I remember where I was on the day Dessie died. Do you?
I was awaiting launch clearance with a cargo of pseudospice bound for the high-end restaurants on Triton. There was no expense spared for the upper-class planets, and this was going to pay me very well. I’d been waiting for a chance of a lucrative cargo like this. If I did a good job, got it there on time, then there would be more of these contracts.
‘Hello Jakarta Space Control, this is Freighter Isaac Newton requesting clearance for launch.’
‘Hello Freighter Isaac Newton, I’m afraid that there’s a bit of a queue at the moment. You may have to wait a while.’
‘Roger Jakarta Space Control. Do you have an estimate for the delay?’
‘We should be able to let you challenge gravity in about fifteen minutes, Freighter Isaac Newton.’
I laughed. The controllers on earth were always a bit more relaxed than the rather austere staff elsewhere in the Solar System. ‘That’s okay Jakarta Space Control. Just let me know when I can power up.’
‘Will do. Jakarta Space Control out.’
I sat and waited, testing out my new eyes in the meantime, staring out through the steelglass up into the atmosphere. They were an amalgam of eagle and hawk intertwined with human DNA. I fancied that I could see the individual droplets in the clouds. I even saw a hawk, way up in the sky and made out its individual feathers fluttering on the ends if its wings. I couldn’t now imagine living without this enhancement. In fact, together with my feline DNA enhanced spine, they were the two amendments I would never give up. If I had any kids, I would hopefully pass them on, just like I’d been born with my father’s sense of smell and my mother’s amazing hearing, courtesy of their own enhancements.
Then a message appeared on my spare screen interrupting my thoughts. It said there was some breaking news and then the President was there, speaking live from Ganymede. She had red-rimmed feline eyes and said in a quavering voice:
‘Desmond Linqvist died at 4:35 this morning. He is dead… I can’t believe he’s dead!’
She went to say more, but no sound came out. She simply stood behind the lectern, swaying slightly with tears rolling down her cheeks, eventually bowing her head to reveal the luxurious fur of her neck. Nobody else spoke, not even the press hacks.
I was in shock. My world had changed suddenly, irreversibly, and I was left floundering. Most shocking was the not the news itself, but the reaction I had, that we all had. It’s amazing what you remember in such situations, little details that you normally overlook as the routine prevails. But not this time.
I remember that the altimeter read 37 metres; the outside temperature was 43.09 degrees Celsius; there was some dust in the bottom left hand corner of the steeglass windscreen that I’d missed; there was the gentle, almost inaudible hiss from the air distribution system; and there was nothing but static on the usually frenetic space control frequencies.
It shouldn’t have hit me like that. We all knew that Dessie, as we all referred to him, was going to die. He’d lapsed into a coma over 25 years ago just after his 107th birthday, and since then he’d been kept alive by the best efforts of medical science. Nobody was going to let Dessie pass away if they could help it. But time had prevailed in the end as time always does, leaving us adrift in our own Solar System contemplating who we were, and whether we were happy about it. The last anchor to our heritage was gone, and it hit us all harder than we’d ever imagined.
Everybody remembers where they were the day that the last pure human died.