Greg Egan

“Yatima found verself gazing at a red-tinged cluster of pulsing organic parts, a translucent confusion of fluids and tissue. Sections divided, dissolved, reorganised. It looked like a flesher embryo – though not quite a realist portrait. The imaging technique kept changing, revealing different structures: Yatima saw hints of delicate limbs and organs caught in slices of transmitted dark; a stark silhouette of bones in an X-ray flash; the finely branched network of the nervous system bursting into view as a filigreed shadow, shrinking from myelin to lipids to a scatter of vesicled neurotransmitters against a radio-frequency MRI chirp.

There were two bodies now. Twins? One was larger, though – sometimes much larger. The two kept changing places, twisting around each other, shrinking or growing in stroboscopic leaps while the wavelengths of the image stuttered across the spectrum.

One flesher child was turning into a creature of glass, nerves and blood vessels vitrifying into optical fibres. A sudden, startling white-light image showed living, breathing Siamese twins, impossibly transected to expose raw pink and grey muscles working side by side with shape-memory alloys and piezoelectric actuators, flesher and gleisner anatomies interpenetrating. The scene spun and morphed into a lone robot child in a flesher's womb; spun again to show a luminous map of a citizen's mind embedded in the same woman's brain; zoomed out to place her, curled, in a cocoon of optical and electronic cables. Then a swarm of nanomachines burst through her skin, and everything scattered into a cloud of grey dust.

Two flesher children walked side by side, hand in hand. Or father and son, gleisner and flesher, citizen and gleisner... Yatima gave up trying to pin them down, and let the impressions flow through ver. The figures strode calmly along a city's main street, while towers rose and crumbled around them, jungle and desert advanced and retreated.

The artwork, unbidden, sent Yatima's viewpoint wheeling around the figures. Ve saw them exchanging glances, touches, kisses – and blows, awkwardly, their right arms fused at the wrists. Making peace and melting together. The smaller lifting the larger on to vis shoulders – then the passenger's height flowing down to the bearer like an hourglass's sand.”


Greg Egan, Diaspora
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Diaspora Diaspora by Greg Egan
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