The following story is the first piece I ever wrote for Kit Freytan, explaining her origins and setting the stage for what was to come next. Chronologically, this story takes place some months before “Fragmented.” The events shown here might shed some light on what is happening in that other story.
Also, sorry that this is going up so late. I’ve been busy and running late today, and I didn’t even have time to revise this at all, so I had to leave it as a first draft. Let me know what you think.
Kit Freytan was born with half a brain.
More accurately, she was born with only one functional half of a brain. The other half was completely dead. When friends of the family asked, they had never been able to get a straight answer from her parents as to why it had happened. They had always been evasive, and always showed signs of guilt. It was suspected that her mother had, likely as not, been on narcotics during the pregnancy. Either that or her dad had beaten her mum quite frequently while Kit was in the womb. Spirits knew he had done it often enough during her childhood. Few would be surprised to learn that either of those factors had been the cause.
The most anyone could get out of her parents was that there had been ‘complications during delivery’. Which was their way of telling people they didn’t want to talk about it.
Kit had spent the early years of her childhood in a half-retarded state. The damaged portions of her mind, among other things, had included her centers for communication, emotions, artistic talents, creativity, and imagination. The only portions that remained active were those that were centered on purely logical concerns: mathematics, science, problem solving, reading, and writing. She had therefore, until the age of eight, been seen as something of a savant. Unable to speak, nor even to communicate her thoughts or emotions in written form, she had been a shut in who was incapable of any real personal interaction. Yet at the same time, she was able to read and understand books, and could write extensively on any subject other than her own thoughts and feelings. She had been sent to a special institute that helped educate her in ways that a mainstream school simply couldn’t, yet there had always been limitations. They had helped to sculpt her damaged mind into something that could cope with her broken place in the world, yet they had been unable to offer a way to cure her.
That is, until Trimola came around.
Trimola, also known as the Tri-provincial Machinery and Organics Laboratory Association, had offered her parents a solution. At no cost to them, Trimola would install an artifical brain into Kit’s damaged head, to take over the functions that her natural brain simply could not handle. The procedure had been highly experimental; fully artificial brains had existed for some time, as had small-scale chips that could be installed to take over certain functions, but nothing had ever been attempted on someone with a brain as badly damaged as Kit’s. It wasn’t at all uncommon, in certain provinces, for people to have chips installed to increase their brain functions, teach them a foreign language, repair damage caused by a head injury, or correct someone’s impaired motor functions. Installing a full half of a brain, however, one which could control all of Kit’s communication functions, dictate the way she interacted with others, and spark an artifical imagination and creative drive within her… this had been cutting edge technology. The particular group of scientists in this branch of Trimola had been confident that their new designs would change the way cybernetic minds were sculpted for years to come.
That is, until it turned out to be a catastrophic failure.
After the installation, Kit had still been unable to communicate. She had still shown no signs of artistic talent, no hint of imagination, and no indications of what emotions might be running through her frail, thin body. The entire venture had been declared a failure, Trimola had told Kit’s parents that they were lucky their daughter had survived the process, and the science team responsible for Kit’s new brain had been dissolved. Life, as it were, should have returned to normal.
They day after she got home from Trimola labs, Kit had run away.
Something had, in fact, been sparked in her mind that day. After the damaged sections of her brain had been cut out and replaced with the hardware that housed the new circuit pathways of her cerebral cortex, a new understanding had started to emerge within her. When electrical signals passed from computer chip to gray matter, her thoughts flowing from the artificial to the natural, she had come to a revelation. Emotion, as dictated by the intricate programs of the new parts of her brain, had emerged for the first time in the newly rebuilt girl. She experienced her first true emotion the moment she had awoken in the recovery ward of Trimola labs.
She had felt fear.
Her artificial imagination had started spinning tales of what would happen from here, as she pictured a life in a lab, being poked and prodded so that the scientists could unlock the secrets of her mind. In this vision she had, they kept her in a quiet, comfortable room, filled with toys and books and clothes, all in an attempt to let her ‘feel’ normal. All the while, they studied her, scanned her, and tested her. Even her playtime was nothing more than a series of tests, her would-be friends chosen for specific traits and personalities, so that they could gauge her reactions to different individuals. Her meals were selected so that they could judge how well the artificial emotion programs reacted to tastes both pleasant and foul. Her feelings, new and unknown to her, were toyed with, studied, cut open and laid out on a slab. She recoiled from this fate, and her newly awakened creative mind formulated a plan.
When the Trimola scientists came in, she had sat and stared. She heard and understood their words for the first time in her life, but she ignored them. They tried to prompt her with kind words, touching stories, and later videos ranging from horrific to hilarious, all in an attempt to provoke an emotional response. They brought her kittens, hoping to get a reaction, then when that failed, one of the scientists went so far as to snap the neck of one of the poor, defenseless creatures, just to see if he could get a reaction out of her. Her emotions had been forced to detach themselves, then, her artificial mind cutting off contact with her biological parts until the emotions had passed. Deep inside the circuits of the new parts of her brain, she had cried. She had screamed and lashed out and tried to take the other kittens away, protecting them. Yet those urges remained locked away in the imagination of her programming, while the rest of her sat, stoic, and watched as the kitten’s body grew limp and lifeless.
She had waited only long enough to be sure she was no longer being watched, before fleeing the city. She had spent many long weeks as a patient in the labs while they tested her, hoping for some sign that the procedure hadn’t been a failure. For weeks she hid her emotions, while her newly programmed creativity worked through plans of escape. For the first time in her life, she was able to see beyond the moment, and think about the future. ‘Future’ had been a concept her old, damaged mind had never been able to conceive of before. Now that she understood what the future was, and could imagine the many possible paths her future might hold, there had been no way she could consider letting her future remain in the hands of the monsters at Trimola. So she had planned, and waited, and as soon as she was able, she had escaped.
Today was Kit’s fifteenth birthday. For seven years she had lived on her own, on the streets of Keshor, in the northernmost of the three provinces. Here she was anonymous, just a street rat and a thief. Her anonymity kept her safe, for the first emotion she had felt, the fear, had never truly left her. She always avoided any buildings with Trimola’s logo displayed on them, and never showed off her cybernetic traits to anyone. In a way, she was one of the lucky ones. While her mind had been altered, her outer body had not. She looked just like a girl, a short, lanky girl with a frail body and barely any curves. Dirty blonde hair framed her small, dust-covered face, and large brown eyes scanned the streets for signs of danger. Her clothing was old and worn, stained brown from sleeping in the streets. She had no shoes; shoes were a luxury, and Kit couldn’t afford luxuries. What money she could find went to food.
A bank terminal sat right across the street. She watched it carefully, as she had been watching it all morning. Fingers scratched at the pale spots on the side of her face and neck: violet, a sign that she had come from the western province. She wore fingerless gloves to hide the darker, more detailed spots that covered the backs of her hands and the arch of her thumbs. To someone with the determination to check, those spots would mark her heritage. The patterns were always unique to each person, yet they also bore signs of the genes a person had inherited from their parents. Genealogists could trace those patterns back seven generations on each side, and that made Kit’s hands a surefire way to give up who she really was. Most people kept their hands uncovered, wearing their heritage with pride for all to see. To Kit, her heritage was a sign of both danger and shame. It reminded her not only of a drug addict mother and an abusive father, but also of the labs she had escaped from. Trimola would have Kit’s gene spots on file, and if they ever decided to come looking for her, anyone who had studied her spots closely enough could give her away to the people she feared the most. She never took that risk, and never went anywhere without gloves.
The bank terminal was empty. She had been trying to work up the bravery for hours. There was always a risk with hacking. Anyone could walk up, wanting to use the terminal, and realize what she was doing. It was a big risk… but her stomach was grumbling, and it spurred her to bravery. She hurried across the street, her brown eyes scanning each way for signs of danger. There were no Constables in sight, and no signs of anyone with a Trimola ID badge. She should have time.
She rushed into the terminal, which was wide enough only for one person to stand in. The computer screen flared to life when it detected her presence, an artificial voice chiming, “Welcome to Tri-Provincial Bank, your one stop for all your financial needs! Please scan your ID rod now…” Kit didn’t have an ID rod, and never intended to get one. The flashing red light on the front of the terminal prompted her where one would be scanned, the small sensor sending out a signal that would link to any ID rod waved before it. Kit leaned over, pressing her eye close to the sensor. Her right eye, the one that was connected to her artificial brain. The flashing light shone in her brown eyes, digging deep inside of her, shining into the depths, flashing like a beacon to a ship lost at sea. She searched for the cyber-shores in the distance, beyond the darkness, letting that light guide her mind in to safety. Deep through her brown eye it poured, streaking through viscous flesh and gray matter, until it found the electric pathways of her cybermind. She followed the light, and let it guide her to shore, skimming past the rocks that jutted out from the churning waves of artificial reality before her. She brushed past them, feeling them threaten to break her, crash her down into the depths, if but for a moment she were to slip and hurl her mind onto their sharp edges. Yet she coasted by with ease, the shore ever approaching closer, the light growing brighter in her eye. Her feet touched down upon sandy shores, wet beneath her bare, spotted toes. There she dug, dropping down to her knees to search for the treasures buried beneath the sand. She heard the sounds of distant ships approaching, and knew they were coming for her light on the shore. She dug faster, her hands frantically tossing wet sand aside. Each passing of the artificial tide poured more sand back into the hole, threatening to bury the treasure once more. She dug faster, refusing to relent, ignoring the spotlights shining on her from the approaching ships. They had found her, but they couldn’t get to her in time. Her hands touched metal, solid and cool, and she dug around to find the edges so that she could pull the chest free. She laughed, setting the chest upon her knees, and lifting the lid to release pure light that shone upon her face…
“Thank you for using Tri-Provincial Bank. Have a Perfect Day!” The voice of the computer broke Kit from her trance, and she blinked, severing her connection to the cyber realm. A stack of credit chips was being ejected from the machine into the small bin at her waist. She gave off a quick hoot, and grinned wide as she gathered them up, shoving them deep into her pockets. She had to work hard to suppress the joyful laughter that wanted to slip past her lips, excitement and joy filling her. Kit turned to leave, bumping face to chest into a tall man who was blocking the exit from the terminal.
“Excuse you,” he grumbled. He wore a professional looking suit, and pinned to his lapel was a Trimola ID badge, with the words ‘Engineering Division’ printed across the bottom.
Kit’s brown eyes went wide, and she had a moment of panic. Quickly she severed her artifical mind from her biological, and all emotion drained from her. She looked up at the man, unable, just now, to understand who or what he was. He was a thing, and that thing stood in her way. Blank eyes stared past him, and she stepped around the thing to cross the street. Kit’s biological mind had no inkling of where she was going, nor did she care. She lived in the moment. She knew only immediate concerns, and needs. Food was a need, and it was one she pursued. Food could be acquired from retail establishments. Credit chips could be traded for it. She had credit chips. She therefore could acquire food.
She headed down the streets, the inner depths of her mind letting out a sigh of relief that never touched her pale, stoic lips.