How did it come to this? I sit alone by myself in this large apartment as the pulsating cables inserted in the back of my head continue to transmit information to people I have never met nor have the desire to meet. It has been days since I have eaten or drank anything, my throat is coarse and wanting but I have no desire to leave my current position. What once started as a desire to improve myself soon became an obsession that has rid me of the last of my humanity.
It started one day as I was leaving work, I was walking down the sidewalk, lost in my thoughts about how I was going to finish the web design project for work. As the sky became darker, the electronic billboards became the city’s means of illumination. As I reached the corner of the intersection I usually took, I glanced upwards to see one of the largest advertisements that covered one of the largest of towering buildings; Loghain Technologies. Once a small tech startup that was toying around with glass NFC tags and bio-magnets, it soon started to venture into more radical forms of bio-engineering with neural implants and cybernetics. Despite the opposition of politicians and religious groups, the organization became one of the largest in the world. With each passing day, more and more people have become augmented to the extent that it was difficult to tell who was still human and who wasn’t.
Normally, I never gave it much mind, it was just another advertisement that covered the digital billboards, but one thing caught my eye. In a seductive voice, the sales woman was advertising Loghain’s newest line of neural implants. She described how they are designed for the everyday person, perfectly safe and were now affordable for any budget. In the past, I was scared of the idea of going under the knife to have something implanted under my skin and from what I have heard about the costs, it seemed like something only celebrities and the wealthy could afford. The more I thought about it, the more it interested me.
When I got back to the apartment, I was soon caught a glance of my roommate Trevor. He was a larger man that was a year younger than me who worked for the metropolitan sewer maintenance. He had an permeate odor from his work that stayed with him despite his best efforts to remove, but over time I had gotten use to the repugnant smell and found some form of comfort from it. It was a reminder that even with how much I complain about my work, it couldn’t be as bad as his. He leaned over the back of the worn black couch and greeted me.
“Hey Ford. Come grab a seat man, the game is about to start.” He beckoned as he turned back to the projection television. I took him up on his offer and sat down next to him on the cracked leather cushion. Trevor glanced over and saw my tired expression that was strewn on my face. “You doing alright man?”
“Yeah…yeah, I’m fine. Work was just torturous today. I have to finish a colossal project for Indigo Pharmaceuticals so they can have a more ‘fluid’ website and they want us to use a new variant of HTML9 to design it with. I have almost no damn clue on how to do this.” I told him as I rubbed my eyes with my long bony fingers.
“You will get through it Ford. You usually do. At least you didn’t have to deal with a valve intake problem in Little New Delhi today. I though that fucker would not stop pumping out sewage. I don’t care if I sound like a racist for saying this, but Indian food looks exactly the same going out as it does in.” Trevor rebutted as he pushed himself off of the couch and proceeded to the kitchen.
“I plan on eating later tonight. Please don’t talk about shit.” I asked him.
“Sorry man. I’m grabbing a beer, do you want one?”
“Yeah, I’ll take one.” I answered him as I started to watch the game before me. It was a game of Cross-Fire, a visualization of two teams armed to the teeth with assault rifles and pistols that were retrofitted to fire electrical darts that let of thirty thousand volts. Hardly anyone dies, but this game has been known to leave some players critically injured and with a permanent slur. It was sad and almost funny how some coked up Hollywood executive decided to turn the horrors and tribulations of war and make it into a television show to appease the seemingly endless masses. As I watched the game, Trevor returned with a beer in each hand.
“Here, drown your sorrows.” He told me as he handed me the ice cold beverage. I quickly popped the top, tossing away the cap before I began to drank the strong beverage. Trevor took his seat and resumed to watch the game. “Nothing like a beer and some Cross-Fire to get your mind off of the shitty reality that is life.”
“Hey Trevor, I have to ask. What have you heard about Loghain Technology and their implants?” That question struck a chord in Trevor’s mind, almost as if I told him that I was considered a sex change surgery.
“Whoa whoa, hold up there. You don’t want to get one of those ‘neural implants’. That shit…” He paused himself mid-sentence to take a quick swig of his beer. “…That shit will fuck with your head. Make you question what is real and what is not.” Trevor tried to warn me. I looked at him with an expression of disbelief. He never was one of those country bumpkins who presumed that the government could control someone through augmentations, but he always had concerns when it came to physical effects on the human body.
“And I suppose it is worse than you indulging yourself for hours with VR seminars.” I rebutted. There were some nights that I found him on the couch with VR sensors attached to his head, giving into the desire of virtual sex. I didn’t have anything against it, but it provided one or two awkward moments where I caught him with his pants down. He sighed after hearing my response, but he knew he could not control me.
“Look man, I know that I ain’t your daddy and I can’t make you do anything, but promise me that you will think twice before putting one of those augments in your head.” He pleaded to me. I sighed before I gave him an answer.
“Alright Trevor, I will give it some thought before I decide to get an implant.” I answered him before taking another sip of my beer. He let out a sigh or relief as a smile grew on his round face.
“Thanks Ford…Oh, shit! Did you just see Lamont go down? Right in the temple!” Trevor quickly changed topics as he became focused on Cross-Fire. I guess I couldn’t blame him, the show could be addicting at its better moments. We spent the rest of the night watching the game and talking about our lives as we usually do.
A few days had passed and at the back of my mind was the constant presence of the different scenarios. What if I received the implants? How will my day to day life change? What would be the side effects? All of that and more filled my mind to the point of almost insanity. It eventually came to the point that I found myself sitting in the waiting room of Loghain Technologies.
Along with several other people, I found myself sitting in red velvet chairs waiting to be called on by the bewitching secretary in the center of the room. As I waited, I glanced around the expansive white lobby and basked in its design. Several holographic images of the available augmentations for sale were displayed for everyone to see and pursue. Several of the floors above me could be see from the ground and it was surprising to see a majority of the staff augmented with minor alterations to entire limbs replaced. It was a curious thing to see people who were willing to remove their limbs to replace them with artificial ones. If they were in special forces or construction, that would be one thing, the additional strength would be needed. But no, these were office workers and doctors who opted for the unneeded surgeries and procedures. Maybe it was tactful product placement or multiple cases of infertility complexes, but I still don’t see why someone would be quick to do so. After a while, I heard the secretary beckon for me.
“Ford Alan Tremonte. Would you kindly come over here please?”
As I approached her, I could see that she was more beautiful up close than afar. Her silken black hair drooped down on her narrow face as she looked down at the panel. Her fingers gracefully tapped the projected keys as she resumed her work. She was a full figured woman, it could have been said that she exercised regularly.
“You will be meeting with Dr. Arora in room 343-C on the third floor. Hopefully she will give you the information that you seek.” She told me as she gestured to one of the levels above us.
“Hopefully it will answer a few questions I have about augmentation.” I replied. She quickly picked up on my concern and was fast to inquire.
“Can I guess that this is your first augmentation?”
“Yeah, yeah it is.” I answered.
“Well, you don’t have to worry. More and more people are becoming augmented each day without it affecting their day to day lives.” She told me in a caring voice.
“Alright, well thank you Ms…” I said, partially curious to know what her name was.
“Jacobi. Rebecca Jacobi.” She extended her hand outward and I shook her dainty hand as a means of appreciation. I soon left the circular desk and made my way to the transparent elevator that was along the far wall. Huddled together with two other people, I quietly listened into their conversation as we rode upwards.
“Did you hear what happened to Georgi?” The female behind me asked her male counterpart.
“No, what happened?”
“He was walking home from the supermarket the other night and he was attacked by a group claiming to be part of an anti-transhumanism group. After beating him to the ground, they ripped out his ocular implant and smashed it on the concrete.” The woman answered.
“Shit…” The man exclaimed. The elevator paused for a moment to let people from the second floor on, but this didn’t stop the two’s conversation. “…Do you know if Georgi is going to be ok?”
“His body is going to recover, but having the ocular implant ripped out caused severe neural damage to his Occipital lobe. He is going to need treatment for the next year.” With each word of their conversation that I heard, the more I began to become concerned with what I was considering. There were inklings of stories about younger people attacking augmented people for either religious reasons or to steal the augments for resale. But it was something that was commonly tossed aside with the notion ‘it would never happen to me’.
The elevator finally reached my floor, allowing me to leave the confined space and proceed to the office. Standing before 343-C, I was nervous to enter the room, concerned with what I would be told. I was also fearful after listening to the conversation of the two office workers in the elevator. After a minute, I gathered my bearings and entered the office. Sitting before me at what I could presume was a mahogany desk was a man that was well into his fifties. His eyes were replaced with ocular implants that darted from program to program on his projection screen. He soon turned his attention to me as I walked into the office.
“Oh hello there, you must be Mr. Tremonte. I am Dr. Felix Arora. Please make yourself comfortable.” He told me as he prepared himself a cup of tea from the nearby stand. His long bony hands fidgeted with the dispenser as he got his beverage. “Would you like something to drink Mr. Tremonte?” He turned to me to ask.
“No thank you, I’m good.” I refused the beverage. I didn’t think that a cup of tea would keep me calm. I glanced around the small office and took in the modern decor that covered the walls, the snow white carpet under my feet, and the assorted documents and degrees that he had on display. He wagged his finger as he returned to his large faux leather seat.
“You are nervous. You heard all of the stories about augmentation and you want to know if it is safe to have one of the procedures.” He told me as he took a sip of the steaming cup of tea.
“Am I that easy to read?” I asked him, surprised that he would be able to easily pick up on it.
“Most people who ask for consultations before the procedures are ‘first-timers’ and need re-assurance that there is no harm that could come from this procedure. Besides, these Cassandra implants allow me to pick up of changes in people’s heart rates and emotional tones. These implants restored my eyesight after Macular degeneration have destroyed them.” Dr. Arora told me as he gestured to his eyes. He sat the cup down on a nearby wooden coaster and began to type on the projection screen to his right. In seconds, several different augmentations appeared before me. “Now, what kind of augmentation were you considering to have implanted?”
“I was curious to know more about the neural implants that you had recently released.” I answered as I pointed to one of the holographic augmentations.
“Ah, the Prometheus model. It is the newest piece of implantable wetware that can store and process up to twenty-five exabytes with easier information retrieval than the previous models. It has the capabilities of improving your working memory, both short and long term, response time and learning ability. It is updated automatically through a wireless connection with little interference during your day to day tasks.” The doctor began to explain to me. The hologram of the implant became larger to show the specifications of the device.
“That seems impressive, but I have to ask how much does it cost?” I inquired. From what I have heard before, augments could cost anywhere from a few grand to a down payment on a house. While being a hired web designer paid well, I didn’t think that I could have been able to afford the procedure.
“Actually, it has recently become more affordable for the everyday person to purchase neural augmentations. The central government has announced recently that rebates are available for certain augmentations provided that the person passes certain qualifications.” Dr. Arora answered.
“Simple things; wage comparisons, a background check, a psychological examination, and so on. It’s our government’s way to reduce the class differential and to promote not only equality, but progress.”
“I see.” I commented.
“You don’t need to worry, it is a relatively quick procedure to ensure that the augments would not be used for criminal purposes.” The doctor commented as if it was as easy as buying a gallon of milk.
“I have to ask about the side effects from the augmentation. What would be the worst things to happen if I went through with this?” I inquired. The doctor sighed before he answered me.
“There are nominal side effects that would be experienced after the procedure that would diminish over the course of about three weeks. It can range from moderate to severe migraines, nausea, balancing issues, possible distorted vision, and hypersensitivity. In the worst case scenario, there can be a division between the left and the right hemisphere of your brain. There is also the risks such as cellular degeneration, the development of psychological disorders such as bipolar disorder, transplant rejection, Musculoskeletal disorders that can leave you crippled and possibly death.” He listed all of the things that would and possibly could go wrong after receiving the implants. I swallowed in response to hearing all of this with anxiety and fear.
“All of that then?” I asked as I tried to process the information.
“Mr. Tremonte, as scary as it sounds, the chances of the worst case scenarios occurring are very limited. There are over 109.5 million people with these implants who have not experienced any of the worst that these implants can do. They have been tested to be safe and we offer frequent check ups to ensure that they are working properly and you are healthy.” Despite what he told me about the implants, it still made me nervous to consider that I could be left crippled or worst from receiving these implants.
“I think…I think I need a little more time before I make a final decision on whether or not to receive a neural augmentation.” I told the doctor as he took another sip of his tea. After hearing my decision, he nodded his head in response.
“I understand Dr. Tremonte. Many first-timers need some time before they consider using one of our augmentations.” He reached into his desk and pulled out a paper business card, a rare sight in this day and age where information is digitally managed. “If you want to go through with the procedure, give me a call with either of the numbers.”
“I didn’t realize that there were still people who used paper business cards in 2084.” I told him as I examined the card.
“Finding a printer is hard, but I enjoy the older things from time to time. Besides, nothing says professionalism like a business card.”
“I see. Well, thank you Dr. Arora for the information.” I told him as I stood from my seat. Our hands reached out and shook each other’s as we bid our farewell.
“Goodbye Mr. Tremonte. Hopefully you will come to a decision soon.” The doctor said as I left the small office. After a quiet ride down the elevator, I was making my way to the exit before I was stopped by a familiar voice.
“Ford. Wait up.” I turned around and saw Rebecca walking up behind of me, her black heels clicked against the white marble floor with each step she took.
“Ms. Jacobi, what is going on?” I asked her as she brushed part of her hair out of her face.
“I wanted to know if you would like to grab lunch sometime.” she offered. I was taken back by her gesture, she seemed like the kind of woman who would have men flocking to her just by her body alone.
“Sure, that sounds great. What is your number?” I inquired, ecstatic that she would want to have lunch with me.
“My number is 997-8265-66412.” As she recited her number, I tapped the projections that appeared along my forearm to enter her number. As I finished, the projection disappeared as fast as it emerged.
“Got it. I will give you a call and hopefully we can plan anything out.” I told her with some confidence in my voice.
“Sure, that sounds great. I hope to hear from you soon.” Rebecca told me as she departed to return to her work. She waggled her long fingers playfully as she gestured goodbye.
It was an hour later that I returned to the apartment and was surprised that Trevor was not there. Looking around, I noticed that he had written something on the neon display board he mounted onto the wall. Went to the Seraph’s Bar with a work friend. Be back later tonight. It was common for Trevor to go to the bar with his work friends, though it proved to be annoying at times when he returned later in the night.
I walked over to the couch, dropping my satchel at my feet as I fell into the cushion. I sighed as I pulled out Dr. Arora’s card and looked it over once more. A repetitive pattern etched into the background with embellished writing overlapping it, it was a mildly amusing sight. My mind was heavy with the possible aftereffects of receiving the surgery. While the benefits of the augmentation sounded amazing, the possibility of what could go wrong was fresh in my mind. What would be the purpose of being more intelligent if I had to spend the rest of my days as a cripple? I hardly slept that night, tossing and turning in my bed as my mind ran rampant.
It was a few days later that I came to my decision. I pulled out the business card and dialed one of the numbers listed before raising my hand up to make the call. After a few moments, I heard Dr. Arora’s voice.
“Hello, this is Dr. Arora speaking. May I ask who this is?”
“Hello Dr. Arora, it’s Ford Tremonte…I want to purchase the Prometheus and have it implanted.” As I said this, the doctor let out a lighthearted chuckle.
“It’s good to see that you were able to make the decision. Let’s schedule an appointment to begin preparations.”
To be Continued in Part Two.