Authors: Mike A. Lancaster
ALSO BY MIKE A. LANCASTER
We bring stories to life
First published in the United Kingdom by Egmont UK Limited, 2012
First published in the United States of America by Egmont USA, 2012
443 Park Avenue South, Suite 806
New York, NY 10016
Copyright © Mike A. Lancaster, 2012
All right reserved
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Lancaster, Mike A.
The future we left behind / Mike A. Lancaster.
Sequel to: Human.4.
Summary: A thousand years after the release of the Straker Tapes, when Peter and Alpha discover that stories of human upgrades are true, they strive to stop a group of scientists from making a decision that could destroy humanity.
[1. Science fiction. 2. Computer programs—Fiction. 3. Technological innovations—Fiction. 4. Family life—England—Fiction. 5. England—Fiction.] I. Title.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher and copyright owner.
For Fran, for ever
For Claudia, Meryl and Sofia, for reading
And for Becky and Philippa, for helping
And in loving memory of:
Andrew Paul Lancaster 1964–1995
Joan Mary Henson 1938–2010
The future isn’t what it used to be
Nearly a thousand years have passed since the recording of the Straker Tapes …
The story of Peter Vincent might easily have never been heard. Indeed, it was by pure accident that the flash-memory drive, containing the files and fragments that make up his story, was absorbed into the WorldBrainMass.
The brain’s annual growth plan meant that new areas of its underground complex were being claimed as sites for further expansion. These areas, or ‘rooms’, were flooded with nutrients and new BrainLobes seeded on to them.
Janitor’s logs show that the new areas set aside for lobe growth were not properly checked.
I believe that, during brain expansion, the data storage unit was absorbed by the young BrainLobes and converted into food, and that Peter Vincent’s data entered the BrainMass as a side effect of this process.
I discovered the data, also accidentally. While checking
file systems, I came across sectors that seemed out of place and worked for several days to isolate the data; then spent four months rebuilding them into a file system that I could read.
Corrupt data was then analysed and has been carefully reconstructed using markers I discovered within the Vincent files themselves.
I am satisfied that the Vincent data I am presenting now is as accurate as it is humanly possibly to re-create. I have even included fragments – which are in the form of lists that Peter Vincent seemed to like making.
In this record, Peter Vincent speaks of a world that once was and tells a startling story that seems to contain answers to many of the questions we routinely ask ourselves as human beings. It is also flawed and contains errors and gaps that will only open Peter Vincent’s story to accusations of fraud and dishonesty.
I will, however, leave you to be the judge.
‘The First Day of My Last Days’
In extraordinary times, the ordinary takes on a glow and wonder all of its own
… Alpha …
… I want to tell her that I’m sorry, tell her something for hex sake … but the world is ending and this … this is all I have left
It … I … this has all gone badly wrong
We are deep underground in these chambers beneath the world we know … thought we knew … beneath the city and I …
I guess I thought that we had a chance … Alpha and me … that everything that has happened could still have a
happy ending, like in the stories my mother used to tell me
I’ve been thinking about my mother a lot in the last couple of days. Before all of this, I think I would have found it almost impossible to remember what she looked like without consulting my LinkDiary; now I can see her in my mind plainly, I can remember the sound of her voice as if I was still hearing it
I remember …
<… There is a shimmer, like a mirage, a trick of the light, and I am momentarily blinded
By the time my vision clears, my mother is gone …>
I’m letting my mind run away with me again, and I haven’t got time to let it do that. That’s one of the problems with playing around with memories, the wrong ones can bubble up and come into focus at the wrong moment
I don’t even know if that’s the actual memory, or my memory of examining that scene later … but now I’m really
getting ahead of myself
I don’t know if this will be my last diary entry
I guess it probably will be
So I need to put a copy of my diary on to an external memory source, because people … people need to know. They have to be told. Reminded. Whatever
I’m having to edit the relevant memory files on the fly; to concentrate on the parts of my daily record that will show the world the truth
We are in a room full of boxes of useless stuff: relics and papers and an ancient flash drive that I have repaired with my filaments – it should be able to store this data, but I will have to compress the information to fit the limitations of the drive
I’m sitting here, in the near dark, and I should be talking to Alpha, or holding her, or something like that – but instead I’m hacking into my own memories and editing and copy and pasting, all with my heart beating out of control in my chest while she watches on
So this is fear. I have to say, I can see why we have strived
to eradicate it from our lives
I’ll start shunting the parts I’ve done on to the memory drive
The first diary entries – I can’t believe it was only three days ago
It feels like a lifetime
The world has changed … is changing … and I am the only one who can make a record of the truth
Here we go …
>Deploying filaments …<
I know that I have been talking about it for weeks, but today I actually went ahead and did it.
I signed up for Professor King’s class.
Next semester I’m going to be studying English literature. I’ve even got a reading list to prove it.
Which gives me maybe a month or so to pluck up the courage to tell my father.
Perry came along to offer me moral support. He started grinning when I used my filaments to sign up to the class’s register, and he’s been grinning at me ever since. His mouth is so unused to any kind of smile that it’s not a pretty sight.
‘Peter, Peter, Peter,’ he said. ‘I know you’re going through a mid-teen crisis, but what do you think your dad’s going to say about this, eh?’
I shrugged. ‘He’ll call a medic,’ I said. ‘His only son is going to be reading books that – for once – don’t try to explain the secrets of life, the universe and everything. He’ll probably blame it on a virus.’
‘You know, literature
be seen as an attempt to explain those same secrets,’ Perry said. He pretty much has a clever answer for every occasion.
‘Yeah, right,’ I replied. ‘What’s that I can hear?’ I cupped my ear with my hand. ‘Oh, it must be my father’s laughter ringing around the house when I try that line on him.’
Perry spent a couple of seconds thinking.
The effort made his face scrunch up.