A Story by Brandon Langley

Jason Steel would just a normal boy in a normal world, but that wouldn't make for an interesting story, would it?

In the future, as much literary fiction has suggested, humans will develop the ability to technologically modify their own bodies, using robotic parts. These augmentations, in science-fiction, have been used as a plot-point to make the world a dystopia of a place, or as a weapon against some alien force, but the world is not a book, there is no climax. There is no interstellar conflict. In fact, the idea of mass space travel, although being currently toyed with, is left behind in the future. Augs, as future-slang will call augmentations, make the world a utopia for all but a small group of individuals who believe that these modifications will, as science-fiction has suggested, cause some sort of human catastrophe. They were right.  These people call themselves the Equilibrists, commonly called the EQs, they struggle to make the human brain and body as powerful and intelligent as those who use Augs. They succeeded.
Jason Steel lay in an unfamiliar place, his eyes closed. Opening his eyes, he saw a bright light, and immediately squinted. Although he was somehow not afraid, he should have been, and he observed his surroundings, he was in a hospital, but an old one, seemingly from the early 21st century. The room in which he lay just happened to be directly below that of an Equilibrist base. Unaware of that tidbit of information, Jason sat up, showing no emotion at all. He went to the door: locked. He reeled back and slammed his body against the door and he flew through, leaving a large hole in the wooden door. He barely heard a thing as he stood up, but he did feel a stinging in his back.
Jason awoke, this time with a gag in his mouth and his hands tied to the plastic bed siding, in the same hospital bed as before, but this time, there was a man sitting next to him in an ancient, rusty, foldable, metal chair. He had long, choppy, black hair that covered most of his forehead and a five o'clock shadow that seemed to darken his pale skin as if he had tanned just his chin and lower jaw. He wore a faded burgundy flannel shirt, unbuttoned halfway down, exposing the majority of his chest, along with a grey sport coat with the sleeves rolled up to his shoulders, coupled with a pair of black jeans and white-bottomed skate shoes, "How's it going, kiddo?" the man said, a sly smile on his face, raising an eyebrow, "Name's Niel."
Jason continued to lye there, not responding to Niel's attempt at conversation. "Look, kid." Niel stood, beginning to untie Jason's hands, "I'm with the EQs. We don't wanna hurt ya. We need ya. If we were gonna hurt ya, we would've done it already."
Jason turned to Niel, sitting up, his hands now unbound, "Yeah? Now why is that?"
Niel sighed, "We kind of operated on you."
Without showing any interest on his face or showing any emotions whatsoever, Jason  "What kind of operation?"
Jason attracted several surprised looks as he waded through the crowd. Teenagers generally do not come to EQ rallies. Furthermore, through all of the excited faces, his was the only one without any emotion, still. Niel looked down at him, gripping his shoulder tightly. They finally reached the stage to see a hobbling old man, carrying a microphone as he paced around the stage. The man was very thin, with grey-white hair, wearing a lab coat, a white polo shirt, a black tie, and khaki pants. He was saying something about how quantum physics proves that Augs are a detriment to society. "And now," the man said into the microphone, "I welcome to you, the greatest rock band in the world, covering a classic 21st century song!" The crowd cheered, "Square Gloves with Phil Collins' I Don't Care Anymore!"
The band clambered onto the stage, sitting at the instruments already there, waiting for them, and began to play:
Well  you can tell ev'ryone I'm a down disgrace,
Drag my name all over the place,
I don't care anymore,
You can tell ev'rybody bout the state I'm in,
You won't catch me cryin cuz I just can't win,
I don't care anymore, I don't care anymore.
As soon as the music began to play, Jason broke out into tears, shoving Niel to the side, and running back towards the exit. Niel, having had fallen to the ground, hopped back to his feet and chased after the young boy. Jason cleared the crowd, running into the city, Niel in hot pursuit. Niel, realizing the situation, reached under his sport coat, fingering the leather holster and pulling the pistol into the open. The people walking the sidewalk, already shocked by the sprinting young boy shoving them to the side, screamed and ran in fear at this. The pistol was no ordinary pistol, it was an airpistol, and Niel, reaching to the leather bullet belt around his waist, pulled a dart, attached to a vial filled with a strange, green liquid, from said belt and shoved it in the gun. Niel stopped in place, raised his arm to the air, then slowly lowered it  level to Jason's neck. He pulled the trigger.
Jason awoke on a hospital bed. This time, Niel, was standing in the doorway, so he had time to mull over what had happened at the EQ rally. As soon as the music had started, he became extremely emotional, he didn't care about the repercussions, he just ran. Niel walked in, holding an old, small, rectangular device. He swiped his finger near the bottom of the device, jabbed his finger throughout the screen several times. Suddenly, the Scissor Sisters' I Can't Decide began to play:
It's not easy having yourself a good time,
Greasing up those bets and betters,
Watching out they don't four-letter,
F**k and kiss you both at the same time,
Smells like something I've forgotten,
Curled up, died, and now once rotten.
Jason suddenly felt torn as to whether he should stick with Niel and the EQs and risk death for a good cause, or if he should try to help the oppressive government and hope for a high rank when he graduates the joke of an establishment that is modern high-school. Niel, seeing Jason's eyes shifting rapidly, pressed the device again and the music stopped.
Jason's thoughts stopped, and logic returned to him, he no longer felt the necessity to immediately decide the outcome of the situation. He had decided to wait until an opportune moment of observation presented itself, where he could find the better group of people and stick with them. Niel smiled, leaving Jason to his thoughts.
The beginning of this parable, it was stated that the Equilibrists were correct in their prediction that Augs would cause a human catastrophe; this statement requires a bit of context. In the past, the EQs were left relatively unchecked, labeled a group of radical purists that were too weak to cause any harm. That is not to say that the Aug-supporting government did not place a small amount of moles within their operation, as was procedure with any threat-capable group. These moles remained hidden for the vast expanse of the group's existence, but were found out when the group was nearing its end. But, the narrator, as can be seen by the past few lines, is one to digress; at any rate, once the existence of Jason Steel was found out, the government began to amp up its awareness of the EQs.
After several weeks bonding with Niel and becoming more acquainted with members of the Equilibrists(such as the old man at the rally, whose name was Anthony Hardy: Anthony was a scientist, one of the ones responsible for Jason's condition; and Nancy: a pretty young woman, a few years younger than Niel, who was studying under Anthony[as he was a college professor] before his rebellion and formation of the EQs), Jason was aloud to go freely about  the "compound," which, as stated earlier, was just an old, run down hospital. He could be found, most days, peering out a window, watching, with Carl, a middle-aged man with military expertise and a strong southern drawl(which was, unsurprisingly, rarely found in the future), who was often put on guard duty. Jason had  much better vision than Carl, so he could see much more detail in the surrounding forest than Carl, which(unsurprisingly) proved to be a useful skill when on guard duty. Carl wore a belt that was very reminiscent of Batman's utility belt, but the contraptions on Carl's belt seemed much less specific(such as Bat-Shark Spray), and much more practical(such as a handgun), but there was one item that Jason never understood that was on Carl's belt: a small shard of a mirror. Carl always said that the full mirror belonged to his wife, but it was destroyed when she died, and that the shard was the only thing he had to remember her by. That was the most Carl ever talked about his past. Jason wasn't convinced, though, he often watched Carl flipping the mirror in and out  of the sunlight when Carl thought he was alone.
Jason was also given a proper bed in a proper room, not a hospital-bed in a hospital-room, but was still checked-upon by Niel quite often, mysteriously often, in fact. On one of these visits, Jason finally asked what the EQs wanted with him, "What do the EQs want with me?" he said.
Niel sighed, "Well, when you first got here-"
"When you first kidnapped me, then brought me here." Jason interjected.
"Right, well, we performed surgery on you, in hopes of- Well, you know our deal, right? We want to prove to people that Augs aren't necessary to be as perfect as the human race currently is... Or thinks they are. So we made you."
"What do you mean, You made me?"
"Well, we didn't make you, we just manipulated the stimuli in your brain so that certain sights, smells, sounds, et cetera trigger certain energy drains from your body, resulting in a fitter body, a more concentrated mind, and more meaningful reactions to meaningful moments."
"So... You Augmented me?"
Niel thought about this for a moment, then another moment, then he stood up, then he began to pace around the room, then he opened the door, his  eyes aflutter, then, his eyes now focused directly ahead, he sprinted into and down the hallway, the squeaking of his shoes audible from Jason's room. Nancy then shoved her head into the room, "Uhhh...  What was that?" she looked accusingly at Jason.
"Nothing, Niel probably just realized something very important and he's going to go tell Anthony now."
"Oh, I see." Nancy continued down the hallway, whistling her usual  tune, leaving Jason to his room.
Carl, also hearing and seeing the commotion, came into the room, his hands behind his back, "Jason?"
"Niel's stupid."
"That's not a very good explanation."
At this moment, Niel burst back into the room shoving Carl into a chair by the door, his legs hanging over the arm rest, "Jason, you little piece of... BRRAAAARRHGGHHH!" Niel screamed, Anthony now coming into the room.
"Now, now, Niel, this doesn't have to be a disadvantage to us. If there's a way to do it artificially, but with no artificial parts, then there must be a way to trigger it without augmentation." Anthony explained.
"What exactly happened?" Jason asked, confused.
"Yeah, wh-" Carl stammered.
"Well, as you pointed out, Jason, by performing surgery upon your brain, we technically did augment your brain. But there were no artificial elements added to your physiology, so, according to Keesee's Affect, it should be possible to trigger your state of aloofness with some sort of event effecting the brain in such a way that..." This went on for several more minutes, using gibberish and technobabble.
After Hardy's exceptionally elongated speech, Jason noticed that Carl at some point had left, and his footsteps, muffled by short footsteps of someone else were fast approaching the room. Jason was no longer confused about the augmentation, he accepted that he had been augmented, "So, I got augmented. What does this mean for you two?"
"A hell of a lot more work!" Niel shouted.
"Well, not exactly..." Niel turned to him, eyebrows raised, "Okay, yeah... We have to figure out what kind of cerebral event would put a normal person into your state of aloofness. Keeping in mind that, of all the EQ doctors present at this facility, we still have a barely adequate understanding of the human brain..."
"And you operated on his?" Carl asked, now in the doorway, holding his pistol to Nancy's throat, Niel and Anthony backed away, to beside Jason's bed, across the room from Carl, "You try anything and the girl gets it."
Several Weeks Ago, Just After the EQ Rally:
"You're sure its him, Veiga?" a suited man said, looking over several files at once.
"Yes, Mr. President, sir, its definitely the boy." a shorter, younger man said, nervously, in a shirt and tie, but no jacket.
"How do we know he's been... Equalized?" the president asked doubtfully.
"Well, here's some footage, sir..." the shorter man pressed a button on the president's desk, revealing a large projection screen, projected onto which was a tape of surveillance footage, "of his reaction to the music. As soon as it begins, he gets very emotional, and even runs away."
"21st century music is emotional, so what?"
"No sir, its not just that, he acts totally aloof to his surroundings except when the music is playing."
"Look, Gourley, I honestly don't think you're right... But, if it'll make you feel better, just send in a mole, arm him, make him convincing."
"Actually, I never liked her too much." Carl said, pulling the trigger on the pistol, splatting Nancy's neck juices across the walls.
"NO!" Niel screamed, leaping across(by across, I mean attempting to jump across, but actually just jumping onto) Jason's bed, landing face down.
"Make one more move and the kid's next." Carl grabbed Jason and, looking back for only an instant to be sure that he was about to go through the door, not the wall, he walked back into the hallway, towards the window, where he removed the shard of mirror from his belt and, very precisely, angled it so that it would reflect the sun, then flicking it away for but a moment, then repeating the process several times. Morse code Jason thought.
Niel crawled from the bed to the floor, cradling the dead Nancy in his arms as Anthony grabbed the square device with the silver logo on the back and flicked it a few times with his fingers.
It's getting late have you seen my mates

Ma tell me when the boys get here
It's seven o'clock and I want to rock
Want to get a belly full of beer

My old man's drunker than a barrel full of monkeys
And my old lady she don't care
My sister looks cute in her braces and boots
A handful of grease in her hair

Don't give us none of your aggravation
We had it with your discipline
Saturday night's alright for fighting
Get a little action in

Jason smirked, hearing the music, he reared his elbow into Carl's ribs. He then grabbed Carl's arm, slamming it against the wall until he relinquished his grip on the gun, instigating a reaction of unforeseeable force: Carl punched Jason's left cheek, sending him reeling back, clenching his face in pain. Carl then jumped forward, grabbing Jason by the collar, and dangling him over the railing of the stairs, so that Jason could see all five stories situated beneath him, and so that he could practically feel the immense amount of pain this would cause had Carl let go. As Carl dragged Jason back(in an attempt to throw Jason over with a much more incredible force), a small metallic object, resembling a bullet, cylindrical in shape, but pointed at the end, punctured Carl's forehead: it was a bullet. Had Carl not, as stated before, yanked Jason back at the precise moment that he did, Jason would have fallen to his death. Jason, who had been sent flying backwards into the wall, observed the situation; noting the pool of blood, slowly enveloping the floor beneath Carl's body, also noting Niel's stony face with a frozen look of hatred in his eyes, and the frozen finger upon the trigger of a gun in his hands.


Jason woke up in his presidential suite in Dubai, more specifically in the Burj Khalifa, even more specifically in the Armani Hotel. He rubbed his eyes with hands that didn’t seem his and got up. It had been a year since his Relapse and he still couldn’t quite shake the feeling the got of hatred that remained from that fateful day.

This Relapse thing is a very confusing matter, so, in layman's  terms: Jason is a part of the Nueros, a special breed of humans that had a particular brain frequency, which allowed for augmentation. This was a phenomenon as “Mind Augs” have been tried countless times on normal humans but never could work. Then these special humans came and that all changed. Relapse is when one of the Nuero’s capacity for a Mind Aug was accessed by an outside source and edited to work in favor of the person performing the Relapse. However, for Relapse to successfully continue, there must be a medium through which this brain connection travels through, which in this case was the music. When he heard the music, thoughts and feelings flowed from Niel’s brain to Jason’s, building up a sense of anxiety and confusion in his mind. On the day when Carl was shot, this medium was cut, as Niel no longer was the same person he was before, therefore, in essence, he had a new brain, new thoughts, feelings, aspirations, ideals; he no longer was the boy he used to be, and he wasn't the man Niel grew to know.

Jason walked towards his floor-to-ceiling windows and stared out upon the city, looking at the people walking around, the bazaars, markets, and houses. He never felt at home, and never had a place he could call his own. He realized what a different world this one he stares out upon is from the one he glimpsed at in his time with the EQs. These people had worries, love, fear, and warmth, and never felt the cold touch of the world outside, never caught a glimpse of the battle between the Augs and the EQs. Now Jason was a part of neither of these worlds, and could only be an observer, standing inside his top floor suite in the Armani Hotel. He walked back to the spot uniform wall where a door should be, and rested his head upon it, hitting it with a thud, then turning so his back lay against it. He slumped into a ball on the floor, back still against the wall like a magnet, burying his face into his hands, tears running through the trenches in the skin on his face, dug by the tears of the past few months.

Jason thought, as he cried, of the first day in the room, about how was it the first day he felt tears on his face, in his "new mind," of course. Every day since then, Jason had gone through the same thoughts and emotions in his head, he still had his old memories, of the EQ base, of his old life, but all he could think of was Niel. After the first few minutes of laying in the bed, wondering where he was, he got up and tried to figure everything out. His captors, whoever they were, left him with several works of literature on the science of augmentations and the scientific journals of the men who developed the mind-Aug that was used in Jason, and the mind-Augs developed based upon that of Jason.

Food and water was never an issue, whenever he wanted food, he would simply rest his hand upon a cutting-board-like plate on the counter-top; doing so would produce an opening in the counter-top which held a large mashed-potato-like substance known as Utapp, which provided whoever "eats" it with the appropriate helping of grains, meats, minerals, vegetables, water, fats, and what have you. Eating Utapp is always a delicate matter, as it is often too malleable and watery to be picked up, and too delicate to be picked up with a spoon, seemingly evaporating when removed from a large enough portion of itself. So, when eating Utapp(it is commonly put into either a bowl or plate, although the correct manner of serving is from the box directly into the mouth, sort of cutting a small hole into the top of it, so as to turn it over and pour it in), it is common for lay people to approach it from a bowl or plate, either licking the pile with their tongue or eating like a pig. Jason, being of the lay variety, often just licked the pile of Utapp from the raised platform. He now looked at the counter-top with tears in his eyes.

He looked back out the window, another sandstorm a few miles out. Damn, he thought, fearing another obstruction of his view, the only thing he had left in the world you know what, screw it. It was at this moment that Jason got up, wiped the tears from his eyes, grabbed a black blazer to pull over his white buttoned shirt, and ran for the window, smashing through it, into the sand-filled air, not that the storm had already arrived, but the air in Dubai, and most of the Middle-East, for that matter, can be described with the adjective "sandy." The thoughts on the sandiness of the air in Dubai was the last thing that rushed through Jason Steel's mind, until, of course, he awoke in  that same Dubaian bed, revived, but still feeling the pain of falling over 50 stories to collide with a cloth-covered salt store.

© 2014 Brandon Langley

Author's Note

Brandon Langley
Special thanks to Andy Damm(http://www.writerscafe.org/andyklausdamm) for helping me write the ending

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Added on November 29, 2013
Last Updated on January 26, 2014
Tags: Music, cyberpunk, utopia, psychology, H+, Transhumanism, augmentations


Brandon Langley
Brandon Langley

Virginia Beach, VA

I hat my life. more..