“I still don’t understand how anyone could justify putting a little kid through this.” Quinn’s father glared at the doctor, viciously protective.

The doctor shrugged. “It’s to discourage use. They didn’t intend it for little kids.”

His mother had been begging hopelessly against the policy all morning. “Then why does he have to do it?” She asked.

The doctor was direct. “It’s the law.” They came to the end of the white corridor. The doctor put his hand on the white door, and looked directly at Quinn’s father. “Ten minutes in the room, you are allowed to be present because he’s a minor, but you can’t block his line of sight.” The doctor held open the door. Quinn’s father pushed the wheelchair into the room. There was a boy asleep on a metal bed in the middle of the room.

Quinn’s father started his stopwatch. “It’s starts now.”

“Right.” The doctor sighed, shaking his head.

“Quinn, that boy isn’t you.” His father gestured to the sleeping child. “It may look like you, but it isn’t.” Quinn couldn’t see the boy on the table very well from his wheelchair, just the side of the Copys’ pink face and arm, the rest covered by a blue sheet. The Copy was totally bald, and everything Quinn could see looked soft. He had no spots or scars at all. The Copy had tubes in his arms that led to bags full of yellow goop and clear liquid. Quinn felt his father put a big hand on his tiny shoulder “He hasn’t even got much of a brain son, so you don’t need to feel sorry for him. We just have to stand here in this room for a bit, because it’s UN law, because they want to make little kids feel bad.”

“They make everyone who gets a clone done for parts do it.” said the doctor.

Quinns father whirled and pointed his finger. “You just keep your eyes on your watch.” Quinns father knelt next to the wheelchair. “Now Quinn, it’s important that you understand that boy isn’t real, he’s just a bunch of parts, like the Connect-A-Bits that we got you. He doesn’t think and he’ll never wake up. He’s just going to go on sleeping forever.”

Quinn knew the truth, he knew because he had heard the other kids in the hospital talk about it when the grownups were out of earshot. They said that the doctors don’t make the first cuts on the Copy; it’s all done by workmen who haven’t taken the doctors’ oath. They just go in and cut out a huge chunk of person in the area they need and then doctors take that slab of meat and carefully take the chunk they want. One of the kids said that sometimes the Copy wakes up and screams, but Quinn didn’t believe that part, it sounded stupid, like it was from a scary movie.

Quinn’s mother’s eyes were glassy and she tightly gripped his hand. She looked at the Copy, her chin trembling, and her mouth tight. Her eyes were red.

“He’s breathing.” she said softly.

“Yes, Sarah, it’s breathing. It has to breathe. It doesn’t mean it’s alive.”

They were silent for a long time after that, all of them watching the nameless, nearly brainless boy.

Digital Multiplex

“So what about ‘light blue’ or ‘dark blue’? Can I just say ‘tinoh ekilit’ and ‘tinoh saikilit’? Or do you have to use a separate word?”

“No, no, you’re missing the point. They don’t have light blue or dark blue. It’s either blue or it isn’t.”

“But they have words for light and dark, so what’s the difference? Don’t tell me their eyes can’t distinguish different shades.”

Rennie sighed and rubbed his temple. His newest student was proving to be far more difficult than he’d bargained for. The government said the kid was quick, and sure, he seemed to be some sort of linguistic genius—he’d picked up in a matter of hours the amount of vocabulary that Rennie had had to study for a year. But what good will it do him if he can’t put himself in their mindset? “It’s not their eyes,” he told Greg for what seemed like the thousandth time. “It’s their brains. Like I said, a digital species. Blue or not-blue. Their eyes can tell the difference, but culturally, they just don’t care.”

“And nobody on Keraknos has ever challenged this?” Greg wasn’t buying it, and Rennie could tell. Genius he may be, but he’ll never be a great translator with an attitude like that. As if to confirm Rennie’s fears, Greg crossed his arms arrogantly over his chest. “I can’t believe that. Someone must have gone against the accepted order sometime, somewhere.”

“Look, this isn’t about government control or some coup d’etat.” Now Rennie was getting a little annoyed. “It’s a fundamental way of thinking. Their brains are just wired that way. You think a digital clock thinks about going against the ‘established order’ and turning analog one day? Of course not. It’s a basic difference between our species, and if you can’t handle that, you shouldn’t be trying for the Ambassador job.”

Greg scowled, and Rennie could tell he’d hit a nerve. The jab seemed to keep Greg in check, and he nodded, visibly swallowing his pride. “Sorry, sir,” he said with unusual and obviously reluctant politeness. “Can we go over the conjugations again?”

“If you want,” Rennie agreed magnanimously. “But I recommend you get another tutor if you’re not able to pick up the cultural stuff from me.” He watched Greg carefully for a reaction.

“No, sir.” Greg’s eyes were downcast, though they narrowed seriously when he spoke. “You’re the best, and everyone knows it. I really want this job. I’ll work on it. It’s just…” The boy genius scowled again, as if the next admission caused him physical pain. “It’s hard for me to understand.”

Rennie laughed out loud. The sound startled Greg, whose eyes flew up to his teacher’s face, flashing with anger and resentment at a perceived insult. Rennie didn’t care. That one sentence had convinced him; the kid really could learn, if he put his mind to it. “Don’t sweat it,” he told Greg, clapping the boy on the shoulder. “You’re only human.”

Soul Drive

Turning a page in the magazine, Martha looked up to glance around at the others waiting in the lobby. The sound of dizzying muzak resonated around the off-white walls. She was nervous, but she had no reason to be. She was going to help a lot of people.

Across the room there was a small child in his mother’s lap, toying with some plastic contraption. Martha’s smile made him shy and the mother looked up from her morning paper.

“Hello,” she said. It was something Martha hadn’t expected, not in such a paranoid society.

“Hi. Sorry, I was just admiring your beautiful child.” Martha’s smile remained; it hid her awkward feelings.

“Oh it’s all right,” the woman replied. She stroked the child’s stark blonde hair. “Thank you for the compliment. The doctors worked really hard for him,”

“I can tell! Did you use Y-coding or the new Double-Helix method?”

The mother smiled brilliantly. “So you know your science, huh? You must be in here for the same thing.”

Martha nervously twisted her fingers around the armrests and looked down. “Actually, no… I’m here to donate. Wha-what about you?”

The woman pushed her brows together and started to bounce the child in her lap to keep it busy. “Us? Well, I know it’s stupid but… blood donation. You know, just in case.”

“Well, even though they clone the stuff doesn’t mean it’s perfect, right? Heh.” Martha’s nervousness was starting to shine through. But her words seemed to put the woman at ease.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. So, you as well? Blood donation?”

Martha could feel the room getting smaller. She straightened and cleared her throat, trying to buy precious seconds for the nervousness to fade and the pressure to go away. But the knot in her stomach only grew. She looked up, like a broken doll. “I, uhm…”

Blinking, the blonde mother murmured, “I suppose it’s none of my business—”

“Oh, no! I—it’s just I’m doing the new thing. You know…” Martha let out a long sigh. She hoping that would be enough to hint her to the truth.

The child-toting woman eyes widened. She gave Martha a slow nod as if the weight of the situation had been made clear. “That’s… very noble of you. Do you have the insurance for the… uhm medication afterwards?” Martha could tell the woman was off-set by her decision to come here. She had to remember that somewhere, someone would benefit.

“Yeah, they promised that as long as I took the medication everything would be normal. Hah, I doubt I could really ever lose my humor anyways. Heh.” But the woman wasn’t laughing, just looking mournfully at Martha.

“Martha Finnegan?” The nurse called out from the opened door. Thank God for that, Martha thought. She stood up and waved to the woman and her boy, following the nurse into the hallway and eventually into the second room to the left. Her palms were sweating now. She was starting to have second thoughts.

“How are we this morning?” The nurse pulled the cloth off of the device as Martha sat on the paper-covered bedding in the examination room.

Martha swallowed a lump in her throat. “Fine.”

“Good. Now I need you to just relax, the Doctor will be in shortly to do the extraction.” The nurse smiled and put a hand on Martha’s before she left the room. Martha was a wreck. She put her head into her hands and breathed deeply. Trying to relieve the pressure, she opened her eyes and lifted her head. Right in front of her was an informational poster: Soul Drive – Help others less fortunate than you. Please donate today.

Martha relaxed deeply for the first time she’d gotten there. She knew her donation would really make a difference.

Party Girl

Which one of you did I go to the DEX with last night? Fess up fuckers, cause one of you left me floating in R-space without my pants.

At first, I didn’t even know I was awake, there was light inside of my head and I couldn’t make it dark. Then I realized that my eyes were open and I was staring out a window too drunk to move my head. My roll had worn down, though I had that freaky hungry feeling, the one where you want to eat mountains of citrus. I had my piece and my wad – still there, score one for the Socket – but I couldn’t find my hi-glo pants, which had just begun to conform perfectly to the shape of my ass. I was sitting in a pile of wet plastic without my pants. Imagine my excitement.

I don’t know what it feels like for Fucksticks, but a Socket can always tell if she’s had sex the morning after. It’s a relaxed ache that says that, yes; you got yourself good and fucked. That particular feeling convinced me that I had probably discarded my pants in the meat pile last night.

My Piece was warm from resting on my crotch all night. Guess what? The safety was off. I could have blown off my vag off in the middle of the fucking night and I would have been streaming to you from the hospital getting replacement parts.

I was feeling so shitty that I sucked the rest of my wad to relax. So I’m smoking, letting the hangover fumes do their work and I’m thinking, what did I do last night, did I swing Trans or Fuckstick? Or god forbid, another Socket. I’m usually Fuckstick, but I end up with Trans every time I’m drunk or rolling. Why can’t I just meet a Trans when I’m sober, so that I can actually remember talking to them? Lizzie would say that it’s because I don’t want a real relationship, and that Fucksticks are just so easy to go through, like popping Animines. Personally I think Trans like me better when I’m stupid.

I’ve got a throbbing headache and I’m thinking about drinking again when this Fuckstick walks up to me and asks for a puff of my wad. I tell him to fuck off, and he starts spazing, flailing his limbs around making me nervous. I had to shoot the fucker. Course, this wakes up all the other shits passed out on the floor and we’ve all got to clear out before the medic d-rots arrive and report an illegal gathering. I still don’t have my pants, so I’ve got to take the pants off the guy who I just shot, who acts like a total dipshit until he passes out.

Some people just can’t take lead.

Tomorrow Is Suburbia

“They’re shutting down another museum?” Michael groaned as he turned the page over. “Who do these guys think they are? There’s like, what… two museums in the world left?”

Michael’s co-worker slowly raised his head above the cubicle and cocked a brow. “Mike, do you ever listen to what you say? Let it go, man and save up like everyone else.”

Michael Wiseman had a reason to be grumpy: he was the only one left in his family for the next four hundred years. That and the $2.50 wage he was making as a network engineer. “Sal, you just don’t get it. Every day they are making this era more and more stupid. This year seriously sucks, and it ain’t going to get better.” He went back to typing, watching the unhindered ping flashing by on the screen.

The mailman passed by a few moments later, looking tired as hell. His eyes were droopy and he was panting like he’d been running all over the place. Go figure. “Mail… whew… for, uh, Sir Michael Wiseman?”

Michael snatched the preserved letter before the postal worker could do any more damage to his pride. “Thank you very much, Jim. Don’t you have the rest of the East Coast to get to?” Jim skittered off to catch his plane with a mumbled insult.

Michael lounged back in his computer chair and opened the letter carefully. Sal came over with a cup of coffee and watched him read.

“Why do your parents always make your name goofy and shit when they send you mail?”

“I have no clue,” Michael said, giving a sidelong glare. “They say that unless they label it as royalty in Victorian England, it never gets anywhere.” Sal rolled his eyes and sipped his brew, while Micheal carefully handled the centuries old paper. “It’s not that I don’t like reading it, Sal. See? My dad is telling me he’ll send me Jack the Ripper’s knife. Normally I’d have been excited, but we all know there’s like a thousand of them around today, probably the same one. Who wants to buy a knife that’s so common like that?” He shoved the letter into his desk drawer.

“Mike, listen…. you should just chill. The Time Company is going to have a new sale on the 1920’s. You could just quit here, pack up and go if you wanted. Your parents would even still be around by then.” Sal’s brows were furrowed with rarely-showed genuine concern watching his friend and only co-worker’s frustration.

“Eh, I don’t know… I heard that they have that anti-alcohol law there. No wonder it’s going on sale.”Sal’s smile became smug as he went back to his desk in that otherwise empty office area. “Hey man, there’s only about ten thousand of us out there and I know a lot of them will take the sale.”

Grumbling issued from the other side of the cubicle. “And what about you? You going, Mr. Optimist?”

Sal pulled up his paycheck on-screen, grimacing as he read the total of “$50.42” for two weeks work. “Me? I’m saving up for The Renaissance, and according to the recent pay decrease–”

“Shit! I hate this fucking population-to-pay budget ratio!” The voice rang out in anger on the other side of the cubicle wall.

Sal just sat back and shook his head, “Yep. This year sucks.”

The Tower

The day Korea went silent was the greatest single act of terror the world has ever known. There were no bombs in Samsungs tower, no poisonous explosions, no shootings, no crystal night. There was only that quiet dormant virus, spreading silently from one person to another, insidiously latching itself inside the most sensitive human organ.

Samsung tower dominated Seoul, an icicle rising from clustered silver buildings, connecting the heavens to earth in its mirrored windows. The wealth of United Korea was in its people: brilliant, poised, diplomatic communicators. Private industry and government invested in the advancement of United Korea’s primary resource, and at the vibrant center of that development was the merging of machines and men.

Each Korean citizen was implanted with mechanical discs that gave him or her access to an instant encyclopedia of knowledge and the full vocabulary of seven world languages. At the age of one year, each child could speak fluently, and the effect was eerie and magnificent. Within a few years, Korean teenagers were babbling in several languages simultaneously, the slang a sharp mixed tongue impossible for all but the most brilliant of linguists to follow. Within two generations, the world was relying on Korea for diplomats, programmers, managers, entertainers, businessmen and bankers. They said that to speak with a Korean was to open a library of world knowledge.

In sixty seconds on October 1st, the virus hatched from its incubation and destroyed the precious language center in each implanted mind. Some say that it was a group of Americans who did the job, angry that Samsung closed its U.S. offices and left them without work. Others claim it was done by religious conservatives, taking a hard line on the controversial issues surrounding the modification of the mind.

Stuttered half-words, grunts and screams ripped through the country. On conference calls business leaders grabbed their throats and shook their heads, their brains feeding meaning without words. Confusion and terror leaped from village to village; riots, mass hysteria and suicides swept the country. Terrible crashes occurred as transportation officials failed to communicate with each other. The minister of finance, at the age of 98, the oldest man in government, managed to reach out over international lines, flexing the muscles he had not used for 70 years as he cried across the oceans of the world. Help. Help.

During that silent time there were acts of great compassion. Mothers sang wordlessly to their children; strangers touched comforting hands on the street; lovers watched each other’s faces with new curiosity. The nation searched for meaning in the flickered expressions, the skin and eyes, the lip, the head. In a world dominated by screens, by virtual imitation, the forced exile from language made the people turn to each other. The heroes of that time go unrecorded, for they were all silent. Aid workers came, blue helmets and students from every continent on earth, coming to teach the ancient words. They expected chaos, but they found a new world.