The Warm Space
by David Brin
Jason Forbs S-62B/129876Rd (bio-human):
Report at once to Project Lightprobe
for immediate assumption of duty
as "Designated Oral Witness Engineer."
--BY ORDER OF DIRECTOR
Jason let the flimsy message slip from his fingers, fluttering in the gentle, centrifugal pseudo-gravity of the station apartment. Coriolis force--or perhaps the soft breeze from the wall
vents--caused it to drift past the edge of the table and land on the floor of the small dining nook.
"Are you going to go?" Elaine asked nervously from Jesse's crib, where she had just put the
baby down for a nap. Wide eyes made plain her fear.
"What choice do I have?" Jason shrugged. "My number was drawn. I can't disobey. Not the
way the Utilitarian Party has been pushing its weight around. Under the Required Services Act,
I'm just another motile, sentient unit, of some small use to the state."
That was true, as far as it went. Jason did not feel it necessary to add that he had actually
volunteered for this mission. There was no point. Elaine would never understand.
A woman with a child doesn't need to look for justifications for her existence, Jason thought
as he gathered what he would need from the closet.
But I'm tired of being an obsolete, token representative of the Old Race, looked down upon
by all the sleek New Types. At least this way my kid may be able to say his old man had been
good for something, once. It might help Jesse hold his head up in the years to come . . . years sure
to be hard for the old style of human being.
He zipped up his travel suit, making sure of the vac-tight ankle and wrist fastenings. Elaine
came to him and slipped into his arms.
"You could try to delay them," she suggested without conviction. "System-wide elections are
next month. The Ethicalists and the Naturalists have declared a united campaign . . ."
Jason stroked her hair, shaking his head. Hope was deadly. They could not afford it.
"It's no use, Elaine. The Utilitarians are completely in charge out here at the station, as well as
nearly everywhere else in the solar system. Anyway, everyone knows the election is a foregone
The words stung, but they were truthful. On paper, it would seem there was still a chance for
a change. Biological humans still outnumbered the mechanical and cyborg citizen types, and
even a large minority of the latter had misgivings about the brutally logical policies of the
But only one biological human in twenty bothered to vote anymore.
There were still many areas of creativity and skill in which mechano-cryo citizens were no
better than organics, but a depressing conviction weighed heavily upon the Old Type. They knew
they had no place in the future. The stars belonged to the other varieties, not to them.
"I've got to go." Gently, Jason peeled free of Elaine's arms. He took her face in his hands and
kissed her one last time, then picked up his small travel bag and helmet. Stepping out into the
corridor, he did not look back to see the tears that he knew were there, laying soft, saltwater
history down her face.