Scifi

Sickless Future

Male fitness workout
Publish Novellas 11 July 2021

EPISODE 1 – HEALTHCARE DEBATE

In the year 2067, IoT, smart homes, and auto­nomous vehicles are the norm. What happens when microchip implants overtake healthcare, and virtually everything else?

This science fiction story features protagonists, with major health issues, who confront global technology corruption in a world where citizens don’t actually own private possessions.

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Digital Life

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On a cool weekday morning, a computer programmer is slumbering in a very comfortable bed with the curtains drawn closed… until a friendly virtual 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 path 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 visit, 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 refrigerator 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 to arrive at work on time, he hesitates to answer an incoming phone call, but when he hears the name announcement, he relents.

Incoming call from Abigail.

“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 retrieving 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 somberly reacts. “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 replies 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.

Sickless Future mystery

As Dennis walks again into the bathroom, he asks, “What’s in the news?” A virtual voice from the walls answers:

HEADLINES…

  • 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, some 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 the light Friday morning traffic.

Hard Work

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.

Realization of her human form startles Dennis as he shouts back, “Oh! Good morning, Katy.”

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 what she considers 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 the 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 to 2025.”

Dennis thinks to himself, ‘Here goes another monotonous day of propaganda and data entry for incurable diseases.’ The silver lining is the party at his house after work.

Dinner Party

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 message to inquire if she’s coming just as he catches sight of her from a distance.

“Have you guys seen the new MR 10.0? headsets?” Randy, his old college friend, asks.

“No... I hear it’s quite popular though, I hope to get my subscription upgrade 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 her point, “But that won’t beat the system. If your child is born with an incurable disease, you would just be setting him 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 actually right...” 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.... 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 requests, as she dons 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 of us.”

“Okay, that’s in 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 appliances. When was 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 soiled surfaces.

Continue

Return twice weekly for miniseries. Any relation to actual persons or events is coincidental. Login provides the most immersive experience. About 8500 total words.

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