McCoy decided to turn the subject away from the past. "What was that new toy you wanted to show me? You mentioned it at the exhibit today when we were looking at the wearables."
Kirk reached underneath a chair and produced a small metal square, silver-colored, with a screen on the top and a recess on the bottom. "Here it is," Kirk said, passing it across. "I was surprised to see the store carried one. It finishes my data-storage collection."
"Surprised? You don't suppose they're stocking up on these trinkets, hoping you'll pass through?"
"You're such a cynic, Bones. I suppose they might, but where's the harm if they do?"
"So tell me again about this," said the doctor, tipping up his glass.
"Spock got me interested in them."
McCoy shot a sideways look at Kirk but he was studying the box in his friend's hands. It was not often that James Kirk mentioned his first officer, outside of work.
Without wavering the captain continued, "You know Spock was keen on the history of data storage--on the problems of forward-compatibility and interfacing among systems designed on different planets. This particular one was one of the last attempts at a 'personal assistant' before the new legislation. After the new laws kicked in, Starfleet's Daylog system took over."
McCoy turned the box back and forth. "Ah, Jim, looks like this cover isn't original. Someone put a different case on."
"Um, yeah, sure they did. The docking port on the bottom's the same, but the outer box is supposed to mask what's inside. No two of them match. Press right here" --he stretched out a hand-- "and it'll open."
The doctor whistled as he looked into the container. "Jim. This is a version of 'Mind Candy'."
Kirk smiled sardonically. McCoy turned a little pale. "Good lord, Jim, this box is illegal. I never saw a complete set before, just the interface. You can't keep this..."
"Can't keep it? It's the only one I still needed; it fills in the one gap everyone always has in their collections. No way I'm giving it up."
"Come on, Jim, you know the abuses these spawned. Mind-hacking. Memory theft. Implanting 'recovered' memories, to cause trouble for third parties."
"Only because people didn't use them correctly. If they'd stuck to the original plan, the original use--it was the first really fine example of human- machine interface, and we blew it. Start of the whole anti-techno movement, set Fleet technology back 50 years. Damn shame."
"I'd say more than 'damn shame'--"
"It *was* a damned shame. The damned soft-hearted anti-experimental groups should have been more willing to put their petty concerns and interests aside, and look toward a greater good for all of us."
" 'The good of the many'?"
Silence fell abruptly. Kirk stared at his companion with slate eyes. Finally he said, "Yes. Human considerations, personal considerations, should have been put aside. The protesters should have been able to see that the technological advance was worth the price."
Softly the doctor replied, "But Jim, think what you're saying. People have always had the right to determine what was best for themselves, in terms of their own personal lives. Don't you remember the old Bill of Rights? Freedom to speak, to gather, freedom to determine what health care they wanted, when they wanted to live or die..."
Out of McCoy's sight, Kirk's knuckles whitened as his fingers tensed around his glass.
"Well, do you want to examine it, or not? I doubt you'll get another opportunity."
McCoy sighed. The conversation was not going well. "Lemme take a look, I guess. Never know when it might come in useful."
He picked up the box again and separated the two parts of the machine. The scanner just fit his hand--the screen and a sensor panel, with a few buttons he could feel just under the metal fabric. The implant sat tamely in the palm of his hand, weighing hardly anything. Looking so innocent.
He spoke without looking at his captain. "It's true, you know, that for a while these were helpful. Their ability to store medical records for a patient, to offer instant diagnostic help--that was a big step forward. But then the hand-held scanner came along and made it redundant; physicians could get their own fast information, and more uptodate as well, just with a scanner. And without the hassles of implanting."
McCoy snapped the pieces together again and laid the machine aside. As casually as he could he picked up his glass again, and said, "Pretty keen on history these days, aren't you, Jim?"
"History seems comforting."
"Now there's an accusation you don't hear every day. Comforting? How so?"
"I can watch, and observe, and study, and it doesn't affect me. It isn't my problem."
"Unlike the present."
"Yes, unlike the present." He sipped at his drink.