Even Superman had his Kryptonite. With Ell connected to me, there had been a chance. But how could I now defeat the monster of paralysis caused by my severed spinal cord without my lightsuit? Mahdi Ahmadi had cut the link between my brain and body, between purpose and action. Between me and Ell.

I was paralysed again, my ability to move destroyed by the cutting of my lightsuit. I passed out in a heap, a jellyfish stranded helpless on the beach. Or so I thought.

"Get up, damn you!" I heard a voice, from somewhere, it seemed from inside my brain. "Get up, they need you!"

There was an urgency in the voice, but it wasn't my inner conscience telling me to fight the pain and try to absurdly overcome the lack of a nervous system. It was Ell, speaking from one of Gilbert Bates ubiquitous flatpanel displays in the courtyard.

"I can't get up," I thought. "I can't even roll over!"

"Yes you can! You don't need me anymore. Your spinal cord has been regrowing!"

"Don't lie to me Ell, medical science can't do that kind of thing!"

"They can't, but I can," Ell replied. "But you have to start moving now or all will be lost."

"Ell, you forget I am literally a spineless creature. The world could be depending on me, and there's not a damn thing I could do!"

"The only thing spineless about you is your lack of courage! I've been using microelectrical fields to redirect your spinal regeneration. It's not like I invented the technique, they've been doing it since the 70's. It's just that I'm better at it than they are."

"You mean I can walk on my own. . . I stuttered out loud, unbelieving.

"Yes! I've been working on you for the last six months, but haven't told you. I was afraid you'd get rid of me."

"What? You mean . . ."

"There's no time to explain now," Ell hurried me. "Just trust me, you can walk if you want to."

This was a fine leap of faith Ell was asking of me. I had come to count on the interface I had with her for my every movement. Now I had to forget that connection and move on my own, of my own free will. And there was no time to lose.

"Move!" I commanded my arm, and I'll be damned if it didn't move six inches.

"Come on, you can do it!" Ell urged me.

"Move!" I tried again, and my arm moved more, tingling as if it had been asleep for a thousand years. "Move!" I continued to command, and my body slowly began to wake up from its lethargy. I rolled over, braced myself into a crawling position, held back the temptation to retch.

"Come on, come on," Ell urged. "You don't have time to waste!"

I staggered to my feet, stumbled, dragged a limp foot, steadied myself. I reached down and picked up the sword at my feet, nearly fell over, but using the sword as a prop I shuffled across the courtyard towards the open mansion doorway.

"Hurry, the world needs you," Ell pleaded.

I began to jog, like a drunk, but faster, out of the courtyard and into the maze of Gilbert Bates' mansion.