8/ @Jean 03

Her eyes open.

The sun is warmer — much warmer than before. Could be it’s higher in the sky, her tactile perception is increasing, or both.

Jean, how are you feeling? It’s Dougie asking.

“I’m —” She could say that she is in love, still, with Some Body, but now she’s a No-Body. She could say that this Some Body loved her, but now she wonders. Now that he can’t touch her, hold her, penetrate her; now that their grand plans, the family they would start, it’s all out the window — what do they do? What is fair to him? To her? “I’m okay,” she says.

Well, her discretion center is working. A woman’s voice, flat in its affect but still communicating wryness. Unmistakably PoMo.

Jean, my shift is ending, Dougie says. Anne is going to take it from here. Do you two know each other?

“Know of each other,” @Jean says. But we’ve never met.”

Hello, Jean, @Anne says. Henry’s told me so much about you.

“Likewise,” @Jean says. “Great to meet you.”

Jean, I’m so sorry about your early departure from the PhysWo —

“Accidents will happen,” @Jean hears herself reply. She is not prepared to talk about it.

Doug, have you sectioned off … ?

It’s in the status report, Dougie tells @Anne. Generally speaking, she’s handling the transition well.

Cog is at 90, @Anne observes. That’s good, fast work.

Jean, you should know that Anne is connected to you by VPN.

“Meaning I’m online?”

Technically, yes, @Anne answers. Or else I wouldn’t be able to work with you. But you’re directly ported to my profile over a secure connection.

100-megabit encryption, Dougie says, anticipating Jean’s next question. Should scare off any creeps hovering. More likely someone steals your box from me at gunpoint than this line with Anne gets hacked. Anne, are you all set?

I think so.

Then I’m punching out. Call me if you need anything. Jean, you’re in good hands.

Metaphorically speaking, @Anne quips.

Dougie’s chuckle cuts off as he deactivates his mike.

Jean, my screen shows your cognitive processing is at 90%. That’s high enough for us to start setting system preferences, if you’re comfortable doing that.

“Should I be?”

90% of you is smarter than 100% of me, so I’d say go for it.

@Jean doubts @Anne’s premise, but then again she’s been on this beach for hours now, she’s at 90% cognition level, and she is a bit bored. “Let’s do it,” she says.

Great. I’m going to lead with the disclosures. At this point, our conversation will be recorded, for quality assurance purposes. @Anne pauses.


Let’s begin. The technicians at the hospital converted 2.71 petabytes of stored information from your brain to digital media. They successfully mapped 99.3% of your neural connectome. We received both file folders by secure file transfer last night. Download initiated at 1929 EDT and completed 2021 EDT. The affidavits tracing and confirming chain of custody are available on your tablet. Promptly upon receiving the data, we commenced auto-implementation of organizational security and redundancy protocols and got to work on your processing configuration. Do you have questions?

“The processing configuration is what allows me to think.” Not exactly a question.

Yes. And to access memory, receive information, and feel sensations in digitally rendered environments. Your processing configuration is unique to you. It is compiled with reference to your own distinctive neural network, to create a digital profile as close to your PhysWo self as our programming limits will allow. Your config establishes how you think — how you create and access memories, receive and process information, and feel and respond to sensation. It is the architecture of your self.

“And my emotions?”

Emotions are tricky, because they can have a physiological basis outside of the brain — hormones, for example — and we’ve only reached out and grabbed your brain. We have written code to fill in these gaps. We also run auto-searches over your memory, mining the full extent of your emotional experience. By extrapolating from that information, we are able to construct an emo-layer to drop into your config stack. It’s not perfect. And in your case even less so, because we have only 28 PhysWo years of life experience to draw from. But it’s orders of magnitude better than when I was Translated.

“Or my grandparents.”


“I feel sorry for them.”

Because you can. @Anne pauses. That was a joke.

@Jean smiles.

Continuing. The Board has voted a resolution naming you a Charter/ Critical Member of B.org. Accordingly, your baseline storage and processing charges will be covered by income from the B.org endowment, into perpetuity.

“Or until the stock market tanks.”

We’re in bonds, too. The responsibilities of a Charter/ Critical Member are set forth in the Organization’s By-Laws, which are loaded in the Documentation file on your tablet, for you to review at your leisure. If at any point you should forfeit Charter/ Critical status, you may be reverted to Pay-as-You-Go status. Please confirm your understanding of these disclosures. Or if you have questions —

“I confirm.”

Good. Clatter of keys.

Your PoCorp carrier B.org is a member of the RenderPool Consortium.

@Jean notes @Anne’s use of the term PoCorp. Some insist on fighting this battle, favoring PoCorp or PCH, for “post-corporeal human,” over PoMo or PME, for “post-mortem entity.”

RenderPool is a cross-carrier data depository that allows its member carriers’ customers to contribute their memories into pooled secure storage. If you elect to contribute to RenderPool, your memories will be made available to carriers and subscribing third-party systems to draw upon to enrich digitally rendered environments, or DREs. For example, your memory of how a person looked, sounded, smelled, etc. will be incorporated into that person’s presentation in a DRE. If you contribute to RenderPool, memory deposits of other contributors will be incorporated and enrich your rendered presence. You can withdraw your memories from the RenderPool depository at any time. At this point in time, you may elect to participate, decline to participate, or ask to read the RenderPool Privacy Policy —

“What do you recommend?”

I’d rather not say. It’s entirely your decision, Jean.

“Is it secure?”

B.org IT has vetted RenderPool’s security policies and procedures and found them satisfactory. Doug is staffed to the RenderPool Security Committee —

“Has Henry opted in?”

As I’m sure you’re aware, Henry doesn’t think much of DREs —

“Right. Of course he wouldn’t. Has Violet opted in?”

She has.

“I elect to contribute, waive reading of the Privacy Policy.”

Done. I just sent you a link to the Privacy Policy, in case you want to review it later.

@Jean’s tablet pings. New message.

Earlier today we ran a search over your code. We found no evidence of Category 1 mental disorders and no evidence of dementia. We did identify the following Category 2 personality defects, which may be corrected during the configuration process: (1) moderate-to-severe susceptibility to stress, (2) mild routine capture/ inflexibility, (3) below average score on the Generalized Patience/Anxiety Index (23rd percentile), and (4) chronic insomnia. Correction of these defects may qualify as an ‘enhancement’ in certain states, with the result that you may forfeit legal personhood status in those states. Shall we proceed with correction of any Category 2 disorders? Please indicate by saying ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

“No,” @Jean says.

Answer is recorded as no. Next: we have the ability to overwrite sex and death drives, learned or habitual behaviors such as smoking and drinking, and caffeine dependence. Overwriting these human deficiencies may qualify as an ‘enhancement’ in certain states, with the result that you may forfeit legal personhood status in those states. Shall we proceed —

“No,” @Jean says.

No is confirmed. We can increase your processing power —

“No,” she says.

We can increase your memory capacity —

“No,” she says.

We can load particular libraries into your memory: for example, in your case, the contents of the United States Supreme Court Case Reporters —


We can delete selected memories.

She pauses. She could make this easier on herself. On the both of them, maybe.

Deletion of memories does not qualify as an enhancement in any legal jurisdiction, other than Kansas.

She pauses.

You don’t need to decide now.

4/ @Jean 02

Too warm?

@Jean opens her eyes. She is laid out over a chaise longue, on a pool deck. She wiggles her toes — nails painted, she notes, in the very shade she last remembers. There is even the chip off the big toe, where she kicked the bedframe on the morning she died. Out past her feet is a painted railing, and beyond that inklings of a beach.

Her first thought is for Isaac. They were supposed to meet at the Cabin last night. She’d packed salmon filets for dinner; he would have come up after work. The fish are in police impound somewhere, most likely, stinking up what’s left of her car. The techs gave her just the one call, to her grandfather, named as the Authorized Contact on her B.org account. She regrets that she had not updated the listing. It’s true that she and Isaac would not have had time, on that five-minute Courtesy Call, to work through all the complications her death just raised. But if she had only heard his voice, she would have a sense of where they are heading.


The sun is high in the sky and bright. The view past her toes is indistinct. Foggy, pixelated, in pastels, like some low-res photograph of a watercolor by that French painter. Her favorite, but she can’t extract his name from her memory, and she wonders why. She can hear waves crashing, gulls crying out. These sounds fade out briefly, while the voice addresses her again.

There’s a weather app on your tablet. Temperature controls, wind, precipitation at your fingertips.

“Thank you,” @Jean says. She sits up and looks around. “But there’s no tablet here —”

No? A brief pause: sounds of waves and seagulls again. Yikes. My fault. Give me a minute. Through Dougie’s sound-activated mike she hears a clacking of keys. Incoming: 3 … 2 … 1 …

A glass table appears from nowhere beside her chair, just off the armrest, inches away from her elbow. She jumps in her seat.

I’m sorry, Jean. It’s been one of those shifts.

“It’s fine,” she says. “Just startled me, is all.” Side tables don’t just splash into existence, in the PhysWo.

Tablet’s on the table. Weather app, as I said. Plus controls for the chair, a few games, poolside service menu —


I’m sorry. We need to keep you offline for now, while we’re configuring your profile. Right now you’re very vulnerable to third-party attacks and malicious code.

“How are you and I talking?”

Direct one-to-one connection. My laptop on the desk, hard-wired into your box.

She is in a box. The jokes write themselves.

“There’s just the one copy of me? Aren’t you supposed to distribute copies of our profiles across the Net? As a failsafe?”

It’s taken care of, Jean. You really should rest now. Now is not the best time to have conversations like these. You’re not yet fully configured

“By the time I’m fully configured, my question won’t be relevant.”

Dougie chuckles. Henry warned me about you. Said you’d be wide awake and asking questions. We keep three encrypted backups, all offline, stowed in secure locations in the PhysWo, until you’re fully compiled, tested, and online. We don’t set up the distributed online profile structure until you’ve gone into production. And even then we still keep the flash-drive backups, for disaster recovery.

@Jean takes a minute to sift through what Dougie has told her, evaluate it, and frame a reply. This work of comprehension, cognition, sentiment and syntax formation takes longer — much longer, it seems — than it should. The sea continues to crash on her shore, while she thinks, or tries to. Finally she answers: “Couldn’t someone steal the copies, hack the copies, take them online?”

The hijacked evil twin, digitally enhanced, robbing banks and taking down the power grid? He chuckles again. Always a possibility, but there’s also the risk you — this version of you, the REAL you — become infected or corrupted, or God forbid deleted online, and we may need to access a pristine copy of your data to do a reinstall from scratch. There’s a real tension here: on one hand, we need several iterations of your consciousness and memory, for the sake of redundancy. To keep you safe.

Dougie pauses. Jean does not answer.

On the other hand, every iteration of you is one more a bad guy could get hold of. The Board is constantly reevaluating our policy and procedures, to strike the right balance. Bottom line is your data has to sit somewhere in the Physical World, and your profile has to sit somewhere online. Wherever those places are, someone could get at them. The best we can do is obscure the locations, vary them, and overlay security —cyber and physical — to keep you safe and non-multiple.

These words are cascading down on her. “I — I can’t follow. I’m sorry. You’re speaking so fast, and it’s too much information.”

It’s a lot to absorb, Jean.

“I was scheduled to argue a case in the Supreme Court. A significant case on the rights of Post-Corporeal Entities.” Her rights, now. She reaches for the tablet on the table beside her. She checks the date on it. “One week from today. But now I’ve died and I can’t understand your words.”

Completely normal. It takes time to reconstruct your mind profile in a digital format. At this point we’re barely a third of the way through our compiling. It will be probably another eighteen hours before you’re ready for high-level processing. Then again, you’re sharper than most at this point in the build. So it could be sooner.

“I was awake before this, briefly. I talked to my grandfather.”

That was not the full-and-complete you talking. The Transfer Techs ran a script at the hospital. Just a rough cut sketched into a temp file. The for-profit Carriers love it: “you” can make a first phone call to loved ones, to say you made it over. Problem is, on the back end it sticks a guy like me with all this crummy accumulated code to scrub out. Hence, “one of those shifts.”

“I don’t know what you’re saying.”

I’m talking too much, Jean. I’m sorry.

“I need a drink,” she says.

Menu’s on your tablet. Dial yourself up a cross-breeze while you’re at it.

@Jean takes the tablet, opens the drinks menu app. Mai-tais, coladas, daiquiris, an array of soft drinks. She wonders why a person without a body would order a Diet Coke.

I’m going to cut the mike now, Jean. We’ll be back in touch in a short while to talk about your settings.


You should know there are three of us working your case in eight-hour shifts: Lionel, Anne, and I. If you need anything, you can reach us through the concierge app on your tablet. Good?

“Good. Thank you, Doug.”

The rendered environment here will assume sharper definition over time, as we make further process with the compiling. Your smell, touch, sound, and taste sensations will improve as well.

@Jean sits, processes, forms her next question: “How long does it take?”

I’d say maybe three days before you can perceive DREs — digitally rendered environments — at 100%. You can track your percentages on the tablet. In your Utilities folder, there’s an AT icon. Stands for Acuity Tracking.

@Jean fumbles her fingers over the tablet’s surface. She conjures up a status window:

Vis: 77%/ Aud: 84%/ Tac: 38%/ Olfac: 14%/ Gust: 9%

She decides to pass on the drink.

Progress on the sensory build is nonlinear, so it will come in fits and starts. In the meantime, just lie back and relax.

“I don’t do that well.”

We can help with that. There’s a Sleep button on the tablet —

“Yes. I see it here.”

Up to you, if you want to use it.

1/ Jean 01

Hammaker Lane is a ten-mile stretch of Route 12.  Cut through the woods: two lanes, narrow.  Dips and hills like a sine wave.  She loved this ride as a kid — how the car leaped as it came over the humps, how the sun slashed between the trees on the way home after school.  Her grandfather brought her here when she first got her learner’s permit.  She brings her left hand to the steering wheel, toggles the drive switch from auto to manual.  The car asks her:

Are you sure you want to disable the auto-drive app?

She clips her phone’s hands-free headset over her ears.  “Henry Woolsey, please.”

Are you sure you want to disable —

“Right — Jesus —”

Are you sure you —

“I’m sure.”

Auto-drive is disabled.

“Henry Woolsey, please.”

Dialing …

She slots her hands at the 10 and 2 positions.  Just as he taught her.


“Good morning, Henry —”

“’Henry, today?  What did I do wrong?”

“I’m calling on business,” she says, “so you’re Henry.”

“Is this a new thing?”

“It seems right to me.”

“Fair enough.  You’re on the road, then?”

“Route 12.  The Bumps.”

“Hammaker Lane.”  Where Some Body might laugh, @Henry says, “Ha.”  And then: “I remember hanging on for dear life.”

“I’m better at it now.”

“Are you calling about the Sherman argument?  I had us booked to talk later in the afternoon.”

“We never made a decision about the lease.”

“Oh.  Didn’t we?” he adds, brightly.

“If we want out, we have to give notice by tomorrow.”

“I don’t see any reason to make a change.”

She hits the pedal hard.  The car surges forward into an incline.  “The Firm could have twice the square footage in White Plains, for a third of the rent.  It’s just so much money.”

“Jean Bean, if we leave Midtown now, it’s as good as admitting defeat.”

“You could put that savings into the Foundation.”

“Location matters, my dear.”

Sensors indicate oncoming traffic.

“Noted,” she tells the car.  “It blows my mind, Grandpa, that of all people you would care so much where our offices are.”

“What can I say?  I’m a traditionalist.”

A large vehicle is approaching.

“Noted.”  She is coasting to the bottom of a trough.  Accelerating, now, into the next rise.


She sees it.  A truck.  She whips the wheel right: 10 and 2 to 3 and 7.  The car plunges off into the trees.



Her leg is pinned down over the pedal, pressing it to the floor.  The car’s electric motor spins, whips mud into the air behind her.

Initiating auto-drive override.

The pedal goes limp.  The motor stops spinning.  She blacks out.

Dialing 9-1-1— 

*          *          *


She is flying on her back, feet-first.  Panes of frosted glass wipe away the sky.  She hears a wham, and the frosted glass gives way to segments of dropped ceiling, flashing by like movie frames.  She hears shoes slapping on floor tile.  She hears shouts, words she should understand:

The goddam Copy Techs: where are they?

Scrubbed and standing by, in OR 2.


Her head lolls to her left.

We’re losing her.  Hands clasp her cheeks, turning her head.  A face hovers over her, framed by fingers.  Talking, insisting.  Stay with me, sweetheart.  Just a little longer.

She closes her eyes.