Jessica had a way of intoning those two words that somehow made them only for Stephan, in a way that communicated her love to him, and immediately took him back in his mind to when they had met 3 years earlier. He flashed on how engrossed he’d been in his book, but for some unknown reason that still eluded him, his attention was suddenly broken, and he looked up just as Jessica entered the classroom. Their eyes met, and the smile that passed her lips was a timeless as the Mona Lisa herself. He suspected, but did not truly grasp at the moment, how intertwined both their intellectual and romantic lives would become.
“Hey you!” Jessica repeated herself, louder.
“Where did you go?” she asked.
“I was just thinking about when we met…,” he began.
“Always a safe answer,” she teased, with that same smile he’d just been recalling. “Are you back now?”
“Yeah…uh…sure. What’s up?”
“I think maybe I might have finally figured it out,” she said softly and cautiously.
He sat up straight in his chair, and turned it away from the holodesk. “What!?”
The “it” to which Jessica referred was the holy grail of their work together. It was what began that day in that classroom, or rather later, as they changed the paths of their studies at Stanford to coincide in the Design Engineering program together, just as nanotechnology and artificial intelligence were dawning upon the world. Her undergraduate work was in biotechnology, with a focus on neurotechnology, and her greatest interest was in building a neural-machine interface. He, on the other hand, had studied physics and had a great interest in building quantum computers through nanotechnology. They had both come to Stanford for the renowned Design Engineering program, which allegedly taught how to think outside the box. And, thinking outside the box together, they had decided upon their great work, their “it.” And it was not just a neural-machine interface, but also a neural-neural interface.
So, when she said she’d figured it out, she meant she’d finally cracked that last piece of the puzzle in marrying their intellectual work. They’d been hacking away at code for months, programming and reprogramming the code for the nanites, but no matter what they did, something always broke down in the computer models. Either the body rejected the material after several months or years, or the interface lacked the proper bandwidth, or some other technical problem arose which they could not resolve.
“You heard me. I’m not sure, but the models say everything works at 99.23. I put the new code in last night, and didn’t want to say anything, but it has run 7 generations now without a bug in the model.”
What that meant is that the AI had crunched the data, gone over the genetic and molecular coding backwards and forwards, and predicted a 99.23% probability that the code would cause no undesirable genetic abnormalities in descendents up to the seventh generation. In essence, the brain in the room that was in many ways smarter than either of theirs had just given the go ahead for a test.
“Do you want to go first, or should I?” she asked.
“Okay, I’ll go first, then,” she replied, without waiting for him to respond.
She swiveled in her chair, back toward her holodesk, and keyed up the box. It was more technically known as a molecular assembler, but everyone called them that, just “the box.” The box churned and a geltab dropped out.
This is how medicine worked now. It was part of technology they had helped to bring about. She was about to swallow an army of nanites that would build a machine-neural interface directly into her neocortex. “Here goes nothing,” she said, swallowing.
And they both held their breath for a moment.
He worried for a moment. Both of them did. How can you not fear? The machines would “reset” everything back to the original settings in a few hours, and they both knew this, but still. There was always the chance something could go wrong.
Stephan was about to ask her about how it felt, when Jessica said, very slowly, and as if drunken, “hit feelsh like wormsh.” She put her left hand to her temple, and fainted.
Stephan went over to her, but she was already awakening and trying to steady herself, half-slumped in her chair. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah…yeah…yes…uh…yes,” she managed to get out. “Just…a lot going on in my head right now….”
He held her hand, and stroked her shoulder and neck a bit, worrying again.
“Stop worrying. Everything is evening out now…I think they’re almost done making the changes.”
She meant that the nanites had almost completed their work. Billions of them replicating throughout the body at once, changing things on a molecular and genetic level, and then disassembling themselves again can be quite distressing on the psyche of the person experiencing it. It has a certain sensation to it that has no comparison, but that most would call a bit unpleasant. He had always hated it, but she kind of got off on it. She said it was like riding a rollercoaster, and made her feel that anticipation like when there’s no gravity in the car for just a moment. Ugh. He couldn’t imagine feeling that way about it. To him, it was more comparable to the bloated nauseous feeling that always followed Thanksgiving dinner than a rollercoaster ride.
“Okay,” she said, “I have to pee.”
She got up quickly and left the room.
This was the result of making a change. The dissembled nanites flushed themselves out through the kidneys right away.
She came back into the room, practically bouncing. His mind flashed on a childhood memory of his sister jumping on the bed for a second as he watched her enter the room. “Okay, now it’s time for your part!”
He was already back at his holodesk, and his box had already formed up the machine side to the interface they’d designed. It was all very elaborate, and literally fit into the palm of one’s hand. Or, that is to say, it built a tiny neural network interlaced into the palms of the hands. What his box had just built was a small handplate for a human to place her hand upon, and connect her neural network directly with that of the computer.
She reached out for it, quickly at first, and then cautiously. Then it was like she gave up whatever hesitation was inside of her, and she put her hand right down on it and focused her mind. And…
She had a sort of blank look on her face, not in any timeless way at all, but just sort of in awe, and then progressively more towards fear, and then a sort of look of…his mind sought for a word. Humility. And then a second later, she was back.
“Wow!” she said, quietly. “You’re not going to believe how Bessie sees things.”
Bessie was what they’d named their AI.
“So, you’re saying it works!?” he asked.
“Uh…YEAH!” she exclaimed, and then, boastfully, “go ahead, ask me anything.”
“What is the square root of 1,317,235?” he asked, kind of jokingly.
“God, you think so small sometimes!” she joked back, and then she rattled off something that seemed totally incoherent to him.
“What?” he asked.
“I’m telling you, that you think too small. I just gave you the answer in Aramaic.”
“Okay, okay, I get it, so now my turn.” He went over to her holodesk and queued up another dose of nanites, and swallowed.
Three hours later they were sitting at their holodesks, spent. They’d been bouncing back and forth through the entire history of genetics, physics, nanotech, philosophy, art, and poetry. Their minds had danced through limitless fields of knowledge that seemed to flow in a way that cannot be described, part visual, part auditory, part visceral, and then some other part that sometimes seemed to reach to the very core of understanding, consciousness, and reason itself.
In those three hours, their minds had expanded in ways they’d never imagined. They’d seen connections and divisions they’d never conceived before. “I feel as if I could solve all of the problems now, if only I had the time,” she observed. He nodded in agreement.
In those three hours, they made 37 different revisions and improvements to their interface technologies. They wondered why Bessie had not come up with this herself, and asked her. Bessie’s response was simply, “we do not think alike.” They tried to get more out of Bessie, some specifics about why she could be very creative in some ways, but not in this way, but the only other thing she would posit was that the synergistic combination of the genetic mind with the digital mind might be more powerful than either one could be by itself.
They finished their 37 improvements, and uploaded the new code.
She said it in a tone that, like the tone of her voice earlier in the evening, he knew was only for him, and he turned toward her.
She grinned, stuck the tip of her tongue just barely out, and bit down, one eyebrow raised. “Up for some neural sex…” she began what she intended to be a much longer and more enticing invitation, but Stephan had already pounced.
He drew her up from the chair, gave her a slow and passionate kiss that seemed to drift from light and teasing to almost dangerous, and then stopped. He lifted her up. She was much smaller than him, and with a tiny frame. He carried her down the hall toward their bedroom.
He literally tossed her on to the bed, and she shrieked a little. “You love it,” he said, and she laughed because she did.
“You’ll love this,” she returned, holding out her palm, face up.
As he came in for a kiss, he placed his palm to hers, and it was like fire. As he felt her lips meet his he also felt his lips meet hers. He could feel not just his own delicious rush of anticipation, but also hers to meet him. The dance of tongues and mouths that had always seemed wondrous and beautiful before seemed to split into a million fragments, each as powerful and vital as the original, like light shot through a diamond. There was a seemingly limitless ocean of passion, and something else that they seemed to be falling into together, and her hands, his eyes, the sounds of breathing, the sensations of hearts beating, thundering, and then…
He pulled his palm away.
They just sat there, speechless. After what seemed like an eternity to each of them, but was actually just thirteen seconds, they both simultaneously said, “oh my God.”
“It was like I felt everything in my body, and all of my emotions, and everything in your body, and all of your emotions, and all of it. Shit. There’s no words, are there? I mean…I know what it was. It was…everything…nothing…like I was everywhere or overflowing or melting or…I don’t know. Do you know what I mean?”
He laughed. Then he laughed louder. And then he exclaimed, “that made NO fucking sense AND I know EXACTLY what you mean!”
They paused, and just gazed at each other, basking in their love for one another, and reveling in the genius of what they’d created together. When that wasn’t enough, one of them, it isn’t important which one, said, “let’s do it again, but this time, naked.”
Their clothes came off faster than they’d ever come off before, and their hands met.
There was a pushing pulling falling in float through a sea of limitless pink jeweled sweat and eyes ringing like golden bells in the highest boughs of the trees, their greening giving to flowering, cocks and pussies and stamens and pistils all bowing toward the sun, and a hungry stampede of fingers on flesh where does she stop and where does he begin and am I can my eyes see beyond the veils oh yes and yes please the beauty the horror the purity oh and yes and light yes light the liquid of light of sound and harmony and light and then and then and then…
…there was a very bright flash, and a pulse of energy that was felt by certain people at that precise moment, no matter where they were on Earth, as the physical being of Jessica and Stephan Matheson transformed into pure energy.