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Vol 1: A blend of both?

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It was a darkened room, that much she could tell. Her senses were off, things kept fading in and out. Thinking was hard. Not that she needed to think very hard about the darkness; no discernible light filtered through her eyelids. It was an easy conclusion to come to. She tried to open her eyes again, and couldn't. The muscles were working, she could feel her lashes pulling against each other. They felt glued shut. A moment later she slipped under.

Waking take two was accompanied by a mild headache. Her throat felt terrible - whatever had been jammed down it had probably been assisting with her breathing. Now it wanted to work against her. She was no stranger to the operating table, thanks to appendicitis in her twenties, and a problematic delivery in her mid thirties. This felt different. A very wrong sort of different.

A hand was moved. Not by much, it was bound by the wrist. Her legs and feet too. She tried to move her head and shoulders, they too were strapped to the bed. As mild panic set in, a machine beeped more frequently. Then she felt a cold sensation in the back of her hand and a few seconds later, drifted out of consciousness.

Waking for the third time, she felt a bit more with it, but didn't risk moving. Where the hell was she? Sure, people wanted the research of Doctor Cindy Bexley, the first scientist to accurately map the processes of the brain in fine detail, but kidnapping? Being left like this? What the actual fuck, as her teenage daughter would say.

Her daughter. A smart young woman. Sam was at university in Nottingham, miles away from London. Her father, Cindy's ex-husband, was back in Spain.

She thought back to the last thing she could remember. Stepping into the lecture hall, putting her computer block on the lectern, and plugging in the high speed network fibre. Then there'd been the sound of an explosion in the distance; building alarms had gone off, and a second later there were two more explosions outside, followed by one in the lecture hall itself. The table at the foot of the students' seating had been torn apart, bits of the equipment she was about to demonstrate flying in all directions. The largest fragment had come straight at her. It all happened in less than a blink of an eye.

She should be dead.

Apart from her daughter, her students, assuming some survived, the only one who'd miss 'Doc Bex' was Molly, her soppy black-and-white cat. Shit! How long had she been here? Who would be feeding Molly. Anyone? Calm down, Cin. Remembering that level of detail should be impossible. The heart monitor had started beeping faster, and again she felt the cold in her hand.

The next waking was different. She dreamt first. A dream of running a hot bath and opening a medicine cupboard, unplugging the lace interface.

There were three groups protesting against the work she did. Elon Musk's Neural Lace had jump-started a new industry - its technology created a 'direct cortical interface' between brain and computer. Facebook had seen the potential and jumped on the bandwagon, soon to be followed by Google, IBM and HP. Rather than competing against each other, an alliance had been created, early standards made. Facebook and Google wanted anonymised data to help target advertising by geographical area. IBM and HP made computer blocks, much like the one she'd plugged in at the lectern. Nobody was quite sure what Musk wanted out of it, but there were a good number of theories. There were many thousands of people on what was officially still a trial, all earning a small income from having Lace.

Footsteps could be heard outside the room, then voices. Unfamiliar voices. A man spoke in what sounded like Japanese. She knew the sounds well enough to know it was, but not what was being said. The owner of the voice stepped into the room with someone else, there were two different sounds from the footsteps. They started a sentence with Cooper-San. Cooper? The bastard was involved, probably the one responsible! Shit! Was he that jealous? Or had he been bribed by one of the corporations or protest groups?

"How is she?"

A woman's voice answers. "Stable now, Doctor Arakawa. We've had to sedate her a few times, BP and heart rate spiking. We'll have to start over. The interface recorded her dreaming of the suicide attempt."

What the fuck! How many patients were in here! Arakawa! What a fucking traitor! He must have a cold, he was sounding different.

Fragments of the dream came rushing back... taking a packet of razor blades out of a medicine cupboard. Running a bath was fine, she loved a good soak with a book and glass of white. But she didn't have a bath, only a large walk-in shower. Blades? She didn't own blades, she waxed or used disposables. There was another detail wrong with the dream. Skin tone. The hands, arms and legs in the dream were a lovely shade of brown, the sort an African-European would have. Her own skin was a pasty white. She could never tan properly - she went from white to blotchy to lobster red and back again without getting a tan that would stay. The biology department had used her as a test subject, mapped her DNA and told her.. what had they told her? She could picture Doctor Paul Farmers talking to her, it was like TV with the sound down. His face moved, the words were lost. She hears the beeping accelerate and hears her pulse quickening in her ears as the blood rushes around her head.

"Sir! Her heart rate's jumping. She's awake!"

"Ten CC now!"

Cindy tries to move, feels a cold sensation in a hand as they inject drugs to put her under.

Chapter-2