Allison was in a room with green carpet. She found it hard to believe that any government office would ever put in lime green carpeting, but her brain wouldn’t process R values anymore. Everything else was fine, but no matter what she tried, she couldn’t get her vps to see red anymore. She’d been surviving on community patches for years, ever since the UI update in ‘29, which she hated. The legacy OS she ran had great user support though, and an awesome community, so she wasn’t worried. Still, nobody could figure out the R value problem, so it was probably time to upgrade. And so she sat, as far as she knew, on a black (or red) plastic chair, in a room with green (probably more brown) carpet, teal (off-white maybe?) walls, and a stars-and-stripes flag in corner, which to her eyes as black, white, and blue.
She contemplated her number, ‘85,’ as she looked around the waiting room. The people looked even weirder than the carpet. Filling the allegedly black chairs of the room, waiting for their own numbers to be called, sat about a dozen beings colored variably turquoise to almost forest green, like extras from a cheap science fiction show.
“Number 83, please report to room 2,” called a musical, synthesized voice over the intercom.
One of the bluish-green aliens around Allison stood up and walked back to the offices. She settled into her seat, checking her feeds. There was a lot of really nice words of encouragement from friends and family on her social media. Her son had mentioned her brain augment problems to a friend and word had gotten around. Her feed was also full to bursting with ads for upgrades and brains-transfer services though, so part of her wished Leon had kept his big mouth shut. Though her grandkids had already offered to help her crowdfund for a transfer if Medicare didn’t cover her particular issue, and it was nice to know little Sarah and Leon jr. cared enough to offer.
She googled her problem again. She’d done it a half a hundred times, but she wanted to be informed when she was talking to the social worker. She check a few forums again, looking for any quick fix or some user made patch. Still nothing. She could barely find anyone with her issue at all. The closest was one user who made a post five years ago. Same augment brand and model, and they got a few suggestions, responded saying none of them worked, then stopped posting, without leaving any post about the solution. Either they gave up and just transferred to a new brain, or never bothered to post the solution they found. Poor forum etiquette, as Allison understood it.
“Number 84, please report to room 4,” the agender synth called again.
This time, a person who was a complete exterior-synthetic stood up to go back. It was funny, without the color red, the blue metal chassis of the old ‘borg looked more normal than any of the flesh and blood turquoise people.
“Number 85, please report to room 5.” Allison stood up. She brushed past another alien as it was coming out from the back offices, and made her way to the office with a bold 5 stenciled on the door.
The slim person beyond the door beckoned Allison in.
“Come on in and have a seat….Mrs. Yeager,” They said, gesturing to a chair on the opposite side of their desk. Allison looked over the desk as she took her seat. The nameplate at the front of the desk said Mx. Andol. The desk was a bit cluttered, a few papers displaying some real-time metrics sat atop a mountain of old, static, wood-pulp paper, as well as an external console sitting neglected beneath a mug from some music festival from the 20s. There was also a child’s fingerpainting on the wall, two figures in front of a house. Of course, all of this was still through the filter of R=00, so again it looked less than normal.
“So what is the nature of your issue?” Mx. Andol asked Allison.
“I’m having a problem with my brain augment,” Allison explained, “I asked your office online, but they told me I needed to come in person.”
“I see,” the person behind the desk made a small gesture with their fingers, no doubt looking at Allison’s records.
“I can’t see red,” Allison continued, “No R values at all. So everything is blue and greens for me. It’s really inconvenient.”
The social worker nodded politely, “Have you contacted the technical support for your brain augment?”
“I actually can’t,” Allison said, a bit embarrassed, “The company went under unexpectedly in ‘31.”
“Oh?” a worried look passed over the person’s face, “That was some time ago.”
“I wasn’t following tech news much at the time. The company was never very good about answering issues promptly, so I was already relying on community patches.”
“Hmmm, that…may be a problem,” they mumbled.
“I know. I understand I’ll probably need a full-transfer, but I can’t afford that on my own. That’s why I went online to ask, but I just kept getting this error,” Allison pushed the captured image to the social worker, who accepted it, then made a few more furious gestures with her fingers.
“This is…give me a moment. I need to consult with a supervisor,” the worker closed their eyes and leaned back in their chair. Allison waited, fidgeting in her chair, and worrying. “Ok, I see your problem.”
Mx. Andol leaned forward. “I’m afraid….I have some very bad news for you.”
Allison wasn’t sure how to respond, “If I’m not covered I get it. I’ve added a lot of third party stuff, I understand.”
“No, you would still be covered,” Mx. Andol gave Allison a look. Allison thought it looked like pity, “You’re modding isn’t as bad as all…regardless, I’m afraid it’s much worse than that.”
“Worse?” Allison asked.
“Yes. You see, when the company went under, they were required to hand over all their documentation to support both their augment hardware and software. Standard Procedure. But…well…it seems a large amount of the documentation was lost.”
Allison wasn’t sure she was understanding this person, “Lost?”
“We’re not sure if it was lost before they handed over their documents, or if it was lost during transfer, or if it was accidentally deleted from our records,” They said apologetically.
“Accidentally deleted? What the hell does that even mean!?” Allison tried to control her tone but failed.
“I assure you,” Mx. Andol held up their hand, “There is a team working on finding or filling in the missing documentation. I’ll give you their contact info before you leave, I’m sure they’ll want to talk to you. The bottom line is, the way the software is encrypted on your model, we won’t be able to transfer you out until the team is done.”
Allison looked around the office, desperately thinking of her options. There were people working on it. That was good. She’d just have to deal with no R values for awhile right?
“I’m not done,” Mx. Andol continued, “Not being able to see red, for your system, could be a symptom of a particular system file corruption. If it is, then you can expect some additional issues to start mounting.”
Allison studied Mx. Andol, this alien with skin of dark green, “How bad will it get?”
Mx. Andol hesitated, looking towards the door, “That’s probably something you’ll want to consult your doctor or technician about.”
“Please,” Allison begged.
Andol made a gesture, “First you might lose another color, maybe all color values until you’re essentially blind, then you might start experiencing some failures to write memories. It’ll feel like short blackouts at first, then… but look, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Like I said, this could be indicative of the system file corruption. It may not be. You’ll need a full diagnosis from a doctor to be certain.”
A full diagnosis. But if they didn’t even have all the support documentation…
“So what should I do in the meantime?” Allison finally asked.
Mx. Andol sighed and shrugged, “Wait and see. But if I were you, and again I stress that you should first consult a doctor and technician, I might consider a full shutdown. Just until we can figure all this out.”
“Until we can figure this out,” Allison mumbled back. What Andol should have said was ‘if we can figure this out.’
“Well, thank you,” Allison said, shaking Mx. Andol’s hand limply, “That’s quite a bit to think about.”
“I’ll push you the contact for the team working on the recovery now. I urge you to call them. The more they have to work with the better the odds,” they said earnestly.
Allison shuffled out of the office. How was she going to tell Leon? Her grandchildren? She hadn’t expected to live too much longer. She’d never wanted to go full synthetic, so she would still be mortal, but she’d expected at least another twenty good years. She could always do what Andol suggested. A full shutdown. They’d put her physical body on life support, turn her brain off for the duration and then just wait for the fix. It would be like going to sleep, except for the fact that she might never wake up. But what was the alternative? Slowly losing her sight, then her memory, stumbling through the world blind and confused, never sure where she was or the time.
She was about to side-step another forest green person coming back to the offices when she had found herself suddenly at the bus stop, sitting on a small blue bench under a wind shielding booth with ads plastered all over the walls.
She couldn’t remember getting there.