Monday, September 15, 2003

Today’s Word: Spelunking

Horner stood in the cave entrance for several seconds, querying the Sphere for an optical vision overlay. Of course the semi-sentient nodes, of which there were several million between Horner's brain and the Sphere core, had to check his complete background, analyze his current position and situation, and gage the seriousness of his query before there was any response. There wasn't much to find. Since his brain flush over thirty-five years ago, Horner had been working as a foreign language scribe in the New Chicago consulate. He had, at some point before the flush, shunted Arabic, German, French, and Hebrew, none of which were affected by the flushing process. Some people couldn't learn a language through shunt, but others, like Horner, seemed to have a brain designed for synapse remapping.

The cave flickered twice, then revealed itself in clear shades of orange. The nodes had found nothing in either Horner's past or present to deny him four hours of spelunking. A small display in the far periphery of his vision counted down the time.

There was no delay in Horner's night vision, though he knew that the input from his eyes was being directly inputted to the Sphere, digitally enhanced to provide night vision, and then shunted directly into Horner's brain. It seemed like there should be a delay, but there wasn't. Perhaps not everything about the Empyrean Ministry was bad.

He picked his way carefully, aware that if he should fall and break an ankle or hip, he might well starve to death before the nodes found reason to send help. Everything was about superior use of resources in the Empyrean Ministry. And saving an old fart from his own stupidity did not fall into that category.

The cave narrowed, widened, and then forked left and center. Horner, relying on the insistent tug of time with its aggravating bursts of insight and depressing doldrums of nothingness, followed the center course. He moved quietly for a man of his age; a man who had spent too many years warming a cushioned chair before a computer. The only sound louder than his soft foot strikes, was the sound of an old man wheezing through lungs more accustomed to the rarified air of office buildings and courthouses than dank underground tunnels. Maybe if things went wrong this time, he could remember to work out in the next go round.

To be continued

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