He stood there in the library with his portable EMP blaster, and he erased everything electronic. He’d been transcribing the books for a long time – years in fact. The important ones. Project 451 he called it. He had hard copies of everything. His girlfriend thought he was insane, but then she worked in an Emotion Bank where people came in and screamed at her until they got a reaction and then forked over their valuables – it was the realest thing that happened in their day. Andy wasn’t happy. And his girlfriend Cheryl was comatose when she came home, and still and unreactive when they made love.
He commuted to the Cancer Farm twice daily – it was close by, and he liked to come home during lunch and cook something nice for Cheryl, even if she didn’t appreciate it. He’d sometimes Blip-Meet with his mother who didn’t have the time for a real heart to heart since she passed through the Kurzweil Gate into the Retirement Stack on the edge of town. His work was pretty easy – he was selecting out the more aggressive cancers to be shipped out to the Weaponizer Facility in Poughkeepsie.
Today he sat in the down-town Tibetan Sanctuary Eats, watching the Target Rains move through and wash away the homeless people – the name of the system running the protocol, Travis, had to be some Silicon Valley pseud’s idea of a joke. The pay-cops were milling around the coffee bar, they had a Thread-Head scanning everyone in the place to see whether they might have a record, and if they were worth ratting out to the real police, so they could earn a commision.
Andy was a scratch-head – someone who’d had to dig in under the Profile Label affixed to him that the Government kept trying glue back in place. At one point he’d been excluded from certain sectors of the job market, and certain sectors of the town, all because he’d been born to someone from an undesirable neighbourhood. Andy had to put down a deposit to ride the bus in case he caused any damages; he was given regulation stop and searches … life was made so difficult for him that he would rather risk the jail-time for being a scratch-head than go through the constant hassle.
There was a lot of traffic as they approached the farm. There were rumours that some spooks from the intelligence community incubator had been milling around the area, and that there was some kind of psy-ops game being played in the area – that this had just become an active theatre. He dismissed it as stoners around the water-cooler trying to make things interesting, but when he returned to the thought later in the day he realised he was deleting the incident with Barnes, who had been caught smuggling out a version of the Melanoma Protocol that could leap from host to host and transmit their data through a metastasization sporulation action that turned the victim into a fungal transmission point.
Strange he would forget that – strange it would snap into clarity so suddenly too. He had known a few systems analysts that might put the blame on his scratch-head status; a few bio-hackers that might claim some info-cancer residue. There was a worry that there had been some contamination of the localspace – that the extrapolated cancer protocols they had been plugging into the reality substrate had been unbinding the local physics. They called it Jumpcut Memory – where causality buckled underneath someone and their memory struggled to contain and right itself within the structure of a failing timeline. Theirs was an advanced Cancer Farm – it was doing things the other facilities weren’t.
His girlfriend was screaming at him – they called this leakage. She didn’t normally leak – was the occupational catatonia wearing off? Was her shelf life as an Emotion Bank worker wearing off? He dosed her with some Behavioral he’d picked up from someone who was stealing from the farm. Behavioral he had been using. His memory stuttered again. Behavioral was a softwear cancer.
Awareness spikes. It retracts. His girlfriend’s face swims forward in the visual mix and then it disintegrates. Cheryl … char all … burn it to the ground. Andy – android – cypher – cancer-machine extraordinaire reprogramming the body politic. He is awakening on crests of burning data; ideas of self disintegrating as his body reconfigures itself; as his sense of self realigns, and everything flows through the filter of recent events.
Where is he? What has he been doing? Why is it all so important? And what is the import? Words and thoughts form in clouds, a mist of information, travelling out along the line; and from it a solid body is built and he touches his face and he awakes.
This is just psychic debris – that is the thought that came to him. These are old narratives that have barnacled around you as you begin your psychic egress into a new state. He reaches up and touches his nose and he feels blood.
‘We have to tell you something, Andy.’
‘What is that? Do I have cancer?’
‘You are Terminal.’
‘Yes, you have been infected with a Re-program. It evolved from a Reap-Program – something we released into the wild a month or so back.’
‘So this is an active theater?’
‘Always was. You didn’t recognise that you sleep in a Testbed? That your girlfriend has Contagious Emotion Syndrome? That we have been testing medication on you every day since you signed the contract?’
‘Andy, you’re part of Project Jumpcut – we’ve been working to destabilise time for quite a while.’
‘I don’t remember.’
‘Why would you? It’s by design. You are one of the Amnesia Seeds; the Amnesia Cedes. We are trying to effect a continuum purge and wipe out the last two hundred years of history.’
‘What is your name?’
‘I am a function rather than a thing that needs a name. This is all part of the Fungal Interface. You have been sporulating for a while now – you’ve been building a Mycorrhizal network in order to turn the world into a giant time machine. We are using the Earth’s natural spin to power up the huge magnetic engines they’d been building in orbit for the last ten years, to create enough energy to take the whole world back.’
‘Why are you telling me now?’
‘I am the reboot. I am here to spark your necessary evolution. I am here to provoke the Great Jumpcut.’
He laughed, it sounded hollow. Andy was a scratch-head. He’d been trying to reclaim his identity his whole life. He’d been playing memory games in the library his whole life. Rewrite it; wipe away the accepted memory … the infected memory. He remembered standing there in the Emotion Bank screaming, and she reacted, and he felt alive. Making love; no – having sex; no – fucking; and she didn’t move. The world was sick, he had been infected so he could save it.
And the star collapsed in on itself, and it became a black hole, and everything that came before fell over the event horizon – they pulled the needle through and the stitch, dragged through the wormhole, sewed up the wound, and pierced the skin of the new universe of possibility.
And it started again.