Author : Scott Shipp
Ian was cornered. He had run straight into a dead end alley. Right on his heels were two cyborg cops, and he had the money credits hacked from the bank all over his data stores. There was no escape. Lucky for him, he was augmented with an eye implant that drew his computer screen directly onto his retina. His brain had both a processor and an organic hard drive jacked directly into the basal ganglia. He checked his computer readout. No. He wasn’t going anywhere. The only way out was to climb up the walls. And they were smooth as silk.
Cursing, he opened the shutdown script. The shutdown script would encrypt and backup the data to a cloud drive, including his entire mind, then it would wipe everything, even his brain, and this would cause him to die.
He ran it.
“Stop right there!”
Both cyborg cops bore down on him, ready to scan his mind and prove his guilt. Then, death.
He awoke. Friends had told him rumors of what it was like, but he wasn’t prepared for this. Although there was no more body to care for, his mind, now digitized, still felt the existence of an entire phantom body, itching and burning and twitching. He screamed in agony, though there was no sound.
He closed his phantom eyes and tried to focus.
“Must get the credits to Amy, must get the credits to Amy.”
Through the burning, he tried to interface with the system around him. None of it made sense. Everything was unusual. He requested memory, and he saw purple. He tried to ask what data stores were available, and he tasted pineapple and smelled burning rubber.
“I need to learn this new language.”
But he was already exhausted. He slept.
Weeks and months went by. He learned the meaning of purple, and pineapple, and each sensation only by experimenting with each request. He feared accidentally closing his program, or, worse, deleting himself. Once, after he had felt something like vibrations in teeth, a sea of digits swam up before him. He learned it was a man page, a help file in the system that described one of the commands available. It took awhile to learn how to read the man files, but once he did, it was a huge leap forward.
Months more flew by. He learned that he was inside a web server. It was part of a web hosting company. He started to gain more confidence, learning more about each interface. He learned new protocols. He pinged the network. He spoke the language of routers and switches.
And one day he reached the outside world.
Amy sighed, pouring her tea and holding back her tears. The grief was still too much to bear.
“Oh, Ian,” she said to his picture on the wall. “It wasn’t worth it.”
She felt the familiar ache behind her eyes and in her heart and clamped down on it. No use crying any more, was there? Nothing could bring him back.
Her phone beeped. She took it out and looked at the text message.
“Deposit notification: 80,000,000 credits.”
Her eyes grew wide. She checked her bank account. Indeed, it was there. Was it Ian? She smiled a little. He must have somehow scheduled the money to be deposited before he died.
Her phone beeped again. She looked at it. The mug went tumbling across the floor, the phone followed. Tea splattered out.
On the phone, it said simply: “I’m alive.”