Linking In

The chair waits for her in the ruby-lit room. Carly Quester steps inside, slams the door. The chair sits in silence. Carly stalks around it, kicks its ugly feet, glares at it.

The chair is primitive, plain-legged, straight-backed. It is rude and mean, as impersonal as the gridlock. Black plastic wires loop and trail all around it. A red switch juts up from one arm. Platinum beams angle into a frame that will pitilessly grip her when the power switches on and her body jolts.

Carly Quester is a slim-limbed genny with customized morphing. Strands of copper and gold thread her hair, which falls to her shoulders in style de nuevo. Ebony lash implants line her eyes, a romantic gift from her father in the sixteenth year after the lab decanted her. Wide feathered brows and curved cheekbones hint at the Sino-Slavic bioworks her pragmatic mother had chosen. She slicks her lips plum-red.

Seated in other chairs, in other rooms, she will cross a silk-stockinged ankle over the other knee, and she thinks nothing of striding up the quake-cracked hills of the City in her gray-snake, four-inch heels.

She’s just turned the age when you start to do things in the world.

She sits down, knees side by side.

Straps of black plastic, filmy with dried sweat, lie limp on the chair’s arms and legs. She snaps the straps over her own arms, her own legs. A mocking slap of cruelty, that she should have to strap herself into the chair.

She breathes deeply—one, two, three—preparing for the moment when the power switches on and the neckjack descends.

But how can anyone ever really prepare?

It’s fine to speculate, to envision bravery. You strap in. You sneer at the ruby-lit walls. You jeer at the wires. You welcome the bite of the neckjack, welcome the pain.

And Carly?

She kicks at the wires with a high heel. With her forefinger curving over the arm’s edge, she yanks the red switch herself just to do it, cool tool.

With a shudder, she leans back. Her spine presses the master control. The control signals the headpiece to descend with a rasping whine. Wireworks yawn open, clamp down around her skull.

In front of her, the comm flickers on, flooding her eyes with jade luminescence. A hum commences, rising up in an awful crescendo. The neckjack darts out on a robotic cable, its tiny platinum beak biting deep into the linkslit installed at the back of Carly’s neck.

The red switch clicks, and the power slams on.

Lisa Mason is the author of eight novels, including Summer of Love, A Time Travel (Bantam), a San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book and Philip K. Dick Award Finalist, The Gilded Age, A Time Travel (Bantam) a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book, a collection of previously published fiction, Strange Ladies: 7 Stories (Bast Books), and two dozen stories and novellas in magazines and anthologies worldwide. Mason’s Omni story, “Tomorrow’s Child,” sold outright as a feature film to Universal Studios. Her first novel, Arachne, debuted on the Locus Hardcover Bestseller List.
Visit her at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry by San Francisco artist Tom Robinson, worldwide links for Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, and Spain, and more!
And on Lisa Mason’s Blog, on her Facebook Author Page, on her Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

The A.I. Storybundle is live, but only until April 20, 2017! Explore Artificial Intelligence and how A.I. will affect the future in Aristoi by Walter Jon Williams, The Bohr Maker by Linda Nagata, Arachne by Lisa Mason, Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology, edited by John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly with stories by William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Pat Cadigan, and others, Queen City Jazz by Kathleen Ann Goonan, Eye Candy by Ryan Schneider, Glass Houses by Laura Mixon, Cyberweb by Lisa Mason, Limit of Vision by Linda Nagata, and The A.I. Chronicles Anthology, edited by Samuel Peralta. Stock up your ereader for the Spring only at