“I don’t understand. Why is she crying all of a sudden?”
Janis tries to speak “I…I…I…”
The male Pisces shakes his head. “Her speech centers are controlled through her optogenetic interface. You need to wait for her to cool down before you can talk with her.”
“Alright, what the hell is an optogenetic interface?”
“I will comply with your request for information, but may I be permitted to take you to Eklund as I do so?”
“No. I don’t want to go there.” I grit my teeth as I try to figure out what to do. “I need to think. Can you take us somewhere safe?”
“Safety is relative. I can take you somewhere that is hard to find, but I am afraid the FBI will still reach us eventually. I urge you to make a decision quickly.”
“I know, okay? I suck at decisions! Just… give me some more time to think.”
“I will comply as best I can.”
“What’s your name by the way?” I ask to distract myself from Janis. It’s uncomfortably warm next to her, and she looks so vulnerable and hurt. Despite myself, I’m kind of worried.
The male Pisces turns on to the road and drives back toward the highway as talks. “My name is Jazz. That is the music I like the best. I don’t prefer any artist in particular, so I simply chose Jazz as my name. I am told that I enjoyed jazz before I became a Pisces as well. Has Janis told you how we came to be this way?”
I shake my head no, then I realize Jazz can’t see me so I say the word. Janis is taking shuddering breaths, but she is sitting unaided now, her elbows on her knees as she holds her head in her hands.
Jazz stops at a red light and takes the opportunity to pat Janis on the knee again. “Love will find a way,” he says, “time heals all wounds.”
It strikes me that despite the awkward mechanical way Jazz does this, he is still doing a better job at consoling Janis than I probably would, even if I weren’t upset with the Pisces woman for killing two people. Looking ahead to watch the light, Jazz continues his explanation. “Janis and I both suffered severe trauma to our brains, which left us comatose. Although our bodies were capable of autonomic functions, breathing, digestion, et cetera, we had no activity in our frontal lobes. We were vegetables. I was a police officer who got shot in the temple. Janis was a twelve-year-old girl who was in a car accident while sitting in the passenger seat. The air bag deployed too quickly for her. She was in a coma for ten years before Dr. Eklund found her.”
The light turns and Jazz drives onto the highway as he continues. “Optogenetics refers to the way Janis and I were rehabilitated. The computers you see attached to our heads control lasers which are guided through fiber optic cables to special genetically modified neurons grown in our frontal lobes. Using cells from our skin, Eklund’s laboratories were able to create neural progenitor cells. That is, cells that are able to create new neurons.”
“They can do that?” Sitting next to two people with computers attached to their brains my question seems hopelessly naïve.
“My guardian is the only one who has been able to create a working prosthetic cortex, but many of these technologies have been available since the beginning of this century.”
“How come I never heard about them?”
“The information has been available in many respected scientific journals and news magazines.”
“Oh,” I say. I guess this is what I get for reading nothing but sci-fi novels and video game reviews.