and unconscious, in a corner of the Town Hall railway station—with watch, notepad, and shoes still on him, unlikely in a random mugging gone wrong. I’d been hanging out with the homicide squad for a fortnight, waiting for something like this. Warrants for revival were issued only if the evidence favored the victim being able to name the assailant; there was little prospect of obtaining a usable verbal description of a stranger, let alone an identikit of the killer’s face. Lukowski had woken a magistrate just after midnight, the minute the prognosis was clear.

Cavolini’s skin was turning a strange shade of crimson, as more and more revived cells began taking up oxygen. The alien-hued transporter molecule in the ersatz blood was more efficient than hemoglobin—but like all the other revival drugs, it was ultimately toxic.

The pathologist’s assistant hit some more keys. Cavolini twitched and coughed again. It was a delicate balancing act; small shocks to the brain were necessary to restore the major coherent rhythms… but too much external interference could wipe out the remnants of short-term memory. Even after legal death, neurons could remain active deep in the brain, keeping the symbolic firing-pattern representations of recent memories circulating for several minutes. Revival could temporarily restore the neural infrastructure needed to extract those traces, but if they’d already died away completely—or been swamped by the efforts to recover them—interrogation was pointless.

Lukowski said soothingly, “You’re okay now, Danny. You’re in hospital. You’re safe. But you have to tell me who did this to you. Tell me who had the knife.”

A hoarse whisper emerged from Cavolini’s mouth: one faint, aspirated syllable, then silence. My skin crawled with predictable monkey’s paw horror—but I felt an idiotic surge of exultation, too, as if part of me simply refused to accept that this sign of life could not be a sign of hope.

Cavolini tried again, and the second attempt was more sustained. His artificial exhalation, detached from voluntary control, made it sound like he was gasping for breath; the effect was pitiful—but he wasn’t actually short of oxygen at all. His speech was so broken and tortuous that I couldn’t make out a single word, but an array of piezoelectric sensors was glued to his throat, and wired to a computer. I turned to the display panel.

Why can’t I see?

Lukowski said, “Your eyes are bandaged. There were a couple of broken blood vessels, but they’ve been repaired; there’ll be no permanent damage, I promise. So just… lie still, and relax. And tell me what happened.”

What time is it? Please. I better call home. I better tell them

“We’ve spoken to your parents. They’re on their way, they’ll be here as soon as possible.”

That much was true—but even if they showed up in the next ninety seconds, they would not be allowed into the room.

“You were waiting for the train home, weren’t you? Platform four. Remember? Waiting for the ten-thirty to Strathfield. But you didn’t get on. What happened?” I saw Lukowski’s gaze shift to a graph below the transcript window, where half a dozen rising curves recording improved vital signs were extended by dashed computer projections. All of the projected curves hit their peaks a minute or so in the future, then swiftly declined.

He had a knife. Cavolini’s right arm began to twitch, and his slack facial muscles came to life for the first time, taking on a grimace of pain. It still hurts. Please help me. The bioethicist glanced calmly at some figures on the display screen, but declined to intervene. Any effective anesthetic would damp down neural activity too much to allow the interrogation to continue; it was all or nothing, abort or proceed.

Lukowski said gently, “The nurse is getting some painkillers. Hang in there, man, it won’t be long. But tell me: who had the knife?” The faces of both of them were glistening with sweat now; Lukowski’s arm was scarlet up to the elbow. I thought: If you found someone dying on the pavement in a pool of blood, you’d ask the same questions, wouldn’t you? And tell the same reassuring lies? “Who was it, Danny?”

My brother.

“Your brother had the knife?”

No he didn’t. I can’t remember what happened. Ask me later. My head’s too fuzzy now.

“Why did you say it was your brother? Was it him, or wasn’t it?”

Of course it wasn’t him. Don’t tell anyone I said that. I’ll be all right if you stop confusing me. Can I have the painkillers now? Please?

His face flowed and froze, flowed and froze, like a sequence of masks, making his suffering seem stylized, abstract. He began to move his head back and forth; weakly at first, then with manic speed and energy. I assumed he was having some kind of seizure: the revival drugs were over-stimulating some damaged neural pathway.

Then he reached up with his right hand and tore away the blindfold. His head stopped jerking immediately; maybe his skin had grown hypersensitive, and the blindfold had become an unbearable irritation. He blinked a few times, then squinted up at the room’s bright lights. I could see his pupils contract, his eyes moving purposefully. He raised his head slightly and examined Lukowski, then looked down at his own body and its strange adornments: the pacemaker’s brightly colored ribbon cable; the heavy plastic blood-supply tubes; the knife wounds full of glistening white maggots. Nobody moved, nobody spoke, while he inspected the needles and electrodes buried in his chest, the strange pink tide washing out of him, his ruined lungs, his artificial airway. The display screen was behind him, but everything else was there to be taken in at a glance. In a matter of seconds, he knew, I could see the weight of understanding descend on him.

He opened his mouth, then closed it again. His expression shifted rapidly; through the pain there was a sudden flash of pure astonishment, and then an almost amused comprehension of the full strangeness—and maybe even the perverse virtuosity—of the feat to which he’d been subjected. For an instant, he really did look like someone admiring a brilliant, vicious, bloody practical joke at his own expense.

Then he said clearly, between enforced robotic gasps: “I… don’t… think… this… is… a… good… id… dea. I… don’t… want… to… talk… any… more.”

He closed his eyes and sank back onto the table. His vital signs were descending rapidly.

Lukowski turned to the pathologist. He was ashen, but he still gripped the boy’s hand. “How could the retinas function? What did you do? You stupid—” He raised his free hand as if to strike her, but he didn’t follow through. The bioethicist’s T-shirt read: ETERNAL LOVE IS A LOVEPET, MADE FROM YOUR LOVED ONE'S OWN DNA. The pathologist, standing her ground, screamed back at Lukowski, “You had to push him, didn’t you? You had to keep on and on about the brother, while his stress hormone index climbed straight into the red!” I wondered who’d decided what a normal level of adrenaline was, for the state of being dead from knife wounds but otherwise relaxed. Someone behind me emitted a long string of incoherent obscenities. I turned to see the paramedic, who would have been with Cavolini since the ambulance; I hadn’t even realized that he was still in the room. He was staring at the floor, his fists clenched tight, shaking with anger.

Lukowski grabbed my elbow, staining me with synthetic blood. He spoke in a stage whisper, as if hoping to keep his words off the soundtrack. “You can film the next one. Okay? This has never happened before—never—and if you show people a one-in-a-million glitch as if it was —”

The bioethicist ventured mildly, “I think the guidelines from the Taylor committee on optional restraints make it clear—”

The pathologist’s assistant turned on her, outraged. “Who asked you for an opinion? Procedure is none of your business, you pathetic—”

An ear-splitting alarm went off, somewhere deep in the electronic guts of the revival apparatus. The pathologist’s assistant bent over the equipment, and bashed on the keypad like a frustrated child attacking a broken toy, until the noise went away.

In the silence that followed, I almost closed my eyes, invoked Witness, stopped recording. I’d seen enough.

Then Daniel Cavolini regained consciousness, and began to scream.

I watched as they pumped him full of morphine, and waited for the revival drugs to finish him off.


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