“What do you mean, we look good. You look good.” Jackson pointed to his mental imprint projected across the table. “I wasn’t sure you or Galactic Phoenix survived when CANUS was overrun. I barely escaped, but I kept the GP schedule on the calendar just in case. When Sezuia told me my ‘brother’ had reserved the Shigematsu room, I hoped it was you.”
“We had to keep to the original schedule. The starship’s program is hardwired to update in sixty-eight years.” Jackson’s imprint smiled. “That’s how long it will take my program to catch up with it. The update window’s only open for three days; that’s to keep it from begin hacked.” The imprint cocked its head. “I’ve been training for this for ten years and it still sounds crazy.
“You must be ready to leave,” Jackson said.
“I’ll transmit in ninety minutes.”
“How’d the training go?”
“Great. I can repair tech gear and restore any antique from the last century.”
“Mom and Dad would be proud,” Jackson said.
“It’s strange. Remember how we’d hide whenever Dad needed help with the plumbing or gamma shields?” Jackson nodded. “Never thought that’d be my ticket to the stars. A lot of physicists like me applied, but when they reviewed the flight roster they decided what they really needed was a handyman. That’s how I made the final cut. When I arrive at Galactic Phoenix, I’ll have two years to get the old starship online, fix whatever needs fixing, and keep it running until we land on Skolni. By then GP will be over two hundred years old.” He looked at Jackson. “Unless we discover some sort of FTL drive, this’ll be the last time I see you.”
“If we do, my son’ll meet you on Skolni.”
“We have a son?” The imprint’s face twisted. “Does that make me a father … or an uncle?”
“Not yet, but there’s still time. I’m young and Janet’s young,” Jackson insisted. “Do you miss having a body?”
“Not as much as I thought. I still think about our old cravings: food, gin, women … okay, just Janet. But my ego needs have certainly changed, or maybe the engineers deleted that from my imprint program,” he shrugged. “Fear too, all gone. That’s probably part of not having a biological body.” He looked up. “Speaking of bodies, when we land I will get a robotic humanoid body. That’s another advantage to being the GP’s handyman. The other two scientists’ll have to make do with farming and construction equipment until we can build more humanoid chassis.”
“Sounds like you’re still excited about the mission,” Jackson said.
His imprint locked onto his gaze. “It’s everything to me. All I can think about is getting my family safely to Skolni. I feel like every one of those eight billion embryos and seeds are my children. I love them, all of them, every toad, dog, worm, fish, spider, bird, goat, reptile, all the plants, too,” he rolled both hands out, “and all the humans, of course.”
“Do you know whose genes they selected? That data hasn’t come out.”
“It doesn’t exist anymore,” the imprint said, looking down at the table. “Galactic Phoenix was classified. When we evacuated CANUS, all the records were lost or destroyed.” The imprint glanced down at the table’s embedded clock. “Since human survival demands genetic diversity, we think they sent a cross section of the Oslo Gene Bank.”
“Time to leave?” Jackson asked.
“Almost. I’m happy to be going, but I know I’ll miss everything here on Earth. Send regular updates, particularly about my yet-to-be-conceived son.” He frowned. “I won’t get anything until I reach the starship, but then they’ll keep coming for as long as you send them.
“Will do. I’ll send movies and pictures, too,” Jackson said, tearing up. “Thanks for doing this for us. It’s been our dream since we were boys.”
“Send things for the children, too. Anything you can think of. I’ll have about a million kids to raise, and they’ll all want to know about their Uncle Jackson.” His imprint waved and faded. “Take care of Janet for us.”