“Beth, Beth! Over here, darling!”
Beth knew, even if she hadn’t immediately recognized the voice, the use of the word ‘darling’ would have come from Cassandra. Cassandra (“but you may call me ‘Cassie’ darling, because I like you!”) used the antiquated word in every sentence. It was just one of her little idiosyncrasies, of which she had many.
Cassie prided herself on them, collected them. She’d travelled all over the world to get them.
Beth automatically had started to walk towards where Cassie was sitting. One could not avoid it, Cassie was so magnetic – alluring in a way beyond sexual. She was vivacious, exciting, exquisite, attractive and mesmerizing. It had nothing to do with her physical appearance, which was perfect. Then again, so was everyone’s today, genetic engineering being what it is. Beth herself was physically beautiful. Next to Cassie, of course, she seemed plain and dull.
Today, that was going to change.
Cassie had already thoughtfully ordered tea for both of them. They each took a sip, Cassie’s eyes shining with anticipation over the teacup, while Beth’s expression was uneasy.
Patting Beth on the hand gently, Cassie reassured her. “Don’t worry, darling – it’s really nothing to stress about. I’ve had it done HUNDREDS of times. You’re with an EXPERT!”
Beth nodded slowly, hesitantly. “That’s true. You are a veteran of psych mod. It’s just so daunting. What if I get the wrong mods installed? What if they wipe my memory? Lobotomize me?”
“Dear Beth, hysteria is not your thing, darling. No chance of memory loss; the frontal lobes are not even touched! And as to bad choices, we’re only human after all. You should have seen me when I had my melancholia installed. It definitely did seem like a good idea at the time, darling!”
Cassie leant over the little café table to give Beth a kiss on the cheek. “Don’t worry, dear Beth! Anything that can be installed can be uninstalled.”
Nodding mutely, Beth smoothed out her dress and attempted the regain her composure.
“Now, darling, dear Beth – have you made any decisions on what you want done?” Cassie was clearly anxious to begin Beth’s makeover.
“Well, I couldn’t really find a package I liked in the catalogue …”
“Dearest, darling Beth! We never choose anything off-the-rack! We only have CUSTOM psych mod profiles! Sayze does excellent work – the best mods always available and he’s a master of his craft. We’ll work on a hand-picked psychological schema for you.”
Flipping open a small notebook Cassie took her pen and started writing out a list of traits. “First thing that springs to mind, dear Beth – a sense of style. Catalogue indeed! Now, let’s see what else would fit you, darling.” The veteran of psych mod almost was having a conversation with herself as she ticked off various traits.
“Definitely more vivacity, have to make you SHINE, darling. Ah, yes – some level of flamboyance and extravagance, but not too much – one can have too much of a good thing.” Scribbled notation. “A strong dose of sex appeal with a dash of coquettishness, I think. You’ve got some natural cuteness but we’ll add about another fifty percent – actually, that may be too much – let’s call it thirty-three percent extra cuteness.”
Beth was awhirl with Cassie’s words, seeing the new Beth appear on the notepad. She almost missed a question.
“Dear Beth, can you hear me? Would you like a little pretentiousness? It’s very much personal taste – I love mine, but it’s not for everyone. Had it upgraded last month by Sayze. If you like it in me, you’ll be getting the same version.”
“I think it looks much better in you, Cassie” Beth demurred.
“Awww, so sweet, dear Beth. We don’t have to tweak your sweetness AT ALL, haha! How about some anger? There’s a very cute anger available at the moment that makes you charming in the middle of a screaming fit. Limited time, however, darling – anger is in fashion this season, it’s all the rage! Get it? Get it?”
Beth laughed dutifully. Cassie made a note: “Install sense of humour.”
“Tell you what, darling – we’ll get the anger installed and if you don’t like it, we can get it uninstalled. There’s a two week cooling-off period at Sayze’s – he values satisfied clients. Of course, that can’t apply to deletions – they can’t be restored. Which brings us to: what should we get removed from your psyche, dear Beth?”
Shocked, Beth spluttered “Removed? I thought I was just going to get psych mods installed – you didn’t say anything about taking anything out of me!”
“Dear Beth – if you just get installations without deletions, that’s only half the job! I’m sure there are traits you’d rather not have …”
“Well, I guess I don’t like being so shy. I get embarrassed easily …”
“Yes, yes, this is true, darling. How about we cut that shyness, your shame and inject you with a bit more confidence? I think we’ll couple that with an inhibition removal – social and sexual. You won’t regret it, I assure you, and neither will your man.” Cassie punctuated this suggestion with a wink.
“But I don’t have a man?!”
“After today, dear Beth – you’ll have no shortage of admirers to pick and choose from! The boys will love the new you!”
Beth nodded uncertainly. “But is it still ‘me’ after all these drastic changes? What about if everything natural in me is altered?”
Cassie got up and put her arms around Beth, gave her a tight hug. “Dear, darling Beth, ‘me’ is a very mutable concept. I’m not sure if anything ‘natural’ of ‘me’ remains – but does it matter? Am I happy? Of course I am! I had my happiness upgraded last week. Think about it this way – it’s still ‘you’ making these choices, right?”
Beth nodded slowly, trying to accept Cassie’s idea.
“Therefore it’s just an aid to self-improvement and we all need self-improvement, you know that’s always been true.”
Smiling now as she nodded, Beth said ‘That’s true! Self-improvement with a little help! Thank you, Cassie – I feel much better now.”
Cassie smiled back. “A pleasure, dear Beth, an absolute pleasure.” Friendly kiss on the cheek. “Now, are we ready to go to Sayze’s? Did you bring your credit chip? They know me there – I’ll make sure you get a special rate! You’ll feel like a new woman – because you’ll BE a new woman, haha!”
Fumbling through her purse, Beth brought out her credit chip and thumbed the display button, the sensor reading her DNA. Her life’s savings – with Cassie’s good word it would hopefully be enough for full psych conversion. If not, Cassie would probably help with the difference – she wanted her friend to be happy.
Beth thought of the new, higher paying job she could have which her mousy, shy self could never attain. Thought about the men who would finally notice her now who had previously ignored her. She’d be interesting and enchanting and fearless and nothing like the quiet and demure woman she was now.
Picking up her handbag she started striding out of the café. Turning back, Beth asked “Coming to Sayze’s, Cassie?”
As she hastened to catch up with her friend, Cassie’s silent response was a triumphant smile.
“How do you feel, darling? Sayze said the procedure was a complete success. Do you like it?”
“It’s wonderful, dear Cassie! I am truly a new woman, thanks to you!” Hugs and twin kisses on cheeks.
“Oh, dear Beth, I’m so happy for you. You’re just … perfect.”
“I’m so happy for me too, darling! I want to put my new personality through its paces. How about we go to a party?”
“Great idea, darling!”
Outside the psych mod clinic there was a commotion. Investigating, they noticed a man with a mutilated face screaming at the security people dragging him away. Cassie and Beth, with their finely crafted composures, were nevertheless quite perturbed.
“How frightening!” remarked Beth.
“How disgusting!” said Cassie. “The protestors mutilate their handsome features – they say that they don’t want to be beautiful.”
“How very odd! Why would one not wish to improve oneself, darling?”
“Odd indeed. Did you hear what he was shouting? ‘Perhaps I need an installation of vanity!’ Ignoramus. Why would we need an installation of vanity anyway?”