While I sat there, trying to make out words, I suddenly realized that Doc was not around. I bet he could have amplified or translated for me. I needed him and didn’t know where he might have gone off to. I felt awfully alone, sitting there in the dark, hearing just a mumble in the background and the low hum of the television playing music and images. Music videos, I guessed, they were called. I heard that a few times on the television, the phrase music videos every now and then.

I couldn’t make out what Samson was saying. He didn’t sound excited. He sounded like he was reading a list. I don’t know if he was or not, he just had the tone of voice of someone who was reading a list. Once I heard a squawk of static. Then I heard a chair creak.

After a while, I didn’t hear Samson anymore. The only other light in the room came from the low runner edging that glowed a soft violet and made everything in the room hazy and kind of flowery looking, and that softened the harsh white light of the videos that kept showing.

There were a lot of videos of the guy and girl singing, and I watched some of them but couldn’t focus on it. After about fifteen minutes of that, I got up and walked back and forth to keep from falling asleep. I didn’t want to go to Hell. I didn’t want to leave Brigitte, or Doc, again, and I didn’t want to take the chance on taking them all with me.

That was another thing, I realized. I couldn’t go to sleep anymore with Brigitte in my arms, or even touching her. Before, I’d been able to do that but now that I was bringing people in and out of Hell, could I risk it? Brigitte should not be taken to Hell again. So I’d never be able to fall asleep holding her in my arms again, never be able to snuggle up to her from behind and put my face into her hair and sniff it and then play with it and twirl it around my finger and then intertwine our feet the way I did that one morning so that it was hard to tell where she left off and I began…

… I was crying again, quietly, and I didn’t want to sit down on the bed because Brigitte was sleeping so soundly. I paced back and forth and then went to where the door was, when we’d come in. I figured I’d have to force it or find a lock or something but I walked up to it and put my hand out to see if there was a handle or button or what and instead, the door just slipped open, letting me back out into HQ.

There still wasn’t much to see. Just the desk and the screen and the door back to the convenience store. It was still small and still felt and smelt dusty and unused. I wondered how long it’d been since Samson was here.

That little phone thing he had was gone.

But Doc was sitting on the desk near the screen. I walked over to him and picked him up. Doc,” I whispered.

Lights flickered and Doc’s voice, quietly, said Updating.

“Sorry,” I said, and held him in my hand while I looked around. There were a few desks in the drawer. I didn’t feel like I should open them, but then I wondered why not. Wasn’t I supposed to be on Samson’s side? Besides, what would he do to me? I got the feeling he needed me. So I opened them, but nothing. They were empty. There wasn’t anything else in the room to open or look at. I guessed that there might be at least one more door on top of the two that I knew about, because Samson must need a place to sleep, but I didn’t want to open it if there was and I wasn’t sure.

I sat down in the chair in front of the screen and waved my hand at it, the way that I’d seen others do. It didn’t do anything. Most of the time, other people would go up to one of these screens and hold up a hand or just get near it and it would flicker into action and they could control it, searching and computing and things. I could not do that. I tried touching it and looked behind it and figured there must be an on-off switch somewhere, but there wasn’t. There was just a screen, on its little pedestal. I couldn’t even tell how it got power.

Doc flickered brighter and said Updated.

“Doc,” I asked. “How come I can’t work this thing.”

Doc hovered next to me and pulsed softly. His voice was quieter than usual. “You have no chip,” he answered.

“What’s a chip?” I asked.

Doc buzzed a little. “Beginning several hundred years ago, computer processing chips became powerful enough that a chip smaller than 1 cm in size could handle millions of functions per second, and the technology was adapted to make chips from a combination of silicone and DNA.”

“DNA? Like human DNA?”

“Human DNA was retroengineered to grow human flesh and nerve viruses that were genetically indistinct and could be implanted into any person without fear of rejection. The technique was first used for chip technology and eventually was modified to allow silicone artificial organs as well.”

Doc went silent and I realized I’d interrupted his first answer. “The chips,” I prompted.

“The chips were first created as silicone based artiflesh, semi-living tissue implanted with the circuitry to perform the calculations handled by supermicrocomputers of the time. They were initially attempted to be placed into persons who had suffered brain damage or damage to the nervous system, in an effort to allow the chips to take the place of damaged organs or nerves. Because they were partially organic, the chips and the human body began to adapt and the chips began integrating into the nervous system. Total integration was never achieved with a fully-formed adult but tests showed that the longer the chip was in, the more integrated it became.

“150 years ago, the chip began to be implanted into human babies to take advantage of undeveloped nervous systems, and the result was that human babies would grow a second set of nerve links that were attached to the chip, integrating it with the human brain, to allow cybernetic connections between humans and computers while bypassing ordinary interfaces such as keyboards. Shortrange transmission technology allowed human beings to control computerized devices through their chips.

“Is that ‘sharing?’”

“No, it’s not,” said Samson’s voice behind me.

Doc buzzed up to sit by my shoulder. Samson came out and I spun around in the chair. I hadn’t heard a door open.

“Why are you awake…never mind,” he said. “You don’t want to go back to Hell. Well, I don’t blame you. What are you doing at my desk, searching it?”

“Yes,” I said, a bit defensively.

“For what?”

“Answers,” I said.

“Ask Doc for answers,” Samson said. “He’ll give you as many as he can.”

“That’s what I was doing before you got involved,” I said, a little more defensively. What did he mean as many as he can?

“I’m surprised to see how much you don’t know,” Samson said. He peered at me. “I’d like to really examine you.”

I became aware that I was wearing very ragged clothes and not much covered up. I felt a little uncomfortable around him.

“Don’t worry,” he said, noticing me tensing up. “I’m not going to hurt you. I’ve been waiting too long for you to show up.”

“You keep saying that,” I said. “But what for? What do you need me to do?”

I figured he’d never tell me, but he did. He said:

“I need you to control the lesbian zombies so that I can take over the world.”

That's when all hell broke loose just outside the door.


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