(The title doesen't fit, I don't think, but when I was at work thinking about this story, the word kept popping up in my head. Anyway, here goes, incomplete but here)
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"It's a construct." Riley lit another cigarette. It smelled like garbage. "All of her memories, her personality, all that shit is in here." He ran a hand along the aluminum casing of a nearby computer. "When they got her body in the hospital, the brain was still warm. Even though they don't tell you, everyone's..." His hands moved in circles as he searched for a word. "Everyone’s mind is copied and saved in their files - if possible that is."
My heart was beating so hard it made my whole body shake. "How did you get it?"
Riley blew a cloud of yellowish smoke into the air. "I was just nosing around, came across it. The name looked familiar."
"And you downloaded it out of the goodness of your heart so I could talk to her?"
"Nah. I did a bit more than that. I think you might like this." Riley said, dumping the remainder of his cigarette in a bucket. It was almost full. I started wondering how he could be one of the highest rated Black Medics around with a place like this.
He got up and walked me through his make-shift lab, through the kitchen/bedroom, into what looked like a recovery ward. Several beds were situated around the small room. All of them were empty except for one back in the corner. A blue sheet covered what looked to be a body.
The body was breathing. Sweat broke out on my forehead as the possibilities of what Riley had truly done raced through my mind.
What seemed like hundreds of fiber optic cables came from where the head was, all bundled together and covered by a black rubber sleeve which snaked back out to the big computer Riley showed me earlier.
"You know how I got a contract with Yusuke biotech?" Riley asked.
As much as I would have liked to answer him, the situation left me a pile of nerves. I stared at him.
"Guess not. It has been a while since we talked." He lit another cigarette. "Anyway, they wanted me to do some work with their new biotech stuff, get it all up to date. We've always had the edge on big corporations with this kinda shit."
I stared at the steady rise/fall of the sheet and wished Riley would shut up.
"They gave me a couple million to iron out all the bugs in their neural-interface. No problem. Easy work, real easy. The chip was actually way ahead of what Hosaka and Ono-Sendai were pushing out. I held onto a couple of chips and made a few mods of my own."
Flick, the glowing tip of the cigarette streaked. An ash fell to the linoleum floor.
"I got one of the techs there to make me a few bodies. Two, actually. Sanja's self-image was in her construct, so it was easy to make her body."
"To do what?" I asked. My stomach was tying itself in knots.
"To make her body. You know, in a vat? It's what they use to make new arms and legs and shit like that."
Oh God, Sanja.
Exhale, the garbage scent was making my head spin. "Bodies are easy to grow, just take a little longer."
"You grew Sanja?"
"No. One of the Yusuke techs did, I told you that already."
Sweat dripped from my fingertips.
"You wanna see her?"
“Yes.” I croaked.
Riley started pulling the sheet away, babbling something about synthetics, grafts, but my heart was beating in my ears, drowning out everything else.
And there she was. Naked. Beautiful. The three years of darkness seemed to be but a distant memory, a fleeting nightmare.
I took a wobbly step forward and fell to my knees at the bedside. Hot tears spilled from my eyes, but for the first time in as long as I could remember, they were tears of joy.
Even under the harsh fluorescent lights Sanja was beautiful. Her slender body was just the way I remembered it. The small scar under her ear from a botched do-it-yourself piercing experiment was there. Every mole and scar and imperfection was in place. Her fingernails were still the same icy-blue color she always wore. Her full lips were parted and I saw a flash of silver behind her teeth, her tongue ring.
She was perfect. Flawless.
Riley came back with a syringe and a grim look on his face. “Remember, the last thing she remembers will be the first thing that comes to mind.” he said, flicking the long needle. “It’ll be one hell of a flashback. We both have to be ready for it.”
I turned away as Riley stuck the needle in Sanja’s forearm. “You might want to hold her down. Just in case.”
Ten agonizingly long seconds passed as whatever Riley had injected Sanja with took effect. She started moaning at first like she was in pain.
Then her eyes snapped open.
The brown Ikon Zeiss pupils fixed on mine. There was a flash of recognition there, confusion soon followed. Her mouth started moving, she whispered my name, “Marc?”
“It’s me.” I started crying again. “Baby, you’re alive, you’re back.”
Then she screamed.
My world shattered, again. Sanja started writhing under me.
“Riley! What the fuck?!” I yelled.
He was holding her feet, smoking, calm. “Just hold her down man, it’ll pass soon.”
“That flashback thing, I’ve told you twice already.”
Tears streamed from the corners of her eyes and soaked the white sheets. She was screaming like she was about to die-
-and then it stopped; like she had been turned off, shut down. The sound of her heavy breathing filled the room.
“Everything okay in here?”
I looked up. A striking blonde stood by the door, wrapped in green silk. “I thought I heard someone screaming.”
Riley grinned. “Nah, we’re bringing this one back. Have you met Marc, Krystal?”
She shook her head. “Don’t think so. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Likewise.” I said, still shaky.
“Get some water for Sanja. She had a rough time coming out.” Riley said.
Without a word, Krystal left, her high heels clicking against the floor.
“Who the hell was that?” I asked.
“That, my friend, was the other body.” Riley said, running his fingers through thinning hair. “She used to be in the movie business. Overdosed on something nasty on the set of her newest flick. Died in the middle of an orgasm.”
I didn’t bother to ask what kind of movie business she was in.
“Unconscious people and dead bodies make bad company. You’re around them all the damn time in this business.”
Krystal came back, her silk rustling. “So, Marc, are you her boyfriend?”
“Yeah.” I looked back at Sanja, she seemed to be sleeping again.
“She- her construct talked about you a lot (I shot Riley a questioning glance at this, but he seemed caught up in staring at a spot on the floor), you seem very nice.” Krystal’s hands slid up and down the glass, her fingertips slowly running around the edge. “Maybe you’ll show me that tattoo...” (Another glance. This time he looked back, equally confused).
Before I could think to say anything, Krystal started pouring the water down her chest, on her face. The silk turned transparent and I could see the reddish spots of her nipples, her smooth, flat stomach. She dropped the glass and it shattered into a million pieces on the floor. Sanja stirred behind me.
Riley seemed as surprised as I was. He just sat at the foot of the bed, staring at this woman rubbing herself in the middle of the room. An ash fell from his cigarette onto his bare arm. He snapped out of his daze and cursed.
“Marc?” Sanja whispered behind me. I turned and her eyes were half open, her eyebrows wrinkled. “Where am I?”
I looked back, Krystal was slowly pulling the green silk dress up. Riley was just sitting there holding his arm, the corners of his mouth were turned up, more grimace than grin)
“Riley, make her stop doing that shit.” I hissed.
He blinked and nodded. “Oh, sure thing.” he wrapped an arm around Krystal’s waist and led her out of the room, explaining why not everyone who came here wanted a striptease and sex. Just before he left the room, he turned back to me. “Like I said, unconscious people make bad company.”
Sanja was sitting up now. The ‘trodes taped to her forehead and neck cascaded down her back. I put my arm around her shoulders and held her close, not wanting to ever let go.
“You remember Riley?” I asked.
“He was your friend, the one who wanted to go to Chiba...” she said.
“Yeah, this is his place. He brought you back.”
She made a face. “Brought me back?”
“You got hurt...you died.”
“I’ve been in Paris for three years...”
The construct. It must be like a dream.
“I woke up there, at the (some famous hotel in Paris). I tried calling you but you never answered, and you never came. Every few days this doctor would come and ask me lots of questions. He took a picture of me once. And there was this blonde lady...”
I told her everything I knew about the construct, Riley could have probably explained it better, and less confusing.
“So I’ve been dead.” Sanja pulled her knees up to her chest. “Before Paris, I remember going to Jersey, we were on the highway. You said something about a truck.”
The memories came back in a flood of pain. “It was a big tractor trailer, a big blue one.... (I remembered the silver bulldog perched on the trucks nose, a big silver grille under it like hundreds of blades.) It was swerving all over the place, and I tried to slow down and let it pass by, but it hit your side of the car and pushed us a pretty long way before rolling over.”
Sanja was staring down at her bare feet.
“When I woke up it was raining.”
“What happened to the other guy, the one driving the truck?” she asked.
An image flashed before my eyes: the truckers head tipped to the side, eyes wide and staring death in the face, my hands clutching his throat.
“I don’t know. I think he walked away.”
And another thing is, no matter how much you think you love someone, you'll step back when a pool of their blood edges too close.