A mind is a terrible thing to wipe…


Process of Elimination // A Science Fiction Short Story By Ash Warren for the Comfortably Numb Contest



‘So, why am I here?’

They were sitting in the main conference room of the Columbus, with its neat pine furnishings and its huge windows filled with bright unknown worlds, the vast patchwork of galaxies and star systems through which they were slowly advancing.

Captain Blake, Tate had always thought, looked a lot like his old school headmaster, handsome yet a little pompous, while his First Officer Eve however, looked refreshingly young and beautiful, her blond hair perfectly framing her face.

A pity they were just droids, he thought. Particularly her….

‘Mr. Tate.’ The Captain began, opening a white manila folder. ‘You have my apologies for waking you early. This is merely a courtesy, you understand, and protocol requires us to speak to you first.’


‘Yes sir.’ Said Eve brightly. ‘Specifically article 77394/2 of the Trans-planetary Personnel Agreement. You will remember having signed this document before you left, along with the other 972 voyagers on this ship?’

‘Yes, I remember. So what’s the problem?’

‘We need to notify you of the need for the initiation of a COP procedure, based on our analysis during your cryogenic stasis.’

‘Sorry? COP? What’s that again?’ Tate had never heard of it.

‘Candidate Optimization Process. You are unaware of the nature of this?

‘Sorry, it must have slipped through the cracks. ’

‘Allow me to refresh your memory.’ said Eve. ‘As you know we are able to perform a much deeper psychological analysis of each voyager during their cryogenic sleep. Through this we are able to fully assess that person’s strengths and weaknesses with a view to amplifying the former while simultaneously eliminating the latter. In this way we are able to create the most able candidates to ensure the maximum chance of survival in the new worlds we seek to colonize.’

Eve smiled at him pleasantly.

‘I see. So what do you want to do?’

‘It would appear’ said the Captain ‘that you have certain….weaknesses…. requiring elimination. Thus we will need to initiate a COP procedure.’ The Captain leaned forward and said gently, ‘A mind wipe.’

‘A what?’

‘A mind wipe. We will of course reintroduce some basic memories, but others we shall replace with those which will give you the confidence and intellectual tenacity to make a full contribution to the new colony.’

‘You want to wipe my mind? What the hell are you talking about?’

The Captain looked unimpressed.

‘Mr. Tate.’ Said Eve gently. ‘You do remember signing the Agreement? I do not have to remind you that this ship has been placed under the command of artificial intelligence to make logical decisions aimed at ensuring the survival of your species. To do that, some of you will require optimization.’ she said earnestly.

‘And if I don’t agree to this?’

The Captain stood up and gestured to Tate to join him at the window where they looked out at the stars together.

‘Have you heard sir, of the English philosopher John Locke who several hundred years ago posited that humans at their birth were tabula rasa? A clean slate?’

‘I’ve heard of it.’

‘Well, we will merely be returning you to that state. The state into which you were born, before memory and experience and genetics made you whomever you think you are. Instead there will be a new you. A better you. Is that so bad?’

Tate sat back down in his chair and looked at the floor.

‘But if I can be changed into anybody…..’

‘Then you will be nobody at all,’ said the Captain, closing the file.

‘Shall we begin?’

The End