I’ve skipped over a rather long scene that deals with Miira’s first morning inside the facility of Innerscape. She has insisted on being properly dressed for the following interview with Dr. Wu.
* * *
The three women were still staring up at the ceiling, admiring the doll-like figure reflected in the mirror when a masculine cough interrupted their moment of feminine solidarity.
“May I come in?” Kenneth Wu asked in amusement.
“Of course, Doctor,” Emily said, her tone a little flustered. “We were just admiring Ms Tahn’s lovely outfit.”
“I don’t know about the outfit,” Kenneth Wu said as he looked down at his patient, “but Ms Tahn looks lovely.”
The flush of embarrassment that painted Miira’s cheeks a pale pink hinted at how pretty she had once been.
“Shame on you, Dr. Wu!” Miira said sternly, but her eyes twinkled.
“Mea culpa,” the young doctor said with an unrepentant grin. “I can’t help flirting with women who look like Han empresses. It’s the Chinese in me!”
At that, Miira began to giggle helplessly. She knew this good looking young man probably flirted with all the female patients, no matter how old they were, or how haggard, but it still felt good to laugh with a man… even if he was half her age!
The two nurses were giggling as well, as if they too had forgotten they were dealing with a patient. Only when Miira began coughing did their professional masks slip back into place. A moment or two of oxygen was all Miira needed but by the time the breather was removed, all the merriment had faded.
“Thank you Sister, I’ll take it from here,” Kenneth Wu said in a more formal voice as he perched on the edge of Miira’s bed.
“I’ll be in my office if you need me,” Emily said as she ushered Jane from the room.
When the two nurses were gone, Kenneth turned to Miira and said, “I think you know why I’m here.” She just nodded, even paler than before.
“Ok, let’s do it. AI, recording on.”
“Recording is on,” the disembodied voice of the AI replied.
“You are Ms Miira Tahn?”
“And you have come to Innerscape of your own free will?”
“According to Section 24 of the Informed Consent Law of 2062, I am required to ask if you understand that the procedures performed at Innerscape are irreversible?”
“And are you still prepared to undergo the necessary procedures to make it possible for you to enter Innerscape?”
“Are you aware that once the procedures begin it will be impossible for you to change your mind?”
“And are you still prepared to go ahead?”
There was a moment of intense silence as Miira closed her eyes and took a couple of short, shallow breaths. This was it. The moment of truth. The point of no return. The beginning of the end. Every cliche there ever was began and ended here. Once she said the words there really would be no going back. The doctors would take her body and carve it up, saving what they could and substituting machines for the rest. Only her brain would remain intact but it would float naked in a nutrient bath.
In a very real sense the body part of her would cease to exist, except as an accumulation of organs stored in a tiny sealed box and kept alive by the wonder of modern technology. If something went wrong, or if Innerscape was just one monumental lie designed to fleece the dying of their wealth, then brain death would happen not in a year, or two, but in less than a week…
…am I really prepared to die?…
“Ms Tahn? Are you still prepared to go ahead?”
The young doctor’s voice was almost robotic, as if he was determined to put no pressure on her. Nonetheless, when Miira looked up at his impassive face she saw understanding in his eyes. And compassion.
The stillness of the young man’s body relaxed a little as he said, “Thank you. Would you now please look up at the ceiling for a retinal scan.”
As Miira stared up at the ceiling the mirror disappeared, replaced by the apperture of the scanner.
“Retinal scan complete. Welcome to Innerscape Ms Tahn,” the AI said.