Mikiko Jahn was dead. She died on 14 March 2011 when Reactor 3 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant exploded injuring eleven people and killing one…her.
Who was she today? For the mission with Geoffrey Colins and his covert ops team working for the mysterious “Agency,” she had used the name Mikiko Kojima. Kojima was her mother’s name before she was married. Was that her identity, her former life having ended?
For over five years, Professor Daniel Hunt and elite team of scientists, engineers, physicists, and other experts recruited by his company Synthecon Corporation worked on a joint British-Japanese experiment, a highly secret endeavor to take the barely alive lump of burnt flesh, bone, and blood who was once a woman and reconstruct it using artificial DNA that mimicked her own to manufacture the world’s first synthetic human being.
How much of you has to be replaced before you stop being human?
Mikiko stood at the starting line of a regulation Olympic-sized running track located at a private country club near the undisclosed location of the Project, the facility where she had been given a new if strangely different life out of the ashes of the old. Professor Hunt now exercised considerable influence, having produced for his government and hers everything they had asked for, so he arranged for her exclusive use of the track, away from prying human eyes and surveillance devices for the next two-and-a-half hours.
The Project offered four fully equipped gyms but while they each provided many and varying types of cardiovascular equipment, none could take the place of what her trainer Tashiro Momoru called “a good, old-fashioned run.”
So she stood on the track staring blankly ahead as she looked into her memories. In spite of the brisk 4 degrees C (40 degrees F) weather and soft breeze, she was wearing only a grey polyester t-shirt with a mesh back, black nylon running shorts, and the latest in running socks and shoes. She didn’t feel the cold on her skin but worried about what else she could and couldn’t feel.
Mikiko had killed. She had been taught to kill so it was an acknowledged possibility if not a stated expectation. She had been trained in hand-to-hand combat, martial arts, and firearms use by some of the finest professionals in the world, but it was worse than that.
When captured, drugged, and facing torture, in order to free herself she had…changed.
Without consciously willing it or even believing such a development was possible, Mikiko’s physiology had “morphed” her, creating fangs and claws that were not at all human. While it was happening, while Mikiko was in the process of escaping, she was a violent killer. She had executed six men and maimed a seventh.
Daniel Hunt had personally…what do you call it, programmed her so that whenever her emotional state crossed a specific threshold, anxiety, fear, terror, rage, would all be dampened and she would be put into a nearly-neutral affective state. In the early days soon after her accident, before the physical reconstruction began, trapped in a limbless, blind, deaf, and mute shell, Mikiko had frequent panic attacks so severe they were life-threatening. The synthetic neural net Hunt had inserted into specific sites in her brain “corrected” that.
Except that when she was killing, she wasn’t emotionless, she was terrified, enraged, not a cold-blooded killer but a merciless berserker. But that was only during the killing. Afterward, as she began to revert back to her “normal” self, she sank into depression, disgusted with what she had become, vomiting at the very thought and at seeing the blood of men on her hands and clothing.
Where were her emotional controls then?
She came home, which was how she still thought of Japan and what she had learned to consider the Project. She was home, and like any machine after extensive use, she was put in for maintenance, and that meant being at the tender mercies of fifteen or twenty human medical and engineering experts and Sophia, the synthetic AI, Hunt’s first major breakthrough in using artificial DNA to create an intelligence.
Sophia had not only designed the nanobots that by the hundreds of thousands were responsible for using Hunt’s synthecon substances as the raw materials for her reconstruction, but she or rather it directed the entire process, including routine maintenance.
Mikiko’s body was capable of healing on-the-fly as well as morphing, so any injuries need not require she return to the Project. Like any other person with a cut, scrape, or bruise, her body responded, although in most cases much more quickly, in repairing the damage. However there were limits. After so many tens of thousands of hours of use, she had to receive new infusions of the synthetic compounds so her nanobot system could maintain her body in peak condition.
Sophia’s range was limited, so she could only direct the nanobots while Mikiko was physically at the Project.
What had Sophia done to Mikiko’s body, thoughts, and emotions? How much of her purely organic body as it was when her construction was originally completed had since been taken over by the synthetic?
“I thought I’d find you here. I’m surprised you’re not working out yet.”
She was startled out of her thoughts by Daniel Hunt’s voice which was disturbing since she should have heard him coming from the moment he arrived at the track. She was also so familiar with his scent that she would normally have known he was present when he first opened the door of his car in the parking lot.
“What are you doing here, Professor? I thought you said I’d be alone.” She detected a second scent. Someone was walking up behind Hunt. It was a stranger, but his scent was vaguely familiar, something she’d caught a whiff of when she first got back. No sense of hostility. Hunt knew he was there.
“I thought you’d like a running partner.”
After all the tests, after the doctors, the technicians, the engineers…after Sophia, she had finally been able to see Daniel Hunt alone in his office.
“What happened to me, Professor?”
“Why, whatever do you mean?”
The Scotsman was glib, idiosyncratic, eccentric, brilliant, and infuriating. He was the one person most responsible for giving her back a life and in an odd way, he became almost a father-figure to her. She respected him and she knew in spite of his attitude sometimes, he had become highly protective of her.
Unfortunately, he also liked to play games.
“My emotional instability, my physical transformations, you’ve got three months of data and reports at your disposal so please don’t pretend not to know what I’m talking about. My respect and gratitude toward you and the Project goes only so far. It’s my life and I want you to tell me what’s happening to me.”
She was surprised when he smiled at her. “Congratulations, Mikiko. You really are a person now.”
“That’s not an answer, Professor.” She could feel frustration and anger rising like bile in the back of her throat, and yet she also sensed that Hunt’s response was a reason for her to hope.
“The answer Mikiko is that you are self-determining now.”
She opened her mouth to say what…she didn’t know, but he held up his hand to stop her.
“Let me explain. Yes, I owe you an explanation. You see, Dr. Monroe always objected to the psychological controls we had inserted into your neurology. She said that a technical solution to excessive emotional responses would never completely address a complex human psychology. She also didn’t like the idea that we could program a person and tell them what to feel and not to feel.”
Mikiko felt gratified that her psychologist continued to support her. There were times during the reconstruction process when she felt Brigit Monroe was one of the few who still saw her as a person and not a project.
“So you turned off the neural net?”
“Turned it down is more like it, or to be precise, we gave you control of it.”
“I don’t understand, Professor. What’s the difference between me controlling the neural net controlling my emotional states and me controlling my emotions just like other people do?”
“Because emotions aren’t a separate and distinct component of the human condition, Mikiko. When I said you were self-determining, I meant that in a holistic sense. You have control of all of you, the integrated Mikiko, body, cognition, emotions, and dare I say, your soul.”
“You’re saying that’s why I physically changed. It was my overall response to being taken prisoner and drugged.”
“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. That’s why I didn’t know in advance that you would have that capacity. You’re the one who was in control of yourself, not the neural net, not the nanobots, not Sophia, and not even me.”
Mikiko reached up with her right hand and softly touched her cheek. “What does that make me, Professor?”
He chuckled and his expression was that of a proud parent. “A person, Mikiko. When you were placed in extreme danger, you did what anyone would do. You used every ability and skill at your disposal to protect yourself and to fight back. It just so happens your abilities and skills are rather unique.”
“Then I’m not a monster.”
“No, which means I don’t qualify as Dr. Frankenstein. You weren’t made, Mikiko, you were reborn. The woman you are now and who you will become is entirely your choice. However, like anyone with certain medical requirements, occasionally, you have to visit your doctor. Deal?”
“I don’t know what that means for my future, Professor.”
“Well, I’ve been informed that your services will be required by our respective governments from time to time, but you aren’t a prisoner and you will be compensated for your services.”
For once, she just looked at him blankly.
“It means you’ll be paid. You can rent an apartment, buy a house, go grocery shopping, whatever you want. You’ll just be on call whenever the Japanese or British governments have a job for you. In the meantime, live your life as you see fit. If you need anything, I’m always available.”
She blinked back her tears, almost overwhelmed with emotions, with all of the experiences of the past few months. Mikiko needed a way to sort everything out. Something simple and straightforward.
“I’d like to go for a run, Professor.”
“Excellent. I know just the place.” He picked up his desk phone which seemed archaic to her after using only cells and tablets with Colins’ team in the UK and the States.
“Mikiko, I’d like to introduce Elon Rosenberg, Captain Elon Rosenberg, late of the Israeli Air Force. He’s been the Project’s guest while you’ve been away and I understand he also likes running.”
Normally, Hunt spoke to her in Japanese, a minor accomplishment on his part since he spoke seven languages fluently, but from the moment he had arrived with Captain Rosenberg, he had been speaking English. Mikiko replied in kind.
“Captain Rosenberg.” Mikiko bowed politely while her mind whirled with confusion. Why bring an unknown here to run with her? Why intrude on the private time she so desperately needed?
“Ms. Jahn.” Rosenberg returned her bow, his English heavily accented.
He used her real name. How much more did Hunt tell him about her?
“Would you care to take a few laps around the track?” He asked the question as if he were inviting her out for a coffee.
Rosenberg was about 1.8 meters tall or a little taller, athletic looking, but more like a runner than a body builder. His complexion was medium while his hair and eyes were dark. His voice was deep and pleasant, and while he had a relaxed manner about him she could tell he was keenly aware of his surroundings.
He had been a guest at the Project for months but she had only caught a whiff or two of his scent since she had returned. He was dressed in a running shirt and shorts. Mikiko noticed that Hunt was dressed in a heavy coat, his hands in his pockets to keep them warm.
“As you wish, Captain.”
“Please, call me Elon. May I call you…?”
“Let’s run, Elon.” Mikiko took off without waiting for him to finish his sentence. This was some sort of game Hunt was playing and she was going to call his bluff. What was the average running speed for a woman her age? About 3.25 meters per second. Tashiro made her memorize all those boring statistics so she’d have a basis of comparison for her own performance. She looked at her wrist monitor. She was already at four meters per second, so Elon would know she wasn’t average.
Average running speed for men in their twenties and early thirties was slightly faster at about 3.8 meters per second. He had caught up to her a few moments after she had dashed away from the starting line and was easily matching her pace. Hunt was playing a potentially dangerous game. He said she was self-determining, but he knew her well enough to realize what she was about to do. If Elon didn’t already know about her, why had he been at the Project for so long?
Five meters per second. She looked over at him. Elon didn’t even seem winded and he showed no signs of fatigue. “Fine,” she thought. Six meters per second, over 21 kph or nearly 13.5 miles per hour.
He’d have to reach his limit soon, no matter how good a runner he was. She picked up the pace. Seven, eight, nine meters per second. What was his name? The person they called the fastest man alive? Usain Bolt. Ten, eleven meters a second. His record was 12.27 meters per second for the 100 meter dash. Twelve…thirteen…fourteen meters per second. Just over 50 kph or something like 30 miles per hour. Because of the structure of the human body, no matter how fast your legs moved, the physical limit was 40 miles per hour, just under 17 meters per second.
“Really, Mikiko. Is that your best?” The Israeli started pulling ahead of her. He was laughing.
They were circling the track back around to where Hunt was standing. He was holding a stop watch in his hand and laughing, something he very rarely did.
Then she looked back at Elon who was slowly pulling ahead of her though now he was obviously exerting significant effort. She was breathing hard herself but wasn’t ready to concede the race. Mikiko pushed herself harder and in her heart she was singing and dancing. She wasn’t alone anymore. Mikiko Jahn wasn’t one of a kind in the world. This is why Hunt brought Elon to run with her.
Elon Rosenberg was a syntheorg just like her. Mikiko caught up to Elon and they continued to run together, one woman and one man side-by-side.
This tale follows Game Over which is the formal ending of my first “book” about the adventures of Mikiko Jahn. I tried to do a proper “wrap up” in answering all of the questions I posed in the earlier chapters. I had hinted at a second “syntheorg” a few chapters ago and decided to unveil him now (and it will be interesting to see how my friend “ProclaimLiberty” comments on the idea of a Jewish, religious Israeli who is physically synthetic).
I’m going to include a second epilogue to wrap up a few more loose ends, but I didn’t want to insert them here because I wanted to focus on Mikiko.
Here are other stories in Mikiko’s overall saga in the order I wrote them but not in chronological order:
- The Reconstructed Woman
- Burn Victim
- Woman Under Repair
- Five Years On
- Woman in the Shadows
- The Search for Armageddon
- The Swimmer
- Murder at 900 North Michigan
- First Flight
- The Man in the Dark
- The Vengeful
- The Most Dangerous Predator
- The Protector.
- Night of Syn.
- The Hawkhurst Gambit.
- Game Over
See you for Epilogue Two: The View Ahead.
2 thoughts on “Epilogue One: Mikiko’s Race”
You asked “how much of you has to be replaced before you stop being human?” I suspect the answer to that depends on the characteristics of the replacement parts. Does one stop being human if one receives a transplant from another human? Not at all. What if one’s legs must be replaced by simple mechanical prosthetics? What about bio-electronic artificial limbs that mimic human capabilities? Is one any less human confined to a wheelchair that does not permit a full range of motion, for example unable to traverse stairs or really rough terrain? Does one cease to be human if the replacements are actually stronger or more capable that the originals? Does even a superhuman cease to be human? It seems to me that none of these are antithetical to remaining human.
Coming at the question from a different direction, would a human brain implanted into an entirely artificial body maintain its human personality, or would living inside an artificial body overload that personality psychologically to the detriment of its humanity? Here I think one must ask about the characteristics of the synthetic body, and whether it provides to the personality software inside that human brain the same kinds and degree of sensory inputs that an ordinary physical body does. For example, what are its responses to heat, cold, touch, pressure, smell, taste, sight, sound, hunger, thirst, and internal bodily processes (e.g., tummy rumbling)? What limits trigger its pain or pleasure responses, and are these progressively modulated or sharply delineated?
I think the human personality is defined by its sensory inputs, their characteristics and their magnitudes, and its responsive interactions with people (including itself) and with physical objects in its environment. Some aspects of your “syntheorg” body could present challenges that might impel departures from the human norm. One of them appears to be that a syntheorg cannot reproduce. Now, perhaps that might not be true of every “syntheorg”, but Mikiko would seem likely to suffer such a limitation, considering the nature of the accident that made it necessary to rebuild her in rather large measure.
Now as to your question about an Israeli Jew submitted to the syntheorg process you’ve described in these stories, one could ask generally about the characteristics of what was replaced, and specifically whether he had to be re-circumcised. There are some halachic questions that might be raised about whether his “wounds” or “deformity” might prevent him from serving as a Levite or Cohen in a rebuilt temple, though the Rosenberg family name is not particularly suggestive that he was either. If he were a Cohen or Levite, however, and his condition rendered him a functional eunuch, he could not serve in either capacity, and of course neither could he contribute to the continuance of the Jewish people unless he had previously stored a quantity of frozen sperm, or he had already produced children. If, on the other hand, the wounds which required syntheorg treatment somehow had not affected his reproductive system, then the eunuch designation would not apply; but he might still be barred from temple service or from enacting the Cohen or Levite roles in synagogue services. Aside from these limitations, I can’t at present think of any other Jewish implications from the syntheorg process or condition, except that his Israeli military health-profile rating would likely change.
Perfect. Just the sort of information I was looking for, PL.
The question from Mikiko’s point of view is more focused on her personal identity rather than addressing the larger philosophical implications. Having so much of her original body replaced and reproduced by synthetic DNA, she naturally wonders if she’s still the “real Mikiko” or not (Mikiko Jahn was declared legally dead so that part of her identity no longer exists). Her self-doubts are somewhat mitigated by her conversation with Daniel Hunt and the realization that she is a fully-integrated person who is self-determining albeit to a highly unusual degree relative to being able to “morph”.
As far as a human brain being implanted in a fully robotic body a la Robotman of the Doom Patrol, I don’t think this would work. A person is more than a brain and the human brain is part of an integrated human physical, cognitive, and emotive system. That’s why I emphasized Mikiko being a holistic system rather than synthetic parts and her original organic parts (although if the synthetic DNA mimics her original DNA, then not only do we do away with any rejection factors, but she should be rebuilt to her original “specifications. “Tweaking” the DNA allows her to do more than she was originally capable (run faster, jump higher, and so forth).
The other mitigating factor for Mikiko is discovering she’s no longer alone. No matter how much Professor Hunt and the rest of the Project know about her, they can never totally understand her experience. Now that Elon has been revealed to be the second syntheorg, she has someone who she can talk to who understands her, although her being the first, it’s likely she’d be the one to mentor him.
Elon also had a catastrophic accident which destroyed much of his original body and the only reasonable “treatment” was the same one that restored Mikiko. I haven’t decided yet whether he should already have been married with children (although at his station in his former life, this would have been likely) since it introduces a new level of loss and grief, especially if he was declared dead. I hadn’t planned on him being a Cohen so those issues are moot, and since he was reconstructed using artificial DNA mimicking the original, then yes, he’d need to be recircumcised (the Mohel would have to be sworn to secrecy, of course).
This all sets the stage for a second “novel” and ultimately a series of syntheorg stories, and I’ve written short stories before suggesting an extended future for this technology. Ultimately, it’s not about creating a small group of super heroes, but extending the definition of what it is to be human and allowing humanity to explore and live in environments that would be totally hostile to ordinary people today. It may be the way we finally colonize the Solar System and then the stars.