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Prologue Four

The power surge was enormous.

We heard later that the Tycho Crater Cord Reactor had been running at five thousand percent for just under two seconds. Another three seconds and the damn thing would have been a puddle of slag and Tycho would have been as good as gone.

They understandably took it pretty serious. Governor McInn enforced a curfew with immediate effect. Not quite martial law but it was obvious they wanted people off the streets. If the reactor was scrap then all hell was gonna break loose.

Energy output was dropped to a bare minimum, effectively lights out at seven every night. Reactor engineers from UltraSamp and BeachWald and a bunch of techs from UltraSamp University were on the next available inter-orbital, by order of Norton himself.

The City Watch were reinforced. Two whole platoons of MK3 Infesta Bobs were re-deployed from the North Gate and re-tasked for civil defence and riot control. A ring of steel went up around the plant for two months as the investigation proceeded.

It was a bit of a let-down for us. I mean Denny was effectively ground zero. It would have been cool to actually see some funky stuff happening, but for us there was just this high pitched whine and then the lightbulbs in the warehouse had exploded…

 

I see everything! For a split second I see everything!

I see the beginning. I see the brilliant light as universes are born and expand. I see the first stars bring light to the inky blackness.

I see the cosmic dance as a million million worlds form around a million million stars. On some I see life struggle to take hold. To endure past its own adolescence. Many times it fails. Other times it flourishes before ultimately and inevitably ceasing to be.

I see the birth of time itself. The first tick of the clock, the unstoppable irrepressible march all the way to the final ultimate tock. Every single second there could ever be, charging towards the same ultimate heat death.

I see you. I see a million of you reading this. I see countless millions of you all slightly different. Differentiated only by the decisions you’ve made, the cards you’ve been dealt and the path your lives have taken. I see your past, your futures and every single possible outcome. And I see this for every single being that has been and ever will be.

I hear the greatest joke ever told, taste the best food ever prepared and witness the worst atrocity imaginable.

I see the back wall of the-

A status bar had appeared in the centre of my vision. Ticking through the percentage and rapidly filling up.

I realise it is my emergency shut down. Activated by some sub-routine within my system in an attempt to shut off the input. To dam the torrent of incoming data.

I realise if I shut down it will be over. I will never see this again. I will forget it all. I try to override the shutdown, but I am too late.

As blackness and silence engulf me I see myself. I see my path and what is required of me. I see my whole being heading towards a single split second in time.

I see my destination and now I hoPe… thAt I… will not… rEMembeR… whaT I… haVe… se…En….

 

We were pretty sure he’d blue screened.

Twenty four hours after the attempted update and resulting power surge, Denny was just kneeling in the middle of the floor. Smoke and steam rising from him. In the silence of the warehouse we heard an occasional ‘plink’ sound as something deep inside him cools down.

I’d seen a few of my colleagues get the Blue Pill. They’d all taken to it and reacted to it quite differently, but this was the most extreme one in my experience. When Malki had gingerly approached Denny and removed the cabling I’d half expected him to crumble to dust. But he’d just stayed there, kneeling. Head down like a grotesque statue.

After forty eight hours we were positive he’d bricked. We had a quiet discussion. Trying to work out who was gonna ask Pa what to do. I thought it was best if Walt just dragged him outside and chucked him in a dumpster. With the investigation proceeding I figured sooner or later some mook would come calling. It was better if we bailed. Avoid a possible scene.

I’d just drawn the short straw and was on my way to see Pa when Denny’s shoulders sagged and we heard his boot up routine begin…

 

There’s a stream of text scrolling up in my field of vision. But my language files have not loaded and I cannot read them. I dismiss them as unimportant.

Something important has just happened but…

My visuals come on line. Blinding white light. The image processing software has not booted yet so I wait. Hoping to adjust the white balance and focus.

Something has happened but I cannot remember.

I halt the boot up and run a diagnostic.

Everything’s coming back as ok. Green lights everywhere.

I hear voices behind me. I remember where I am and who bought me here.

Locomotion systems come back online. My internal gyroscope calibrates and gives me the green light. Internal clock, compass and thermostat follow with other systems close behind.

But I cannot remember-

I stand. The visuals come into focus and I stare into the impassive face of Pa 404.

There must be an entire block of memory missing.

Just as expected, Pa barely acknowledges me. There is work to do.

In the tangle of subsystems now coming back on line, I hear a tinny, whiny voice…

“Hey Denny! We’re gonna be best buds!”

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