Author : David Atos

Detective Danielson stalked into the alley. The victim lay slumped against the wall, hidden from the street by a pile of refuse. The scene was illuminated by the flashing red and blue lights of the patrol car, and by the strobes of the forensics team photographer.

“Wallet says the vic was Howard Matthews. Lived in the upper east side. We’ve got a unit going to the house now.”

“Any signs of injury or theft?”

“Doesn’t look like anything was taken. He’s got the sucker-holes, though. And I bet when forensics is done, they’ll find the stun-gun marks.”

Sucker-holes. Danielson sighed. The puncture wounds where an upload apparatus snaked its electrodes into your brain. The technology was supposed to free mankind from the spectre of death. Take an exact copy of every neuron and every synapse inside your head. Store an entire person’s life, their experiences, their hopes and dreams. Burn it to a sphere of quartz four centimetres in diameter. With enough processing power, the personality could continue their existence. The only downside was that the original brain couldn’t survive the upload process. Not a problem for end-of-lifers. Not a problem for people contemplating digital immortality.

Not a problem, until someone figured out how to use a mem-sphere to run a VR rig. Plug in somebody’s personality, and step into their life. Laze in a giant bed in their mansion. Drive their expensive car. Sleep with their beautiful wife.

Uploading stopped being a promise of immortality, and became nothing more than cheap entertainment. Users would pay hundreds or thousands of creds for a new sphere, for a new experience. And the syndicates were all too happy to supply them. All highly illegal, of course. And Danielson was one of the men tasked with trying to stop the tide.

Crouching next to the victim, Danielson looked into his vacant eyes. He took in the expensive shoes. The fancy watch. The tailored suit. Clearly, this was another luxe case. The most popular type on the black market, but by no means the only one. He’d confiscated spheres of junkies, of gang-bangers, of prostitutes, of single mothers living in small towns, of hardworking tradespeople. Any life was potential fodder for the users, and for the criminals that supplied them.

Danielson sighed and straightened his shirt as he stood. He started walking back down the alley towards his car, where he —

“Jeremy! Dinner!”

Jeremy pulled the VR rig off his head and hid it beneath his bed. His buddy Nathan was right; this was one of the best spheres he’d ever seen. The fidelity was incredible, and the dark, gritty atmosphere dragged him in. He promised himself that he’d take his time and ration it out. No more than an hour each night. He had to make this experience last.

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