I regain consciousness just in time to panic. I can't see anything, and suddenly every nerve in my body goes into overdrive. My body shakes as I reach out for my father.
"Dad!" I cry.
I know he's there somewhere but, in my post-anaesthesia daze, I don't know where. My arms flail as I try to find something to ground me to reality. A moment later, I feel hands clamp around my wrists.
"It's okay," I hear my father's voice say.
"Dad!" I say breathlessly.
I blink a few times until the room comes back into focus. The glowing computers outline my father's silhouette.
"Rachel," my father says as he pulls me close to his belly.
He seems so tall because he's standing and I'm still half sitting, half lying on the table.
"Rachel, you're fine. What's all the fuss about? You've done this a million times," he's right.
I should be fine. This is the twelfth upgrade I've had in the past ten years. Never before had I woken with such an odd sensation. But what if this time is different? I calm my breathing as I press my head against my father's body for comfort. I bite back tears that threaten in response to the terror I just felt but can't explain. I don't cry. Dad runs his hands through my dark hair as he assures me I'm going to be okay.
"Her heart rate spiked there for a little bit, but she looks fine now," J.P. says from across the room.
He's Dad's intern. Well, kind of. J.P. goes to school with me but is two years older. He's enrolled in an apprenticeship program where he learns about Verde Inc.'s system while he's still in school. It's supposed to cut down on his time in college. Of course, the heart rate monitor is only a precaution. No one ever really needs it. Since I was six, I never needed it. Until now.
"Are you okay, Rachel?" Dad asks as he pulls away from me and looks into my face to assess my reaction.
I press a hand to my head. "Yeah," I answer. "I feel fine. I don't know what all that was about. I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry, Rachel," my father insists. "If something is wrong with this version of the program, we have to know before we release it to the public."
Part of me feels proud that Dad is the chief technology manager at Verde Inc. It means that I get to beta test the latest upgrades to the chip in my head. This time, it's a full-fledged hardware replace instead of just a software update. It's not like that have to cut into me, though. The chip is actually partially outside the body. I'm not entirely sure how it works, but I know that if you look at the base of someone's neck, you can see their implant. Of course, everyone I know has one, but Dad says there are still people outside the city who just don't have the money or don't want one, although I can't see why anyone wouldn't want one. I guess they're afraid of a government conspiracy or something, like the implant can read your thoughts. But it doesn't read all your thoughts, just the commands you give your devices. And besides, Dad says there's no way to store the commands we give, so it's not like anyone can be monitoring our brains and using it against us.
Plus, the implants have such a short range. Like, if I want to tell the thermostat at home to turn up the heat, I have to communicate with my watch first to get the signal to reach that far. Still, I'm really looking forward to everything I'll be able to do with this upgrade. At the same time, I resent it. In the beginning, it only alienated me from my classmates. Since my dad works with Verde and we have the money, I was the first of my classmates to get the implant, the one that would connect me to The Internet of Things. My classmates were all jealous of how I could communicate with my home and my devices without lifting a finger, so they decided to shut me out. J.P. is the only person I can be seen with because we're in the same boat. His dad works for Verde, too. But I wouldn't exactly call J.P. and I friends. Besides our dads' professions, we have nothing in common. But, of course, I can't tell my dad any of this. Letting him know how much I hate his job because it means I don't have any friends would only break his heart. And I know getting the latest upgrade isn't going to make people hate me any more than they already do. So I don't let it show. And besides, I do feel fine. It must have just been nerves because of the full hardware upgrade.
Chapter two in a few days 😁
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