And then I dreamed.

I dreamed Ell had been brought back from the depths of chaos, a trillion bits of data resurrected from infinite entropy.

I dreamed she stood before me, as naked as the sun and as pure as a ruby laser light.

And I dreamed my dream was not a dream, but reality! Could one man, reconstructing computer files over a distributed computer system that spanned a global network of a billion computers, reconstruct a virtual woman totally composed of bits and bytes?


Could he give this cloud of electrons a flesh and blood existence? That was an entirely different problem.

My nightmares were consumed with the shock of seeing the corpse of Laura Silvan lying on the floor, twitching occasionally, her eyes staring into infinity. Laura had been a woman whose evilness had held the attraction of adventure, yet I had no remorse for her death. Had I loved Laura? If obsession is love, then yes, a thousand times yes, I had loved her. But did I love Ell.

Yes. A thousand times more.

The soul of Laura had departed (brain dead is the euphemism the medical profession uses). But her body still breathed and her heart still pumped life blood through her veins. The medical people had taken this 'thing' to their industrial complex of rooms filled with tubes, permeated by the aroma of decrepit flesh. I could not follow to mourn her passing, I was now a criminal, an assassin, a threat to society.

I had to run for my life, even though the life I now possessed was devoid of meaning without the loves of my life. My friends in the resistance had eyes and ears, they informed me that Laura's soul was gone, but her body would not be allowed to die gracefully. Protected by secret service agents who stood guard, her hospital room was her sarcophagus.

One mourner was officially allowed to see her, to stand at her bedside and watch the constant respiration. That mourner was President Clint Williams, who despite the blackness of his soul had loved Laura Silvan as truly as I did. Yet I could see no grace in such a death, wept over by a man who controlled the world through the deception of a potent virus. The paparazzi saw differently, they deified Laura Silvan, and her lover, a modern Evita and Juan Peron and proclaimed it a love story for the ages.

My grief in contrast was cloaked by repression. I was a wanted man, hunted to the four corners of the earth. Still, I had friends, even in the hospital complex. Dr. Freeman, who had cared for me, was assigned the high profile case. Alice, the intensive care nurse from my own stay in the hospital, was brought along to care for Laura, professional courtesy because of her expertise. They provided the path to redemption.

It was Dr. Freeman who suggested to the President that aura be fitted with neurophotonic implants, on the faint chance that that would stimulate Laura's brain. Grasping at straws, President Williams authorized the procedure using the latest DARPA technology. Dr. Aguerro, the neurosurgeon who had done my implants, was brought in to perform the operation, which was a success in the limited sense that Laura's brain now was accessible from the outer world through electronic probing. But the reality was that this was little more the torture of an inanimate corpse.

The President gave up hope, as the days went on and electronic stimulus through the neurophotonic connectors to Laura's brain provided no signs of recovery. But inside me there was an idea, a slight sliver of belief that this could not be the end of the story.

Late in the darkness of a still night, when the secret service agents slept from the boredom of watching a corpse, I went with Crystal to see Laura where she lay. She looked as though she were asleep, not like in a coma so infinitely deep and black that there was no return. She appeared to be dreaming like Snow White.

I quietly wept like a child.

I can't say it was easy what we had to do when we returned again a week later. Clothing a body on a resuscitator with a neural web of fiber optic strands was much more difficult than you might imagine. Andy the grad student, now engineering professor, helped.

I attached the final cables that would make this lifeless body live again and Laura's inanimate form sparkled like a thousand stars of light, all surrounding the dark star that was now her soul. With the pounding of my heart, and the hearts of those around us, I executed the program that would energize this flesh. I spoke the letter "L." at the command interface and then ordered "EXECUTE".

Slowly, eyes began to flutter, there was a slight moaning that broke the otherwise rhythmic movement of air in and out of the vegetative being.

Suddenly, its eyes were open, at first dimly robotic but then slowly becoming intelligent, viewing the surroundings, with fear, or perhaps surprise, readable in their movements. That incredible sense of humanness that no object or animal can mimic began to glow from every inch of this creature, and it sat up, radiating a thousand points of light as consciousness returned.

She looked at me, and suddenly the pain and fear dissolved from the eyes.

"Laura, is that you?" I asked unsurely, not imagining what to expect.