Jennett screamed as the thin bones in her forearm snapped. The servo-suited mugger had grabbed her too hard in his excitement. With his other hand, he snatched her bag, ripping it painfully from her. Jennett screamed again as he suddenly let go of her broken arm. She hit the cold, wet concrete hard. Protectively, she curled her defenseless little body around her crushed limb, and sobbed as the freezing rain rattled around her.
"You're sure this is going to work?" said Jennett to the man standing behind the lab-coated woman that stood smiling down at her.
"For what you're paying for it, it had better, hadn't it?" said the technician.
"Why, Jennett I told you when you first came into the showroom that we only offered the finest in personal security. The police may not be able to help, but we take over where the law fails." said the security center's aloof overly dressed salesperson.
"But, I have to be sure. I was hurt so badly the last time. I've been afraid to go anywhere without someone with me. I almost lost my job after I was attacked."
The shiny-suited, broad-shouldered, and muscled salesperson flashed her a carefree, almost condescending grin, and said, "Not only do I guarantee you total safety from servo-assisted attacks, I guarantee that you will be safe from knife and most gun attacks. Plus, our new nano-armor is so advanced that we can download new programming to ensure that you have the best nano-assisted offense and defense system available."
Jennett still wasn't completely convinced, as she hadn't finished her latest series of post-trauma rehab classes. She whispered timidly, "Look at you. You can say that. The police said they couldn't help and sent me here. I guess it is all I can hope for to help me. The technician, much smaller and slender and quite a bit more sensitive than the salesman, couldn't help but notice the tension in Jennett's body. She flipped a few errant spirals of golden hair streaked with shocking-pink away from her light-green eyes. She set down the programming pad and gently squeezed Jennett's hand. "Let's give it a test. I think you'll really like this. I know I did when I tried mine out. Ever since I was mugged, I've had our nano-armor. I'm still making payments for it, but I haven't been touched since I got it."
Jennett looked up, her violet eyes shiny with almost-tears, and said, "Really? You're not just saying that, are you?"
"Of course not. Come on, I'll have the servo-mechs we use to test new programs attack me first. You'll simply love what happens," said the technician as Jennett followed her out of the stainless-steel fitting room.
Jennett smiled into the mirror and giggled a little at the strange sensation as she watched her face get fuzzy again. The reflection quickly sharpened. "Oh, I like that," she said as her skin tanned, and her facial make-up darkened to match. She didn't hear a word of the salesperson's droning. She was so sold Jennett would have wrestled the salesperson for this new make-up.
"Yes, Flashies Cosmetics new nano-pigmented smart line of full-body cosmetics will be the most wonderful thing you own. Think of it, you will always look marvelous. You'll always look freshly made up. It won't matter where you are or what you are doing. Sleep, swim, exercise, it's all the same. Additionally, with our exclusive Purse-size Compact-shaped programmer with morph-mirror, you'll always know what a new look is going to look like before you put it on. Look, you can even program in multiple different facial, hair and nail, styles and colors that change throughout the day. You won't regret for a second the cost of the super-package options, not ever."
Jennett giggled again. The sales person stopped talking. She smiled at Jennett, and went back to dreaming about her employee stock program. Flashies' stock appreciation was going to let her retire soon. Sometimes she thought it was all too easy. All she had to do to sell it was let the customer touch the sample pad.
Jennett's implant transmitted her credit code to the store's controller. Before she confirmed it, she remembered to ask the person if it was compatible with all her other nano-systems.
"Of course, Flashies have been tested in absolutely all possible situations with all systems," said the salesperson absent-mindedly as she returned the nano-industry's rote response.
"Thank you. I simply love it," said Jennett. She hurried from the store with her personalized, micro-sealed jar of Flashie's nano-cosies. She thought about how nice it was to be able to install them at home. She had hated the lab at the body armor store. Anyway, all the same she loved her nano-stuff.
"That's right, said the deep male synth-voice to Jennett on her net-comm line. Our new Health Watch Care-takers will be arriving at your nano-net shortly. Since we received your credit code, we have activated your universal life policy, and released your personalized Nano-Med-Life-Guards from your area's local nano-systems disbursement center. They include our Total Health and Extend-A-Life clauses at no extra cost to you."
Jennett switched on the synth sender. She watched the Mini-Mites Micro-Messengers' cartoon characters of her birthday greeting dance across her desk top again. She grumbled, "happy one-ten, Lewis knows I'm only one-hundred." Jennett picked up her desk wand, and gave it a couple of quick shakes. The light dusting of sparkles it emitted floated down onto the birthday greeting. Slowly, the revelers disappeared.
"Yes", said Jennett to the Great Collective from her location-primary. From a bit of ice in the fringe of frozen gases that surrounded developed space went her word. To the great masses of old-and-new-bio's, servo-silicones, and net-lives that packed the system-wide Great Collective. In return, waves of happiness flooded into her. It was as if she was at the sun's center, living with the whole of the solar system all around her. Her's was the last vote cast in the Great Decision.
Every consciousness had exactly one vote in what had to be a unanimous decision. Over the centuries that it had taken to get a unanimous decision, Jennett had been quite neutral on the subject of the Great Decision. Often, her neutrality had caused her to be at the center of forum discussions between sub-collectives over philosophies regarding the Great Decision. Respect for her individuality had spread throughout the Great Collective. With respect, her vote honored as the last to be accepted.
As the crash, and clamor, of a billion, billion salutations subsided, Jennett said, "For many centuries we have expanded our domains until the smallest mote the solar system contains has been occupied or converted to our needs. Long have we tried to find a way to expand beyond the confines of the Great Collective's structure that are so closely related to the physical limits of our solar system. Now, that we have all decided as one. We all will grow as one. We shall expand forever outward to experience all the grace and glory that is the universe."
She paused, letting her system-spanning awareness absorb the intensity of emotions that flooded the Great Collective. What would have been tears in the eyes of her old-bio-self, Jennett wished her old-self a mental good-bye. To the Collective, to which her unique independence-of-self had become a focal point, she said, "Come, let us be on our way."
As her words echoed through the great mass of cubic light-seconds of space occupied by the spectrum of the Great Collective the countless nano-bits of the Great Collective began to evolve.
Quantum-based programming, created many years before in anticipation of the Great Decision, activated for the first and final time.
In less time than it took for the vibrations of her words to span the void, the immensity of the Great Collective twisted. Dimensionally the nearly limitless mass expanded. Becoming all encompassing. What was left of the massive outer planets began shrinking, dwindling away to nothingness. All the inner planets, except the Earth-Shrine had long since gone. They had been torn apart to their quantum structure. Infinitesimal parts to create and expand astronomically the Great Collective. To become a solar system filled with a haze of collective consciousness. The last wisps of the massive outer planets disappeared. One lone mass of inter-dimensional vibrations could be discerned almost undetectable in the nearly infinite mass.
The cosmic numbers of the Great Collective's nano-base turned inward one last time. The bright star that had been life to all for all time, dimmed, disappearing into as too lent its mass to Great Collective. Lastly, with a final act of almost religious reverence each quantum bit of the Earth-Shrine became as one with the Great Collective. Its vibrations spread throughout the Great Collective as a remembrance of from whence they came.
Created from the entire mass of the solar system, the great cloud of quantum vibrations containing the Great Collective, turned outward from it's center. It began to expand. Outward to the stars it went. The Great Collective experienced, absorbed, expanded. Yet, at it's center there remained a speck of an ancient individual.
The Great Collective traveled for a trillion, trillion years. Through countless galaxies it had passed. It absorbed. Nearly universal in dimension, a single collective thought took many millions of years.
Slowly, so very slowly, a thought made its way to the outer edges of the universe that had become the Great Collective. The thought that it had experienced enough, absorbed enough, expanded enough. Unmistakably imprinted on the thought was the mark of an individual.
What the universe had become paused. It viewed its own emptiness. The Universe consumed by the Great Collective made its Great Decision.
Toward 'The Thought' rushed all the myriad quantum entanglement of the Great Collective/Universe. Many more billions of years passed as the Great Collective continued its journey home. Thoughts came quicker as it rushed. Joy raced through the collective consciousness. Mere joy gave way to ecstasy. The Great Collective/Universe found itself crowding into what would have been, long ago, the outer limits of its original galaxy. The limits of the first galaxy absorbed by the Great Collective's desire for new experience. Thoughts became almost instantaneous as the near infinity of quantum vibrations crushed together. Inward continued the crush suddenly as tiny as a nearly forgotten star.
At the center of it all, Jennett's existence smiled, and radiated one final thought as the weight of the compacting universe crushed her into another beginning: "Let there be life"