Louise poked boredly at the screen. Penelope had kept up a murmured stream of obscenities for the first half hour, and that had been somewhat entertaining, but she’d rapidly settled into silence. Louise was too distracted by thinking about Mick to really consider her personal outrage about what was going on in her brain.
Or was that the programming? Was there some built-in tranquilizer that kept her from being too upset about her body being used by a bunch of rich white men with delusions of grandeur? Had they hacked her neurotransmitters so thoroughly?
She kept consciously avoiding going to look at Mick’s chart.
The news alerts about Cognizoid included a tiny blurb about a new clinical trial in vegetative patients with brain damage. She stared at that for a long time, thinking about what it might be like to have someone essentially return from the grave. No one would notice if they were different, or if they did, then it was, of course, understandable that their personality might be altered. What it would be like to have a small army of cybernetic people who were young, without progressive brain damage. Haler and heartier than the mob of crones the government now had. Zombie machines that would last longer. With less of themselves, perhaps, in the way.
She shut the article and tried not to think about it too much.
Instead, she did a little ego-searching, looking for old pictures of herself and her friends. There were barely any online: she’s outlived most of her college friends, and many of her later friends were Luddites who hated the net. She did stumble onto one of her sister’s old websites, preserved by a few of her fans even now, thirty years after her death, as “important archival material” for some media property she’d worked on at some point. The smiling photo in the header shook her hard-won composure, and she had to close that pane and several others before she felt enough distance from her history.
“This is fucking awful,” she said, standing up abruptly. “Can I make us some supper or something?”
“You have an amazingly well-stocked kitchen,” Louise said several hours later, laying the table.
Penelope surveyed the spread with pursed lips. “Well,” she said finally, “you really wanted to distract yourself, didn’t you?”
“Yeah,” Louise said, setting a bowl of soup in front of Penelope. “I guess so.”
“What’s this?” Penelope said, poking at little floating pastries on the surface of her soup.
“Bouillabaisse,” Louise said. “With cheese-filled pâte â choux.” She served a green salad onto a small plate at Penelope’s right hand. “I hope you didn’t need those canned oysters I found in your cabinet.”
“No,” Penelope said dubiously as Louise dressed the salad lightly with something. “Vinaigrette?”
“Yes,” Louise said. She served herself, then sat down and picked up her spoon. Her back hurt a bit from working at Penelope’s low counters, but it was worth it.
“You never struck me as the Julia Child type,” Penelope said, tasting the bouillabaisse. “This is damned good.”
“I’m not,” Louise said, a little sadly. “But I suspect someone in the VR is. I mean, I looked up recipes, but I had the ideas and then this was surprisingly easy, if time-consuming.”
“You wanted time-consuming, right?” Penelope said, then she glanced over at the very large pot steaming on the stove. “Oh, I’m gonna be eating this for days, aren’t I?”
“Shut up,” Louise said. “There are eclairs for dessert.”