Philip Harris | Michael Ilkiw
Most of the time I can almost believe she’s real.
She’s not, she’s a Mark IV Remote Surrogate — a “mote”. My real wife, Annabel, is back on Earth but the mote’s a perfect copy, identical in every way; despite the fact that my wife encouraged me to mix things up a bit and “enhance” a couple of key attributes. I used to tease her that she was just looking for an excuse to enhance her own mote in the bedroom department but we both know we wouldn’t change a thing about each other and I wanted my mote to be an exact copy, right down to the strands of grey my wife was so mortified to see in the mirror a couple of years ago.
My company paid for the motes of course, and the implants and the high bandwidth timesplice connection that keeps the motes tethered to their human counterpart. The technology is amazing really. Every move a mote’s human makes, everything they say, is digitized and transferred within milliseconds to be processed and re-enacted by their mote. With two motes and a high enough quality connection people can live together despite the fact that they’re millions of miles apart.
The environments the motes live in have to be duplicated as well; my apartment here is an exact replica of the one on Earth. Food, clothing and other items have to be matched up as much as possible but the motes adjust automatically to compensate for the inevitable variations so everything stays in sync. Motes can’t leave the apartment they’re matched with and they don’t have jobs so when I’m working my mote is recharging and downloading firmware updates ready for when I get back home.
The connection between the station and Earth is pretty much perfect but when there is a dropout the mote’s artificial intelligence kicks in. Blended Artificial Intelligence they call it. The motes learn how we behave and move and even speak and can fill in very effectively when they need to. Legally we have to be informed if the BAI was enabled so it gets shown in the nightly reports I rarely read. The connection rate is 99.999% stable anyway and other than the time when we ended up watching different TV channels together the BAI has been flawless.
I’ve got the AI vocals switched off though. I love Annabel’s voice, her laugh especially, and I don’t want to think that the words I’m hearing aren’t coming from her.
This all took some getting used to, don’t think we just switched over to motes and started living our lives. It was awkward; especially for Annabel. She was the one that left the station to move to Earth and she was expecting me to come with her. We both were in fact. Then the company offered me a thirty percent pay rise, plus enough stock to fund my retirement in five years. It was a tough offer to turn down and when they threw in the motes we couldn’t find a reason not to try it, at least for a few months.
It was tough though, and more than a few times we almost jacked it in. We kept arguing about nothing or lapsing into long, awkward silences because we were both refusing to talk to the fake person we were living with. Then Annabel started wondering whether I was actually there or if the BAI had kicked in. She kept stopping mid sentence and asking me if I was really me which was just annoying for both of us. In the end she had an audible BAI alarm fitted so she would know if the connection was dropped.
The sex was the hardest part to get through. We avoided it completely at first but that just made the arguments worse. In the end we agreed that we’d try and have a date night every week. It made us both very uncomfortable initially, and we needed a few drinks the first couple of times but in the end we got used to even that and settled into our surrogate lives.
Apparently most people turn off their motes at night while their partner is sleeping. It stops any nighttime disturbances and generally leads to a better night’s sleep. I don’t. Annabel tosses and turns like a six year old on Christmas Eve but I love it. It’s part of what makes her her, like that splash of grey hair or the mischievous glint she gets in her eye when she’s teasing me. So, I leave my mote on all night and lie in bed trying to ignore Annabel’s constant shifting.
That was how I first noticed something was wrong. I woke up early as usual and lay beside Annabel, planning out my day but after a few minutes I realized she wasn’t moving.
It could have been a dropout or a power failure or some other technical issue but I knew. Even all those millions of miles away I knew. I hit the emergency call button and tried to wake her. Tried CPR. Tried to hug her back to life.
The doctors told me it was a brain aneurysm. It could have happened to anyone. Probably not related to the mote implants.
The company let me keep her mote and two weeks ago I turned it back on. There’s no connection to Earth of course, no need for that any more without the real Annabel to connect to. I have the BAI though and that’s almost good enough. I still haven’t enabled the AI vocals. I don’t know if I ever will but that’s okay. Most of the time I can almost believe she’s real.