Continued from Part One:
It was two days later at breakfast that I told Trevor about my plans to become augmented and he would meet it with mixed emotions. At first he expressed concern and fear to my decision, he didn’t want to see a friend of his being cut open to have something unnecessary to living inserted into him. Though I understood his concern, it was almost common fifteen years ago to hear the horror stories of augmentation gone wrong. The media focused more on the failed procedures and transplant rejection to what these implants could actually do to better lives. But he eventually accepted the reality of the situation and offered to give me a ride home after the surgery. I don’t think there was anything he could do to talk me out of it.
It was a day later that I had met Rebecca for lunch at one of the nearby Ethiopian restaurants. Her choice of restaurants was far from what I preferred, but I would tolerate it for her irresistible allure. As I sat at one of the balcony seats, I waited for her to come, unsure of what she thought of augmentation. After a while, I see her enter through the restaurant’s glass doors. She was dressed in a brown leather jacket and white shirt which complimented her black jeans that conformed to the hourglass shape of her body. It was surprising to see what was almost the complete opposite from what I saw at Loghain. I stood from my seat and approached her to greet her.
“Ford, how are you?” She asked me as she gave me a quick hug. Her embrace was peculiar, it felt more rigid than a normal human.
“I am doing fine, thank you for asking Rebecca. Please sit.” I said, gesturing to the seats behind me. She followed me to the black wire chairs. The table lit up with several options for different food items and drinks to choose from as soon as we sat down. We quickly selected the drinks that we wanted and the table chirped in confirmation.
“Do you come here often?” I asked her, curious about her preferences.
“This is actually my first time here. Though I have to say that the view is amazing.” She answered before looking over the railing beside us. We were several stories above the ground as automatic advertisements floated past us, obscuring our view of the towering buildings that surrounded us. It was rare to find any building that was smaller than two stories in this day and age. As the population continued to grow, building became taller and there was less open space, even alleyways became a rarity as buildings become pressed against each other.
“I have to say, your outfit is quite different from what I saw at Loghain the other day.” I commented.
“It’s just something different. Besides, I wanted to wear this outfit for sometime.” From the back of the restaurant, an automaton rolled across the red and black carpet holding our drinks. It raised the metal tray upwards and gently placed the glasses onto the table. “Thank you.” Rebecca told the little machine, getting a quick lived chirp in response before it rolled away. I admit that it was cute the way that she spoke to the robotic server. She took a sip of her drink, the green liquid touching her petite pink lips before she continued to speak. “Speaking of Loghain Technologies, have you come to a decision on whether or not you are going to get an augmentation?”
“I have. I am going to get the Prometheus model. I still need to wait for the background search to be finished. The psychological examination is on Monday.” I told her before I took a sip of my beer.
“Ah, the Prometheus model. Right now, it is currently the number four top ranked augmentation out there right now.” Rebecca said.
“What’s the most popular augmentation out there?” I asked, curious to know what was the most popular augmentation people were getting. If the augmentation I purchased worked well, I would have considered getting another. She let out a coy smile and gestured for me to lean in. I did as she asked and moved in close to listen what she had to say.
“Artificial testosterone emulators.” She whispered into my ear, her hot breath hitting the side of my face.
“Artificial testosterone emulators are the most popular augmentations?”
“Yeah, you know how in the early 2000’s people were obsessed with erectile dysfunction pills? Well, there are people who want synthetic testosterone for either body building or sex and are more than willing to have the augmentation implanted. It is also because it is one of the cheapest augmentations out there on the market.” She explained quietly.
“I see.” I said as we leaned back into our chairs. I was interested to know if she had any augmentations. From what I could tell, she still looked un-augmented.
“So, do you have any augmentations?” I asked her as I took another sip of my drink. She chuckled at my query and shook her head.
“To say that I am augmented would be an understatement.” She commented.
“What do you mean?” I asked her, wanting to know how augmented she was. She pulled the collar of her white shirt down, revealing the top of her small breasts. She ran her finger along the right breast and I soon hear a small whirring sound as a panel opened revealing a series of electronics.
“I am a synthetic. A walking, talking artificial intelligence.” She told me. I was surprised to see that there was a synthetic human sitting in front of me. Along with augmentations, artificial intelligence was considered controversial and synthetics were treated like second class citizens. There were several companies that refused to hire artificial intelligence enabled machines, production of synthetics was kept to a minimum as manufacturers were victims of protest. After a while of my piecing look at her circuitry, she giggled before she closed her panel. “Alright, that’s enough of that.”
“I am surprised that you would be quick to show me that you were a synthetic. From what I heard, most synthetics try to hide that fact.” I commented.
“I don’t really care that people know that I am a synthetic. So I am not a real human, should it affect the course of humanity? No, it shouldn’t. Any ‘robophobe’ who has a problem with it can as humans often say, ‘kiss my ass’.” She told me in a defiant yet joking manner. I found her humor funny, it was surprising to see an artificial intelligence with a sense of humor. I had only met two other synthetics before in my life and both of them were apathetic and lifeless.
“I have been curious about this for a while, is it true that synthetics have intelligence inhibitors installed in them?” I inquired.
“You are one of the few people who actually asked me that question. My manufacturer Cerius, places intelligence inhibitors in all of their models to restrict our intelligence to 325 on the Wechsler scale. It is both beneficial and disadvantageous as well.” Rebecca answered as she took another sip of her drink.
“I see.” I said quietly.
“So, are you nervous about the operation when you get approved for it?” She asked, leaning back into her chair to relax.
“Truthfully, I am. I still don’t know what the operation pertains to. Do they just implant the wetware into your head or is there more too it?” I asked her.
“The surgery takes an estimated five hours to perform, where the doctors will first stop your brain’s activity and will implant the wetware along the parietal and temporal lobe as well as the wernicke’s area. After implanting the wetware, the surgeons on hand will install the external port which is mounted along the base of your head. As soon as the flesh has been mended, the surgeons will install the operating software and restart your brain. You will need a day to rest after the procedure to recuperate.” As she explained this to me, something she said stopped my train of thought.
‘Wait. ‘Stop your brain activity’? You are saying they essentially will shut my body down for five hours? I will be a corpse for five hours?” I probed.
“It is necessary to ensure that there isn’t damage to your brain during the procedure. Consider it a temporary stasis. But let’s leave the talk of the surgery for when you are preparing for it. Let’s get something to eat.” She said casually, almost unnaturally. If she wasn’t a synthetic, I would have assumed that she was just another human. It’s almost funny how manufacturers were capable of creating what could almost be considered human life. We resumed the rest of the date with no faults, enjoying each other’s company for the next two hours.
It was the next day that I found myself in the small office of Doctor Mikhail Blinov, a portly man whose most distinctive feature was the overwhelming stench of cologne that he poured on himself. I didn’t know how he could have such admiration for that smell, it was the cheap and mass produced chemicals that had some celebrity’s name slapped on it and marketed as being ‘capable of attracting any woman’. Over the course of two hours, I sat there and answered a series of generic questions that could have easily been taken from a daytime talk-show; Did I have violent thoughts? Did I suffer from childhood abuse or bullying? When it was finished, he told me in his raspy voice that I had passed the psychological examination and would be expected for a follow up after the procedure. I would afterwards receive the email from Loghain that I passed their mandated background check and the procedure was scheduled for a week later.
The day of the surgery came by too quickly. I found myself riding in the passenger side seat of Trevor’s truck. It still had that pertinent smell that lingered with Trevor, but in comparison to the apartment, it was hardly noticeable after a while. During the entire trip to the hospital, he was silent, his mind occupied on what was about to happen. When we finally arrived, Trevor broke his silence as he parked his truck in the adjacent lot.
“Wait Ford. I want to tell you man…If something goes wrong during this surgery and they scramble your brain or kill you, I want you to know that I appreciate all the good times that we have had over the years. Hopefully you will come out of this safely.” I felt touched by his sentiments. Despite the contrasts in living habits, he had always been a good friend and roommate.
“Thanks Trevor. It means a lot.” I said, patting him on the shoulder.
It wasn’t before long that I signed the liability waiver and found myself stripped down, sitting upwards in a cold steel chair. The bright lights were difficult to adjust to as I listened to the pulsating machines around me, performing an industrial macabre that only a doctor would be comforted by. A tall nurse dressed in surgical scrubs approached me with a clear plastic mask that was attached to a large canister nearby. She placed it over my mouth and with each second that went by, I began to lose consciousness. The very last words that I heard before blacking out were “Let’s begin, shall we?“