"Progress"

“This is progress,” said Marvin. “It is an intrinsic good.” He blinked, his eyelids sliding quickly over the backlit circles that pretended to be irises. Like so many others, he’d had his eyes replaced–no–upgraded. Most of his eyeballs were still organic. Just the retinas, irises, and such had been replaced with networked chips.

“I don’t know,” I said. The company had offered me the same procedure. Free of charge. I was running out of excuses. Everyone was doing it, and at this rate I’d probably be fired eventually if I kept saying no.

Marvin smiled. “You’re the only one in the office who still needs a monitor. What’re you gonna do when those become obsolete?”

“Work the mines?” I shrugged. It was only a half-joke. He still cackled.

“Do the procedure, Will,” Marvin urged. “You’re gonna be left behind.”

I sighed and didn’t continue the conversation. It was bad enough I’d already had to get my ears done. Hell, my parents basically forced me to do it when I was younger. Smartphones get lost, they said. What if you get into trouble? they said. What if you can’t use your hands? They tried to convince me, but my choice had been made for me. Now I could make a phone call by subvocalizing the name of the person I wanted to talk to. Or answer one by swallowing. It was the closest thing to telepathy. Eventually, my eyes would have to go too–that choice was also being made for me. I had already transferred to different company sites throughout the country to keep from being swept up in the wave of reticular augmentations. I could only run so far after all.

Other companies were doing it too. The tech had gone viral. Bionetworking was all the rage, and I really was being left behind. Only a few holdouts in the cities refused the procedures. And the unemployed, of course.

It didn’t occur to me that Marvin had been on the phone with the boss while he’d been talking with me. With a stern face and a blank, backlit blue stare, he handed me a severance check. That was two weeks ago.

Not long after I got fired, something happened to the network. A national emergency was declared, and everyone who was part of the bionetwork started coming after us with whatever they could find. My bunkmate had been stabbed with a screwdriver multiple times. Marvin looked at me like he didn’t know me. His eyebrows twitched with rage and terror, his eyes shone blue and empty, and he lunged at me with a fire axe.