Laura, 2022

So… they tell me that Laura’s dead. Apparently she has committed suicide this night. If I felt the need, I could talk about it; they say that, as I probably know already, they are licensed not only in law enforcement and civil law, but also in psychology; realy, if I felt the need to open up and spill my feelings out, I should just go ahead… it’s free. I refuse as kindly as I’m able to.

I know I should feel surprised, shocked, but… I kind of have expected this ever since I first met her. So I’m not surprised, nor shocked. I should probably get a lawyer now. It’s obvious they suspect me of something; otherwise they wouldn’t have woken me up in the middle of the night to come to the law office.

Officer-lawyer Harry Donald looks at me then skims briefly the screen in front of him. I suspect that, somewhere there, among the pictures of Laura’s body and the transcripts of her records, there is a reading of my biological activity, transmitted live by the Chip. My physical reaction is surprisingly steady, unnatural for a guy whose girlfriend just passed away. They probably see it on the screen that I am under a lot of pain killers. But I’m not willing to tell them that my left arm had been hurting me like hell this night, my Chip felt like on fire, and the only way I could get to sleep was a triple dose of synthomorphin. It’s probably the reason why I feel so calm and foreign of all this.

Officer Gupta says it was difficult to learn what really happened in Laura’s apartment. I ask him why, don’t they have enough records from the Chip, the netpowered-intelligent tags on the consumable products and from her other net-ready appliances to get a clear picture of the events? I’m a hypocrite and they probably read it on the screen. I know too well that Laura was probably the most fanatical retro in the whole city. She was paranoid in all Chip and Net related matters. She hated the idea that the cans of food, the records she listened to, even the books she read were spying on her, that everything she did could be and probably was indeed recorded by the monitoring agencies. So she didn’t use any of it, unless forced by external factors. She didn’t own a computer nor a cell phone, and this on itself was an extreme oddity for the 21st century. She’d only buy vegetables, bread and eggs, whose labels she ripped off as soon as she got out of the mall. On the rare occasions when she ordered stuff to be home-delivered, like pizza or Chinese, she’d throw away the labeled cartons right after the delivery. Oh… yeah… and she never made any subscriptions, never rented stuff, nor borrowed. She was a freak, and it was probably the reason I’ve never really gotten too emotionally attached to her.

“We weren’t that intimate…”, I tell them. “you know… we had our weekly sex, we talked about work and life, but it never got any closer. I’ve tried, but… she was holding back. So I didn’t insist.”
Officers Gupta and Donald exchange looks. It’s probably the most information they got tonight from me. Apart from the readings and the records on the screen, I mean.
“This is a… very unusual case”, Gupta continues. “She didn’t own any intelligent-tagged products. Her room was also rudimentarily screened against Chip GPS transmissions, so we couldn’t get a record of any action that happened there tonight. A most unusual case, I say. The strangest one I saw in the last 10 years.”

Oh, yeah… The last 10 years… It’s been only 10 years since they voted for the compulsory implantation with the Chips. I was a teenager then, and remember we were kind of excited. It was like William Gibson’s cyber punk novels coming true. We would argue all the time whether it was the most awful thing to restrict individual rights and privacy or if it was the most evolutionary gadget ever invented and the next step on the evolution ladder. Money and credit cards would become obsolete, replaced by wireless bits transactions between the intelligent tags of the products, the implanted Chip and the bank account. The amazing power of the Chips would soon change the way we communicate, since phones will be reduced to wireless accessories communicating with the Chip, which in turn talked to remote antenna retransmitters; every crime, every illegal deed would be instantly discovered by inspecting the Chip records. A black box, a communication device, a medical monitor… a nexus connecting the human with the cyber…
As you can tell, I was bending on the Pro side. I would always argue with my brother and, later, with Laura, about William Gardner’s Chip. Those days, it looked as the only way to combat the increasing crime wave and stop the illegal immigration problem. Even so, I was among the most astonished ones that it did so, indeed. Like by miracle the crime wave dropped, in the real and the cyber world as well, since all net-human interraction was unhackably recorded via the Chip authentification. Probably Gupta’s worst case yet had been to arrest some drunk murderers stupid enough to forget that their Chips, those of the victims, the communication satellites and the intelli-tags of most surrounding products were simultaneously streaming the ongoing crime to the law enforcement agencies.

Gupta’s voice awakens me from the dream-like memory. “You look tired, sir. Maybe you should go back home and take some rest. We’ve troubled you quite a lot already. We’ll contact you tomorrow for more details, if we’ll need them.”
I fancy the idea of getting back to sleep. But I can’t leave before asking the compulsory question.
“So… what happened there? How did she… die?”

They exchange glances, as if having waited for this moment all night long. With a sad, sympathetic look, they turn towards me the screen, not before having made some gestures to minimize or close some probably secret windows; maybe some extremely shocking pictures or, most likely, her records, my records, and certainly my Chip bioreadings.
I expected something ugly, but this is indeed shocking. Even behind the massive layer of synthomorphin -induced apathy, I still shivered. Laura’s face was the only thing on the picture not stained in red. She looked blue-white pale, drained of most of her 5 liters of blood.
“The death resulted because of the massive bleeding, which in turn was caused by a two centimeter deep incision on the left arm. We tend to believe she tried to remove her Chip implant. It could have been a suicide; no sane person would ever do that, not ignoring the deep interconnections between the Chip and the neural and cardiovascular system…”

Somehow I feel there is more to it.
“The problem is that we couldn’t find her Chip. Our team is working hard to find it. Although not functional anymore, it should be soon found in her room or in the building’s plumbing system. Then we’ll probably know more. In the mean time… we’ll ask you not to leave the city, in case we’ll have some questions for you.”

As I walk out of the building’s door, joined by Officer Donald, I start to feel tired; the synthomorphin’s effect is wearing off. I decide to ask him the question that has been bothering me all night long.
“Officer, do you know of any Chip-repairing technician? I start to believe that my Chip is malfunctioning…” His stupefied expression gives me the answer. As I suspected, there is no such thing… no one has ever heard of malfunctioning Chips.

    • *Fragment from the (c) 21 series
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