We’re getting closer and closer to making “improvements” in our genetics, whether it’s a good idea or not. I was wondering – as we FINALLY try to go into space, will our ability to alter ourselves become more cost effective than creating safety devices to protect us from the perils of space travel? And what will be the value of an ORIGINAL man? Will he be considered more Human? Or merely “Obsolete”?
Here’s the blurb:
When we leave Earth, will we forget what it’s like to be human?
Mr. Omega, the last unmodified “man”, stands trial for unthinkingly preserving his own life over that of a superior being. Read “Obsolete” to decide who’s right.
And here’s the excerpt:
The murder trial of Mr. Omega was held in the repurposed station cafeteria, which had been emptied of all but six tables. The handful of pre-selected witnesses and experts were seated at three tables by the cafeteria’s main entry, and with the exception of Station Chief Marston who, wearing his blue Service formals and as deliberately hairless as all his comrades, currently sat in the witness chair at the room’s center.
The remainder of their peers, the general populace, watched the vid-streaming through an ample selection of camera angles. They were organized into three co-equal collectives, each represented by an avatar on the wall-mounted monitors beside the moderator’s table. The ones representing the Colonials and the Service projected a conglomeration of their constituents’ mods. Both had the spacer’s characteristically wide pupils and bluish, radiation-hardened skin. Facial hair was non-existent in both, although the Colonials had not opted for the complete hairlessness that was part of the Services’ uniform. The Rimmers, operating as it were on the outer boundaries of humanity, were mimicked by an avatar with unnaturally elongated features which bore the least resemblance to their ancestors. These crowd-sourced Tribunes would decide Mr. Omega’s fate.
The moderator, colonist Lars Valenti, sat watching the dashboard display on his table’s surface for comments and trending from each of the Tribunes. His symbolically neutral white robes, uncontrasted against the stark whiteness of the cafeteria, made it seem as though his head floated in midair beside the disembodied heads of the community Tribunes. The wall also provided a neutral background for his pricey chameleon hair (currently sapphire) to perform against.
To the right of the moderator’s table sat the defendant, easily distinguished by his orange jumpsuit and his absolute lack of mods; he was stockier of build than was considered normal, particularly for the orbital population. He even still showed the vestigial shadow of facial hair no longer shared by the rest of humanity (what purpose did it serve?) and which required incessant shaving to be kept at bay. His acting attorney, Ms. Jan Griffin sat beside him, taking a dispassionately professional interest in the proceedings.
Lieutenant De Guin, the station’s second in command, acted as prosecutor; he stood by the leftmost table taking a sip of water. This was his first turn in a courtroom, but not in public speaking, and he knew that you couldn’t keep the viewing citizen’s attention by remaining still. He set down his glass and returned to the witness, who happened also to be his superior.
“And there was nothing unusual about Mr. Omega’s assignment to the station’s perimeter crew?” De Guin asked.
“You know that as well as I, Lieutenant,” Martston said.
“Yes sir, but we must adhere to the forms.”
“Oh, yes, of course,” Marston said. “No, nothing unusual about it at all. As long as regulations are followed and sufficient safeguards are available for any citizen, there’s no reason to restrict someone like Mr. Omega …”
“Someone like me?” Omega muttered.
“…to a more shielded work area,” Marston continued. “Society is not served by coddling outcasts.”
“Just because I choose not to defile my body…,” Omega said.
“That will be enough! Counselor Griffin, instruct the defendant to remain silent or he will be held in contempt of this tribunal,” Lars Valenti said. His hair turned fuchsia as he scowled in the direction of the defense table. “We will neither have his unmodulated emotions, nor allow him to insult the vast majority of citizens who have chosen modification.”
Insta-polling caused the Service and Colonial avatars to nod in agreement with Valenti, while the Rimmers’ avatar watched passively.
“Yes, your honor,” Griffin said. She jabbed a finger between Omega’s ribs as she whispered to him. “You’re in enough trouble already. Make defending you any harder than it needs to be and I’m going back to my job in Cloning.”
Omega opened his mouth as if to resume his complaining, but then closed it wordlessly; Griffin was the third citizen selected to take on his defense, and he didn’t want her to quit him as the others had. He rubbed his wrists where they were still irritated from the restraints they used in transporting him every day and stared at the floor.
De Guin eyed the cameras and shook his head exaggeratedly to emphasize how Omega just “wasn’t like the rest of us” before he resumed. “Please explain what you mean about it not serving society, Mr. Marston.”
“Seeing as he’s chosen to remain unmodified, Mr. Omega is obviously not the cooperative, civilized sort. He’s also more prone to sickness and incurring costly countermeasures – an unnecessary, additional expense on his pod’s budget.”
“Did you bear Mr. Omega any ill will?” asked De Guin.
“Of course not.”
“And I take it that neither did Mr. Tableur.”
“Objection, your honor; leading the witness,” Griffin said. “And hearsay.”
“My apologies for my phrasing, but that was not a question; I was speaking for the deceased, as he is not here to speak for himself. He was a superior specimen, and so, as with the rest of modified humanity, not susceptible to the baser tendencies.”
“The prosecution cannot make statements out of unsubstantiated assumptions,” Griffin said.
Lars Valenti looked over his head at the three nodding avatars, and said “Sustained. Be more careful in your word choices, Counselor. You may continue.”
“Mr. Marston, did you ever hear or see the deceased express any ill will toward the defendant?”
“No more questions,” De Guin said as he sat at his table.
“Your witness, Counselor,” Valenti said.
“Mr. Marston, is it true that both you and the Mr. Tableur would point out Mr. Omega’s inferiority to him on a regular basis?”
“Well, yes. He is inferior, after all,” Mr. Marston laughed, and the tribunes nodded in agreement. “But we meant nothing by it.”
“I believe that this constant disparagement of Mr. Omega’s genetics originalis displayed a wanton disregard for the value of Mr. Omega’s very life,” Griffin said. “A disregard that placed Mr. Omega in the untenable position of deciding whose life to save – his or Mr. Tableur’s.”
“Nonsense!” Valenti said. “There can have been no doubt in Mr. Omega’s mind that his was the less worthy genome.”
“You are expecting too much of Mr. Omega,” Griffin said. “You have forgotten the survival drives of my client’s primitive brain.”
“I beg your pardon!” Omega said. “I’ll have you know…”
“There will be order in this courtroom,” Valenti said while hammering home the point with his gavel. “The defendant will not be warned again.”
Omega placed his hands on the table in front of him and examined his fingernails.
“If you believed him to be inferior, how could you expect him to make the right decision?” Griffin asked.
“I didn’t,” Marston said.
“And so, knowing this, and that the flare was imminent, you chose to leave both men – and they were both men – in harm’s way.”
“There should have been plenty of time for them to return,” Marston said, “but our advance warning estimate was faulty.”
“Faulty? Has the warning system failed you before?”
“Not generally,” Marston said.
“But it has failed you before,” Griffin said.
“Explain the effect this time.”
“We were told we had ninety-five minutes to secure the station, when there was only eighty.”
“Which is why the defendant and the deceased were caught outside when the flare struck?” Griffin asked.
“We exercised proper protocols,” Marston said. “Another five minutes and they would have both been inside.”
“When did the two men become aware of this error?”
“Soon enough for one of them to make it back inside.”
“Doctor, in your educated opinion, how long would Mr. Omega have survived if he had been exposed to that flare?” Griffin asked.
“With his lesser constitution, even with his upgraded shielding, the debilitating effects would have finished him in a matter of days.”
“And what of Mr. Tableur?”
“Objection, your honor,” Prosecutor De Guin said peevishly. “It is obvious to everyone – he did not survive.”
“Yes, but would he have survived if he had chosen to wear his shielding?” Griffin asked. “If he hadn’t been such an arrogant fool?”
“Your honor,” De Guin rose from his chair to object, but was halted by Valenti’s raised hand.
“Counsel will refrain from insulting the deceased,” Valenti said.
“My apologies,” Griffin said. “Doctor Winthrop, would Mr. Tableur have survived the flare if he had chosen to exercise standard safety protocols?”
“The deceased had the usual gen-modifications for both cosmic ray and solar radiation resistance, as well as enhanced cellular regen, so yes,” Doctor Winthrop said.
“Your witness,” Griffin said, returning to her seat.
“Doctor Winthrop, given the magnitude of the flare, isn’t it probable that Mr. Tableur would have required treatment, even with appropriate shielding?” De Guin asked.
“Yes, it is quite likely.”
“Lengthy and costly treatment, your honors, which would have been needed to prevent the possible loss of a properly upgraded citizen,” De Guin said. “Mr. Omega’s selfish decision would at the least have caused the community to incur this great expense, and at worst would have resulted in the loss of a valuable asset, which it did.”
“Mr. Omega, why have you refused to accept modification?” Griffin asked.
“Objection – irrelevant,” De Guin said. “No one cares why he clings to being different.”
“Mr. Omega, as an unmodified human, is an aberration,” said Griffin. “I believe there is value in examining his thinking on this deeply personal matter. I wish to know why he refuses to conform to society.”
The Tribunes nodded.
“And so do we all,” Lars Valenti said, nodding as well. “You may continue.”
“Why do you insist on being different?” Griffin asked.
“I don’t want to be different,” Omega said.
“But you obviously are,” Griffin said.
“From everyone else. We were all made to be different, to be unique,” Omega said. “I want to remain the same; to be myself.”
“You would still be yourself,” said Griffin. “Just improved.”
“All those little improvements change your behavior, too,” Omega said. “Who’s to say how much enhancement it would take to alter a person so they were no longer truly themselves?”
So, does a person have a right to decide for themselves who they will be? Or does society get the final say? And whose place is it to determine the value of the individual? “Obsolete” is a speculative (scifi/fantasy) fiction short story. It’s available at many online retailers, including, but not limited to:
“Obsolete” is also included in the collection Some More, And Yet Still Even More Things I Could Get OUT OF MY MIND (The next ten people who purchase the collection on Smashwords with coupon code RAE50 you will receive a 67% discount – that’s only 99-cents for SIX stories – such a deal!):
Which is itself included in the mega-collection The Last Three ‘Things I Could Get OUT OF MY MIND’ :
William Mangieri’s writing – including his most recent release “Truth in Advertising” – can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
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