Mother[up]lode: Wednesday, Part 1


Louise sat bolt upright in bed, saturated with cold sweat. Her heart was pounding as if she’d run up 10 flights of stairs.

“Louise,” her Minder said, “you have been having a very disturbed sleep. Do you want something to help you sleep more soundly?”

“No!” Louise shouted immediately, then, more quietly, “No, no, thank you.”

“Do you need a nurse?” the Minder asked.

“No, thank you, Minder, I do not,” Louise said, enunciating carefully, even as she gently moved her left arm. There was a cramp in her neck and shoulder and it stabbed her with pain.

“Do you want a companion?” the Minder asked.

Louise wished the Minder would just shut the hell up, but she knew it was going through its script. “No, thank you, Minder. I’m just going to get up to get myself something to drink.”

“Very well, Louise,” the Minder said. “Please tell me if you need anything.”

“Thanks,” she said, and carefully swung her legs out of bed.

She was tense and achy all over, and her hip was screaming with it. Though as a rule she didn’t use it, she did pick up the cane that hung on the wall near the head of the bed, and leaned heavily on it (with her right hand) as she made her painful way to the bathroom. The room lights switched on as she went, in her preferred dim nighttime mode. There was her tiny room. There was her kitchenette. There was her bathroom.

She was afraid that she would vomit, but she didn’t, in the end. She did wash her face and press a cold washcloth over her eyes for a few moments. Then she made her way to the kitchenette, poured a glass of sweet tea, and made her way to the almost-comfortable chair.

Once she had some sugar in her and her shaking hands had settled back to their usual slight tremor, she opened the drawer of the little table nearby and got out some pain medication. She suspected she owed Concepción her life—the woman was quick-thinking enough to get her to wake up out of the VR when the virtual input was probably sending her nervous system into overload.

Louise took her meds and leaned her head back against the chair with a sigh. She reached over her shoulder and into her pajama top, running her fingertips over her papery old skin, just to make sure there wasn’t a bleeding wound there.

After a few more minutes of breathing deeply and sipping tea, she got up—with the help of the cane—and hobbled over to her computer.

It was just after 4 am by the clock, and her system had a bunch of lockouts designed to keep her from sending her former coworkers, professional rivals, and ex-girlfriends demented emails in the wee hours of the morning. Fortunately, when not in the throes of a cognitive brain-storm, and while medicated to functional levels, she was perfectly able to step through the questions the lockouts asked her.

Upon getting to her working desktop, she sent email to Penelope, asking what her schedule was for the morning.

Then she went back to the agency website and into the public safety databases, looking for post-marketing adverse events for Cog.

The nice part of the current agency site was that you could ask the database to cough up the items that fit your general search criteria and then download it. The not-so-nice part of the current agency site was that it kicked out a file that was too large to open in a simple spreadsheet. Louise stared at the file she’d saved to her memory key for a few moments, then popped open another window and started typing.

She was halfway through writing a script that would search specifically for deaths and convert the information into a readable format when she remembered that she had never learned to program.

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