My reality had become a game of Russian roulette. As I drove away from Laura and the Mahdi's retreat, I understood that I could easily have been killed the night before at the Alano estate, the spinning cylinder of fate could have stopped on a live round of ammunition and I wouldn't be here. I had been nearly assassinated by Sapphire James twice now, someone had tried to poison me, the Mahdi had nearly cut my head off and I was about to enter into even more dangerous territory.

It was clear the Brady III bill and the Center of Disease Control's confiscation of guns had not removed weapons from the hands of criminals. Reports of rogue bands of White Supremacist domestic terrorists were everywhere. Freedom Fighters they called themselves. This Mad Max world left me as vulnerable as a lamb. That needed to change.

The Progressive Party's national newsblog, New Pravda, that morning called the Alano incident a "fund raising fiasco caused by the accidental crash of a Net-News helicopter at the Melissa Alano retreat". Carried on the governments social media network on Facely, Twister and FederalYoutube, and was Fact Checked by the Associated Repress, I knew better, it had been a war. What this war was about and whose side I was on was less important to me than protecting the people I cared about most - namely Lauura Silvan. Staying alive had to take priority or I would be of no use to anyone. I needed to do a gut check and prepare to defend myself, no matter who the bad guys turned out to be.

I had to fight off the cognitive discontinuity that came from hearing whitewashed media accounts, even after having seen what happened personally. There was a time when I'd believed every word the Media had preached, even that President William's was "The One" and peace was at hand. But I was no longer sure who to believe. The President's spinmeisters must have burned up the Blogosphere to keep the Alano fundraiser war story hidden.

Obviously, the golden people in the federalized press corp were told to put a lid on the Alano story or suffer dire "Public Relations consequences". Of course, loss of any readership was the kiss of death for the remnant print and Internet newsrags with vestigial readerships, as would be a loss of listeners for the Nationalized Public Interest radio stations. Even dinosaur media outlets propped up by The Fairness III Doctrine, which required the censoring of non-approved information, still had to make a living somehow. So it was unsurprising that even tabloid outfits like New Air America Radio clammed up tight. I understood the concept, you really don't want your media spreading panic, rumour and mayhem with unfiltered truth, do you? Especially in these troubled times.

Since the Progressive Party controlled the board of the Federal Communications Commission, as well as the blogosphere through its political robo-blog spiders, the result was a victory of spin over reality and the Alano affair simply evaporated. It was hardly a surprise, yet it surprised me.

Short decades before, the Progressive Party would never have been able to bottle up a story one thousandth as large as this, but the American political environment had changed - in fact Change had become its mantra. The nation was led by a President slavishly revered by the old dinosaur media and it was clear President Williams could do no wrong. Even I could see that and I had voted for him on his Change The World platform.

The journalistic culture now hardly denied they accepted spin as fact. The only reason Old Print Media had survived at all was due to Digital Rights Management embedded in the MicroByte operating system that served to monopolize news feeds and e-print. Radio and Internet feeds had faired no better as The Fairness III Doctrine enforced politically correct pabulum. The Bureau of Fairness created by the law had unexpectedly become a smothering governmental bureaucracy which dominated the blogosphere and rubberstamped the Progressive Party viewpoint. Lying seemed to be the only way a reporter could avoid being dragged into court for some imagined breaches of "journalistic integrity". The system almost seemed designed to make it a journalist's best interest to hide the truth, a total perversion of the noble goal of Fairness. But what do I know.

Rightwing resisters claimed the motto of the Fairness Bureau, 'Truth Dies Without Guardians', had transformed their purpose into a guardian of propaganda despite their mandate to preserve Freedom of Speech. But they were always caught spreading misinformation.

Some radical militias even claimed America had become more informationally repressive than the Stalin's Soviet Gulags and that Free Speech was now dead. But there are always paranoid crackheads around to stir the pot. How much Free Speech could their be in the chaos of a society unhinged by white multicultural repression and chaos?

For many years, there had been hope that the Internet would be the salvation of free speech, and in its early years that was so. But the ancient Campaign Finance Reform bill of 2002 slowly evolved to add the Fairness III Doctrine and then the Internet Fairness Doctrine. As every schoolchild knows, when Rush Limbaugh died and stripped of his ill-gotten status as misinformation purveyor, true unbiased fairness finally returned to the media. Though now it did seem a bit bland at times.

Once political statements on blogs were equated by the Fairness III Doctrine with dollar amounts supposedly contributed to political causes - Internet money became strictly regulated. Yet, regulation in the name of Free Speech seemed to devolved into a mandate for politically correct speech, speech that offended no one. In such a charged fishtank, only the glib of tongue speaking in vague innuendo survived.

The media whitewash of the disaster at the Melissa Alano event is what convinced me I needed help. It was necessary for common people to feel safe cocooned in a media imposed haze of ignorance, but I was being pushed into a maelstrom that seemed very close to war. Before I started stealing and decoding CDC virus files for Laura, I decided I'd better go see Kevin Armstrong at the bioengineering program.

I told myself it was just to get my lightsuit checked up by Eric and Andy, but in the back of my mind I remembered Kevin Armstrong had said I was being funded as part of the DARPA Future Warrior program. He'd laughed when I worried about becoming a tool of the military and at first it had been assuring that Armstrong told me I was more likely the model for the Future Supply Clerk. But now I hoped there was at least some Warrior technology available to me. Strictly for defensive purposes of course.

"We've been expecting you," Armstrong said as I wandered into the engineering lab.

"How'd you know I was coming?" I asked with surprise. "Everyone seems to be able to read my mind!"

"Like a comic book!" Armstrong joked. "Actually, Eric and Andy go to the outlaw Warez sites on the Internet," Armstrong explained.

"Warez reports what is really happening in the news," Andy added. "They hijack the raw video feeds. You were digital camcorded."

"Pretty risky visiting the Warez sites after the government crackdown," I warned. "Though I admit as an Ubergeek I have my own Warez connections. So how did I look?"

"Awesome," Eric chimed in.

"You weren't exactly at a birthday party at the Alano estate," Armstrong continued. "That was live ammunition you were ducking. Heck, we think some of the video came from some of the attackers and was bootlegged online. So we figured you'd come looking for help. Besides, there's a GPS in your control system, we always know where you are."

"It did get a bit hot at Alano's," I understated the situation. "So you aren't using the RFID chip to track me?" I asked testingly. Any hacker worth his salt had removed the mandatory RFID tracking chip the you got when conscripted into the National Civilian Security Force boot camp. I'd done my obligatory service like everyone else and reprogrammed the chip as soon as I finished service.

"Oh come now Steve, we know you've been off grid for a long time. You are a Floater with a hacked RFID, a drop out from civilization. That's one of the reasons we wanted to work with you. It goes way beyond your being a good physical subject, you fit the profile mentally as well."

"It seems like you know more about me than is normal," my paranoia bristled. "And it doesn't seem like I'm destined to become a model for the perfect supply clerk.

"Listen, Steve, even as a friend there is only so much I can tell you," Armstrong hinted obtusely. "Let's just say you are more than a Defense Department project and certain people are watching your progress closely,"

"What is that supposed to mean?" I asked.

"All I can say is that you have the potential to make an impact in this world far beyond what is available to other people. The Future Warrior technology fits your purpose much better than you might think."

"How would you know what I am thinking?" I asked, truly perplexed. "I am here to see if my systems can be, well, hardened. But I'm not sure that this fits into any kind of grand scheme! I'm just trying to survive, not get involved in everybody else's pet causes!"

"That's a discussion for another day," Armstrong refocused the conversation. "Right now, we need to concentrate on some upgrades to your lightsuit that we've been working on all along as part of the Future Warrior project. The first thing is a carbon nanotube filament matrix added to the fiberoptic system. In essence, your lightsuit will become elastic body armor that fits you like a glove."

"I'll be a human tank?" I conjectured, but Armstrong wasn't done.

" We've interspersed carbon nanotube fibers for strength. The carbon nanotube's atomic-bonded crystal structure makes it the strongest, stiffest material known to man - 20 times stronger per pound than carbon fiber."

"We'll upgrade your power and cooling system by adding a micro turbine to the fuel cells. You'll need quick blood coagulating additives incorporated into the suit, as well as a software upgrade to regulate blood tension in the limbs. If you are injured we don't want you bleeding out. And we'll . . ."

"Hold on, Kevin, I had just been hoping for a bullet proof vest," I admitted uneasily. "You sound like you are about to turn me into a walking weapon!"

"You ARE a weapon, Dr. Heller," Armstrong told me dead cold sober. "You always have been. This is just a fulfillment of what you were designed to become."

"What are you holding back from me?" I asked in exasperation. "It seems a lot of people knew more about my fate and future than I do myself!"

"I've said enough already," Armstrong shut down his friendly demeanour. "Either you want to be weaponized, and survive, or you want to be scrap heaped and dead."

I'm sure I could have thought of a snappy reply right then.

"Well I don't know, " I hesitated. But sometimes you just know you are on a flight path like a railgun projectile, which when launched at Mach 14 isn't going to be stopped or deflected from its target no matter if God himself tried to interfere.

"I want the modifications," I said simply.

Armstrong unleashed Eric and Andy on me once again, like mechanics working on their hobby racecar. There was a new lightsuit, with carbon nanotube technology that would stop bullets and could be flexed by software to regulate blood pressure.

"We coated the optical fibers with carbon nanotubes," Eric explained the science. "Since the nano-tubes conduct electricity, we can send power as well as optical signals to any part of your body, and get sensory feedback as well.

"My favorite addition is the micro turbine power plant to give your systems extended power range," Andy added his expertise. "The Power Subsystem, built into the Power Centric Layer, is fed by the Duration Central, a 20 watt Micro Turbine fueled by a liquid hydrocarbon fuel cell."

"The hell you say. So, how long can I go without a recharge?" I naturally asked, just like an antique Energizer Bunny.

"According to the milspecs, ten ounces of fuel would "power the soldier's integrated electronics ensemble for up to 6 days. Polymeric nanofiber battery patches embedded in the headgear provide back-up power for three hours."

"We also installed a fast switching 6G Internet Starlink satellite communications link," Eric added with a sly smile.

"Why would I need fast switching?" I asked. "Am I trying to hide from someone?"

"Well, this gives your wireless system hardened redundancy, Eric explained. "Truthfully, we no longer know how much of the logic driving your neural net comes through your neurphotonic connections to your brain, and how much is being downloaded from the SuperGrid through fast connections to cell towers and direct from satellites. I mean, sometimes the router data shows you pegging the informational packet load limits. The multiplexer now rotates between land and satellite based routers and can be rapidly modulated to prevent hacking and geo location."

So what you are implying is that I am no longer just Dr. Steve Heller, uber geek, but a distributed neural network that leaks to the SuperGrid."

"Well, when you put it that way," Armstrong answered. "It sounds worse than it really is. I'd call it a feature."

"Who the hell am I then?" I wondered out loud. "A man, or a network cyborg?"

"You are what you are," Armstrong cut me short. "But right now we have more practical considerations in the real world. We are going to harden your lightsuit like armor."

Andy continued the science wizard lecture. "The lightsuit super material fabric development started decades ago when an electrical engineer named Nicholas Kotov worked with pentacene, a hydrocarbon molecule, and carbon nanotubes to develop a temperature sensor and a strain sensor. The addition of carbon nanotubes with pentacene increases sensor sensitivity. As an organic semiconductor, pentacene is efficient and easy to control. Both sensors were fabricated directly on flexible polymeric substrates."

"The strain sensor, which would monitor respiration rate, consisted of a Wheatstone bridge, and a thin pentacene film that acted as a sensing layer. A physiological strain, such as breathing, creates a mechanical deformation of the sensor, which then affects the electrical current's resistance."

"So what you are telling me," I conjectured, "is that my lightsuit is essentially a sensory skin, linked through the neurophotonics to my mind, and from there to the Supergrid." p> "There are even temperature sensors, infrared pickups and other antennae functions we have been adding" Andy continued. "The thread is able to conduct electricity almost like metallic wires and even power light emitting diodes. The more nanotubes in the cloth, the more electrically conductive the cloth is."

"Maybe most importantly," Armstrong interjected, "is that Carbon nanotube-coated smart fabric can detect blood and monitor health. Smart textiles, made of metallic or optical fibers, are fragile and not comfortable. So we combined two fibers, one natural and one created by nanotechnology, to build a new kind of smart textile. If a soldier wearing clothes made with this fabric is wounded, your neuronet can issue an SOS. We added the antibody anti-albumin to the carbon nanotube solution. Anti-albumin reacts with albumin, a protein found in blood and the conductivity increases."

There was so much more to the suit than can easily be explained. It was serious business, and I don't know half the things that were done. All I knew was it had to be done quickly because I had a mission of my own to undertake.