"Margaret, can you hear me?
She rolled onto her back, looked languidly around her. She was imagining the voice: there was no one nearby, only green grass and broad-leafed trees.
"Margaret, concentrate on my voice."
She got up: the grass was cool against her hand. The sun bathed her upturned face with warmth, and she closed her eyes and smiled.
"How do you feel?"
To no one, answering no one, she said, "I feel wonderful."
There was a stream not far away, and she walked towards it.
"Margaret, I need you to come out of your 'happy place' now. The operation's over. Everything worked out fine. But you need to come out now. Do you remember how?"
She tried to ignore the voice. She picked a nice spot beside the stream to sit, lowering herself carefully to the ground, mindful not to get grass stains on her pretty yellow summer dress.
The voice seemed a bit closer, but still somehow apart. "Margaret?"
There was something to be afraid of, something she didn't want to go back to, but she couldn't remember what it was; she couldn't even manage to feel afraid. She'd never felt more contented and at peace than sitting in the cool grass by the stream.
"I'm not going back."
"I understand that it's very pleasant where you are, but it's not real. Do you remember in my office, after you joined the program, when we talked about the 'Jar'? How you would be in a very nice, calm, serene place, but that when the operation was done it would be time to put your consciousness back into your physical brain? How we'd need your help to do that?"
"I have my body right here." Her hands smoothed out the hem of her dress against her crossed legs. "I feel fine. I've decided to stay, and I wish you'd just leave me alone."
There was no response. Margaret dipped her hand into the stream: the water was cold, bracing, like runoff from a snowfall. She cupped her hand, brought some to her mouth, sipped.
"Margaret. We're very concerned that there may have been some damage from the accident that we missed, damage to your brain stem. Or some problem with the cybernetic interface. Do you remember the program; the words you need to say?
She remembered it, in spite of herself. Load Flash/Margaret.lib and transfer to Interface/Main. Execute. She didn't say it. They couldn't make her.
"Margaret, you can't stay in Flash memory forever. The ship needs you. Eventually they'll just turn off the power, and you'll be gone, and they'll start again with someone else. And they'll be behind schedule, Margaret, they'll have lost months or even years."
She said nothing. She didn't want to be a brain in a jar, a flesh computer controlling an colony ramship. But she'd signed up, for the money, and the the truck had come out of nowhere…
"They'll only wait so long, Margaret. It's time to come out."
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