I apologize for the length of this one. When I originally wrote it, the story was twice as long as the limit allows so I actually had to cut some things and, no, I didn’t save any of it. I’d have published the entire thing, but even I think 2400 words is too many. Anyway, this story takes a science fiction peek into the future. I hope you like it.
Several new planets were discovered in the year 2500 following the development of the FTL drive and artificial gravity. Only about five percent of those planets were discovered to be habitable. Of that five percent, about half already had intelligent life. Most of the rest became colonies. It was in one of these new colonies that Dr. Henri Gasalphot developed what he called “the invisible spectrum scanner.” Gasalphot’s first version was small enough to be worn as a pair of glasses. The scientific community went wild for them and the name “Gasalphot” quickly became a household word.
However, like most inventors, Dr. Gasalphot wasn’t satisfied with the first design of his scanner. He believed that they could be made to do much of the work that so many people used more bulky electronics for. Just as an example, things like cellular telephones and remote wands could easily be replaced, he said. With the design he had in mind, Dr. Gasalphot claimed, he might even be able to cure blindness. What Gasalphot came up with was a version of his scanner that could be implanted straight over the eye, like contact lenses, complete with a computer link-up to the brain to provide both power and direction. So that, if a gasalphot operator wanted to work the device, he or she had only to think about what needed to be done and the gasalphot would do it.
At first, there were demonstrations of Dr. Gasalphot’s lab. Later, as the scanner became more popular and more organizations began to require their employees to have a gasalphot implant, there were problems with piracy. Finally, a year before his death, Dr. Gasalphot, now insanely wealthy, decided to sell the plans to other companies with the stipulation that, apart from engineering new software, they wouldn’t be altered any further. Gasalphot died in his sleep and his death was mourned galaxy-wide. His name lived on, though. Regardless of which company produced it, people continued to refer to his scanner as the “gasalphot.”
Sandra McKay didn’t get her own gasalphot until she graduated high school. The main reason was the fact that, when Sandra was six, complications with her three-year-old younger sister’s childhood diabetes had caused her to lose her sight. The operation had cost the little family a lot of money. By the time Sandra was eighteen, the cost of the procedure had come way down, though it was still costly. The little implant had been a particular boon to her in college. Shortly afterward, Sandra was hired by Galactic Survey. The company had made good use of her, and she’d moved up quickly in the ranks until she had the command of her own survey crew.
Of course, there were a number things about the gasalphot that tended to get in the way of Sandra’s personal life. Every gasalphot wearer had a small light shining in the right temple to let the operator know that the device was operating properly. When non-operators saw this they tended to have one or both of two different reactions. Either they’d be polite and she’d be lucky to ever hear from them or they’d deluge her with questions or opinions about the device she wore. This was one reason why Sandra was grateful for Max.
Max was Sandra’s best friend and one of the few non-operators hired by Galactic Survey. He’d worked for GS for six months before she was even hired. He was a gasalphot technician, which meant, first of all, that he usually worked at GS Headquarters. Second of all, however, since he wasn’t a member of her crew, Sandra didn’t have to worry about her superiors becoming concerned about her relationship with him. What’s more, if she got a call that sent her back to work, Max could usually walk her there, so she’d have a little extra time with him.
Today was much like any other day. Sandra showed up at Max’s lab early that morning for her monthly diagnostic. As usual, Max was sitting at a table calibrating one of his tools. Grinning, Sandra crept nearer, then quickly put her hands over his eyes.
“Guess who,” she said in her deepest possible voice.
“Uh, Cinderella?” he guessed, grinning, “King Kong! Tinkerbell! Oh, wait! I know! It’s Dana Canby, the movie star!” He turned, pulling her hands from his eyes. “Darn it!” he smiled. “Wrong again.”
“Hey, Max” she said, hugging him.
“Ready for your diagnostic?” Max asked, smiling.
“I’m more ready than Jake Prescott,” she replied. Jacob Prescott was the multimillionaire that had made history by being the first ever gasalphot operator. Dr. Gasalphot had asked for volunteers and Jacob Prescott had stepped forward without even having to be asked. That’s how ready the man was.
“Okay,” said Max, picking up a tool. “If you’ll please direct your attention at the receiver…”
Sandra did her best. As the tool met her right temple, long strings of data began to scroll across her eyes. The receiver she was staring at would collect all the data being produced by her gasalphot and Max would look at it later. She knew that the device didn’t have the capacity to read her mind, but having all that information rushing past her eyes without being able to read it still made her feel a little uneasy.
“You free tonight?” asked Max, turning to his slender desktop computer to read up the data Sandra’s gasalphot had disgorged.
“As far as I know,” she replied, relaxing again. “What do you have in mind.”
“It depends,” he replied. “Do you like anti-gravity ballet?”
“I don’t know,” she said, “I’m usually too busy to go to a showing.”
“Well,” said Max, putting a hand in his pocket and withdrawing a couple of pieces of plastic, “get ready for your first showing. I have tickets.”
“Max,” Sandra chuckled, “you really shouldn’t have.”
“Of course I should have,” said Max, shoving the tickets back into his pocket and returning to typing into his machine. “All work and no play make Sandy really cranky.”
“I’ll have to take your word for that,” Sandra laughed. “Done?”
“Almost,” he said, tapping a few more keys. He gazed at the screen for a little while, then turned back to her, a serious look on his face. “Well, Ms. McKay,” he said, frowning, “It looks like you’re dying.”
“Sure,” Sandra replied, smiling sarcastically, “and Manny Webbs is a bass player.” Webbs played drums for Sandra’s favorite rock band, the Spider Men.
“Okay,” Max laughed, “you’re right. Everything checks out. See you tonight?”
“You bet,” Sandra replied with an affectionate smile.
“Great!” said Max, “I’ll pick you up at six.”