PW #127: Adult Science Fiction: ERGO SUM


Mentors: Dan Koboldt and Michael Mammay
Mentee: Elise Bungo
Category/Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Word Count: 99,000


Ethan Ogden, a robotics prodigy suffering from PTSD, returns to Africa to work for a company with dubious motives. After an experimental nanotechnology treatment saves his life, he begins to question his own thoughts—and whether he’s still human—as he races to stop a civil war.


Sound always disappears first. I know the flight attendant’s said something, but by now I can’t even see her.

All I can see is the first child who tried to kill me. The girl’s drugged out of her mind as her weapon levels on my chest. I hold up my hands to show I’m unarmed. I beg in a frantic mix of pidgin French and Swahili, but she doesn’t hear. Her voice is shrill with panicked bravery, its pattern echoing the percussion of the AK-47s.

“Please,” I whisper, but the sound sticks in my fear-swollen throat.

She staggers, and her weapon sags. Blood blossoms from her chest, dousing the faded rainbow printed across her T-shirt in a final monochromatic red.

The flight attendant wrests away the empty glass. A dull ring floods my ears, and the silver sparks of memory drift away. It’s hard to breathe, but I refuse to gulp air like a lunatic. 

“We’re landing soon,” she says. Her accent is pleasant but clipped—German, not South African. She points at the seat, and I raise it dutifully, as if the three-inch recline could make a damn bit of difference to our landing.

I wonder what I looked like to that child in those last seconds before Christian blew a hole through her heart—a man, a boy, or some sort of cocaine and gunpowder chimera…

I swore I’d never go back. But that was then, before I’d exhausted every option.


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