What I did was wrong.
It wasn’t illegal – just wrong. The courts hadn’t caught up with technology yet. They were slow – bogged down by the heavy weight of the money monster politicians call bureaucracy.
We call it inefficient.
But we keep it that way.
“What would I do without you?” My husband smiled at me, the warmth of his affection palpable in the climate controlled breeze of our two person unit. Before he met me my husband wanted children. Block C256 was designated for domestic partnerships with no license for children.
His affection may have been palpable but it wasn’t real.
Well, that depends on how you view reality.
He stepped back from me and released me from the hug.
My husband frowned. He was a handsome man. I knew from the moment I saw him that he was going to be my handsome man.
It was in the waiting area for the surgical floor – we both were having the procedure done. He’d smiled at me and asked if I was excited. I could barely contain myself – I’d saved up for so long to be able to afford the enhancement when it was released to the general public. By the time my name was called he’d asked for my number. I liked that about him. A handsome man who knew how to get what he wanted was exactly what I wanted. It took only two dates for me to decide he was it. It took only two dates for him to decide I wasn’t.
“What is this?” He bent down and picked up a sliver of wood.
I’d missed it. It was the first rule – get rid of all evidence of discord. Well the rule didn’t say discord specifically – but that was the general idea. You can’t change a mind if you leave behind something to hold onto.
“Is this…?” He turned the wood over in his soft hands. His fingers traced the glossy surface and tripped over the jagged edge – proof it was a piece of a whole, a piece of something I thought I’d smashed and thrown away.
The brain is a beautiful thing. Scan it and you can map the traces of human emotion, of human thought. Popular science could trace the physical origin of ideas but not change them. Not by direct means. Not yet.
But the base of human knowledge was much more than just popular science.
They taught me that.
My husband had agreed to meet me for coffee after he broke it off. Just one last meeting. He needed to give me back the shawl I left in his car.
By the end of the meeting he had proposed. I had so much work to do for them and on him that once he belonged to me there was no point in waiting.
The lines of his frowned deepened. His skin retained the slight imprint of age. That would not do at all. I would have to schedule him an appointment. He could not afford to be mistaken for a naturalist.
“A guitar.” He held the sliver out in front of him. “My guitar. What happened to my guitar?”
“What guitar honey?” I moved over to the wall and triggered my work screen. The holographic panels projected into the air in front of me and separated us with the black of my console. I was old fashioned that way. White text on a black screen was more satisfying than the soft pictograms that amateurs used. All I needed was a place to put my code.
The coffee date would have gone differently if my husband hadn’t been so trusting. Why he believed my story about a hardware update I’ll never know. Running the update file I gave him was the best thing that could have happened to him.
But it was wrong.
My husband’s fingers strummed chords on an instrument that remained only in his imagination. He had gotten quite good at it. I’d let him have his hobby because I thought it was harmless – just a frivolous way to relax. Hindsight is optically enhanced.
“My guitar.” He clenched the sliver in his fist. “What did you do with it?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” The forums said memories attached to muscle memory were the hardest to get rid of – it was likely that I would be able to let him listen to music for years. I could never let him near a guitar again. Negative stimulus conditioning would be necessary. It was too bad – I never liked hurting him.
But it couldn’t be helped. I would do anything to keep the man I married – the man I turned him into. He never would have made it through the backstabbing ranks of the Elantic corporation if it wasn’t for me. Head of security for the largest economic giant in the world – that is what I did for him, that is what we did for him.
“I have a performance.” He rubbed his forehead. “I have a chance.”
“No you don’t.” I’d canceled it. His spot was filled by a less talented nobody with a pair of blue tinted tits that changed color and vibrated in time with her music. Let her throw her life away. My husband’s life belonged to me.
My screen blinked and waited with the patience that only technology possesses.
My husband gripped his temple and gasped. The damning sliver of wood fell to the floor. It took me all of two seconds to toss it in the recycler. I would not make the same mistake twice.
That’s why they recruited me. They said my attention to detail was of an obsessive level. When it came to my idea of an ideal man, that was certainly true.
“Why are you trying to access-” He gritted his teeth to endure the pain. It didn’t have to be painful. He wouldn’t even feel it if I took a little extra time. There was no point. He wouldn’t remember it anyway.
“Firmware update.” I continued with my work.
“No. No, this isn’t right.” He stepped back a way from me, horror lancing his face just like it did before. Just like it did every time. He always figured it out. I married a smart man. I loved him for his intelligence. It was so beautiful. “No this is wrong. Stop. Blanche you stop this at once.” He lowered his clenched fists and endured the pain of my assault. A confident, brave, intelligent man. A man who always thought that this time was the first time.
I finished the last line of the code and set it to run through his memory enhancement.
Anyone who was anybody had one now. A normal human brain just couldn’t keep up with modern society without a little extra processing power.
I just was smart enough not to let my guard down to anyone and certainly not run anyone else’s “update”. I didn’t even run corporate approved updates – only the ones we approved and provided. If I could be influenced I couldn’t be trusted. It was a shame.
You couldn’t trust anyone these days.
My husband retched.
I closed the console and waved the projected screens back into nonexistence. I looked around. Did I forget anything else?
I wasn’t the only one. My husband wasn’t the only one. We were the ones who could change the world – we just needed to be the right people. It was easier to make someone the right person than it was to find one.
My husband straightened. His eyes unglazed as they fixed on me.
“I went over your plans for the new facility and have some changes. Are you ready to look at them?” I touched his arm and felt the curve of his muscle. My strong, handsome, intelligent man. My man. Mine.
“What would I do without you?” He pulled me towards him and wrapped me in the arms of palpable affection.
“Your life would be very different.” I pressed my nose into his chest and inhaled the musk of him.
What I did was wrong.
And no one could stop me from doing it again.
He kissed the top of my head.
Not even my intelligent man.
Siobhan Shier spends her time aspiring to be a mars colonist and standing in the background of TV shows. She enjoys putting double sided tape on her cat’s feet, dancing wildly in any situation, and arguing with random strangers on the internet. She suffers from a novel writing addiction for which she is seeking professional help. An affection for feisty heroines is required.