Back to part one
Disconnection -- the procedure
She returned the following day, as she'd promised, and this time she had her father in tow.
I had seen him on broadcasts naturally, and I knew what he looked like, but that wasn't the same thing as being in the same space of him and feeling his physical presence. It wasn't his physique or features -- he wasn't a tall man, and his frame was compact, though well muscled, his skin and hair were dark, and his face unremarkable, totally unlike his golden daughter -- but none of this mattered, because he had an aura of complete authority that cowed me from the moment he walked in.
It wasn't surprising, of course. Cedric Parkinson was one of the three most powerful men on the planet, and the single most powerful person in SouthSeven, where my clinic was located.
Perhaps I should explain a little, as I write this down. I don't know who will read it, and I know that many worlds are run differently to ours, and power is shared much more evenly. There are still democracies on some worlds. My knowledge is sketchy, just what everyone is taught in school, but I'll share it here.
After the rise of globalisation which started in the early 21st Century, nations, as a individual entities, had become less and less relevant to the lives of the ordinary person here. Political control moved first from individual countries to be centralised across a continent, and eventually to a global centre. By the middle of the 22nd century there was a world government, located on the largest land mass to previously have been a single nation -- Australia.
Then, a quiet coup had taken place. The details have never really become public, but gradually over a number of years 20 people -- those with the most extensive influence, holdings and general power -- wrested control from the hands of the politicians. They carved the world up into 20 parts (North and South, sections 1-10) and took a part each. They ruled consensually between themselves, but absolutely. Their families have ruled from then on -- for nearly 180 years.
You might wonder why their authority has never been challenged, why people didn't rise in bloody rebellion. The answer is simple. Under the 'Crats -- the aristocratic families -- the system works. The interests of the planet are their own personal interests, and in jealously guarding them they have created a situation where the quality of life for everyone has risen. Talents and abilities are identified early and nurtured, crime is swiftly and effectively dealt with, population is steady at an optimum level, everyone is adequately housed and fed, and healthcare is superb. I don't know how it works, neither history or politics are my areas of interest, I just know that it does.
Anyway, Cedric Parkinson was the current representative of one of those families, and besides the fact that this was his section, he was responsible for health and medical research. Having him turn his attention on me was nerve-wracking, to say the least. Predictably, he took control of the interview from the beginning.
"My daughter tells me you show some reluctance to provide the service she is looking for Doctor Rosenbaum" he said. "Naturally, you are the specialist, and a professional, and you must have a reason for your qualms. Christina wasn't able to explain your concerns adequately, so I'd like you to outline them for me."
And so, again, I explained. I told him that the procedure, while we had had many successes with it, had never been used to modify natural, normal emotion, only extreme emotional disturbance or trauma, that it was a blunt instrument, not a delicately tuned tool, and that its results in the application which his daughter was discussing were unpredictable.
"Imagine," I said, "If I were able to completely remove your ability to detect the colour red. It wouldn’t just affect things that were red of themselves, but would distort your perception of every colour that contained even the tiniest trace of red in it. Your view of the world would be changed in ways that we can't even speculate on."
"Your concerns seem well founded, and carefully considered Doctor Rosenbaum (may I call you Judith? Good); but you can't deny that Christina is currently in a great deal of distress? And that this procedure would lessen that distress considerably?"
I agreed, because I couldn't deny it.
"Judith," his voice oozed sincerity, and his body language backed it up, "we all have to step outside what we know, from time to time. You know this, you're a pioneer. The work you've done is impressive, and I can understand the temptation to rest on your laurels. But, my dear, you mustn't let fear of failure stop you pushing back the boundaries even further."
I was stung. It had never been fear of failure or concern for my personal reputation that held me back. No doubt Parkinson knew it, but he also knew the buttons to push. I was never going to win, anyway -- if I'd refused to carry out the procedure he could have destroyed my career in a moment -- but instead he used my pride, and my commitment to furthering knowledge to manipulate me into a position where I gave my full co-operation.
"We can deal with the consequences, if there are any, later." He said, and we agreed a schedule of monitoring appointments at six monthly intervals to continue my research.
So, that's how it was, that a bare two hours later, I found myself in theatre with my team, undertaking a treatment that every instinct cried out was morally and ethically wrong.
I don't intend to go into the full mechanics of the procedure. They are extensively described in my papers on psycho-sensual adjustment to the World Health Board, and in my medical text "Psycho-Sensual Adjustment Surgery"; but a brief layman's overview may be in order.
In effect, certain emotional stimuli create unique patterns of functioning in the human brain. Like musical notes vibrating at a given frequency each of the primary emotions create an individual pattern. Over the eighteen years of my research I have documented each of those patterns in detail, and the primary originating source of the pattern.
By implanting a specially designed 'chip' (it isn't a chip of course, but that's the word that everyone understands) at that originating source, the same stimuli simultaneously create a complementary pattern of function which suppresses the brain's own function along that net -- that resonates in a way that makes the original note inaudible. Once the implant is in place, it can never be removed, without impairing the brain it hosts -- like an arrow which causes more damage when the head is removed than it did on entry.
And that's what I did to Christina Parkinson.
In the centre of the brain that originates the pattern for 'love' I implanted a device
that would completely suppress any such emotion, and, in theory
, created a true ice queen.
A week later, she sat, with her father, in my office, and deliberately ripped every photograph she owned of her lover, and every letter he had sent to her, into tiny shreds and laughed.
"That feels so good!" she exclaimed. "I can't thank you enough, Judith. I feel reborn."
She left my office, with her first monitoring appointment entered in her diary and her head held high.
I shuddered when three months later I received an invitation to her wedding.
Forward to part three