Monday, November 19, 2012

The Eternal Flame 1 - Greg Egan

"Carlo scooped up the chosen boy's co and pulled himself along the rope into the front room, a child clutched awkwardly in each free hand. From the box he took two clearstone vials and a syringe. He extruded an extra pair of arms, uncapped the first vial and filled the syringe with its orange powder. When he held the sharp mirrorstone tip to the base of the boy's skull he felt his own body start shuddering in revulsion, but he stared down his urge to take the child in his arms and soothe him, to promise him as much love and protection as he would lavish on any child of his own. He pushed the needle into the skin and searched for the angle that would take it between two plates of bone – he knew the invariant anatomy here was not that different from a vole's – but then the tip suddenly plunged deeper without the drop in resistance he'd been expecting upon finding the narrow corridor of flesh. The child's skull wasn't fully ossified, and his probing had forced the needle right through it. Carlo turned the boy to face him then squeezed the plunger on the syringe. The child's eyes snapped open, but they were sightless, rolling erratically, with flashes of yellow light diffusing all the way through the orbs. The drug itself could only reach a small region of the brain, but those parts it touched were emitting a barrage of meaningless signals that elicited an equally frenzied response much farther afield. Soon the tissue's capacity to make light would be depleted throughout the whole organ. In this state, Carlo believed, there could be no capacity for thought or sensation. When the boy's eyes were still Carlo withdrew the needle. His co's tympanum had been fluttering for a while, and now her humming grew audible. “I'm sorry,” Carlo whispered. “I'm sorry.” He stroked the side of her body with his thumb, but it only made her more agitated. He refilled the syringe with the orange powder, quickly drove the needle through the back of her skull, and watched the light of her nascent mind blaze like a wildfire, then die away." 4 out of 5 http://www.gregegan.net/ORTHOGONAL/E2/EternalFlameExcerpt.html

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