It's overcast with angry gray storm clouds as the casket is lowered into the ground. A handful of mourners stand around the open grave, though nobody is crying. Two women stand out from the other mourners, closer to the grave than the rest, though on opposite sides of it. The woman on the side away from the rest of the crowd is a blond transsexual in a black three piece suit, while on the side towards the crowd is a slight woman with black hair wearing a long black dress. Each keeps their eyes glued to the coffin.
It's four years ago and three women, the two beside the grave and one more, sit in a coffee shop having a boisterous discussion. And in the present the dirt is being shoveled onto the coffin. Three years ago and the transsexual and the black haired woman are showing the third woman their rings. They finally look at each other over the grave, a hard look, unreadable from the outside. Two years ago, the bottle of Vodka on the table remains half empty.
They walk to the waiting cars, passing a line of protesters waving signs with slogans about not playing god and the sanctity of life. The transsexual stops and stares at the crowd. The closest ones start shouting epithets at her but she calmly continues her appraisal. Finally she says, "I'll see you later," and finishes her trek to the waiting car. She gets in, sitting beside the woman with black hair.
"You seem to be doing well." The transsexual states. It's three years ago and the two are lying on the couch under a blanket as the reflection of a movie plays in the window behind them. "Thanks. I hear you've been keeping busy." It's four years ago, the transsexual is smashing a man's face into the pavement. "Well every time I think of taking a break, I get another reason not to." Four years ago a newspaper slides off the table, headline reading 'Gay Teen Slain', while the transsexual loads a gun. "Maybe you should take a break anyways, it can't be healthy working so hard." Two years ago and the black haired woman is cowering in a corner with the beginnings of a black eye, while the transsexual towers over her holding the half empty bottle of vodka.
"I would have thought you'd have been with her family. Since you two were together." Three years ago, the two are making out on the couch, a giddy excitement in their faces. "It was never like that." Two years ago, a shadow frames itself in the doorway as the black haired woman looks up in horror from the bed she's sharing with the woman from the coffee shop. "What a shame, you two were perfect for each other."
"You aren't going to..." the black haired woman begins. "Of course I am. I don't let personal feelings interfere with my work," the transsexual states. "I still don't understand why," the black haired woman says staring at the reflection of the inside of the car in the window. "Because it needs to be done, it's as simple as that."
It's later that night and a protester is putting away their sign in the closet. Behind them they hear a soft click, they turn around to see the transsexual sitting in a chair facing them, gun pointed squarely at their chest. "Who are you?" he asks, looking around in desperation for some way out. "The ghost of Christmas past. Although I'm sure you have many ghosts in your past." Six years ago the man is swinging a shovel at a young boy. "But more recent events are what bring me here. There was a funeral today, I saw you there. Deep as you are down your movements rabbit hole, I was thinking you'd know some of the people who were responsible for it." A few days ago, and some men are boasting about finding the location of a scientist from the virtual life project. The boasts of what they'd do to her grow more and more violent and graphic, then one suggests they go right then. The whole group moves towards the door. "Thanks, I thought you'd be a big help." She says. "But I didn't say anything," he whimpers. "You didn't have to."
"Are you going to kill me?" he asks. Six years ago he's crying over the broken face of the young boy, filled with horror and disgust for himself. "Yes. Does that frighten you?" she says impassively. "Yes!" he cries. "Good." She pulls the trigger. As she walks out of the building she can't shake the feeling of unease that's been holding onto her since the funeral. The weight still hasn't been balanced, a sin still hasn't been washed clean. Maybe she should buy more bullets on her way home.
Elsewhere the black haired woman is sitting in the private study of her former friend. Papers and print-outs spread across the floor, next to a pile of journals. The mess before her remains indecipherable. Slowly the papers begin to shift, logical order asserting itself on them under her concentration. Her eyes skim the pages, finding keywords and concepts, internalizing and reviewing them. And then her concentration breaks.
Three years ago she sits in the study, watching the mousy scientist go about her work. A paper begins to inch it's way across the table towards her. "Stop that," the scientist chides, grabbing the paper and replacing it in it's former position. "Sorry, I can't help it sometimes." Figures and diagrams paper the walls, research journals and academic journals litter the ground at odd intervals, as though only ever moved when someone needed to actually cross the floor. "You know, not to be too down on you, but have you ever thought they might be right?"
"Who?" the scientist replied without looking up from her computer. "The people who want you to stop, who say scientists aren't meant to play god." The scientist stopped typing but still remained glued to the screen, "and what do you think?" The black haired woman sighed, "I don't know. Making life seems like a good pursuit, but what about the ethics of it, are we sure we're all ready for that?" The scientist turns around in her chair to face the black haired woman, "ready or not, we're here. We've built all of this, society, government, ethics, to advance our own cause, to make ourselves happy. Now we finally have the chance to take part in true altruism, to create life outside ourselves. Who's to say that life should live by our morals or ethics, and is it our role to decide whether or not it gets a chance to live based off only our own flawed wish for 'what's best'."
And her mind refocuses, a particular diagram hanging in the air before her. The heavily altered hard drive schematic makes references to a variety of terms she's only recently seen and barely understands. It's function is entirely opaque to her, but down in the bottom right corner a single word stands out, 'baby'.
In the predawn hours the black haired woman sleeps, the papers around her scattered yet still vaguely neat. The transsexual stands over her, simply watching her breath. Three years ago she sits off to one side, asking her opinion on some domestic matter. The lines of text on one of the monitors caught her eye, a single character repeated over and over again. "What's that?" She asks pointing at the monitor. "An unexpected mutation, it was supposed to be the first to experience sensory input, but it's failed." The scientist's tone is matter of fact. "Well, what's wrong with it?" she asks. "It can only interpret the input as pain."
Her stomach dropped for a moment and she recoiled. "Isn't that torture?" she asks almost breathlessly. "I suppose you could say that, though I'm planning to put it down once I've discovered the cause of the mutation," the scientist responds in a bored tone. A crash sounds as she slams her fist into the computer connected to it. The scientist looks up, "what are you doing?" "Putting it out of it's misery. Like you should have done a long time ago." The scientist gives her a hard stare then finally hisses, "get out." In the present she examines the study again for the first time in three years. But it's the study of a few days ago she watches.
A trio of men, two of whom she recognizes from the protester's memories, break into the room. She watches as they break the equipment, as they mercilessly beat the scientist as she cries. Despite the almost overwhelming desire to turn away, she even watches as they take turns mounting her and forcing themselves into her most private places. Even as they leave, there is no relief, the tortured woman writhes on the floor, spilling blood over the covers of books and journals. Her mouth shapes words that come out as barely a whisper while she reaches towards some point on her desk.
Vertigo overtakes her as she finds herself in the hospital, standing over the broken body of the woman she'd once considered a friend. The words finally took form there, save my baby. The scene melted back into the study as she stood there, trying to access more, to find some other memory that would give the words meaning. But the rest of the memories were opaque, little more than shadows of symbols that held little meaning to her.