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Abbie covered light years in an instant.

She stepped into the telemass portal on Earth and emerged on Nea Kikládhes without breaking her stride. She hurried from the acropolis and paused at the top of the thousand steps carved into the slope of the mountainside. From this elevation she had a perfect view of the archipelago stretching towards the horizon of the waterworld, and the lambent sunset which lasted for hours and was the time when all work ceased and play began. Abbie started down the steps, her ease giving no hint of her apprehension.


She strolled along the illuminated boulevard, set with tables at which the Altered, the Augmented and the Omegas disported themselves, waited upon by boosted-primates, chimpanzees and gibbons. She hurried past a group of Altereds, humans who had assumed the partial forms of beasts, extinct or mythical. Zebra-men traded gossip about celebrities with unicorn-women. Other Altereds had kept their human form but for the affectation of fur or scales.

She found a vacant table beside the sea, among a group of her own kind. To a soul, these sophisticates were handsome and well-dressed, of human form and proud of the fact, disdainful of their loud and frivolous neighbours. They wore tasteful cortical implants, spinal addenda which showed only as a knife-edge ridge beneath gown or robe.

Along the boulevard, at some remove from the cyber-assisted clique, sat the dignified Omegas. They were neither Altered or Augmented, and had about them the appearance of great age without infirmity: they were ancient and yet youthful. At the sight of their white gowns, Abbie drew a breath and looked away. Never before had she witnessed so many immortals together in one place.

While she waited, she watched a fish-boy sporting in the shallows. Sleek and silver, he stitched the calm surface of the ocean with dives and leaps. He saw her watching, sprang from the water and landed like a single, errant wave. He was beautifully muscled, with a shock of silver hair, a chevron of gills at his neck and a fin concertinaed against his spine. He sat at the table and drew his thighs to his chest, hugged his shins and regarded Abbie over his knees.

He smiled. "Are you requiring a guide?"

"I'm here on business, not pleasure."

"Are you an artist, here for the Contest? Would you like me to take your proposal to the judges?"

"No," she said, "and no..."

The boy opened his gills and shunted air, as if in derision. "Immortality is the prize. Did you know that? I can't claim to be an artist, but come the Contest I'll be diving."

Abbie nodded politely. She had heard that the caste of immortals occasionally sponsored artistic contests, offering increased longevity for the artists they deemed the finest. Omegas themselves could not create, and she wondered if the sponsorship was an act of amendment for their inability.

The fish-boy cocked his head prettily. "Then why are you here?"

"As I said, on business."

He frowned and scanned the exposed areas of her flesh for sign of augmentations. "Your facility?"

She lifted her dark hair to reveal the plates at the base of her skull. "I'm a Pilot. I've been hired by the artist, Wellard."

His large eyes registered surprise. "Wellard? Mad Wellard, the Primitivist?"

"You know his work?"

"His work?" The fish-boy flung back his head in a burst of raucous laughter. "He's a Primitivist! A true primitive – un-Altered, un-Augmented..."

Abbie disliked his arrogance. "The work by him that I've seen – his early work – communicates true emotions, unlike so much art today, clinical, emotionless, without soul."

He rejoined: "Do you understand today's art?"

"Should one have to understand it to appreciate it?"

"Today's art is a science, for the literate. Surely, as an Augmented...?"

She began to explain that her facility did not endow her with increased intellection, and in doing so cursed herself for sounding as though she were making excuses for her lack of knowledge.

"Be careful with Wellard," the fish-boy warned. "The rumour is that he keeps his daughter locked in a dome on his island."

Abbie glanced at her watch. Wellard was late.

The fish-boy smiled intuitively. "Wellard drinks heavily," he informed her. "You'll probably have to make your own way there."

He looked out to sea. "Behold, the opening ceremony..." His large eyes regarded the darkening sky with fascination. "See – the Supra-sapiens."

These beings – Abbie had never actually seen one before, merely heard stories – were one step beyond the Omegas. They had divested themselves of their physical forms and assumed identities of pure energy. They were sparkling points of light as capricious as the wind, beholden to no one and to no state or planet.

"Tonight they dance for the Omegas," the fish-boy breathed. "Aren't they... aren't they beautiful?"

They choreographed intricate manoeuvres against the indigo heavens. Never still, they trailed images of themselves through the night like comet's tails. Abbie understood that the performance was more than just a display of calculated aesthetics, which at first was all she had assumed it to be. According to one commentator, the trajectories of the dozen Supra-sapiens were, taken in total, the representational math of universal quantum verities.

Then the lights disappeared along every point of the compass, streaking away around the curves of the planet, and their exit presaged the fall of night and the appearance of the Core stars overhead like the brilliant spread of a chandelier.


Wellard arrived one hour later.

He approached in his launch from his private island, one of the chain that curved away into the distance like the individual vertebrae of some great fossilised saurian. He moored his vessel at the end of the jetty, then walked towards the boulevard and paused halfway, hands on hips, a sturdy and intimidating silhouette against the starfield. Or was it Abbie alone who divined the threat in his posture as he gazed down at the assembled artists? His arrival had occasioned a murmur of comment.

"From the sublime," the fish-boy said, "to the ridiculous."

Abbie stood. "I must go."

"If you do decide that you need anything..." He held up a communicator on his wrist and gave his code.

Abbie made her way to the jetty. She was aware, as she approached Wellard over the creaking boards of the pier, that she was the centre of attention. It had the effect of making her meeting with the artist all the more fraught.

He glared at her. "Are you the Pilot?" It was almost a roar.

She nodded, unable to look him in the eye. He was squat and powerful, and seemed to emanate a raw animal emotion – in this case animosity – unchecked by the sophistication of alteration or augmentation.

"I requested a male Pilot."

"I was allotted the job-" Which was a lie; she had bribed her superior to give her the commission. "I assure you that I can do what you want just as well as-"

"I've no doubt," he said. His misogyny, according to rumour, had increased during his self-imposed exile on the planet.

He nodded grudgingly. "Very well..."

As she followed him back to the launch and climbed in beside him, Abbie wondered whether her physical revulsion of Wellard was merely because he was a primitive.

The engine fired, lifted the launch and shot them away from the jetty on a long curve paralleling the diminishing islands of the archipelago. Wellard sat at the tiller, staring ahead. In marked contrast to the artists on the boulevard, he was dishevelled and shabbily dressed. It was as if he affected the bohemian persona of an artist from myth to score some personal point against those he regarded as no more than artisans and technicians. His forearms scintillated with crystal dust, like gauntlets, and his square, ruddy face was streaked with belligerent dabs of war-paint. Abbie knew that he was almost sixty, though he appeared older.

Wellard's studio and living quarters comprised three domes suspended over the ocean on a series of cantilevers. He ran the launch aground on a beach beneath the projecting hemisphere of the first dome, and led the way to a spiral staircase which accessed the flat underside.

Abbie was not prepared for the sight of the work of art which rose from the deck to the apex of the studio. The hologram stood perhaps five metres high, a light-sculpture of a beautiful woman. She stood demure and at ease, a Greek Goddess in a flowing gown. Other pieces littered the room, but none so stunning as the raven-haired Mediterranean beauty.

"My wife," Wellard said briefly. "She died almost thirty years ago, giving birth to my daughter. We were living in the wilds of Benson's Landfall at the time, in retreat from contemporary trends." He stopped himself and regarded Abbie, as if resentful at having imparted this information.

She moved around the room, laying hands on crystals, regarding light sculptures. He even worked in the ancient medium of oils on canvas. He watched her from the exit to the second dome, as if impatient to usher her away. "Don't bother telling me what you think – I already know. You Augmented are all the same. You have no appreciation of the truth of the work by the artists you call Primitives."

It was a moment before she could bring herself to reply. She found his attitude of injured pride rather pathetic, like a chided child convinced of his worth. She sought to subdue him with praise.

"On the contrary, I find your work very powerful. I'm moved by it. Few artists these days are so honest, so open – few would admit to their faults and weaknesses. Your guilt is very apparent."

"Art is the communication of true emotion-" He regarded her with what might have been new respect, hedged with suspicion. "Regret and guilt constitute so much of my past. Perhaps by trying to come to terms with the guilt through my work I might cure myself-"

"To find you can no longer create?"

He gave a grudging smile. "Isn't all art a striving for an elusive cure?"

She gazed around at the work in progress and tried to calculate the hours invested in creation. She gestured. "Don't you ever feel like... like giving in?"

His regard of her changed; from wary respect, his eyes showed hostility. He became businesslike. "I am employing you not to ask questions, but to follow my orders to the letter. What I will be asking of you over the next day or so is highly unconventional."

She was surprised. "Piloting?"

"And more. But we'll discuss this later. I will pay you well to undertake my instructions, but you can resign if you so wish."

Abbie smiled, hoping her trepidation was not obvious.

"You must be tired. I'll show you to your room. Tomorrow," he went on, "you will meet my daughter."

Abbie smiled again, conscious of her heartbeat.


She awoke the following morning to dazzling sunlight. She had slept well and without interruption, and it was a while before it came to her where she was and what she was doing here.

She showered, found her gown and stood before the clear curve of the dome. She slid open a panel and leaned out, and the beauty of the view was some compensation for her anxiety. In the foreground, below her dome, was Wellard's studio; projecting from it was a semi-circular patio like a stage, directly above the sea. Across the bright blue waters, the next island in the chain was a verdant knoll dotted with residential domes. The sun burned low on the horizon.

As she gazed down, Wellard stepped on to the patio. He was barefoot, wearing only a shapeless pair of trousers. Abbie was about to wave in greeting, but something about his attitude stopped her: he was talking to himself and making wild, angry gestures as if drunk. He leaned over the palisade that encompassed the patio, shook his fist at the sea and shouted something incomprehensible. From a tray on a table beside him he picked up something wet and red and dropped it over the rail. He followed it with another strip of what Abbie took to be meat. This and Wellard's semi-nakedness filled her with revulsion.

As she watched the meat shimmer through the clear blue depths, it was overtaken on the way up by a chain of dancing bubbles. They broke the surface, followed by others. Dimly she made out a dark shape, rising; foreshortened at this angle, it broke the surface and torpedoed towards the overhanging deck. Only when it stood on its tail, its teeth snapping at the strip of meat Wellard held in his fist, was she aware of its full size. It was about five metres long and jet black, with the hydrodynamics of a shark and a mouth perhaps a metre wide. The teeth snapped shut on the meat and the monster backflipped gracefully into the sea. It circled and prepared to launch itself again. Wellard was laughing like a maniac, leaning out over the ocean with another length of meat.

"Soon!" he cried, as the shark-thing rose, hung in suspension at the zenith of its climb, snapped and backflipped. "Soon, you will have your way. Be patient!"

The meat consumed, Wellard turned and made his way unsteadily back into the studio. Abbie ducked out of sight.

She jumped as the chime sounded and Wellard's voice paged her. "Are you awake? Would you care to join me on the patio?"

She found the speaker and, controlling the tremor in her voice, answered that she would be down right away.


"It's been light for a good two hours!" Wellard greeted her. "I've been up since dawn. I always do my best work before breakfast." He waved for her to be seated. He had started his meal already. The table was piled with fruit, bread and cheese. Wellard drank from an oversized goblet; he was more than a little tipsy.

"You've been working today?" She thought it wise not to mention the episode with the sea monster.

He winked at her enigmatically. "Just putting the finishing touches to a little project."

As they ate, Wellard expounded on the history of Nea Kikládhes, its discovery and subsequent exploration by the telenauts, and how it became the haunt of the galaxy's richest artists.

Abbie listened politely, sipping fruit juice and taking small bites of honeyed bread. Wellard had changed from the sombre, embittered artist of last night; he was animated now, almost excited. She wondered how much this transformation was due to the wine, how much to a residual elation from his encounter with the shark-thing.

She became aware that he had been staring at her for a time in silence. She looked up and saw that his gaze was fixed on her forehead just below the hairline.

"I didn't see that last night," he said.

"Oh." She raised a hand to the tattoo.

He smiled tipsily. "I'm sorry – I don't keep up with the latest Augmented shorthand." His tone was sarcastic. "But doesn't that denote a second body?"

Abbie nodded, watching him.

"I must admit... to a Primitivist, the thought of having a second body – I mean, not content with your first... I find it rather amusing... and pathetic."

"To many an Augmented out there in the real world," she said, "your reactionary attitude would be considered pathetic. Bodychange is established practice, Mr Wellard. This," she gestured from head to foot, "is a somatic simulation."

He was staring. "You're a computer?"

"I'm wholly biological, I assure you."

He shook his head. "Who were you before... before the change?"

"The same person I am now, of course. All that is different is the body and the name."

"But why did you change?" He seemed to find it hard to believe that anyone should want to discard the body with which they were born. "Were you diseased?"

She shook her head. "I... I found myself in an intolerable situation. I had to get away without being traced."

He seemed to have sobered a little. He cleared his throat. "I find it hard to imagine how someone so... so Augmented can possibly appreciate my art, as you claim to."

"I am still human," she replied. "Your work speaks to me."

They ate in silence for a while.

Abbie changed the subject. "Do you intend to enter the Contest?"

Wellard snorted. "As if they'd look twice at anything I submitted! And anyway, the Omegas have a bias for dramatic presentations, plays and tragedies of old."

"I was told that immortality is the reward for the winners."

He laughed. "What hell! Do you really think I desire all eternity in which to contemplate and regret the deeds of my past?" He cast her a stricken look. "And anyway, how might I spend eternity, unable to create?"

"Immortals have no reason to create," Abbie said. "They have time to answer every question; they're no longer slaves to psychological conflict. Imagine being free of the devil that drives you..."

"I can imagine other ways," he said, more to himself than to Abbie. Then it was his turn to change the subject. "Come. It's time for you to meet my daughter."

Abbie followed him through the studio to the third dome, sick with apprehension.

The dead woman lay naked and very still, cocooned in a crystal catafalque above the computer system. Subdermal electrode implants showed as raised discs beneath her pale skin. She was very much like the hologram of her mother, and just as beautiful. Her chest rose and fell with measured breaths. Wellard stood beside her, stroking hair from her brow, and Abbie almost cried aloud at the poignancy of the father and daughter tableau and all it represented.

Wellard emerged from his reverie. "Technically, Zoe is dead. This system has kept her body alive for fifteen years. Her mind is empty, blank." He smiled. "Thanks to the system, she is capable of limited motion."

He hit a command key; the electrodes fired and Zoe spasmed. The contrast between the sleeping woman as she was and this helplessly jerking corpse was painful to behold. Abbie winced, turned away.

Through her fingers she watched the woman sit up, drag her legs from the catafalque and stand clumsily. She took half a dozen faltering steps, her father in close attendance. What was so tragic about this woeful parody of a marionette was that the technology at Wellard's command was over a decade old. A modern system could fit unobtrusively at the base of her skull and give her he swinging gait of a mannequin. There was such a thing as respect for the dead.

And there were Pilots...

Wellard returned his daughter to her resting place and glanced at Abbie. "Well?"

"If you could leave us alone for a time..."

When Wellard had finally departed, after lovingly arranging his daughter's hair, Abbie approached the dead woman and stared down at her. A regime of regular, computer-assisted exercises had maintained her muscle tone, but her moribund eyes suggested a similar deterioration of mind. Abbie kissed the woman on the lips, fighting to control her emotions, and slipped into a sitting position on the floor. She reached behind her head and activated her occipital system.

The sensation was as if she had suddenly switched off her senses. She existed in a lightless limbo, unaware of her own physicality. What happened next had a perfectly rational scientific explanation, but the process always came to Abbie in the image of a dispossessed awareness (her own) floating into a vacated seat of consciousness (her subject's). She insinuated herself into the derelict neural pathways of Zoe's brain, exploring the intricate matrix of the dead woman's nervous system. She was aware of an extreme weariness, the leaden weight of a body fifteen years dead. There would be much that she would be unable to do with Zoe, and more that she would only be able to make function at a much reduced capacity. In normal circumstances her subjects were newly dead and easily manageable. Zoe would be a test of her abilities.

She opened Zoe's eyes, made out the sunlight beyond the dome as if through a fathom of ocean. With care she flexed the right leg, then the left. She sat up, and her misted vision swung from the upper curve of the dome to the far wall. She was swamped with nausea, dizziness. She gripped the edge of the catafalque and pushed herself to her feet. Swaying, she took a tentative first step, then a second. She glanced down and noticed herself sprawled across the tiles, her eyes vellicating behind closed lids, a soft moan escaping her lips. Then she looked down at Zoe's body, the small breasts, the curving thighs, and although she wanted more than anything to cry, the dead woman's tear ducts would not oblige. She walked across the dome, her first faltering steps giving way to a more confident stride. She moved her arms, fingers and neck in the prescribed routine of rehabilitation, not unlike the precise choreography of a Balinese dancer. Sounds came to her, but distant, muffled. Likewise the sense of touch relayed objects to her as if they were wrapped in fleece. She stared at the dead woman's reflection in the dome. She opened her mouth, expelled air, then a scrap of sound. "Hell... hell... hello. Hello. I... am... Zoe. Wellard is... insane." The words came one by one, creaking from a larynx redundant for years. She experimented with complex sentences, wry observations, obscenities directed at Wellard, and then she relented: "Wellard cannot help... himself. He is a victim of... circumstance. I am Zoe Wellard. How do you... do?"

She returned to the catafalque, sat carefully and lay down. She closed her eyes, allowed her awareness to drain slowly from the body.

Abbie opened her own eyes and found herself lying on the floor. She lay blinking up at the dome, disoriented at the shift back to her own body. She stood wearily, touched the Zoe's brow and wept.

She had known, when her agency had received the commission, what Wellard required, but his precise motives now, as then, were a mystery.


Wellard was seated on the patio, staring out across the ocean, when Abbie stepped from the studio and joined him. He looked up. "Well?"

She did not realise, until she sat down opposite him, how much the transfer had drained her. She felt physically weak, emotionally unstable. She had the urge to snap: "Well, what?" But it was obvious what he wanted to know.

"I can pilot her," she replied. "She can walk, talk, hear, see. I could maintain control for an hour, maybe more." She watched him closely.

Wellard smiled, a paradoxically boyish grin on a face so rugged. "That should be quite long enough."

"For what?" she asked.

He reached out to the table and picked up a sheaf of paper, an antique medium appropriate to Wellard's Primitivism. He passed it to Abbie.

She leafed through the sheaf. It was an old fashioned play-script, a dialogue between two characters. She scanned the top sheet, bearing the title Atonement, and the opening. Time: fifteen years ago. Setting: the patio of an artist's dome, Mikonos, Earth. Dramatis personae: Benedict Wellard, an artist; Zoe Wellard, his daughter.

Wellard: The love I had for your mother was unique.

Zoe: Please, father...

Abbie looked up from the script and stared at Wellard.

His smile, the light in his eyes, suggested more than just enthusiasm for the entertainment he had planned. "It is the transcription of my final meeting with my daughter. It's verbatim up to a certain point, at which I have allowed myself a degree of artistic licence. Please, read on..."

Abbie regarded the opening lines, a constriction in her throat, then slowly read her way through the following pages. Her heart hammered and gradually she became less aware of herself; she was wholly captivated by the words on the page as the drama unfolded its terrible logic.

She was only peripherally aware of Wellard, watching her.

She lowered the last page and stared at the artist, seeing only the tragic finale, the denouement that Wellard had himself fashioned to stand as testament to his overwhelming guilt.

"Well?" he smiled.

She shook her head. "It's sick..."

His expression became grim. "Whether it is sick or not does not detract from its fundamental truth. Tonight's re-enactment will bring the cycle to a close with my fitting punishment-"

"But you don't deserve... this."

"Who are you to say what I do not deserve?" he snapped. He stood and paced to the edge of the patio, then sat side-saddle on the rail and regarded her. "What I did fifteen years ago – and it isn't in the script – was... unforgivable. It brought about my daughter's demise and plagued me ever since."

Abbie sat without moving, shocked at the thought of the role Wellard wanted her to play. "But even so-"

"Please, allow me to explain." The artist drew a long breath and stared into the ocean. "My daughter, Zoe, was a telenaut. Fifteen years ago the science was still in its initial stages – the telemass process was crude, compared with the system as we know it today. The only people who 'massed were the telenauts, and the incidence of fatalities was high. Back then, the body of a telenaut was duplicated and fired to its destination, the planet under investigation. Then the telenaut's cerebral identity was beamed after it. This way, even if the duplicated doppelganger was injured or killed, the telenaut's identity could be retrieved and restored to its original body. At fifteen, Zoe was a veteran of some dozen missions to the planets of stars within a radius of twenty light years from Earth. On the occasion of our final meeting she was contemplating the commission to be 'massed here, Nea Kikládhes, then an unexplored world. No one had ever before been telemassed thousands of light years through space. It was highly dangerous, and needless to say I did not want her to go."

Abbie whispered, "You can't hold yourself responsible."

Wellard ignored her. "We had an argument, more or less as set down in the script. Then I did something terrible. I was desperate at the time – some might say unbalanced – though I'm not pleading this as an excuse... Zoe fled, vowing that she intended to take the commission and saying that she hoped she died. She was my only daughter, so much like my wife..." Wellard took a breath, glanced from the sea to Abbie. "Less than one week later I heard from her private clinic in Athens that her body was awaiting collection. She had bequeathed it to me in the event of an accident. It was kept alive – if you can call it that – by a sophisticated computer system. I had her moved to my studio..."

"What do you think happened to her?" Abbie murmured.

The sun was beginning its long fall towards the horizon, bringing to a close the short Kikládhean day. Overhead, the Core stars were coming out. Wellard returned to his seat across the table from Abbie and smiled to himself. "Zoe never said much about her work, but I do recall something she told me once. She said that one of the exercises involved entering the mind of a hummingbird, viewing the world through its consciousness. She told me that for the period of an hour, she was that hummingbird." He shrugged. "This appealed to my primitive imagination...

"A number of years after receiving my daughter's body, I learned that Nea Kikládhes was being opened up as a resort complex for artists. I had my studio duplicated and moved here with my daughter." He poured more wine, took a mouthful and paused before continuing. "During my first year here I used my launch to ferry provisions from the telemass station to my studio, and on every trip I was followed by a leviathan – a deep sea monster like a shark, though larger. It attacked me several times. I know it was the same monster – I once scarred it's flank with an ill-aimed harpoon, and the distinguishing mark was clearly visible. It struck me as obvious," Wellard said, staring at Abbie with total conviction, as if to forestall her incredulity, "that, when she was beamed here fifteen years ago, the consciousness of my daughter had found itself somehow trapped in the monstrous form of the sea creature."

Abbie wanted to laugh, and then to cry, but Wellard stared at her with frightening certitude, his knuckles white where they gripped the goblet.

He indicated the script. "Now, you appreciate the symmetrical perfection of my final work?"

Abbie stood and moved to the rail, her back to Wellard so that he could not see her tears. Across the curve of the ocean, a sparkling troupe of Supra-sapiens performed pyrotechnic aerobatics above the largest island, entertaining the gathered artists.

"Well?" Wellard said. "Will you take part in my little finale?"

Abbie gripped the rail. On the horizon, the will-o-the wisps described symbols of infinity.

She nodded. "Very well... yes."

They drank a toast, and Abbie hurriedly excused herself and retired with the script to her dome. For a long time she lay on the sunken sleeping pad, memorizing the stilted dialogue. Later she stood and walked to the clear wall of the dome, stared out across the ocean to the island on which she had arrived the night before. Lights illuminated the length of the sea-front boulevard. The Supra-sapiens played – or communicated universal verities, meaningless to her – in the darkening sky. Abbie reached beneath her hair, opened the communication channel and arranged to meet the fish-boy. Then she returned to the sleeping pad and with a stylus struck out Wellard's original title and replaced it with her own: Redemption. Then she turned to the final pages, where the scenario diverged from the original dialogue, and rewrote the ending to her own satisfaction.

Later, when the fish-boy emerged from the sea and sat awaiting her on a rock, the starlight illuminating his wet nakedness like some fabulous figure from myth, Abbie left the dome and joined him. She passed him the revised dialogue, along with her instructions, and he placed the script in his pouch and dived gracefully into the sea.

Abbie returned to the dome and lay down, her pulse accelerated. Overhead the stars burned with a rhythmic pulse. She could almost hypnotize herself, watching them.

Beside her, the speaker crackled. "Abbie... are you ready to begin?"


The transference was easier this time, the precincts of Zoe's sensorium no longer unfamiliar territory. Also she could control the body with relative facility, co-ordinate the movement of the limbs so that Zoe could perform with grace. She wore an ankle-length gown and facial cosmetics, as prescribed in the script; she presented to the world a calm composure, a neutral expression and a steady gaze. Inside, though, Abbie was numbed with fear. She had memorized Wellard's script, but it was not the recall of the lines that worried her so much as his reactions to her amendments. The satisfactory outcome of the imminent drama depended wholly on her delivery, on the degree to which she could convince him.

She walked Zoe through the studio; it was in darkness, but the hologram of Zoe's mother was illuminated, and had been turned to overlook the performance area of the patio.

Abbie stepped through the sliding door. The patio was bathed in silver brilliance, surrounded by the night. She thought she could see the occasional flicker of a Supra-sapien, but could not be sure: her attention was wholly taken by the dominant figure of Benedict Wellard, centre stage.

He was attired in a smart grey suit, and with his hair combed back he presented a substantially altered figure to the dishevelled bohemian of that afternoon. The sight of him like this caused Abbie's pulse to race. She took up her position to stage left, staring out into the night with her back to him, awaiting his opening line.

There was a pause before the performance began. Then:

"The love I had for your mother was unique."

The words caught in her throat. She managed, "Father, please..."

"I don't think I've mentioned this to you before."

"Yes you have – many times."

"I must tell you how we met."

Abbie turned Zoe's sluggish corpse. "Father!"

Wellard smiled. "It was at the Saharan artist's colony of Sapphire Oasis..."

He proceeded to describe that first meeting, his initial infatuation, which turned in time to love and respect. Cornelia Bethany was an accomplished artist, a Primitivist like Wellard. They shared similar techniques, theories. They became inseparable. Wellard recounted all this, and announced with a reflective smile that one month later they were married.

Abbie spoke her lines: "I've heard this so many times before!"

"One more time will do you no harm."

"No! I've heard enough." She raised her hands to her ears in histrionic denial of his words. He continued, regardless.

"For two years we worked together on joint projects."

He described their work, how they planned to construct Primitivist crystals and holograms, synthesized from their unique harmonic perspective, the like of which the world had never seen before. With their creations they hoped to storm the insular sensibilities of the critics, who favoured the clinical minimalist work of Augmented and Altered artists. Their aim was to bring humanism back to art.

"It was ironic that your conception came at the very height of our creativity..." Wellard continued, with a trace of sarcasm.

"We planned great things for you. We would educate you ourselves, and in time you would join us in a Primitivist triumvirate. We found a remote colony world, set up a studio and awaited the joyous day.

"You know the rest."

"I know I'm a disappointment to you, father."

"I never really recovered after your mother's death – but I did regain my senses sufficiently to know what I wanted for you. I trained you in all the artistic techniques... You had a fine future ahead of you."

"Some would say that I still have."

"As a telenaut!" He almost spat the word. "Did I tell you that your mother detested Augmented humans?"


"She considered their mechanisation a denial of human sensibilities. I agreed with her, and still do."

Wellard claimed that since her Augmentation she had become heartless – more, soulless. He told her that she had thoughts for no one but herself.

Abbie rejoined with the line that she had grown up so much under his influence that it was inevitable she assumed his selfishness. She cried that she had to make her own decisions, even if those decisions were the result of mere defiance.

Wellard crossed the patio and paused before her. "I don't want you to accept this latest commission." He was trembling with emotion.

She stared at him. "My life is my own!"

"But think of the danger."

Abbie, through Zoe's eyes, saw the empty meat-tray on the table.

Wellard reached out and cupped her tear-streaked cheek. "I love you too much to lose you, Zoe."

His other hand stroked her hair, and the light of helplessness in his eyes told Abbie that he was no longer acting, that he was back on the patio of his studio, fifteen years ago, with his daughter in his arms.

"You're so much like your mother, Zoe."

He broke away and stared into the darkened sea.

Beyond the patio, Abbie could hear the surge and splash of the leviathan as it whiplashed from the ocean. She stared at Wellard as he cried out in self-disgust.

"Zoe!" His eyes pleaded with her to follow through the business of the script. He stood beside the rail, directly above the ocean and the thrashing leviathan, awaiting the gesture from his re-animated daughter that would avenge his treatment of her and bring about the end of his guilt.


This was where the re-enactment diverged from Wellard's scenario.

Abbie said, "You don't deserve to die!"

Behind Wellard, the shark-thing leapt and snapped.

"I forgive you – can you hear me?" Abbie cried. "You're forgiven!"

Wellard stared past his daughter's eyes and addressed Abbie. "How can you forgive me? You have no idea what happened! Push me!"

"I know," Abbie said. "You attacked me, beat me until I was half-conscious and then raped me, calling me all the while by my mother's name. You almost killed me – perhaps maybe you intended to, to avenge my birth. That's why I left-"

He shook his head. "Abbie? How can you know this? Who are you?"

Abbie gathered herself. "I'm your daughter – Zoe!" she cried, and all the hurt and frustration she had suppressed for years now overwhelmed her. "When I left that night I vowed to avenge you. I thought at first that I would accept the commission, to spite you – and I hoped that I'd be killed. Then I had a better idea. I bought a somatic simulation from an Augmented mart in Cairo, had myself downloaded and my emptied body returned to you. For years it delighted me to think of your grief..."

"Zoe... is it really you?" He reached out feebly. "Why did you come here?"

She stared at him. "I came back to kill you. I wanted true revenge."

He raised his arms in a gesture of defeat. "Then why not take it?"

"Because I saw your art. I saw how much you suffered, how guilty you were and how much you regretted doing what you did. Then I read the script... How could I bring myself to kill you when you had already decided to kill yourself?"

She finished her dialogue and held out her arms to him, and the performance was complete.


Lasers bloomed in the darkness above the dome, and Supra-sapiens materialised and turned tight spirals of delight. An open air-car bearing six Omegas hovered above the patio rail. A venerable immortal stood, smiled at Zoe and held out a hand. In sombre tones he communicated their judgement, and bade Zoe and her father step aboard.

Abbie allowed herself to more fully accommodate her body of old, felt the last tenuous link with her somatic simulation break like a silken thread. She inclined her head and stepped towards the air-car. Then she turned and held out her arms to her father – who was standing mute in the cone of a spotlight, between one life and the next – and awaited his decision.

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