Ages of Man
by Alexis Ames
Nothing lives on the edge of the solar system.
Nothing organic, at least, which is why AX-983 has to run a quick diagnostic to make sure his photoreceptors aren’t malfunctioning. They aren’t; the data his brain is receiving is accurate. An adult human male is strapped to the table. A real human—one who is alive, breathing, and visibly frightened.
“He’s perfectly healthy. There were no errors in the DNA at all,” the trader, B-423, says as AX inspects the human. The human’s eyes, a dull gray, track AX warily.
“DNA?” AX asks. “Where did you get it?”
It had to have come from Earth, of course, but how had it managed to survive for almost two hundred years? The DNA sample must have been in some kind of stasis, perhaps a cryo-chamber. It doesn’t matter, not really. What matters is that AX is seeing a human for the first time in two hundred years, and he isn’t hallucinating.
B doesn’t answer. “I grew him a year ago.”
“Can he speak?”
“Yes, of course. He’s been taught three different Earth languages.”
“You haven’t taken proper care of his body.” AX notes how thin the human is, how his legs and arms are atrophied and how AX can count every rib through his paper-thin skin.
“I feed him nutrition supplements every day,” B says. He senses AX’s interest, and adds, “His body is functional, his organs are healthy. He should have a normal human lifespan of a century or so. I’ll sell him to you for the price of your ship.”
He’s a fine specimen, perfectly average, and AX knows that he will never get another chance at this.
“How many others know about him?”
“That’s unfortunate for you.” AX shoots him in his central processing unit, and B crumples to the deck. “But I thank you for that.”
The human stares at him, wide-eyed.
“Don’t hurt me,” he whispers. “Please, I don’t -”
“Hush.” AX approaches him, cups the human’s face in both hands. The human’s warm flesh heats his mechanical fingers, and the human shivers at his touch. “I would never kill you. You’re very special to me. You’re going to come back with me to my ship, and I will give you a wonderful life. You’re going to be my Joachim.” (Continue Reading…)