With Reilly out and my links shut down I can finally get back to work.  The mystery of the 'tech-disrupting bullets can wait.  I'm monitoring the Sanctum's perimeter, but I sincerely doubt anyone is coming for me at this point.  I feel a little silly having gotten so worried about it in the first place.  For letting a hunch and a lot of spooky talk get in the way of logic.

Plenty of people know what I'm doing, and plenty don't like it.  They don't like that I've found a loophole in this miserable existence.  They don't have a way out, and don't want anyone else to have one either.  But up to this point it's been disgruntled muttering on the 'nets, all talk an no action.  I'd gotten death threats—but I'd made it clear that in killing me they'd just be aiding me in getting what I wanted.  Release from my mortal (s)hell.

Everything is in place for a test run on phase III, and I'm too excited to wait.  I set the defenses on auto and get up from the console.

I sit down on the edge of my bed and lift up my shirt to reveal the two jacks at the base of my spine.  I plug myself into the Sanctum's systems through one, lay down on my side and insert the second plug.  There's no scientific reason to believe that when my consciousness leaves my body it will result in sudden death, but it's still better safe than sorry.  The second plug is connected to an override box that will force my 'machines to keep my body functioning.

I close my eyes and initiate the start-up sequence.

Three, two, one.

The feeling is like no other—like I'm being flushed out of the physical realm through some intangible drain.  I'm disoriented, panicked, every fiber of my very being screaming that something isn't right.  Forcing myself to calm down, I'm slowly able to get my bearings...and I realize it's worked. 

I'm no longer in my body.  I'm in the Sanctum's computer systems.  I'm data. 

I'm elated. 

My body hangs behind me like an anchor, and the overwhelming impulse is to cut it loose and drift.  I'm so close to freedom.  From here, I can swim outward on the streams of information, traveling wherever I want.  Anywhere, any building, any body, to any point broadcasting a signal.  Even beyond the Dome.

I kick around inside the Sanctum for a bit, navigating the systems with startling ease.  With no physical brain to limit how fast I can access and distill information, transactions are instantaneous.  Time is meaningless.

Time.  Check the time. 

It's been almost ten minutes.  More than enough for a test run.  Time to go back inside.

I pull myself down through the data cable, amazed at how much I still rely on visualizations of physical actions to function.  I know this will pass.

Getting back in to my body is harder than getting out, as though the flesh doesn't want to receive consciousness again.  I'm not surprised; it's contrary to the rules of entropy that govern all life.

Back inside, my body feels like lead, like dead weight.  I wait a moment before fully returning, double checking my status to be sure I'm still alive, still one hundred percent.  Satisfied that meatBright has survived the first test intact, I shut down the link to the Sanctum.

Move.  Move, dammit.

There.  I pull the plugs from my back, and sit up slowly.  The world around me shifts of its own accord.  I shudder, nauseous, and run my fingers over my scalp.  I think of Reilly, waking up, returning to himself from another night of drugdreams and wonder if this is what it feels like for him.  This feeling of leaving something infinitely better behind.

Understanding doens't equal sympathy.

I check the time again and reconnect to the Sanctum.  All systems nominal, no breaches in my brief absence.  Time to open up my link channels again, and wait for one of the bizarrely apologetic transmissions that always follow Reilly's absences.

The End

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