It was just after five as I walked down the hill from Eastwood railway station. The sky was pale and colorless, Venus was fading slowly in the east, but the street itself already looked exactly as it did by daylight. Just inexplicably deserted. My carriage on the train had been empty, too. Last-human-on-Earth time.

Birds were calling—loudly—in the lush bushland which lined the railway corridor, and in the labyrinth of wooded parks woven into the surrounding suburb. Many of the parks resembled pristine forest—but every tree, every shrub was engineered: at the very least drought and fire resistant, shedding no messy, flammable twigs, bark or leaves. Dead plant tissue was resorbed, cannibalized; I’d seen it portrayed in time-lapse (one kind of photography I never carried out myself): an entire brown and wilting branch shrinking back into the living trunk. Most of the trees generated a modest amount of electricity—ultimately from sunlight, although the chemistry was elaborate, and the release of stored energy continued twenty-four hours a day. Specialized roots sought out the underground superconductors snaking through the parks, and fed in their contributions. Two and a quarter volts was about as intrinsically safe as electric power could be—but it required zero resistance for efficient transmission.

Some of the fauna had been modified, too; the magpies were docile even in spring, the mosquitoes shunned mammalian blood, and the most venomous snakes were incapable of harming a human child. Small advantages over their wild cousins, tied to the biochemistry of the engineered vegetation, guaranteed the altered species dominance in this microecology—and small handicaps kept them from flourishing if they ever escaped to one of the truly wild reserves, distant from human habitation.

I was renting a small detached unit in a cluster of four, set in a zero-maintenance garden which merged seamlessly with the tendril of parkland at the end of a cul-de-sac. I’d been there for eight years, ever since my first commission from SeeNet, but I still felt like a trespasser. Eastwood was just eighteen kilometers from the center of Sydney, which—although ever fewer people had reason to travel there—still seemed to hold an inexplicable sway over real-estate prices; I couldn’t have bought the unit myself in a hundred years. The (barely) affordable rent was just a felicitous by-product of the owner’s elaborate tax evasion schemes—and it was probably only a matter of time before some quiver of butterfly wings in world financial markets rendered the networks slightly less generous, or my landowner slightly less in need of a write-off, and I’d be picked up and flung fifty kilometers west, back to the outer sprawl where I belonged.

I approached warily. Home should have felt like a sanctuary after the night’s events, but I hesitated outside the front door, key in hand, for something like a minute.

Gina was up, dressed, and in the middle of breakfast. I hadn’t seen her since the same time the day before; it was as if I’d never left.

She said, “How was filming?” I’d sent her a message from the hospital, explaining that we’d finally got lucky.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” I retreated into the living room and sank into a chair. The action of sitting seemed to replay itself in my inner ears; I kept descending, again and again. I fixed my gaze on the pattern in the carpet; the illusion slowly faded.

“Andrew? What happened?” She followed me into the room. “Did something go wrong? Will you have to reshoot?”

“I said I don’t want to—” I caught myself. I looked up at her, and forced myself to concentrate. She was puzzled, but not yet angry. Rule number three: Tell her everything, however unpleasant, at the first opportunity. Whether you feel like it or not. Anything less will be treated as deliberate exclusion and taken as a personal affront.

I said, “I won’t have to reshoot. It’s over.” I recounted what had happened.

Gina looked ill. “And was anything he said worth… extracting? Did mentioning his brother make the slightest sense or was he just braindamaged and ranting?”

“That’s still not clear. Evidently the brother does have a history of violence; he was on probation for assaulting his mother. They’ve taken him in for questioning… but it could all come to nothing. If the victim’s short- term memories were lost, he could have pieced together a false reconstruction of the stabbing, using the first person who came to mind as being capable of the act. And when he changed his story he might not have been covering up at all; he might simply have realized that he was amnesic.”

Gina said, “And even if the brother did kill him… no jury is going to accept a couple of words, instantly retracted, as any kind of proof. If there’s a conviction, it will have nothing to do with the revival.”

It was difficult to argue the point; I had to struggle to regain some perspective.

“Not in this case, no. But there have been times when it’s made all the difference. The victim’s word alone might never stand up in court— but there’ve been people tried for murder who would never have been suspected otherwise. Cases when the evidence which actually convicted them was only pieced together because the revival testimony put the investigation on the right track.”

Gina was dismissive. “That may have happened once or twice—but it’s still not worth it. They should ban the whole procedure, it’s obscene.” She hesitated. “But you’re not going to use that footage, are you?”

“Of course I'm going to use it.”

“You’re going to show a man dying in agony on an operating table—captured in the act of realizing that everything which brought him back to life is guaranteed to kill him?” She spoke calmly; she sounded more incredulous than outraged.

I said, “What do you want me to use instead? A dramatization, where everything goes according to plan?”

“No. But why not a dramatization where everything goes wrong, in exactly the way it did last night?”

'Why? It’s already happened, and I’ve already filmed it. Who benefits from a reconstruction?”

“The victim’s family. For a start.”

I thought: Possibly. But would a reconstruction really spare their feelings? And no one was going to force them to watch the documentary, in either case.

I said, “Be reasonable. This is powerful stuff; I can’t just throw it away. And I have every right to use it. I had permission to be there—from the cops, from the hospital. And I’ll get the family’s clearance—”

“You mean the network’s lawyers will browbeat them into signing some kind of waiver ‘in the public interest.'”

I had no answer to that; it was exactly what would happen. I said, “You’re the one who just declared that revival is obscene. You want to see it banned? This can only help your cause. It’s as good a dose of frankenscience as any dumb luddite could ask for.”

Gina looked stung; I couldn’t tell if she was faking. She said, “I have a doctorate in materials science, you peasant, so don’t call me—

“I didn’t. You know what I meant,”

“If anyone’s a luddite, you are. This entire project is beginning to sound like Edenite propaganda, ‘Junk DNA!’ What’s the subtitle? ‘The biotechnology nightmare?'”


“What I don’t understand is why you couldn’t include a single positive story—”

I said wearily, “We’ve been over this before. It’s not up to me. The networks won’t buy anything unless there’s an angle. In this case, the downside of biotech. That’s the choice of subject, that’s what it’s about. It isn’t meant to be ‘balanced.’ Balance confuses the marketing people; you can’t hype something which contains two contradictory messages. But at least it might counteract all the hymns of praise to genetic engineering everyone’s been gagging on lately. And—taken along with everything else—it does show the whole picture. By adding what they’ve all left out.”

Gina was unmoved. “That’s disingenuous. ‘Our sensationalism balances their sensationalism.’ It doesn’t. It just polarizes opinion. What’s wrong with a calm, reasoned presentation of the facts—which might help to get revival and a few other blatant atrocities outlawed—without playing up all the old transgressions-against-nature bullshit? Showing the excesses, but putting them in context? You should be helping people make informed decisions about what they demand from the regulatory authorities. Junk DNA sounds more likely to inspire them to go out and bomb the nearest biotech lab.”

I curled into the armchair and rested my head on my knees. “All right, I give up. Everything you say is true.

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