cw: surgery, needles, mental manipulation, (mild) dysphoria
[this is of course entirely fictional; I haven't even tried to see if my insurance will pay for bottom surgery]
the insurance company wasn't willing to pay for my GRS, insisting that my dysphoria wasn't enough to need it, but they were willing to pay for a General Dynamics E322 Field-Programmable Cognitive Adjuster and pay me $1,000 to try out some experimental brain software
I guess they thought it would be cheaper than actually treating my dysphoria and depression, and I guess I was desperate and broke enough to take them up on it
the next month was a blur of flying out to California and consultations with a bewildering array of doctors and a team of computer science PhD students, who were apparently hard at work writing the software that would "cure" my bottom dysphoria
the day before the surgery, they showed me the hardware they would put in my brain, the 20-pin circular Amphenol connector that was going to be riveted to my skull, and the battery and inductive coil going behind my left shoulderblade
a nurse handed me a bottle of pills, telling me that I'd need them when the anesthetic wore off
I woke up from what I was later told was a relatively uneventful surgery with an IV drip in my arm, the worst headache I'd ever felt, and a weird sense of detachment from my body
I took a pill and tried to get back to sleep
as I tossed and turned, I felt a lump on the side of my head, which turned out to be the powder-coated connector cap
the next time I woke up, I reached around my head and felt the connector
its knurled cap unscrewed smoothly
with the cover off, I felt strangely exposed
I ran my fingers around the threads and somehow knew exactly where each of the 20 pins were and their acronyms, which had clearly been thought up by electrical engineers and had no meaning to me
by the end of the month, the pain had subsided and the E322 was a strange metallic shape lurking in the back of my thoughts
I'd taken advantage of the haphazard way they'd cut back my hair to open up my skull and install the connector to shave the entire right side of my head
they loaded a build of their software (Project D, they called it) exactly 2 months after the surgery, aligning the pins and screwing the chunky circular connector onto my head
the lead researcher hit enter on a computer, and I felt a staticky tingling between my legs
during my trip home, the tingling turned into pain as part of my body seemed to fade in and out of existence
by the time I got home, the conflict between what the software was tricking my brain into thinking and what was actually there had gotten too great
I gave in and took a friend of mine up on something she'd offered me when I first mentioned I was getting an implant
an hour later, I was sitting on her basement workbench surrounded by test equipment
she probed at the pins of the connector on the side of my head with a multimeter, checking it against a diagram labeled with a variety of incomprehensible acronyms
"okay, that's 75 ohms on there; same as mine" she said as she typed cryptic commands into her computer
"is that good?"
"it's Nominal" she replied, the capital letter apparent in her voice
she handed me a piece of beef jerky and told me to bite down on it
"why?" I asked
"my software isn't as refined as their official toolkit and you're definitely not used to it yet"
with the jerky in position, she plugged the cable into my head, sending a jolt of pain through my entire body
looking at her computer, she inhaled sharply, the way you might if your brother takes a turn too quickly in the car
"that doesn't sound good. what's wrong with me?"
"they locked it with their cryptographic key, and we're going to have to get around that"
she hit enter and I felt lightheaded for a moment, but it quickly subsided
she put up the hood of her dark hoodie and said "I'm in"
"are you installing Arch on my brain?", I asked after a minute of furious typing
"no. would you like me to?" she asked with a smile
"I think I'm good without it"
"I'm just turning off this project d shit and loading up a bunch of utilities that I put on mine"
when she was done, the E322 felt much more comfortable in my head
it was no longer a strange metallic shape belonging to the insurance company; it now felt more akin to my beloved sticker-covered thinkpad or the gentle squeeze of a good pair of leggings
the next day over burgers, she showed me the uses of some of the utilities she installed inside my head
she unscrewed the cover on her brain connector, shorted out two pins with a bobby pin, winced a bit, picked up a french fry, and squeezed it between our hands
I felt a tingling and felt the bits going between us, faster and faster as her implant negotiated with mine to find a suitable data rate
the sensation of connecting my brain to hers as we held hands was indescribable and strange, yet alluring
"why the french fry?" I asked her, without speaking a word aloud
"there needs to be something salty to get electrical conductance, and this works a lot better than just skin" she replied, filling my head with knowledge of conductance and ions
I loosened my hold on her hand and the squished french fry, and she seemed to drift further away as the bits slow down
afterwards, we went back to her basement, and inevitably, the topic turned to our implants
"there isn't much that's publicly known about it, but the brain implants were originally developed to give Air Force pilots better control over their planes"
"is that why it feels weirdly formal and has a chunky 20pin connector?"
"yeah, the military does love both of those"
"I thought I saw something in your eyes when I mentioned piloting, and I have an idea"
"it'll be a surprise" she said, smiling, plugging a thin cable hanging from a reel on the ceiling into the side of her head, and closing her eyes
on a bright morning the next weekend, I found myself being handed the keys to a Nissan GT-R with under 30k miles on the clock
she'd called in some favors and borrowed it from a mysterious friend of hers
she buckled a beige computer tower into the passenger seat, made sure I was comfortable, and began stringing cables around me and plugging them into the computer and the car
when she'd finished preparing the car, she plugged the thick cable into the side of my head
we almost never used the full cable, not usually needing its absurdly high data rate
I'd gotten used to the jolt from the cable, but what I felt at the other end was unlike anything I'd ever felt before
I blinked a couple of times and could feel the relays for the headlights clicking
with just a thought, I was off down the track
the entire car felt like an extension of my body, with a 6-cylinder twin-turbocharged heart pounding under the hood
shifting gears as I accelerated felt as natural as breathing and gas and oil pumped through my veins
my wheels skidded around a corner that I took far too quickly, and I've never felt more alive
when she unplugged me after an exciting day at the track, I felt the sinking feeling of dysphoria and longing for what I was in the car: fast, hot, powerful, and in control
I received an email from the programmers of Project D the next week asking me to come back out to California for them to take a look at the results of their software
to not arouse suspicion, we needed to lock my brain back to the way it was
she did this by creating a simulacrum of my mind and an unmodified E322 inside my implant, which consumed almost all of its processing power
during the trip out there, everything around me seemed to move more quickly and my thoughts more slowly than I was used to
it was a short appointment in which they connected up to my brain and concluded that their code made things worse
afterwards, I walked out into the northern california sunshine, took a seat on a strangely hostile park bench, and took a paperclip from my pocket
I'd taken to carrying them with me wherever I went, if only because they're less suspicious than tiny pieces of wire
I carefully bent it into a U and unscrewed the cover, which I had clipped a carabiner to to clip to my belt
I took my phone from my pocket and scrolled back through the text messages she'd sent me until I found a certain animated gif
when they notice the port on the side of my head barely concealed under my sideshave, people often ask why I carry a smartphone
they don't understand that my implant has no radios and would probably overwhelm my brain if it was connected to the internet
while staring into the gif playing on my phone, I jabbed the bent paperclip into the socket on my head
my eyes immediately rolled back in my head and I started to breathe very quickly
then everything returned to normal and my thoughts were my own again
she'd told me that the gif was some sort of memetic debug agent, and not to worry about it because it requires shorting those pins
this did nothing to assuage my nightmares about the word "memetics" from reading SCPwiki late at night, but I didn't tell her that
that night, I was alone in a dingy hotel room and my thoughts turned to her
I'd liked her before, but we've grown closer since she jailbroke my brain implant
am I actually sure I'd had a bit of a crush on her before?
am I sure that she didn't tamper with my mind to make me fall for her?
no, she's not the type who'd do that - but what if she did and is just playing 3D chess with my brain?
ever since she loaded her software into my mind, my doubts about whether I'm actually a girl have melted away
I know that I used to doubt it, but I can't seem to remember why
the next time I was with her, she seemed nervous
"what's wrong?" I asked
she paused for a moment and then said "I'm sorry."
"for fucking up your brain"
"you didn't and anyway, you're probably the one person I trust to fuck with my mind"
"when I jailbroke your E322, I also acidentally copied over a program I wrote to help a bit with my dysphoria"
"is *that* why I've felt so much hotter lately?"
"well, it's either that, or you finally decided to look at yourself in the mirror"
we both laughed and she leaned in for a kiss
a moment later, inspiration struck
my connector cover was already off, so I shorted the pins with a random bit of wire off her workbench and threw my arms around her
the bits flowed between us faster and faster as I kissed her and we felt our love for each other more strongly than can be expressed in words
we're gay, we're together, and we're in love
we've taken General Dynamics' export-controlled military brain hardware and made it into something beyond what they could ever have imagined it could be