Author: Moriah Geer-Hardwick
You might call it fear. When your knee gives out on the stairs, suddenly, without warning. Gravity snaps its jaws around you and rips you from a passive illusion of self-control straight to the floor. An immediate awareness of potential damage momentarily consumes your senses. A list of injuries you could likely incur flashes vividly across your consciousness. But it’s not the threat of pain that triggers this deep feeling of dread within you. The impact isn’t even that bad. Your reflexes hold out. Your arms snap forward, instinctively, and your hands take the brunt of the fall.
No, it’s that sensation you feel as you collect yourself, slowly regain your sense of balance, and tentatively lurch back to your feet. A sensation of betrayal. Your body for a moment felt foreign, and your trust in it is now shaken. You think to yourself that it’s odd to let a certain distance from the floor ultimately dictate your sense of personal stability.
You’ll get it taken care of. In the morning, you’ll call and make an appointment. They’ll fix you up. Like always.
The next day, however, Dr. Apatox seems less than optimistic. “I can’t fix this,” he says, trying to make eye contact with you.
“I’m not looking for original parts from the manufacturer,” you say, half joking, eyes firmly fixed on your problematic knee. “I’ll be fine with something printed. I have the CAD files if you need them. They’re open source.”
“They’re open source because Armaturion hasn’t existed for sixty years.” Dr. Apatox sighs. “You’re one of, what, a dozen or so original transfers still living? You’re the only one I know who is still operating with an exclusively biological CNS. Honestly, you’re probably the only adult patient I have who doesn’t have some kind of integrated neural assistance.”
“It’s the relays.” You’re not really listening to him. “I should have paid a little extra for better ones.”
“It’s not the relays.”
“The ports then.” You nod to yourself, certain that’s it.
“It’s not the ports. There’s nothing wrong with your hardware. Look at me.”
You let your head sink away from him, stare instead down at the floor. Firmly, you press your feet into it, reassured by its solidity.
“The human brain was never built to withstand this kind of constant long term strain,” presses Dr. Apatox, relentlessly. “I know you don’t want to talk about it, but I can’t keep cobbling together mechanical solutions for what has become a systemically biological problem. We are at the point where we either import your consciousness to something more stable, or you end up trapped in this chassis, unable to move or speak, waiting for what’s left of your brain tissue to give out.”
“It’s just a bad knee,” you insist.
“This isn’t anything to be afraid of. Imports are seamless, completely safe, and one hundred percent reliable. We map every pathway, every placement of every brain cell, and perfectly recreate the fabric of your individual being inside a durable synthetic matrix.”
You lift one heel, then try to lift the other. It remains planted. “If…” You hesitate. “If I wrote down every memory, every detail of every experience I’ve ever had… Would that be me? Is that all I am?” Dr. Apatox starts to reply, but you stop him with a shake of your head. You move to rise to your feet, but your knee gives out again. The floor comes rushing at you, but this time your reflexes aren’t fast enough. Your head hits the edge of the counter and everything goes black.