Random acts of carelessness can have far-reaching consequences. Consider the
father who leaves his rifle unlocked for a few minutes, inadvertently dooming
himself to a lifetime of grief and guilt and a nation to renewed discussion of
firearm legislation; consider the policeman whose cursory glance
paper file invalidates critical fingerprint evidence; consider the pianist
whose ring finger slips, striking a flattened fifth and inventing a new
colour of music.
For me, it was misjudging the momentum of a laptop that
irreversibly altered my direction,
although all I knew as its corner struck my sternum was that I would
have a bruise the next morning. Indeed I did; a nagging reminder of my
stupidity whenever I slung a bag across my chest. But the pain did not subside
as the days passed: rather, it became incessant, and seemed to spread inwards.
Sleep came less easily, and I grew weaker and light-headed. I ascribed it to
the freezing weather, denying that anything was amiss, until the
moment I tried to take a step and found myself clutching at thin air as the
pavement rushed towards me and…
…brief snatches of light and sound punctuated the darkness. The sound of
sirens; the plastic interior of a man-sized cylinder; desperate voices,
theatre lighting, the glint of scalpels and whir of pumps; “his bag! find his
bag!”; a thin contralto, enunciating a single word: “Yinsen”. A place? A
procedure? A prayer in some unknown tongue? My fragmented consciousness
struggled to hold onto these syllables, searching for meaning. Then, a moment
of intense heat/cold/light/white noise/joy/despair—
I open my eyes. Nothing. My mouth is dry, my breathing ragged. Blink.
Nothing. No feeling in my limbs. I hear a faint whir; the slight resonance
suggests I am in a small, metal chamber. Blink. A faint ambient glow.
“Do not be concerned,” says a
voice beside my head, startling me. “Your sight
will recover quickly.” And as if on cue, an outline becomes apparent in my
peripheral vision, presumably the owner of this voice. “You've been out a long
“Where am I? What happened to me?” I croak through parched lips.
“You are in vn.mil.med.fe10a9.c3. You suffered
a grave injury, and were brought to me as your last hope. The only option
was to suspend your consciousness and preserve your physical form until the
necessary research was complete.” I feel sensation returning to my torso; the
agony has been replaced by a dull ache. “Your body had turned to its assailant
spurning your own tissues. After decades of study, I performed the bonding
procedure successfully; I tried to keep the changes to a minimum, but I am
afraid that this is the best that could be done.”
I strain to tense my neck, lifting my head away from the cold ceramic, and
turn my eyes down. Where I struck my chest, there is no bruise. Indeed, there
is no flesh, no organic matter. In its place, I see matte black plastic; a
small red protrusion surrounded by labelled keys; three trapezoid
levers. I am a hybrid, sustained by rotation, not
“Other parts are elsewhere, but out of your current line of sight. We have
sited the battery in the left of your rib cage, and the spotlight in the palm
of your right hand. These components sustain you now, and you them. Your
minds, too, have melded: you possess computational ability far beyond that
of your former peers.”
Shakily, I raise myself to my feet. Bare skin and polymer, I examine my
collocutor: an unimposing, greying figure. He takes my hand, looks me in the
eye, and pronounces: “We shall not meet again. Do not waste your life.” Then
he is gone.
Exercising newly-fashioned neurons, I grasp a mesh network, and spawn
a thread to get up to speed on the state of society. Then I don the
crisp, monochrome suit hanging behind the
door, and step out into a new age.
SciFiQuest 9999. Based on a true story!