The Six Billion Dollar Colon

Published on April 23, 2009 by

In honor of International Pixel-Stained Techno-Peasant Day, I am posting one of my rarest published stories: “The Six Billion Dollar Colon.”  I wrote this story especially for Jay Lake: Intelligently Redesigned, a “Get Well” anthology put together by Jeff Richárd last year after Jay was diagnosed with colon cancer.  Since the anthology was published in a very limited edition, only a few people have had a chance to read it before now.  (I read it aloud at Dragon*Con last year, where it got a favorable reception.)

The Six Billion Dollar Colon

by Eric James Stone

When Jay Lake awoke after his colon surgery, he did not expect to see two men he didn’t know, one in military uniform and the other wearing a lab coat. "Who are you guys?" he said, his voice barely a whisper.

"We’re the men who just saved your life," said the military man.

"When your surgeon went in," said the man in the lab coat, "he found the damage to your colon was too extensive. It had to be replaced entirely. But there were no compatible colons available from donors."

"Fortunately for you, he knew about the secret government lab in the sub-basement of the hospital." The military man’s voice showed an obvious disdain for the lack of security. "You were rushed down here, and we installed a bionic colon."

Still disoriented from the anesthesia, Jay wasn’t sure he had heard that right. "A bionic colon?"

"That’s right," said the man in the lab coat, "You’re lucky you have good private health insurance, which picked up most of the six billion dollar tab."

"If this country had socialized medicine," said the military man, "then you’d still be on a waiting list. And the medical technology that made your bionic colon possible would never have been developed."

Jay snorted. "Is Eric James Stone writing your dialogue?"

"Never heard of him," said the military man. "He must not be a famous writer like you. In any case, you will need to provide a cover story to the public regarding the costs of your medical care. Perhaps something in the neighborhood of $75,000-$80,000, with only $1400 out of pocket for you."

"Did you really say the bionic colon cost six billion dollars?" Jay asked.


"You used to be able to get a bionic eye, one arm, and two legs for only six million," said Jay. "What’s this thing made out of, gasoline?"

Obviously misunderstanding Jay’s ironic question, the medical man said, "Actually, it’s powered by a fusion reactor." He picked up a diagram and pointed to various items as he spoke. "The reactor heats up the water in this boiler, creating steam pressure that then winds these gears that move the partially digested food through the colon."

Jay couldn’t help grinning. "You gave me a fusion-powered steampunk clockwork colon? It doesn’t turn into a zeppelin by any chance?"

"This is real science," said the military man, "not science fiction. But we did throw in some quantum nanotechnology, because we needed the right buzzwords to get funding from D.C."

"So, will I need to fill up on hydrogen to fuel the fusion reactor?" Jay asked.

"No," said the medical man. "By subjecting carbohydrates to extreme pressure, we force the hydrogen in them to fuse, thus powering the colon."

"Meanwhile the carbon subjected to such pressure is crystallized into convenient, bullet-shaped pellets," said the military man, "which are stored in your colon until such time as you eject them through the anal cavity."

At last Jay could see why the military was involved in the bionic colon project. "You’re saying I can shoot diamond bullets out of my butt."

The military man nodded. "You’ll be able to pass through security screenings without anyone knowing you have a weapon. You would make the perfect assassin." He looked around the room, then added, "If, that is, the United States used assassins, which of course we don’t because that’s prohibited under Executive Order 12333. But you’ll make the perfect counter-assassin. And we have an important mission for you."

"Thanks for saving my life," said Jay, "but I’m not sure that I want to do any missions for you."

"Don’t worry," said the military man, "this mission should fit in with your political beliefs, which we know about because thanks to the Patriot Act, we’ve been able to monitor your reading habits."

"Plus we read your LiveJournal," said the medical man.

"You’ll have to go into training for a few days," said the military man, "but we’ll cover that up by replacing you with an actor, pretending to be in pain and medicated, so that no one notices the switch. And, of course, blogging will be light."

When they told him what the mission was, Jay reluctantly agreed. "But if I’m going to do this for you, you’ll need to get me a very special Hawaiian shirt."


When the masked female assassin burst into the Obama rally and started firing her gun, Jay was ready. Shooting precisely aimed diamond bullets out of his butt, Jay destroyed the assassin’s bullets.

("Like hitting a bullet with a bullet," the military man had explained, "was how difficult opponents of the missile defense system said it would be to shoot down a missile. Once we had a working missile defense, of course, we realized it would be simple to refit the technology to actually shoot down bullets. All of this is thanks to President Ronald Reagan’s determination and vision. And I really don’t understand why you keep claiming that it sounds like this Eric James Stone person wrote my dialogue. I always talk like this.")

While people scattered in panic, Obama stood his ground. "Violence isn’t the answer. I’m sure we can come to a reasonable agreement if we just sit down and talk about things."

The assassin pulled out a knife. "You won’t stop me from getting the nom . . . I mean, you won’t stop Hillary from getting the nomination."

Jay knew he could shoot down the assassin, but he was loath to resort to killing, even to save Obama’s life. Fortunately, he had planned for just such an occasion.

As he ran toward Obama, he pulled off his specially made Hawaiian shirt. It automatically sealed itself into an airtight sac. Releasing the stored exhaust from his fusion generator, Jay farted helium into his shirt, inflating it to hundreds of times its original size.

As the Hawaiian-decorated zeppelin began to haul him into the sky, Jay grabbed Obama’s arm and yanked him out of the reach of the assassin. Then they flew up and away, leaving the screaming assassin behind.

"How can I repay you for saving my life?" asked Obama.

"Universal health care for Americans would be a good start," said Jay, hoping Eric James Stone would let him get in the last word. "A single-payer system, which many people wrongly confuse with a single provider system, would provide much better coverage for Americans, who would no longer have to worry about losing health care when they lose their jobs."

"I’ll do my best," said Obama.

"Also," said Jay, "get a colonoscopy."

Filed under: General

3 comments on “The Six Billion Dollar Colon”

  1. Jay Lake says:

    I love you, man.

  2. C. Skipper says:

    What an awesome get-well story! Thanks for posting this; I actually snorted, twice.

  3. JKS says:

    Thanks for posting that. Loved it.