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For the right price I would speed through digital domains to steal, manipulate, erase, or implant whatever was desired. In the world of flesh I supped on the finest foods, drank finest booze, and had my way with those whose beauty caught my eye; I was empowered and powerful. I had everything I wanted.
But things do not last. Hardware changes, software evolves. My talent had made up for my skills but soon my skills were dragging at my talent. I upgraded. Faster hardware to run circles around the software. I spent more time in the virtual world, and suffered for it. My body atrophied, my beauty wasting away with my flesh.
I carved even more away, adding further enhancements. Implants in my brain to speed my own mind, implants in my spine to regulate my body while my mind was absent, or speed the connection between my mind and my hands. New hands, new arms; better to input code, to interface with machines.
One day I was slouching to the chop shop and I caught my reflection in the window of, of all things, a beauty parlor. Superimposed over young and voluptuous women having tucks and nips and boosts and injections was the reflection of a gaunt cyborg, a hunched thing with wires where hair should be and limbs of skeletal steel and dull plastics. I stopped, and I stared at that phantom image, seeing myself for the first time in what felt like ages.
And I thought, as I stared through my reflection at those within the parlor, Once ...