Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Hans lay face down on the surgical table, completely immobilized and wide awake. His father’s rubber shoes moved in and out of his field of vision as the older man busied himself in preparation, his voice a constant hum of information in the otherwise empty room.

“We can’t effectively target inactive neural pathways, which is why you’re awake. You won’t feel anything, at least, I don’t think I did…” his father’s voice trailed off only for a moment. “If you do feel uncomfortable, be sure to speak up. We’ll want to make a note of when.”

His father double checked his handiwork, having laid out all the instruments he would need on a sterile back table nearby. Overhead hung a large spring-coiled umbilical of fibre optic cable truncated in a blunt two inch long conical tip. A second such cable snaked into the back of Hans Senior’s skull, following him as he moved about the room.

“The initial prototype is completely polarized,” he tapped the back of his head, “one way. The materials that the interface nodes fabricated from were by nature unidirectional.” Barely pausing between sentences he scrubbed the back of the boy’s neck with iodine before deftly slicing through the skin and subcutaneous layers with a scalpel.

“Still lucrative, even with its limitations. Reconnaissance personnel, witnesses, even the skin trade paid handsomely.”

From the table he plucked an insect like device of surgical steel and placed it over the incision. From it a myriad of tiny appendages unfolded, carefully holding aside the lacerated flesh before burrowing even deeper into the boys’ neck, then up into the base of his skull. At the required depth, it injected a thin catheter and, its task completed, simply stopped in place.

“Frustrating how long it took to solve the polarizing issue. So much time, lost.”

Hans Senior unpackaged a fibre cable socket with a long single organic strand trailing from it. Grasping it with a set of forceps, he fed the strand into the catheter.

“This will be so much better for you than it was for me.” No sooner had the strand contacted the tube, it began to pull itself in. Hans’ head flooded with sights, sounds, and smells that he hadn’t known in years. The strand divided and doubled back on itself, only to divide again, sending countless atom thin filaments off into Hans’ grey matter. His father held the endcap until the strand had reeled in all of its slack before carefully guiding it into the still waiting insectile appliance.

The tiny unit came back to life, grasping and aligning the jack with the flesh. It then glue stitched the inner layers to the device below the surface, and sutured the outer skin to its perforated outer edge.

Its job complete, the mechanism detached, and allowed itself to be picked up and set aside with the other bloodied instruments.

Hans felt the restraints relax, followed by a flood of sensation, not all of it pleasant.

“The pain should subside in a few days.” The older man helped his son into a sitting position before grasping the unattached cable from overhead and positioning it behind the boy’s head. There was a strobe of light and a magnetic snapping as the two ends oriented themselves and fitted together.

His father stood in front of him, and closed his eyes.

Hans felt a strange pressure in his head, then had a sudden awareness of why his father had pushed so hard to implant him now.

“You’re dying.” It wasn’t a question, the facts had been laid out for him.

“Yes. I’ve used up my life. I’ve learned so much, but there’s so much left undone.”

Hans felt the pressure again, followed by waves of knowledge. Not all of it was pleasant either.

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