There’s a knock at the door and then, “Hey, Jake,”

Jacob continues to read.

“Dr. Coooburn?”

Jacob sighs and looks up.

Dr. Reid Richards enters the room, sliding his hands into the pockets of his lab coat. “Do I really have to call you doctor to get your attention?”

“No, Doctor, Jacob will suffice.”

“All right fine, be that way. I’m just in a good mood is all.” He waits for the question but Coburn doesn’t look up. “Come with me to the lab—I need to show you something.”

“What’s that?”

“I don’t wanna spoil it. Trust me. You’re one of the few people on the planet who could appreciate this.”

“Flattery will get you everywhere. “All right then.”

Jacob gets up from his desk, a ridiculously pristine affair when compared to any other desk at the Center, most of which are piles of academic papers, patient files, notepads, pens, conference schwag, anatomically correct models of brains and eyes and ears, computer print outs, and drug pamphlets. Dr. Jacob Coburn has nothing on his desk with the exception of the paper he is currently reading (squared up with the desk and with the finished pages facing down opposite the unread) and the patient file for his afternoon surgery. Richards often wonders to himself how Coburn finds the time, but then remembers that he’s married and Coburn’s not. Coburn arrives at the hospital by five and leaves when he wants to go to bed. The pair of brain men walk down the hallway past offices and labs. “Long story short, some very intelligent nanostructure engineers over at MIT managed to create a long-chain protein that can act as an RFID chip.”


“So I realized that there was some potential there in that we might be able to attach a structure like that to a dormant prion—or cage it anyway.”

They arrive at Richards’ lab and he opens the door with his security ID. Inside are white counter tops piled up with metal boxes all whirring and beeping and oscillating. The space is more lit by the glow of computer monitors than the few desk lamps placed around the room, giving the lab a constantly shifting feeling. All along another wall are cabinets of rat cages with dozens of white rats in them. Jacob nods to Carl, Richards’ big, jolly postdoc assistant. Jacob disliked Carl for always being so jovial. It struck him as idiotic. Carl smiles back and Richards leads Jacob over to one particular rat cage covered in transmitters of some kind. “We can add one more component to the RFID prion that will allow it to attach to a synapse and once there, the RFID portion of the molecule will be able to reverberate a radio frequency signal using part of the charge coming down the dendrite.” Richards points to a computer monitor where a stream of massive numbers are scrolling by at illegible speeds. “Those are synaptic ID numbers.”

Jacob stares at the numbers. There were probably 5 trillion neurons in a rat’s brain. Each neuron might have up to 7,000 synapses where the neurons touch each other through a thick web of connections of axons and dendrites. That meant that even a rat had up 10,000 trillion—10 quadrillion—synapses. Was this even possible? He’d never known Richards to pull his leg. “Of the rat?” he asked skeptically.


Jacob just continues to stare at the numbers racing across the screen, occasionally looking at the rat who was surreptitiously sniffing through some wood chips.

“Carl knows a pretty heavy duty programmer over at Columbia who’s going to help us feed this data into a matrix, and from there we should be able to simulate a real-time visualization of the rat’s brain.”

“Jesus Christ,” Jacob whispers.


Jacob keeps looking at the numbers flying by, the rat!—the rat’s mind—digitized! There were rifts forming in reality around him, a chrysalis breaking open around his own mind as a completely new world began form around him.

He looks up at Reid, who is pleased with himself, “Jesus Christ, Reid.”


“Why the hell didn’t you tell me about this sooner?”

“Well, we weren’t even sure if the prions would attach properly or that once there we’d still be able to triangulate individual RFID signals. We just weren’t sure if it was going to work.”

“Well, it looks like its working!”


Carl laughs.

He looked from Reid to Carl and back to the numbers. Synapses. Individual synapses! “This changes everything.”

Carl, “Well, Doc, do you want to see how it all works?”

“Yes. Yes I do.”