Author : wordworks

Sally Baker considered herself a good mother. She grew her own baby and gave birth to a daughter, Jane, by natural means, barring the odd shot of hormones to hold off genetic defects. She refused sensory enhancements despite the doctor’s advice. Sally produced one of the last NL (Non-Lab) babies in the state.

The very next year body-bound birth was declared illegal, on grounds of threatening the mother’s health—especially singles. Jane arrived not long after the father crawled off, having lost the argument with Sally over population control. The man, like many, went on to happily procreate via the DigiBreed system. He now has seven virtual children which he proudly keeps stored on a keychain attachment.

Sally raised Jane alone. She reared her on a diet of real food, when she could afford it, and had her daughter’s ovaries locked before she reached a vulnerable age. Jane never wanted for upgrades once her brain was linked to the public server. She was given the best education available for download.

Sally didn’t mind working overtime to pay for such luxuries; as the mother of a NL child, she understood the special needs associated with raising Jane.

So when Jane demanded at thirteen that henceforth she be addressed by her binary name, 01001010, Sally offered little resistance; teenage fads were relatively harmless. She recalled her own adolescent ache for identity—her neck wore the barcodes to prove it.

The binary obsession was brief, as expected. Those that followed were equally short-lived, until her daughter turned sixteen. Jane begged for a brain jack to pump the latest technology: some storage device that cleaned up the cluttered mind and improved memory functions.

According to Jane, all of her classmates were using the devices—called “Keepsakes”—and reaping the benefits of clearing out brain space for study. Not to mention the new mark of “cool” became the telltale bruising of the nose from feeding wires through the nostrils. Lately, Jane had become more concerned about such things.

Sally hesitantly consented to the surgery. She only saw the Keepsake once, when Jane first brought it home, her face heavily bandaged; yet she looked happy. And for the first month, Sally proudly displayed her daughter’s improving grades on her personal feed.

The second month, her daughter started to dive. Jane was apathetic, lacked energy, and was often silent. Sally noticed her daughter appeared haggard, when she did appear from her room, and when she attempted to make conversation with Jane her daughter merely looked at her vacantly. Then one day, Jane asked her mother when her father would be home.

Like any concerned parent, she saw the solution to her daughter’s estrangement clearly: hack into her Keepsake and determine what she’d stored there. She waited until Jane was out and found the device on her bedroom floor. The cords were attached, each ending in a many-fibered head that plugged into the brain jack. Sally took one in each hand and tested how they fed through the nose.

The Keepsake woke up, and the cords responded, driving up to the expected jack; they bit into the exposed brain and immediately met a confusing mass of signals.

Device is corrupted. the Keepsake determined. Restore process initiated.


When Jane returned home that evening, she found her mother still twitching as the Keepsake neared the end of its reconstruction process. The box hummed; Sally mumbled and drooled. Jane touched her mother’s shoulder.

Sally raised her head and confusion reared into her eyes. The bridge of her nose had gone nearly black from bruising and the burn of the fibers.

“Mom, it’s Jane. I’m here,” her daughter assured her.

“Jane?” her mother asked. “But I’m Jane.”

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