RJ rushed into the cafeteria and hissed at me:“He’s created a lie detector app!”
“What?” I took a bite of my Oriental salad.
“Kevin’s created an app that can tell when someone’s lying!” he whispered.
“Oh, yeah?” I mumbled through yummy, crunchy noodles, chicken slick with a spicy sauce and fresh salad greens. “-- detectshhh -- ‘scuse me -- detects your heartbeat or something?”
“I don’t know how it works, but it works. It works better’n’ those things the police use.” RJ was jittery, bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet, his thin, dark face excited.
I went back to scanning my email. “Yeah? That’ll make things interesting.”
“Courtney, you don’t understand.” RJ bent down and stuck his frizzy head in front of my phone. “EVERYONE will have this on their phone. NO ONE will be able to lie about anything ever again. Can you imagine it? No more lies! No more telling your boyfriend you think he’s smart when he isn’t!”
“I broke up with Dale.” I pushed his head away. “Anyway, I don’t believe you.” I laughed, “Maybe I’d believe you if you had the app! But no --I might believe that you believe, but I still wouldn’t believe in the app.”
RJ sat down. “I’m serious. This is serious. This will change everything. Imagine business meetings where people tell the truth! Politicians -- telling the TRUTH! It’ll be aMAzing! And it works. It worked on me. Every time I tried to lie, Kevin knew it!”
I put down my phone and ate the last two bites of my salad. “No offense, RJ, but you can’t lie to save your life. I don’t need an app to know when you’re lying. I know you believe you’re telling the truth now, but I just don’t believe it’s as good as you say.”
He shook his head. “You’ll see, Courtney. When Kevin markets this -- it will change the world.”
Two years later, RJ could have said, “I told you so!” -- but RJ was dead.
Kevin had disappeared; the app hadn’t been marketed, but our world had changed. The only thing that saved me from dying or disappearing was my disbelief, and my usual tendency to block out anything that didn’t directly affect my work. I went back to my lab that day and forgot all about Kevin’s great discovery. When I heard that RJ had died in an “accident,” I just thought, “How sad! I’m going to miss him!” And I went back to my research. I heard that Kevin had disappeared, but I had reached a crucial point in my calculations, and anyway, Kevin had always been a little strange.
When the government tightened down on the University’s research and development funds, I had to notice. At first, it was just annoying; another one of those phases where penny pinchers made it hard for us to get the help we needed, while at the same time demanding faster results. But then one day a bean counter was holding his phone out while he asked me questions, and when I said brightly, “We are right on target!” he looked at the screen and barked, “ No -- you lie!” And that’s when I put it all together.
I looked at this suit who was holding his phone at me, and I said, carefully and calmly, “Well, there have been a few problems, but we should have it in a couple of weeks.”
He narrowed his eyes. “Try again.”
I narrowed my eyes back at him. “You guys cut our budget last month, and I had to lay off an assistant. We are at least two months behind now, maybe more.”
“Mmmhmm.” He smiled at his phone. “You have two months.” He left, and I knew.
Kevin’s research, like mine, had been partly supported by a government grant, and when he had reported his accomplishment, they had classified his work and suppressed it until they could develop it and lock it down. Now Homeland Security and the FBI and all the other good guys would know if anyone was lying to them -- but the rest of us would not know if they were lying to us.
Where was Kevin? Had they disappeared him or had he disappeared himself? Was he working on a way to release his app to the world? If he was not, was there anything that could be done? Could the government keep a lock on this technology for long?
Not a chance.
Unlike Kevin, I had always lied about my research. Consequently, the suits didn’t even know enough to ask me the right questions. While it was true I was two months behind, I was behind on my real work, not on what they thought I was doing (I was a lot further than two months behind on that).
They thought I was working on a way to jam the transmissions for drone controls, so they could ensure the safety of high-risk places like the White House -- remember when that postal worker “delivered mail” to the President via drone? I was working on that project occasionally (well, my assistant had been) -- just enough to have a bone to throw to the dogs when they came barking.
My real work, however, -- which I handled personally and had neglected to ever share with anyone -- was a way to jam the transmission of any cell phone, permanently. I was two months away from being able to jam my ex-boyfriend’s phone. Dale had accused me of cheating on him. Me! He wasn’t smart enough to lick my algorithms, but he had hacked my phone and seen some things he shouldn’t have seen. I wasn’t going to bother hacking his -- I was just going to shut it down. And when he got a new one, I’d shut that down, too. Etcetera. He’d never be breaking up with somebody via text message again!
It was fairly simple to readjust the parameters of my work. So when the suit came yapping in two months, I was ready for him.
I jammed his phone and hacked that lie detector app. A little virus goes a loooong way.
God forbid there be no more lies. How would I ever have any fun?