He waited. Feeling her breathing slowing and slowing and slowing. They were curled together in their warm bed, her back pressed against him. He had been careful not to place his arm under her; holding her loosely but still curled together big spoon and little. Just a normal night.
Her breathing slowed more.
He waited a little while longer just to make sure, then eased his way out of the bed. He kept an eye on her laying there while he slipped on a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt. Then he went downstairs to his study.
He sat down at his desk and opened his laptop. He needed to check his files again. To make sure he was right. He opened his shadow system. It had taken him months to get just this far. To be able to run a parallel operation system on a hidden network. One that wasn't monitored. Because everything he did was monitored now. He tried to make sure he acted like he wasn't aware of it, but he was. He had been for awhile.
He logged into the boards. Checked a few feeds. Was there any new information? Were there any coded hints that had been deciphered? He found three references to the work he was doing and copied the information into his spreadsheets then retabuluated his results. They were still tracking on his predicted lines.
He ran his hand over his face and sighed. At best they had three more years.
Three years until it didn't matter anymore. Until they didn't matter anymore.
He sent a few messages. A few warnings. Things were still moving. Still happening. People needed to know. He needed to let them know. He needed to do more.
They all did.
But could they? He said three more years until they didn't matter anymore but was it really that long? Or had they ceased mattering long ago? Had he stopped being able to effect change when he had been hired? Or when he had been partnered? Or was he making a difference now, sneaking around in the dark? Taking risks like this? Was it really doing any good or was he just racing the avalanche downhill?
What was the analogy? Boiling a frog? When did the water first start to get warm? When he was in school. That must have been the first temperature increase. They all were tested. Pulled out and put in to specialities where they could do the greatest good. He remembered listening to stories from his grandparents where they used to be able to choose their own educational direction. What a waste of time. If you had no aptitude for math and had tried to be an engineer anyway what sort of disaster was that going to be? Or worse if you were highly gifted in languages and chose to do something ridiculous like act instead of working in foreign relations. What a waste of resources.
At least that's what he was taught to believe.
The water was definitely getting warm then. When he was redirected from his science classes in to computer technology. But it was comfortable. Like a dip in the ocean in August.
After he graduated and was assigned to work for the State Offices the water was probably heating up again. It was a good job. A great job. High salary, great benefits, a house for him, a home for his parents. A driver. A social calendar filled with events and team building with like minded individuals. He was so busy all of the time. New assignments crossing his desk at high rates of speed. Always a piece of the whole. We all work together for together we work for all! A nice bath water then.
Another turn up of the heat when he was partnered. And this one he definitely didn't notice. Well he didn't notice that his water was getting warmer, he noticed that he was warmer. It was a privilege to get one of the spouse models. Your husband or your wife was totally customized. They were designed to be all that you ever wanted. Sure, it was done subtly, through tests. Fun quizzes. The same sort that would spit out what type of dog you were, or the color of your aura back in his parent's early times. Now they asked questions and weighed your results and you ended up being "introduced" to your spouse as your year in bonus.
He understood that this meant that he had some sort of genetic flaw that shouldn't be passed along to another generation. He also understood it was a huge privilege to be granted a spouse model and he shouldn't feel any shame about it at all. It was a sign of how much the State Offices valued his services and wanted to keep him happy. But still, there was a little shame. He pretended, their friends pretended, they all sized each other up to see who was partnered and who had been allowed to choose freely. If there hadn't been the shame there wouldn't have been any reason to program them with memories of childhood. To have given them history. His wife would have laughed at the thought that she wasn't as human as he was. That she was any sort of robotic creation.
And yet, she lay in their bed right now not breathing. Receiving updates and software patches in her "sleep." Transmitting his movements and conversations. He was always watched, he just pretended not to be aware.
The water was warmer still.
He checked the obsolete boards one last time.
The numbers were increasing.
More than half of the population had been given a spouse. Some were now being given children. Robots who aged. Genetically enhanced lifeforms. They were being phased out.
While his wife slept upstairs he watched messages on boards and entered data on spreadsheets and felt the first bubbles of the boiling water around him.
Was it too late for them all to jump?