reactor issues with no backup food stores do you expect to encounter? As soon as we’ve solve this, people will begin preparing – ”

“The reactor isn’t the only piece of critical hardware in this colony. What happens when one of the domes is badly damaged, and needs risky outside repairs? When buildings collapse? When we encounter something that might be poisonous and we want to test it? You know perfectly well that if we begin on this path, making copies of ourselves designed to die, there’s no telling where it ends.”

“So you’d rather kill someone without a recent copy? That’s worse than – !”

“It’s not necessary,” I cut in. “You’re both missing the obvious solution here.” I swallow again, and force myself to continue. “I’ll copy myself, and then I’ll go and do the repair. The copy will take my place as head nuclear tech.”

“How is that any different?” Dani asks. “The order we come out of the foldgate doesn’t actually make us more or less original than – ”

“It’s different,” Logistics Kate said quietly, “for the same reason you protested her sacrificing herself but were happy to send her clone. We can talk about the physics of it all you want, but the way we feel walking into the gate, the way we treat each other, is that the one who walks out is the original, yes? I think this will work. I think we can get it done, have a head tech, and avoid setting a bad precedent.”

“We need to gather the Kates in charge and pass this as a law,” I say, trying not to sound how I feel, like I’ve just jumped off a cliff. I’m going to die. I’m actually going to die. “Make this the new rule. We don’t make copies to sacrifice – if sacrifices have to be made and we copy ourselves, the original makes the sacrifice.”

“They won’t agree to that,” Dani snaps.

“Yes, they will,” Logistics Kate says, “because the alternative is mass starvation.”

“There has to be another way. I still think this sets the bad precedent; we – ”

“No, it doesn’t,” Logistics Kate says, “because no matter what the physics says, you believe the original is the original. It’s obvious from how willing you were to send a copy, but you’re fighting tooth and nail to stop your boss from going and leaving a copy in her place.”

I don’t hear the rest of their argument; I’m already heading to the town centre. Heading out to propose the law. And have it agreed to. And copy myself.

And die a painful death to save hundreds of myself. Like the selfish bitch I’m trying desperately to tell myself I am.


There’s dirt in the box.

There’s dirt in the box, and I have never been so happy to feel it there. Because that means that I’m not Mitzy. I’m her copy, the new fuel tech printed after she fixed the reactor. I’m alive! I get to live! I’m already sobbing before I realise how weak and stupid that’s going to make me look to the other Kates, but right now, I don’t care, because there’s dirt in the box. I’m not the original.

I push the box open, but Kate-4 isn’t waiting for me. Dani is. And she looks grim.

“Hey, Mitzy,” she says.

“Hi,” I say. “But I do need to pick a new name.” I indicate the box. “Tradition, and all that. Not being the original.”

“Yeah, about that. Uh. We have a problem.”

“A… problem?”

“Mitzy… didn’t manage to complete the repair. The bolts were stuck, it took longer than expected. She was… she…” Dani swallows. “It’s mostly done now, but if it’s not completed within the next few hours, we have to shut the reactor down. So… we need you to try again.”

“I… I don’t… the whole point was not to send copies…”

“And that sounded like a great idea at the time, but we’re on a very limited timeframe and you are the one with the skill to best pull off this job.” She tries a smile. It’s not very reassuring. “You volunteered once. We need you to volunteer again.”


There’s dirt in the box.

There’s dirt in the box, and I have never been so happy to feel it there. Because that means that I’m not Mitzy. I’m her copy, the new fuel tech printed after she fixed the reactor. I’m alive! I get to live! I’m already sobbing before I realise how weak and stupid that’s going to make me look to the other Kates, but right now, I don’t care, because there’s dirt in the box. I’m not the original.

I push the box open, but Kate-4 isn’t waiting for me. Dani is. And she looks grim.


There’s dirt in the box.

There’s dirt in the box, and I have never been so happy to feel it there. Because that means that I’m not Mitzy. I’m her copy, the new fuel tech printed after she fixed the reactor. I’m alive! I get to live! I’m already sobbing before I realise how weak and stupid that’s going to make me look to the other Kates, but right now, I don’t care, because there’s dirt in the box. I’m not the original.

I push the box open, but Kate-4 isn’t waiting for me. Dani is. And she looks grim.


There’s dirt in the box.

There’s dirt in the box, and I have never been so happy to feel it there. Because that means that I’m not Mitzy. I’m her copy, the new fuel tech printed after she fixed the reactor. I’m alive! I get to live! I’m already sobbing before I realise how weak and stupid that’s going to make me look to the other Kates, but right now, I don’t care, because there’s dirt in the box. I’m not the original.

I push the box open, and Kate-4 is waiting for me. “Welcome to Kateopolis, population: Kate,” she says. And I laugh. In the moment, it’s the funniest like I’ve ever heard in my life.

I hope my original didn’t suffer too badly repairing the reactor. I feel kind of bad about my relief at not being her. But it is what it is, and I’m not going to die.

Whistling, I stroll out of the building and get to work.


“Now, there’s an idea,” Ruby says, pointing with her fork across the mess hall at the head reactor tech who’d just walked in. “Die saving Kateopolis. Get treated like a hero forever. Nice gig.”

“She still has her actual gig, with the reactor,” I point out. We’ve been doing this for nearly ten years now, and she’s as random as ever. “And anyway, you’d have to die if you did that. Let your copy reap all the benefits.”

“You know that it’s the same – ”

“Yeah, yeah, I know.” I poke at my food. Ruby, I notice, isn’t poking at hers.

“Not hungry?” I ask.

“Not really.”

“You weren’t hungry yesterday, either.”

She shrugs. “Yeah, I’m sure it’ll pass.”

“The lack of appetite? We love eating! You might be sick.”

“I’m sure I’m fine. I just.” She goes to get up, then sits back down again heavily, putting her head in her hands.

“Doctor! Now!”


I look down at our oncologist and purse my lips. She’s unconscious now, but our interview was enlightening. The blood tests were even more enlightening.

“Is she going to be alright?” one of the Kates in the room asks. Her friend, the one who’d brought her in. An engineer, I think, and she looks barely ten years old. (Ten years older than we were when we got stranded here, I mean.) The other Kate in the room, the head of logistics, is much older, and the worry in her eyes has nothing to do with the Kate on the bed and everything to do with the fact that she’s our oncologist.

“No,” I say, not bothering to sugar-coat the truth. “No, she’s not. Her liver’s completely shot. I give her three months, tops.”

“When was her last copy made?” Logistics Kate asks.

“Six months ago.”

“Right, so can print – ”

“It’s not that simple,” I cut in. “Sure, you can print as many new oncologists as you need with her skills from six months ago, but they’re only going to live about nine months. Maybe a bit longer with a controlled diet, but.” I shrug. “We don’t really have the food source variety or purity to closely control a diet here.”

“The damage was done longer than six months ago?” Logistics Kate asks.

I nod. “She says that quite some time ago, she found algae growing in the old water pipes and proposed having it tested as a possible food source. After the various poison tests came back inconclusive and trials on Kate volunteers were denied, she apparently began secretly testing it on herself.

“What?” Friend Kate gasps. “That was ages ago! That was way back just after I was copied!”

“How long ago was that?” I ask.

“I don’t know, about ten years?”

“If she proposed a test and it was denied,” Logistics Kate says, “I can look the exact date up in the records. Is it important?”

“The exact date? Not particularly. But I’d estimate that this damage became irreversible around six months into her experiment. So if you want an oncologist that’s not on a very limited clock of her own, you need to go back at least that far.”

“She knew so much less, then. We have Kates that need her now.”

I shrug. “I don’t know what to tell you. Most of her is fine, but her liver’s shot. If you want someone with a working liver, you’ve got to go back to before it was shot. I’m surprised she survived this long with so few symptoms, actually.”

“Hmm.” Logistics Kate rubs her chin thoughtfully. “We could print a recent copy and an early copy, have the recent copy bridge the knowledge gap while she trains the early copy as quickly as possible…”

“What are you talking about?” Friend Kate snaps. “You’re going to let her die, and print a copy of her destined to die in six months? The whole reason we have an oncologist is to deal with our old-age predisposition to cancer and extend the lives of our oldest Kates; how does printing Kates specifically to die young help?”

“Because one oncologist Kate can extend the lives of many other Kates,” Logistics Kate says. “If you have a better idea, I would love to hear it.”

Friend Kate looks to me. “You’re a doctor. Can’t you do… dialysis and stuff? To keep her alive?”

“We don’t have a dialysis machine lying around. Most of the colony’s medical facilities weren’t transported here before the foldgate collapsed. I’m sure the engineers can use their ingenuity and the foldgate to invent one, if given time, but before she dies? No.”

“Well we have to do someth – ”

“Do we have the tools for surgery?” Logistics Kate cuts in.

“Um. Yes,” I say. “We’ve done some dental work and remove tonsils and stuff. The sterile packaged, disposeable tools are all copied into the foldfield. But you’re not suggesting surgery in this case, are you?”

“I am. We have a perfectly good oncologist here who needs a new liver. There are two ways past this – either we lose nearly ten years’ worth of expertise that our other Kates need now, or we fix this one’s liver, copy her data, and scrap all the liver-damaged copy data. Then we can print from this healthy, experienced oncologist as much as we need, as planned.”

“I’m not a surgeon! None of us are surgeons!”

“You said you’d removed tonsils, right?”

“That’s not comparable on any level to a liver transplant!”

“But she’ll die anyway if you don’t do it, right?” Friend Kate cut in. “And so will any other oncologists that get printed with enough knowledge to be useful. So what have we got to lose by trying?”

“True,” I concede, “except for the obvious point, which is that as much as we joke about this being a post-scarcity society, we don’t have a bunch of healthy livers sitting around for transplant.”

“We have two hundred and nineteen healthy livers sitting around for transplant,” Logistics Kate says.

I stare at her. Then I look down at my patient.

“”We’ll need a volunteer,” Friend Kate says. There’s a little tremble in her voice, and I don’t know her at all, but I know myself well enough to read what she’s thinking. She’s wondering whether she’s going to have to volunteer herself. “We find someone who’ll do it, then copy them so we can print a replacement, then we – ”

“Um,” I say. “Actually. None of us are likely to have great livers at this point. I mean, nobody seems to have any major problems, except this one, but our diets and impurities native to our air cycling system take their toll. Our best option would be to find someone who’s spent as little time in Kateopolis as possible.”

“A really early, fresh print,” Logistics Kate translates.


She narrows her eyes. “We have a law about this. Kates who are sacrificed choose it themselves. We don’t make disposeable copies. The precedent would – ”

“Look,” I say. “Do you want a healthy oncologist or not? And honestly, I think it’s much crueller to make someone choose to die, to have them know they’re about to die, than the alternative. I’m just the doctor, and this is my medical advice. You want me to try my hand at replacing a fucking organ? I can’t guarantee success, but bring me the organ and I’ll try. You want the best chance of success? The best chance is with a young liver. What you do with this information is up to you.”


Waking up inside a cramped, dark metal box is somehow even more disconcerting the second time.

There are extenuating circumstances, I suppose. My five companions are long dead, meaning there’s no particular rush to get up before properly reflecting on my situation, and the fact that I made this journey through a collapsed foldgate isn’t helping.

Also, there’s a bunch of dirt in the box with me that wasn’t here when I went in. I’m not sure what that means but it’s probably really bad.

Fortunately, I’m a fucking genius. I mean, I’m by definition the best foldgate tech on the planet, so. That has to count for something. Right?

I… seem to be fine. Except the dirt. I’m not happy about the dirt. That wasn’t in the box when I went in, meaning there’s something wrong with the data, meaning there could be all kinds of shit inside me. I’m going to have to run as many medical tests as possible. As soon as possible.

I push the lid of the metal box up and go to climb out into the empty, desolate transport room.

It’s not empty.

“Welcome to Kateopolis,” the older woman standing over me says, giving me a gentle smile. “Population: Kate.”

She looks like me (obviously, there’s no one else here), except about fifty years old. My first thought is a somewhat delirious, ‘oh, I guess it took a really long time to perfect this tech, then’. But as she helps me out of the box, I can see that this place has undergone a lot of changes; foldgate boxes are piled in neat stacks in one corner, crates of apparently random goods in another, and a big chart on the wall is covered in names of things with values and little ticks next to them.

“What’s going on?” I ask.

“All in good time,” the older Kate says, pressing a cup of water into my hand. “You need to get your fluids up and get some rest.”

I drink it in three gulps. It tastes strange, a little tangy. There must be blood in my mouth or something. Older Kate takes a seat in an office chair that’s seated behind one of several desks against one wall, and gestures to another. I sit down.

“So,” she says. “Let’s start by answering your questions.”

I have questions. I have a lot of questions. Kateopolis has been around for a lot longer than I ever would’ve expected to survive out here, so far from Earth – it’s a little overwhelming. But I only get through a tiny fraction of the questions I want to ask before a sudden wave of fatigue overcomes me.

“Are you alright?” Older Kate asks me, frowning. “The printing process can be pretty exhausting… come on, let’s get you to bed.”


I look down at our oncologist and purse my lips. Then I look at the much younger Kate lying next to her, sleeping peacefully. Fuck, we were so young when we came here.

I try to remember everything I’d read, all the educational videos I’d watched, all the simulations we’d done, as I pick up my scalpel. My hand isn’t shaking, so that’s a start.

I’m not a fucking surgeon. But I guess I am now.

I glance at my assistant. Barely any of her is visible behind the mask and hairnet, but her steady eyes meet mine.

“We’d better get this right,” she tells me. “The consequences if we don’t…”

“I know,” I nod. “If we don’t get this right, Kateopolis will be without experienced oncologists.”

My assistant shakes her head. “If we don’t get this right,” she tells me, “They’ll print a new oncologist and a new organ donor, and make us keep trying until we do.”