Planned Obsolescence

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Review Chain

A completed version of a short story I submitted here, Follows the story of Cynthia, a woman in a future where medical science is progressing so quickly it may be leaving her own needs behind.


Cynthia began her morning as she began most mornings; by popping her eye back into its socket.

It was a simpler process than most people would expect; keep it clean, keep the socket clean, carefully press it in. Of course, more simplicity didn’t necessarily mean less discomfort. The artificial eye was light, and she had already rubbed the numbing agent along its edges and inside its rubbery interior. But still, peeling back her eyelids with one hand while she lodged the eye into place with the other always made her nauseous.

It disgusted her most when she needed to clean out her socket. She could never quite tell how deeply she was burrowing her finger into her socket, even as she looked with her real eye in the mirror. An indescribable itching sensation rippled through her as Cynthia felt the echoes of her own finger tapping against the inside of it, squirming around like a worm cleaning out to the other side of an apple. Even four years doing it, it always left her with an odd wave of vertigo.

But with a quick numbing sensation that bit at the skin closest to the rim, the cleaning was over. Easy, expected, and (somewhat) bearable.

The next part wasn’t.

Most cybernetics were easy to interface with. Both her artificial left arm and leg could connect to her nervous system without even breaking her skin; after being fastened into place, they just had to detect the electrical signals in her nerves and (as long as there was no complication) she was good to go. The only surgery she even needed for them was her spinal implant, both to help convert her brain’s signals to machine code the prosthetics could understand, and to lock them onto only her own nervous system, so she wouldn’t give someone second hand phantom pain every time she went for a handshake.

Even her intestinal implant (which required more maintenance than Cynthia could even keep track of) simply sat harmlessly with the rest of her (remaining) intestines, and she’d probably forget she even had it if she didn’t have to check its diagnostics every morning.

Unfortunately, visual information was a far more complex input than which finger to flex, and unlike the prosthetics (which only received signals from the brain to the limbs), the eye had to send info both ways. To do that, she had to get an internal implant in the space between her brain and where her eye used to be, somewhat tangled up in her ocular nerves.

And turning on the connection was like setting off fireworks behind her skull. The bolt of electricity that coursed through her synapses was the highest voltage that was legally permitted to stab her neurons.

Worse than that it always left a dull headache resounding through her brain, kicking in after the eye’s activation like thunder after a lightning strike. It varied in intensity and duration, sometimes kicking in a few seconds after activation, lasting only for a couple minutes, other times not kicking in until half an hour later, and lasting for hours after that. Something called neural-synchronous dissonance. A rather mouth-full of a way to describe the amount of time it took her brain to cope with the fact that she suddenly had an eye again, and the tantrum it threw when it didn’t like that, until it suddenly remembered ‘Oh wait, I need that, nevermind’ and left her the fuck alone for the rest of the day.

After she could feel her legs again, she stood up, and prepared for the rest of the day. She checked the digital display on her ocular implant, verifying that it could connect to her intestinal implants, so she could read any anomalies quickly in an emergency.


An hour later, the rest of her morning routine done, Cynthia left her apartment to get to her appointment.

There weren’t many others waiting in the clinic when she got there. Just a few people spread out across the seats, not sitting next to each other if they could help it.

As she passed by a parent struggling to entertain their children, one of the kids pointed at her and said, “Mom, why is she wearing all that?”

The mother hushed the child and scolded them for pointing in public, but when she thought Cynthia was outside of earshot, she did whisper, “Don’t point at a chrome junkie. You never want to upset those kinds of people.”

Cynthia heard her, but said nothing. What was she supposed to say? Hi, random kid, I’m not using these cybernetics to push my body past its human limits and get high off of dopamine spinal-injectors. I’m actually using them because sometimes my own body hates me so much it eats away at my internal organs, and my body rejects all synth-organic tissue, so I can’t even get transplants. Oh, and I can get gangrene from paper cuts, so I’m probably due for another amputation one of these days!

But if she had to explain her circumstances to everyone who gossiped about her when she entered a room, or walked along the street, then her life would turn into a mobile seminar. Topic? Her entire life’s medical history reduced to a bulleted list.

So she just continued to the automated reception desk. She held out her prosthetic arm, the palm face up, for the desk to scan her bio-ID built into her hand. After a few moments of waiting, she groaned as the scanner chirped in a cheerfully monotone droll, “I’m sorry, but this desk no longer supports class two bio-identifiers. Would you like to schedule an upgrade to class four as part of your appointment?”


“Are you sure? It is a state of the art procedure that injects the ID into your bloodstream and attaches to your nanites, simplifying and combining your bio-ID and medical records for more convenient and stress free-”


Upon hearing Cynthia’s voice interrupt its pre-prepared audio, the automated desk whirred with a buzzing sound almost as irritated as Cynthia. It took a few moments before it again asked, “Are you sure? It is a free procedure-”

“I said no.” She didn’t say it loudly, but she could feel the few eyes in the waiting room burn into her back.

More whirring sounds. “I’m sorry, but check-ins are not possible through this desk without at least a class three bio-ID. Would you like to speak with an in-person representative?”

“Yes, please.”

It took quite a few minutes for the desk’s call to push through. At this point, a small line was forming behind her, as the other desk was out of service, and the one she was currently waiting on wouldn’t allow other users to check-in until its current user’s issues were resolved.

“I’m sorry.” Cynthia said. “I’d let you skip me, if I could.”

None of the people waiting behind her would meet her gaze, but neither would they stop staring.

Eventually, a new voice, a real one, buzzed from the desk. “Can I help you?”

“Yes, I need to check in, but my bio-ID isn’t being accepted at this desk anymore.”

“What class is your ID?”

“Two, but I-”

“Well, that would be your problem, you need to schedule an upgrade with this appointment.”

It was getting hard for Cynthia to keep her voice down. “I’m well aware of what you want me to do, but medically speaking, I am unable to do that. It would be much easier to explain if someone could come out here to read my ID, or if there was a way for me to send the info over.”

A low buzz (disguising the worker’s sigh) hissed out of the speaker. “Alright, ma’am. If you know your serial number, I can check if we have you in past records.”

Cynthia recited her serial, and the speaker turned off. After another few minutes, and after more people stacked into the line, the worker responded in a vastly different tone. “I am so sorry, ma’am, we should adapt our desk for these sorts of issues in the future. I have checked you in manually and your physician is already available for your appointment. Please step through the door to your right.”

The door leading away from the waiting room and into the rest of the clinic clicked with a small electronic hum and swung open automatically. Cynthia darted out of the line quickly to get out of the others’ way. As she left down the hall for her examination, before the door fully locked back into place, she heard one person in line mumble, “What a lazy bitch.”

She wanted to fucking scream.

* * *

The office she entered for her appointment was barebone and minimalist, giving her little to distract herself with; no pictures for her mind to wander into, no diplomas or degrees to reread over and over again, not even a generic uplifting poster to stare at so she could avoid eye contact.

The doctor that owned the office seemed equally devoid of personality. She barely even acknowledged Cynthia as she entered for the appointed interview, and instead continued to sort through some files on her computer.

Even the nurse that took care of her physical minutes before was more cordial, but Cynthia continued to wait with a practiced smile. All she had to do was wait to get the doc’s signature proving that she passed her medical screening and was cleared for off-world deployment.

What would that be like for Cynthia, to work in the orbit of a distant alien world? Would it mean the strangest thing about her would simply be that she was human?

"You understand your chances are low, right?" The doctor eventually said, not looking up from her desktop.

"I'm sorry?" Cynthia snapped back to attention.

"Do you understand you aren't likely to ever get hired; yes or no? It's a binary question."

"I understand that, yes."

"And you understand the complications your condition brings to any team you could even qualify for?"

Cynthia had to repress her real eye from twitching. "Yes. I think I know the challenges at this point, after a decade of living it. I'd argue that I understand that better than anyone."

“Hmm.” Was her response, a half sort of acknowledgement. “I’ve noticed a discrepancy in your records. I’m seeing the dates of your amputations and your intestinal surgeries, but I’m not finding anything regarding your… replaced eye. Is there a reason for its omission?”

“Not purposely, no. But it was done with a private company, and all checkups are done through them.” Which was a constant annoyance to do, having to exclusively get screenings for her ocular implant from a specific business instead of being able to check it anywhere with everything else. But there wasn’t anything she could do about it; despite it being lodged in her optic nerves and skull, the implant was not technically her property. It was still proprietary tech, and experimental at that, on loan to her until the stipulation time of her contract expired and she could finally claim ownership of it. Until then, a small part of her body (inches from her brain) was not truly hers.

It was an uncanny feeling that (literally) weighed on her mind.

“And the reason for the implant in the first place?” The doctor continued, an oddly dissatisfied expression on her face. “I’m seeing the unprecedented allergic reaction you had to medbots that caused the need for your other surgeries; was this for a similar incident?”


The doctor waited. "...Care to elaborate?"

"Is there a reason this is becoming a discussion? I was under the impression this was only a physical."

"It is, and it still can be, if that is all you want from this visit. But after reviewing your history, I am not convinced that a physical examination alone is sufficient to clear you for space travel."

"None of the other doctors I've gotten recommendations from have required anything more extensive-"

"And have those doctors' signatures, of which I see you have amassed nearly a dozen, gotten you any closer to securing a programming position off Earth?"

"...What would you suggest then?"

"I suggest you prove to me that you are not only physically capable of working off world, but are mentally prepared for the transition."

"A psych evaluation? I already cleared one of those."

"I see that, but I also see it only covered generic questions, specifically testing whether you would be negatively impacted simply by living in space; checking any fears or subconscious problems that might make you unsuited for orbital life." The doctor rushed through the explanation, as though everything she described were useless qualifiers from a less qualified doctor. "That is not what I think is missing."

"And what is missing, exactly?"

"Any shred of evidence that proves you truly comprehend dangers that you, and almost exclusively you, will face living off Earth."

"I have done extensive research-"

"I see no proof of that. I see certifications for spatial computing, AI engineering, quantum mechanics, and several other technical accolades of which I haven't even heard of before. But nowhere in your essays or evaluations do I see you even once mention that you know there isn't a single station currently stocked to deal with your medical needs."

Cynthia sighed. So that was what this was about; worry over a lack of personalized medical care.

Medbots, nanoscopic machines the size of blood cells, had become the staple cure-all of medicine in the last century, and were generally the only kind of medicine available and stocked on most off-world facilities. Once injected into the body, the little nanites could target problems to a miraculous precision. They could synthesize medicine to an exact dosage for any patient, directly applying to the problem areas. With enough doses, they could even reproduce tissue cells, regrowing entire bones, organs, or even entire limbs.

Medbots were essentially an improved immune system capable of 3D printing anything a person's body needs.

For most people's needs, anyway.

But Cynthia did know all of that, and she did not care. "I'm more than willing to sign the necessary waivers for any company that takes me, I fail to see why that needs evaluating-"

"Less than a thousand." The doctor interjected.


"That is how many people have been documented with your condition. Less than a thousand. Savor that number for a moment. Let it rest on your tongue. That across our planet's population of over 13 billion people, and the undocumented number of at least two billion spread off world, there are less than a thousand human beings known with your allergy." She leaned forward. "Can you guess where they all are?"

"Here." Cynthia said. Earth. 

"Here and safe. Here and looked after. Here…but not out there. You are an anomaly so barely understood that the few professionals that study it can't even agree on categorizing it. They can't be certain if all of you have the same issue, or if it's a number of different things rejecting the medbots."

"Okay. So what? You think I don't already know this? I've had to keep myself informed about it since I was in grade school."

"That brings me to my point, Miss Havok. From what I understand, you had your first incident with medbots before you even experienced your first period-"

"That is not in my records-"

"You were ten. You weren't even a preteen yet. The cellular damage you suffered from the incident had a permanent impact on your life and was probably the most painful experience you've ever undergone to this day. And according to these surgery dates…", She tapped the side of her computer monitor in emphasis. "It's happened to you twice."

“I don’t need a reminder.”

After particularly bad days, Cytnhia still sometimes had nightmares about the first time. Her mother had taken her to the hospital after Cynthia crashed her bicycle downhill and broke her fall by cracking her arm against a fire hydrant. Cynthia was able to skip past the line because her mother had friends in the facility’s administration.

A nurse had given her a lollypop after the shot was over. But Cythia hadn’t been able to push herself to taste it, her throat was full of bile and her arm was erupting in burning, wriggling pain beneath her skin. ‘Big girls don’t cry’ the nurse had said, ‘Big girls don’t make a fuss’. It took seeing Cynthia’s arm convulse and spasm before the nurse took her seriously.

She remembered flailing her arm as it flared in pain, her vision hazy from her fever and her tears. The loud discordant voices of the medical staff as they held her down for the anesthetic, everything fading except the low lull of a machine she could not see warming up before it seared her bone off from her shoulder.

The second time was a few years later, after she already gotten used to her prosthetic arm and the implant partially replacing the intestines that atrophied from the first injection, apparently the medbots had detected a gastrointestinal issue and tried drifting over to her stomach lining before the doctors deactivated them and flushed them out (but, hey, at least she learned she had IBS).

She’d never had nightmares about the second time, mostly because she was unconscious for the painful part. Only thing she really remembered was an afternoon jog after practice and a loose bit of soil she noticed too late. That and the very apologetic paramedic she woke to hovering over her hospital bed, tearfully explaining to Cynthia that he didn’t think to check her bio-ID before administering the shot.

At that point, her leg had already been long since amputated (but, hey, at least a new law came out of the incident, and a rather sizable settlement package to partially pay off her medical bills and new prosthetic) .

But none of Cynthia’s feelings about any of that were this doctor’s goddamn business. “Are we nearing the end of this interrogation? I do have a life outside your prodding, believe it or not.”

“You taking this as a joke does not assuage my concerns that you have not done proper research and truly understand-

“Three of them.”

“...I’m sorry?”

“There are three documented cases similar to mine off world. Of the less than a thousand, there are three known off Earth. One of them is the child of an ambassador working for the Conjunction of Planets. That ambassador is currently working to make peace with a sapient species currently forced to live in make-shift subterranean cities after the American government utilized chemical warfare to de-oxidize their planet’s atmosphere.”

The doctor, for once, looked a little admonished. “I… I did not know that. I stand corrected. But I fail to see the importance of that child’s circumstance to yours-”

“I’m not finished. Though the space race that led to that incident has been in check for decades, that planet’s surface is still fully and truly fucked, and will continue to be so for generations of its inhabitants. The relationship between that planet and ours? Justifiably fucked as well. But the ambassador’s child? Fully medically supported on that planet without cost. And last I checked, is currently an architect helping to design more equitable infrastructure for them. His work is quite commended there. Savor that fact for a moment. Let it rest on your tongue. A child of one of the destroyers of their civilization is supported there without debate.”

Cynthia leaned in close to the doctor’s desk, purposely letting the tip of her spinal implant peek over the back of her shirt’s collar. “What does that say about our species that is unwilling to accommodate me?”

 “I would hardly compare yourself to him-”

“Perhaps what I lack is not an understanding of my condition, but the compassion of my own species and government.”

That silenced the doctor only momentarily. “Does he have cybernetic augmentation?”

“Does that matter?”

“Yes, it does. It helps curve the calculation of his value on that planet.”

“Wow, okay. This conversation has been fun, but I’m not getting into a debate over the value of a human life with a doctor. If this is what it takes to get your signature, for some reason, you can keep it. I think I’m done here-”

“Why did you have your eye removed?”

“Excuse me?”

“The private company listed under that implant doesn’t create cybernetics for medical applications; they only fund augmentation for human enhancement. With your allergy, you can’t regrow lost organs if you change your mind about the implant later. What were you trying to improve about yourself that warranted permanently losing an eye?”

What a loaded question that was; what was she trying to improve? Her chances of being hired, for one. Anything to give her an edge over the rest of the applicants. Especially when ocular displays were becoming more and more commonplace in tech jobs, particularly off world ones.

The holographic interface could be projected directly into a user’s retina, like a smart screen built directly into a person’s eye. Most people used a variation of nanites similar to medbots to augment their eyes (though instead of dissolving like medbots, it was supposed to be permanent). Cynthia predicted it could be less than another decade before it became another requirement of day-to-day life. Better to get ahead when she could, rather than fall even more behind.

However, none of that knowledge raced through Cynthia’s mind as the doctor asked her that question because-

“I thought you said my records didn’t have anything about my ocular implant. Isn’t that why you first asked about it?” Cynthia asked, details of conversation up to this point lining together like a block of debugged code in her mind.

“I may have overlooked it-”

“Can I see it for myself?”

“If you do not already have copies of your own records, I can email you the specifics later-”

But Cynthia was done being patient. She grabbed the monitor by one of its corner edges and swiveled it to face her. Numerous tabs and files were scattered across the screen, and she only had a moment to see them before her doctor swung the monitor back to face herself.

But even nanoseconds were trivial to the speed of her eye’s camera.

The doctor looked almost livid. “I apologize if this has been a stressful conversation, but that does not give you the right for such a disrespectful outburst. I’m afraid I must ask you to leave and come back when you are in a clearer headspace.”

“From one Dr. Olivia Havok.” Cynthia read aloud, freezing the picture she took zoomed in the corner of her vision. “I send you these additional files to better prepare yourself to argue with my daughter.”

The doctor winced, but not apologetically. “She’s only worried about you, so she reached out to me-”

“Oh my fucking god, here we go!” Cynthia stood up and prepared to leave.

“Miss Havok, please, she just wants you to be realistic about this!” She stood up as well and waved her hand, the holographic image of Cynthia’s records replaced in an instant with a collage of tacky brand logos. “I have several job opportunities I can walk you through and help with, any of them actionable within the next week-”

Cynthia spun around. She could hear her prosthetic hand straining from how tightly she clenched it, but she didn’t care. “If I knew you were one of my mom’s shills, I could’ve saved myself so much trouble. Send me my recommendation. End of discussion.”

“I’m afraid our discussion is not over.”

“I think our discussion has been over for a long time, practically from the beginning when you tried to turn this examination into a lecture. But you will send me your signature, and you will say I passed your oh so special psych eval. Otherwise, I may have to begin new discussions with this clinic’s management. Specifically questions. Questions on how my mother even knew about this appointment. And questions about patient policy and patient doctor confidentiality.”

Oh how quickly the doctor’s expression shifted. How quickly it broke. “Well-”

“Shut up. Are you going to send it to me, yes or no?” Cynthia smiled. “It's a binary question.”

* * *

Cynthia read over the recommendation letter a few days later as she sat down on a park bench, taking a warranted break after her morning jog. The writer’s tone was pedantic, and it was clearly a rush job, but it would suffice.

She rubbed her leg where the muscles hurt. It was an odd feeling, to exercise one limb in tandem with another, but have only one of them reap the rewards, and the soreness, afterwards. Logically, she knew that made sense (one of her legs was just a chunk of carbon fiber strapped to her nub of a thigh) but there was this tough disconnect between what she knew logically and what her body knew intuitively. It wasn’t a sensation, exactly, this absence of pain, but rather a sense of confusion her body didn’t know how to interpret in a way that felt natural. It wasn’t quite phantom pain (it didn’t hurt), but her brain knew it was sending its signals somewhere, so it kept waiting for a returning one, an indication from its receiver that ‘hey, don’t worry, I got it; I’ll step this way.’

The closest thing Cynthia could compare it to was like calling someone over a phone over and over again, but never quite getting past the dial tone.

She was used to it though, in the same way she was used to her nubs aching before a storm. But she didn’t feel any rain on the way in the park. A warm day with a nice breeze, that perfect cloud cover to blue sky ratio. A few kids were playing on a swing set nearby, and there was a couple playing frisbee with their dog. On the bench across from Cynthia, an old man sat contently watching it all unfold as he spoke to someone over the phone.

Just as Cynthia was taking it all in herself, a holographic notification popped in the corner of her eye, her ocular display showing her a new email message.

A follow-up about one of her applications.

She scoured her pockets for her phone, before she decided to just check it on her ocular display (even though the plain text was jarring to read from her implant). It was also slightly painful to use, as the interface was initially designed to work with two cybernetic eyes, but she wasn’t sure she was ready yet to make a decision that permanent. She wasn’t sure she’d ever be.

She focused on the notification for a moment and the entire email spread itself out for her:

‘Thank you for your interest in-’

She closed the message immediately. No need to read it any further, she could already guess the rest of the filler phrases like ‘We did not select you for further consideration’ or ‘We appreciate the time you took to reach out to us’. No acceptance email ever began by ‘Thanking you for your interest’.

Like the absence of muscle ache and the pressure before a storm, this was a feeling Cynthia was used to. The tinge of excitement that lasted for only a moment before, as her doctors and mother put it, reality sank in. Even though she was used to it, even though she expected it-

She felt tired.

She closed her eyes and let her temple rest against her palms, both hands (organic and cybernetic) comforting in a different way. However, she quickly opened them again as she heard a frustratingly familiar voice, “Cynthia, what a surprise.”

Cynthia looked up at the speaker with a restrained expression. “Hi, Mom.”

If Cynthia’s mother noticed her frustration, she didn’t voice it. “Did I catch you at a bad time? You busy?”

“The fact that you are here, now, means you know that I’m not-”

“Wonderful!” And she plopped down next to Cynthia on the bench.

Cynthia wanted to dash off immediately, all of her instincts pushing her flight response like a cornered animal, but she knew her mother was a stubborn predator; avoiding her now would only delay her pursuit, not prevent it.

So she dived into the conversation fangs first. “I’m surprised you’re not busy yourself. Got bored of blending up designer babies in your lab?”

Doctor Olivia Havok was a bio-engineer and geneticist, specifically focused on editing genes in the embryonic stage of human development. Rich families that needed new ways to blow their money and feel creatively superior to the lower classes would hire her to give their unborn children yet another advantage in the world.

Cynthia had strong opinions about her mother’s profession, specifically with the thin line between her work and the god awful practice of eugenics. A line that only grew thinner the thicker the pockets of her mother’s clients.

Her mother ignored her comment, flashing a plastic smile. “Oh, I’m not here to talk about my work. I’m here to talk about you.”

“Oh, fun, your favorite pastime. What is it this week? Can I guess? I bet I can guess.”

“I bet you can, too. You are more than capable of doing so, just as you should be more than capable of making smart choices.”

“I definitely should, shouldn’t I? Being your daughter and all, I should have everything figured out and perfect by now, yeah? Nothing in my genetics you so carefully pruned to hold me back, right?”

Her mother’s smile chipped at that, a little facial twitch that revealed concealed pain. Cynthia felt a twinge of barbed pride at being the cause.

But her mother, like her, was very good at picking up her broken pieces. “Cynthia, despite what opinions you have of me, I’m not here to lecture you. I’ve learned my lesson about trying. And I apologize for how my former student behaved, she was supposed to be far more subtle than she acted in your screening. Though, I suppose that was never her strong suit… regardless, I’m not here to fight you.”

“Then what are you here for?”

“Making amends, hopefully.” Her plastered smile peeled back to something disgustingly sincere. “And an opportunity.”

A notification popped up on Cynthia’s ocular display. Her expression must have given her away with some facial tick because her mother immediately said, “Go on. Read it.”

She dilated her eye and focused on the notification, clicking on it with a simulated muscle. She read it over, then read it again, and a third time to CAPTCHA test her own sanity. “The Conjunction of Planets Research Division is honored to offer Cynthia Havok a permanent sim-developer position aboard the orbital station, The Mother of Invention?”

Her mother nodded. “I had to pull some strings rather roughly to get your credentials to the station before it arrives in orbit next month, to get you ahead of the other applicants, of course. And the station’s rather… unique circumstances made them far more willing to accept you.”

“And what exactly makes this station unique?” She asked, already cringing from her question. God was she tired of getting offers from companies that just ended up wanting to experiment on her with new synth-cures or prototypes; she did not want to be anyone’s test dummy.

“It’s a joint effort from multiple member species across the CPRD. Thus, so that all the scientists and workers from vastly different evolutionary chains can exist in relative harmony, much of its funding is put into… do you think you can guess?”

“Its medical facilities.”

“Yes! Cindy, with all the different sapient species it will be housing, it won’t just have medbots, it can’t. Hell, it has to be stocked well enough to patch up a sentient cluster of gas particles; it shouldn’t have a problem helping a human with an allergy.”

“An allergy… you make it seem so small when you put it like that.”

“Up there, it will seem small. There will be stranger lifeforms on that station than in the depths of our oceans. It took me so, so long to understand you, Cindy, but that’s why you want to go out there so badly, isn’t it? For less questions, to feel less out of place?”

Cynthia had to hand it to her mother. She did a lot of research, put a lot of thought into this. So much so that she was almost half right at what Cynthia wanted.

“You said it was coming to orbit next month?”

“Short notice, I know, but I only found out your acceptance recently myself, and, well, you weren’t taking my calls-”

“And how long is it going to be in Earth’s orbit?”

“...Why does that matter?”

“Mom, is it moving or not?”

“No. They’re trying to promote collaboration in our sector, and get more vessels to Earth. A little incentive to pull attention to our remote system… Cynthia, you cannot be serious.”


“I can see it all over your face; are you truly considering rejecting this offer?” She laughed dumbfounded. “My god, I know you’ve always been stubborn, but even you can’t be this thickheaded. What? What’s wrong with this perfect solution to all your whining? Hmm? Not good enough for you? Fuck.”

“I just want a real off-world position, Mom. Not something a shuttle ride away.”

“This is a real position! I have been so saintly patient with you, but you are driving me mad. You are a jack of all trades, Cynthia. AI, cloud computing, spatial processing- hell you could just be a website admin for all I care. But why space? What is so important out there that you can’t reach from your own solar system?”

“I… I just-”

“Spit it out already.”

Cynthia could bear wounding her mother’s pride. She could stomach tossing an insult her way, could persevere through any bullshit argument her mother refused to lose any ground on. But as flawed and strained as their relationship was, even Cynthia didn’t think she could handle telling her mother that her greatest motivation for leaving Earth behind was sitting right next to her.

So she compromised and said something far less hurtful. “...Fuck off.”

For her credit, her mother did not shout at her. Not in this park where it could cause any more of a scene. Instead she simply sighed and stood up. “What is it going to take to convince you that I love you? I just want you safe. And what you are trying to do terrifies me and I can’t understand it.” She covered her face with one hand as she covered her eyes and stroked her temple. “You make it very hard to care about you, sometimes.”

Likewise, Cynthia thought, not daring to break the silence or the growing distance between them as her mother walked away.

As she wallowed from the weight of everything she did and did not say, Cynthia couldn’t help but notice the old man across from her on a different bench. He was slapping the side of his cell phone, trying to evoke the age old magic IT solution of tap it ‘till it worked.

From a quick scan from her ocular implant, she could see the model, year, and schematics of his phone. Four years out of style, it was a product its company no longer produced. Nothing was physically wrong with the hardware; she estimated a decade left of use if maintained properly.

But good shelf life wasn’t profitable, not for the cell phone industry. It didn’t matter if the phone could work well on its own, if nothing else was willing to accommodate it or meet it at its level. Cynthia could pick out the festering code hiding inside the phone’s recent software patches, the company’s not so subtle invitation to please, please buy another phone as they broke it slowly and quietly from the inside.

How long would it be before it was discarded? How long can something be outdated and inconvenient before it is lost in the industrious path of planned obsolescence?

The old man sat irritated and dejected as he continued to struggle with his phone. Cynthia could see the shift in the wrinkles below his eyes as the defiance she saw in him ebbed slowly to compliance.

She stood up and walked towards him, scanning his phone’s model with her ocular prosthetic. “Excuse me, sir.”

He looked at her with a start, eyeing her prosthetics. “Uh, hi.” He squinted skeptically. “You need something?”

“I actually have something you might need.” She leaned in and said in soft conspiracy, “If you want to stick it to the fuckers breaking your phone, I know a good local shop that can fix it for you real cheap. Swap out the bad parts, and patch up those scam updates.”

He looked at her and looked past her towards his son, and Cynthia was worried for a moment that she had misjudged the situation, before he replied, “How cheap?”

She laughed. “Much cheaper than a new one.”

“And it’d be good as new?”

“Better even.”

He nodded, savoring the answer, before breaking into a baby-faced grin. “Suppose I could check them out.” 

She left him with his newfound tools of insurrection as she returned to her jog.

She felt the weight of all of her prosthetics as she paced herself, everything always a little bit asymmetrical and off-center to the weight of the rest of her body. It could tilt her in one way, or cause her to stumble in another. But she compensated for it, adjusting the way she carried herself to make it all work together.

She planned to do another job search that night and apply with her updated resume and recommendation letters. She’d probably get rejected again. And probably again after that. But at that moment she was jogging. Feeling the rush of wind against her lungs, feeling the heavy weight of the implant lodged in her intestines as it lurched aside her stomach. One of the many complicated parts of her the rest of the world planned to make obsolete and leave to die.

She refused to let them.

Submitted: March 24, 2023

© Copyright 2023 G.P.Sharp. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:



I'm really glad you extended this. It was even more exciting to see more about this whole world you created (its definitely a bigger and more far-reaching world than first thought). I still find it interesting that there's this aversion to some of the technological advancements as opposed to others. In the world today, people don't stop to ask the reason behind something without forming their own opinion first.
I would have liked to know a little more about why she hates her mother so much. It suggests that she's a bit meddlesome and overbearing but it feels like there's something more, or something further in the past. I was curious to see more about why her hate is so justified.
Regardless it was a great story to read and I was very excited with how you choose to extend this. You could have gone many different ways but I think you went down an interesting track that just furthered the ideas you had brought forward in the first part. Great story.

Sat, April 8th, 2023 11:50am

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