Change of the Guard
Shane rubbed his temples and then squeezed them, trying to push back the pain behind his eyes. He walked to the window and looked out on the city – the steam and smog filling the spaces between the buildings made it difficult to see the distant sunset – and he turned toward the center of the room.
“You’ve got six hours. Don’t be duppy and wait till the last minute.”
Brudder said something under his breath, Shane thought he heard him, but needed to know.
He smacked Brudder on the side of his head, a thin wire protruded from his skull.
“It either sends or receives. What’s it going to be?”
Brudder closed his eyes and hummed.
Shane took the unit from his pocket and held it in front of Brudder. The ping started.
“Dr. Brudder, the time has come, hasn’t it? We’ve tried to be reasonable; we’ve tried to work with you. The information is not yours to withhold, is it. It belongs to everyone.”
“I have no clock for this,” he started to say.
“All you’ve got is time. Or a little of it, depending on what you share.”
“It’s primitive, I’ll admit,” Shane said, as he turned off the device and placed it in his pocket. “The upload starts soon, but the probe, oh the probe, that’s how you started, isn’t it Dr. Brudder, with a probe, taking information and knowledge that wasn’t your, and accumulating a life time’s work in just a few hours. But our probe, our probe is different as we extract the information; the probe monitors your response to the departure. We don’t just sample. No, that’s not what we do. We take. We take what is ours. What you have stolen from everyone. We’re taking it back tonight.”
The room was dark now except for reflected light from the New Year’s countdown on the street below the hotel room. Brudder tried to move but felt a pull on his wrists, rendering any movement impossible. He looked at his wrists; there were no straps or restraints. But he was immobile. So were his legs. Shane stepped to him and squirted the warm, pungent liquid into his nostril.
“Tri hexyl iodine. It will be in your neural network in minutes. You still have a chance Dr. Brudder. Just give us what we want, and I walk away.”
Brudder leaned forward, looking down, knowing that the chemical had already passed through the mucosa, had already entered his plasma, was drifting through his blood brain barrier and bathing his cerebral cortex with the ionic solution.
“We wanted to know as much as we could,” Brudder said, never looking up from the floor.
“Even the biggest libraries check out books,” Shane said.
The crowd outside started their countdown as lights slid down a rail to the street. Shane tapped the syringe barrel, and the bubble floated to the needle and depressed the plunger and watched the drop form on the needle tip.
“The extractor, cupric phosphoric choline. I think you discovered it, didn’t you Dr. Brudder. You never told us about it, though, we, the rest of the world had to find out about it after the trials, when it was injected to extract information. And they called you to do it, didn’t they Doctor?”
Shane placed the needle against his forearm and slid it under the skin and into the vein. The crowd erupted in cheers as he pulled the plunger back, and the blood filled the barrel, and he depressed it, sending the mixture into the vein.
Brudder knew what would happen; he had done it enough times, always asking the recipients what it was like to have the chemical sluice through their veins. The descriptions varied, some were more eloquent than others, and the sense was the same. A fog engulfed their brain. Clarity was lost. Alertness waned. Focus drifted. And it continued until all of the accumulated neural memories had been captured in the ionic structure of the cupric phosphoric choline. He had started the conversations with articulate fellow travelers and ended with protoplasmic storage units.
Brudder squeezed his eyes shut, focusing his attention to his mind’s eye, remembering screens filled with equations and molecular drawings, trying to re-establish new networks as the old ones were erased.
Shane watched the man in the chair. The tension in his face left, the lines softened, the tone relaxed. He switched barrels on the needle and extracted thirty ccs of dark red blood. He withdrew the needle.
Brudder opened his eyes. The focus was gone; they were softer.
“You have become me,” he said.