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Outside the grid

January 31st, 2018 Leave a comment Go to comments

Michel was on the fritz again, worse than usual. Xania’s feed was becoming sporadic and filled with conflicting messages. Her Cortex Grid terminated the connection to Michel and switched signals to a consistently functioning stream, but the data from Michel was critical to prepare Xania for her destination. The car had been programmed to synchronize Xania’s memory chip to its own for the journey, so the passenger was fully familiar with what were sure to be frightening surroundings for a newcomer when she arrived in Delhi. One of the few remaining outdoor cities, Delhi was bewildering for visitors who had never been above ground or outside the complexes, leading many of those without preprogramming to experience a total Cortex Grid malfunction and ultimately an unpleasant death. This would have deeply concerned Xania had she understood any of it.

As it was, her feed was showing her episodes of a program named “Looney Tunes” that had been popular on something called television more than a century ago. It was the only known panacea Xania’s CG possessed, but it was highly effective, and she was transfixed immediately, virtually unaware the switchover of information had even taken place. Michel pitched in three dimensions as its sensors struggled to properly locate the vehicle in the aerial lane and its proximity to the descension point. A character named Bugs Bunny was foiling one Elmer Fudd yet again as the conveyance lurched downward toward the city.

The journey to the surface would have been traumatizing had Xania been able to view it. Michel had no windows, which was irrelevant because Xania, like most others, hadn’t opened her eyes since she had been fitted for her final CG implants and skull netting when she turned twenty, seven years prior. There was no need for actual vision when the microscopic cameras on her net could process thousands of times more input than a human retina. The vehicle was in a tailspin more than once and narrowly avoided colliding with three other drone ships before it crashed into the terrain. Michel’s internal pressurization and gyroscope prevented Xania from feeling any of the motion or collision. Her frontal lobe was entirely consumed by the adventures of a Tasmanian devil and the havoc he caused.

But the combined impact and malfunctions were enough to render Michel completely useless. Sensing this, Xania’s CG disengaged her body from the feeding tube and gradated her input away from the cartoon and into as much reality as it detected she could grasp. The CG was aware of their location, but without the specific data download from Michel that both it and its host had been counting on for the trip to Delhi, there was no way to process or comprehend what awaited outside of the vehicle. Finding no alternative in its hierarchal decision tree, the CG instructed Xania’s limbs to begin moving and wrest open the door manually. Atrophy had settled deeply into her arms, but they eventually found the leverage to swing the lever into position and push open the escape.

A rush of desert air filled the vehicle as stray particles whirled all about Xania. The CG processed the input as a sandstorm and began relaying instructions back to the body to return to Michel, but its sensors were overwhelmed with the erratic debris and began to shut down in response to the threat of damage. Xania suddenly discovered herself thinking on her own for the first time in years, a taxing request for her dilapidated neurons. Removing the digital band from her eyes, she squinted at the scene around her, scarcely comprehending what she was viewing. Xania coughed at the sand on her tongue, staggering forward into the opaque night, then recognized a steep vertical drop before her that resolved itself to the same height fifteen meters further on. Xania had no way of knowing she had landed atop a building and was seeing the distance between the structure she was on and the adjacent building. She only understood she had observed a roadrunner crossing an empty expanse like this before, and assumed she could do the same.

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