Quantum Prosthetics By Jason Fink CHAPTER 1 Surprisingly enough, the Singularity didn't start with the internet.

It started with an amputee. He slid into the world And his name was Dack. Once upon a time, Dack was born. grateful. suddenly. with a minimum of fuss, for which his mother was exceedingly He was a he and not a she, not an it, not at all He cried a bit, sucked a bit, pooped a bit. Before confused by anything but the cold bright air that pounced on him long, he was off to a university. The middle bits were unimportant, really. So was the The university where he’d decided to go, and eventually went. well, except that’s where he lost his hand. Not that he actually lost it. He knew perfectly well where it had gotten off to, not that he’d had any say in the matter. His hand had meandered off one evening while the rest of his body had been doing the overly-hormonal boy thing, that is to say showing off for some girls in the hopes of getting laid. The problem with hormones and boys and girls and sleepless nights spent trying to prove that they were deep and meaningful by calling it themselves Dawn Patrol and spinning some tale about how meaningful the sea is and adding alcohol to the mix; the problem, one might say, is that in this mix there lies a great abundance of stupidity. And lo, did Dack drink of the never ending flagon of temporary idiocy, and he found it good. For a moment at least.

university would have most likely been fairly unimportant as

He was very pleased with himself for having found a way to scale a razor-wire topped fence so that he could get to the other side and let the aforementioned girls (and, truth be told, boys who had happened to also want to be a part of the late night overly hormonal Dawn Patrol stupid fest) let the minor horde of people he called friends into the fenced-off outdoor pool for a bit of skinny dipping. He was counting on debauchery and he was counting on being thought of as impressive and he was counting on one of the girls (and there was one particular girl, though, truth again be told, he knew that she was a woman) to have decided that she would drink from the Flagon of Idiocy and choose him. What he wasn’t counting on was, upon reaching the top of the aforementioned razor-wire was the likelihood that he might slip. And, of course, he did slip. This was not how he lost his hand. This was, however, how the girl (woman, his mind prodded) decided to drink from the Flagon of Stupidity and perhaps help Dack, who had fallen and twisted his ankle but still managed to let the minor horde of people who he knew of as friends into the pool area. He had done so without much complaint but with an overly exaggerated limp, and this woman had decided to stay by poor brave, foolhardy Dack’s side and help nurse his bruised ankle and not-as-bruised ego. This was where Dack and Jova met and where the first spark of love embered up and would most likely have blossomed into the heat of sex fire if the guard dogs that no one had really noticed had not chosen to show up right about then. Not that the dogs had actually done the choosing, it was the owner and manager of the apartment complex who, tired of college kids breaking into and using the pool of his swanky apartment complex that was filled with tenants who liked to swagger and use words

like filthy to mean something was fantastic, and using the pool without asking. The manager had decided to take what he thought would be the next logical step and buy a six-pack of Doberman Pinschers in order to chase off the previously written about college students. The manager had assumed that the man he had purchased the canines from, a man whose van was not entirely dilapidated and who had not smelled as unwashed as he looked, the manager had assumed that this man would have given the animals a proper vetting and proper training and kept them up on their shots and vet visits. The manager suspected that this may not be the case when, after paying the man what seemed like an all-too-reasonable fee, when the man shouted something about the dogs being his problem now and then slammed the door of the notoverly dilapidated van and drove off leaving the smell of rubber lingering in the air. The manager realized that the dogs were indeed his problem now and he decided to use them to make the dogs the kid’s problem. He did so in a flourishy manner that was the violent equivalent of waving a cane and yelling “Get off my lawn!” Only this time the lawn was a pool and the cane was a half dozen Doberman Pinschers with anger control issues, issues that, to the manager’s credit, were being addressed in weekly therapy sessions. Since dog therapy is a thing now. Though it wasn’t once, and life was probably better for it. The beasts charged slaveringly into the hoard of college kids, and they were all jumpy and bitey and growly and barky and slobbery and other words that end with a y. There was a panic and an elevated potential for danger that ensued, with college students who had all drunk form the Goblet of… actually it was probably due more to the tequila and adrenalin at that point with college kids who ran around and yelled and screamed and generally made a nuisance of themselves.

One of these dogs, the slobbery viscous dogs, had decided to charge at Jova. Perhaps it was because she appeared especially tasty, perhaps it was because she wasn’t moving at all, no one really could tell except the dog and the dog really can’t tell. It can speak, but that’s more of a bark and less of a Hi-how-are-you-let-me-tell-you-how-my-day-is type of thing. Whatever the reason, the dog ran at Jova, mouth agape with shiny sharpish teeth (they were actually more sharp than sharp-ish, but Jova was hoping that they were more on the ish side. weren’t). So Dack decided to follow the whole chivalrous route and shove his arm in the dog’s mouth No, not that arm. Not yet. Dack decided to shove his arm in the dog’s mouth and the dog, rather than clamping down hard, then whipping its head around and latching on until the proper Dutch word was spoken after which it would release, the dog gnawed ever so lightly then released Dack’s forearm. It then pulled off an amazing downward dog as if it had been born into the pose, and wagged its stump of a tail. Dack then realized that the dogs just wanted to play and he said as much to his friends and what was once a chaos of panic was now a chaos of college kids finding themselves surrounded with giant puppies who wanted to jump and run and play tug-ofwar and who partook in the skinny dipping as well. the fur stayed on. And Jova kissed Dack and it was good. Dack was exceedingly what happy as his plan worked out much better than he had hoped for as he sat on the chaise lounge with Jova while they were some would call snogging, other call kissing, others making out and still others macking, and they were both glad that they’d As much as a dog can dip with the skinny, there was no shaving involved so They

been a little bit stupid. Jova leaned her head into Dack’s shoulder while Dack leaned over and slightly back, bracing his body by putting his left hand onto the glass side table. Yes, this is where and when it happened. While Jova’s face was deciding to be silly and bury itself in Dack’s right armpit, a clean armpit, Dack had made sure, and while her head was buried he could smell the jasmine scent of her shampoo. That was all he really remembered, except for the searing pain of course. He was later told that his hand was now a part of the permanent tilework of the pool. He was also told that a stray rivet had worked its way out of a jumbo jet, one of the new ones that every major airline wanted, and this rivet that had worked its way out at twenty-thousand feet had decided to drop onto Dack’s hand. There was some slight exploding-like action, but, miraculously enough, only the hand and the glass table were destroyed, though there was some significant damage to the poolside cement. And to be fair, it wasn’t just the left hand that was gone, it was also three-fourths of Dack’s left forearm.

CHAPTER 2 There were settlements and apologies and denials and people taking the law entirely too seriously. since he was an easy-going dude. easy-going dude." Dack didn't sweat it This was how he was always

introduced by his friends and compatriots "This is Dack- he's an He was happy with the end result of the He wound up not really having to That and he courty and legalish things.

worry about cash money for the rest of his life.

got free first class trips anywhere in the world for the rest of his livelong days. Jova happened to receive this benefit as well, since the airline folk didn't want her to claim emotional distress and had preemptively offered it to her as well. She would probably never had done anything in the lawsuit arena since she was such an easy-going chica. This was how her friends introduced her "This She took the proffered is Jova - she's an easy-going chica."

lifetime tickets while smiling and saying thank you. The two sets of tickets proved most beneficial to their relationship. Now that there was a relationship. Because there was. It went a little more slowly after that night, since neither one of them wanted to rush things nor did they want to anger the airplane rivet gods again. Jova showed up to help Dack through recovery bringing him pudding, and he never told her he wasn't fond of pudding because he was fond of her, and he would read to her, and she never told him she did not like being read to because she was fond of him, and they smiled and flirted and eventually decided to risk angering the rivet gods. So they did the whole snog-kiss-makeout-mack thing which eventually turned into sex. No one lost any appendages. They were not unhappy about this. So their relationship bloomed and blossomed like a deep fried onion flower. explore. Each month they chose a new location to They would fly out on Friday and return on Sunday, no

matter how far the location was, and these locations were chosen via spinning-globe-and-dart method which nearly caused another lost appendage or two. Though it did not. At times they wound up in such places as exciting as Tacoma, sometimes it was in more boring and mundane locales as Vanuatu or Oman or Argentina. They were always back in time for class on Monday.

They could do this because of the aforementioned tickets. And since it was aforementioned, it won’t be mentioned again. Except to say that it is easy to keep up a fun and exciting relationship with someone when both are easy-going and can, as a unit, tango in Tangiers, skydive in São Paolo, and ride the rapids in Rapid City. Though upon arrival in Rapid City and finding that there are no rapids to ride can lead to a fracture in a relationship built as it was on world travel and excitement and exploding hands, and this fracture can lead to a disastrous falling out. Disastrous to the relationship, not necessarily to the world like a super volcano might be, or even a medium sized asteroid. Although in this case, it could be argued that the dissolution of Jova and Dack’s relationship may well have been directly responsible the end of all humankind, if not all organic life on the planet. Not that it was, but it could have been argued that it might have been, and in some realities it probably was, but in this reality the events did not play out that way. But it could have. But it didn’t. Because of a butterfly. Not a Butterfly Effect, though it was a butterfly, and it did have an effect, just not the normal effect that a butterfly has vis-à-vis tornadoes in Texas. This did not happen yet. What was happening now was Jova being distant and Dack being clingy which led to Jova being eye-rolly and Dack making playlists which led to Jova saying to Dack many things. Things about it not being Dack, it was her, that she wanted to stay friends, that she couldn’t handle the intensity of her feelings towards Dack, that she didn’t want to hold him back in the world, that she and Dack were at different points in their lives, that she needed her space, that Dack deserved better than

Jova, that she just wanted to focus on school, that they were moving too fast and that they needed a break. Dack, not being completely dumb despite the Flagon of Idiocy, understood where she was going with that line of talk. Part of him just wanted Jova to come out and say they were breaking up, boom, get it over with, clean break. Another part Dack of him was all hey, let’s not be too hasty boy, if she doesn’t say the words, it means we still be jive talkin’ together. assumed it was the hippocampus), and he ignored it. was not sure what part of his brain spoke like that (though he That is to say he ignored it after the sixth unreturned message he left for Jova on one of the many contact platforms he had access to. This led to brooding and self-pity and disappearing for twenty-four hours in the woods, a twenty-four hours that thoroughly pissed off his roommate as well as his boss. In wanting to find himself in the woods he had made a point not to bother anyone as he was alone in the world and nobody really cared anyway, plus he wouldn't really be missed (not at all, not really), and he didn't need his phone because who would he call? A bear? So off he traipsed with a sleeping bag, a backpack and a few cans of beans, finding one of the less well known campus footpaths into the mountains. He took a water bottle for liquid needs and a whiskey bottle for memory-killing needs, and off he walked, never to be heard from again. Never for a day, at least. arm started itching. He came back when his prototype clean the stump often It did this from time to time; it didn't

fit quite right yet, and if he didn't funky, either, though he wouldn't

enough it got itchy and smelly and funky. Not the good kind of have minded that so much. He walked His personal rhythm was a 1-3-7 in a 1-2-3 world.

through the door of his flat, prosthetic off, scratching his pruritic scar and was promptly punched in the face. He did not appreciate this. Being punched in the face by Lambin, his roommate, was the direct cause of Dack losing his arm. Not the other arm, the same left arm he’d lost before, only this time it wasn’t all flesh–and-blood being strewn about, it as plastic and metals and rotators and pulleys and microchips. This was not, it seemed, Dack’s week. Lambin was more than a smidge upset at Dack, or as Lambin put it, he was so fucking pissed off at the shit-eating Dack that perhaps he deserved to lose the arm. Again. Then he proceeded to sheepishly apologize He was a one of and help clean up the mess. Dack’s boss was a bit more understanding. the computer engineering professors and had been young and full of the stupid hormone once upon a time and he probably still was, though he’d been married for twenty-seven years and wasn’t sure where he’d placed those hormones. next to his old comics. Probably in the garage, Doctor C was a good ear for Dack to

bend, though he did mention to the student that if he missed work again without checking in, there’d really be no job for him to come back to. Dack told Doc C that he understood, and Doctor Chuck (his name was, indeed, Chuck, Chuck Chaz Charlie, to be precise; Dack was told by Doc C that his father was the second cousin of some famous author type and thus his father had done his name in a tribute of sorts) (Dack couldn’t quite remember, but thought the guy’s name was Hollar and he wrote about some famous catch – Dack didn’t really know much about sports history, however), and Doctor C let Dack come back to work. Of course, that’s when Dack dumped his arm in Doc C’s lap. This time, it was the right arm, not the left, and it wound up

in the good doctor’s lap not due to an attempt at coercion, grade inflation, or a mutual attraction, but because Dack tripped while trying to unpack his other arm, the plastic and metal one, the one he actually wanted to dump in Doc C’s lap. Doctor Chuck Chaz Charles wasn’t just a computer engineering professor. He also dabbled in prosthetics. And by dabbled, this meant that fully half of his time on campus was devoted to the newly created Department of Applied Prosthetics. Fully funded by a grant from a generous and anonymous student and a large airline. The Doctor was a paradox, at least that’s He loved He was a paradox because he what he liked to call it in his own little joking way. these sorts of bad-pun-dad jokes. in Conflict Resolution.

held two doctorates – one in Physiology & Ergonomics, the other His two master’s degrees were slightly more useful in his chosen field, as he was a Master of Computer Engineering and a Master of Nanotechnology. To be sure, his Conflict Resolution came in handy when trying to navigate the complexities of academia. Though not quite as well as he would have liked while trying to navigate the complexities of fatherhood and marriage, especially when his wife spoke of his endless student loans. He did not have just the four degrees, he was always picking up certificates, associate and bachelor degrees, and he had the student loans to prove it. At least twice he had received degrees in the mail from colleges he had forgotten that he’d attended. When his Associate’s Degree in Animal Husbandry had arrived, he’d realized that he had not just been going to a very intense petting zoo multiple times per week. had been five at the time, had loved it. Te doc told Dack that he supposed he’d turned in the homework and Dack believed him as Doc C was always writing Dack had been in the papers then forgetting that he’d done so. His daughter, who

room once when the doctor had received the latest edition of the New Journal of Applied Culinary Physiology (the most respected journal in its field). Doc C had spent an hour pouring over an He shot off a article that he exclaimed to be revolutionary. bits of insight. Two days later, Doc C’s mail contained a letter that had been forwarded to him from the editors of the Journal. letter to himself without realizing it. The memory was one that made Dack grin and nearly forget about Jova’s smile and about his nearly broken nose and black eyes and about his broken arm, and there will be no revisitation as to which arm it was that was broken. proposition to the crotch of a professor. salary. Anonymously. One was broken and the Who was also his He always had, other had made a somewhat inappropriate, though accidental, boss. Even though, truth be told, Dack was paying Doc C’s Dack just liked to work. and even lied about his age when he was thirteen so he could land a summer job. He spent that entire summer wondering how the owner of the liquor store managed to be so bad at gauging ages. But that was then and then wasn’t now and now was when Dack needed a new arm. He missed his old arm, though not so Sort of exploded. much the broken plastic and metal one as the flesh and bone and nerve and blood one that had exploded. There were days when his phantom limb drove him crazy, but then he would do his mirror exercises and would feel better for a bit, and there were times when he would get a little down, but his brain was one of those that PTSD avoided. He was sad, sure, but he felt ok most of the time and never did the whole flashback thing. Dack realized that he was lucky fairly early on when, in rehab, The doctor explained rather sheepishly that he had written the

letter to the author asking to meet as well as offering some

many many other limb-losers could be seen in downward spirals, depressions and dependencies. Dack did what he could to help and thanked the Lord of the Genetic Dance that his brain didn’t work that way. Be that as it may, he still liked having a second arm, even if it was mechanical. Creating a new prototype was fairly easy, especially with the department’s new Thre3Deezy 420 three-dimensional printer. They also had a meat printer, though it was broken as one of the interns had loaded the wrong media into it when she’d had a late night pot-induced craving for a burger. arm. The Thre3Deezy was working fine, however, and within a few hours Dack had a new This one was slightly modified for Halloween, with the pinky being turned into a working scale model of a chainsaw. Not that it would actually cut anything, but it would tickle enough to annoy. When Dack tried to print up a tentacle arm, Doc C said no. When He’d tried to print up a hatchet arm, Doc C said no. he tried to print up a shotgun arm, Doc C said yes and Dack started working on it, only to be told by Doc C that he was just kidding. Finally Dack gave up and got a normal hand with the The novelty wore off, Dack switched chainsaw pinky attachment. When

back to an Ol’ Reliable 2.0, and hit the books. Dack’s brain had decided to ignore the Stupid Hormone, and he threw himself into his studies. He managed to fit four years He was into five, graduating with a degree in biophysics. the eyes of a hard scientist.

interested in studying the inner workings of the body through Biology was nearly the same thing Physicists, as witchcraft, and chemists were glorified cooks.

however, they were the ones who took stock and measure of the universe and they were the ones who said this is good, this is how it works and we just made a big ass bomb that is crazy, dog, and can take out a city.

Plus, he just liked the sound of the word biophysics. in poorly written science fiction. to make sure.

It

sounded like some sort of made up crap, like the kind you find But it was a real thing. When he saw it offered in his course catalogue, he’d wikied it He’d also looked for the urban definition, but that was something he decided to never share with the public. Dack, with his biophysics degree in hand, set out to change the world. Unfortunately, he lost track of that notion. idea. He had an

CHAPTER 3 After a year, skipping around the globe was wearing. had been a good idea, but he was tired. It Dack had his highs and Not at

lows like anyone, and like anyone he thought that no one could possibly understand the things he was going through. all. The one night affair with the concert cellist in Tunisia,

the phantom pain-induced depression in the Angkor Wat, the jellyfish incident in Brazil; it was all searing his brain like tuna on a grill. This was not a dish he particularly cared for, especially after the printed tuna steak incident in the lab. It was an apt description of his brain’s mood so he went with it. He'd started writing things down as he went, deciding on the paper blog route rather than the digital one he was used to. Dack supposed it wasn't a blog, he supposed that it was a journal or diary or some other thing that he couldn't think of. really like those words so paper blog it became. anyone but him could read it. He didn't He even taught

himself how to use the old-style cursive, though he doubted

Dack noticed that he got some very strange looks when he wrote in public places. This was not typical, with his somewhere-between-well-tanned-Dinka-and-albino-Dane skin, his dark brown hair that had a different texture for each day of the week, and his complete averageality that he exuded physically. This is not how people saw him when he wrote. Cafe patrons would glance at him sideways from their smart tablet phones, pedestrians would look askance at him through their iGlasses or Google-E-eyes or MSSpex (and once even a Lens-Ux user but she was shy and cradled her penguin and walked away), and children on playgrounds would use their video knuckles to film him and upload it to various social media sharing sites with captions like "Treekillur Rites wif a Pen" or hashtags that fell into the #ludditeFTW or #WTFkindoftabletisthat categories. Dack felt it strange, whenever he bothered to think about it (or feel about it, as the case may be), felt it strange that he was being stared at because he wrote shit down on paper and not because of his neon-green and purple arm. At one point he even started to write about how strange it was but he was distracted by a local tea house bombing. The local blastologists had all agreed that the day held a 60% chance of pipe bombs with possible serin cloud precipitation due to the high pressure Khy Mien terror cell system in the morning followed by a low lying Whitey White Klan embankment. Then they laughed and turned to the weather woman who let the audience know that the day would be warm and mild, and if they didn't get out to enjoy it they were the real terrorists. Dack surfed to another webcast shortly after, but everyone seemed to be in agreement. He was glad that he wasn't caught in the blast. that day. He downed some Serin-B-Gone (chocolate of course) As it turns out, the day was a rather mundane one, before he left, then went out to see what the world had in store

and would have been downright boring if the tea shop hadn't been blown sideways. Challenges eluded him. local gym and beef it up. school. He wanted to check his brain into a This was not a thing. He wished it

was. Dack supposed that the closest thing to a brain gym was He went all pouty and tantrumy but eventually capitulated with himself and wound up in a graduate program for quantum mechanics. He had another idea. And when he finished his bratwurst with onions caramelized in brown sugar, he realized that, while tasty, ideas for sausage shaped foods would not do him much good in school.

CHAPTER 4 Dack was fine with the clicky-clack of his unflesh arm (not that it actually made any noise, except when it broke and that was less often than one might imagine). There had been many breakthroughs in prosthechnology; there was even a sort of rudimentary feedback system so that the limb could transmit feeling to the brain. There had been so many advances in the field of prosthetics over the decades, to the point where a replacement limb could almost be patched into a nerve bundle and have it work exactly like the old one. Almost. There was always a delay, a pause in the brain-computer interface that resulted in an ever-so-slight hiccup in motion. Usually it was on the scale of tenths of seconds if you had the funds for a top of the line Becky (BCI was too clinical for most folks; Becky was the kleenex of brain chips). If you went with a fully wireless model, the delay was greater, and if you were

cash strapped… Dack thought of those being almost as good as hooks. These things bothered Dack. He wanted to be able to be able to feel an egg shell, the grains of sand on a beach, a puppy’s fur, a woman’s fur… but he couldn’t, not really, not with the plastic hand. Not that prosthetics were plastic Most were calcified titanium anymore (though some parts were).

(not that everyone could afford the titanium, many went with steel or some other weaker metal, and while the calcification process still helped build a stronger bone-prosthetic melding it wasn’t nearly as clean) support structures with a series of tubes and wires (plus some fancy flexible micro-electronics) overlaid with a silicone-cloned skin sheath. And this was just the standard model. With the number of amputees in the world closing in on a full percent due to war, discontent, freedom fighting, terrorism and body modding, there were many, many people who wanted something beyond the fourDack’s tentacle fingers-and-a-thumb hand or the five-toed foot.

idea from college was one of the milder things he’d seen as people were going from utilitarian (he’d seen a jackhammer leg attachment for a construction worker) to the not-quite-soutilitarian (the guy with a hand that was all scissors told Dack it wsn’t as useful as he’d expected). There were faux-nerves and nano-relays, servos and motors, but it just wasn’t quite enough, not for Dack, not really. to grow him an entirely new arm. between man and machine. His arm took over his life, though not in the serialkiller-hand-takes-over-sleeping-recipient-at night-and-murderspeople way, but in the Dack-liked-to-tinker sort of way. He’d He knew that he just had to wait a year or five and they’d be able Dack didn’t want to wait, he knew that there was some way of creating a seamless junction

decided to make it his thesis, his raison d’être, his coupling of school and usefulness. This last tended to be a most rare thing, as many schools’ usefulness wre directly linked with alcohol tolerance. During one of his many talks with and examinations by his previous boss, Doc C, he’d realized that he’d had quite a few nerve conduction studies done. Dack had been poked and prodded and assessed and examined more times than he could count (though Doc C said it was forty-seven). Motor NCS, sensory NCS, h-reflex studies, small pain fiber studies, f-wave studies, a-wave studies, sound wave studies, they were all there. But what wasn’t there, what Dack’s quantum mechanical oriented brain had noticed was that, while there were studies of waves and studies of impulses, there were no studies of what he thought of as particles of quanta. particle plane as well? What if, perhaps, nerves operated not just on a wave or impulse pattern, but on a It had been postulated for decades that the brain was just a quantum computer, a biological one, a mass of intertangled neurons with Dutch cats being held hostage in poisoned boxes. And what was a brain? A big fucking mass of nerves, amiright? Dack told Doc C. Doc C just nodded sagely, as he felt wiser than normal after his trip to India, and he said nothing. He said nothing because his nodding was less profound than it was sleepy; the professor was jetlagged, having just gotten in from Bangalore a few hours earlier. kind, Dack took it as the first kind of nodding, the wise and moved ahead with his plans for his thesis while Doc C

moved ahead with his plans to sleep. One-armed Dack, not really knowing any better, set about trying to create the world’s first quantum computer, and make it for the express purpose of making a better bio-mechanical

interface.

He had no real thought to change the world, no

assumption that he would succeed, nothing other than some duct tape, bailing wire, bubble gum and the entire old web series MacGyver on his holosphere (these were a thing). When he thought about it, Dack realized that it wasn’t a web series, those had disappeared a long time before, it was that thing that was before the web series. radio. Quantum computers had been attempted many times before (very many), and the people who made them were smart people with smart ideas and smart cars and smart tablets. They got close, many, many times, close enough so that they could claim that they had done it, when in fact they had only just missed the target by that much. close. It was like the difference between a light bright mauve and a somber, muted magenta – it was really, really But it was the kind of close that if a husband was sent to pick up a light bright mauve corsage for his teenage daughter and he came back with a somber, muted magenta, well, it would be noticed. And it was. There was a component missing from each of these attempts, and it was a biological component. knew, they knew. No one knew that this was When they what was missing, at least not until they did know. But they didn’t. Not yet. Radio. That was it. The picture

There had been attempts made by scaffolding DNA and training it to work on a computational level, with results that ranged from promising to zombie-virus outbreak terrifying. did in a similar but separate reality. The project Dack worked on was one of quantum entanglement. He wanted the quanta of the biological nerves to become intertwined with the quanta of the prosthetic circuitry. He This didn’t actually happen, but again, it could have and probably

wanted the quanta to become organized in a chaotic sort of way, to trick them into working for both the body and the prosthetic at once. He wanted to get them tangled on such a tiny, basic He knew that there were problems, problems between He was at a loss level that they couldn’t distinguish the squishy part from the solid state. the chemical-ness on the biological side and the mechanicy electrical-ness on the side of the fake arm. was not a dream. Cheese. It was all in the cheese. This was not to say that the secrets of Bell’s little paper was cheese based (although it might be hilarious in the abstract if this were the case)(at least to physicists)(who were also fromagers). light. To be precise, Dack wrote in his paper blog, it wasn’t the cheese so much as it was the fucking pizza. wanted to be going with that sentence. Which puts into mind an image of Italian food copulating which… is not where he Dack had earlier been out with friends to the local pizza joint, called the Pizza Joint, and he’d just taken a big bite of a hot slice of cheese. The intense burning the roof of his mouth wasn’t as strong a feeling as the epiphanical flood his brain was experiencing as he watched the string of cheese droop from his mouth and connect back to the slice. It wasn’t just cheese. faintly. It was cheese with red sauce stuck to it, ribboning around the gooey white filament ever so Ribboning around the hot gooey white filament, if Which it was. precision was necessary. Gouda did not simply move faster than the speed of for a bit, and then it came to him, as if in a dream, though it

It was the heat. He couldn’t stand it

It was all in the heat.

The idea was too

intense for him to let go of, too intense for him to sit there. He got out of the kitchen. Dack wasn’t sure how, exactly, he had gotten into the Pizza Joint’s kitchen, but he had, so he got out, heading straight back to his lab. He needed to find a material, some sort of He needed to find something fusible alloy or physiological compound that mimicked human tissue – specifically nerve tissue. that had the same melting point (or would it be boiling point? Dack asked himself), the same resistances, the same molecular weight, the same everything as nerves. nerves. Months zoomed by in what Dack felt was a montage of lab work – flash! He’s mixing things in beakers! Flash! Flash! He’s spilling liquid! He’s staring at a large holo display He’s asleep with Dack Without being actual

with scribbled noted, his hair mussed! Flash!

his head on a lab table, drool collecting on his tablet! was.

experienced all the inbetween bits, but it felt faster than it His brain wanted to just get around the worky morsels. Once Dack put it all together in his head he was ready to try it outside of his head. Virtual simulations showed the For fake was all well and good, Dack had two choices. But not process working, the tanglement entangling, but he would not be sure until he did if for real. but it was not super helpful. really. And so it did.

The first was to try it on an animal first but this And since Dack

never happens in the really big breakthroughs, at least not in the ones in any media that Dack had ever seen. was feeling giddiful from being up for more than a day doing postulations and theorizing and building prototypes and soldering things that needed soldering and going pee a lot due

to the massive intake of coffee, he figured that a human trial was fine. And, of course, since this a fairly large reason why carbon-based life nearly went extinct on the planet and the reason why Dack has been the focus rather than John or Joe or Daisy or Frieda, of course that human was Dack. Since robots were things and precision robotic surgeries were a thing and since Dack had access to one of the precision robotic surgical units and since he also had access to local anesthetics, it was a fairly easy decision for Dack to make. All he really needed to do was to program the Prosun (the kleenex of precision robotic surgical units) to cut into his arm instead of cloned monkey's and attach his own nerves to the prosthetic instead of the nerves of the monkey. It was supposed to go smoothly, and most likely would have except there was an explosion that had been timed to free the cloned monkeys from their cages. Not really. This was just a thought that Dack had just before the Prosun made its first incision. And after that, it all went smoothly, with minimal blood loss, no pain, and a hand-forged artificial arm that was now fused to his ulnar, interosseous and radial nerves. He’d included a wireless component so that the arm’s onboard cpu could sync up with his Becky – what all the cool amputees called flirting. Once he turned the arm on, Becky and the arm would flirt until they hooked up, and the HUD on Dack’s glasses would flare into life with a diagnostic and initial boot program. At least, this was the idea. just that: ephemeral. As ideas go, it wasn’t a bad one. The problem with ephemeral ideas, however, is that they are Real life do not ideas make. Dack went through the boot sequence, a purposefully complicated one that involved the sequential pulling of fingers

(Dack thought that this would be his coup de grace if he ever had kids, as they would actually have to pull his fingers) then longpressing the space on the middle finger where the nailbed would typically be found. That’s when the lights went out. and in the university and in the city. In that exact instant. Only the soft blue glow He had created Not just the lights in the lab, but the lights in the building of Dack’s artificial middle finger illuminated the laboratory. Dack was sure that this was not his fault. an independent power cell system that recharged through movement, light, and wind using bacterial insulated electrical tubing (it never needed repairing, since it was a living organism), a tubing that lived in a symbiotic relationship with the user – the user being Dack this time. The hair on his arms were painstakingly pulled nanobot glass, used for cooling, power generation (the hair served as a mini-wind farm micro environment; Dack could envision himself windmilling his arm to recharge when there was no other power source), and as feeling receptors. There was nothing at all in his new arm that could have affected the lights in the room. Could it? As he wandered through the building, discovering the extent of the blackout, his first thought was about being a little silhouetto of a man. It took him a moment to realize that this was not his thought, and he shut down the music he’d been listening too. what. Voice. Bachthoven. Aretha Gillespie. The Queens. He always The Village loved the classics, though he never had a head for who sang He just knew he liked what he liked, though the line The Beetle He

he’d just heard about it being real life or just fantasy (damnit, who sang that? the back of his brain asked; Stones? Catherine Perry?)seemed appropriate at the moment.

thought that perhaps something had gone drastically wrong with

the boot, and perhaps he was just lying on the floor of his lab, dead, and this was all just the last vestiges of his brain electricity making up an elabora… He stopped thinking that when he stubbed his toe, then hit his head on someone else’s head. The shits and fucks and hopping around on one foot while trying to hold his forehead were mirrored by the other figure, also shrouded by darkness. It was a short waltz of mutual pain, followed by sheepish apologizing and the growing realization that the two injured parties knew each other. And this was how Jova came back into Dack’s life.

CHAPTER 5 What had happened then, then being at the end of their college relationship and not now at the time of the mutual forehead-striking, was that Jova became distant and Dack was clingy which had led to Jova being eye-rolly and Dack making playlists which led to Jova saying to Dack many things. Things about it not being Dack, it was her, that she wanted to stay friends, that she couldn’t handle the intensity of her feelings towards Dack, that she didn’t want to hold him back in the world, that she and Dack were at different points in their lives, that she needed her space, that Dack deserved better than Jova, that she just wanted to focus on school, that they were moving too fast and that they needed a break. At least, that had been Dack’s perception, which was fine and good, but not the complete picture. Jova had said some of these things, not because she did not care about Dack, but because she saw that his clinginess wasn’t born from her distance but from his own fear, the fear that he was losing

interest and not really wanting to be in the relationship and felt responsible and guilty for not wanting to be in the relationship and he, Dack, had chosen to be clingy for two reasons, neither of which he was aware of. The first reason was that somewhere deep in the grand sulci of his brain organ, somewhere he knew that be becoming overly adherent to Jova, she would naturally push him away and he could thusly say that it was not his fault but hers. The second The reason was similar though almost completely opposite. ridges and crests of his bulbous neurological mass were whispering things, things that he listened to while he slept, things that sounded fairly close to the old adage of faking it until one makes it. Jova, not being an idiot, neither wanted to be in a faked relationship nor did she want to cause him pain, at least not any more pain than she had by playing the girly coy card at the pool party and letting him stroke her hair and lean over and lose his arm rather than playing the I-really-want-to-sex-you-up card that she’d felt in the days before the accident. this led to her man losing his arm. Not that she felt guilty about this, not at all, as she wasn’t the guilt-feeling type of person. she loved Dack. Jova knew. She was, however, pragmatically practical, and she loved logic, nearly as much as She knew what she needed to do. She knew that she needed to be the one to end the relationship, a relationship that Dack wanted to end but did not know he wanted to end. She knew that he would be sad for a while, be She mad for a while, be drunk for a while but move on and grow. was right. She let herself be courted by the man she was falling in love with, and

said all of the things that Dack had thought she said, but Dack She could never bring herself to say that they were She could not say over, done, finito, kaput, hit the road Dack.

it because she did not want it, but she want to be pitied even less. Jova didn’t kill her relationship, the one-armed man did. She, too, cried and was Jova then moved on as well.

angered and drank and mourned for the loss of the man she loved, loved more than anyone before, loved enough to ignore the many attempts he made to contact her, attempts that drifted off sooner than later, drifting off in a way that told her she had been right. This was not unusual. She was often right, and by often this meant very nearly always, and it was her penchant for rightness and logic that led her into a judgeship, but that was later and not then, in college, or now, in the middle of a headache. One of the few times she had been wrong was a time that was seared into her memory or onto her soul, if that was the sort of thing she believed in, though she did not believe in it, at least not often. It was seared like a fresh cut mahi-mahi on a hot grill in Hawai’i while on a perfect vacation, the good kind of seared (at least good for meat eaters or pescatarians, though not so good for the mahi-mahi or vegetarians), the good kind of seared, not the bad kind, like placing one’s hand on a hot griddle. Jova, a woman taller than most, darker than some, was a lover of knowledge and devoured information for the sake of the devouring. Jova was not someone who knew a little about many She things, she was not a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none. any trade she decided that she wanted to master.

was a woman who knew a lot about most things, and a master of Her energy was frenetic, though in a calm, placid way, as she often looked and acted totally at peace with where she was in the moment, never looked harried or rushed, never spoke quickly. of strong opinions and little sleep. She was a woman

It was the butterfly that did her in.

Not did-her-in

killed her, but did-her-in by making her fall in love, or at least come to the realization that she was truly lost in Dack’s soul. Not that she believed in a soul most of the time, but she That day Cupid was a butterfly. did that day.

Dack and Jova had gone to the little grove in Santa Cruz to see the cascading waterfall of monarch butterflies that lived and loved in the eucalyptus, a sight that, once seen, would have a person swearing that butterflies did, indeed grow on trees, that the butterflies were leaves that could fly. branches. They dripped from their stalactite formations on the long hanging eucalyptus They flitted here and there, more taking to the air as the day warmed as the sun rose, as the quiet took hold. There were many visitors of the bipedal variety, though none spoke, such was the power of the Lepidoptera meeting ground, and as no one spoke, a few were blessed by the mini fluttering monks when they chose to land on a hat here, a shoulder there, a back in another place. instants. One of these instances was comprised of a young girl, perhaps five, maybe six, a girl who was watching the orange and black pilots fly around with a mixture of trepidation awe and fear. The girl was trepidatious and fearful, that is. The insects were merely ambivalent. The girl’s parents were taking pictures here and there and speaking to their child out of the corners of their mouths, cooing and oohing and ahhing and isn’t that awesoming to each other and to the wide eyed girl and her older brother who kept whispering that he was more bored than he had ever been, but then would get distracted by another insect swimming through the air in his field of vision. There were smiles and pointing and giggling and videoing and picture taking that happened in these slices of

Then a butterfly landed on the bare arm of the little girl, the girl who was most probably five. An ear-piercing, earth shattering, butterfly scattering scream issued forth from the tiny female human, sending a stampede of butterflies towards the cliffs and to certain doom and the butterfly-boys (as opposed to cowboys, because, well, - butterflies) couldn’t steer them back from the edge in time. This did not happen. dimension. At least, not in this particular It did not happen because Dack, a man who was

attuned to his child side and more sensitive than most, saw the impending disaster and moved to stop it before the tsunami of sound could issue forth from the child’s lungs. float towards the unsuspecting kid. Dack and Jova, standing near the little girl, saw the miniscule flying creature Dack crouched next to the child, smile in place and soothing whisper-voice on hand, struck up a conversation with the little girl about butterflies, about these butterflies, about how friendly they were and about how they were good luck, especially if one was to land upon you. The parents glanced at Dack, and their creep-o-meters did not go off, so they let the conversation continue, since they were right there and Dack wasn’t too close and his smile was infecting their daughter, a daughter who did not like surprise touches, especially not soft surprise touches, and when these surprised touches happened to her she would scream her banshee scream. Her parents saw that she was being soothed and that she did not notice when the butterfly landed on her arm until Dack pointed out that she was due for good luck since there was a butterfly on her and she giggled and squealed quietly (Dack had explained that good luck butterflies like the quiet), and Dack pointed out that she was going to have especially good good luck because she didn’t have just any butterfly on her arm, she had a special one. It was orange, like the monarchs of the grove, and

it had some black, like the monarchs of the grove, but it was not a monarch, Dack told her. No, this was no Monarch, Dack had made sure to tell her, but Dack knew what it was, since he’d seen one before. butterfly that Dack could swear was a Commodore. This was a butterfly that had somehow made it to the grove from Africa, a He then saluted the Commodore with his plastic arm, which made the notquite-six-year-old chuckle and ask if he was a robot to which Dack replied no, not yet. That was the moment. That was it. Jova was done. She loved her man, and would be treating him to some Neanderthal sex that evening, right after tea. first. But she had to do one thing She let him know that she thought it was cute that he

told the little girl that the butterfly was from Africa to which Dack replied that he’d told the girl this because it was true. Laughing, Jova said that this wasn’t really possible, and that Dack was most certainly mistaken, that this was a grove of Monarch butterflies and that she could believe that one of the false Monarchs might be in the grove, she could not believe that there was a butterfly from Africa in that same spot, especially not one that would land near them, near a person who had seen these butterflies before and would be able to identify them. was a Monarch, and that was, indeed, that. shrugged and gave her the victory. Dack just smiled, She loved him more for it. It

It wasn’t until after the room-rending sex that she saw the news about the overturned truck near the park, a truck that contained a live exhibit, a live exhibit of butterflies, a live exhibit of butterflies from around the world. The only specimens that escaped were the ones in the African exhibit. Dack said nothing, just smiled, and not a smug smile, just a genuine smile, not caring that he was right and she was wrong.

She turned her half-lidded pupil-dilated eyes towards him and decided the room needed more rending. It was another six months before they were to break up. And many years after that before they were to cross paths (by crossing heads) again.

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