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Authors: John Scalzi

Lock In

BOOK: Lock In
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To Joe Hill,

I told you I was going to do this.

And to Daniel Mainz,

my very dear friend.



Title Page

Copyright Notice


Haden’s Syndrome

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25


Other Tor Books by John Scalzi

About the Author




Haden’s syndrome
is the name given to a set of continuing physical and mental conditions and disabilities initially brought on by
“the Great Flu,”
-like global
that resulted in the deaths of more than 400 million people worldwide, either through the initial flu-like symptoms, the secondary stage of meningitis-like cerebral and spinal inflammation, or through complications arising due to the third stage of the disease, which typically caused complete paralysis of the voluntary nervous system, resulting in
“lock in”
for its victims. Haden’s syndrome is named for
Margaret Haden,
the former
first lady of the United States of America,
who became the syndrome’s most visible victim.

The physical origin of the Great Flu is unknown, but it was first diagnosed in
London, England,
with additional diagnoses occurring in
New York, Toronto, Amsterdam, Tokyo,
almost immediately thereafter. A long incubation period before visible symptoms allowed for wide dispersal of the virus before its detection. As a result, more than 2.75 billion people worldwide were infected during the disease’s initial wave.

The disease’s progression exhibited differently in each individual depending on several factors, including personal
health, age, genetic
and relative environmental
. The first flu-like stage was the most prevalent and serious, causing more than 75 percent of the overall deaths associated with Haden’s. However, a similar percentage of the affected presented only the first stage of the syndrome. A second stage of the syndrome, which affected the rest, superficially resembled viral meningitis and additionally caused deep and persistent changes in the brain structure of some of its victims. While affecting fewer people, the second stage of Haden’s featured a higher mortality rate per capita.

Most who survived the second stage of Haden’s suffered no long-term physical or mental disabilities, but a significant number—more than 1 percent of those initially infected by the Great Flu—suffered from lock in. An additional .25 percent experienced damage to their mental capabilities due to changes in their brain structure but no degradation of physical ability. An even smaller number—not more than 100,000 people worldwide—experienced no physical or mental declines despite significant changes in their brain structure. Some of those in this latter category would go on to become

In the United States 4.35 million of the nation’s citizens and residents experienced lock in due to the Great Flu, with other developed nations having a similar percentage of citizens locked in. This prompted the United States and its allies to fund the $3 trillion
Haden Research Initiative Act,
“moon shot”
program designed to rapidly increase understanding of brain function and speed to market programs and prostheses that would allow those afflicted with Haden’s to participate in society. As a result of the HRIA, innovations such as the first
embedded neural nets,
Personal Transports,
and the Haden-only online space known as
“the Agora”
came into being within twenty-four months of the act being signed by
President Benjamin Haden

Although the HRIA led to significant new understanding of
brain development
and prompted the development of several new industries catering to Haden’s-affected individuals, over time many people complained that Haden’s-related research was overprioritized and that the intense focus on Haden’s sufferers, known as “Hadens,” had created a government-subsidized class that despite their “locked-in” status nevertheless had several competitive advantages over the population at large. This led to United States senators
David Abrams
Vanda Kettering
sponsoring a bill to cut subsidies and programs for Hadens, tied to a significant tax cut.
The Abrams-Kettering Bill
was initially defeated but was presented again with changes, and passed both houses of Congress by bare majorities.

Despite significant research into the virus that causes Haden’s syndrome, and the development of social hygiene programs to minimize its spread, there is still no reliable vaccine for the disease. Up to 20 million people are infected worldwide each year, and in the United States, between 15,000 and 45,000 people suffer from lock in annually. While a vaccine eludes researchers, some progress has been made in after-infection treatment, including promising new therapies for “rewiring” the voluntary nervous system. These therapies are currently in animal trials.

—“Haden’s Syndrome” article on


Chapter One

on the job coincided with the first day of the Haden Walkout, and I’m not going to lie, that was some awkward timing. A feed of me walking into the FBI building got a fair amount of play on the Haden news sites and forums. This was not a thing I needed on my first day.

Two things kept all of the Agora from falling down on my head in outrage. The first was that not every Haden was down with the walkout to begin with. The first day participation was spotty at best. The Agora was split into two very noisy warring camps between the walkout supporters and the Hadens who thought it was a pointless maneuver given that Abrams-Kettering had already been signed into law.

The second was that technically speaking the FBI is law enforcement, which qualified it as an essential service. So the number of Hadens calling me a scab was probably lower than it could have been.

Aside from the Agora outrage, my first day was a lot of time in HR, filling out paperwork, getting my benefits and retirement plan explained to me in mind-numbing detail. Then I was assigned my weapon, software upgrades, and badge. Then I went home early because my new partner had to testify in a court case and wasn’t going to be around for the rest of the day, and they didn’t have anything else for me to do. I went home and didn’t go into the Agora. I watched movies instead. Call me a coward if you like.

My second day on the job started with more blood than I would have expected.

I spotted my new partner as I walked up to the Watergate Hotel. She was standing a bit away from the lobby entrance, sucking on an electronic cigarette. As I got closer the chip in her badge started spilling her details into my field of vision. It was the Bureau’s way of letting its agents know who was who on the scene. My partner didn’t have her glasses on so she wouldn’t have had the same waterfall of detail on me scroll past her as I walked up. But then again, it was a pretty good chance she didn’t need it. She spotted me just fine in any event.

“Agent Shane,” said my new partner, to me. She held out her hand.

“Agent Vann,” I said, taking the hand.

And then I waited to see what the next thing out of her mouth would be. It’s always an interesting test to see what people do when they meet me, both because of who I am and because I’m Haden. One or the other usually gets commented on.

Vann didn’t say anything else. She withdrew her hand and continued sucking on her stick of nicotine.

Well, all right then. It was up to me to get the conversation started.

So I glanced over to the car that we were standing next to. Its roof had been crushed by a love seat.

“This ours?” I asked, nodding to the car, and the love seat.

“Tangentially,” she said. “You recording?”

“I can if you want me to,” I said. “Some people prefer me not to.”

“I want you to,” Vann said. “You’re on the job. You should be recording.”

“You got it,” I said, and started recording. I started walking around the car, getting the thing from every angle. The safety glass in the car windows had shattered and a few nuggets had crumbled off. The car had diplomatic plates. I glanced over and about ten yards away a man was on his phone, yelling at someone in what appeared to be Armenian. I was tempted to translate the yelling.

Vann watched me as I did it, still not saying anything.

When I was done I looked up and saw a hole in the side of the hotel, seven floors up. “That where the love seat came from?” I asked.

“That’s probably a good guess,” Vann said. She took the cigarette out of her mouth and slid it into her suit jacket.

“We going up there?”

“I was waiting on you,” Vann said.

“Sorry,” I said, and looked up again. “Metro police there already?”

Vann nodded. “Picked up the call from their network. Their alleged perp is an Integrator, which puts it into our territory.”

“Have you told that to the police yet?” I asked.

“I was waiting on you,” Vann repeated.

“Sorry,” I said again. Vann motioned with her head, toward the lobby.

We went inside and took the elevator to the seventh floor, from which the love seat had been flung. Vann pinned her FBI badge to her lapel. I slotted mine into my chest display.

The elevator doors opened up and a uniformed cop was there. She held up her hand to stop us from getting off. We both pointed to our badges. She grimaced and let us pass, whispering into her handset as she did so. We aimed for the room that had cops all around the door.

We got about halfway to it when a woman poked her head out of the room, looked around, spied us, and stomped over. I glanced at Vann, who had a smirk on her face.

“Detective Trinh,” Vann said, as the woman came up.

“No,” Trinh said. “No way. This has nothing to do with you, Les.”

“It’s nice to see you, too,” Vann said. “And wrong. Your perp is an Integrator. You know what that means.”

“‘All suspected crimes involving Personal Transports or Integrators are assumed to have an interstate component,’” I said, quoting the Bureau handbook.

Trinh looked over at me, sourly, then made a show of ignoring me to speak to Vann. I tucked away that bit of personal interaction for later. “
don’t know my perp’s an Integrator,” she said, to Vann.

“I do,” Vann said. “When your officer on scene called it in, he ID’d the perp. It’s Nicholas Bell. Bell’s an Integrator. He’s in our database. He pinged the moment your guy ran him.” I turned my head to look at Vann at the mention of the name, but she kept looking at Trinh.

BOOK: Lock In
9.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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