Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

James sat in his chair/life-support system in the back corner of the room next to the banks of monitors, keyboards, and mice.

He reminded me of the James I used to know. He reminded me of a James that laughed without that edge of cruelty. He reminded me of a James that was above making money by hurting people, of a James that liked it here in the physical world and only occasionally went into total online immersion.

That James was gone. He never jacked out now, and the hypercancer had taken nearly fifty per cent of him. The 3HIV was working over his ability to resist the treatments. They’d given him six months to live back at the beginning. That was six years ago. He was a confirmed medical miracle now. Sheer drive seemed to be holding him together until he met his goal.

He was fighting the disease by trying to escape his flesh.

He’d made millions off of the poor security systems of tiny personal banks in the smaller countries. He’d started famines by bankrupting the economies of the smallest of them.

He’d had experimental biofilters installed in his head so that he could talk to me and surf at the same time. Time-share boosters, he had called them. He didn’t see the need to wash. He looked more and more like a special effect every day.

He was putting the money towards digitizing himself. New attempts in other countries were getting closer and closer every day. He had a fortune in not-yet-patented experimental equipment cluttering his apartment.

I had known him when he had a ponytail and sunglasses and liked to walk in the sun. I didn’t kid myself that I knew this James, here, in this room. He wasn’t the man I’d grown up with.

“I’ve found a way to transfer my mind, David.” He said to me, one eye glowing red above his wet mouth and white skin. The respirators squeezed like death’s accordions behind him.

“That’s great news, James.” I said. “Why do you need me here? Moral support?” It came out as a dig, escaped before I could block it.

The silence after that question and James’ alien gaze made me suddenly afraid. I knew that James’ morality was eroding but I always counted myself as safe since I had always been his best friend, now his only friend.

I was wrong.

“I’ve found a way to transfer my mind into another human.” Said James. “The digitizing process for full net transfer won’t work for the silicon just yet but it might in six year’s time. I’ll be dead long before then. However,” he said and his wheelchair moved forward, “you won’t.”

The screens came up behind him with an image of a monkey. Shaved head, brain plugs.

“We’ve been shuffling the minds of monkeys in and out of each other all week. It’s been a total success. Yesterday, we did it with two of the research assistants. We switched them into each other and then switched them back the next day. There was a small amount of degradation but they were essentially okay.”

The screens pulled up images of two people. A man and a woman in lab coats. The man had a nosebleed and was staring at his fingernails. The woman was crying and biting her lip, her face turned to the wall.

“Are you my friend?” asked James.

I heard a door lock behind me.

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