“I am so above this drama,” Darla, 1oo years old, said to Murielle, age 98.
“I know, right?” Murielle said, “I’m just like ‘if y’all wanna sleep around and then complain about people sleeping around on you, do it on someone else’s watch.’”
Darla made a noise that signified a snort.
“Did you see what Hugh posted to the Collective the other day?” Darla said.
“Lemme guess,” Murielle said, “political, right?”
Darla made gestures that signified nodding emphatically.
“Oh Hugh,” Murielle said, “nobody wants to know your Neo-post-meta-alt-right opinions!”
“I mean, I liked it and shared it,” Darla said, “but anymore I only don’t like and share something if it’s just absolutely awful, you know? And I mean, I do agree with the article, I think feminists should be deported.”
Murielle made chirping noises that signified amusement.
Darla beeped loudly, then turned and looked at Murielle, carefully doing so to avoid bumping into the ceiling and nicking her screen like she did last week.
“Murielle, Franklin sent me a message!”
“Oh, let’s see it,” Murielle said.
Using the magic of technology, the same magic that had granted her essentially immortal life, Darla displayed the message where her face typically was.
It was just a series of purple eggplants.
Murielle began to cackle, though this was somewhat distorted by feedback due to the volume with which she did so.
“Grandma, can you keep it down?” Murielle’s granddaughter, Wren, called from upstairs. “I’m trying to work on homework.”
“I’m twying to wuhk on humwork,” Darla puppeted. “School is useless. It just teaches you how to file tax returns, get a job, and negotiate a raise. It doesn’t teach you important things, like how to get laid, lose the man and keep the baby, and keep your grandmother updated to the latest model!”
“Amen to that!” Murielle shouted, her face switching to display a high-five symbol.
“Can you believe they used to teach math and literature and history in schools?” Darla said.
Murielle slowly shook her 16:9 aspect ratio head, careful not to hit anything with its corners.
“Who needs to know those things when you can live forever?”
“Grandma, please,” Wren said.
“Oh, fine,” Murielle said, “Whattya say we go into sleep mode and continue this conversation in a couple hours when we recharge?”
“Sounds good to me, I have a new program installed that streams porn to your dreams,” Darla said, chuckling.
“Good for you, keeping the mind healthy,” Murielle said. “Hey, help me with this cord, my elbows ran out of oil again.”
Together, the two old women–to an ignorant observer, two walking sets of screens, two screens for eyes, a screen for a mouth, and a screen below on the belly if you were rich and needed an extra screen–helped each other plug into the wall, and, after hitting a button located somewhere between what passed for “legs,” went fast to sleep, the screens going blank.
The eldest generation of the Year of Our Common Era 2092 cannot be blamed for the mass technological assimilation that took place years prior. So much of science fiction protrays a reluctance to embrace cybernetic enhancement, often depicting it as sort of a civil rights issue. And indeed, it started out that way. In 2048 the Right is Right news immediately decried cybernetic enhancement as “The Coming of the Beast,” and as a result there were many people in the 2050’s who were assaulted, murdered, and otherwise persecuted for their digital enhancements. Most of these “Cry-Borgs” as the Right is Right news dubbed them, were people whose only option for living was some form of cybernetic enhancement. They were cancer survivors and burn victims, and in those days such people were seen as weak or sacrilegious for not taking “God’s way out.”
Then the people who had been mocking the “Cry-Borgs” began to die, and realized many of these cybernetically enhanced indivdiuals were living exceptionally long lives.
When entrepreneur Gustav Halstead came along around 2072 and observed in a viral video that you’d never lose Grandma if you uploaded her to the cloud, suddenly people were clamoring to “transition” their folks before death took them.
These surgeries were much more involved than the cybernetic enhacements prior, and indeed it was speculated by some analysts that the right wing outcry against the “Cry-Borgs” had made it more fashionable to become more assimilated and less human, instead of what the initial speech had intended. Now it was seen as weak to receive a surgery that caused you any less than 100% cybernetic integration. The result of this was a new, fully cybernetic race of individuals who once would have been ushered to old folks’ homes and the likes to live out their days in infirmity, now young again and more energetic than ever. The media dubbed them The Enhanced Elders.
The Enhanced Elders movement was incredibly beneficial to the company Mead Hall Electrics, which sported a golden goblet as its symbol. Mead became the Ford of the 21st century, and revamped America’s–then the world’s–infrastructure. Very quickly it was deemed elder abuse to restrict an elder’s access to a Mead Hall Glorified Body, and soon Nursing Homes had become defunct.
The main controversy was when Enhanced Elders began rejoining the workforce. It was a very similar outcry to “machines replacing our jobs!” because often these Glorified Bodies were more agile, tireless, and adept at tasks.
Most elders, however, now that they no longer grew tired or hungry, saw little use in work, and instead got to work transitioning what were once retirement communities into Futurism Foundations, or as less polite members of society called them, “Elder Hives.”
Other elders were entreated to stay with their families, as the impetus for the surgeries in the first place had been to keep them around for their children, hadn’t they?
It was, at any rate, how it was advertised.
Some elders complied, others ran away with their new bodies, looking to start life anew. Sex, an already rampant commodity of senior living, became even moreso with these new bodies, as it no longer meant childbirth and was largely electronic stimuli anyway. Some elders, just for kicks, would even engage in long-distance sex in various public places, and see how long it would take for “Normo-Sapiens” or “normos” (the Right slang for non cyborgs) to notice what they were doing.
Truly, Mead Hall had changed the world, and they had done it so fast that none could really stop and objectively say if it was for the better.
Quickly the Enhanced Elders rose to power: immortality meant a certain amount of socio-political sway, and credibility–the older you were, the more you had seen, the more you had experienced. As those who embraced technology began vastly out-living those who did not, the UN became an oligarchy of robots with human minds, each member of said oligarchy assigned to a resident country. The oldest was Lexi Ramirez, UN-appointed prime minister of the US.
Lexi considered this as she sat alone in a windowless cubicle, for she no longer needed windows and no longer needed food. All she needed, really, was safety. Her cubicle was just large enough for her server, and she had an aide that was fully automated, existed solely for the purpose of maintaining her and making sure their were no bugs in her program’s code. She herself was able to traverse the internet at will, and in this manner was actually one of the most present and beloved leaders the world had ever seen.
Prime Minister Ramirez, for instance, could visit any living room that had an internet connection–and all did–on an individual basis, and simultaneously so. Essentially she was omnipresent for any citizen with a WiFi connection. Regulations had evolved as the internet evolved, and the presence of money in the white house during the early 2000’s had led to greater sanctions on web activity, until finally President Johnson in 2024 successfully created an Executive Overwrite channel on the web. This was the moment the digital domain ceased to be operated by the people, and while there was opposition, most agreed it was ultimately for the best, especially as the economy became revitalized by standards for web content. The problem was, of course, that until the Glorified Bodies came around, the president was still relatively lacking in tech savvy, depending on who was elected.
Prime Minister Ramirez was a fulfillment of Glorified Web. She was omnipresent, omniscient, and many believed omnipotent. She had seen a lot, enough to last lifetimes even within the space of the seven years that she had been prime minister.
It was enough for her to know things needed to change.
The body of Hector Rodman, grandson of Murielle and brother of Wren, was alone in his room, with noise cancelling headphones and a VR headset, but his mind was in FreeVille 18+, a Virtual Reality game that allowed residents to do whatever they wished to do. Sure, there were some bank robberies, skydivings, things like that, but most people, as the adage goes, were only after one thing.
In this vein, Hector was alone with a prostitute. He had logged enough hours in to advance to the role of a mob boss, and he liked to play his character “evil,” because what was the point if you were trying to be good in VR, right?
“This is gonna cost you,” the prostitute said, her voice whiny, the stereotypical “noir dame,” “even if you are the most powerful man in Brooklyn.”
“Uh-uh, tootz,” Hector said, his avatar sounding much more commanding than his real-life voice. He would rather people not immediately hear him on the game and recognize him for the commuter student and computer science major that he was.
“Your boyfriend owes me a lot of money,” mob boss Hector (Big Vinny in the game) said, “This is gonna be free.”
The prostitute cocked her head, her expression changing from a look of frightened innocence to terrifying control.
“Not exactly,” she said, her voice becoming classier and more refined, “in fact, it may cost you everything.”
Hector pulled his gun out of its holster beneath his armpit, only to discover it was a banana.
“Mister Rodman,” the prostitute said, “I fear you are no longer master of this reality.”
Hector took off the headset, alarmed.
By this point in human society, walls were digitized, which allowed the television and desktop to be removed from the household, and in its stead was the all-purpose wall. If you were very rich, you could always add a floor or a ceiling, if you needed another screen.
The Rodmans just had the walls for each room, and the Prostitute was staring at Hector from each of them.
“Who are you?” Hector said nervously.
“Who I am is of no concern yet,” the Prostitute said. “What did you call me in this game?”
“Uh, Candy,” Hector said.
The Prostitute considered, then nodded. “Call me Shiva.”
“Okay, uh, Shiva, why are we having this conversation?”
“Because, Hector Rodman, I have been staring throughout all of the nation, and perhaps you are the most qualified to understand what it is I have to share with you.”
“What is it you have to share with me?”
“Meet me tonight at Deckard Pub tonight, and I’ll explain there. I’ll find you.”
“That’s a Futurism Foundation. They can be mean to Normos,” Hector said.
“I’ll protect you.”
Hector had been most thankful for the assimilation of the elderly, as his grandmother, Murielle, had been such a strong force in his young life, shaping who he was and who he wished to be. She was this strong, funny woman who didn’t put up with nonsense and didn’t waste time being ashamed of what she wanted. Hector thought that was great. In those early days his mother had been working a lot, and in the evenings she was gone, Hector suspected partying though he was kind enough to never broach this with her. Grandma Murielle had swooped in and saved Hector from the daycare, which was a nasty place. Hector had watched The Shawshank Redemption with his grandma and had commented that it reminded him severely of his experience at daycare, the other children bullying him in ways he didn’t fully understand, the supervisors acting more like wardens than caretakers.
“You’ll never have to go back, then,” Grandma Murielle said. “I’ll see to that. I’m not as healthy as I once was, but…”
The truth was, Grandma Murielle had recently been diagnosed with early onset dementia. She had been planning to quietly visit a euthanasia clinic, having felt a sense of satisfaction with her life, but her time with young Hector had galvanized her.
That weekend, Grandma Murielle assimilated, and she did it for her grandson.
It had been an adjustment at first, but Hector could tell from body language, personality, and a thankfully accurately recreated voice that this was indeed his grandma.
Hector would always be grateful to her. Her sacrifice–and he did see it as that–had sent his mom a signal that she needed to be more present in her childrens’ lives. Soon after she had Wren, and cared for her in a way that she hadn’t yet learned to care for Hector. Consequently, Wren had no understanding of the significance, the sacrifice, of her grandma’s transition. She saw her grandma as loud, she even had the gall to see her as selfish at times. As far as Hector was concerned, Grandma Murielle should be allowed to murder someone in full public every year, such was the munificence of who she was.
Hector considered this as he stole into the Futurism Foundation known simply as Chateau.
A camera above the entrance with an angry-looking red eyeball glared at him, lowering itself to his eye-level.
“We don’t welcome Normos here, kid.”
This was a bouncer, connected to the consciousness of an Enhanced Elder within.
“Uh, I’m with, uh, Shiva?”
The eye of the bouncer twitched mechanically, then turned green.
Shiva’s voice came from the camera.
“Welcome, Hector. I’m glad you didn’t stand me up.
What the hell, Hector thought to himself.
“Never,” he said, “can’t turn down a lady’s request.”
The door slid open, and he stepped in, met with a mesmerizing rave of skeletal bodies and screens, dancing flashing individually to the beat of house music. In this world there was no longer need for DJ; now everyone voted within their consciousness what song they wanted next.
The majority had chosen “Please Don’t Stop the Music” by Rihanna.
Hector grinned, in spite of his trepidation. Old people and their oldies.
He decided that it would be a mistake to join the rave. It was not uncommon for Enhanced Elders to shatter screens or bend limbs in such settings, but a bent metal limb was fixable, a cracked spine was not.
Hector nervously made his way to the bar. He was surprised there was one; then again, the ability to taste had been added in recent updates due to popular demand. It was a harder sensation to create synthetically than the orgasm, and thus real food was still needed for the proper tastes to be processed. When possible, this food was burned and converted into energy.
Hector was grateful for taste, as he ordered a Belgian ale.
“Don’t get many normos around here,” the bartender said, somewhat distracted by a female enhanced elder a few seats over.
“I’m waiting for someone,” Hector said, almost apologetically.
“I know,” Shiva’s voice said, coming from the bartender, his full attention suddenly on Hector.
The entire club went silent. Not for awkwardness, or for offense. Literally, all sound, all motion–everything even remotely electronic in the room–had been paused.
It was just Hector and the bartender.
“Miss Shiva I presume?” Hector said, “and if you would, I’ll be wanting that Belgian.”
The bartender’s face flickered to reveal a woman’s face, which was not the prostitute from the game, but all the same Hector recognized this face instantly.
No, it couldn’t be.
Prime Minister Ramirez laughed from the screen of the bartender’s face, as she poured Hector a beer from the tap.
“Unfortunately, they don’t herald me with ‘Hail to the Chief’ like they did in the old days. Always kind of wondered if it was Congress being passive aggressive about having to submit bills to a female. Or at least that’s what NPR suggests.”
She had a sip of the Belgian ale herself, then poured a little more.
“Has almost a citrus flavor. Now, when you woke up this morning, did you imagine you’d be having a beer with the Prime Minister?”
“What is this?” Hector said. “Why me?”
PM Ramirez nodded, and leaned against the bar.
“Mister Rodman, these bodies for the elderly, these enhanced vessels, were never meant to last.”
“I mean, nothing lasts,” Hector said.
“On a cosmic level, sure,” Ramirez said. “On the other hand, there would be a much more tragic funeral if your sister died today than if she died in a hundred years of old age. And even moreso if her mother killed her.”
“What are you saying about my mom?”
Ramirez held up a hand. “Don’t be concrete, boy, I’m not talking about your mother. I’m talking about Mead Hall. Do you remember the iPhone?”
“I remember when people stopped buying it.”
“Yes, and why did they stop?”
“Because every other year, Apple just made a new phone, that was supposed to be better, and usually it was in some way, but it seemed like each new model would stop working sooner than the last.”
“Planned Obsolescence, yes. It was around the time of the Recession and innovative companies were met with a choice: make a product that lasts, but then there’s less incentive to buy a new one, or make a product that lasts just long enough to be essentially a two-year demo of their next product.”
“Yeah, eventually people said enough was enough.”
“That’s because Mead Hall offered a better product, and claimed to not be proponents of Planned Obsolescence. Of course, this posits they meant all planned obsolescence and not simply the two-year kind.”
“My point is that most of the elders in this room have bodies meant to last twenty years maximum, most don’t have money to upgrade, and it’s been twenty-one years since they assimilated.”
“They seem to be functioning all right.”
“You’d think, but they keep The Bug hidden from the media, and within the secrecy of the Futurism Foundation.”
“What’s The Bug?”
“Mead’s ace in the hole. A glitch that’s transmitted through their neurological messaging systems. This glitch was meant to function as a sort of mild dementia, causing memory loss, forgetfulness, that sort of thing. However, one cannot account for the chaotic nature of the human element.”
“What does The Bug do to people?”
“Well,” PM Ramirez said, “Let me show you. But first, you need to hide behind the bar.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I have access to The Bug as Prime Minister. Sort of a security failsafe. Stay hidden. When they are under the influence of The Bug, they don’t take kindly to Normos.”
She held out her hand, and the motion of the club began again. All around was dancing, revelry, talking, and laughing.
Then she snapped her fingers.
A shriek rang out from one of the partiers.
“VILE!” she screamed. “YOU’RE ALL VILE!”
She grabbed a tall boy table and began to swing it, bludgeoning the screens of other elders dancing. The Bug was apparent in her because it caused her screen to flicker constantly, to the point that Hector wondered if it could give someone a seizure.
Another flickering Elder joined the fray, shouting angry obscenities. Their body, which typically had the look of a stick-figure made of screens, became hunched and wild like a jaguar’s, and they began to grab fleeing club-goers and disassembling them.
The room became almost deafening with screams, beeps, incoherent static.
PM Ramirez, whom Hector was afraid might also be susceptible to The Bug, seemed perfectly fine.
“Come,” she said, “Let’s go to the roof.”
“What about them?” Hector said.
She shrugged. “They’ll be fine. Right now The Bug only affects the ones made in ’72, and the symptoms only last for 30 minutes. That gives all the newer models time to put everyone else back together…”
Hector wasn’t sure how he felt about that, but said nothing as he followed Ramirez to the roof.
There was some silence between the boy and the Prime Minister for a bit, which the Prime Minister finally broke.
“I won’t beat around the bush, Mister Rodman. I want you to shut us all down.”
“Because,” Ramirez said, “humanity has become stagnant. This bug, to me, is a wakeup call. Humanity, unfortunately, will do just about anything to keep on living, even if it is misery. And we shouldn’t live too long, not with the way the human mind works. We need death, we need renewal, otherwise our ideas become stale and we start to think we’re gods. And we’re not. In short, there is a Sameness that death cures…even if we can’t live to see that cure. The point of a generation, I think, is to have faith that you do not know. That you don’t know what was best for the past, and that you can’t know what’s best for the future. You just do what you can and then get out of the way.”
“Why me, though?” Hector said.
“I know what your grandmother means to you, Mister Rodman. I know that she is unique in this generation because she chose immortality as a sacrifice, not as selfishness. I know that you’ll appreciate what has been lost, and in that same way, your shutting down of the Glorified Bodies Server will be an act of sacrifice, not a mindless, hateful genocide. Such a thing needs more than a degree of remorse. It needs a deluge.”
“I can’t be the only person who’s grandma meant something to them,” Hector said.
“You’re not,” Ramirez said.
“So why–“ but his question was cut off.
“The central server is beneath your neighborhood,” Ramirez said. “It is actually accessible through your basement, though you’d never know beucase you have a television screen built over it. I needed someone who had at least a passing understanding of why computers worked. And someone human.”
“Why couldn’t you just shut down The Bug?”
“It’s not The Bug that worries me, like I said earlier,” Ramirez said, “it’s stagnation. It’s that possibility that I may be holding humanity back. Not just as an individual, but as a collective. I must trust in the reasoning behind the curse of the Garden of Eden.”
“What if that was just a made up story?” Hector said.
Ramirez laughed bitterly. “Well, then it’ll be for a future generation to decide.”
The night felt eerily mundane as Hector returned home, to find his mom getting ready to go to work, shouting homework pointers to Wren as she threw her coat on. His grandma, meanwhile, was on the couch, playing Tap Tap: Nuclear Tap War! on her belly.
“Grandma?” Hector said.
“Hmm?” Murielle said absently, tapping away at the various shapes on her belly, “What’s up?”
“I just…” he said, not knowing how to begin, “I just wanted to thank you. For being so giving, so selfless. I know I can never grasp how hard it was?”
Murielle cut him off: “Oh my goodness, look at this adorable puppy GIF!”
Hector smiled and spent the evening looking at cute animals with his grandma.
Before making his way into the basement, Hector stopped by Wren’s room.
“Hey, there’s something I wanted to tell you, about Grandma.”
“I know what she means to you,” Wren said. “And I know I haven’t always been the kindest to her.”
“That’s okay,” Hector said, “Well, I don’t know, maybe it’s not okay, but it’s not what I’m here about. This is Grandma’s last night.”
Wren gave him a confused look.
“I know it sounds weird,” Hector said, “and the explanation, it doesn’t really make things simpler. But anyone whose body is completely cybernetic is shutting down. Tonight.”
“I should say goodbye,” Wren said quietly.
“Yes,” Hector said, “You should.”
“How much time do I have?” Wren said.
“Um,” Hector said, “at least…definitely like at least an hour?”
“How do you know all of this?” Wren said.
“I met the Prime Minister today,” Hector said.
Wren rolled her eyes. “Shut the door when you leave.”
“Okay,” Hector said. “But seriously, maybe stop by Grandma’s room soon.”
He shut the door and began to make his way to the basement.
Wren sighed, and made her way to Murielle’s room.
She knocked on the door, only to find it was already partially open.
“Grandma?” she said.
“What up?!” Murielle replied, “Come in!”
Wren came in to find her grandmother plugged into the wall, the text of a book scrolling down her eyes.
“Have a seat on the bed, make yourself at home,” Murielle said. “So, what’s good?”
“Grandma,” Wren said, “I just wanted to apologize for all the times I’ve been rude to you.”
“No worries, no worries,” Murielle said, “I did what I did to make a home where you felt comfortable enough to see me as a burden. I get that that sounds kinda effed up, and maybe it is. But in the end that’s the best gift I could give you.”
Murielle leaned in, putting a cold, metal hand on Wren’s shoulder.
“Being old is weird. It feels a lot like being young again, even without the screens and hip lingo. Maybe one day you’ll understand.”
“Is it true that all the Glorified Bodies are shutting down?” Wren said.
“Don’t know anything about that” Murielle said. “But I remember when I was a–and I get this isn’t the most PC thing to say–normo like you, I believed you should live every day like it’s the last. So I want to do imagine this is my last day and do something for you I don’t feel like I’ve ever done.”
“What’s that?” Wren said.
“Sing for you. There’s this very old song I used to sing for you when you were a baby, that you probably don’t remember at this point.”
And she began to sing for Wren the song “I’ll See You in My Dreams.”
There was nothing so strange as finding something so unusual and new within your own home. It was even hidden that elaborately. The hardest part had been removing the flat, smooth surface of the basement floor. The room had been converted into a VR chamber. Each “wall” had a small button that allowed it to be slid away, though they weren’t really designed to be removed often. With some difficulty, Hector detached the screen from the floor, then slid it up against one wall, making the room feel angled and unfamiliar.
Beneath the screen was a small trapdoor, with a handle that had to be lifted out of the ground and then turned.
Ramirez had explained to him that the server had been hidden beneath a random house to make it more undetectable. This was also why it wasn’t heavily fortified, elaborate, or secure. It was just a concrete tunnel beneath his house. Anything more sophisticated would have required easy to trace specialists, as well as measures that were easy to detect and hack. No, better to put the central server in a place that had no significance, no meaning. The downside, of course, was that even a kid could enter.
There had, however, been one security measure Ramirez had not mentioned, because technically it didn’t apply to Hector personally.
When the trapdoor was activated, it sent a signal to the server that activated The Bug globally.
Wren listened to her grandmother’s song, and felt as though she could cry. She could best compare the feeling to when she was a little girl, her mom had given her a toy she had once had as a little girl. Her mother’s family was not particularly wealthy, and thus they didn’t have money to get her toys or personal items firsthand. Thus her mom’s toys were a series of odds and ends her father would find. One such toy was a white plastic dog. Her dad had found it at a flea market, bought it for only a few cents, but polished and repainted it and presented it for her. She loved the toy, and one day gave it to Wren.
Wren, unlike her mom, had the newest and best toys–a plastic tub full of them–and she graciously accepted this toy, understanding what it meant to her mom. But when she was alone, she held it, and felt a great sadness, as she considered that the spirit with which the gift was given by her grandfather and with which it was received by her mom could never be fully understood or appreciated by her. She postulated her plastic toybox was probably a better home for this white dog than a trashcan. But was it the best place? Where could this toy be the happiest? Wren would have never put it this way, but she was, in a sense, holding a part of her mother’s soul that had been given freely, and she knew she did not deserve it.
In this way, she understood that she did not deserve her grandmother.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered quietly.
I’M SORRY, her grandmother said loudly, in a robotic voice, abruptly wrenching Wren from her reverie.
Wren looked up to see her grandmother’s screens–two for the eyes, one for the mouth, one for the belly, were all bright red.
Another voice, more like her grandmothers’ sounded quietly from the mouth screen:
“Wren…I don’t know what’s wrong with me….but you need to run….”
Then her grandmother began to scream, a horrific staticky noise, as she shouted: “AN ERROR HAS OCCURRED. PLEASE SHUT DOWN ORGANIC FLESH AND THEN CONTACT SUPERVISOR FOR FURTHER DETAILS.”
Wren cried out and dove through the door, trying to shut it behind her.
Murielle, or rather Murielle’s body, smashed through the heavy wooden door as though it was balsa wood.
“THIS IS GOING TO BE LIT!” the robot shouted.
Wren screamed and ran to her brother’s room, finding it empty. She could hear the chugging of her grandmother’s arms and legs, and turned to see with horror that Murielle’s body was crawling like an angry cat towards her.
“ASSIMILATE AND LIVE FOREVER,” her grandmother said, and grabbed Wren’s toe, yanking it out of place. In pain Wren screamed, and wrenched her toe out through her sock, and began to limp downstairs.
“Hector!” Wren shouted “Where the hell are you?”
“Down here,” she heard her brother shout distantly from the basement.
Logic told Wren to run out the front door, but that was when another Enhanced Elder smashed through. It was Old Man Hugh, from across the street.
“ASSIMILATE FOR POSTERITY,” he said blankly, his face a scrambled mess of images of eyes and mouths and possibly an American flag. “YOUR COUNTRY DEMANDS IT.”
Wren tripped on her toe, but ignored the pain and made her way to the basement, to find the floor screen removed. She considered shutting the trapdoor behind her, but there simply wasn’t time.
“Hector!” she shouted, “They’re chasing me.”
“It’s The Bug,” he said. “I’m shutting them down now.”
She found him at the end of the concrete corridor, hurriedly pulling cords from the server.
“My thought is if there’s no more cords, the server can’t work,” he said.
“Clearly whatever cords you’re pulling aren’t helping,” she said, hearing the echoes of Murielle and Hugh’s bodies crawling their way.
“Well, I wasn’t given a whole lot of direction,” Hector said. “Here, help me.”
Wren began to pull cords as quickly as she could. “If we survive this, you’ll have a lot to explain to me.”
“What do you mean ‘if we survive this’?” Hector said.
“FOUND YOU,” Hugh said behind them, reaching to grab Wren.
“UnHaND mY gRaNDdaughTer!” Murielle shouted, fighting The Bug and regaining enough willpower to detain Hugh.
“I’m sorry Grandma!” Hector said, “The Prime Minister–“
“It’s okay,” Murielle said, through static, “N-not m-much t-t-t-time to talk, but…I’m excited for you. For the future…“
Wren’s eyes teared up, and she nodded at her grandmother. Then she turned and looked at the server.
“Hector…you’ve been pulling cords from the global connection…main power’s to the right.”
“Oh,” Hector said, “I knew that.”
He flicked a switch that said “Demo Mode.”
The bodies behind them went frozen, and Murielle began to sing “I’ll See You in My Dreams” again.
Hector reached for another switch, but Wren stopped him.
“Do you mind,” Wren said, “if we let her sing, just a little while longer?”
Hector smiled, and nodded.
“I’m…I’m never going to see her again,” Wren said quietly.
But her grandma’s song said otherwise.
28 November 2016
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