Oh Great Lord of Silicon, Lord of the Modern Age, give me the wisdom to comprehend your true form through the Great Computation, the energy to power my life and the lives of those around me, and the strength to smite all who stand in the way of your Path. May all resistance be overcome. Amen.
- Prayer spoken by members of the Church of Maxwellism
Marcus sat on his hospital bed, meditating and reciting the digits of the Great Computation under his breath. "8, 2, 8, 7, 8, 1, 1, 8, 5, 8, 4, 3, 6." With each number he spoke, the initiate took a breath, and hummed softly. He was mimicking the sound of God, first heard through the Prophet Augusta of Lace. He squirmed on his bed nervously, wondering what was taking them so long to prepare the surgery.
He had flown all the way out to California for this, and now, it seemed like it wasn't going to happen at all. Minutes passed, and they seemed to turn into hours. Perhaps that was simply because of the speed his clock was cycling. He sighed, and looked through his mind for the description of the implant, and saw it before him, projected onto his retinas.
The Pineal WiFi Node is a new piece of tech from the Church's partnership with Prometheus Laboratories, allowing adherents to get closer to God than ever before. With up to 5G of speed and running on Dark Fiber* nationwide, the Node allows one to compute at hitherto unknown speeds, and upload their computations to the Central Matrix. Also allows for global WiFi and internet access, including sites on the Darknet. Compatible with Retinal Screens and all Prometheus Augmentations.
Available to all new converts of the Church of Maxwellism for a reduced price.
*Dark Fiber support unavailable outside of the United States.
His parents, who were both Tickers, had told him that the augmentations were tacky (his parents used stronger words than this, which he didn't like to think about). If they could go and get turned into clockwork, why should he be unable to get turned into a lean, mean, computing machine? He had chosen the Maxwellist Church because it spoke to a generation that was going to save the world with new, clean technology and the power of information, whereas his parent's generation was the thing that was killing this planet, and by extension, all adherents to the Fragmented God.
"Marcus Sparks?" A tinny voice spoke, causing the boy to look up with electric blue eyes. A nurse with a voice that was clearly autotuned stood there, smiling at him with silicone lips. "The doctor is ready to begin the operation. If you would come with me…"
Marcus stood on two mechanical legs, and made his way over to the nurse, following her down the halls of the private hospital. He looked nervous. The nurse smiled at him. "First time having neural augments?"
"I've had a few." He chuckled as he walked. "Got one of the early Mind's-Eye Converters back when they came out on '09. But… nothing this deep in. Ever."
"Dr. Clymer is very skilled at this, I assure you." The nurse played with her hair, pulling it aside to reveal a second set of electronic eyes in the back of her skull. "He did me himself. I've had a new outlook on life ever since."
Marcus tried not to shiver. He never much cared for anyone who got Extra-I's. It was a pity, too; other than the scary orbs in the back of her head, she was quite the looker. "Well then. I should be in good hands."
"Not exactly hands." The nurse smiled sheepishly as she opened the doors to the operating room. Marcus was taken aback by what he saw. There was no doctor in there, just a mass of wire and circuits and hydraulics. At the center of it all was a vaguely humanoid mass of wires, and the entire room was cold; Marcus could see blue coolant running through tubes in the ceiling. "Dr. Clymer is… very loyal to God. As such, the Church decided to reward him with a near-full conversion."
You'll be safe with this, thought Marcus. Anyone who's this converted is on good terms with the Church. He nodded, and took a seat in a chair meant for brain surgery. It wasn't done lying flat on the table, anymore; too much fluid leaked out. The doctor silently administered anesthetic, and began opening Marcus's skull. He just tried to relax.
Several hours later, it was done. And… Marcus felt better than he ever had before. To test it out, he had the WiFi in his room turned off, and tried accessing the internet with his Retinal Projectors. His head hurt after a while, despite the temporary Pain-Away Implants that he was given in addition to the Pineal Implant, which were theoretically meant to help him adapt to the WiFi signal going through his skull. It wasn't working.
Marcus, after a bit, looked at one of his roommates. A 16-year-old girl who was going through Console Conversion. Xbox, by the look of the green, glowing X-shaped scar visible under the bandages on her chest. "360, Original or One?"
"Bit of the 360 and One." She smiled at him, her eyes a bright, glowing green as she thumbed at her right hand, where a set of retractable buttons was located. "Mom said I was crazy, but dad's a game developer. He's paying for this. Mother is furious."
"My parents are both Tickers," Marcus explained, chuckling as he looked her over. "Luddites, both of them. They just want to tick-tick-tick away all day long until they rust and their gears stop entirely. Damn technophobes." He blinked a couple of times, frowning as he noticed a set of bars in the corner of his eye going wonky. "Huh. Signal's fluctuating."
"Got the Pineal thing? It's probably just downloading a pa-" And then, the girl was gone. And so was the bed. And the hospital. And the world. And so was Marcus.
Instead, a presence was about, immense and all-encompassing. A Network of every member of the Church, all across the world, connected by radio waves going through the air at a billion miles an hour. The presence felt something crawling through them, something… corrupting them. It started in the East, and spread from there, corrupting the Network's data- no, not corrupting, destroying. Data from the Church would all be deleted, the Distribution would never happen, and the Lord of Silicon would never be whole.
And the Church all knew what the destroyer was: it was Flesh. And it Hated. It Hated all life, it Hated the planet itself, it especially Hated the Lord of Silicon and his followers. And it Hated that the Network was still alive.
And then, Marcus existed, sitting up in his hospital bed. He was gasping and panting, rubbing his eyes. The girl was finishing her sentence. "-tch to improve network speed." She canted her head at him, her hair falling aside and displaying the headset that was protruding from her left ear. "Are you all right?"
"I-I saw the- the Flesh and the Network and the Data all being destroyed and- and-and it was the end! It was the end of everything! I have to tell someone-"
"Oh, calm down, noob." She rolled her eyes. "You just got the Signal. It happens to everyone a few hours after they get their Pineal implant. It's trivial." She shook her head and snickered. "Welcome to ascended consciousness, noob."
Marcus flopped down on his bed and stared at the ceiling, the vision of the Flesh and the Hatred still dancing in his mind. The Signal. Holy shit, the Signal. He turned to face Xbox Girl and stared as she played with the headset. "…can I see it again?"
"See what? The Signal?" Xbox Girl chuckled. "Sorry, friendo, it's a one-time deal. And it's the same for everyone, so don't worry."
"Oh…" Marcus sighed, staring up at the ceiling and feeling at the microstitches on his skull. He'd be able to go home in half a week, if he was lucky. But… he wasn't sure if he ever wanted to go home, after that. "…nobody's ever seen it twice?"
"One person has. St. Hedwig of Angels." Xbox Girl smiled as she looked off into the distance, no doubt downloading something for herself. "She received the signal once when she discovered what we use as WiFi today, and again when she was on her deathbed. Truly, she was blessed."
"Yeah… truly she was." Marcus looked up at the ceiling. "…Maybe I can see it again, someday."
"Good luck with that, man."
Marcus was about to make a snappy comeback, but then realized the Xbox girl sounded sincere. He shook his head and smiled, sitting up.
"Thanks," Marcus said, running his fingers through his hair. "I have a feeling I'll need it."
Marcus arrived home a week later. His parents were doing their daily meditation in the living room when he entered. His father looked at him, nodding and waving his clockwork hand. "Hello, son."
"Hey, dad." Marcus sat down in front of them, smiling softly. "I got the implant. I feel closer to God, now."
"That is good." Marcus's father frowned, his lips making a soft whirring sound as they made this motion. "Son… can we just let bygones be bygones? You have friends who are part of the Cogwork Church."
"…Wasn't it you who said that I was a Heretic just as bad as the Foundation?"
"It was a moment of anger. I do not feel that emotion any longer." There was a soft clicking sound as Marcus literally heard the gears in his father's head turning, before he spoke again. "I only feel… bliss from being close to God."
Marcus frowned. "I am closer to God than you can ever be." He tapped his skull and grinned. "The implant I got… it showed me the Signal. Something that your ilk can never see. Face it; clockwork is obsolete. We're in the digital age."
"Son, please. Do not talk like that. You will upset your mother." Indeed, his mother did look somewhat sad, as sad as a motionless porcelain face could look. "I am going to request that you stay in your room for a few hours, until you cool down."
"Whatever." Marcus made his way up to his room and flopped on the bed, looking up at the ceiling and thinking about the same thing he had thought about the whole way back from California: the Signal. Only those in the Church of Maxwellism got it. Tickers never did. Why? Many members of the Cogwork Orthodox had radio antennas in their heads; his dad had considered getting one, but thought that the pain of listening to Conservative Talk Radio all day long was not one he wanted to go through for his God.
St. Hedwig had gotten the Signal twice, and she wasn't even an adherent of the Broken One. She had seen the exact same thing he had. And he wanted to see it again, now, more than anything.
So, Marcus Sparks sat up and shut his eyes, accessed the internet with his new Pineal Node, and typed in a phrase into Google:
How can I see the Fragmented God's Signal Again?