This is part 2 of the Serial called Disconnection.
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Some of those who’d made it described the experience as a sort of ascension, like being lifted to a space that was not only different, but better. There were those who’d begun a religion based off the new technology, with people worshipping the main host as God, and Nex its chosen child, and the ghost connections became angels or demons, depending on if they helped you, or .
She had to agree that the feeling of it was like nothing else she’d known, and that the way things were going, she supposed she’d be spending a hell of a lot more than the ‘requisite’ time in connection. She wouldn’t go so far as to turn her syncpoint into a shrine, but neither could she land herself on the side of those who thought of the net as nothing more than a collection of wired and wireless points of contact. The entirety of the main host, Nex, the grids and syncpoints were more than just… the sum of their parts.
Not that anyone really knew what the hell the sum was, either, anyway.
It wasn’t floating in a sea of nothing so much as a sea of everything. She could feel information pass by, pass through, over and under and in and out of her; some of it useful and some of it just a tide of sensation, unnecessary but strangely beautiful.
Her body began to tense, muscles aching as her hands gripped the armrests of her syncpoint, as her spine arched; she was taking on too much, and the power in the connection was a rising tide; if Autorun had been working properly, it would have shut her down, to keep her safe from a Surge.
Out of nowhere came a focus, a brightness without light. It blinded her, even though here, there were no eyes to see. What came next stopped her heart, and started it again — hard reboot. Capital S Surge. The bogeyman of the grids, the thing that kept little ones behaving, told by neurotic mothers and teasing fathers who were planning to send their children into Academy. Behave and don’t be foolish, or you won’t be prepared for a Surge. Take your vitamins, or you won’t be able to handle a Surge. To tell children these things was all well and good, but once they hit Academy they were in for a bit of a shock. You didn’t survive a Surge. Ever. There was a reason it was a bogeyman — it came without warning, without discrimination, without anything like a pattern, lurking in the grids like some psychopath of old with a rusty axe and no conscience. And if it hit your syncpoint… you were done.
(An upperclassman, someone she knew through a friend of a friend, had been found in his bedroom. And his kitchenette. And his bathroom, and the shared room. And in the ventilation shafts of the suite. Fried to ash, he’d been scattered by the ancient desk fan his father had brought back for him from an excursion to the Old World. He’d been breathed in by the rest of his dormmates as they lay sleeping, fucking, studying, eating. One of the suites residents ended up taking his own life about three months later; the note he’d left said he couldn’t get the taste or smell off his tongue, out of his nose and every breath was like inhaling through a corpse. The last res got 10’s that section, and was sent home to take a section or two off, with the guarantee that his place would be held.)
She was almost lost in that reverie, bathed in the heatless shine of Prime, but the focus speared through it, impaling her on an unidentified slipstream that had its own ideas about how to be read. Nerves registered touch; she felt herself jerk in response, her breath caught in her throat. There was no physical body past the syncpoint, but she felt the stream wash over her, a sensation of icewater splashing against bare skin. Hands of cool water sliding over flesh — at her syncpoint, her lips parted and she struggled to speak aloud, not quite aware of the world around herself, but responding to the stimuli as though it were there with her in the room.
The feeling moved over her in a kind of seduction, electricity cascading from neuron to neuron, sparks crackling like blue fire around rigid limbs, the body brought to a trembling, aching pinnacle of … what, exactly, she didn’t have the words to define. To say that she was overwhelmed would be like saying space was… ‘kind of big’. She didn’t understand what moved through and around her, didn’t know how places within memory and mind were not only augmented, but altered outright. No one watching saw the invasion, only saw her body lift halfway out of its chair on their screens. The moment the more morbid had been waiting for. The most brilliant mind of their generation, fried to ash, or at least to gibbering nonsense.
Blue sparks arched between her teeth, cascades of them shuddered along her eyelashes. Her body howled as information permeated every cell; the judges noted the way her heartbeat spiked and her brainwaves flattened and were rewritten — but as for why, the information on that was devoured in less than nanoseconds.
The anomaly had come and gone, leaving behind a subroutine so innocuous that not even the most elite of Nex’s watchdogs would notice.
She didn’t realize that she’d spent nearly twice the time there as anyone else who’d ever achieved prime, didn’t realize it and wouldn’t realize it for quite some time, and even then the importance of it would be lost on her at its first revelation.
It wouldn’t be lost on anyone else, however.
She was the first to survive a Surge.
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