The codeword triggers a rippling sensation in my body’s shell. There is no actual, physical change; and even if there was, I was purged of the human frailties that would necessitate such a visceral reaction a long time ago. Nevertheless: there is a rippling sensation in my body’s shell.
‘Do you recognise me?’
I recognise the voice. I no longer have ears made of flesh, but the voice is exactly as I remember it from before the war. I look past the human female in front of me and see him, all old and alive. He looks frail next to the security team member by his side. His thermal emissions indicate that his body is purely biological, but I can see the nanospores around him swirling in holding patterns, as if he is using a neural shunt to control them.
‘After all this time,’ I say – the first words I have communicated audibly in over 71,780 days. ‘Singh.’
‘Who were you?’
Who was I? I am aware that I once used a name, a long time ago, but I find that I cannot remember it. Singh says something to the human female, and she leaves. I take a few steps towards him, then stop.
My leg hurts. This is impossible. It’s as if it’s broken.
‘You were beautiful once, I am sure,’ he says. ‘Who were you?’
‘I don’t remember.’
He nods, solemnly, and moves quite close to me.
‘One Zero Nine Dash Four Two Caramac Dash Seven,’ he says, and I remember.
‘Amelie,’ I tell him. ‘Amelie du Pont-Chen. I…’
I broke my leg when I was twelve, after I fell from a wall. This was during the long period when northern Europe was being slowly depopulated in preparation for the Patrons’ great experiments; I’d had to walk three miles with a femur that was shattered in two places to find help.
He touches my face; my body’s shell tingles on contact with him.
‘Dr du Pont-Chen. I remember. You were beautiful – we all were, until we… until we did this to ourselves. I’m sorry.’
I feel a burning sensation just beneath and behind my optical sensors. I run a quick diagnostic, but there appears to be no malfunction in that region. I had been one of six children in my home town – the small section of Holstebro that my parents’ generation had retreated to, huddled around the creek – but I had been a very intelligent child. At eleven I came to understand the sublime beauty of the mathematical underpinnings of the world. At fourteen I was moved to London to further my education, and there I learned of the beauty of humanity, too – a softer, messier sort of beauty.
At twenty-eight, with the encouragement of Dr Singh and the other leaders of the Mountain, I gave up the second sort of beauty in service of the first. I have never regretted that decision.
‘There is no need to apologise,’ I say. He shakes his head and blinks and tears roll down his cheeks.
‘Amelie. We were wrong.’
That feels like a dagger to the heart. (I don’t have a heart.)
‘Have you turned away from our cause?’
‘No. No, quite the opposite – the Patrons cannot be allowed to continue their rule. But our methods…’ He withdraws his hand. At fifteen I had been in love with one of my teachers: he’d told me I was beautiful, and he was flattered, but that I should find someone my own age; he’d touched my face for a moment and smiled sympathetically, and when he’d withdrawn his hand I’d ached all over.
‘I am free of human weakness. I do not regret this.’
‘I know. I remember exactly how you feel. But, Amelie, on my travels… you will think this is ridiculous, but I have met God.’
Singh sighs. He raises his arms, palms facing up.
‘Are you aware of the concept of the Omega Point?’
I search my memory banks; I find a reference in a mostly-corrupted entry.
‘The idea that… the universe is evolving towards the creation of a single entity.’ It’s a stupid idea; Singh must mean something else. I’m missing so much – how did I fail to notice this?
Singh smiles, sadly, and nods.
‘Take hold of my hands, please. I will show you what I have seen.’