I Am Susan - Chapter 1
Short Story by: Victor Darnell Hadnot
I AM SUSAN
"She had become like they are, with pertinacity that’s rare, like brutes within an iron cave" Aldo
The drive by air across to Quad Lake was particularly a scenic one, and since it was September, and since this was supposed to be Scott’s day off, he thought he might just as well combine a little business with pleasure. So he put the top of the aircar down, and he packed Susan into the front seat together with a picnic lunch and a large thermos of iced tea, and he forgot all about business troubles on the drive up through the mountains. Scott found it easy to forget about almost anything when he was with his wife.
Susan as far as he was concerned and his astute judgment had been backed up by many a signal corner sign, was only the most beautiful woman in all Mars. He could never understand how he, a strange little man, an attorney, had managed to capture anyone as wonderful as Susan. But capture her he had, and he sat beside her now in the open aircar and stole sidelong glances at her as he drove, excited as always by her very presence.
Her black hair, always perfect, seemed to catch something of the wind’s frenzy as it whipped about the square of her face. Her brown eyes were partly closed against the rush of air over the windshield. She wore a blue blouse emphatically curved over a full bosom, gray tapered slacks form-fitted over generous hips and gorgeous legs. She had kicked off her shoes and folded her knees against her breasts, her bare feet pressed against the control compartment panel. There was about her, Scott realized, a curious combination of passion and sophistication. You never knew whether she was going to kiss you or hug you, and the uncertainty kept her forever desirable and exciting to him.
Susan watched her husband as he drove, his big working hands on the wheel of the aircar. She watched him not only because she liked to watch him, but also because he was speaking, and since she liked to observe her husband for emotional cues, it was essential that she look at him. He did not discuss his work at all. She knew that one of the attorney client’s checks had been made out to the law firm in Riverdale and she knew that Scott wanted to talk to the proprietor of the place personally. She further knew that this was very important or he wouldn’t be spending his day off driving all the way out here. But he had promised her that he’d combine business with pleasure, but that they’d have plenty of time for themselves. This was the first time that Scott had decided to take her along with him since she had arrived. Susan didn’t know just what to make of it but she didn’t want to press the issue. She was just glad that he felt comfortable enough with her to be seen in public with her.
It had been some time since the original Susan had been killed. When Scott finally got up the nerve and decided that he couldn’t live without his wife, and decided to have a robot replica created to replace her, she had been under a great deal of pressure to emulate the original Susan. Though her programming was very sophisticated, she still had a hard time getting it all right. Scott was good about it though, he understood that she was his new companion, and that she was not an exact copy of his now dead wife. Though on the outside, she looked exactly like her, there were things she’d say or do, that reminded him that she was not her. All this would change over time as Susan gained more experience and honed her programming to match the original woman’s behavior. But for now, things were as good as they were going to be. She tossed her long black hair, part of it catching the edge of his face as he drove the aircar.
We see Scott and Susan as they have arrived at their destination, a small cabin in the woods. There is a lovely lake in the distance and the trees and over growth is just great. They quickly unpack and gather everything inside. Once inside they kind of relax after putting away everything. Susan is gazing out the large window onto the lake. We can see a few sail boats drifting across the surface of the water. It is a nice day. Scott joins her after a moment.
Scott asked, "How is it going?"
Susan looks up and smiles, "This is just great, Scott. The view is wonderful."
Scott said, "I know I’m not suppose to say it this way, but you used to love to come up here."
Susan uttered, "That’s okay. I’m not sensitive to the reference. I’ve just been returned to you, it takes time to adjust and like I said, I love it."
Scott voiced, "My relatives are going to have trouble with this all. Specially on your side, they are deeply religious. They were against me doing this but I couldn’t help myself."
Susan told, "It’s not like you are the only person on Mars to have a replacement, when someone you loved deeply has passed away. I’m here to make you happy, Scott. The relatives will come around when they see how happy you are."
Scott looked off, "One would hope but that isn’t the way they are. They see me doing this as an insult to the original Susan. They don’t understand."
Susan spoke, "Are they suppose to?"
Scott asked, "Suppose to what?"
Susan went on, "Are they suppose to understand? I mean, isn’t this about you and me? Scott, I can’t speak for others who have gone through what you have gone through, but which is better? To live the rest of your life, longing for someone who has gone, or picking up the pieces and moving on?"
Scott said, "That is where the problem is. They don’t see it as me moving on. They see it as me being stuck in a rut, unable to cope. Frankly, they see you as an abomination to Susan’s memory."
Susan looked off, "How do you see me?"
Scott uttered, "Oh, Susan, I don’t see you like that. Surely you must know this, otherwise why would have replaced her with you. No, none of this is your fault, I just want you to be aware of the harsh feelings that my relatives have. A few might actually drop by during this vacation."
Susan uttered, "Yes, I know. I invited them to join us. But I got the impression that they we not interested."
Scott said, "They always say no and then, some times, they change their minds. So you just have to be ready for anything."
Susan voiced, "It all goes to the question as to what is life? I believe it is equally a moral question as well as a religious question."
Scott said, "My relatives believe that because the original Susan is dead, her memory should be laid to rest along with her body. But that her soul lives on."
Susan asked, "So then, the objection is because I don’t have the original Susan’s soul? They don’t see me as I am without it?"
Scott answered, "I don’t know. They feel that replacements make the human condition cheap."
Susan asked, "Do you see me as making things cheap? Some times, people think that they want their loved ones back, and once they go through the process, they realize something else."
We see Scott and Susan as they sit out on the deck. The sun is going down and the stars are starting to shine. We catch a glimpse of more than one moon as the day slowly turns into night. The two are sipping wine.
Susan asked, "Are you going to be long tomorrow? You know, with the client that you are meeting out here?"
Scott answered, "No. I am not. I’m just suppose to look over some contracts. They are planning on turning part of Quad Lake into a resort."
Susan asked, "Really? This is such a beautiful place. Why would someone want to spoil it by making it a resort? I mean, won’t all the development spoil the beauty?"
Scott thought on it for a moment, "You know, you make a good point. I’ve been coming out here ever since we were married. You know what I mean. . ."
Susan nodded, "Go on with your thought."
Scott continued, "Well. They say that they are going to develop the far part of Quad Lake. So it is not going to mess with this area. I suppose it will be fine. They are suppose to have all the permits. I hear that they are going to start building another dome next to ours in the coming years."
Susan said, "It just seems ashamed. To seek to change what obviously took a hundred years to fully create under this dome. Why don’t they just create a resort in the new dome that they plan on building?"
Scott answered, "I don’t know. To be honest, it never crossed my mind. It really isn’t my place to get involved in all the particulars of a project. I just handle the legal aspect of the thing. Besides, it’ll create jobs for the locals. That is a good thing, right?"
Susan shrugged, "If you say that it is. But answer me this. . ."
Scott said, "Sure, what?"
Susan went on, "What good does it do to create jobs if in doing so, the environment is destroyed? I mean, just look what big business did back on Earth. The atmosphere and the environment are permanently destroyed."
Scott uttered, "I have to believe that the city planners know what they are doing. It isn’t really my job to complain. And besides, if I don’t look over the contract, they’ll just go someplace else and another attorney will get the business."
Susan said, "But we are rich, dear. What would it matter? How much money do we need anyway? Where does happiness begin?"
Scott said, "I can’t believe you are saying all of these things?"
Susan asked, "Why? Is something wrong with my programming?"
Scott shook his head, "No. Just the opposite. The original Susan would argue with me about the exact same things. It is amazing how they were able to capture her personality, in you."
Susan said, "I wasn’t arguing with you, Scott. I was trying to understand why they wanted to develop and then later, build another dome right next to this one. Seems like a lot going on just to satisfy a resort proposal."
Scott poured them some more wine, "You know, I’ll ask a few questions when I meet with them tomorrow. That way, I’ll have a few answers for you."
Susan uttered, "That would be sweet of you, Scott."
Scott questioned, "Susan, why do you care about the environment so much?"
Susan answered, "I don’t know. It just makes sense to me to care. What I think you are trying to say, is why do I care, because I’m a robot?"
Scott answered, "Well. Yes. There is no real way to go about this."
Susan spoke, "Look. I know how hard this must be for you. In fact, you are going about it in basically the right way. Some people, simply pretend that a robot replica is the real thing. They act like everything is normal. And I guess in some cases, that is just all right for them. But each case is different. Each person and lost loved one is special. And there isn’t any real way to go about it. If you want to be realistic about it, that is just fine also. But give it time and eventually you’ll start to remember her in me, I promise."
Scott said, "You think that this whole thing might have been too soon?"
Susan answered, "I don’t know, Scott. Only you can say for sure. But I’m here and you are here and we either move on from here, or turn back the clock and that is that."
Scott voiced, "No. I don’t want to do that. I already lost Susan once, I don’t think I could stand losing you again."
Susan said, "You won’t. Not unless you want to."
Scott uttered, "From what I was able to glean from the conversation I had with the client, before setting up this meeting. This is going to be the point where the new dome city connects with ours."
Susan said, "Wow. Well this might be the beginning of a lot of work for you, Scott. Looks like you were right to go for the account. Like you said, if you didn’t, some other attorney would. It sounds like a lucrative deal."
Scott said, "But deep down, you don’t think that I should get that involved in the project?"
Susan answered, "Your business is your business. One thing I do know, even at this stage of my development, a spouse’s job is sacred to them. One should never interfere with their job, it is their source of income. To do so would be almost a sin."
Scott voiced, "That is a very insightful comment."
Susan said, "I have a positronic brain. Did you take the tour as to how I was made?"
Scott spoke, "Actually I didn’t want to. Something about it just made me want to not know."
Susan told, "Well. You should have. I was created from one synthetic cell at a time. Just like humans are in the womb. Then that cell divides and so on and so forth. I’m many times more sophisticated than your basic domestic robots or the maintenance robots that everyone is used to.
To the naked eye, you wouldn’t be able to tell me from a human, with the exception that I have certain organs that humans don’t have and I lack others that humans do have, because I’m artificial, I don’t need certain things."
Scott retorted, "I’m sorry. I won’t make mention of it ever again."
Susan uttered, "You miss the point. I am glad that we are not pretending, as some do, that I am the original Susan. Eventually you will learn to love me for who I am. Even though the original idea is for me to replace her, the best results are when I am accepted for who I am, as I have accepted you."
Scott spoke, "And what if I can’t see you but for Susan?"
Susan reached over and kissed him, "Then that is okay, too."
Scott said, "Ever wonder what people did long time ago. When people lost their loved ones and they just couldn’t stand the pain of the loss? I don’t know, but I don’t think I could ever stand to be without you again."
Susan took him by the hand, "That is why I am here. Maybe it is time for us to go to bed."
We see that Scott has gone to take care of business. Susan is taking a shower when the door chimes. A screen comes on in the bathroom and Susan can see who it is and she gets out of the shower and quickly dresses into something appropriate. She comes down stairs and answers the front door. It is Scott’s mother. When Mrs. North first sees Susan she is taken aback, and she quickly develops a deep resentment for this Susan.
Susan gestures for Mrs. North to come in, "Hi, mom. Please come in. . ."
Mrs. North comes in cautiously, "I, er, is Scott in. He is expecting me."
Susan guides her mother-in-law towards the kitchen, where she begins to make coffee for her. "Scott and I both were expecting you. How was your trip?"
Mrs. North answered, "Where did Scott go? I was expecting him to be here."
Susan studies the other woman for a moment. "Scott had business to take care of. He’s meeting a client out here. He’ll probably be back before evening. Sometimes these meetings can go on. . ."
Mrs. North said, "Perhaps I should come back tomorrow."
Susan placed a cup of coffee in front of Mrs. North and some fresh pastry. "Oh, no, mom. I’m glad you are here. It gives us some time to just talk and catch up on things."
Mrs. North was uneasy. "I don’t know what you think you are, but you are not my daughter-in-law! Susan is dead!"
Susan sat at the table, she sipped her coffee, took a pastry and nibbled on it. "I am Susan, mom."
Mrs. North yelled, "Stop calling me that! You are just some abomination my son had made because he wasn’t strong enough to deal with his real wife’s death."
Susan said, "I know this is hard to take, Mrs. North. But for every intent and purpose, I am Susan. You have to understand. . ."
Mrs. North shouted, "No! I don’t have to understand! Susan. The real Susan’s soul is with Jesus Christ now. You are just some shell, some machine that has been programmed to act like her!"
Susan nodded, "Yes. That is true. At least in one sense, it is true. But I am so much more than just a copy of your daughter-in-law. They took her DNA and replicated it, using synthetic cells. For all intent and purpose, I am really Susan."
Mrs. North spoke, "Listen to yourself. Synthetic? You are nothing more than a toaster or a washing machine."
Susan was very hurt by Mrs. North’s insults, she began to tear up. "Is that all I am to you?"
Mrs. North said, "It is our living soul that makes human beings what and who they are. Without the soul, the body dies, as it should, naturally. You have no soul. A cat is more alive than you are!"
Susan questioned, "But what is life? I move. I breath. I eat. I sleep. I dream. I have feelings and I feel pain. I can be happy or sad. I think and I feel, therefore I am."
Mrs. North said, "My son made a serious mistake, when he didn’t listen to the rest of the family. Not to his side or her side, none of us wanted him to have you commissioned. My son is weak, he couldn’t deal with the real Susan’s death."
Susan said, "In a way he did. He decided that he wanted Susan, me to be with him, for the rest of his life. I can give him that, I can give him happiness, and isn’t that all he is really looking for? Why do I offend you so?"
We see Susan as she is out in the great outdoors. She is taking pictures, it looks like that is what she does professionally. She takes all sorts of pictures of the outdoors, and then she for some reason starts to focus on pre-production of the tunnel, that will connect the existing biodome to the one that will be built. A man approaches her from nowhere and she is startled by him.
Man uttered, "I see you like taking pictures of the outdoors."
Susan steps back and lowers her camera, but not before taking a few snapshots of the man, "Oh. You startled me. I didn’t know there was anyone else out here but me."
Man said, "Oh, I didn’t mean to do that. I was just out here doing some surveying."
Susan spoke, "Really? Doesn’t seem like there is much to survey unless you are surveying the forest?"
Man answered, "Actually, that is exactly what I am doing. I work for the city."
Susan said, "Oh. Not for some private concern."
Man laughed slightly, "No. No. I’m just doing some followup work. We surveyed this area about a year ago."
Susan voiced, "I see. Well. Don’t let me get in your way."
Man spoke, "I happened to notice that you were taking pictures of the dome area where the tunnel will be built."
Susan told, "Oh no. I was just taking pictures of birds as they flew. You must have mistaken what I was doing. I don’t see anything of value in taking a picture of the dome or the things connected to it? Why, are you interested in that particular area of the dome?"
Man shook his head, "No. No, I am not. I am more interested in the area east of that location. I am charged with finding a good location so that when construction out and out begins next year, there will be a good area for base camp, and for a yard for construction equipment."
Susan said, "Oh, I see now."
Man asked, "Don’t I know you from somewhere?"
Susan answered, "No. I don’t think we’ve ever met."
Man shook his head, "No. I don’t mean that we’ve met. You are a famous photographer?"
Susan said, "Yeah. Now I see, yeah, you might have seen my face on a few professional magazines, if you read the trades."
Man gestured, "That is where it must have been. You did some work, in taking pictures of the Martian Elves, when they had some trouble awhile back."
Susan said, "Yeah. That was me."
Man uttered, "You gained a lot of notability for that shoot."
Susan said, "Well, I wasn’t the only photographer at that time, taking pictures."
Man uttered, "So, are you working for a magazine right now?"
Susan thought before answering, "Yes I am."
Man seemed shocked, "I see. Well, I suppose I’m going to have to get back to my surveying."
Susan said, "Yeah. You do that."
Man uttered, "Good luck with your photo spread."
Susan responded, "Shouldn’t there be more than just one of you? I mean, I’m no expert, but surveying usually involves more than just one person, right?"
Man stopped for a moment then looked back, "I have a crew spread out throughout the mountains. Have a nice day, Susan."
We see Scott and Susan as they are sitting at the table having dinner. There is a chime at the door and Susan gets up and gets it. When she comes back she is accompanied by Fana, who is Susan’s sister, the real Susan’s sister. Fana takes a seat at the table and Susan quickly brings her a plate of food and a glass of wine. They all settle in.
Scott said, "Fana, I haven’t seen you in a long time. How are you?"
Fana responded, "I’m doing well, Scott. Mother told me that you were out here. She was upset so I decided to come out and see just what was the problem."
Susan uttered, "It’s good to see you, Fana."
Fana played with her food then uttered, "I was told that you look exactly like Susan. I guess I wasn’t prepared for how much you resemble her. Scott, what is she doing here?"
Scott voiced, "Fana, don’t you think that you are being rude?"
Fana told, "Rude? You don’t even know what the meaning of the word is. If you did, you wouldn’t have commissioned a robot to try and take my sister’s place."
Scott said, "This is not what you think it is, Fana. . ."
Fana spoke, "Really? Well, what I think it is, is that you are cheapening my dead sister’s memory, by having this, thing built in her image. I mean, if you were lonely, and you couldn’t find a real woman to keep you company, seems to me that you could have had the decency to have the machine look like someone else."
Susan spoke, "Please, the two of you are talking like I’m not in the room."
Fana said, "That is because, technically, you are not. My sister died some time ago. It was hard enough to take that for my family, but to have your mother, tell my mother and get her all upset, well, I don’t know what to say."
Susan answered, "There really isn’t anything to say. Scott needs me and I’m here for him."
Fana uttered, "What do you do, Scott? Do you frack her, like you used to frack my sister? What type of sick crap is that?"
Scott expounded, "Now wait a moment. What Susan and I do in bed is not your business."
Fana nodded, "No. It is not. And this thing isn’t Susan."
Susan questioned, "Well. Actually I am. I might not be the original. But for all intents and purposes, I am. If I were a clone, you’d accept me. What I am is something very similar to that, except, I am artificial. That is why I can retain the memories and emotions of the original Susan. You wouldn’t have that with a clone."
Fana said, "Susan is dead, Scott. Have this thing decommissioned."
Susan said, "You can’t just have me turned off, Fana. For as much as I was created in the image of a human being, I have those same rights and privileges."
Fana said, "You’ve got to be kidding me, you can’t have her turned off, or something?"
Scott shook his head, "As far as the law is concerned, she is Susan. She’s my wife. She might be synthetic, but she is alive. You don’t understand how complex Susan, this Susan is. Right down to the molecular level."
Fana spoke, "So you remember who I am?"
Susan smiled, "Of course I do, Fana. I remember when we used to play as little children. I remember how grandma used to give is cookies after a visit to her house. Fana, it is me. There is no way to distinguish me from the original, except that I am here, alive."
Fana said, "You look younger than my sister did before she died."
We see Scott and Susan and Fana as they are going hiking through the mountains and forest. They finally find a spot to picnic and settle in.
Susan said, "I ran into a strange man the other day when I was out taking pictures."
Scott uttered, "Did he try to hurt you?"
Susan answered, "No. Nothing like that. He was just strange."
Fana finally asked, "Okay. In what way?"
Susan went on, "Well. He came up on me without warning and kind of startled me. Then we got to talking about the pictures I was taking and the new project, you know, Scott. The one that your clients have you working out the legal matters on."
Scott voiced, "Hmm. That is strange, because all the people that were suppose to be involved in the project were in a meeting with me."
Fana added, "All the people that they wanted you to know about."
Scott asked, "What is that suppose to mean, Fana?"
Fana said, "Well, think about it, Scott. What are the odds that someone would just happen to find your wife out in the forest taking pictures. Someone who is involved with the project that you are doing legal work for. Did you find them or did they find you?"
Scott spoke, "Come to think of it, they sought me out. Something about that they liked my past work with other contractors. But now that I think about it, they did seem to know a good deal about me and did ask a few questions about my wife. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but in light of what Susan went through, I don’t know. . ."
Fana uttered, "Just what is it that they have you doing. I mean, are they the ones that are going to build the new biodome?"
Scott said, "No. They are going to build the tunnel that will connect the new dome when it is finished. Like mostly all the other tunnel tubes that connect all the other biodomes, it is going to have a highspeed train running through it. Pretty much routine stuff."
Susan asked, "Then why the interest in me? In fact, the guy knew my name. I didn’t tell him who I was. I didn’t tell him my name."
Fana uttered, "Strange."
Susan spoke, "That is what I thought."
Scott asked, "Why didn’t you tell me sooner?"
Susan answered, "You had a lot on your mind. I didn’t want to bother you with what might be simply nothing. I mean, after all, he didn’t do anything to me. Just talked about my profession as a photographer."
Scott uttered, "Hmm. You were just taking pictures of the area?"
Susan replied, "The mountains and the forest and oh yeah, sections of the biodome, where the tunnel tube is suppose to be connected eventually."
Fana said, "We should take a look at your images."
Susan spoke, "They are back at the cabin. I switched memory before I left for the picnic. When we get back, we can take a look at them."
Scott retorted, "I don’t like the fact that we are being watched."
Fana said, "We are being watched?"
Scott nodded, "That is the only way anyone would have been able to find Susan out here. I think maybe I’d better cut ties with this company. Maybe they are up to something."
We see that Scott and Susan and Fana are back at the cabin. They are all packing their things and getting ready to leave the area. Scott takes some luggage out to the aircar while Fana and Susan continue to pack.
Susan asked, "So. What are you going to do after we get back to the city?"
Fana responded, "I’m not sure. I have studies at the university. I guess I’ll go on back to school and finish out the semester."
Susan said, "That sounds good. Whenever you like, you can drop in on Scott and me. We’d love to have you over as much as possible."
Fana studied Susan for a long moment, "Are you serious?"
Susan nodded, "Sure. Why wouldn’t I be?"
Fana said, "After all I’ve said to you, about not being my real sister. After all of that, you would want me around. Why?"
Susan answered, "You said it yourself. You are my sister. And I love you."
Fana sat on the edge of the bed, "I don’t understand you."
Susan gazed out the window, "There really isn’t anything to understand. But you go on back to school. Finish off the semester and if you don’t feel like going right on home, you can come and visit with me. I think we need the time together, to get to know one another all over again."
Fana asked, "What if it still doesn’t work out?"
Susan voiced, "It might not. But at lease we’ll know that we put out a grand effort."
Fana told, "I came here wanting to hate you so much."
Susan said, "I know. You were always like that. Even when you were little. But hey, that is the way things are, right?"
Fana spoke, "I suppose so. But it seems to strange now. I just can’t adjust to you being here, when I know that you are dead. How do other families cope with this, when they have something like this done?"
Susan answered, "It all depends on the situation. If the family is all in agreement or if they are splintered, like our family is. No one but Scott wanted me to be commissioned. But he went through with it, and frankly, I’m glad he did. Centuries ago, if a loved one died, there wasn’t very much they could do about it. Look at some lost footage of events past and so forth. But now, technology has become so advanced, that the dead, need not remain dead."
Fana voiced, "But there are deep seated religious conflicts that arises over such technology and the application of it."
Susan nodded, "Understandably, but the same use to be true about cloning. Remember reading about it in the history books? How people rejected it due to religious grounds. The same is true with replication, the technology that helped to recreate me. It is new, it is different, and society has to have time to integrate the concepts into the mainstream."
Fana said, "It used to be that the Rapture seemed far fetched to non-believers. But now, even atheist have to admit, that such things are possible, at lease on certain levels."
Susan smiled, "It just feels good to be alive again. This whole branch of technology was brought about because society made it illegal for people to use the transdoor technology to go back in time and retrieve a loved one that had died in the future, by bringing them from the past, before they died, into the future. It caused certain continuity problems and paradoxes of time. This was a way of getting around that."
Fana uttered, "I’ll give what you said some thought."
© Copyright 2017 Victor Darnell Hadnot. All rights reserved.