Today's Reading

"What happened?" he asked. A beat of silence while his mother worked out what to say, which meant it was bad, which was, come to think of it, obvious.

"There was an attack," she said. "An assassination. You were wounded, and your father was killed. It was political." He reached for sadness but felt only surprise that the old man had run out of tricks; he wondered if his father's demise would turn out to be staged, if, like Sherlock Holmes, he was not dead but just in hiding, waiting for the right moment to dramatically reappear. "Rio was untenable," his mother went on, "and the doctors you needed wouldn't come to Brazil, so I brought you here, to Los Angeles, with your brothers. We'll leave for the U.S. proper once we get visas and you're well enough to travel."

"I was hurt?"

"A sniper fired armor-piercing rounds at your father's car," the stranger says, standing. American, with an intensity and an absolute confidence, his cologne redolent of river water and orchids. "You were hit twice. You suffered a pierced lung and major cranial ablation. You've been in an induced coma for three weeks. I operated on you for twenty-six hours." The surgeon's motions seemed excessively controlled, as though he refused to let his fatigue show.

"I'm remembering things."

"That's your implant. It's about two inches under the bandage on your forehead. It took over the function of the unviable tissue, and so saved your life. The expanded memory is a side effect, a kind of bonus." The surgeon looked at his tablet and smiled, the first crack in an otherwise impenetrable professional facade. "The installation was...complex, but I'm happy to say it's working perfectly."

Thales had read about memory implants, had wondered what it would be like, had never thought to learn. "But those never really worked," he said. "The memory thing worked, but the people who got them usually died."

Impassive, distant, compassionate, the surgeon said, "There is absolutely no doubt that the implant will improve both the quality and the duration of your life."

And then he's back in the tunnel feeling like he's choking as someone stuffs a glove into his mouth and now he's biting down on the leather and cotton as a lozenge of white light—reflected from someone's watch?—skitters across the ceiling. His muscles are trembling—is he cold?—and someone is holding his head on their lap, and he wants to say he's going to be sick again but the tunnel is dark and its roof seems far away and as though from a distance he hears Helio say, "You're going to be fine!"

Someone is complaining that the medevac has been delayed by two minutes, its flight path went over the wrong neighborhood and someone shot at it, it's rerouting, fuck LA, in Brazil they'd know not to fly over the fucking favelas.

His awareness narrows to a single mote of light, the implant diligently recording.

Then it's time to let go of everything, and then he does, and the implant quietly turns itself off.

He wakes up in a hospital bed in a room he now knows well. Out the window the early light shines on the Pacific. Through the window he sees the sun shining on the sea and is aware of the rules of light's motion through space.

He touches his upper lip—his fingers come away clean. There are gauze bandages on his chest and forehead.

The sea heaves and shifts but its shapes slip away from him. He wonders if the implant is broken, and what happened, and, confusedly, if this is anesthesia annihilating time.

His mother isn't there, but the surgeon is sitting by the bed; he looks up from his tablet and says, "We need to ask you some questions."

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