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A House Call

A House Call

Jesse Patrick Bohanan

It seems to me, Golan, that the advance of civilization is nothing but an exercise in the limiting of privacy.
– Isaac Asimov, Foundation's Edge

It is cold. That much is for certain, although most anything else is shrouded in ambiguity. Such are the times we live in, Joseph mused. Still, I've appointments to keep. Time, as they say, waits for no man.

Joseph walked halfway up the block, then turned toward the house on the right. He crossed the street with a sigh, walked up the steps to the front door, and rang the doorbell.

Soon enough, his client arrived at the door to greet him. "Dr. Stapleton!" she said, in a louder voice than Joseph was accustomed to. "We've been expecting you. It's so good of you to stop by on such short notice."

"How's the patient?" Joseph said.

"Oh, she's suffering something awful. We're counting on you to take care of her."

"I'll do what I can."

"That's all we can ask, Doctor." Louise stepped aside so that Joseph could enter. She then led Joseph down the hall and into the second room on the left — Clarisse's bedroom.

Joseph looked at Clarisse. She was shaking, shivering, as if she had been out in the cold in Joseph's place. Her face was pale as the snow on the ground outside her window.

"This... will be a difficult case..." Joseph said as he turned to face Louise. "The injections are often ineffective once the illness has progressed this far." Damn idiots should have called me sooner!

"Is there nothing you can do, Doctor?" Louise queried, obviously distraught.

"I'll do what I can," Joseph reiterated. "But no promises on the outcome." He set down his briefcase and walked over to Clarisse's body. Her skin was cold to the touch. He checked her pulse and blood pressure — at least they were normal. Small miracles.

Joseph then proceeded to examine her forearms, both left and right. He didn't find what he was looking for. "Where's her implant?!" he demanded of Louise.

"She... she doesn't have one..." Louise admitted. "No one in our family does. We can't afford the antirejection drugs on our income..."

"And just how do you expect to afford my services? I don't work for free. Not to mention the legal implications of failing to implant."

"We had hoped we could come to an arran—"

"There will be no arrangement!" Joseph shouted. "You know that it is in violation of the Unified 11 Charter: Code AS–6 to avoid the implantation of the latest approved model of MedTechRx! If you can't afford the antirejection drugs, there are rehabilitative housing projects you can request a transfer to."

Joseph walked back to his briefcase, and bent to pick it up. When he turned to face Louise again, he found the cold gaze of a Mk I Atom Pistol pointed in his face.

"You're wrong, Dr. Stapleton," Louise said, her tone suddenly grim. "There is an arrangement. You will save our daughter's life, or I will take yours."

Joseph's eyes grew wide. "You wouldn't dare." I am a Nation-State 7 medical representative! The penalty for threatening me, let alone killing me, would be worse than death!

As if she read Joseph's mind, Louise responded, "There are fates worse than death, doctor. I'm doing you a favor, here."

It was then that Joseph realized who he was dealing with. "You're a telepath, aren't you? One of those failed experiments in brainwave research from Nation-State 9's Resident Control Program?

"Your kind was supposed to be wiped from this earth years ago. The medical implants developed in Nation-State 6 proved far more effective at regulating the residents of the 11 Unified Nation-States."

Joseph sighed. "I suppose I won't be able to just walk out of here, now will I?"

"That would be correct, Doctor."

"A pity. For you see, while your daughter may be irreplaceable to you, I am quite replaceable to the 11. The second I said the word 'telepath,' your residence was targeted for immediate erasure by Nation-State 7's satellite enforcement program.

"In fact, according to the data being fed to me by my implant, a micro-nuke should be arriving within the next—"

And there was no more Joseph. No more Louise. No more Clarisse. No more disobedience.