Publish Novellas 11 July 2021
EPISODE 1 – DIGITAL DEBATE
In the year 2067, IoT, smart homes, and autonomous vehicles are the norm. What happens when microchip implants control healthcare, and everything else?
On a cool weekday morning, a computer programmer is slumbering in a very comfortable bed with the curtains drawn close… until a friendly female voice interrupts his sleep:
Wake up, Dennis! It is 6:45, Friday morning!
He stirs himself with his blinking sleep-laden eyes. As he rolls to the side of the bed and steadies his feet on the floor, a soft light beneath the bed frame illuminates the floor so he can see his slippers. The curtains progressively slide apart and flood the room with daylight.
Fighting the same fatigue for weeks now, he yawns several times. Entering the bathroom, he stands over the toilet as the lid automatically opens to reveal a hygienic water system. During his trickle, the bowl lights up, offering an audible reading of the urine protein count. Exiting the bathroom and adjoining bedroom, the lights turn off and one of the two layers of Tyvek curtains come back together, providing dim ambient light.
In the kitchen, the smart coffeemaker has a steaming cup ready. While sipping his coffee, the fridge beeps. On its digital display is a list of grocery items that need replacing. He clicks the confirmation button to have them delivered when he returns from work.
Dennis, it is time for you to exercise.
In his gym, old school-music from the 2020s fills the room with Rihanna’s voice. He doesn’t mind that friends mock his enjoyment of songs that were popular nearly fifty years earlier. The music pumps him up during his full workout. Still on schedule for work, he hesitates to answer an incoming phone call, but when he sees who it his, he relents.
“Hey Abby…” he says while catching his breath.
“How are you doing?” Her voice cheers him up as it fills his room speakers, replacing the background music. They have been friends for so long that she feels like family to him.
While grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge, Dennis replies, “I’m okay… Just finished my workout to shake off a little fatigue.”
“Oh yeah? I feel wiped out, myself,” she says. “I don’t even know if I want to go to work... or if I’ll be able to come to your party tonight.”
The momentary cheer Dennis felt from hearing her voice subsides. “That bad huh?”
“Yeah… I’m listless,” she says with an exhalation.
“Okay, try and make it to the party tonight and we will visit a doctor together if you want,” he recommends.
“Okay then, see ya later,” she says with a veil of cheerfulness.
Dennis slings a short towel around his neck. As he walks towards his bedroom door, it swings open for him. Dropping his pajamas and towel into a basket causes it to wheel them away to the laundry queue.
As Dennis walks again into the bathroom, he asks, “What’s in the news?” A voice from the walls answers:
Advances in the embeddable smart chip are improving the world and different types of diseases are becoming extinct.
The world health firm has admonished people with unnamed diseases to check themselves into the nearest treatment center or hospital.
The human genetics center has declared that fetal genetic engineering and screening will become mandatory for all reproducing humans beginning in 2069.
Now, the news in full…
Not one to voice his opinions, Dennis shakes his head in disapproval. With privacy shields over his computer and phone camera lenses, his friends think he is paranoid. But the headlines are disconcerting. Gone are the days of human spies. From his work at the government, he knows that every piece of technology records his behavior and communication.
After a hot shower, he dresses quickly, even though he is far from late. Outside, of his apartment building, a waiting autonomous car door slides open for him to step inside.
Good morning, Dennis. You will arrive on time for work this morning.
His favorite music plays as the vehicle navigates light Friday-morning traffic.
A subdermal implant grants access to the office building and powers up his desktop computer in a small cubicle. As he begins working, there’s a light tap on the partition behind him that goes unnoticed.
A calm but ominous tone makes Dennis wonder whether it is human or robot. “Hey, Dennis...”
“Speech settings: Change voice from female to male…” Dennis tells his computer.
“Dennis, it’s me, your boss!” she says.
“Oh! Good morning, Katy,” a startled Dennis shouts back.
She feigns a quick smile in acknowledgment before continuing. “The ministry of health just identified some more diseases for you to enter into the database as soon as possible. I have copied you a link to the researchers’ notes. We can’t have people with these conditions contaminating the healthy population.”
He looks up into her expressionless face and asks, “Can we wait to see if cures emerge for such ailments before flagging people for erasure?”
With disdain for his blasphemous remark, she replies, “Do you know how quickly humans reproduce?”
Unable to hide his frustration, he tersely answers, “No.”
Before exiting, Katy ends the conversation with some stern words. “The time is very short compared to necessary research to find a cure. We can’t allow diseased people to procreate and pass on their sickness. Our job is to prolong blissful life and prevent outbreaks like the one occurring from 2019–2022.”
Dennis thinks to himself, ‘So begins another monotonous day of propaganda and data entry for incurable diseases.’ The silver lining is the party at his house after work.
Groceries arrive just in time. Dennis picks some fresh herbs and vegetables from the rooftop greenhouse garden to make hors d’oeuvres with the help of more automation.
At the get-together that night, Dennis looks forward to seeing Abigail. As guests pile in, he sends a text to inquire if she’s coming just as he catches sight of her from a distance.
“Have you guys seen the new MR 6.0? headsets?” Randy, his old college friend, asks.
“No... I hear it’s quite popular though, I hope to check it out soon,” Ruby, one of his neighbors in the fifty-floor apartment building says.
“Well... you can stop hoping and let me show you.” Sliding them from a box, Dennis passes a pair of mixed reality headsets around the room while talking about the news headlines. “I heard that genetic testing on fetuses will become compulsory for reproducing humans in two years.”
Miranda, a rather quiet lawyer from the 12th floor, replies, “I heard that too... I mean, I’m wondering if I should just have a baby now to beat the process.”
Dennis somberly argues, “But that won’t beat the system. If borne with an incurable disease, you would just be setting your child up for possible erasure in the future.”
“Whoa... easy tiger. It’s just banter here,” Randy says.
Dennis laughs again. “Yeah... until someone you know drops dead.”
“He’s right you know...” Ronald interjects. “I know someone who was recently erased. I couldn’t believe it. The government tried to make it seem like she had a heart attack in her bed but you know... we all know she was erased because of her condition.”
Feeling indirectly responsible, as one who uploads diseases that lead to human erasure, Dennis doesn’t reply. Instead, he takes the mixed reality headset from Randy and slides it over his head. “Whoa... this is wild! You can travel anywhere in the world.”
“Let me try it,” Abigail says, as she grabs the headset. “I’m walking through a forest!”
Nick, a childhood friend coming late from his shift at the hospital laughs and begins mouthing beep and dash sounds of Morse code while making robot gestures with his arms:
-.-- --- ..- .-. / - .. -- . / .. ... / ..- .--.
“Your time is up?” Dennis interprets while shaking his head, “That’s just cruel...” continuing the argument about the recent tech developments.
Referencing a popular movie from the 1970s, Randy says, “It wouldn’t surprise me if the government starts making little green crackers out us.”
“Okay, that’s poor taste for a dinner party,” objects Miranda.
“Perhaps, but I’m still hungry. I sentence myself to a few more hors d’oeuvres,” Randy amuses while heading to the buffet table.
Nick marvels at the embedded microchips that alert civilized people to visit their doctors. They also unlock doors, pay for transportation, and integrate with smart homes. “I can’t imagine life requiring us to shop for, install, and configure our own appliances. When is the last time you saw a keychain with mechanical keys or electronic fobs? Modern life is fantastic.”
The partygoers debate technology well into the night. One after the other bids farewell to their host, leaving Abigail and Dennis alone in the house. While immersed in the MR headsets, the self-cleaning robot begins vacuuming up dirt and steaming all the dirty surfaces.
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