Title: Redstone, Chapter Six, Part One.
“Mod deactivation doesn’t hurt.”
That was what everyone said. They were just add-ons to the basic implant, which would remain active for medical and tracking reasons. That implant was a permanent fixture, almost impossible to fully detach from the brain once it was set inside. It allowed the bearer to connect to information hubs and monitor their own health stats. It took a while to get used to, but most people integrated their implants so well they didn’t even realize when they were using them after a few days.
Any mods that got added in on top of the basic functions were the result of money and profession, for the most part. The more mods you could afford, or the more that were demanded for your job, the more that could be packed in there. Generally, doctors didn’t feel comfortable adding a lot of mods until the brain had stopped the rapid development of childhood and early adolescence. It wasn’t an absolute requirement, especially since the brain would naturally adjust the implant’s programming to suit the body’s requirements, but there was evidence of occasional trauma as a result of losing those early mods.
Kyle had been given his first mod at the age of five. That one was for languages, and was the first of four language adaptations he upgraded with. He got his first combat mods from his sister Berengaria at age eight, even though he didn’t really know why or what to do with them. She made him practice for hours, working alongside him with a grim expression. Overall, Kyle had close to twenty physical and mental implant mods, some that directly affected his nervous system, others that tapped into his memory. To lose them all at once would be—
“Criminal,” his head lawyer argued to the doctor even as Kyle was being strapped into the bed. They’d arrived at Redstone an hour earlier, and the first place Kyle had been taken, fully restrained, was the prison infirmary. He was placed in a private room under guard while his lawyer argued for a gradual drawdown of his mods. Demarcos Gyllenny was a high-profile defense lawyer who specialized in inter-familial cases, so Kyle’s predicament was right down his alley. He had been stymied left, right and center though, and ended up bringing on an entire legal team to keep the appeals and objections going back at the central court while he lobbied to stay with Kyle, to ensure that his treatment was fair. Kyle knew Demarcos was working hard to make that happen, but he also knew that no matter the lengths his lawyer went to, Raymond was going to come out on top. He always did. At least, he had so far.
“Studies show that the sort of mass deactivation you’re planning leads to disorientation, nausea and vertigo,” Demarcos went on. “You can’t send him into the general prison population without ensuring that he’s well enough to take care of himself, at least able to stand on his own two feet.”
“I’m not going to become an accomplice to murder, if that’s what you’re implying,” the doctor snapped as he brought over a machine. It looked…old. Like something out of an early space-era horror film, all sharp bits of metal that somehow fit over his head. Kyle shuddered. “I’ve seen Mr. Alexander’s medical files, and he’s perfectly healthy. He can handle a mass deactivation just fine with a little Regen time afterward.”
“Regen just covers up the symptoms—it doesn’t give the brain time to reset itself after such a massive disruption! He’s going to need at least a few days in solitary confinement to recalibrate before you let him go into the general population—”
“Mr. Gyllenny, of the two of us I think you’ll find that I am the one with the medical degree,” the doctor said dismissively. “I know what I’m doing. Mr. Alexander is going to be perfectly all right.” He positioned the machine above Kyle’s head, gave it a critical once-over and nodded. “I’ll give you a few minutes to talk to your client before I do the procedure. It won’t take more than a few minutes to do the deactivation, and you can watch the Regen process afterward yourself to ensure he’s getting adequate care. I trust that’s acceptable to you?” He left before either of them could say anything.
Demarcos ran a hand over his dark brown head, an anxious gesture that Kyle had seen more times than he could count at this point. “Good thing you’re already bald,” he joked. “Otherwise I’d get you there, huh?”
“Don’t flatter yourself,” Demarcos said, doing a good impression of amused. “I’ve had way tougher cases than yours.” Kyle could see he was lying though, in the slumped set of his broad shoulders and the tension at the edges of his generous mouth. He wondered if he’d still be able to pick up on those physical cues once his advanced information synthesis mod was gone.
Demarcos sat down on the edge of the bed and took Kyle’s hand in his. Kyle held on hard, wanting the contact more than he was comfortable saying. He had gone into this with his eyes wide open, he knew the consequences he faced, he was supposed to be strong…but right now all he wanted, more than anything, was a hug. A fucking hug. He would have laughed at himself if he’d been able to conjure up the breath for it.
“I’m not going to let him put you in there before you’re capable, Kyle,” Demarcos assured him.
“I know you’ll try your best.”
Demarcos frowned. “Don’t be a martyr, Kyle. I don’t need excuses from you as to why I can’t do my own job, you got it? I’m here to keep you safe and look after your welfare until I can get you to trial, not the other way around.”
“Trial, right.” Kyle knew he sounded bitter but there wasn’t anything he could do to stop himself. “Because that’s going to go so well.”
“It’s going to go way better than you think it will, you’ve just got to get there. You hear me? No fatalism, now, nobody’s got time for an existential crisis today.”
“How about tomorrow?”
Demarcos chuckled. “Maybe tomorrow. But just a short one, you got it?”
“Yeah.” Kyle squeezed the other man’s hand one last time, then forced himself to relax his grip. “I’ve got it.”
“Good.” Demarcos rubbed his head again. “All right. No being stoic now, okay? You don’t feel well, you let us know.”
The doctor reentered the room, a frown on his face. “I’ve got an inmate with a broken pelvis to get into the Regen tank, gentlemen, so let’s move this along, shall we?”
Watching his lawyer leave was almost enough to trigger a panic attack in Kyle, damn the doctor’s tutting at the readings that spewed from his device, but he held onto his calm with the skin of his teeth. He wasn’t going to break down, he wasn’t. He was strong, he had to be strong. He could do this. He’d survive; he didn’t have any other choice.
“Take a few deep breaths, Mr. Alexander,” the doctor advised him as he settled at the top of the device, tightening it around Kyle’s head and neck. “This will all be over soon.”
Kyle had time for exactly one deep breath before the first node of his implant was spliced into. From there, it was…
It was like being in a vast mansion, or maybe a maze. It was a familiar maze, all the twists and turns well established. Only this time as Kyle began to run it, corridors that should have been open were suddenly closed off. Inaccessible. Paths he’d trod for nearly two decades were suddenly blocked, and he turned in circles again and again trying to find his way into him, only to be stymied. The main passages were still there, well-worn avenues, but between one second and the next Kyle forgot the name of the martial art he’d studied with Berengaria. He forgot how to load and fire a shrike gun, he forgot how to say I love you in French and Cantonese and Arabic, he forgot…
It felt like he forgot everything. It couldn’t have been everything, of course not, but his mental maze was filled with fog now, even the main passages obscured in places where Kyle’s mind had made connections with his deactivated mods that now no longer functioned. It was like being drugged, and as the machine was loosened and drawn away from his head, Kyle suddenly rolled over onto his side and vomited helplessly. It was like being twirled on a spit, even though he knew he wasn’t moving.
“Damn it,” the doctor muttered irritably. He pushed a syringe of some kind into Kyle’s neck, and the nausea subsided but the whirling sensation stuck with him. “I can’t put you into the tank like this, you’re a mess. Broken pelvis first, then you.”
“My…” Kyle spit to clear his mouth of foulness. “My lawyer…”
“Later, once you’re tidied up. I should have guessed you’d make this difficult.” He left, and a moment later a bot came in and started to clean things up. Kyle stared at it blankly. He should have known what kind of robot it was immediately, he should have known its make and model and capabilities but where those memories resided was just…fog. Slick, crawling fog that stuck tight to his brain and concealed his own thoughts.
Kyle had no idea what was going to happen next. He wondered if he’d known a few minutes ago.