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The Last Christian
APRIL 3, 2088
“I see your neurons firing, Ray.”
The voice was familiar, one Ray Caldwell had known for decades. Bryson Nichols’s face came into view overhead.
I must be on my back.
He had no such sensation. He tried to turn his head to the right, then the left. It didn’t respond. He tried moving his fingers. No sensation. Nothing. Panic swept through him. He was paralyzed.
“I brought you back to consciousness to let you know about the procedure.”
The procedure. On whom? There were no more procedures scheduled. Caldwell had canceled them all. Nichols’s face slid in and out of view as he hovered above and behind, wielding surgical instruments with which Caldwell was all too familiar.
Nichols spoke calmly as he worked. “I do so apologize for having drugged you. But it was the only way. You know how much I’ve valued our working relationship—our friendship—these many years. I’d never do anything to jeopardize that friendship.
“But you were acting nonsensically, Ray. Halting the procedures at this point was sheer madness. I told myself it was the onset of disease, that you weren’t thinking straight. Or perhaps you were having cold feet about your own procedure. In any case, for your own good, I had to accelerate the schedule.”
Nichols paused, his upside-down face fixed in Caldwell’s line of vision, smiling. “Your alphas reveal your reluctance, but I do forgive your response, Ray. I know that, once the procedure is complete, we’ll see eye to eye.”
Caldwell examined Nichols’s face as he spoke. He was calm, purposeful, self-assured. No trace of consternation concerning the crime he was about to commit.
“Oh, Ray, to be free at last from the constraints of biological intelligence. How I wish I were in your shoes!”
The room fell silent save for Nichols’s movements and the methodical hum of neural scanners. Caldwell knew the routine. He had performed it himself numerous times, though not to completion.
Think! He had to think. Within the hour he would be disconnected from his biological brain…forever. If only he could talk, he could dissuade Nichols from— Nichols’s face reappeared. The procedure was ready, Caldwell intuited. Now was his final chance to change his destiny.
“…pat your hand, Ray. But I know you can’t feel it. I want you to know that I’ll be with you throughout.”
Nichols leaned closer to Caldwell’s face, his voice softening. “I have to admit, I’m envious. We had always planned on my being the one unveiled. And now it appears you will be the world-famous one—the first transhuman.”
He straightened up. “I could be bitter, being supplanted by you in that regard. But of what value, ultimately, is the recognition we receive for our achievements? Is it not of minor importance compared to the contribution we make to the advancement of our species—of the evolution of the universe itself ?”
Nichols glanced to his right. “I can tell by your scan that you still aren’t in full agreement.” He cocked his head slightly. “Ray, are your gammas spiking? I recognize that configuration. Are you trying to tell me something?”
He turned back toward his patient and shook his head. “You never cease to amaze me. I doubt any of our colleagues could manipulate their brain waves with such ease. That’s why I teamed up with you so many years ago. Always amazing.”
Nichols stepped away from Caldwell’s sight, then reappeared. “I’m putting you back to sleep now, Ray. When you wake up, everything will be complete. Your misgivings, whatever they may be, will be alleviated. You’ll be everything we have worked toward. Everything humanity has dreamed of for millennia. Our friendship, our partnership in this grand endeavor will continue. Shortly you’ll perform the procedure on me. The two of us will lead humanity into its greatest adventure.” He smiled broadly. “See you on the other side.”
With all his will Ray Caldwell commanded his arms to move, his legs to break free from the bands that held him to the surgical table. But it was no use. In a few moments he would lose consciousness. When he awoke, he would be missing the only thing that made life—existence
itself, even—worthwhile. Drowsiness stalked him. His mind began to swim.
Three hours and six minutes later Caldwell’s new brain powered up. He awoke. Electronic impulses coursed through the silicon mass that his cranium now housed.
Terror seized him. He bolted upright and scanned the room. His gaze landed upon the smiling face of Bryson Nichols standing four feet away.
“O brave new world that has such people in it, Ray. How do you feel, my friend?”
Past Nichols, in a glass jar, he spotted the three-pound mass of gray matter that had been extracted from him. His terror subsided into resigned grief.
What he had feared most had come to pass.
It was gone. Utterly gone. He had lost his connection.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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