THE MACBETH PROPHECY

A short story by Anna L. Davis

(Special thanks to the late MIT Professor Patrick Henry Winston, for providing helpful comments about artificial intelligence, story understanding, the Genesis System, and the future of humanity.)

“Stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires.”
Macbeth, Act 1, Scene IV

November 2045; Dallas, TX

Some girls straight up belonged in outer space. Optimistic that her days on Earth were numbered, Cynth filled out the student exchange application with the gravity of a last will and testament.

Name? Cynthia Rosky—Cynth for short. Age? Eighteen. Birthdate, social security, IDChip serial? Check, check, check. NeuroChip? Yes, the latest version, secured and insured. Other augments? In digital ink, Cynth scrawled the make and model for her craniofacial cybernetic device, a titanium half-mask of both hardware and wetware partially embedded in the left side of her face.

She attached the required image to the application, along with contact information for her augmentation specialist.

It was mostly busy work—mindless factual regurgitation—until the last question: “What is your motivation for applying to the Interplanetary Student Exchange Program?”

Seriously? Gazing out across the student union, Cynth didn’t know where to start. The hollow feeling she got whenever she tried to fit in on this seemingly God-forsaken planet? The rejection she felt from her peers and family since coming out as transhuman?

Laughter from the taco bar caught her attention. Cynth glanced up, then wished she hadn’t. It was Winnie, her roommate. Even worse, Winnie was with that awful guy, the most outspoken cyborg rights opponent on campus.

“Hey Cynth, how’s it going?” Winnie balanced her lunch tray and spoke with a tone of artificial mirth. “Everything okay? I noticed you never came home last night…”

The guy snickered, then whispered something in Winnie’s ear. Winnie turned away to hide her grin.

Judgmental jerks.

Cynth returned the fake smile. “Yeah, I’d planned to come home and read your minds with my cybersenses until I fell asleep from boredom. But then I stumbled into a club and got distracted by some sick AR porn, you know?”

Not even close to the truth, she’d actually fallen asleep over the vestiges of a late-night physics cram session in her lab partner’s dorm. But the look of shock on their faces before they walked away was priceless.

Thing was, Winnie might’ve been a cool friend if she hadn’t paired up with that bigoted anti-cyborg activist. Oh, well.

Congratulating herself for the witty comeback, Cynth glanced at the calendar in her chip overlay. Four days until the dean posted her eligibility status. If the program accepted her, Cynth could move out of the dorm and into the training residency across campus by winter session.

Oh, God. Please. She had to get into that program.

The first semester of college and she never felt more alone.

She switched songs on her playlist and attempted to ignore sidelong stares from all corners of the cafeteria. Returning her attention to the application, Cynth used NeuroChip to scroll through her emotional impressions, thinking hard about what to say.

Finally, Cynth composed her answer: “I’m committed to an active, long-term role in the terraformation of Mars, and I believe that my education in geology, combined with my knowledge of computational astrobiological physics, will benefit the eMri Acres colony.”

Cynth leaned back, read it once, and ran it through a revision app. With a quick prayer, she sent it over to the dean.

Then she waited, using the time to work on her project about methods for combining polymer plastics and Martian soil to create bricks strong enough for building shelters on the red planet.

A message came through fifteen minutes later.

“Got your form. Want to shave a day off your application process?” the dean asked.

“Of course,” Cynth replied. One less day? A no-brainer.

“Come to my office as soon as possible.”

Cynth closed out her project folder and threw her lunch wrappers into the recycle bin, growing more excited by the second. Maybe one day wasn’t a big deal to most people, but to her it was a world of time.

Using her SmartLens to scan for wayward hovercraft, she practically sprinted to the Intercultural Education Building. She opted for the stairs instead of the elevator, because she didn’t want to risk any delays to the fourth floor.

Out of breath, she burst through the heavy metal door that opened directly into the Dean’s Office for the Department of Interplanetary Education.

The assistant behind the desk laughed at Cynth’s disheveled appearance. “That was fast, even for you.”

“Couldn’t get up here quickly enough,” she said, swallowing hard.

“I figured that. Falcon’s expecting you.” The woman checked off Cynth’s name on the screen. “And good luck.”

Cynth took another deep breath and gently tapped on the door.

“Come in,” he said.

Cynth glanced around the office for a clean space to sit, but gave up and remained standing. If clutter was a sign of genius, then Falcon was the smartest guy in the world. The place had to be a fire hazard.

“Shove those aside,” Falcon said, motioning to a barely visible armchair in the corner. “The university says I need to keep an orderly office, but what are they gonna do? Fire me for being a slob? Hardly ‘just cause’ for termination. I’m tenured.”

Cynth picked up a stack of magazines and spiral notebooks from the upholstered seat cushion, set them atop a nearby stack of textbooks, and sat down.

“Health violations could be ‘just cause’, you know.” Realizing that reprimanding a dean wasn’t exactly a wise choice, Cynth stopped herself. “Sorry, I was only—”

He scoffed and interrupted her apology.

“Oh, that reminds me,” Falcon said. “Before we’re done here, walk down to the clinic for your health measurement data tests. I haven’t downloaded the app yet or I’d just do it here.”

Falcon pointed to a diagram on the wall, showing the requirements for consideration to eMri Acres. “Space travel does weird crap to the human body, so I suppose it makes sense. Can’t have your genetic code showing signs of alien ascension, right?” He winked.

“Yeah, sure. So what did you mean when you said I could shave a day off my application process?”

He opened a holographic screen and cleared his throat before speaking. “Great news. They assigned your exchange partner early. Of course you still need to do the forty-eight hour virtual tour, but today we can go over the required paperwork and sign everything. Sound good?”

Good was an understatement. “Definitely.”

“Great. Okay, these forms make sure you understand eMri Acres network policies.” Falcon enlarged three forms on the display. “Read over each one, provide your digital signature and scan your IDChip to confirm.”

Cynth skimmed each form before signing.

All of them were disclaimers about network transference and security, explaining that eMri Artificial Intelligence would assume full control of her data, everything from her digital medical records to her real-time NeuroChip folders.

A small price to pay for the privilege of studying on Mars.

Falcon talked as they filled out the forms. “As you know from my class, eMri Acres runs a tight game. It’s probably the strictest AI of all the colonies, but the good news is that eMri doesn’t do a bait and switch about privacy. In the eMri network there simply is no privacy. These forms tell you that up front.”

She nodded and scanned her IDChip on the last one, ready to move forward. At this rate, she’d be an old woman by the time she set foot on Mars. Cynth exhaled in relief when Falcon finally opened the next folder for the eMri Virtual Tour.

Falcon tapped a pencil on his desk. “The virtual tour is forty-eight hours straight. The idea is that you’ll each live a day in the other’s shoes. Tomorrow is your day.”

She smiled, thrilled to be moving closer to her goals.

He continued. “Get here at eight in the morning, and be prepared to flash your NeuroChip to the eMri system, then sync to its network. From that point forward, everything you do, say—even everything you think—goes through eMri.”

“Everything? Even my thoughts?” NeuroChip stored her conscious thoughts and visual data in folders, but privacy laws on Earth kept other networks from accessing them.

“Yes, even your thoughts. Like I said, eMri is a strong AI.” He enlarged the form on the holographic display. “International treaties never established data security and privacy guidelines for the moon or other planets, leaving that kind of legislation in the hands of the corporations that invested the most money, including eMri.”

“Fair enough. I don’t have anything to hide,” Cynth said.

A frown, but he went on. “Your counterpart is named Xena. She’s about your same age, and her parents decided to help colonize eMri about ten years ago. Of course, she had to go with them.”

“She’s been there since elementary school?”

“Yes, and from what I understand, she’s very excited about experiencing life as an Earthling again.”

He clicked a few items on the display then continued. “Tomorrow when you’re adjusting straps on the AR-VR tech here at the university studio, Xena will log into the system from the eMri version of augmented reality. She’ll experience life from your point of view for a full twenty-four hours, something she’s probably wanted since her parents dragged her up there.”

Cynth couldn’t imagine anyone not choosing to live in outer space.

Falcon drew her attention back to the schedule. “Then it switches and leads directly into her turn. You’ll come to the AR-VR studio here on campus, jack into the system, and walk a day in her spacesuit, so to speak. See what it’s like to live in eMri Acres.”

“What’s that at the bottom of her form? Can you enlarge it?”

“Sure,” Falcon said. He swiped a finger in the air and the words magnified to a legible size. “Looks like she has a few special requests, about what she wants you to do in your twenty-four hours.”

Reading, they both fell silent.

Special Requests.

One: Go outside to a park, preferably near a river.

Two: Use the AR olfactory feature and capture the smell of the moist dirt. Look for random insects and critters, maybe even a snail or frog.

Three: Have sex in a public place.

Cynth nearly choked.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. What the hell is she thinking?”

Falcon grinned. “About critters and the smell of dirt? It’s crazy, I agree.”

“Not that part.” She groaned in exasperation. “I’m not going to screw around with anyone in public just so she can live vicariously through me.”

“Why not? Look, the poor girl can’t even flirt with anyone up there. No sex in space, remember? Reproduction risks are too high.”

“I know, it’s just—”  

“Look, Xena’s been on Mars since before adolescence, so she’s never…Anyway, when you’re synced to the eMri system, she’ll feel everything you do. The adrenaline, the dopamine, the—” He cleared his throat. “Don’t you have a boyfriend or something?”

“Yeah, but Quill…” Cynth stopped. Her relationship with Quill had been awkward ever since she announced her dedication to being an exchange student. “Things are weird between us right now.”

Falcon stared at her a few minutes. Closing the holographic display, he leaned forward on his elbows to address her more closely. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but are you sure eMri Acres is the right colony for you?”

His eyes darted to her elaborate cybernetic half-mask.

Her heart stopped. “Of course it’s the right colony. It’s the only one sponsored by this university, and my scholarship won’t transfer anywhere else. Why? Do you think I’m not qualified?”

Cynth didn’t breathe, afraid of his answer.

“No, you’re definitely qualified. I have no doubt you’ll get into the program.”

“So what the hell are you saying?”

Falcon softened his expression. “You’re brilliant, no question. It’s just that you’re somewhat of a nonconformist, you know? Once you sync to the network, eMri will own everything about you. Seems oppressive for someone with your spirit, that’s all.”

Cynth fought back tears.

“Then what? I just give up my dream of colonizing Mars?”

“No, that’s not what I meant.” Falcon reached across the desk, placing his hand on her arm. “But maybe one of the other colonies might be a better fit.”

“Like which one?” Stunned, Cynth struggled to catch up. “They all have strong AIs.”

“Not all of them operate like eMri,” Falcon said. “For example, Astrix Estates allows free relations among the colonists. Most importantly, it consults with a human congress of sorts. The result is a checks-and-balances system that gives the people more freedom.”

“I can’t afford Astrix Estates, or any of the other colonies, because I need the scholarship money I have here,” Cynth repeated, frustrated that Falcon didn’t seem to grasp that point.

“You have more options than you think.” He leaned back into his chair. “Look—did you ever study Macbeth?”

“The Macbeth Procedure? Of course. Part of the groundbreaking Genesis System that paved the way for sentient AI and the singularity.”

He nodded. “The Macbeth Procedure is definitely an important part of story-based machine learning. But I don’t mean the computational term, I’m talking about Macbeth the play.”

“Yeah. Shakespeare, right?” Cynth didn’t like the overall turn of their conversation.

“That’s right. So when you studied Macbeth, did you also learn about the political context of its writing? ‘Remember, remember the Fifth of November, Gunpowder treason and plot…’ Ring any bells?”

She shook her head. Literature wasn’t her thing.

Falcon sighed. He stood up and turned his back, shuffling through a box of old books on the file cabinet. “There must be one here somewhere.”

“If you can’t find it, that’s not a problem. I know the premise. ‘Out, damned spot! Out, I say!’” Cynth cursed forcefully, hoping Falcon would let it go. She wanted to go to Mars, not read Shakespeare.

“Found it.” Handing her a battered, yellowed copy of Macbeth, Falcon said, “Here’s your homework. Read the intro tonight, then I want you to answer two questions for me tomorrow morning. If you still want to sync with the eMri network after that, I’ll personally log you in. Deal?”

Reluctantly, Cynth nodded. “Deal.”

Anything to get on Mars.

Falcon tore a piece of notebook paper from his spiral. “One—why do you think Shakespeare wrote Macbeth at that particular time in history?” He scribbled the words as he spoke them. “And two—why do you think Shakespeare opened the play with the witches’ prophecy?”

Handing the paper to Cynth, he met her eyes and smiled.

“Thanks,” she muttered, nearly knocking over a stack of books as she stood to leave. “See you in the morning.”

“Don’t forget about the clinic.”

Grumbling to herself, Cynth went straight to the clinic, completed the required DNA and blood tests, took the elevator back to the ground floor then ran across campus to her afternoon physics lab. Tomorrow she’d begin a whole forty-eight hours away from the university network, and she had about a thousand things to do before then if she wanted to pass her required classes.

Shakespeare would have to wait.

***

Even with QuickReference pulled up on her NeuroChip overlay, her physics lab took much longer than she’d anticipated. On the walk back to her dorm, she’d resisted the urge to close out the app, and instead used it to browse for information about Macbeth and why Shakespeare wrote it.

The historical context hadn’t been difficult to find. Scholars estimated that Shakespeare wrote Macbeth in 1606, about one year after a failed assassination attempt against King James I of England and VI of Scotland, an event that became known as the Gunpowder Plot.

While most of references agreed that this political atmosphere likely informed Shakespeare’s writing, Cynth was disappointed to find a variety of conflicting opinions about why he was ultimately motivated to write Macbeth, except for the generic conclusion that unchecked political ambition led to disaster.

As for Falcon’s second question about the witches, Cynth was stumped.

It was after nine o’clock when she made to her dorm suite, and the smell hit her the second she opened the door.

“Can’t you smoke that somewhere else?” Cynth threw her bag on the sofa, throwing a dirty look at Winnie.

Weed had been legal for decades but Cynth didn’t care for it, and even if she did, the daily health labs required for the Interplanetary Exchange Program would catch it in her system. No weed in space—it made humans unpredictable and hungry, a safety hazard for the regulated Mars biosphere.

“Helps me study,” Winnie said, lifting a joint to her lips. “Got back from the gym and was about to shower when I got inspired to work on my thesis.”

Like usual, Winnie had taken over the living room floor. Open textbooks, two laptops, index cards, highlighters, soda cans—and in the middle of it all, a stoned and barely dressed Winnie.  

Pulling a barstool to the kitchen counter, Cynth switched off the cognitive overlay and focused on making a sandwich.

“Know anything about Macbeth?” She asked on a whim, immediately wishing she hadn’t. Engaging Winnie in a conversation was the last thing on her mind.

“You kidding?” Winnie flicked her blunt to the ashtray. “I’m writing my thesis about feminist themes in Shakespeare.”

“Really? Can you help me?” she ventured, realizing she must be desperate if talking with Winnie seemed a valid option.

“Depends. Help you with Macbeth?”

Warily, Cynth nodded. “For some insane reason, the dean wants me to chase this Shakespearean rabbit before he’ll log me into the eMri network tomorrow morning. I’ve researched his questions but can’t find the right answers. My physics lab took forever, and I’m completely wiped out.”

Cynth knew she was rambling but maybe she could appeal to Winnie’s academic side. Every college freshman understood unreasonable professors and mental overwhelm.

Winnie looked down at her laptop, then back up at Cynth.

“You’re lucky I’m high,” she said, rolling to her side on the carpet. “What do ya wanna know?”

Cynth breathed a sigh of relief, hoping for quick answers. “Let’s start with the witches. In the first scene, three witches decide among them to go see Macbeth. Why?”

“Ah, yes—‘When shall we three meet again, in thunder, lightning, or in rain?’—great line,” Winnie quoted. “Witchcraft, forever a wild card, right?”

“I guess.”

“Well, if you believe that crap. Personally I think most witches back then were actually intuitive, strong women who didn’t buy into the chauvinistic patriarchy,” Winnie said.

Cynth bit her lip. She knew how it felt to be judged by a society who feared what it didn’t understand, and Winnie was part of her problem. But she needed Winnie’s help, so she ignored the doublethink and focused on the issue.

“Most everything says the witches are catalysts to push Macbeth and Lady Macbeth into what they already had inside of them. What do you think?” Cynth asked.

“Of course they’re catalysts in the literary sense,” Winnie said. “But we can’t completely rule out the supernatural aspects of the plot, at least this is what I’m saying in my thesis. Whether witches with real power, or just a projection of Shakespeare’s own beliefs, the trio affected the story in a big way.”

Cynth took a bite of her sandwich and washed it down with iced water. “I don’t know. Seems like it’s more about Macbeth’s greed and ambition, not some Wiccan spell.”

Winnie shook her head. “The witches are crucial. I mean, what if they’d been good witches? What if they’d told Macbeth that he didn’t need to murder to achieve his destiny? What if they’d given him power to resist his own greed?”

“It’d been a whole different play.”

“Exactly,” Winnie said.

Cynth took another sip of water. One answer down, one to go.

“So why’d Shakespeare write it?”

Winnie grinned. “I have a theory. Everyone says the play is about politics, but I think it’s really about being subversive. You know, breaking the rules.”

“How so?”

“Well, the witches are a big tip-off. But when Lady Macbeth has the audacity to challenge her husband’s power? Total red flag. The whole thing reads like a feminist manifesto about what can go wrong when a culture has too many rules and regulations.”

“So Shakespeare wanted to write something about people rebelling against society?” Seemed a stretch, but Cynth began mentally drafting her answers for Falcon anyway.

“Somewhat. The trouble is, his characters broke all the wrong rules. Imagine if they’d broken the rules in a more affirmative way, you know?”

“Yeah, but then it wouldn’t have been a tragedy, and that’s kind of Shakespeare’s gig.”

“True,” Winnie conceded. “But it really doesn’t matter what I think. Fun to ponder, though, and a good basis for my research.”

“Wait,” Cynth said, alarmed. She’d hoped to be almost done with this rabbit hole. “What do you mean it doesn’t matter what you think?”

“Because no one really knows why Shakespeare wrote it. We can’t pull up an author interview or anything. Same with the witches. We can speculate aboutwhy they’re in the story, but we can’t completely know what point Shakespeare meant to make.”

“You mean there’s not an actual answer?”

Winnie laughed. “Of course not! It’s subjective. We don’t know for sure why he wrote it, so we have to form our own conclusions.”

Figured. Leave it to Falcon to come up with an unanswerable enigma the night before her eMri virtual tour appointment.

“Double blind,” Cynth muttered to herself in frustration.

“What?”

“Oh, it’s like a double blind science experiment, but the opposite. Instead of the factual truth, we want a bias. It’s reversed.”

A blank stare. “I don’t—” Winnie’s words trailed off when the front door slammed open and her boyfriend stumbled into the room.

He hadn’t even bothered to knock.

“Hey, babe,” he slurred. “Now if only Cyborg Cynthia will leave us alone…”

Winnie shot Cynth an apologetic look.

“It’s fine,” Cynth said, carrying her plate to bedroom. “Tomorrow’s an early morning for me, so I should get some rest. You guys have fun.” She paused. “And Winnie—thank you. I really needed the help.”

Clearing her books from the floor, Winnie smiled. “Sure. And good luck tomorrow.”

Maybe Winnie wasn’t so bad after all.

Finishing the last bite of her sandwich, Cynth closed the door behind her and stood at the dresser. She removed her exterior hardware and placed it gently in the case.

 As she went through the motions of cleaning her permanent augmentation ports and cables, she couldn’t stop thinking about why Shakespeare included the witches in his play.

It troubled her.

Were the witches merely a device to drive the plot? Or could Winnie be on to something?

After covering her embedded cybernetics to protect them from water, Cynth took a quick shower, lines from Macbeth stuck in her head—double, double toil and trouble; fire burn, and caldron bubble.

Wondering why Falcon insisted that she answer those blasted questions anyway, she dressed for bed, slipped under the covers and yawned, suddenly exhausted. She didn’t turn on the NeuroChip sleep app, because she didn’t think she’d need it to fall asleep.

She was wrong.

Apparently Winnie invited a few friends over. The telltale noise of a party gearing up jarred Cynth just as she was dozing off.

With a huff, she switched on the binaural beats app. Minutes later, she drifted into a sound sleep.

Until loud moans and rhythmic thumping woke her up.

Great, just great—fillet of a fenny snake, in the caldron boil and bake.

From the sound of things, Winnie and her boyfriend were going at it just on the other side of her door.

Cynth cursed into her pillow. Out, dammed roommate.

Was the party still in process, or had they the decency to wait until it’d ended? Cynth didn’t hear any other voices or noise, so she hoped maybe they were at least alone.

That was when she remembered her Martian counterpart’s bizarre special requests for tomorrow’s virtual tour.

Xena had wanted Cynth to spend time in nature. No biggie.

But she’d also asked her to have sex in a public place, a recipe for personal disaster—eye of newt, and toe of frog, wool of bat, and tongue of dog.

Cynth laid there in the dark, trying not to listen to her roommate getting it on, and all she could think about was the disturbing fact that somewhere across the galaxy, a Martian girl—with the whole cosmos at her fingertips—wasted precious oxygen on fantasies about exhibitionist Earthlings.

As if Cynth would just strap on the AR equipment, grab Quill and pull him into an empty classroom, or worse, a pavilion outside in the open air.

Maybe some people did things like that, but not her. She could if she wanted to, of course. She just wasn’t that kind of girl.

Now wide awake, Cynth activated her cognitive overlay to check the time.

A little after two in the morning, and there was no way she’d fall back asleep. All her big questions and thoughts about eMri Acres and the Interplanetary Student Exchange Program flooded her mind faster than her neural implant could archive them for later.

She threw her legs over the bed and reached into her nightstand.

At the back of the bottom drawer, she found what she was looking for—a signal-blocking backpack full of anti-surveillance gear she bought during a brief technophobic phase in high school.

Throwing a change of clothes and her craniofacial augmentation case into the string bag, Cynth considered her options. It was long after curfew and too early for coffee, but the biggest problem was that she’d have to step over Winnie and her boyfriend to reach the front door. Not an option.

Unless…

She eyed the window.

Reaching into the bag, Cynth pulled out two items—an electromagnetic glove to block signals from her IDChip, and a signal-blocking hat. She switched her NeuroChip into stealth mode, but since she figured stealth mode probably didn’t secure her data as well as the manufacturer promised, she added the hat for extra protection.

Almost as an afterthought, she grabbed Falcon’s worn copy of Macbeth from the dresser, before slipping quietly out the window.

Exhilarated by the nocturnal air on her skin—adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting, lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing—Cynth edged around the building until she reached the back, then stepped into the courtyard.

Lightning to the east caught her eye—a large storm loomed on the horizon, but the sky above her was clear, a crescent moon and several bright stars visible.

She’d originally planned to camp out by the student union until morning, but the sheer magnificence of the night sky caught her off guard.

Oh, to be among the stars! Her heart ached with longing.

It’d been her dream for as long as she could remember, to live out there, in the new frontier on the edge of the galaxy—more machine than human, plugged into an intergalactic network for survival.

But was eMri Acres the answer?

Deep in thought, Cynth stretched her arms to the heavens. Kicking off her sandals, she buried her toes in the damp grass. The sensation reminded her of being a child, running barefoot across the lawn, carefree and reckless.

On Mars, she probably wouldn’t live long enough to reap the benefits of her work—terraforming the barren red soil into anything resembling a lawn would take decades.

Did she want to stay in eMri Acres that long? Falcon’s words rung in her ears. “Once you sync to the network, eMri will own everything about you,” he’d said.

Sitting down in the grass, Cynth fell flat backward and stared into the sky. Was this her last night of freedom? The idea terrified her.

Darn those stupid witches. For a charm of powerful trouble, like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

***

Cynth woke to something tickling her foot.

Kicking, she opened her eyes to green leaves and bright light.

Where was she?

The last thing she remembered was watching the crescent moon melt into a caldron, while the stars danced in a circle around it…

Oh crap, she must’ve fallen asleep.

Cynth sat up, then kicked again when a snail crawled over her big toe. It went flying across the lawn.

Veins pulsing with adrenaline, she checked the time.

Ten ’til eight.

Barely enough time.

Rubbing her eyes, Cynth grabbed her anti-surveillance bag, jammed her feet into the sandals, and sprinted across campus.

As promised, Falcon met her at the door to the AR-VR studio.

Raising his eyebrows at her appearance, he held the door open. “You okay? I’ve never seen you without your cybernetics.” He glanced at her arm. “Or with all kinds of punk anti-surveillance gear.”

Cynth lifted her gloved hand to her head, remembering the electromagnetic cap. “Sorry, rough night.”

“Indeed. But you’re here now, so let’s go. Ready to log in?”

Her legs felt frozen to the spot.

Colonizing Mars meant everything to her. But now…

She swallowed a sob. With sudden clarity, she knew she couldn’t do it.

Not with eMri Acres.

Not under an AI that required full access and no privacy—all restrictions and laws—an AI that demanded enslavement to the technology her own species helped create.

Taking a long, deep breath, Cynth turned to Falcon.

“I’ve changed my mind,” she said, her voice cracking.

He paused midstep. “About Mars? Or just eMri?”

She wiped a tear from her cheek. “Just eMri. I’m going to help terraform Mars no matter what.”

Falcon smiled. “Good for you. So I take it you couldn’t answer my questions?”

“Nobody can. It’s a double blind.”

A raised eyebrow. “What?”

Laughing through her tears, Cynth held up the worn copy of Macbeth. “Do you mind if I borrow this a while longer? I need something to distract me from eMri until I decide what to do.”

“Keep it,” Falcon said. “I have several. But promise me something.”

“What?”

“Promise me you’ll take it with you to Mars when you sign with a different colony. Not if, but when,” he emphasized.

Cynth nodded.

Some books—like some girls—straight up belonged in outer space.

REFERENCES

Masson-Zwaan, Tanja. “Mars One: Legal Aspects.” Mars One VIP event, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Petranek, Stephen. “Your Kids Might Live on Mars. Here’s How They’ll Survive.” TED Talk, March 2015.

Riedel, Jennifer. “The Witches’ Influence on Macbeth.” Part of the course on Shakespeare by Individual Studies, University of Victoria, BC, Canada, 1995.

Winston, Patrick Henry. Learning Rules from Experience. Artificial Intelligence, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Reading, MA, 1984.

Winston, Patrick Henry and Holmes, Dylan. “Story Understanding and Human Intelligence: the Genesis Group Manifesto.” MIT, Cambridge, MA, Draft as of August 29, 2016.

Winston, Patrick Henry and Sussman, Gerald J. “The Future of AI and the Human Species.” MIT, Cambridge, MA, July 2016.

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