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Daily Science Fiction :: iChaperone by Kat Otis
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iChaperone

Kat Otis lives a peripatetic life with a pair of cats who enjoy riding in the car as long as there's no country music involved. Her fiction has appeared in Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, Daily Science Fiction and Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword & Sorceress XXVI. She can be found online at katotis.com or on Twitter as @kat_otis.
About midnight, the party came to a crashing halt when one of the dive team seniors arrived with a case of beer.
Izzy had a split-second to wince before dozens of iChaperones lit up in angry technicolor. They swarmed down from the ceiling to hover around the heads of their respective underage protectees, screens flashing the cutesy drink icon that alerted them to the presence of alcohol. In case that wasn't enough to convey the message, the control unit on her wrist began a continuous buzzing that sent vibrations all the way up her arm.
Annoyed, Izzy jabbed at her control unit. Chill out. Her iChaperone cut off the light show and the vibrations ceased a moment later.
"Your parents gave you override privileges?" A wide-eyed freshman--Izzy thought her name was Mary or maybe Maria--stared at Izzy in awe. The girl's own iChaperone was going crazy overhead and would probably start with the alarm klaxons soon.
"Mary, is it?" Izzy guessed. "Butterfly stroke and medley?" The freshman nodded, looking completely star-struck now. It made Izzy feel older than her seventeen years, but that was nothing new. She took Mary's arm and began guiding her towards the back door, joining the general exodus of Chaperoned students. "I've got first-level override privileges, yeah. But on the flip side, if my blood alcohol level hits point oh two, it reports me to social services."
"Ouch." Mary belatedly glanced up at her iChaperone, which was still flashing the drink icon and had added a countdown timer to its screen. They had thirty seconds to get out the door to the alcohol-free backyard, or it would escalate its warnings.
Being klaxoned was embarrassing, but not the end of the world. Some of the Chaperoned students must have thought otherwise, though, because they began pushing and shoving at each other to get through the door. Someone shoved Izzy a little too hard and set off her iChaperone again. This time it came to hover silently over her head while her control unit buzzed a rhythmic interrogative that was supposedly old Morse code.
"Crap." Izzy let go of Mary and jabbed at her control unit again. The last thing she needed was it calling the cops to come rescue her from a mere traffic jam. Not in danger.
They had five seconds to go when they finally broke through the bottleneck and into the backyard. A few students shook off the incident and headed for the pool, but Izzy wasn't the only one who headed for her car instead.
"You leaving?" Mary trailing after her.
"Soon as they get drunk enough, they'll start chasing you with empty beer cans," Izzy raised her voice so it carried to the students hesitating nearby. Not all of the unChaperoned students were mean drunks, but it only took one.
"That's so unfair," Mary said, but obediently sent a parental retrieval request through her iChaperone. Peer pressure for the win.
Just to be on the safe side, Izzy hung around with Mary and a few other underclassmen until their parents showed up. All the underclassmen spent the wait complaining about how much iChaperones sucked, but split on whether they brushed off or preened at their parents' praise for being so responsible. Izzy was half amused and half exasperated to see that, despite being one of the most vocal complainers, Mary dropped the attitude the moment her loving parents arrived.
After the last one was safely off, Izzy headed for her rusty old pickup. "Don't mind those kids, Chappie," she said, as she held the door open for her iChaperone. "They don't know what they're talking about." She climbed in after it and drove home.
Her iChaperone's homecoming subroutine activated as soon as she pulled in the driveway. She opened the truck door to let it out, then waited as it zoomed into the house through an open window. A minute later, her control unit buzzed an all-clear.
Izzy locked her truck then cautiously crept into the house, just in case her iChaperone was wrong. But her mom was safely passed out drunk, snoring on the couch.
Even though her control unit buzzed disapprovingly, she took a moment to pull a ratty afghan over her mom's shoulders. Then she retreated to the back of the house where she checked in on her younger brothers--asleep in their bunk bed, iChaperones whirling protectively overhead.
In her own bedroom, Izzy switched out her iChaperone's power pack then changed into pajamas. When she turned out the lights and climbed into bed, her iChaperone's reassuring glow filled the room. "G'night, Chappie."
Then Izzy drifted off to sleep, secure in the knowledge that she was both home and safe.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, July 14th, 2014


The roots of this story lay in an incident that occurred about fifteen years ago, when my brother got his first cell phone. My mother joked that she'd given him an electronic leash and he'd thanked her for it! More recently, I was chatting with some friends online about story prompts when two of the prompts got together with that memory. This story was the result. In some ways it's about (literal) helicopter parenting, but it's also about absentee parents and how families of all kinds might adjust to a high-tech future.

- Kat Otis

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