Monday, June 10, 2013


I sit up, and I have forgotten what I was just doing. I look around, and the setting is familiar. "Is this another training simulation?" The technician glances past me and nods.

"What is the last thing you remember, Sam?"

"I was told to come in for another briefing. I remember sitting down, being hooked up. It went fast, didn't it?" I am confused. There should be more, shouldn't there? It's on the tip of my tongue, almost. Like seeing an actor I should know whose face is familiar, but I just can't remember where I saw him before.

"What day is it?" The technician taps some data into her module.


"And the date," she asks?

"July 18th, 2034."

"Very good. Report to medical for the rest of your battery."

I smile. She's pretty, but too serious. "Thank you."

She doesn't even make eye contact with me before she walks away, tapping data into her module.

Why am I so tired? I woke up at 05:30, reported in at 06:00, and was in training by 07:00. I look at the time on my module: 21:06. I'm still confused.

In the medical bay, the doctor takes a blood sample, shines a light in my eyes, and examines my port. "Good and clean," he says.

"Why am I so confused?"

"It's natural. We give you a drug for the simulations, to keep you from feeling sick during neural interface. The confusion will wear off."

"But, why can't I remember?"

"You don't want to remember when they actually send you on a mission, do you? Don't you remember what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder does to people? The drug suppresses the physiological response to warfare that ultimately leads to PTSD. This is better for you, Sam. Ok?"

"Ok." I don't really understand. But, they've been really nice to me. The military gave me new legs and a new hand and new eyes. Sometimes I still remember the explosion. But I have pills they give me that make me forget.

"Go home, Sam. We'll call you when we need you again."

"Thank you, Doctor."

"You're welcome, Sam. Have a good evening."

"I will. You too."

As I drive back home, I know Kelly is going to be mad I was so late again. I close the garage behind me and try to be quiet as I go up the stairs. The kids are in bed, and so is Kelly. I undress and get in bed with her, but she rolls away.

The next morning, she packs lunches for the kids and sends them to the bus stop while I do my morning workout in the basement. As I come upstairs, drying off, she is on the phone. "Yes, that sounds wonderful. Next week, then. Ok. Sure. Bye, Bex."

"How's Becky doing?"

"Oh, she's fine. Just working out the details of what we're going to do in Vegas. You're still going, right?"

"As far as I know. They haven't told me otherwise."

"I'm so glad you opted in for implantation, baby. Now that we're living in a house off base, and you're going to Vegas and can take me… It's really nice not to be so poor anymore."

"I'm just happy you're happier now. I love you."

She smiles and hands me a lunch cooler. "I packed your lunch. Good luck at work today." She kisses me on the cheek. "I'm going to the gym now. I'll see you when you get home."

On the television, the news airs a report about a terrorist meth lab exploding downtown.


I don't remember how I got to work.

I was at home, in the kitchen. Then I was here, in the lab again.

"Doc? I'm losing time again."

"What's the last thing you remember?"

"I remember being at home in my kitchen, saying goodbye to my wife. Then I remember sitting up in the chair."

The technician nods and taps data into her module. "We'll run some tests. Go ahead down to medical."


In the medical bay, the doctor takes a blood sample, shines a light in my eyes, and examines my port. "Good and clean," he says.

"Why am I so confused?"

"It's natural. We give you a drug for the simulations, to keep you from feeling sick during neural interface. The confusion will wear off."

"But, why can't I remember?"

"It will be okay. It's natural. You have nothing to worry about." The doctor writes a prescription and hands it to me. "These should help."


I am in a hotel. A conference center. There are a lot of people I don't recognize here. I don't remember how I got here. This must be Defcon. I remember, they said they were going to send me here for training. I feel in my pockets and find the bottle of pills the doctor prescribed me. I should take one for the memory lapses.

"Check it out. A Plug. Want a spot the fed shirt?" I see two kids looking at me and one nudges the other with his elbow. They're wearing anti-surveillance cloaks with their masks on, but their hoods down.

"Nah," the second one says. "Plugs are civvies. They don't count anymore. No clearance." I don't understand. I feel confused again.

"What is a Plug," I ask?

The two kids laugh and walk away.

"Wait. What's a Plug?"

They don't stop. I wonder where Kelly is. She's probably with the kids.

"You really don't know?" I turn to face the voice, and a woman with short black hair is staring at me. Her bangs are cut at unexpected angles that obscure her nose bridge and part of her eyes. I look around, and there are several other people who look similar. A few wander around with mohawks and headbands.

"Excuse me?"

"A Plug. It's a slang term for civilian lab rats contracted to the military. The port next to your ear gives you away."

Self consciously, I raise my hand to the skin flap and touch it to make sure it's closed. It is.

"What's wrong?"

"I… I don't know. I can't remember."

"Oh man," she says. "Come with me."

She leads me to a room with quiet music in the background. Lab tables are scattered around the room, and people are quietly dosing with various drugs and taking out and replacing their fluids using portable medical equipment. Some are sitting in chairs wearing headbands connected to monitors showing graphs or pictures.

"Look, I can't touch you, but I can help you." She sits down on one of the couches and offers me a handful of pills. I wave them away.

"I better not." I raise my pill bottle and shake it.

"Fair enough. Like I said: I can't touch you. They'd lock me up before I could even think the word lawyer. I'd be black bagged and sent offshore and no one would ever know. But, if you can't remember, you should start recording."


"You don't have to leak it. Just watch it. For your own use."

"That's not allowed. They'd-- what did you call it? Black bagging? They would black bag me."

"Only if they catch you. Look. You can buy a logger in the vendor room. It goes in your port and records what goes in and what goes out. As long as you remember to slip it in after your medical exam, and take it out after, it's completely undetectable."

"I don't know about this."

"You should remember your life, you know? It's your life."

"Thanks. You seem nice."

"I just feel sorry for you."

She leaves me there, and I go to the vendor room. In the vendor room, I ask about the logger. It's a little plastic thing, the color of skin. It's impossibly small. I buy it. They're cash only. I put it in my pocket. I feel anxious about what I have done. About what I am about to do. I take out my pills and take another pill.

I'm at work again. I don't remember how I got here. I reach into my pocket, and I feel the plastic thing. I remember the conversation in Las Vegas. I plug in the logger and go to the lab.


When I sit up again, I forget what I was doing.

"What's the last thing you remember," the technician asks?

"I remember sitting down for another simulation."

"Very good. Report to medical."

"Ok. Thank you."

She walks away without looking at me.

I remember the logger. I stop by the bathroom on the way to medical, and I slip it out and into my pocket.


… I'm back home.

Kelly isn't there. The kids aren't home from school. I flip the switch on the key logger and plug it in.

Instantly, what I see is replaced with an overlay with a complex chemical formula and dosage information. I've never had my retinal implants used like this. Have I? It's disorienting. Wild. I am flying a plane over a city. No. There's no cockpit. I am the plane. No. A drone. Cars go by below, and eventually, the traffic thins. The highway is very long. There's a caravan of three trucks below. I fly by once, twice. The display snapshots the license plate and looks it up. There is a confirmation code. I fly into the car in the middle, and there's an explosion. The display goes black. I sit up in the chair.

"What's the last thing you remember," the technician asks?

I tear the logger out of my port. My heart is pounding in my chest, and I feel like I can't breathe. I fumble with the remote and I turn on the television. Oh my god. Was that real? Was that real? I throw the logger across the room. Then I panic, and go get it. I turn on the pilot light in the stove and I burn the device. The television interrupts the talk show with a traffic advisory due to a car fire. I feel cold all over. I take out my pills and I spill the bottle trying to shake one into my hand. I pick up two pills from the floor and swallow them dry.


… I'm at the grocery store with Kelly and the kids. I don't remember how I got here. My module vibrates with a message. I look at my wrist. "Come in," it says. My hands begin to shake. I sweat.
    "Work calls," I tell her. "Here are the keys. I'll take a cab."

    At the lab, my legs turn to jelly. Not literally, of course. They're made of servos and plastic. But, my will to move them is gone. I am paralyzed at the door. I go to medical first.
    "Doc? Doc, how do I forget?"

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