Authors: Brian Stableford
Architects of Emortality
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
ARCHITECTS OF EMORTALTTY
Copyright © 1999 by Brian Stableford
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.
Edited by David G. Hartwell
A Tor Book Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC 175Fifth Avenue New York,NY10010
Tor® is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
ISBN: 0-812-57643-8 Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 99-22201 First, edition: October 1999 First mass market edition: May 2000 Printed in the
United States of America0987654321 For Jane, and all who nourish fond remorse Acknowledgments A much shorter and substantially different version of this story was published in the October 1994 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction. I owe considerable debts of gratitude to Gardner Dozois, for publishing that novella and reprinting it in his annual collection of the Year’s Best Science Fiction, and to Charles Baudelaire, Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde, the original Gustave Moreau, John Milton, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, without whose contributions and general inspiration the story would have been much slighter. I should also like to thank Sonia Feldman for the shamirs, Jane Stableford for proofreading services and helpful commentary, and Andy Robertson for being prepared to claim that he had read every word.
Redundant returns removed.
Gabriel King stared out of the window of his thirty-ninth-floor apartment in the TrebizondTower. He was looking at theislandofManhattan, where the apparatus of civilization was being slowly but surely demolished. The old skyline was decaying; the sharp sharks’ teeth of the traditional skyscrapers were collapsing into mere blun
ed molars. One by one, the oldest buildings in the world were gently folding into themselves, meekly putting themselves away.
The sight made Gabriel feel slightly sad. It should, in theory, have had the opposite effect; he, after all, was the man primarily responsible for the many kinds of rot that had set in and the voracity of their consumption. Every minute diminution of the classic silhouette sent a surge of credit into his multifarious bank accounts. The MegaMall was paying him generously for his efforts, as it always did. Those who had served the MegaMall well—as Gabriel always had, in dealings under the counter as well as above it—were always well served in their turn*****.
The squat foundations of the
were already in place behind and among the decaying edifices, and the shamirs were ready to begin the reshaping. They too were Gabriel’s slaves, and their labors would maintain the flow of his capital, but contemplation of the endeavors and rewards to come could not lift his mood.
The simple fact was that
had always stood, in Gabriel’s quintessentially American consciousness, for the world, and he could not see a world the without a slight pang of regret. He had not been born in the USNA—his nominal citizenship was Australian—but he had always been a demolition and construction man, a materialist, and an ardent champion of progress. Those were the core values of the real
that knew no geographical boundaries, because it was a dream. To witness the demolition ofNew Yorkwas, for Gabriel, to witness the end of a historical epoch. He had witnessed the ending of mere eras and felt nothing but joy in the contemplation of progress, but this was different. The new dawn which his shamirs were programmed to break for the MegaMall was the dawn of an epoch: the epoch of the New Human Race. It was not merely Old New York that had been declared redundant; it was the people who had lived in it for the last few hundred years.
The personal shamirs that had seen Gabriel’s body through two full rejuvenations and countless cosmetic patch-ups had all but exhausted their resources. With luck he might live for another thirty or forty years, but the chances of his mind surviving a third full rejuve were very slim indeed. For the moment, he was compos mentis, with no more holes in his memory than the average one-hundred-and-ninety-four-year-old, but the integrity of his personality had grown perilously brittle; any sudden jolt might shatter it. The shadow of death was hanging over him, ready to descend upon his person as it was now descending upon Old New York.
When he looked upon the rotting of New York, therefore, Gabriel saw the end of his world, and everything that it had meant. At long last, progress had outstripped him and all of his kind. Progress would go on, but he and others like him could not. Even if he survived another sixty years, or a hundred, he could make no further progress—and nor could any man of his obsolete kind.
He was what he was; for him, the process of becoming was finished. Any sons born after him would be members of a new species, children of the MegaMall and the Architects of Emortality.
The miracle was, he supposed, that he only felt slightly sad. Fortunately, he had led a good and productive life, as a loyal servant of the MegaMall. He had never reached the upper echelons even of its servant class, let alone its Inner Circle, but he had been richly rewarded. Nor was wealth the limit of his good fortune, he told himself; although he could not claim a place in the new world that he was helping to build, he still had pleasures in store. There was much in life that could still be savored. Within the hour, he knew, his sadness would be lifted—for a while.
Gabriel brushed the back of his right hand over his lips, wiping away a trace of moisture which had accumulated in the corner of his mouth. He had no difficulty whatsoever in visualizing the new skyline which would eventually replace the one already decayed. He had seen it often enough in virtual reality, modeled with exquisite care, lit by a sky much brighter than the sullen one which loomed over the city now.
The new edifices would not reach for the heavens in the same thrusting and predatory fashion as the old. Their discreet curves would be the harbingers of a new era of harmony and stability: an era in which the New Human Race would put an end forever to death and its terrible handmaidens, angst and war.
The carefully worded but unvoiced thought brought forth an unexpectedly sour surge of resentment. “The Age of the Human Herbivores,” he murmured, speaking loudly enough for the apartment’s recorders to catch the words, although he was not entirely sure that he wanted evidence of a childish explosion of envy to remain on the record. “The Cud-Chewing Era.” The wave of resentment died quickly enough, and the manufactured contempt with it. Intellectually, Gabriel did not begrudge the New Human Race its dreams, and he was not a man to let his emotions get the better of his intellect. The judgment of his intellect was—as it had to be—that the demolition of New York was work of which a man of his sort should be proud. It was, after all, a fitting culmination of his career.
Long ago, while Gabriel had been a student at Wollongong, someone—probably Magnus Teidemann—had told him that sharks’ teeth were not like the teeth of humans. Sharks’ teeth were continually renewed, new ones growing in the rear and migrating forward to replace the old as they were worn down by use. New York’s skyscrapers had followed that pattern for more than five hundred years; whenever one had been removed, another had sprung up to take its place, usually brighter, sharper, and more durable. Despite piecemeal change, the whole ensemble had remained essentially the same. No one had ever taken on the entire island before, let alone the entire city. This was the first time that the whole set of shark’s teeth had been swept away, along with the implicit shark. From now on, New York would be the mouth of a very different social organism. Gabriel was proud to have been the man appointed to that task. In fact, he was very proud—intellectually speaking, of course.
Gabriel felt perfectly entitled to think of himself as the man appointed to the task, although a pedant would have insisted that he was merely one of many, and perhaps not the most important. History would give primary credit to the planners who had pronounced a sentence of death on the old city and the architects who had designed the new. If the engineers who actually carried out the work were to be remembered at all, they would be seen as mere applicants of a suite of technologies that still bore the name of their ancient founder, Leon Gantz, and a nickname borrowed from the legend of Solomon.