Cecilia was excited, she could barely sit still. He nervous energy made the tiny room feel even smaller.
“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?”
“Well,” she jumped up from the bed and flitted over to the dresser. “I was going to wait until after dinner to show you, but this is too exciting.” She pulled out a box and brought it over o the table.
“Is that Chinese on there?”
“I had it made in China. It’s a prototype of a new implant I designed.” She pulled out two gray bags, taped shut and labelled, sterile and static proof. “I didn’t ask, and I don’t know if you’re okay with this, but it’s a two part prosthetic. To work properly it needs to be implanted into two people. What do you think?
“If you’re not into the idea, I’m sure I can find someone in the community to try it. It’s a pretty exciting concept.”
“I don’t know, Cec, let’s take a look at it.” He reached for the bags.
“Well, those are sterile, so we can’t really open them, but I can show you the schematics.”
He turned one of the bags over in his hand, smooth plastic components, connected by silicone coated wires. “Is this a pacemaker?”
“No, but it kid of looks like one. Good eye. She unfolded her schematics. “It has a power supply, or rather a generator, and this set of electrodes actually detects muscle activity. This other set attracts each other, just a little bit.” She traced the lines with her fingers, watching his face for a reaction.
“That’s really cool.” Jared was at a loss.
“I know it doesn’t sound like much. Those are all pretty simple, and on their own aren’t anything special. The generator that powers it all is pretty cool. It uses the undulations of your digestive tract. It works a lot like the arterial generator in your arm unit, but it’s easier and less dangerous to install. This part is the coolest, though.” She indicated a nexus in the diagram, a larger component that everything else was connected to. She placed one of the static proof bags on top of the blue print and pointed out the real life analog. A little box covered in plastic with rounded corners and wires connected to the other parts. “This is a transmitter and a receiver.”
“Like a radio, or a cellphone?”
“Neither. These two operate on their own frequency, they communicate only with each other. Nothing else I could find uses that frequency. These two things communicate in a world all their own, and can’t hear anything else.”
“Okay, so they’re communicators, like having an open phone line that nothing can interfere with.”
“Not quite. These electrodes sense your heartbeat, it gets transmitted, and these ones react to each other, pulsating with the heartbeat I receives, the beat the other one is transmitting. With these installed I could always feel your heart beating, inside of me right next to mine, and you could always feel me.” She had gotten very close while she was speaking.
She withdrew a bit before continuing. “Of course, if you don’t want it in you, that’s fine, really. Fiona and Dane are always excited about new implants. They’d probably be willing to be my guinea pigs.”
Jared picked the bag up from the table and looked at the contents carefully. He liked the rubbery feel of silicone, but he couldn’t really feel it through the bag. “Just like that, huh?” Cecilia smiled with relief as he held the bag up to his chest. “So, where does this thing fit, exactly?”
“So, you’ve got it all planned out?”
“Yes,” Cecilia sloshed the ice in her drink back and forth. “Can you help us?”
“Well,” Dr. Song leaned back in his chair and pulled his new mustache thoughtfully, “we’d need another doctor, like you said, and the surgeon needs a whole team, and a whole theatre. This is a pretty serious operation we’re looking at, one on each of you, and, let me tell you, most plastic surgeons wouldn’t touch it. It’s too deep, too far inside of you. I like a challenge, though, I’ll do it, and I can think of a few other doctors to try.”
“Well, I was thinking of Grady. I’ve worked with him before and I trust him.”
Jared shifted uncomfortably in his chair. He had nothing to add. He had come along on the consult but knew relatively little about the process. Since Song had ushered them into his office and Cecilia had pulled out her folder of schematics and diagrams, Jared had sat by quietly, mostly ignored.
“He’s on my list. A bigger problem, though, is the theatre. I understand that you want to be side by side when this happens, it’s sweet, I appreciate that. The trouble is, I haven’t got a facility big enough. This is major surgery. I haven’t got a place that will accommodate this kind of double operation. Even if I had access to, say, a live transplant facility, we’d be raising the risk of complications astronomically. I just don’t know if it’s worth the risk. I hate to close the door on something you want, but I don’t see any way around it.”
“Couldn’t we convert some other room? Equipment can be moved, that’s not hard. Floors can be scrubbed, we can bleach down the ceilings.
“That might work, but it’s leaving us even more open to infection. On top of that, you’d need to be moved someplace else for recovery. This is just getting more and more complicated.”
“Damn it.” Cecilia drummed her fingers on the desk with uncharacteristic impatience. “there’s got to be some way.”
“I mean, I’m willing to listen to whatever you want to suggest, sweetheart, but I just don’t see how it’s possible.”
Jared helped himself to another finger of Song’s scotch. “I’ve got an idea.” They both turned toward him. “I realize it’s kind of a compromise for everyone, but it’s doable. You just have to remember that we’re living in the future here.”
“I almost can’t believe it’s finally time. It feels like I’ve been looking forward to this forever.” Cecilia was moving around the room, anticipation replaced her usual cool detachment with manic energy.
“I know what you mean.” He didn’t, though. He had no idea what to expect, and the tension was eating into him.
“It’s just been perfect the whole way through. That thing you came up with, video conferencing the two operating rooms, was genius. It really made the experience for me; it was the next best thing to being there with you.”
“That wasn’t anything, though. I just pointed out that we could use something we already had to fix our little problem.”
“It is, though. Ninety percent of invention, and creativity in general, is seeing a way to use something you’ve already got in a new way and the rest is just figuring out how to make the piece that fits in the holes when you haven’t already got something to do the job. You did this. You made our experience what it was: special.”
“Alright.” He looked sideways at his wrist console. He would control his half of the implant through an application, while Cecilia’s was wired into some sub-dermal switches, like the controls for her matrix of electromagnets. “Are you sure we’re ready for this? Have we had enough time to heal and everything? I don’t want this thing to tear its way out of me.”
“I don’t know, Jared. No one’s ever done this before. We’re explorers; we’re going to a place no one’s ever been. If we get hurt or make mistakes, that’s just part of it, isn’t it?”
“I guess you’re right. So, how do we do this? Should we have some people over? Lay out some snacks? Open a bottle of port?”
“No point in standing on ceremony. Mine’s already turned on. I can’t feel anything until you turn yours on, though.”
“Fine.” He bit his lip against the uncertainty as he thumbed the touch screen and held his breath in spite of himself when he executed the command.
It felt strange. Not bad, not scary, just strange. The feeling was hard to pin down, but it was there, a gentle throbbing inside of him, a part of him that wasn’t.
“Does your heart always beat that fast, or only when you’re trying out a new experimental cybernetic implant?” He answered by way of kissing her and there was no mistaking the feeling, deep inside of himself, in a place he couldn’t name, he felt her heart pound. Next to his, in his guts, against his diaphragm; he couldn’t name or describe the spot in a meaningful way, but she was there, he could feel her.
Later that night, as the headlights danced across the ceiling, Jared laid awake, Cecilia’s bulk pressed against him. He could still feel her pulse, slow and calm. It amazed him. He pressed his lips to her forehead and slowly slid his hand down her length. When his fingers brushed the incision on her side, not fully healed, but mended well enough that it didn’t need dressing, he felt her heart quicken a little. He stopped and she moved against him, not in pain, but something else.