Of course, Lisa, of all people, knew better than to use words like "eternity." Still, some long-dormant neuron was firing; a thought bubbling up from her subconscious mind. This was taking longer than last time.
Her doctor must have seen her fixating on the clock. "Don't worry, everything is still on track. We always schedule Transfers with an extra long window. Even with all of our experience and fancy machines, nature still finds a way to surprise us."
Her doctor's name was Sophia 121, a ReBorn like Lisa. She seemed to be at home in her scrubs, surrounded by expensive equipment. Lisa wondered how many generations of her Lineage were spent as doctors. Not that experience really mattered these days, she thought, the machines practically run themselves. Maybe the only reason we work anymore is because we still need to feel in control.
She tried to shut off her brain. Think about something else.
There were a few other people in the room. Another ReBorn doctor. A handful of technicians, all Zeros. Lisa felt bad for them. They would live such short, unfulfilled lives. In her younger years, she might have tried to help a few become ReBorn like herself. But that was impossible now, and a good way to get a Death Sentence.
Of course, it had been this way as far back as Lisa could remember. Money and resources were limited, so only a small percentage of the population were able to get the procedure. Now, after generations of savvy investments and compound interest, the ReBorn run everything important; hospitals, politics, the news channels, entertainment, schools, and most importantly, who gets to be ReBorn . If it can be controlled and manipulated, the ReBorn probably have their hands (and money) deep in its machinery.
It's all designed to keep us in charge while the Zeros do the work, Lisa thought. Maybe women don't run things any better than men after all. Hell, maybe men never actually ran anything. It was difficult for her to remember back to a time before Lisa and her sisters were in charge, and she knew better than to depend on her ReBorn history lessons.
But she knew that in the early days things weren't so controlled. Back then, the machines were new, and the kinks and limitations were still being worked out. A lot of women died, or might as well have. The failure rate was an astounding 58% during that first generation.
For Men, it was impossible. In the 500 or so generations since the advent of the Transfer procedure, none have succeeded. It took years of failed attempts before the Surrogate program was finally shutdown and outlawed as cruel to Man, Woman, and Child. An unsolvable mystery. Or maybe just intentionally unsolved.
Today, the Transfer is only available for the ReBorn, but that doesn't keep some Zeros from trying. Just this morning, there was a story about an increase of illegal procedures. Performed by unregistered doctors, using out of commission machines, the chances of success are only slightly better than the early days. Eventually, the odds will catch up to these girls. Their long-term chance of surviving is near-zero.
And they won't be registered anyway, so what's the point?
The only real option is to wait for a ReBorn to die. There's a list, a national registry, similar to the transplant list. Only instead prioritizing based on need, it's about money and connections. But even with all their power and wealth, the chances of getting off the list are small. Last year, there were only 103 new openings. Most of them were from natural causes: accidents, a senseless act of violence, a few Death Sentences; but there are always a few that make the conscious choice to live out the rest of their lives. A self-imposed Death Sentence, a suicide of old age.
Lisa thought about her two daughters. They are somewhere on the list, but Lisa didn't have the money that a lot of women did. They probably won't ever be candidates while their bodies are still viable.
"Only a few more minutes now," Sophia said. "Everything is right on schedule."
Sophia and her team of technicians began positioning a large metal helmet onto Lisa's shaved head. She suddenly felt very alone. Was she making a mistake this time? She thought of a million things that she should have told her family yesterday, when she couldn't find the words. It will be years before she would even remember who they were, or what they meant to her.
Were. Meant. With a pang of regret, she realized she had already let them go. She couldn't remember if it felt this way last time; if it would feel this way every time.
"Okay, we're ready. I need you to push." The doctor's command snapped snapped Lisa out of her self-pity.
She brushed her emotions aside. Chalk it up to the pregnancy, she thought. She knew why she was doing this. She wanted to be young again. She was going to live forever. She thought about her future self, about her perfect clone that she created 9 months ago. She wondered how different her new life might be.
"She's crowning." Lisa felt the doctor put something cold and metallic between her legs, a smaller version of the helmet fastened to her head. Somewhere behind her eyes, she could sense flashes of light. With each flash, she felt more relaxed. Her vision began to fade, along with her sense of smell, her hearing... her touch. She tried to remember something, but it was just out of reach.
For a moment, everything went dark. She was sinking under a vast ocean. A slight sensation of unease, like being in two places at once. Finally, a calm.
Another flash of light. No, this was more brilliant than before.
Before what? This was new. Everything was new.
She blinked and saw a blurry face smiling back at her. She felt something cold on her head. She tried to tell the face how cold it was, to take it away from her. She tried making a noise, but it came out wrong, a shriek.
"Time of death, 10:16 PM," the face said, still smiling. "In a couple of years your memory will return, but for now just try and enjoy that new world smell."
"Welcome back, Lisa 315. "