Vasili didn’t realise that his sister was in love with him for as long as she was alive. He didn’t realise it when he lost a few of his girlfriends due to her jealousy. He only realised it when she haunted his prosthetic cyberarm.
As cyberlimbs went, this one was straight from the bargain bin. But Agnes was a genius with electronics and 3D printing. She modded the basic frame and created an arm for her brother that was more than just a dumb prosthetic, it was truly an augmentation.
Vasili jokingly asked her to install lasers and shit, but she pinched his cheek and called him silly every time he did that.
She explained to him that there were two kinds of prosthetics, those that are simply there, and no matter how advanced they are they never truly feel like a part of your body. And the augmentations, that do what the word says, they augment, they’re there, they give you sensation and sometimes increased strength and agility.
They weren’t rich enough to afford one of those connections to the nerves in the arm. Heck, they barely had enough to get the bargain-bin prosthetic in the first place. Vasili later found out that Agnes had offered some sexual favour to the merchant so that they could get it. That Panos guy always kept staring at his sister’s ass, even when Vasili was around.
His accident was less traumatic than other people in his situation. He was just visiting downtown Athens, doing what? He couldn’t even remember. Probably going for a frappe with his mates or something. And there was a shrapnel bomb in the metro, and fourteen people died, either instantly or bled out in the ambulances.
Vasili simply felt a shockwave, passed out, and when he woke up his arm was wrapped up very tightly and it hurt. He tried to loosen it up, the paramedic noticed him and hurried to stop him. “Hey, don’t. You’re in shock, but you need to leave it alone. You’ve been badly hurt,” he said with practised calmness.
Vasili decided to do what the man said, he did seem after all like he knew what he was talking about, and there was dust and rubble everywhere, and the smell of blood and skata. It was filling up his nostrils. He absent-mindedly tried to scratch his left arm, and he found nothing there. Absolutely nothing. It was cut off neatly, he was told later on, and he would have bled out if the response time of Apollo Medical hadn’t been so fast.
Then they tried to sell him a medical plan, one that covered amputees and augmentations. Vasili couldn’t afford it, naturally. They were wasting their breath.
So, Agnes found him a cheap one and went to work for forty days and forty nights. Not an exaggeration, Vasili counted the days. He couldn’t do anything, his sister had to help him wash himself and dress up. In the first couple of weeks he was so hurt on the torso that he couldn’t even pee without assistance.
Agnes’ willingness, no, eagerness to help him out with that and hold it for him should have been his first clue.
Even after she was done modding the cyberarm, it took him a long time to physically recover and some time after that for him to get used to it. It was frustrating, like learning to do all the things all over again, childish tasks, hold a fork and a knife, have a shower, tie your shoelaces together.
Agnes explained to him that his prosthetic started off as dumb, and they couldn’t afford to hook it up to his nervous system for proper response. But she had an idea. She mapped her own brain landscape, spending endless nights with some machine learning program she found on the dark web. She claimed it could work as a 0.2 intelligence. Any more than that and it was considered an e-person and it was illegal to do what they were planning to do.
So, one day as he was watching football and drinking beer, Agnes showed up way too excited. “I’ve done it! Eureka, motherfucker. Congratulate me, please,” Agnes said, bowing and sending kisses to her imaginary audience.
“Congrats, sis. But what’s all the fuss about?” Vasili asked, keeping his eyes on the match.
She stood in front of him, blocking his view. “I can install the intelligence into your cyberarm. Gimme,” she said and climbed on top of him, pinching his cheeks.
“Alright, alright. Just do it, do you need me for it?” Vasili complained.
“Sure, let’s just pop it right off,” she mocked but Vasili kept watching the match and unstrapped his cyberarm. “I was joking,” Agnes said and turned off the television.
“Come on!” Vasili complained.
“Shush. Now,” she said, sitting on his lap and hooking a flash memory inside the cyberarm’s port. She gestured into the Shared Augmented Reality and pulled up a menu screen that anyone on the veil could see, then her fingers blurred as she quickly typed in the commands.
“You could have done this without me,” Vasili said, pushing her legs in a spot where it was more comfortable.
“This is a big moment, Vasili,” she shushed him. “All set, now, let’s see.” She gestured and closed the menu prompt.
Vasili shrugged. “I don’t see any difference.”
Agnes’ eyes went wide. She beamed her biggest smile at him. “You’re so dumb,” she said, booping his forehead.
“Agnes, what is it supposed to do differe-” Vasili stopped mid-sentence, when he realised what was happening. The cyberlimb was moving along with his gestures. It wasn’t just a dumb prosthetic any more. He shrugged again, it mimicked the motion of the other arm and shrugged as well. He didn’t have sensation and haptic feedback like a proper augmentation, but this was the next best thing. “My gods, you did it!”
Agnes squealed in delight and grabbed his augmented hand. She bit his finger, smiling away. “I did!”
“How does it know what I want?”
“Well, it doesn’t, not really. But it has a baseline intelligence that learns what you want it to do. The more you use it, the more natural the movements will be.”
Vasili raised his hands to clap between him and his sister, a thing that he never thought he could do ever again. True to Agnes’ words, the cyberarm matched his clap. It was a bit awkward, then he did it again and again, until it felt completely natural. “Haha! Wow, Agnes, this is amazing!”
“Really?” his sister cooed and hugged him tight, kissing him all over the face.
The thought of her being too handsy had never even crossed his mind.
Agnes was beaten to death by the merchant who traded her beloved gear, Panos. Vasili was at work carrying fish at Varvakios Central Market. The police called him and told him his sister was found dead. There was a recording in the security cameras, the stupid fucker had been to shaken up to erase them, he’d just taken off. Agnes and Panos had an argument about some client, Agnes wanted to charge him extra, Panos kept shouting that she was losing him customers with her diva attitude, and that she needed to be taught a lesson. He grabbed her arm, pushed on the bench and pulled her pants down. Agnes fought back, grabbed a metal gadget and slammed it on the side of his head. He stepped to the side, looking wobbly. She cursed at him, Panos grabbed her as she was trying to leave and shoved her forward. She hit her head on a metal corner and did not stand up again.
There was dark liquid pooling on the ground around her head. Panos tried to wake her up, cried and wailed like a child, did CPR to help her. Panicked, he left her and ran away.
He turned himself in on his own two days after that.
During his trial, he cried snot and convinced the jury that he was in love with her, and that they had slept together a couple of times, but only when Agnes wanted something from him. She kept rejecting him and accused her of being in love with Vasili, that’s why no man was ever good enough for her.
There’s no death penalty in Greece. He went to jail with twenty-five years of sentence, the video clearly showing it was an accident and that he had tried to help her.
Vasili went through the trial proceedings with apathy. He didn’t hate him. He didn’t really want to punish him, Panos was going to go to jail after all, and Vasili knew first-hand that it wasn’t a nice place to be in. Nothing he could do to him would be worse that the constant nightmare of being locked up in there. And Vasili had done just three months for some breaking and entering, nothing serious. Heck, his cellmate was a hacker, for Hermes’ sake! Even so, it was bad, being in jail.
Being locked up with murderers and rapists?
Yeah, he’d gotten his punishment alright.
But the house was empty. Vasili always remembered how much Agnes pissed him off and kept bugging him all the time, and now he’d give the rest of his limbs to have her back for a single day. Jumping on top of him, bugging him, calling him stupid. He missed her energy, her vibrancy, the electric buzz she generated when she was around.
He went out to get himself drunk a couple of times. He hooked up with some girl and as he was feeling her up, his cyberarm slapped the chick and she took off. He was certain that wasn’t what he wanted his arm to do, but he didn’t understand these things, only Agnes did.
He remembered his sister and wept, forgetting all about the available pussy that had stormed off.
In a way, he failed that night.
Vasili got home from work. He was tired, but he wanted to be done with it. Someone at work told him that he should pack up her stuff when he’d feel ready for it. Vasili wasn’t one to dilly-dally or mince his words. He grabbed a few boxes from the Varvakios Market and went straight home to pack up.
Agnes had a ton of gadgets in various stages of dilapidation. He knew that some were quite expensive and that others were nothing more than junk that his sister liked to tinker with, but he had no clue which was which. Ironically, the only person he could unload all this stuff was Panos, but he was in jail.
He opened a box and started to throw things inside. He grabbed a squid-looking thingy and threw it in the box. Only, his weight felt wrong. When you threw things in a box, you expected your hand to get lighter, right? He turned to his hand and saw it grabbing the squid made of cables.
“What the hell?” he said out loud, and pushed his fingers open with his right hand. The squid fell inside the box.
He kept throwing things inside, trying to keep the shiniest and most expensive-looking things in one box and the trash to another, but he soon got bored and plopped himself down on the sofa. He fell asleep with the white noise of the sports streams.
He woke up with his usual morning wood. Only this time, his left hand was fondling it. It wasn’t unusual in and of it’s own, but he had a weird feeling about it so he pulled it out of his boxers and went to start his morning ritual. It was something he definitely wouldn’t be able to do with just a dumb prosthetic, but the hand Agnes made for him simply worked exactly the way he wanted it to. Brushing his teeth, combing his hair, splashing water on his face, scratching his ass, he could do it all.
Agnes was so damn smart.
He propped himself on the sink and cried for a while, thinking about his sister.
Then, he got ready for work.
It was the pinch that gave it away. Vasili wasn’t that quick to begin with. But the pinch was very, very familiar. And he’d never actually do that to himself. I mean, who pinches their own cheeks? The hand pinched his cheek while he was waiting around at work, during a break. He was staring at some lady’s breasts and his hand simply reached up and pinched him, quite hard actually. It hurt. He’d never consciously do that, so it must have been that 0.2 intelligence Agnes had imbued in it, or whatever it was that she’d called it.
He stuck his left hand into his pocket and carried on with work, getting weird glances from the others.
When he got home, he went to Agnes’ box of stuff and started to rifle through them. “Okay, where is it?”
He found her tablet and tried to open it. It was password protected. Skata! Now what? His hand pinched him again. “Okay, now that is weird. Stop it.”
It pinched him again.
“Stop it, Agnes!” he blurted out, then covered his mouth in shock, using his right hand. “Why did I call you that?”
The hand said nothing, naturally.
So he sighed and grabbed a beer and sat on his sofa. The match was turned down low and his mind was elsewhere, fiddling with the tablet.
Password. What was Agnes always telling him? That the most common password is ‘password’?
He tried it. Nope.
Not that either.
He took a sip of beer and his hand pinched him again.
“Vasili,” he mumbled, typing it in.
“You have entered an old password,” the tablet said.
“IloveVasili,” he said and typed it in. He stared in a tiny bit of shock when the tablet unlocked. He didn’t really know what to do, but he saw her opening the dark web program she had trained. It was, essentially, a digital representation of his sister. He understood that much. She kept chattering about she had fed it her speech patterns and all her digital exhaust, her entire online life to it.
Vasili had no frickin’ clue how all that was possible, but he did know that his sister was smart enough to do so.
He looked around inside the tablet and found the training program. There was an adjustment, an export of 0.2 intelligence on a slider. He tested it, it could go up to 1.0.
That would be bad, wouldn’t it?
He tapped the export button to see if the program let him do it, and it did. It started a progress bar and exported the data.
Now all he needed was a flash drive. He rifled through her stuff and found a few discarded ones, but only one was large enough to carry the file. He loaded up his sister’s mind into the flash drive and then thought about it long and hard, staring down the bottom of a beer bottle.
He passed out on the sofa.
He woke up, feeling a nice sensation of a hand job. He realised it was his own cyberhand doing it, and since he had no feeling on the fingers, it felt like someone else was. He tried to imagine some chick giving him a quick handjob for ‘good morning’ but then he thought that this was his sister controlling it in a roundabout sort way and his erection vanished in an instant.
He got ready and put the flash drive in his wallet. He didn’t want to leave it out of his sight, and his house had been broken into before. This wasn’t a good neighbourhood and it was easy for thugs to see him going out to work all day.
He carried fish just like every other day, but this time his pocket felt heavy.
“I’m gonna take five,” he said to his boss and went around the back. He played with the flash drive in his fingers and then decided to just go for it. He stuck it in the port and pulled up the menu, then realised the flaw in his plan.
He had no clue how to load up the data. Sure, he had seen Agnes do it, but he didn’t know the commands. If only he had been paying attention to her instead of watching the match… Dammit!
Who was he kidding? Even if she was walking him through step by step, he still wouldn’t be able to do it.
Sighing, he slapped his knees and started to get up.
Agnes’ hand moved on its own, typing in the AR keyboard that was in front of him on the veil. The commands were a blur, just like when Agnes was typing. He gulped, and he even thought about stopping it.
No, he waited to see what would happen.
The hand broke, that’s what happened. It locked up on the joints, becoming a big hunk of useless. His boss gave him the rest of the day off so he could go and sort it out at some mechanic.
Back at home, Vasili tried to tinker with his arm and cursed out loud. “Dammit, Agnes! You could have figured it out in a second, if you were here,” he said out loud, after giving up.
The arm twitched. “What the…”
The arm twitched again. It opened and closed, working perfectly.
He leaned in and hesitated, then whispered, “Agnes? Are you there?”
The hand formed a gesture and gave him the finger.
He chuckled. “You are?”
The hand made the gesture that pulled up the virtual keyboard on the veil. It didn’t work, and after a while it started to tap its fingers on the table.
“Oh, you want me to-” Vasili said and pulled up the keyboard.
The hand, no Agnes basically, started to type. It was impossible for Vasili to keep up with what she was doing, but he couldn’t understand it anyway. He just let her do her thing.
Then a message appeared in his Agora chat window. It was from Agnes. ‘What happened?’
‘Oh, you don’t remember?’
‘Remember what? Did the transfer work? Why am I in a cyberlimb?’
‘Oh. You died.’
‘That sucks. How?’
‘Panos killed you in an argument. They decided it was an accident, but he went to jail.’
‘That’s all? Good?’
‘Are you okay?’
‘I think so. The processing power is limited, and I’m feeling sluggish. Can you upgrade it at some point?’
‘I have no idea how to even begin to do that.’
‘It’s okay, I’ll tell you. Save some cash.’
‘I don’t have any.’
‘We can sell some of my gear, I’ll tell you which ones will fetch a good price. Good thing I stopped you from boxing them all up.’
‘You remember that?’
‘Yes. It’s weird, but yes.’
‘Are you, what did you call it?’
‘An e-person? Effectively. I can’t judge my own intelligence level, but I’m definitely not legal. So, shush. Do not speak of this to anyone.’
“I would never!” Vasili complained out loud.
“Oh, you can hear me?” he said again.
‘Yeah, I hacked your phone’s mic.’
“Of course you did.”
“I’m really happy you’re back,” Vasili sniffled, not being able to keep his feelings inside.
‘Oh, Vasili, you softie,’ Agnes texted and the hand pinched his cheeks.
If he squinted, it felt as if his sister was still there. After a long while Vasili calmed down.
“Hey, there’s been some weird things going on…”
“Everybody said you were in love with me or something. It never crossed my mind, but I’ve been thinking about Georgia, and how you kept butting in whenever I brought her around, and how you never could be friends with any of my girlfriends…”
‘I can’t hear you. Hrsh, screech, the mic isn’t working.’
“For fuck’s sake, Agnes? Is it true? It’s wrong, you know that?”
‘So what? I never actually did anything. I was never going to.’
“Fuck!” Vasili said and left the room, only to realise that Agnes was still attached to him and he couldn’t really escape her. On the one hand, and he laughed out loud for tha pun, he wanted her back. He loved his sister. On the other hand, she was insufferable on her best of days. Now that she was attached to him? Now that she needed him, depended on him completely?
She’d drive him nuts.
‘I can hear you biting your nails, Vasili.’
‘No you’re not. I know you. You’re overthinking things and are ready to blow a gasket. Relax. I can read your heart rate, you know.’
“Fuck, Agnes. Shut up for a while, please.”
There was silence for about three seconds.
‘Can I speak now?’
Vasili groaned and sat on his bed, running his fingers through his hair. “What are we gonna do?”
“It’s okay, big brother,” the voice of his dead sister came from his phone’s speaker.
Vasili yelped, “Ah! Fuck, Agnes, don’t do these things to me!” he said, his heart pounding.
“It’s okay, Vasili. I didn’t plan for this, but it’s alright. This is what I’ve always wanted,” she said, her hand stroking his cheek.