Scanned and Scammed
I didn't really want to get scanned. Nobody likes a snitch, and that was what my iDent was. The implants had become so much more than just simple identification chips. Now, as well as a record of any illnesses and medications, there was a seven day history of sleep and eating patterns, with indicators such as blood sugar, blood pressure, and heart rate. I'd promised everyone, including the President, that I'd take it easy this election. But of course I hadn't, as the race was too close for that. And now a routine check up might ruin it all.
I flinched as the doctor touched my neck with the reader. “Sorry, you startled me. So, what does it say? I've really been trying to keep things calm lately.”
The doctor turned to his computer screen. “Hmm. That's not what this says. Even worse than the scan we did at the start of the campaign. Way more late nights, high blood pressure, blood sugar up and down like a yo-yo.”
I put on my best 'concerned' face. “Damn. I know I can do better. The President has been on my case almost every day to get things under control. As has my campaign team. We'll be done in two weeks – can you delay your report? It would mean a lot to me.”
He shook his head. “Sorry, it has to go online today.”
“Is there any way I can convince you otherwise?”
The doctor paused. “Well, I'm part of the development team for the Mark IV version of the iDent. I might be able to reprogram yours to modify the readings. Especially if you could tweak some of the regulations once you're elected. All that oversight really slows down the project. And our profits.”
I smiled and leaned back into the chair. “I promise, no problem. Now, let's get it done.”
My results ended up showing a few high readings, for realism, but were well within limits. I kept going with a variety of uppers and downers, through all the interviews and rallies and debates. I even managed to keep my temper under control when the media were around, at least most of the time. Victory was close.
Until my wife confronted me.
“I didn't want to go through another campaign,” she said, “but you promised to take it easy this time. And not one of your political promises, either. Christ, you looked me right in the eye and swore you meant it. And now? The kids and I rarely see you, and when we do, you're irritable and only talk about this stupid election.”
“But the doctor...”
“Don't give me that crap,” she said. “I know how you always 'fix' things. I don't believe that report you brought home. I see for myself how stressed you are; I know you're killing yourself. And I have no intention of staying around to watch it happen. Change or we're gone. You won't be able to parade us around anymore as your perfect little family.”
I tried to change her mind but got nowhere. When I talked to my team about finishing the election without her and the kids they were horrified. We were the campaign's symbol for traditional family values, with the adoring and supportive wife and two perfect teenagers. Without her we were doomed.
In desperation I returned to my doctor. “Can we do another scan? And pretend someone else did it? I need to convince her that I'm fine.”
He shook his head. “I've met your wife. I don't think another report will convince her.” He tapped the back of his own neck. “But maybe this will.”
“What, the iDent? It just records stuff.”
“Not the Mark IV,” he said. “We've been working on stimulating the sensor filaments to extend their reach farther into the neural system, to improve the quality of the readings.”
“But she still won't believe the data,” I said, “no matter how advanced my iDent is.”
“Not yours,” he said. “Hers. We've discovered a side effect in our lab animals. We can actually modify behaviour in them, through the pain and pleasure centers.” He held up a small device. “Just get this close to her neck. Her iDent will be upgraded within seconds. Then start talking to her about her concerns, about the campaign, about your family – whatever. Use these two buttons to reinforce with a bit of pleasure, or pain.”
“Pain? I don't want to hurt her!”
He shook his head. “No, not really pain, don't worry. More of an uncomfortable feeling, that's all. We do need a test of this in a human – so why not your wife?”
“And you're sure it won't hurt?”
“Not the test,” he said. “Although after, we of course would need her in here to do some tests of our own. Some minor surgery likely, to see the degree of integration. Not risk free, but science never is, right?”
My wife used to be very supportive of me, so I was convinced this latest rebellion was just a glitch. I was sure that in a few days she would calm down and discuss the pros and cons with me and return to her senses. Unfortunately I didn't have a few days, so would have to take the risk.
That night I made an effort to get home early. I brought pizza for the kids and chinese food for us, along with a bottle of wine.
“Truce?” I said.
My wife sniffed. “I'm still pissed off.”
“Can we at least have supper together then talk?”
She nodded. “Okay, but not too late. You need to get some rest.”
I managed to postpone our discussion until we got into bed. I slipped the device under her pillow while she was in the bathroom and prepared my case.
I was surprised at how well it went. I started off with my usual arguments, and she countered with her usual complaints. All the while I kept tapping the appropriate button to give some positive or some negative feedback. By the end of our talk she was bringing out all sorts of issues and concerns, things I had no idea that were bothering her. I must admit I dredged up a lot of my own worries, too, some that I'd never shared with her. The device did its job beautifully. We ended up with a renewed promise from me to carry on, with some adjustments on both sides. We finished off, at almost 2 am, outside in the hot tub with more wine, hugs, tears, and the best sex we'd had in months. Hopefully the kids didn't hear us. Or the neighbours.
The next day, on my way back into the doctor's office I thought about his talk of tests, of invasive surgery, of risks for the sake of science. I couldn't do this. I'd say I didn't have a chance to use it, and we'd just talked things out. He could find another guinea pig.
To my surprise, he seemed upset as I walked in. “I'm so sorry,” he said. “We gave you a device without the new programming, a dud. I have another one ready for you, right here.”
I smiled. “No, we seem to be good anyway. I must be more persuasive than I thought, as we managed to resolve things. We're together again, plus I'm back on track to win.”
“Well, good for you,” he said. “Too bad we didn't get the test done, though. But how about the new relaxed regulations- are we still on track for those?”
I raised my hand. “Scout's honour. I promise.”