Distress by greg egan

Greg Egan

Thanks to Caroline Oakley, Deborah Beale, Anthony Cheetham, Peter Robinson, Lucy Blackburn, Annabelle Ager, and Claudia Schaffer.

It is not true that the map of freedom will be complete
with the erasure of the last invidious border when it remains for us to chart the attractors of thunder
and delineate the arrhythmias of drought to reveal the molecular dialects of forest and savanna
as rich as a thousand human tongues and to comprehend the deepest history of our passions
ancient beyond mythology’s reach
So I declare that no corporation holds a monopoly on numbers
no patent can encompass zero and one
no nation has sovereignty over adenine and guanine
no empire rules the quantum waves
And there must be room for all at the celebration of
for there is a truth which cannot be bought or sold imposed by force, resisted or escaped.

– FromTechnoliberation by Muteba Kazadi, 2019


“All right. He’s dead. Go ahead and talk to him.”
The bioethicist was a laconic young asex with blond dreadlocks and a T-shirt which flashed up the slogan SAY NO TO TOE! in between the paid advertising. Ve countersigned the permission form on the forensic pathologist’s notepad, then withdrew to a corner of the room. The trauma specialist and the paramedic wheeled their resuscitation equipment out of the way, and the forensic pathologist hurried forward, hypodermic syringe in hand, to administer the first dose of neuropreservative. Useless prior to legal death – massively toxic to several organs, on a time scale of hours – the cocktail of glutamate antagonists, calcium channel blockers, and antioxidants would halt the most damaging biochemical changes in the victim’s brain, almost immediately.
The pathologist’s assistant followed close behind her, with a trolley bearing all the

paraphernalia of post-mortem revival: a tray of disposable surgical instruments; several racks of electronic equipment; an arterial pump fed from three glass tanks the size of water-coolers; and something resembling a hairnet made out of gray superconducting wire.
Lukowski, the homicide detective, was standing beside me. He mused, “If everyone was fitted out like you, Worth, we’d never have to do this. We could just replay the crime from start to finish. Like reading an aircraft’s black box.”
I replied without looking away from the operating table; I could edit out our voices easily enough, but I wanted a continuous take of the pathologist connecting up the surrogate blood supply. “If everyone had optic nerve taps, don’t you think murderers would start hacking the memory chips out of their victims’ bodies?”
“Sometimes. But no one hung around to mess up this guy’s brain, did they?”
“Wait until they’ve seen the documentary.” The pathologist’s assistant sprayed a depilatory enzyme onto the victim’s skull, and then wiped all the close-cropped black hair away with a couple of sweeps of his gloved hand. As he dropped the mess into a plastic sample bag, I realized why it was holding together instead of dispersing like barber’s shop waste; several layers of skin had come with it. The assistant glued the “hairnet” – a skein of electrodes and SQID detectors – to the bare pink scalp. The pathologist finished checking the blood supply, then made an incision in the trachea and inserted a tube, hooked up to a small pump to take the place of the collapsed lungs. Nothing to do with respiration; purely as an aid tospeech.

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Distress by greg egan