Escape from the Andromedan Empire
by Ian Creasey
Inside the Tank, we have only the system clock. If the computer's date is correct, it's a year
since my meat-self stepped into the scanner at BrainFrame Resources. Six months ago I awoke
here, rather than at home as I'd expected. Our captor had downloaded my mind-scan from a
In my room, there's no view from the window -- just a monochrome slab of synthetic sky. I
can't even scratch the days of my captivity into the table; it has become a smooth Platonic
surface, without knots or blemishes. At least the keyboard hasn't yet degraded, so I can still type
in the way that I remember from when I had a body.
These rendering glitches usually mean that our captor has downloaded a few more porn stars.
The Tank is only freeware, and it's limited by the host computer's resources. As more prisoners
arrive, our simulated jail keeps shrinking and simplifying.
We're cold this afternoon. I keep typing. There are few other distractions; we have no access to
external files or the Internet. Down the corridor, the musicians are improvising a new number.
If we all work hard, the temperature will rise. It's a simple equation: when our captor is happy
with us, the Tank is warm. When he's impatient, we shiver.
Aside from boosting the temperature -- which rests on our collective efforts, not my shoulders
alone -- I want to finish a new story in the hope of putting our captor in a good mood, before I
pitch our scheme to him. My fellow inmates have chosen me to implement our escape plan. I
am, after all, his favourite author; I was one of the first downloads he pirated.
Here he is now, back from school. How I hate him! I watch through the webcam as he casually
flings his bag onto the bed, and changes out of his school clothes into jeans and an old grey T-shirt that barely fits him.
If my hate were a ladder, I could climb into the sky and fly away. If my hate were a hole, I could
jump all the way down and escape into China . . .
I don't hate him just because he imprisoned me. I hate him because he has a body, and I don't.
Sick with envy, I stare at his thin frame: his close-cropped sandy hair, the sprinkling of zits on
his cheek and throat, the wispy stubble above his upper lip -- he isn't shaving regularly yet.
The webcam's pixellated image is a glimpse into another world, crammed with luxuriant detail.
I feast upon the sight of posters on the wall, discarded socks on the floor, an old pizza box on top
of the wardrobe. It's a small room, full of hand-me-downs and special-offer bargains, but it's a
palace in one respect: everything is real.