Lineage and Legacy
Walter Koke was undeniably elderly. The few strands of white hair, that
only a few years ago covered the multitude of brown age spots on his
scalp, had all but disappeared. He had a chronic cough and many claimed
they had observed the onset of Parkinson’s disease. Despite
these speculated setbacks however, he remained alive as ever.
Walter had spent his life further growing the empire that had been
bestowed upon him and did so with conviction and success. Now, as the
reigns of the company had been passed down, he looked forward to only
one particular semi-annual meeting he hosted at his estate. And one
such meeting was about to occur.
His assistant, through the labyrinth of halls and rooms that comprised
the manor, was wheeling Walter at a moderate pace. This was a usual
happening, although people often questioned why Walter did not purchase
a more modern wheelchair; a battery powered one for example. Some said
he was simply old-fashioned, others believed he enjoyed the servitude
of making others push him around all day. And then there were those who
suggested that he feared losing the company of his oldest friend and
adviser, despite their blatant difference in social status.
Walter had a blanket spread across his lap and still dressed business
casual; he wore a dark blue suit with a light gray button-downed shirt
underneath. The top two buttons were open, something you would have
never seen from Walter Koke thirty years ago.
The pair found themselves in front of a massive wooden double-door.
Walter’s assistant let go of the wheelchair and walked over
to the entrance to the next room. With a modest degree of effort, he
pushed the large doors open and walked back to the wheelchair to push
Walter through to the other side.
The room was a study, classical in nature and style. A roaring fire
abided in the center wall, opposite the entrance doors. Surrounding the
mantle were bookcases as high as the ceiling allowed, which continued
to adorn the room along all four walls. Multiple patent-leather
armchairs garnished the room and it seemed as if each one had a glass
table to accompany it. Neither the tables nor the chairs were vacant.
Each table was embellished with a lowball glass and each glass was
enhanced with a brown liquid. Each chair was being sat on, and each
person who sat, did so with a smile at the sight of Walter Koke being
The assistant placed his boss in his usual spot, closest to the fire
but angled in a way so he faced all his guests, and made his way back
to the exit. He pulled the two doors closed simultaneously, leaving the
men secluded for their private gathering.
26th Century Earth
Braylon Koke was evidently enthusiastic. He was a youth filled with
wonder and ambition with an ever-present smile chiseled from curiosity
itself; but more often than not he distracted himself to the point
where he hardly finished what he started. But today was different.
Today was a day he could not turn back from, not at this point anyway.
He was also running late, not a foreign concept to those who knew him.
Braylon sped passed people and robots alike until he came to his
destination - Shaft 3. As he entered the lift, he was simultaneously
scanned and approved to proceed. Shaft 3 was far from empty, with
perhaps a dozen adolescents present. The gate closed as Braylon took a
deep breath, thankful he made it on time, albeit barely. He felt the
platform activate as the lift departed from ground level.
Braylon looked out the surrounding windows, transfixed by the
experience as he had never been on a space-line before; he found it
smoother than expected and thought it interesting that the entire
transport was monitored and maintained by Artificial Intelligence.
Braylon couldn’t help but think of the uncharacteristic
affection his parents had displayed that morning, something extremely
uncommon in his household but chalked it up to the possibility that he
was going to be gone for an extended period of time.
Braylon’s parents had continually urged their son to accept
the advancements of the nanotechnology and biotechnology of the day and
encouraged him to upgrade himself to trans-human, as the majority of
people had done. But these aides did not excite Braylon; he treasured
the ability to require sleep because he treasured the ability to dream.
Although he indeed did have numerous enhancements, which were
rudimentary procedures, and often engaged in mind-uploading, he chose
to maintain a minimally updated human body, making him one of the few
who remained more biological than non-biological. He believed, contrary
to nearly everyone else, this provided him with a primitive edge,
something he believed was lost in transition.
Even without many of these advancements, he kept up in school and in
life and currently found himself anxiously embarking on the next phase
of his journey, although he had no idea what this step actually was as
he, for lack of a better word, was ordered to be on this shaft.
He looked around at the other youths in the elevator and wondered what
they inferred about him, being though he was relatively different,
biological and all. He then pondered if they knew where they were all
heading, something Braylon couldn’t wait to find out.
One young woman with pale blonde hair caught Braylon’s eye.
He smirked at her with that vast smile and the efficacy of causality
responded in kind as a minute grin formed on her face as well. The
small gesture eased Braylon’s apprehensive stomach as he
found a fraction of hope and alleviation. The group traveled upwards in
Space-Line 13, the intergalactic elevator that would, in a few hours
time, bring them to Space Station 10.
Walter looked around the room to find familiar faces. On the table next
to him was a pre-poured glass of alcohol, which he picked up. Before he
spoke, he looked over at the fire. The flames danced irregularly,
impossible to predict yet, at the same time, they behaved as they
always did. He watched in fascination.
“Funny,” he began. “Fire.” He
became entranced by the brightness of the blaze for a moment before
continuing, “I wonder: when fire was discovered by man, if
that particular Neanderthal was burned at the stake as a
A few chuckles echoed throughout the room but Walter did not break his
meld with the scintillating luster.
“How is everyone?” he said, finally addressing each
guest in the room.
A few positive choice words reverberated in the space and he nodded his
head. Walter picked up his drink and gave it a swirl, looking at the
color of the liquid in the glass. While transfixed he asked,
“Well, what’s going on? Updates?”
A man with thinning pale blonde hair responded, “You are now
looking at the CEO of the largest company specializing in flood
mitigation and defense systems.” After a round a claps and
cheers, he continued, “We were able to close a few deals
already, about $20 Billion each, to build new levees and sea walls in
coastal zones of various cities, and to study the construction of
additional structures. And this is now; imagine what our prices will be
as the sea levels continue to rise. And the best part is private
citizens aren’t selling because there is way too much money
already invested in coastal real estate.”
“That’s where I come in!” an emaciated
looking woman declared as she pointed her finger up in the air.
“We will soon reach the apex of what I can get for coastal
real estate properties. I’ve constructed a long-term plan
where we buy up cheap inland territories at a rapid pace while slowly
selling off landholdings that eventually will be inhabitable. Those
inland territories will become invaluable to say the least.”
“Who would have thought the mid-west would have beach front
property,” Walter jested, the rest of the audience
subsequently following his lead. “Anyone else?”
A young man raised his hand. “I’ve got something.
It sounds a little more on the obvious side but I think it works
nonetheless. As it gets hotter and hotter, we will need to get cooler
and cooler. Heat-related deaths will be on the rise. Blatant solution?
Air conditioning! In the last six months, my team has launched an air
conditioning distribution company and our goal is, in five years time,
to become the world’s largest ventilation and air
conditioning distributor. Soon these products will no longer be an
amenity but a necessity.”
Nodding heads could be seen scattered around the room, including Walter
who seemed very pleased. “Good job. Nothing like a little
common sense is what I always say. Bill, stock talk?”
William Headley was a plump man with glasses as thick as the books he
read. He nodded in acknowledgement and answered, “As the
world debates the politics and validity of this natural disaster, I
suggest we do a little long-term investing. The first obvious choice
seems to be water. We’re talking about a fund that has about
$1 billion in assets and is designed to invest 90% of that money in
stocks that create products designed to conserve and purify water for
homes, businesses, and industries. I’d also keep my eye on
electric vehicles, as automakers are inevitably moving towards
low-emission and zero-emission vehicles. And, of course, the one
I’ve been saying for years: nuclear energy. We will be forced
to move away from fossil fuels and this event we have been discussing
will only increase the shift.”
“Thank you, Bill,” said Walter. He looked around
the room. “Very impressive, very impressive
“Those in propaganda wish to know if they are to proceed as
planned,” said one of the younger members of the group.
Walter looked at the young man, almost in disgust before catching
himself and putting up his jubilant façade. “I
suppose so. Although, I have to admit, people seem to be doing the work
for us or so it seems. Perhaps they really will accept the truth only
when it is too late for them. So, yes, continue to deny the natural
disaster and its impending approach. Unless a technological
breakthrough occurs that would not be a preventative measure, but
rather a reversing one where the damage we have done could be undone,
we will continue to deny it all.”
A multitude of mutters could be heard from the group.
Walter continued, “Anything else?”
Braylon’s first thought of the briefing room on Space Station
10 was that it was drab and overly pragmatic. The biggest oddity and
overall disappointment for him, however, were the windows out into
space, which were all covered with a tarp-like material, a futile
action or so it seemed. Braylon was looking forward to the view as it
always reminded him of his infinitesimal nature in the grand scheme of
things, a thought he felt curiously comforted by.
“Everyone take a seat,” ordered an authoritarian
Everyone did as was told and a middle-aged officer walked to the front
of the room. Braylon sat so that he would have a clear view of both the
instructor and the girl who earlier sanctified him with but a grin.
“Welcome to Space Station 10. You will not be kept here
longer than needed but it is important you are briefed at once. I am
Instructor Xander and it is my job to,” he hesitated for a
moment, “Prepare you. So, let me give it to you straight.
This morning was the last time you will have ever set foot upon
An uncomfortable energy suddenly loomed in the room. Some bickered to
their neighbor but Braylon remained silent, unable to speak even if he
“All of you know that the terraforming of Mars, which began
construction nearly 400 years ago, has been nearing completion. CO2 has
successfully been converted into oxygen. Nitrogen is being produced. An
artificial magnetic field is up and running, and seas and oceans are
forming on the surface. Fish, birds, mammals, and reptiles have just
been successfully introduced. It is now also safe for human beings, on
some areas of the planet, to walk on the surface without the use of any
extraneous technology. Mars is almost a habitable planet; we are only a
few steps away from essentially creating a second Earth.”
“We know this already,” interrupted an adolescent
with fiery red hair and a freckled complexion. “Anyone who
has plugged in, in the last hundred years knows this.”
“True,” the instructor matter-of-factually stated.
“But that is not everything. There are things your precious
updates do not tell you. Certain knowledge is blocked, concealed under
the guise of total free-flowing information.“
“Impossible,” objected Braylon’s
infatuation with pale blonde hair.
“If the last few hundred years have taught us anything, it is
that nothing is impossible.”
“But why would knowledge be withheld?” Braylon
asked with a complete and utter lack of confidence.
“For the same reasons knowledge has always been withheld.
Although such a measure was once strictly a human characteristic, one
cannot deny a certain degree of logic to well-intentioned untruths and
artificial intelligences, even the ones in government,
There was in air of disbelief in the room and no one dared question the
instructor further, eager to hear, perhaps for the first time,
“Are you all familiar with Project Swarm?”
“The sphere that harvests all the energy output from the
sun,” a girl in the back answered.
“Correct. For years, vast swarms of automated,
self-replicating machines have been building the mega-structure needed
to encompass our star, which would provide us with the long-term
survival and escalating energy needs of our technological civilization.
We were near completion when very recently, an incident occurred. The
extra mass of our structure has increased the Sun’s
gravitational pull just enough to pull in the incomplete sphere and as
we speak, Mercury along with it into the sun itself. This will
essentially refuel the sun, causing it to burn brighter. The
sun’s luminosity was not due to increase until the year
1,000,000,000. As a result, Earth will very quickly become too hot to
support liquid water and subsequently, human life. You are going to
Mars because that will soon be the only livable option we
A hush silenced came over the room accompanied by a palpable tension.
“But we’re trans-human,” squeaked out an
“Advancements aside, we still require water to live at this
stage of our evolution. Perhaps one day we will not, but those
discoveries will not be made on Earth.”
“Why are we here?” asked Braylon, this time a
little more forceful. “I mean, why us
“Mars’ settlement cannot yet sustain the entirely
of human civilization as the terraforming is still incomplete.
Therefore, only a percentage of our people can go. We have already
transferred the best men and women from all occupations needed to
preserve a society. You are here because the tickets to your seats were
bought and paid for long ago. The specifics vary, and at this stage,
they are irrelevant.”
“What about our parents?” asked the red-haired boy.
“There will be a lottery conducted in secret. It is possible
that they may join you still.”
Instructor Xander observed the young faces as he tried his best to
ensure that the emotional mess that was transpiring inside of him did
not sway his calm demeanor.
“I understand that what I have told you is the hardest thing
you have ever had to hear. Feel free to adjust your emotional
manipulators accordingly. Know that you are our future and our
existence will go on because of the advancements you will make in your
lifetimes. Tomorrow we will head to Mars. You will receive host
families, perhaps some you may even recognize. Are there any
Xander waited but the magnitude of such news made it undesirable for
further inquiry. He concluded, “You all have quarters if you
wish to visit them; you have a lot to take in. Dismissed.”
As the group scattered, Braylon nervously meandered up to Instructor
“May I help you, Mister Koke?”
Distracted by the fact that he even knew his name, a series of
questions entered Braylon’s thoughts but all he could get
himself to ask was, “Will it be safe for me too?
I’m more biological than not.”
Xander smirked and nodded. “It will.”
A very slight degree of assurance came over Braylon. He turned around
to walk out of the briefing room but suddenly stopped, turned back to
face the instructor and with that contagious smile he had all his life
asked, “See you on the surface?”
Instructor Xander grinned as best he could, clearly holding back a
wistful impulse, and with the slightest of movements, shook his head.
The smile faded and Braylon knew he could do nothing but turn around
once more and join the others who had departed. He recognized
immediately that although he was sure he would smile again, the
expression would never be quite the same.
Walter looked out at the vast array of cultivated plants and flowers in
his garden. He came out to observe his nursery every so often, although
as of late he had neglected the intrinsic beauty of the sanctuary. When
he was middle-aged and under far more stress, he made it a point to
come here once a day, no matter what. It provided him with what he
believed was perspective and harmony.
He currently found himself engrossed with one in particular –
a neon green colored plant he was told was called Flypaper, at least
for the layman. The plant was covered with mosquitoes, each one trapped
perilously in a sticky digestive enzyme. Walter admired the plant,
which grabbed hold of anything that landed on it and immediately
attempted to digest it. He felt strangely connected to the
multicellular Plantae; they were opportunists, unafraid to grasp what
they felt was theirs.
Walter heard the French door close and his enchantment was broken. He
looked over to see his assistant.
“Do you require anything, sir?”
Walter shook his head without looking at the man while motioning for
him to sit.
“As you wish.”
The assistant sat on the bench next to where Walter was parked.
“How long have you worked for me?”
“Over thirty years, I believe.”
“Thirty-four. Thirty-four years. How haven’t you
“I tend to think you would fall apart, if you don’t
mind me saying so.”
“I don’t mind anything that you say. You know that
“Yes, sir. How was your meeting?”
“Sorry to hear that.”
Walter hesitated, as if weighing whether whatever was about to come out
of his mouth was worthwhile. Finally, he asked, “Do you think
“Cut the crap. You know who I am and what I do. You know who
those people are too.”
The assistant thought before answering, something he always did that
Walter admired. Finally, he shrugged and simply said, “I
“That makes two of us.”
“What are you doing?”
“Playing both sides. I’m not going to sit here and
pretend I know the specifics and what will be. What I know is that
there will be challenges. Eventually there will be less land, less
food, and more people. The individuals in that room today will control
90% of virtually everything in tomorrow’s world. These
people, if you want to call them that, are prepared to capitalize on
chaos. Some might even want disaster to strike sooner rather than
later, war profiteers is what they are. You have real estate moguls in
there, whose legacy will flourish when the sea levels make many areas
of this world uninhabitable. You have agricultural guys whose lineage
will control the food supply years down the road. And while I am apart
of them, I am also in the business of aiding life; something they
cannot fathom. I’ve been concentrating on creating artificial
self-replicating systems for machines.”
“Pardon my ignorance, sir, but what does that mean
“It means, my friend, self-replicating robots. Robots that
can go out and do the things we cannot – or perhaps should
“Like in factories, things of that nature?”
“No, no. Far greater things. Robots that can go into space
and build things that are too dangerous for us to attempt.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t know a damn thing about
the technical side of it all, that’s just where my money
comes in. But that’s where it’s going. Those people
in that room are adjusting for a very different future than me, but the
difference is, I’m preparing for both. Might we figure out an
answer by then? I hope so. But if we can’t, war will be
inevitable and the only certainty out there is that money will still be
the key to one’s prosperity.”
“War seems to never go away, sir.”
“You know the old phrase, the poor fight the rich
“I’ve heard it.”
“It’s the sad truth, you know. It’s the
reason I do what I do, what I’ve always done: protect.
Protect my lineage and my legacy. That’s where true
immortality lies, don’t let anyone tell you
“And why is that so important to you, sir? Especially when
you’ll never actually know any member of your future
descendants? Who is to say for sure, that the surname Koke will go
Walter let out a deep sigh and looked up at the sun as its rays beamed
down to warm his face. “I don’t know.
It’s intuitive, perhaps even primal. It’s simply
part of who we are. Don’t get me wrong; I feel a deep bond
with our kind as a whole. I just feel a deeper one for my own
“Blood being thicker than water?”
“Something like that.”
“Well I’m sure the middle class you are
inadvertently destroying might disagree.”
Walter looked at his assistant with heavy eyes but the man did not
falter nor back down in his poise.
“The truth is, sir, I don’t know what the long-term
outcome will be of this race to wealth your family has embarked upon,
other than in the end, a small number of individuals will have a
privilege to survive because of the family they come from, which is no
different, I suppose, than the rest of human history.”
“Discouraging, isn’t it?”
The two sat there in silence, simply looking at the beauty that
encompassed them. Eventually Walter turned to his assistant.
“Do you have any children?”
With a little chuckle, the attendant answered, “Yes, sir. Two
boys. All grown up as well.”
Walter nodded with a certain degree of shame over not knowing this
information. He looked over at the man who had been at his side for
“Do they have that fiery red hair of yours?”
“Indeed they do, sir.”
The two laughed.
Walter took a deep breath and stated, “I’m dying,
“Aren’t we all, sir.”
Walter smirked at the answer and replied, “Skin cancer.
Probably from being out here so damn much.”
“To be honest, I am aware of your condition.”
“Of course. I handle all of your affairs. Even the ones you
don’t want anyone to find out about, including me.”
“Well that’s comforting,” Walter replied
with a mocking jest.
“Can I ask you something, sir?”
“All this business of stashing your assets all the while
investing in future technologies, yet keeping certain information out
of the publics’ eye – all to ensure a Koke will be
able to go on elsewhere, seems like a heavy price to pay,
Walter carefully observed the man beside him. He retreated back into
his wheelchair and looked upwards while closing his eyes. Walter
enjoyed the all-too-brief serenity of silence, basking in the shine of
our bright star. A few moments later he let his face fall to his side,
facing his finest assistant. He opened his eyes and belatedly answered,
in the softest of tones, “Make no mistake, my friend - it is
the ultimate price.”
© 2017 Gregory Cioffi
Bio: "As a writer, Greg's short stories The Catacombs
of Truth, Sleeper, A Peep at London Life, Plot, and Cuisine Aquatic
have all been published by Feral Press and subsequently archived at
Yale Univeristy’s Beinecke Collection (Rare Books and
Manuscript Library ), while Faceless and Dark Circles have been
published by Blood Moon Rising Literary Magazine. Two of his poems
(Love Verboten, and The Interlocking) were published as a part of a
poetry anthology entitled Paumanok Interwoven. His original play The
Letter was chosen and produced as part of the 2010 Long Island Fringe
Festival and his next play, The Interim was selected to the 2011 New
York City International Fringe Festival, the largest theatre festival
in North America.
Other original plays that have been produced include Cul-de- Sac,
Ménage a Twat (which won Most Popular Production at the
Midtown International Theatre Festival), Death by Peanut Butter
(Producers Club, NYC) and Qualia: Origins of the Undead, which ran for
three seasons on Long Island.
His screenwriting credits include The Interview (Nominated Best Comedy
Short: Central Florida Film Festival), Evening Class, Silenced, Sex in
Literature, To Wonder If…, and The Museum of Lost Things.
These films have had numerous official selections at various film
festivals such as: The Friar’s Club Film Festival, The Long
Island International Film Expo, The Big Apple at Tribeca Film Festival,
and the NYC Downtown Short Film Festival."
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