by watching the war news on SophX, Kiang missed the exact moment when the mind
implanted and the floppy awoke.
and hideous gurgles. The floppy struggled to speak. His gaze darted over the
luminous walls, the organic tangles of instrumentation dangling from the lab
ceiling. Darting eyes found Kiang, widened in awe.
you an angel?" the floppy gasped.
reasonable mistake, given the iridescent mesh of Kiang's uniform. His glowing
mechatronic carapace was both functional and beautiful. Its bidirectional comm
made him an integral prong in the ChoRen military machine. There were
distasteful aspects to being a Material Procurement Specialist III, but Kiang
liked looking sharp. He posed proudly.
he said. "You're in the future. Your future, my present. You died a
thousand years ago, but through quantum psychography we copied your mind into a
floppy blinked. "This isn't Heaven?" His disappointment was palpable.
snorted. "Not hardly. Relax. Lie still while I check some stuff."
touched a virtual button. A mist of synaptobots emerged from vents in the slab
on which the floppy trembled. The bots settled over the bare scalp and
self-assembled an EEG mesh. Their data generated a four-dimensional
representation of the floppy's corpus and mentation, hovering over the slab
like a translucent homunculus. Observing the colors, Kiang tweaked and adjusted
the floppy's neurochemistry. He had to prevent the retrieved mind from
disintegrating into rival modules that fought each other insanely. And keep
phase jitters from cascading into a fatal seizure.
floppy twitched. "Hey, that hurt."
language the floppy spoke was extinct. A SophX app interpreted. When Kiang
spoke, a neural prosthesis controlled his larynx and mouth so he in turn was
understood. He disliked having his jaw and tongue be manipulated like a puppet.
Fortunately he wouldn't have to endure it very long.
he stabilized and anchored the mind. The synaptobots swarmed back to their
nest. The floppy sat up on the edge of the slab. Beforehand, Kiang had dressed the
corpus, so he was wearing a flimsy disposable gown. And a diaper, in
case shock and fear loosened his bowels.
helped him stand, then stepped back.
floppy tottered. He crumpled to his knees.
bit his lip. Had he missed something? Damn. If he lost another one—
the action was deliberate. The floppy was kneeling. He bowed his head and
clasped his shaky hands together.
you, God, for the gift of life. My heart is filled with gratitude. I don't know
why you allowed a miserable sinner like me to live again, but thank you thank
you thank you. I promise to be a better person this time, and to serve you in
whatever way you see fit."
generated a private info-display in Kiang's visual cortex. The retrieved mind
was a Christian, it declared, and flashed a brief overview of the cult. Kiang
sighed. How many silly religions had he encountered in the course of recovering
the dead? Before the transhumanist era of scientific atheism, apparently
everyone bowed down to some god or devil or magic tree. Ridiculous. Kiang was
glad he lived in a world run on the principle of reason, not fear.
he said, with artificial cheeriness when the floppy stopped babbling.
"Let's stretch your legs. Take a test drive in your new corpus." He
didn't know what that meant. SophX was putting words in his mouth. But the
it would have been more efficient to slide him off the slab and straight into
an induction tube. But experience had taught Procurement that physical
activity, plus a brief exposure to nature, helped anchor a retrieved mind,
resulting in a higher output of useable floppies. They exited the lab and set
out along a path in an enclave designed to achieve that effect. They could have
been strolling through a glade on an Overlord's estate, not a heavily defended
military base. In any direction the floppy looked he would be soothed. An
emerald meadow, delicate trees, waves of yellow flowers. No trace of the
mutagenic weapons that turned unprotected forests into skeins of rotting black
skyward, the floppy rubbed his eyes. "What's wrong with the sun? How come
it's red and fuzzy?"
being tapped. There's a toroidal particle structure just outside the
photosphere. A collector for...special projects that require a lot of
You must have some smart scientists."
ChoRen are the greatest scientists in the history of humanity," Kiang
said, with considerable understatement.
had been many breakthroughs in the centuries since the mind thought its last
thought. The Kirtane Interface. SophX. SA3D communicators.
Purificase. With each step forward, science became stronger. Strong enough to
crush religions and other superstitions. To annihilate the primitive thinking
that had held the world in thrall, freeing humanity to evolve to self-directed
there's something I'd like to do," the floppy said, shyly.
floppies wanted a special food. Or sex. Any desire was good. A fragile floppy
generally wanted to sleep, which meant the implant wasn't holding and the mind
would soon disintegrate. A useless dud, a black mark on Kiang's performance
want to go to church," the floppy announced.
explained “church.” Kiang flinched. "Why?"
future architecture is fantastic." He pointed to an early-warning sensor
array that stabbed at the sky like coral lightning. "I can't imagine what
your churches are like. I want to see one."
you pray anywhere?"
But I want to see a church."
hesitated. The floppy became suspicious.
do have churches, don't you?" He scrutinized Kiang's face, observed the
reluctance. "No? Why not?"
we go, Kiang thought. He upped the defensive power of his uniform.
civilization is rational. No one believes in supernatural beings. Only what can
be measured and proven. All archaic belief systems have been purged. Including
one Christian church?"
What would happen if I walked up to someone and said, ‘Brother, have you heard
about guy named Jesus?’"
flashed a biographical sketch.
of all, no one would know who you're talking about. Second, you'd be committing
a crime. 'Promotion of religion or superstition'."
if you don't buy the story about his daddy, you have to admit he's part of
history, right? I can't discuss a historical figure?"
floppy nodded as if he'd won a bet with himself. "That explains why you're
so blasé about raising the dead. No sense of sacrilege. No awareness that what
you are doing is something only God should do."
personally have done it thousands of times. Does that make me a god?"
floppy laughed. "You wish."
some reason, that stung.
Kiang tried to make him appreciate the magnificence of ChoRen science. Quantum
psychography! It had long been known that particles such as electrons were
linked in space. Spooky action at a distance—the basis of SA3D
communicators. ChoRen scientists realized they could also exploit that linkage
on the time axis. Spooky action through time. First they learned how to view
the past, and thus invented quantum archeology. Then ChoRen scientists
discovered how to copy brain waves to the present. How to copy entire minds.
The computational overhead was immense, but doable. Given sufficient
floppy didn't seem impressed by the amazing technological achievement.
you copied my mind into a corpse? Why me? Were you looking for me,
specifically, for some reason?"
Kiang admitted. "We can't aim. Too many variables, too much slip and fuzz.
We're fishing in the dark. We'd like to copy significant historical figures, of
course, but those are rare. We have to settle for whoever we can get."
floppy either didn't perceive the insult, or didn't care. He continued to
think, assessing the situation with an equanimity that was disturbing.
reactive scales on the surface of Kiang's uniform would protect him from a
physical attack. But the calm demeanor was more unsettling than overt
belligerence would have been. He dialed his defensive power higher.
taking all this in stride," Kiang probed. "Other minds I've recovered
have exhibited much more culture shock."
was sick for months. Do you folks still have hepatocellular carcinoma?"
explained. Kiang shook his head.
had a lot of time to think about where I was going when I died. Only two
possibilities, I figured. I knew which one I wanted, so I didn't just sit on my
ass waiting to croak. I volunteered at the hospice. Helped other people. There
was this one mean old lady. I sat by her bed. Held her hand. Breathed through
my mouth so I didn't have to smell her." He shuddered. "Everyone said
I was a saint." He rolled his eyes. "Big deal. If you do good deeds
because you want to be rewarded, that doesn't count. Maybe I fooled the people
in the hospice, but.... Yet here I am. Good-for-nothing me. Living again? It's
like I got a do-over. Why, I wonder. What did God intend for me?"
floppy was right about one thing, Kiang thought. He had been resurrected
according to the plan of unseen powers. Not God, though. The plan had been
devised by human Overlords, not an invisible Sky Chief.
making polite noises, he watched readouts manifesting in his visual cortex.
Sensors said the floppy's fine motor skills and distance-tracking focus were
good. Level of stress hormones: low. Cognitive processing: excellent. The dorsomedial frontal cortex was lit up like a thermobaric round. The
mind was settling in nicely. This would look good to his superiors, he thought.
came to a fork in the path. Kiang stepped to the right—the direct route to the
Induction Center. The floppy halted. "Let's go this way," he said,
nodding to the left.
The floppy grinned and strode in that direction, hands clasped behind his back.
Despite a silly gown and wobbly legs he somehow projected authority. Kiang
hastened to catch up. He hoped his superiors hadn't noticed the lapse in
he said. "Our world is a utopia. But even in utopia everyone has to earn
their keep. So we've lined up something for you. A special job." He made
his tone cheery, as if letting the floppy in on an opportunity.
everyone accepts ChoRen civilization. In the outer solar system there are rebels.
Outlaws. Crazy people who cling to crazy ideas. We're preparing an offensive
against them. We need pilots."
weapon will do that for you. You will be plugged into its navigation pod. You
will use your intuition, ingenuity, and human unpredictability to penetrate
automated defenses and help the weapon reach its target."
like a kamikaze."
explained. Kiang denied it. The floppy remained skeptical.
I decline this kind offer?"
matter," Kiang said. "Induction will rectify your thinking and erase
all doubt. Induction will make you into what we call a 'warhead'."
That's a raw deal." The floppy looked puzzled. "Why don't you use
your own people? Volunteers? If you have this great civilization going, aren't
people willing to defend it?"
the problem. Our civilization. We are so civilized, so rational, that lifting a
hand against an enemy is troubling to us. Fortunately minds from your barbaric
era don't have that inhibition."
was happy to see that finally he had embarrassed the troublesome floppy.
came around a little knoll, and there stood the Induction Center. Rather, the
entrance, jutting from the meadow like an immense metal mushroom. Most of the
facility was underground to protect from aerial attack; the only part showing
was an armored turret, its top a parabolic shape engineered to deflect
hyperkinetic projectiles. The entrance was an arch. In lieu of a solid door,
projectors generated columns of 3-D glyphs, spelling out propaganda slogans
that scrolled downward in strings of inspirational phrases.
here we are. In you go, now."
floppy knelt. Kiang tensed, afraid he was going to pray again, but the
barbarian plucked a yellow flower and sniffed it. He filled his lungs, savoring
the scent. He made no threatening move, yet Kiang nervously ratcheted up the
defensive ability of his uniform.
floppy twirled the flower between two fingers and gazed up at Kiang
like your job? Leading lambs to slaughter?"
not a job. It's a calling."
Who called you? Some higher power?"
Overlords, Kiang thought. And his own ambition. No. The floppy was playing him.
Why was the man so calm? He maxed the defensive power of his uniform, even though
that would attract the attention of his superiors who might question his mental
floppy stood. "Here's something to think about, mister man of science. Do
you realize your technology has proved a basic tenet of Christianity? Life
technology. Human machines. A supernatural being had nothing to do with
God is working through you."
you disprove that? You could unknowingly be His instrument. Perhaps God wanted
you to bring me into this heathen time—to witness, preach, spread the Word.
Sounds like you need it. You may have a lot of high-tech razzle dazzle, but if
you're still fighting wars, Mankind hasn't changed that much."
his teeth, Kiang gestured toward the Induction Center.
floppy let the flower fall to the carefully coddled military grass. "Yea,
though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me."
gave Kiang the origin of the quote. A banned book—he instantly erased the
display and tried to forget he'd seen it. "Ridiculous. How can you believe
floppy shrugged. He hitched up his diaper, strode through the entrance,
vanished into a waterfall of patriotic glyphs.
Kiang was able to stand down. He uncocked his uniform and started back to the
Recovery Lab. Irritated with himself for being so skittish. He was a Material
Procurement Specialist III. He had received a commendation for delivering the
highest percentage of useable floppies in his unit. Why had he let the cocky
barbarian rattle him?
whirled overhead. He flinched. But it was a troop transport, not a raid.
Embarrassed, he continued along the path.
SophX he peeked at the war news. The announcements from Central Command were
always confident. One triumphant campaign after another. Yet if all the battles
were great victories, why had the war persisted? What was really happening in
the outer system where the religious fanatics had taken refuge? So much solar
output was being diverted to beam weapons that Earth was cooling and glaciers
were returning. The inner system all the way to Mars was supposed to be under
ChoRen control. And still the believers of irrational ideas were able to hurl
ferocious counter-assaults all the way to Earth. How could that be, if they
were hobbled by archaic beliefs?
dangerous thought. He tried to think about something else before his uniform
sensed disloyalty and reported him.
iridescent uniform turned scarlet to advertise his shame. It blocked his
somatic neurons; his muscles went limp and he collapsed in a heap on the path.
As he lay helpless, a remote entity seized control of his visual cortex. Not
the gentle touch of SophX. Something powerful that hurt. The bushes, the trees,
every individual leaf appeared to glow as if lit from within.
uniform tightened like a vise, and he felt, rather than heard, the voice of an
you question us?
His entire body vibrated.
Lord, no," Kiang gasped.
wrath is terrible.
wave of unbearable pain burned through him.
me, Lord. I was a fool."
mercy is great.
wave of infinite pleasure cooled the hurt, made him gasp with joy.
in the dirt, weeping, Kiang vowed never again to doubt the power, the
omnipotence, the glory of the ChoRen.