Asimovs March1988.jpg
Author Harry Turtledove
First Appearance Asimov's
Series A Different Flesh
Genre(s) Alternate History
Publication date March, 1988
Preceded by "Trapping Run"

"Freedom" (first published in Asimov's, March, 1988) is the final published story in the A Different Flesh collection. It moves the timeline forward from 1814 to 1988, focusing on the role sims play in uncovering the cure for AIDS, as we learn that sims are infected with HIV by researchers, and that this issue has split the population of the Federated Commonwealths. A group of young students decide to kidnap Matt, a young male sim infected with HIV, in the hopes of somehow setting him free. Unfortunately, they don't take enough of the HIVI necessary to keep his condition from progressing into full-blown AIDS, and they cannot release him onto one of the sim preserves that populate the country, as he would cause an epidemic. Thus, after some weeks, they return him to the scientists.

As is typical with the collection, "Freedom" presents several ethical dilemmas and presents no easy answers. The AIDS epidemic is possibly worse in this timeline than in OTL, but research using infected sims has brought a possible cure a little closer to reality. Still, many characters are torn by the idea of using creatures that may very well be sentient in research that will almost certainly prove fatal in the longterm.

The story also shows how subjective freedom can be. Matt is trapped in the Disease Research Center in Terminus (OTL Atlanta, Georgia), but he has few responsibilities, beyond his regular shots of HIVI. He doesn't understand the nature of the disease, and so finds his brief period outside of the Center to be stifling: he's not allowed to mate, and he can't go anywhere by himself. Thus, he finds "freedom" to be far less attractive than captivity.