-- William Gibson, All Tomorrow's Parties
In that moment of weightlessness, before gravity becomes jealous of every other element of physics in play and reasserts itself, Cordwell feels as if he is riding the crest of a great wave. His feet are encased in froth, and the world is nothing but curves and beautiful chaos; the wave will never break, never scatter itself to its unknowable constituent parts across the back of some geometrically precise beach. He is protected by eternity, even as his body, a wave of a very different sort slamming it hard into filthy concrete, breaks its own back on the cynical beach of a birthing world.
For slow ages he stares across the street at the hollowed out core of the bombed office building. Firefighters linger outside the gutted structure after the flames have been extinguished, their carapace-like armor covered in grime and smoke. Somewhere, in the unheard back of his mind, he remembers what it is to blink.
Networked citizens, pausing every few meters to listen to their internal voices, mark his location but do not touch him; even without a remote medical opinion, it is obvious to their untrained eyes that his twisted frame requires a lack of movement more than anything else. Eyes jacked open, a retina scan finds only little resistance in the tears streaming uncontrollably from his locked sockets. No family is registered in his public profile, no specific practice to contact, no company or corporate allegiance to inform. He is left alone, save for volunteers on their rounds, who periodically clean his eyes.
It’s only hours later, after the first responders are succeeded by the spinning wheels of government who have fought their way through a running riot, that he is triaged to a hospital on the far side of the city. There, he’ll wait for another six hours before a doctor can see him and tag him as a typical shock case. It will be another two hours before a nurse, having passed some critical point of exhaustion and entered a realm of pure clinical observation, will notice the thin dried slice of blood on the side of his head, just behind his right temple.
He cannot remember, now, why he was at the building housing the clinic. He feels certain that given the threat level, the activist chatter, he would have avoided any publicly accessible high-technology firms dealing with biological manipulation.
Simply as a matter a course, with the same city-dweller sense which tells him which blocks to avoid after night falls, or which chemically altered idiot it is safe to curse back at. Something, then, must have been important enough for him to risk it; nothing in his day planner suggests a trip to a Genify franchise, or any other business in the block; nor do any of his patchy recollections of that day offer any hints.
It was only after a month of painful recovery, of fighting for the return of language, that he could ask after the piece of glass they removed from his brain. He wants it, that sliver of safety glass which short-circuited his mind and showed him, forever and never, a vision of Euclidean perfection and quantum chaos so beautiful, and so maddening that he cannot properly recall it.
Just another piece of detritus, another reminder of yet another awful day, they’ve thrown it away.
More months of physical therapy follow, the difficult process of teaching the new muscles and tendons how to walk. The new segments of spinal material are quick learners, but they are overeager, and it seems frustration outweighs progress by a heavy margin.
When he finally leaves the clinic for the last time, he leans heavily on a cane he hardly needs but has come to rely on. It seems a stable force in a world where you can be walking down the sidewalk one second, only to find yourself a stringless puppet shattered on the opposite side of the street the next.
He is still astounded, edging up onto a year later, how both his mind and body had been effortlessly disabled, and while the recovery was not trivial, its relative ease is nothing less than amazing. He will sometimes walk past the place on the sidewalk where he stared mindlessly into the infinite, and try to recall that feeling of disconnect; he never manages it, however, and so walks slowly away, his cane clicking sharply on the rebuilt pavement, its gritty finish already sliding inexorably into the entropy of blackening chewing gum and dubious stains.
On a deeply mammalian level, is it comforting to enforce the structure of the city.
The feeling is entirely instinctual; it’s rare enough these days that conscious thought is necessary. The Mind deals with the strategies, leaving her to manage whatever the moments tactical situation might require. Just now she had made entrance through a thin plaster wall, kicking a stud to weaken it before shouldering her way through into the target apartment.
The occupants basically remain in their original form-factors, though the meatbag who pulled the machete required some creative restructuring before it would release the weapon. Though the part of her mind which is mostly in control is uninterested, the details of the mission are available to her. A nest of activists, their propaganda ‘ware and bomb gear littering the apartment. Amateurs.
A mild compulsion races through her, requiring her to scour the apartment for information which might lead to another cell, preferably a hub. She finds nothing useful, which she feels, in her way, as unsurprising. These were rank nobodies, expendable human delivery vehicles for viral ideas or demolitions. They would have received their orders through an anonymous network, with no way to backtrack the origin or even confirm that it came from anyone whose ideologies matched their own. Save, the Mind assumes, that they all wanted to blow up the same groups of people.
The presence of the Mind recedes for a moment, gathering itself. It is only a small subset of the entity she serves: In the vast labyrinthine intelligence of the city, her
Mind is a fragment, a shard. It is dedicated to riding and commanding her. In its own way, it is as sleek and perfected to its task as she herself is, and knowing this, instinctually, makes her feel the same way as a good kill does.
A tinge of disgust mars her pleasure, however; something deep and dark that likes to believe it still remains a self.
She doesn’t like when her consciousness struggles to the fore, having its thoughts and ideas. Forming its opinions. It is an unnecessary thing, a liability when all that is needed is action in its most purified form. The Mind nudges it down for her with only the slightest of pressures, and insofar as she is able, she feels grateful towards it.
Perhaps like an extraordinarily well-trained attack dog, thankful towards its master that it was given someone’s bones to rend and in doing so, is rewarded.