Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye #234

Sometimes I wonder if it’s possible for our reach to not exceed our grasp.

I’m mostly familiar with humans, but I imagine that this would be true of any sentient species.

We look at our problems, and we imagine solutions. If only we could grow more food, we wouldn’t be hungry. If only we could cure this disease, we wouldn’t be sick. If only we could find a way to understand one another, we wouldn’t fight.

So we strive for better; sometimes we make progress. And yet it is not in our nature to be satisfied. When someone scales a mountain, they may take a moment to appreciate what they have accomplished, and then they will look for an even greater peak to climb.

We are not satisfied with achievement, because each record broken is just an invitation to do better.

Each new advance just raises our expectations. Our gaze is permanently fixed on the horizon, and so no wonder that we never reach it. You run and run and run until you cannot run anymore, and no matter how far you’ve come, you fall just short of the finish line you were imagining.

Maybe out there somewhere, there’s a slice where they’ve discovered how to encode digitized memories back into reconstructed brain tissue. But I did not know how.

What I know is that, when Alurian opened his eyes again and looked at his sister, he did not recognize her.

He could speak, and sit and walk. He believed her, when she told him that they were siblings, but he did not remember their childhood together. He said that his own name sounded “familiar”, but beyond that, the old Alurian was gone.

I had feared that there would be losses, but the wipe of his memory was so total and so unexpected that I wondered if Alurian had exerted one last moment of control, and done it to himself. Did he choose a blank slate over living with troubled memories?

I don’t think I would have, in his situation, but perhaps he wanted to leave the pain behind. Perhaps, he wanted a chance to be a better brother, less of a burden to his sister.

Or maybe all of that is just my own wishful thinking, an attempt to absolve myself for not saving him.

Whatever it was, I had been successful in one thing at least: for the first time since I had known him, Alurian Lunara was free from the nanobots.

I decided to give Ms. Moon some time alone with her brother. If I’d chosen, I could have listened in with the nanobots remaining in the room, but I ignored them. I chose instead to take a walk through the remnants of Alurian’s architectural playground-slash-graveyard.

There had been pressing matters to attend to, before, but with those resolved, it was time to face some more hard truths. Ms. Moon, Alurian, and I were the last living sentient beings on this planet, in this slice. We were stranded here, alone.

Despite all my experience wielding a portal generator, I did not know how to build one. The nanobots could replicate anything that they had deconstructed, and they possessed enormous computing power, but they could not invent. In time, it was possible that I’d be able to work something out; reverse-engineer a design from how I’d seen them work before.

It would take time though.

I surveyed the ruins that surrounded us, and felt the electrifying tingle of trillions of nanobots at my command.

Well, I thought, if this is our new home, we’ll have to make the best of it. Let’s see if I can’t make it a bit more comfortable…

I took a deep breath, and raised my hands to begin.

Then I heard the sound of a portal behind me.

I turned and saw something that looked like a metal baseball sail through the opening. It landed, flashed, and every nanobot within a twenty-yard radius went dead.

Into the breach, Henricks emerged wearing a new robot suit. They were followed by Fox, Eduin and Pensky, each wearing containment suits and armed with guns that looked like fancier versions of our prototype bug zapper.

Henricks spotted me and shouted, their voice amplified by the robot’s speakers. “Phyllis! I’ve brought help!”

“Oh thank god,” I said.