Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 38 of 61

When the doc came back, he held a small device that I instantly recognized: a HERF gun.

Oh, it wasn’t the same model I’d used on the Hall of Presidents. This one was smaller, and better made, with the precise engineering of a surgical tool. The doc raised his eyebrows at me. “You know what this is,” he said, flatly. A dim corner of my mind gibbered, he knows, he knows, the Hall of Presidents. But he didn’t know. That episode was locked in my mind, invulnerable to backup.

“I know,” I said.

“This one is high-powered in the extreme. It will penetrate the interface’s shielding and fuse it. It probably won’t turn you into a vegetable. That’s the best I can do. If this fails, we will restore you from your last backup. You have to sign the consent before I use it.” He’d dropped all kindly pretense from his voice, not bothering to disguise his disgust. I was pitching out the miracle of the Bitchun Society, the thing that had all but obsoleted the medical profession: why bother with surgery when you can grow a clone, take a backup, and refresh the new body? Some people swapped corpuses just to get rid of a cold.

I signed. The doc wheeled my gurney into the crash and hum of the utilidors and then put it on a freight tram that ran to the Imagineering compound, and thence to a heavy, exposed Faraday cage. Of course: using the HERF on me would kill any electronics in the neighborhood. They had to shield me before they pulled the trigger.

The doc placed the gun on my chest and loosened my restraints. He sealed the cage and retreated to the lab’s door. He pulled a heavy apron and helmet with faceguard from a hook beside the door.

“Once I am outside the door, point it at your head and pull the trigger. I’ll come back in five minutes. Once I am in the room, place the gun on the floor and do not touch it. It is only good for a single usage, but I have no desire to find out I’m wrong.”

He closed the door. I took the pistol in my hand. It was heavy, dense with its stored energy, the tip a parabolic hollow to better focus its cone.

I lifted the gun to my temple and let it rest there. My thumb found the trigger-stud.

I paused. This wouldn’t kill me, but it might lock the interface forever, paralyzing me, turning me into a thrashing maniac. I knew that I would never be able to pull the trigger. The doc must’ve known, too — this was his way of convincing me to let him do that restore.

I opened my mouth to call the doc, and what came out was “Waaagh!”

The seizure started. My arm jerked and my thumb nailed the stud, and there was an ozone tang. The seizure stopped.

I had no more interface.


The doc looked sour and pinched when he saw me sitting up on the gurney, rubbing at my biceps. He produced a handheld diagnostic tool and pointed it at my melon, then pronounced every bit of digital microcircuitry in it dead. For the first time since my twenties, I was no more advanced than nature had made me.

The restraints left purple bruises at my wrists and ankles, where I’d thrashed against them. I hobbled out of the Faraday cage and the lab under my own power, but just barely, my muscles groaning from the inadvertent isometric exercises of my seizure.

Dan was waiting in the utilidor, crouched and dozing against the wall. The doc shook him awake and his head snapped up, his hand catching the doc’s in a lightning-quick reflex. It was easy to forget Dan’s old line of work here in the Magic Kingdom, but when he smoothly snagged the doc’s arm and sprang to his feet, eyes hard and alert, I remembered. My old pal, the action hero.

Quickly, Dan released the doc and apologized. He assessed my physical state and wordlessly wedged his shoulder in my armpit, supporting me. I didn’t have the strength to stop him. I needed sleep.

“I’m taking you home,” he said. “We’ll fight Debra off tomorrow.”

“Sure,” I said, and boarded the waiting tram.

But we didn’t go home. Dan took me back to my hotel, the Contemporary, and brought me up to my door. He keycarded the lock and stood awkwardly as I hobbled into the empty room that was my new home, as I collapsed into the bed that was mine now.

With an apologetic look, he slunk away, back to Lil and the house we’d shared.

I slapped on a sedative transdermal that the doc had given me, and added a mood-equalizer that he’d recommended to control my “personality swings.” In seconds, I was asleep.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)