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It looked like an ordinary contact lens. There was a greenish cast to it, but the thing was essentially transparent, apart from what it projected onto the retina of its wearer. This small device offered better than twenty-twenty clarity and provided a wide assortment of filters to improve contrast, magnification, and the like. It even had infrared. Second Sight was poised to be the hottest item of next year's Christmas season, nothing short of a revolution in sensory input augmentation—or as it had come to be called in recent months, "SIA."

Lily Duchamp held the smartlens between her thumb and forefinger, lifting it into the light and flexing it gingerly. Her coworker Nigel Connor looked on from his desk, supervising. The two of them were on the same team, same position, hired around the same time, but Lily was fairly certain Nigel considered himself her boss. She was stress-testing the product on his instruction.

"You're sure squishing the lens like this won't damage it?" Lily asked.

"Well, if it does," Nigel replied, "that's something we'll want to note."

Lily turned to check the man's face for irony. As usual, it was completely blank, unreadable. If she hadn't known better, she'd have sworn Nigel Connor was a stolid, meditative introvert, keeping the bulk of his thoughts and feelings to himself. But no, Nigel voiced his thoughts freely enough. There simply weren't all that many of them.

Lily continued, "What I mean is... If this thing gets damaged, and I stick it in my eye... isn't that kind of risky?"

Nigel considered this gravely. "I hear your concern, and you know... I get it. But we're QA. That's what we've got to do. If Second Sight's going to have some kind of negative effect, we have to find that out now. We can't leave it for a bunch of kids on Christmas morning."

He had a point. Unwelcome, but still valid. Quality Assurance had to do its best to break products like Second Sight, to send them back to the drawing board if need be. Lily exhaled a sigh of resignation and positioned the device in her left eye. At first, everything looked more or less the same. Then she blinked several times in succession to start it up. The smartlens actually drew most of its power from the act of blinking.

All at once, Lily's vision had an uneven, flickery quality, almost like she was wearing a pair of old red-blue 3D glasses. But instead of one side having a red tint and the other blue, each of her eyes now perceived a subtly different world. Everything in her left eye had so much more depth to it, more clarity and contrast. Independent of lighting conditions, the darkest color in view was a deep black, and the lightest was a brilliant white.

Lily tested this effect by closing her right eye and cupping both hands over her left. The wrinkles of her hands were clearly visible, if a bit lacking in color. Perfect night vision. This feature alone guaranteed a demand for Second Sight.

In order to avoid the jittery feeling that came from wearing only one lens, Lily kept her right eye shut. She now observed the subtler effects of the product's infrared thermal imaging. Nigel and his laptop possessed a neon vibrance, which rose and fell rhythmically. The pace of this pulsing, she could see, corresponded to temperature. Cooler items like the desk and chairs were comparatively drab, reduced in saturation and lacking any discernible pulse.

Nigel leaned forward expectantly and asked, "So what's it like?"

Lily frowned as she positioned the other lens in her right eye. "You don't have yours in yet?"

"Well... no, not yet." Nigel's cheeks pulsed with a vermilion glow. "I thought I'd let you try it first. Seemed kind of risky."

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