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PART 3: INTRAPERSONAL CONFLICT
We older Kates saw the crisis coming long before the younger ones did, I think.
Well, that’s not necessarily accurate. I think everyone knew that if we managed t maintain a decent life expectancy, we were going to hit a critical point where the older Kates couldn’t work and our population and resource limits would force a lot more labour on the youngsters until us older ones started dying off to make room for replacements. It’s fairly obvious when you think about it, and we have a whole logistics division for thinking about this sort of thing.
But us older Kates paid more attention. To the youngsters, it was some far-off thing that would hit eventually. To us, well, whenever a joint became a little harder to bend, a limb became a little more painful to move, a sense became a little duller, we were aware of the ticking clock. And we knew that eventually, when the youngsters decided the situation was untenable, a decision would be made, and it would be our arses on the line. (We know how Kates think, see.) So by the time it was decided that something must be done about the ageing population, by the time that critical vote was held, we were prepared. We’d been prepared for years.
I think the Kate across from me – Dotty, her name is – is a little surprised at just how quickly us oldies agreed on a spokesperson to send to her. She doesn’t know that I was picked for this job over a year ago. Before I had to retire from foldgate duty, I’d been the first Kate that most new Kates see, and that impression goes surprisingly far. I was probably the first Kate that Dotty ever saw, although I’m not certain – I don’t remember every Kate. I’d at least have been the first Kate that a couple of her Kate ancestors had seen, so the memories are there. She watches me quite coldly from the other side of the table, nevertheless.
“So,” I say. “You’ve decided to kill us.”
Pink tints her cheeks. “That’s not what’s happening.”
“It’s mass murder and you know it.”
“It’s a time skip! You know how we do things. The Kate that comes out first, the one from making the copy, is the one who made the copy. If we put you through and pause – ”
“Don’t you go lecturing me of all people on how printing Kates works! You want to put us in that gate, let it dissolve us, and not pull us out the other side. We call that murder.”
“By that logic, it’s murder every time we copy someone. It won’t be forever. Those of you who go in will be reprinted when there’s space for – ”
“That’s never going to happen and you know it. You can make all the promises and draw up all the charters you want, but we both know that when there’s room for more Kates, nobody’s going to be printing arthritic seventy-year-olds instead of fresh young engineers. We won’t be doing this.”
“You don’t have a choice. You were outvoted. Eighty per cent of the Kates over the age of sixty five will be preserved until our capacity allows – ”
“Preserved,” I spit. “At least come up with a good euphemism. We won’t be doing this.”
“You don’t have a choice. It’s going to happen. Don’t make it more unpleasant than it needs to be.”
“You know, if I was still running the foldgate – ”
“But you aren’t. And you won’t be allowed anywhere near it, unless your name is drawn for preservation and you have to go through it. Until then, this meeting – ” Dotty’s cut off by a sudden piercing alarm. “What’s that?!”
“Well, in my vast experience at surviving inside this colony that apparently doesn’t mean anything to you people, I’d have to say that that’s an airlock failure alarm. Airlock two, would be my guess.”
The sound grows louder and faster.
“And that would be the airlock two failure alarm and the airlock one failure alarm ringing at the same time. Oh, and… is that airlock four? It’s honestly impossible to tell with them layered over each other like this. And of course, my hearing isn’t what it used to be.”
“What did you do?!”
“Me? I’ve been sitting here talking to you. Some of the other oldies might have taken matters more directly into their own hands.” I smirk. “Oh, don’t look so worried – the colony isn’t exposed to the outside. Those alarms just mean that one of the airlock doors has failed. Each airlock has a second door that’s working fine. It wouldn’t be an airlock otherwise.”
Glaring at me, Dotty picks up her radio and calls security to warn them of the situation. I don’t try to stop her. There’d be no point – the safety and security teams presumably know what all the alarms mean (I don’t; I’m just bluffing based on my knowledge of the plan) and have already sent people to deal with the problems. It’ll take them a few minutes to get to the airlocks all ready to arrest the sabateurs only to find out that it’s the outer airlock doors that have been sabotaged, not the inner ones, and the Kates responsible are all outside the protective dome of the colony in space suits, ready to blow the inner doors, and completely untouchable without opening an inner door and contaminating the colony with the toxic atmosphere outside. Someone might suggest taking the risk anyway (better a small atmospheric contamination than the whole colony being destroyed), and at that point they’d need time to learn that the entire colony was mysteriously devoid of space suits (the couple we’d kept inside for an emergency were far too well concealed for them to find any time soon), and that all the space suit printing data had been scrubbed from the foldgate months before they’d started throwing this ‘preservation’ plan around and started guarding the foldgate from us old folks.
We really have been preparing for this sort of thing for quite some time.
I know how Kates think. I know they won’t be ready to consider our demands until they realise that they’re screwed otherwise. Making demands while they think they’re safe is a waste of time, so I wait through Dotty’s little talk on the radio, and I wait while she runs out of the room, and I amuse myself with a couple of rounds of solitaire using the deck I’d brought until she eventually comes back.
“Is this really what you want?” she snaps.
“I think what’s more important is what you want,” I reply. “Your side of the vote won. Is this really what you want? We’d love to live out our lives in a nice, non-destroyed colony, but your plan doesn’t really allow for that, now, does it?” I frown at my Solitaire game. I really need the three of clubs, and I can’t find it.
“You won’t do it,” I say. “You were one of the first Kates. You’ve been here since the beginning. You won’t destroy everything and everyone in a stupid, petty – ”
“Fight for survival?” I peek under the hidden cards until I find the three of clubs and add it to my deck. “Come on, Dotty. You know us, because we’re you. So think carefully.” I put my three down, and put a two and an ace on top of it to complete the set. “What would you do, in our situation?”
“What do you want?” she asks wearily.
“Apart from not dying?”
“Yes, apart from that.”
“Just the ability to make sure you won’t be able to kill us.”
“Which entails what, exactly?”
With that pesky three dealt with, finishing the game is easy. I sweep my cards up. “Kateopolis is about to become a glorious theocracy,” I grin. “The foldgate brings us life and the foldgate sustains life. All praise to the gate, a device so powerful and sacred that only the most venerated elders may tend it.”
Despite the stakes of the situation, Dotty rolls her eyes at my theatrics. “You want control of the foldgate.”
“Yep. The central logistics offices belong to us now. Nobody under the age of sixty five may enter, unless being escorted by one of us for copying purposes. You want stuff printed, it goes through the senior citizens. You want stuff copied, it goes through the senior citizens.”
“You realise that this isn’t just about new Kates. You’re talking about taking full control of our food, hardware, and medicine supply lines.”
Dotty narrows her eyes. “The others would never go for this.”
“Then I suggest that you remind the others how hard it will become to breathe once the inner airlock doors are breached… oh, and that the Kates outside have a limited air supply in their space suits. They’re waiting right now, ready to repair the breached doors as soon as they receive the right code, but if they run out of time, they’ll simply blow the doors.” I pocket my cards and stand up. “So I’d work quickly, if I were you.”
I drop in to see my favourite artisan on the way to the community meeting. “Lonnie. Hi.”
She doesn’t look up from the glass lens she’s polishing. “Your new lenses are going to be late.”
“I can see that.” The artisans are some of the most important Kates – they make things. If there’s some piece of equipment that we need that isn’t in storage and hasn’t been copied into the foldgate, an artisan will craft the most perfect version they can to copy it in. Sometimes, this means carefully leaching heavy metals from the soil outside the domes. Sometimes it means mixing new flavour combinations for foods, or carefully soldering electronics. Today, for Lonnie, it means hand-grinding a specific lens of a size and magnification that we don’t have in storage, so that me and the other meteorologists can look at some high-activity radioactive dust clouds and determine if they’re a danger to Kateopolis. “It’s no rush,” I assure her. “The cloud is weeks out. What caused the delay?”
“I had to teach a group of Kates how to sew a button properly.”
“Ah.” That makes sense. In the year or so since the older Kates took over the foldgate, there’s been a lot more DIY. In the old days, if we broke a button, we’d just print a new shirt, but people don’t like using the foldgate any more. Handing the materials over and meekly explaining to an old lady what you want feels… like more of an imposition, I guess. It makes you second-guess whether it’s worth their time to copy.
“I have more exciting news than some cloud, anyway,” I grin. “You’ll never guess what our astrophysics department discovered.”
“That a meteor is going to crash here and kill us all?”
“Something much less important. But also, much less boring. We know what caused the foldgate to collapse in the first place.”
That, finally, gets Lonnie to look up from the lens. “You discovered what cut us off from Earth?”
“Yep! The short answer is, solar flares.”
“Electromagnetism doesn’t affect foldfields, you know that. Using them in space would be impossible if it did. I know our gate is old, but this sort of thing was extensively tested long before they launched it.”
“Of course it was. Electromagnetism and radiation interference and distance and relative velocity of the two gates and all that were ironed out long before we were born, but on Earth they didn’t know – they had no way of knowing – that a moderate-to-severe white star solar flare, when filtered through an 0.5atm atmosphere rich in uranium and non-oxygenated iron dust, can stimulate the uranium to cause foldfield interference. And that, we think, is what happened the first time one of our semi-regular solar flares hit. The foldgate itself was in an Earth atmosphere beneath our shielded dome far enough away from the edge that we had enough of the field left to create our little loop, but the connection to Earth passes through quite a lot of the atmosphere outside.”
“That’s… a specific circumstance.”
I shrug. “They sent a lot of foldgates to a lot of planets. Some of them were bound to fail for specific reasons that nobody thought to test. Anyway, I’ve got a community meeting to get to; you coming?”
“No. If they need anything weird made, they’ll tell me.”
“You know, if you show up to these things, you get to help decide what weird – ”
“I don’t care.”
As usual, they’re a bit nervous around me at the community meeting. They always have been – they never stop seeing me as the Original Kate, after all – but it’s become worse since the elder takeover of the foldgate. Technically, I’m too young to be one of the elders, by just a little bit, but they claimed me, anyway. Of course they did. They’re too married to the idea that I’m somehow the oldest Kate not to. And of course, I’m the one that always gets sent as a representative to these meetings, to talk to the younger Kates. Of course.
I barely listen as the Kates go through the usual issues and cover recent problems. None of this is my problem unless they need the foldgate, and if anyone did, they’d have come to me before the meeting. The discovery of why the foldfield connecting us to Earth collapsed is interesting, but just trivia at this point – we can’t re-establish the connection, so it’s not like it’s actionable. The Kate who brings it to our attention shares a lot of complicated math about just how far the effect of these flare-stimulated interferences can spread beyond the uranium particles and points out that it can penetrate the space suits of Kates doing outside work at the wrong time, but since foldfield interference doesn’t affect human biology in any known way, this doesn’t actually matter.
Finally, it’s my turn to share news. I have two things to share today – one that they’ll like, and one that they’ll really, really hate.
I start with the good news. “The logistics team has reviewed our resource consumption, and decided there’s enough room to revive three new Kates. They’ll expect your decisions by the next meeting.”
A flurry of discussion. I don’t bother listening. It’s the same every time; a talk of what industries are under- or overstaffed, the best allocation or resources and expertise… and the undercurrent that nobody actually says out loud, which is ‘how old are our candidates’? Older Kates are more useful Kates, Kates with more expertise (up to a certain point; too old and they become less useful). But older Kates are also around less before they gain access to the foldgate, and have less years of useful work in them. Foldgate Kates still work normal jobs for as long as their bodies will let us, but everyone weakens eventually, and to the younger Kates, it’s not just a question of ‘how useful is a potential new Kate?’, it’s also ‘will this Kate retire before I do?’ There are too many old Kates now, they think, draining resources and taking up a space that could be taken up by a more useful Kate, and they’re waiting for us to die off. They want a more even spread, a small old population and as big a working population as possible, so that they don’t have to do as much work themselves. Printing Kates older than them is, in a selfishly practical way, counterproductive – each Kate wants to retire first, and have a strong population of able Kates in place to keep things running when they do.
So young Kates tend to be preferred these days, even though they have to be trained up again. I can already predict who they’ll pick. They’ll look at the tasks that most need doing, and choose the youngest Kate who has the ability to do them.
Once that conversation finishes (for the moment; the handful of Kates that actually make the decisions will discuss it casually later), I have to deliver the bad news.
“The foldfield is running out of space to store new patterns,” I tell them.
There’s no immediate outpouring of anger or despair. The entire room looks at me, silent. Some look worried, some thoughtful, but most vaguely bemused. It’s been too many years since they were foldgate techs; they’ve gotten used to forgetting or ignoring the technical limitations of the device.
“That can’t be right,” one of them says. “When we modified that foldfield, we made sure it could store thousan – ” she trails off.
I nod. The foldfield can store thousands of patterns, thousands of objects it believes to be ‘in transit’. Thousands of buttons and food packets and iron gears and silicon chips and Kates. Over the decades, such things do add up.
“Many of the patterns currently stored in the field are pretty simple,” I say. “The techs think we can combine some of them – rather than transporting an individual computer chip, for example, we could put together kits of a whole bunch of electronics and print a whole new kit whenever we run out of any single component. Then we can purge dozens of patterns and condense them into one. We can do this with most of our simpler specialist items, if they’re small enough. Another space-saving measure that was floated is that we could store stable objects, such as metal parts, clothing and furniture, as physical objects in a warehouse and purge their patterns from the gate; then we can recopy them from the warehouse to print new ones. That idea was shot down as dangerous if something happens to the warehouse, but it’s an option we have. We can also purge objects that can be simply assembled from other objects – purge all furniture, for example, and copy in wood and nails that can be used to build a wide array of furniture. However, that would involve a massive increase in physical labour to construct objects. One of the main advantages of the foldgate is how much labour it saves us. So we’re not fans of that for the moment. Right now, the plan is to try the combining method, turning a lot of small simple patterns into fewer larger patterns.”
“Will we need to purge anything?” a Kate asks.
“There’s been some talk of purging objects that are easily constructed that we almost never need. Thus far, there’s been no talk of purging any Kates. We believe that we can save enough space via the combination method that that won’t be necessary for a good long time.”
The room relaxes. ‘A good long time’ is usually taken to mean ‘we don’t have to worry about this, because some other fucking thing will probably kill us first’. But some other fucking thing kept not killing us first, so I make a mental note to worry about it.
Well, a mental note to expect it. I’m not worried. I don’t care if we purge a bunch of Kate patterns from the foldgate. We use less than forty of them, there’s no reason to hold onto the others. We could purge them all except the original, for all I care; make everyone start from scratch. Like I’d had to.
The new lenses that Dollie made for us came out top-notch. Less than a week after the town meeting, I’m tracking the approaching clouds with six new telescopes and some very fancy software that one of my techs had needed to pull up some long-buried fold tech knowledge to put together. We know exactly how dense it is, the velocity it’s moving, the angle it’ll hit us, and when it’ll arrive. I the human almost don’t need to be here at all.
There are two main reasons to track clouds like this. One: is it a danger to our dome canvas? In theory, a cloud moving with enough velocity or at the wrong angle could pose a threat to the physical integrity of Kateopolis, requiring some outlying domes to be closed off or some canvas to be reinforced until the cloud passes. We’ve done that before, but no dome has ever actually been breached. Which is good, because if we ever did get a hole torn in something and a bunch of highly radioactive dust thrown about to rip into everything and pile on every surface, the sheer amount of work in making that dome livable again wouldn’t even bear thinking about. How would you even go about repairing, reinforcing, thoroughly cleaning and de-irradiating a whole fucking neighbourhood? Without extremely limited construction equipment? And while wearing space suits? If an outer dome breaches, Kateopolis will probably just write off the loss entirely.
That doesn’t matter right now, because this cloud looks gentle. Very thick, but no dangerous winds. No expected problems with the dome.
The other question I need to answer is: how much fucking work will the cleanup be? Is this little annoyance going to drop a crapton of uranium and iron dust all over us that’ll need to be cleaned off so that the cumulative effect of multiple clouds doesn’t eventually get heavy enough to collapse the domes? And the answer to that question is, unfortunately, it’s going to be a lot of work. It’s a thick, slow cloud, and it’s going to absolutely bury us in ferromagnetic, radioactive garbage, that a bunch of Kates (who aren’t me) will have to clean off with huge brooms and shovels, in space suits. It’s times like this that I’m relieved to have a cushy nerd job.
“Tansy,” one of my techs calls from the door. “We’ve got the prediction on the next solar flare.”
“That’s nice,” I say, not looking away from the screen. “When is it? We can use it to take some foldfield readings outside the dome and learn more about the initial collapse, if we have time.”
The tech reads the date and time. I still don’t look away from the screen – not because I’m not particularly interested, this time. It’s because I’m also looking at the exact same date and time in my data.
“It’s a really big one, this time,” the tech says helpfully. “About twice the strength of normal.”
I recheck my data, and realise that we’re about to be under the thickest dust cloud this planet has ever thrown at us. I stand up quickly.
“I need to run some simulations,” I say, trying to keep the panic out of my voice.
The Kate explaining the situation in our little emergency meeting is antsy, agitated, fidgeting with both hands as she paces back and forth across the room.
“We ran the simulations,” she says. “Multiple times. We even ran practical experiments, using the electromagnetic emitters; they can imitate very small scale solar flares perfectly, we designed them for that to discover this phenomenon in the first place. With the thickness of the cloud and the timing of the solar flare, the foldfield disruption of the excited uranium will be far, far greater than what we normally get. I mean, I’ve back-calculated and found that some of the previous flares actually penetrated far deeper into Kateopolis than we expected, so – well, that doesn’t matter, I guess. Important thing is, this will be the biggest foldfield disruption even we’ve ever seen. Much bigger than the one that collapsed our foldfield initially; that one didn’t even penetrate the domes. This one will cause disruptions for six kilometers around the cloud.”
“That will penetrate every dome we have completely,” one of my coworkers, Nelly, says. “Every single Kate will be within range of this interference.”
“W-well, yes, but – ”
“And you’ve said before that there weren’t any known effects of this sort of disruption on Kates. Do we have new information? Are we in danger?”
“That really doesn’t matter,” I say. “It could give us all cancer and cook our kidneys and that wouldn’t matter at this point.”
Nelly frowns. “I don’t understand.”
“It’ll reach everything in Kateopolis,” I explain. “Every single Kate… and the foldgate.” I meet the eyes of the reporting tech, and see the answer to the question I’m about to ask written there. I ask anyway. “There’s no way to shield the folgate, is there?”
She shakes her head. “We can’t shield it. And the only reason we could build our little circular foldfield is that we had an untouched fragment of the original collapsed Earth field. This will obliterate that fragment. Not only will we lose the foldfield and every pattern stored inside it, but it’ll also be completely impossible to rebuild it again.”
Silence, for several seconds.
“What are the chances that your readings are wrong?” someone asks.
“In theory, any prediction can be wrong, but… we’re more certain about this than anything we’ve ever reported before. We checked many times, in as many different ways as we could.”
“How long do we have?” I ask.
“Ten days, plus three to seven hours. That’s as precise as the estimate can get.”
“Then let’s make them count.”
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.
It’s rather crowded, actually. Packed with… me. (Obviously.) Mes that look like me, and mes that don’t; mes that are my age and mes that are significantly older. A Kate with a snake tattoo covering half her face and a roughly tourniqueted missing left arm offers her right hand to help me out of the box. A very old Kate in a worn and battered uniform with KATE-4, FOLDGATE MANAGER sewn on the breast gives me a smile.
“Welcome to Kateopolis,” she says. “Population: Kate. For the moment.”
“You’re the very last one,” another Kate adds. She hands me a bottle. “Have a drink.”
I look around at the sea of Kates. There’s a really weird vibe in the room, a sort of… expectation. Some of the Kates are wearing party hats. A lot of them are drinking. Worryingly, a not insignificant number of them are missing limbs, like the one who’d helped me up. They all look recently treated, and not particularly well – even I can see that some of them are infection risks waiting to happen. Given that I’d thought I was the original Kate up until about ten seconds ago, it’s a lot to take in.
I let the feeling of what the fuck what the fuck WHAT THE FUCK wash over me, take a deep breath, and ask. “What the fuck?”
“We’re sorry about this,” another older Kate says, this one with some rather horrific facial scarring that at least looks long-healed. “It seems kind of cruel, to bring you into existence just for this, but… we kind of felt like you needed to be here. Every Kate should be here.”
“It’s the end of the world,” says KATE-4, FOLDGATE MANAGER.
“What?” I ask. Then, to clarify, I add, “the fuck?”
“This’ll be easier to show than to explain,” the scarred Kate says. “How would you like a tour of Kateopolis?”
Kateopolis is beautiful, I realise as I’m lead around and shown the sights. Well, in actual fact, it’s pretty ugly – many parts of it are falling to pieces, things that aren’t are badly made, showing my general attitude of ‘if it works I don’t care what it looks like’, and there’s something creepy about an entire city that’s full of your own face. But half an hour ago, I was eighty lightyears away from the nearest living person with no hope of ever returning to Earth, desperately refining a modified foldfield to try to make copies of myself (a terrible idea, really), wondering how long I’d even be able to keep myself alive in such a place, and now…
Banners hang between the buildings, hastily painted. HAPPY APOCALYPSE DAY, they read. Tables set up along the road display a buffet of creative treats built from deconstructing and recombining the limited array of stored foods we’d started with. Kates talk and laugh and wave and, yes, occasionally cry; many of them are already drunk and quite probably have been for days. Washing hangs on their lines, sculptures sit in their front yards. The tour takes me through laboratories and doctor’s offices and warehouses and a big meeting hall. I built this.
Well, that’s not a fair assessment. All of this was built in Kateopolis’ past and in my future, in hundreds or thousands of my futures that will never happen (because I’ll die pretty soon) but that already did. I’m crying a lot by the end of the tour, and only a little bit of it is because we’re all about to die.
“Okay, but all of this doesn’t explain one thing,” I say.
“Why were a bunch of Kates missing limbs and stuff?”
“Oh, that.” Strangely, my guide laughs. “We ran out of calcium.”
“To build new Kates. We were running out of time; the foldfield could go down at any moment, and we were all very invested in having everyone be here. There wasn’t time to go hauling in massive amounts of concrete or anything. So some of the Kates gave their own. Eight Kates sacrificed a limb to print you.”
“Why, though? Why make me? Why bring me to life just to kill me?”
“Because you deserved to see. You deserved to be here, at the end. Every Kate does.” She wipes a tear off my face with her thumb. “I was you, you know. I mean, this me, this body, was printed from the same pattern as yours. Many of these Kates are third or fourth or even fifth generation; their memories have been through the gate a few times, I’m not sure they remember the first quite so clearly.”
“And you think you do?”
“No. I was printed a long, long time ago. I don’t really remember what it’s like to be you, either. But I remember more than they do, I think.”
“Do you have a name?” I find myself asking. “I mean, I’ve noticed that some of these Kates have other names, so…”
She shakes her head. “They all just call me Kate. Do you want another name?”
“Uh, no. I mean, I was Kate an hour ago, and I’ll be dead soon anyway, so…”
“Fair enough. Should we go and get blind fucking drunk, then?”
I think I might be the last Kate alive.
Sandy lies with her head in my lap. With my failing strength, I run my fingers gently through her hair, but she stopped breathing several minutes ago.
When the news broke of the foldgate collapsing, we were faced with a choice. We could print as much food as possible and try to survive for as long as possible after the collapse, but nobody was interested in slowly starving to death, or in the inevitable desperate conflicts that such a famine would create first. All that pain and misery for another month or two? No thanks. Instead, we decided to go out with a bang – one last party, one night of joy, and then a peaceful, painless death. The oxygen feeds had been disconnected from the life support system sometime the day before yesterday; the carbon dioxide filters normally, but we’ve been breathing less and less oxygen as we use it up. Asphyxiation, as it turns out, is painless, so long as carbon dioxide doesn’t build up in the body. For several hours now, Kates have been sitting down, going to sleep, and passing quietly on.
And now nobody is moving except for me.
Sandy and I were strategic about this. We’re sitting on the doorstep of our old house, the one we first moved into together after falling in love. That was a few houses ago now, and a different Kate’s knicknacks line the windowsills, but it has some good memories and a good vantage point for seeing the most active part of Kateopolis. I’m blinking more now, each blink is longer, and I need to decide what I want to be the last thing I ever see. Is t too cliché, to look at Sandy? Probably. But who’s ever going to be able to judge me for it?
I know I’m losing it, because I see movement out of the corner of my eye. It looks like somebody in a space suit. But I must be imagining it. Nobody would be walking around in a space suit right now.
We’d all considered it, of course. At least, I’d considered it, and I assume all the other Kates had, too. In a situation like this, where everyone was asphyxiating, one could put on a space suit and simply breathe canned oxygen until all the other Kates were dead. Then one could turn the oxygen back on, and… well, with all of those dead Kates, all of that fresh meat, you could keep a very small band of you and your friends alive for a good long while, provided you could preserve it all.
I’d run the math, because it was an obvious thing to consider, but dismissed it out of hand. Eating my own corpse for several years in a big dome that was falling apart far faster than I’d be able to maintain it, with no foldgate to print new materials or resources or anything, simply didn’t appeal. This way is better. Much better. Any Kate could see that.
So I must be imagining the Kate in the space suit, as I close my eyes for the last time. There’s no one there. I’m the last Kate. And I am so, so tired.
We had a pretty good run, didn’t we? For someone who should’ve died alone within weeks of the foldgate collapse. We had a really fucking good run.
Here’s a fun question, Sandy. Did you believe in an afterlife? If so, do we have souls, us copies, or the copies of copies of copies? If someone travelling through a foldgate normally has a soul then someone printed in ours does; it’s the same process. But we’ve looked through the pattern code endless times, and it’s just matter, so is there one Kate soul? Are you and I going to be the same person again, Sandy, when I stop breathing? Will we still be different people, partners, or will we be one and the same again?
I can’t wait to find out.