The Infinite NothingMature

In a daze, I follow Tosh out of the Sanctum. My systems are rebooting. It suddenly feels very crowded inside my head as a handful of different mods start up, each asking for attention with a plaintive little "ping." The mods and 'machines are useful...they've saved my ass more than once now. I don't mind them when they're running in the background of my mind, but this is like hearing voices.  It's hard for me to focus on what's going on inside my head while being able to pay attention to what's going on outside of it. So when Tosh asks me a question, I practically miss it, distracted by some sort of status update telling me how much blood I've lost.


"I asked how long you've been working for Bright."


"--NeuralNet connections were improperly closed. Would you like to reestablish these connections?"


"What?" Tosh raises an eyebrow, shooting me a suspicious look.

I run a hand over my face, pinching the bridge of my nose, wishing my systems would shut up already and start working on this headache. "Six months," I grumble, and think it over. "Maybe closer to a year. You?" I'm curious-- and mildly irked that Bright never mentioned him to me.

We stop just outside his vehicle, an older model Levtruck. No side windows. Good for hauling all manner of cargo. His answer is direct, but his posture is evasive-- he looks away as he speaks. "I don't work for Bright."

We drive in silence. I'm not normally one for small talk. Tosh might be, but I get the feeling he's not exactly in the mood right now.  I stare out the window at the mid city as we rush by, too drained to focus, too tired to process, looking at the world and seeing nothing more than a blur of unrecognizable shapes and colors.

A green light flickers on the dash, and Tosh brings the truck to a halt.  He points a thumb at the towering concrete structure outside. "This you?"

"Yeah," I say, and open the passenger side door and slide out. He throws up a hand in a silent goodbye, and I mumble something along the lines of "see you around."

As he pulls away, I realize I probably should have said thanks.

The door to the complex is half rusted shut, and I’m so weak I can barely shove it open. The lift is down, as always, and the five flights of stairs leave me winded and disoriented. With two trembling fingers I spread the lids of a dry, bloodshot eye for the scanlock on my apartment. The light of the scanner is painfully bright, and the afterimage lingers long after the door glides open.

Inside, it’s dim, the room illuminated only by the hazy glow thrown off by the city at night. I leave the lights out. Aching, my body crawling with reawakened nanotech, I slouch over to the sofa and half sit, half collapse. I blink, and it’s a lot longer than it should be before my eyes reopen.

Bright was right, as usual.  I almost died.

Aside from exhausted, I don’t really feel any different. I force myself to get up before I pass out in the living room. In the fluorescent light of the bathroom I take a minute to look myself over.

I look like shit, and I don't smell much better. There's still blood caked in my hair and on my face, my clothes are torn and filthy, picture perfect for a horror movie casting call. For a moment I wonder if Bright knows about zombie movies.  Then I undress, slowly, painfully, the fabric clinging to my wounds.

Nudity does not improve my appearance. I grimace at my body in the mirror, aching bones and muscles under sallow skin marked with cuts and bruises. And two gaping gunshot wounds. The ‘machines are doing their best, but they’re forced to make up for lost time.  The newly formed flesh feels alien, tingling as the 'machines keep up their work. I’ll have two new scars in the morning—my first of this lifetime—one over my right hip, in the fat of my stomach, the second in the center of my left thigh. The sight of them provokes a new sensation, a sort of awkward elation. It feels kind of like a birthday.

Showering, the air from the vent hitting my back dredges up the hallucinatory recollection of Bright’s cleanroom. I’d never been that close to her before—I’ve never seen her in person. I’ve watched her work when she’s let me, patched in through the cameras in the Inner Sanctum. Just watching, fascinated, as she does whatever the hell it is she does. Occasionally questioning, only to be dismissed. "Why should I waste my time explaining anything to you? You don't need to understand, you just need to do what I tell you."

I think about trying to link to her, but my neurocomm set is still only half online. Besides, she’d saved my life. That was enough for one day.  I’m sure she’s more sick of me than usual.

Towel. Toothbrush. Glass of water. Meal replacement capsules, since I know I puked up everything in my stomach and I’m down a quart of blood or so. Bright swears by the things. I don’t know if she actually eats anymore. Me, I still like food—even if it is all lab grown now. Synthetic bacon still tastes like bacon. Damn good.

It’s early, but I push up the last part of my nightly routine. Hell, I almost died. Bright even said so. Might as well take it easy.

There’s a box under the bed, a stash of black and gray market chem and a self-sterilizing syringe. Most users have jacks that allow them to plug the vials straight in to a vein—no mess, no fuss, clean and efficient, like everything is supposed to be these days. I don’t have that convenience; the idea of hard-wiring my circulatory system for drug abuse skeeves me a bit. That, and I have to do bi-monthly check-ins with a “relocation” counselor. I doubt semi-illegal mods would go over well. Probably lose my government allowance.

Don’t get the wrong idea: I’m not some junkie. When they come up with a legal way to fix the side effects of being frozen for half a millennium, and popped out into a world you can barely comprehend, let alone function in, I’ll be the first in line for the clinical trials. 

Until then, I’d just as soon not suffer thought the nocturnal jumble of half-memory, buried alive in the infinite nothing.

The End

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