Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer


“You’re very rude.” I rotate my right forearm through a rapid one-eighty. There is a ‘snap’.

“And dead.”

Bamid rises from cover: “Weren’t you supposed to capture him?”

I smile: “He was a veteran of Tobruk. His feedback-scarred brain is mostly hardware and his memories are now read-only. Why interrogate when it’s easier to download?”

I draw steel and take Gdenski’s head off tidily, rather than continuing to twist.

“Take that back, will you? They’ll get excited and I’m not in the mood.”

Bamid nods, bags the tête, and leaves me in silence.

My counter reads 15942 – the number of days since I became immortal. I didn’t plan it, nor did I plan for it. When I took a missile point blank, the last of the organics in my torso went. If my bones hadn’t been cerasteel, I’d have been nothing but a smear on the wall. As I hadn’t read the appendices of my top-of-the-line medical insurance, it was a surprise to wake up ‘deathless’ – a hypercybered being.

Many aspects of the human brain remain a mystery. The pertinent one being that it cannot be naturally sustained without 18% of its body attached. While they try to understand why, anyone under that threshold – and with the insurance – gets their brain carefully placed in a gold mesh container and immersed in a conductive preservative gel. Sometimes the brain stabilises. Other times it rots. After twenty-nine days, a stabilised brain is placed back within the modified cybercranium of its owner and ‘rebooted’.

I woke up and nothing seemed different. Even now, every waking comes with the same feeling: invigorated after a long rest. Then my brain interfaces with my ROM and the truth arrives.

The last night I remember was the night before I got shot. Everything since is stored on secure RAM in my chest. Of course, it’s not everything: storage is finite.

My brain is, in effect, pickled. There is no plasticity to the contents. The ‘memories’ in my chest are simply recordings from my eyes and ears. There’s no instant recall: I have to ‘look up’ anything that occurred sooner than 43-odd years ago. The delay isn’t discernible to anyone, but I know. It’s like watching television inside my head and it’s too disturbing. So, apart from essential data, I keep nothing.

Thus, my contiguous waking hours are precious: thirty-seven hours is the limit. Every minute after risks a cyberpsychotic episode that will inevitably end in my permanent death.

I have amazing abilities. Superhuman, in many ways. I’m haven’t failed a mission in over forty years. I am the first of my profession to go this route, and I may well be the last. The camaraderie of warriors is cemented by facing death, not working alongside it. Thankfully, Bamid isn’t a fighter. He has some odd religious views regarding the nature of my existence, but they haven’t stopped him becoming my liaison with those who don’t want to face me. He also handles things when I’m not in the mood for dealing with people who breathe.

I relax by plumbing the depths of silence. It’s never total. There is always an ant stomping around nearby or a dragonfly flitting over the ponds that dot my untended rooftop garden.

I always thought dragonflies lived short lives. I identified with their thirty-six-hour span. Turns out that primeval trait actually belongs to mayflies.

But, I’m still fascinated by dragonflies. I see patterns and colours in their movements, hinting at something I cannot grasp. In my darker moments, I think it’s life: something familiar, but no longer mine.