art by Shannon N. Kelly
by L.E. Elder
She was having too many seizures. That's what the doctor told her.
"The remaining bio-residue is not functioning properly, " said Dr. Thiel. "It is beyond repair. You'll need to undergo a procedure."
Anna was an old woman, a very old woman, one of the oldest. And, although she'd had all of the latest upgrades, she was having trouble processing the doctor's words. Perhaps it was that lingering bit of bio-residue mucking things up. She stared without comprehension at the doctor's burnished face.
"What he means, Mom"--it was Cindy, her daughter--"is your organic brain-- what's left of it--is failing. It needs to be replaced."
Cindy spoke in the crisp, firm, condescending tone she might have used with an errant child. If she'd had a child. If there were children anymore.
"My systems are functioning perfectly, Cindy, you needn't use that voice," managed Anna to preserve her dignity.
"Ms. Williams," interceded Dr. Thiel, addressing Cindy, "this event may be having some... emotional... effect on your mother. She is, after all, one of the last Non-Alltechs. She may have formed an... empathetic... attachment to her bio-residue."
Non-Alltechs. There used to be another word for Non-Alltechs, a word that Dr. Thiel chose not to use.
Cindy was not mollified. She turned to her mother.
"What difference could it make, mom? I'm Alltech. Tony's Alltech. Dad would be Alltech too if he hadn't died too soon. You're more than 90% Tech yourself, as you well know. I hope you're not being racist."
"I'll have you know I marched--both your father and I--we marched for Tech rights before you were even born."
"Of course I know, Mother. You did it for Tony."
Dear, damaged little Tony. Her firstborn. Rebuilt. Saved. Improved.
"Anyway," continued Cindy. "You hopped the right train, mom, seeing how the Bios are extinct and it's just you and a handful of others that have any organic tissue left. There was no future in it. We're the humans now."
Ah, Cindy had used the word.
"So what does that make me?" Anna asked quietly.
An awkward moment passed.
"A person," offered Dr. Thiel. "A person who is malfunctioning, who is... sick. Come to the clinic tomorrow. We'll schedule the Chamber for you at 9:00 a.m. It's a safe and simple procedure. We'll remove the bio-residue and its support system, make a few software upgrades and you'll be out by noon. You won't need to inject medicine. You won't have any more seizures. Ever. You'll be well."
How could she refuse?
Anna knew that Tony would be there for her that evening, as soon as she opened herself to the Net. Tony, the fragile being they'd brought home to die. The doomed baby saved by the miracle of the new technology--technology that the cyberpharms couldn't get approval to install in healthy human brains and bodies until they demonstrated it could redeem fatally defective humans like Tony. This technology had made Tony, and those like him, better, better than they ever could have been, better than the wholly human. And then, of course, the healthy had begun clamoring for the implants, the prosthetics, the brain enhancements.
The widespread "Teching" of the human race bred a host of legal and practical problems. What rights should Techs have? They were faster and stronger than ordinary people. They processed information at astounding speed. How could they be permitted to compete with mere Bios? Should Alltechs--persons with no remaining biological content (and her Tony had been one of the first)--have rights as persons under the law? There were demonstrations, riots, assassinations. There were days when Anna and her husband, Daniel, Tech Rights activists both, thought the world would be torn apart.
They were such fools. Most of the Techs themselves stayed out of it. They were smarter (of course). The triumph of the Tech Rights movement was foreordained. In time, each Bio, each human, had to decide whether to suffer and die, or go Tech. And, in time, each Bio, each human, did one... or the other.
And then, there was no one left to oppose Tech Rights.
Daniel, for all his pro-Tech activism, chose death. The children didn't know. She never told them he'd had a choice.
"I'm not a hypocrite," he said on his final day. "You know that, Anna. I love Tony and Cindy. I respect them. I want them to enjoy their full civil rights. They deserve it, godammit."
"Shhh, calm down," said Anna. "Don't upset yourself."
Daniel smiled his familiar, crooked smile. "You're right. The days of passion are past. Like me. Don't give me that look. It's my choice. I love my children, but I am different from them. I'm a different being from them. Not a better being. I consider myself in no way superior. How could I? Just different. Mortal. I am a mortal man. And it's time for me to go. I need to die, to be what I am. That is my right."
And he'd died. And Anna had had to decide for herself, with her children's input, what to do when her systems failed--her heart, her kidneys, her eyes, her hearing, her limbs, her memory. She chose life. She chose Teching. Again and again the gleaming silver Chamber had descended, darkness had engulfed her, and she'd emerged changed. A part of her former self gone forever. A defective portion. A liability. Piece by piece she had been replaced. And tomorrow, well, tomorrow the final piece would go.