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Clever Girl ~ a short story by Craig Anderson


“Welcome to Mind Chip madam, how may I assist you today?”

Sarah glanced around nervously, “Is this the place where you sell the brain chips?”

The salesman nodded enthusiastically, “If you mean the IQ boosting, wireless cognitive enhancement devices then yes, you’ve come to the right place. Are you looking for something in particular?”

A small girl peeked out from behind Sarah’s legs, her yellow pigtails tied off with bright pink bows. Sarah gestured to her, “I’m looking for something for my daughter. I want to give her the best start in life.”

The salesman bent down and held out his hand, “Nice to meet you young lady, I’m Ben. What’s your name?”

When she didn’t answer the salesman tried again, “Ravi de vous rencontrer jeune femme, je suis Ben.”

The young girl stared at him dumbfounded. Sarah leaned over her daughter, “It’s ok sweetie, you can say hello.”

The little girl clung tightly to her mother’s leg as she whispered, “I’m Charlotte.”

“And how old are you Charlotte?”

After a moment to calculate Charlotte proudly announced “Five and three quarters.”

Ben stood back up, “Well it’s nice to meet you Charlotte. So you want to be smart huh? You could do it the old fashioned way, work hard at school, read lots of books, spend your evenings learning new things. That doesn’t sound much fun does it?”

Charlotte shook her head, making her pigtails swish around. Ben made a raspberry sound, “That’s what I think about that. How about instead of all that, you have one quick, painless operation and you’ll have access to everything you could ever possibly need to know in the blink of an eye? How does that sound?”

Charlotte looked up at Sarah, confusion all over her face. Sarah said, “That sounds wonderful. Can you tell me a little more about my options?”

Ben placed his hand on Sarah’s shoulder, “Why yes of course I can, come right this way.” He whisked them into the corner of the showroom that was glass and chrome. In a case were tiny black chips slightly larger than a grain of rice. Charlotte immediately rubbed her hands all over the case, leaving smudges everywhere. Sarah did her best to wipe them off but Ben laughed, “Don’t worry about that. I see your daughter has excellent taste. That’s the 2025 model, fresh off the production line. State of the art design, 40% smaller which means it only needs a simple injection rather than a more invasive surgery. It has a 30% faster wireless connection which means the requested information is downloaded as fast as you can think it, and this model has real time language conversion into over 200 hundred languages. Låter det inte som en praktisk funktion?”

Charlotte drooled. She said, “Can I hold it?”

Ben glanced at the security guard standing discretely in the corner and nodded. The guard produced a key and opened the case. Ben plucked out a chip. He placed it carefully in Charlottes hand, “You’re holding your future in the palm of your hand. With this chip you can be anything you want to be. The possibilities are endless.”

Charlotte wiped her nose with the back of her other hand and promptly dropped the chip on the ground. Ben’s eyes grew wide and he quickly scooped it off the floor saying, “Be careful, that’s worth lots of money! Perhaps I will pop it back in the case where it’s safe, what do you think?”

Charlotte shrugged.

Sarah leaned in closer to Ben, “Exactly how much is one of these to buy?”

“This model is a bargain at only $250k madam.”

She audibly gasped. It took her a moment to regain her composure, “Is there a payment plan?”

Ben’s smile softened at the corners, “I’m afraid demand for the newest model is always so high that we don’t offer any kind of plan, it is full payment upfront. We do have… other options available. Would you like to see some of our discounted models?”

Sarah nodded and Ben ushered them across to the opposite corner of the showroom. The lighting wasn’t as bright over here and the display case was scratched and scuffed. He reached in and pulled out a chip the size of a beer mat, “This is our 2021 model. It’s a little larger, so she’d lose more of her organic brain, but we can typically save most of the memories. This model doesn’t have the wireless, so you only get what’s on the chip. That’s an awful lot of data, but she wouldn’t gain access to the latest breakthroughs or world events. Obviously that becomes more of an issue over time. The chip itself is also slower, which causes a slight access delay, but it’s nothing her pretty little smile couldn’t cover up.” He reached down to pinch her cheek, but Charlotte scampered back behind her Mother’s legs. Sarah said, “How much is this one?”

“It’s only $80k and we do offer a payment plan if your credit is approved with a very generous 11.9% interest rate.”

Sarah’s smile collapsed, “I didn’t realize these were so expensive. Is there anything else?”

Ben reached behind the counter. He retrieved a chip the size of a large coin and said, “This is our sponsorship edition 2023 model. This one’s refurbished. I can let you have it for the bargain price of $10k.”

“What do you mean refurbished? Someone else used it?”

Ben looked everywhere except at Sarah, “Yes, but only briefly. The little boy only used it for a week or so before his parents brought it back. It’s been thoroughly sanitized.”

“Why did they return it?”

There was a lengthy pause before Ben said, “The sponsorship edition comes with some additional stipulations…”

“Such as?”

“Well, these models are cheaper because companies sponsor them.”

Sarah nodded, “That doesn’t sound so bad.”

“Right! It just means that the communication is two way.”

“Two way?”

“Yeah, so little Charlotte would still get access to the data that she needs, but the companies can see what data she’s asking for, what soda she’s drinking, her favourite toys, simple things like that. It’s all completely anonymous.”

Sarah took a step backwards, nudging Charlotte along behind her, “You’re telling me they could read her mind?”

“Don’t think of it as her mind, to them it’s just an anonymous user. Of course there are also the occasional adverts…”


“Yes, it’s harmless really, for example if you asked Charlotte where she might like to go for lunch, she may receive some suggested locations from our sponsors. She’s still free to make her own choice, this isn’t brain control.”

Sarah’s voice became considerably louder, “Free to make her own choice? She’s five! You’re telling me you want me to put a chip in my daughters head that’s been in another child’s brain, transmits her thoughts to shady corporations and can suggest to her where to eat and what to buy? Do you think I’m some kind of monster!”

Ben held up his hands, “I’d argue the benefits outweigh the down side. She’ll still be miles ahead of where she would be with no chip. If you can’t afford a newer model this is your best option.”

Sarah huffed, “No thank you, we’ll just wait a couple of years for the price to come down.”

Ben sucked air in through his teeth, “Yeah, about that, you’re pretty much at the upper limit of when these chips will take. We’re not allowed to install in any kid over six, there have been complications when trying to install the chips in older kids.”

“Complications? Like what.”

“Brain death. If I was you I’d go with whatever you can afford right now, while you still have a choice. Pretty soon every kid is going to have one of these. What kind of life is that going to be for your daughter? She will be a second class citizen, totally unemployable in all but the most menial jobs.”

Sarah stared at the big blue eyes of her gorgeous daughter and said, “I’ll need to talk it through with my husband. Maybe we can sell the car.”

“That’s a very noble sacrifice for you daughters future. I’ll be here when you’re ready to make a decision. Here’s my card if you have any questions.”

“Well thank you for your time, you’ve been very helpful.” Sarah ushered her daughter out the door.

After a few moments Ben’s manager walked over, “Potential sale?”

He shook his head, “No, they were time wasters. One day she’s going to look back on today and realize it was the moment she should have done whatever it took for her daughter. It’s a shame really.”

Sarah and Charlotte left the mall and got into the car. The moment the door shut Charlotte jumped around excitedly, “I did it Mommy, just like you taught me. Look!” She brandished the small black chip that she had so meticulously palmed.

Sarah smiled, “Clever girl!”

© Craig Anderson

You can find Craig Anderson’s story here.

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