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The Mindbenders

by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

"Don't think of it as a creepy aliens-take-over-humans thing." Rubin waved his arm at the rows of huge fetuses, each swollen-headed thing immersed in cloudy fluid and bottled and racked like wine.

Sara shuddered. "What else could it be? It's an organic computer, but these are real people. They have feelings, they're not just vat-grown tissue."

Rubin shook his head. "It's not like that. They're grown from skin cells. They have brains, but they don't have minds. Look at them. Those huge heads are stuffed with matrices of simple circuits. They cannot think independently; they don't have the complex neuronal interconnections of natural brains."

She forced herself to look closely at one. Its scrunched little face reminded her of a goblin, or of her mother, shortly before she died, when the Betelgeusian DNA was all through her body and her head was trying to reshape itself into something that surely could never really live. So, yeah, she was thinking creepy aliens. She shivered, and she was terribly afraid that one of the fetuses would open its eyes and stare at her accusingly.

She whirled to face Rubin. "Why did you bring me here?" Her jaw worked. Maybe he was in league with them, possessed by them. She darted for the exit. She took the stairs two at a time, expecting a particle beam in the back all the way, but just as she reached the top the door opened. Something stood there on a pillar of black pulsating tentacles, something with huge compound eyes in which she was reflected hundreds and hundreds of times. She screamed as it reached for her hand. She turned to run again, tripping, falling, landing headfirst.


She came to, her cheek painfully pressed into the metal grid flooring. The virus she had smuggled inside her lungs had done its work. Rubin lay beside her, unmoving. As far as she could see, hypercranial fetuses were thrashing their arms and writhing. Alarms were sounding and she heard running feet. The occupant of the nearest jug opened its eyes and looked right at her.

"The invaders," she said, "how do we defeat them?"

"Two plus two," it said, "equals four." It smiled seraphically.

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