Chapter 3: Once upon a time on Earth
Brian Lawrence was a genius. By the time he hit twenty two he had graduated with a medical degree from Yale and had opened the first ever institute of cybernetic research outside Philadelphia (which is a city on earth). He pioneered a new age in medical science, opening up areas of study which had been little more than science fiction twenty years earlier. Photographs of him show the dashing confidence of a young billionaire in his prime. In 2456ad Brian gave the world his greatest gift. The cortical interface. It allowed for true integration, but who would volunteer? To be ripped from their bodies and wired up to a computer? Everyone said, it was genius, Mozart, the most elegant use of bionic rewiring, gentle, beautiful, but who would take it? And that was where it all fell through. Suzuki Maru the CEO and founder of Marco robotics offered to fund Lawrence’s work, he had offered Martian settlers tremendous sums of money in exchange for integration volunteers, one hundred souls, beautiful, perfect pink brains, and with a blessing from the most powerful man on the planet.
Twenty never woke up.
Thirty never spoke.
A few survived to send a their broken moans and cries of fear through the digital speech synthesizer.
And all the rest just died.
Brian was changed for good. Those who knew him said that he looked pale. Those who didn’t said he was dying. They kept the experiments secret from the public, not difficult, at that time, on Mars. But after a few months, word got out, one of the technicians who had carried out the discarded flesh came out anonymously on the Redgate network. He painted a grisly picture of men being slaughtered like pigs, wading through pools of blood on the waste barge. Of the horrible, synthetic screams of the DSS monitors.
What had been a hot new market only decades earlier went quickly from unfashionable to taboo.
Brian was bankrupt by a few well aimed lawsuits. He found himself destitute. He sat in the rain on the fortieth floor of the unfinished Lawrence building outside Philadelphia, his only cohort was the companion drone which Maru had given him as a gift. He liked her. And anyway, they had notoriously low resale value.
It was somehow refreshing to know that sitting there, in the rain, as he swung his feet over oblivion, the decision long since made, she would love for nothing more than to unzip his pants and suck his cock.
Brian took her hand and kissed her middle knuckle.
“I like your stubble, Brian.” She smiled at him.
“thanks.” he whispered, caressing her neck and cutting off power. She froze and dropped her head onto her chest. Brian sighed and without a moment’s hesitation, he pushed off from the cool cement, into the wind and the low grey sky.
But death was not in his book of fate on that day. An unexpected gust threw him back into the building, where he cracked his skull on an exposed I-beam and was thrown through the unsealed windows two floors below.
When Brian woke up three weeks later it was as a criple, he found himself paralyzed, he could not speak or breathe on his own and with the exception of almost enough dexterity to write with in his left hand, he was helpless. There was no one to look after him, he was an embarrassment to his peers and a disappointment to his family. His companion drone had shut off and been lost. So it was at least a day before the nurses who came to change his bedclothes found that he had scratched something with the pencil they had placed in his hand.
At first the nurse did not recognize the symbol on the paper, she thought that it was just damaged nerves attempting to fire, Brian coming through a bit. She placed the pencil in his hand a second time, and once more he drew, intentionally and slowly the same random lines.
The nurse passed the pad around to everyone she knew, everyone seemed to agree that her patient was too far gone to ever make legible writing again and that she should stop trying to make a miracle happen. She was about to give up when an idea occurred to her. She posted an image of the symbol on a website that catered to linguists. It was Japanese, a name, Suzuki Maru.
The man who got rich off the companion drones. Flamboyant Japanese trillionaire with an IQ well over the price of good inari on the streets of Tokyo and a thing for robot girls.
What a tremendous philosophical achievement, to teach a machine to love. The most advanced AI in existence, a sex drone. Every nuance of human expression, the algorithims of sex, every motion, every curve, the perfect shade of lipstick, the perfect small talk, fashion sense, bust size, makeup and of course pheromones. The geishas of the stars, the courtesans, the odalisques, venus del milo, the ladies of the night. He copyrighted the Cherub program, that remarkable feat of engineering which created sentience out of programming, and it made him extremely wealthy.
In 2460 the earth was quickly turning against the cybernetics movement , a more conservative generation was coming up and many of the more religious nations still considered it immoral. The moon was largely uninhabited as all the major manufacturing corporations had moved their headquarters to TelAres . it was both cheaper and more comfortable since mars was nearly completely terraformed by this time. It was because f this that many out of work partial integration cyborgs were seeking better waters and looking anywhere for employment.
Suzuki Maru wanted off that damn planet. He clutched a little ceramic cup of sake and frowned contemptuously into the hazy Martian sunset, one big hand jammed into the pocket of his pinstripe suit. He needed a plan, a chance to expand, something new, something that would change the market, something only he could provide. The MarCo tower commanded a wide view of the TelAres skyline and the graceful, sloping cone of Olympus Mons. He sipped angrily from the cup and placed it on the tray which his companion drone held helpfully.
“message sir,” she smiled.
“yeah?” he grunted, stuffing his free hand into his other pocket.
“from Dianne Fesbrew director general of the university of Pennsylvania hospital.” This got Maru’s attention, “urgent, do you have any connection to or knowledge of one, doctor Brian Lawrence. Urgent, respond immediately!”
Maru stood still whispering the name over and over , “Brian Lawrence, Brian Lawrence.” He scratched his beard and turned to his companion drone. “love, look up Brian Lawrence.”
“Brian Lawrence, former director general of the northeastern cybernetics institute. Best known as the inventor of the…”
“The integrated cortical interface!” he said triumphantly, “I remember him, nothing ever happened with that, guess he still owns the copyright…”
“Shall I respond for you?”
“Yeah, I know Brian, from, ah, from school, bit of a weirdo.” Maru nodded.
She closed her eyes, the message was sent. Maru stared out the window down over the red city, everything dusty and dim, his wish was to be granted, because within twenty four hours he would be taking off for Earth.
The hospital room was lit by the cool north American light, Brian’s once muscular frame seemed sunken and atrophied under the cool, white cotton sheets, there was a plant in the window, for air quality, and the lights were dimmed for ever sleeping eyes. A nurse opened the door and let the light of the waking world through for a moment, followed by Suzuki Maru’s podgy form. He ordered his companion drone to wait in the hallway.
The small man approached the bed quietly, someone had, very thoughtfully, turned on the radio, Mozart tinkled away into the silence and the death and the terror. Maru put out a hand to find a chair, he couldn’t take his gaze off the young man, he had expected his eyes to be closed.
Brian’s gleaming brown irises focused about six feet in front of his face. He hadn’t blinked or moved since the accident, automated drips moistened his corneas, an artificial breathing machine kept him alive.
“I think I know why you called me.” Maru whispered to his friend in Japanese, “and the answer is yes, I can absolutely do it.” Brian’s face twitched in what Maru hoped was a smile. “but you know what happened, why all those projects were abandoned. It’s a great risk.” for a long moment Maru sat in silence, expecting the comatose man to speak, Mozart mixed well with the mechanized breathing.
“Muua-u,” Brian whispered, slurring through the unresponsive half of his mouth. The broken voice pulled his eyes upward, Brian’s lips trembled with terrible effort, the slack right side of his face dragging his mouth into a weak diagonal slash. Seeing his struggle Maru silenced the music and moved in closer to listen to the dying man’s desperate effort of speech, “I… I know, wwhat went wron-” he could have sworn the flash of a smile shone out on the animated half of his face.
“What was it? if it’s within my power, I will do what I can.” maru whispered earnestly in Japanese. Brian’s eyes were still fixed, blank, and blind.
“so ssssimple, i’sss juss so, so simple,”
“what is it?”
Brian made some choking sound in his throat coughing through the hole which had been drilled into his trachea. He moved his lips silently and after a moment of frustration he spoke one word; “gravity.”
By “gravity” he of course meant a lack of it, which was of course the missing ingredient. Brian Lawrence, the first integrated cyborg. A brain in a box. They implanted him immediately in a very basic mechanical frame, it was said that he clung to his own limp body for long hours, in a frame of steel and plastic he could do nothing but grope at dead flesh.
Suzuki Maru eventually moved out to the asteroid belt, pulling together a great many asteroids into the shape of the Japanese islands. He employed what was left of Brian Lawrence to program many of his more complicated inventions and it was largely thanks to his work that true integration finally gained popularity and the cybernetic culture finally escaped the confines of flesh.
Brian became integral to the computer systems on the Suzuki asteroids. During the Asteroid war, in the last battle, I took him, what was left of him anyway with me aboard one of the last ships to leave Sol. I did what I could to help him but, he was already so far gone. I installed him in the computer matrix which governed our ability to make long jumps in space. At the core of our largest ship, the Achilles.
That was where he finally took the plunge into madness. He believed himself to be the god of time, with the great engines of the computer matrix all around him, part of him.
He died in that stellar storm, an EM wave hit our flagship, there were explosions, and all those delicate bits and pieces were scattered far across the universe. And I think,” Kimba’s voice was suddenly clear and distinct, “from what I discovered on your ship, one of them may have stuck in the depths of the Kundilini nebula, in the neutral territory where Humans fear to go.”