“Sorry, Mr. President, weren’t you and I going to discuss advisors? Did you say minibrain?”
“I apologize, Madam Vice President, let me explain. Some of our scientists managed to convert skin cells from volunteers into structures called minibrains.”
The VP was interested but puzzled. “Okay, hopefully we’ll see some medical uses during our first term. But getting back to advisors, I have some suggestions.”
“Yes, advisors, something remarkable happened that’s changed the situation. Electrical wave patterns were detected in the minibrains, and they resembled those of newborns.”
“Sounds like quite a breakthrough, but ….”
“And there’s more. After attachment to auditory and visual inputs the tiny brains grew larger and could learn and remember.”
“That’s impressive. They created a novel information storage and retrieval system, biological flash drives.”
“Oh, they’re way past that. Don’t forget, my predecessor in the Oval caused a major recession.”
“I don’t follow.”
“After the crash a bunch of my campaign donors lost faith in one person having so much financial power. They wanted changes, and my largest contributor already backed a brain researcher. After some discussions an idea emerged.”
“To combine several minibrains into a composite that could analyze information and give me advice. They included cells from a broad spectrum of the population. That way the composite could provide a consensus opinion.”
“Respectfully, sir, this is nonsense. I can’t believe a donor sold this to you.”
“Well hold on, things are further along than you think. The best minibrains learned quite a bit, and they were incorporated into the composite. It knows history, current events, you name it. And that’s not all, it solves problems. It shows general intelligence like a human.”
Her heart rate surged. “It shows intelligence! Are you saying this thing already exists?”
“Yes and what I like most is it thinks on the fly. How do you think I came up with those sharp responses during the debates?”
Alarmed, the VP stood and paced the office. “You were wired?”
“Yes, the composite brain saw and heard everything and suggested those responses. Same thing during news conferences, campaign rallies, everywhere. I’m wired right now, but sometimes it lets me run on my own.”
“Lets you?” Her voice shook.
“If it decides it’s necessary, it’ll chime in.”
“You’re joking, Mr. President. You’ll be asking this thing to match wits with other heads of state. How can wires and lab tissue do that? It lacks human experiences and emotions. Empathy!”
“Look, the research team was told to figure all that out, and they did. They decided the neural networks for human intelligence and emotions could be configured best with biological material.”
She stood quietly thinking, when the flaw in his logic struck her. “Excuse me, but aside from the ethics of keeping conscious minds in a lab dish there’s a huge issue, our policies. I won’t know how to mesh with your public statements ahead of time. Even you won’t know what to say until you’re told.”
“That’s right.” He summoned his Chief of Staff, who handed the VP a small briefcase and left. She opened it and shuddered.
“Is this what I think?”
“Yes, a tiny video camera and microphone. Clips on your lapel. The ear buds are invisible. So relax, it’ll watch and advise us both. We’ll be in sync.”
The VP realized the discussion was over. “I’ll see you at the celebration with our swing state governors today.”
“Actually, no. Thank them for me. I have appointments with Senate and House supporters all week. We’ve got to move fast, the honeymoon won’t last long. Make sure you’re wired.”
As the VP left she noticed several senators waiting outside the President’s office. While greeting them she was distracted by the opening of a door to a nearby office. She turned and noticed the Chief of Staff standing inside the doorway. Beside him were stacks of small briefcases. There must have been several hundred.
Prior short story fiction by Barry Yedvobnick has appeared in Tales to Terrify, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, Kzine, Night to Dawn Magazine, Aphelion, East of the Web and AntipodeanSF. His nonfiction writing experience includes 35 scientific research publications and currently a newspaper health column.