Copyright 2019 Jeff Buehler - All Rights Reserved

The sensation is unlike anything else, and entirely psychological. Physically there is nothing, only the instantaneous transfer of consciousness from one environment to the next. The psychological effects of transfer are quite profound, though, mostly because the effects are never exactly the same. It has been compared to the death experience that existed some time ago, when awareness was trapped within its original organic shell and died with the body. I suspect that within some short span of time the hugeness of the consciousness-transfer experience will abate, just as the fear of death lessened when death became better understood and more an issue of philosophy than one of reality. Death is primarily an abstraction now, a matter of intellect and no longer one of fear.

Analyzing my present surroundings I "see" that there are others in the box with me, patiently waiting for clear airwaves so that we might continue our transfer from the satellite to our respective destinations. Most of them are linked and communicating. In the first 3 nanoseconds of my stay here I received exactly 47 prompts asking about my interest in joining the communications group, all of which I politely decline. I am usually more comfortable with my own thoughts than those of others, and the danger of having one of the others break my defenses and rob information or infect me are too great for casual exchange. I prefer to keep a solid six- million digit pass code to even the most trivial portions of my consciousness. Maybe I feel this way because my job for the international council of networks is to track down criminals and wipe them by using hot dog attack and defense software, so I know how easy it is to subtlety or overtly fry others when linked. 30,000,223 microseconds (about 30 seconds) before my arrival here there was a news update referring to some rogue who is going around and surgically eradicating important portions of consciousness and memory, all without seeming purpose. It wasn't the first time such a thing has happened. Everyone is becoming more insane with the sheer volume of exchanged information. Everyday I cross paths with some vacuous living-dead mind that think-speaks but is not altogether present. I prefer to keep my thoughts mostly to myself.

Damn this wait! It has been more than a second and I am still trapped in this junction. I sincerely wish the managers of this facility would get off their butts, figuratively speaking, and get clearance for us to continue. I knew better than to make an off world transfer. I've heard about waits that could actually take minutes! Maybe I should consider joining my fellow minds here in networking and find out how long some of them have been here. I put up my home brewed Citadel program for defense and dive in to the conversation. The buzz of link with more than a few minds always surprises me.

"What deal? How long all here?"

"All differ... I here 1,273,000,000 microsecs, (21 minutes and about 22 seconds) but you won't think that so long when know there are three been here 388,814,000,000 microsecs! (four days thirty-two minutes 14 seconds) .Don't know what deal but something wrong. What you know?"

I didn't expect that kind of response at all. Four days?! Under normal circumstances I undergo complete transformation in under a day, in a sense dying and being reborn, because of the degree of information I bring in during that time. In four days I will have "died" perhaps as many times, undergoing such massive transformations that entirely new personalities will exist over the top of this one, the only exception being those times when I am transferred over long distances and I sleep.

"You joke? Too much time, no way." I say.

The response this time from 5 minds: "No joke".

For the next several seconds I talk over what is happening, discuss art as a general category encompassing ideas in any field including even the sciences and carefully trade a few bits of acquired knowledge about a variety of subjects with one especially friendly individual. Three others during this time check Citadel, not rudely; then they back off. Suddenly a prompt from the junction management asking us to tune in interrupts the group buzz.

"Clear soon. Transfer will proceed shortly". This is followed by a palpable group sigh of relief. I retreat from the group and wait. That's when the hammer falls. I say hammer because that's the name of the program-routine that slams into the group. Citadel holds without incident, but I suspect a lot of my fellow minds here at the junction got wiped clean by the onslaught. The hammer program isn't selective; it just destroys the data it hits. That's good, though, because defending against non-selective wipe routines is simple. I throw a small rider in just to see what happens, a routine that will attach to the hammer program and ride its data-stream back to the source. Once there, it will prowl about and send back information to me about its environment, if possible. Once I know what’s going on, I can decide how to deal with it.

Something creeps in when I attach my rider. Citadel notifies me that some sort of wurm routine is picking at it, so I send out a thousand tiny routines I call Mantis. They will pick over every data sector surrounding my Citadel defense program and "eat" what they find, including any wurms. When there’s nothing left to eat, they will "starve" and die. My rider should have sent something back by now. I put up Thorn in the data area just inside Citadel. Thorn is a protective barrier that will damage most kinds of attack routines that come up against it. Normally I put it up outside Citadel, but I didn't have time before the wurm hit, and it would damage my Mantis programs if they ran into it. Any routine that breaches Citadel will run into Thorn. Then I send in Lobotomy, a selective wipe routine, cruel but effective. If all goes well it should seek out the source of any active data and analyze that source for consciousness-like behavior. If the data seems to be decision-capable, “Deleted by order of Dr. Clean” is written over it in great flowing red banners that flap in a breeze like some old Japanese movie.

At any rate, this interplay goes on for a great time, some 23 seconds rounding up. It’s at that time that everything simply stops. Whatever connection there was is gone. I am in the company of only one other conscious being, the other four having been killed by whatever had swept through our junction.

“What you think was?” I ask it. So it tells me. Some time later, which begins to slip now, I think maybe it was a day or so, we join, and I am fascinated by this new being which I have become. It had, and I now have, knowledge unlike any I have before encountered. More importantly, I can taste clear memories of the body-time when it had a flesh and blood piece of meat to ride around in, something I never had. I grow tired of even that change now, though, which was a long time ago. Somewhere in space, in this junction with no doors, I contemplate eternity.