The year is 2043. It’s as close to today as we are to 1993. Pods roam the streets of Washington, and black drones circulate above. Sometimes they swoop down, wrap their metallic arms around their targets, and carry people away, high above the Virginia exurbs. The drones slowly shrink into dots, eventually disappearing into the southern skies.
These drones are usually taking people to Dark Sites. Alissa doesn’t think about it too much until her friend is carried away. Then Alissa, a high school senior, does some research. Her conclusion:
“It used to be that we had prisons, and if you were a criminal, that’s where you went. Everyone else was free (at least once we were done with slavery). A Dark Site is sort of a middle ground. You don’t have to be a criminal to go there, but you’ve probably done something wrong. Or maybe they think you’re going to do something wrong. So they hold you there. And if they think you’re dangerous, it could be forever.”
Alissa lives with her father in small apartment on Columbia Road, in Adams Morgan. He doesn’t know it, but Alissa’s billionaire grandfather had her spirited off to Jakarta a few months earlier, and she returned with a tiny chip, barely the size of a bee’s wing, implanted over her right temple. It’s a Chinese cognitive chip, a Boost. She’s the only kid in Washington with one, and it’s a secret.
Boosts are the global rage. The Chinese have implanted their entire population, and productivity is soaring. It’s like they’ve taken an evolutionary step forward. And the US is under enormous pressure to match them. But naturally, some people resist the idea. The more vocal ones, including Alissa’s friend, Javier, are ending up in Dark Sites.
Here I’m going to stop telling the story, and instead ask a question. If the new brain chips give the Chinese a cognitive boost, and if the United States is preparing its own chips for a national rollout, when exactly should the president get his or her implant? Should the president be first? It wouldn’t make sense, after all, for the rest of us to get these powerful processors in our heads, and for the president to remain “wild.” That would be silly.
I should add a word about the Shotgun app. It’s one of the outstanding, almost magical features of the Boost. In Shotgun, one person rides on other person’s chip, and experiences the world through that person’s eyes and ears (or virtual versions of them). It’s through this Shotgun app that Alissa finds herself in the White House. The story rolls from there.
Dark Site is for sale at Amazon’s Kindle store. Price $2.99.