At first blush, it sounds like the talk of a conspiracy theorist: a company implanting magical crystals in employees’ skin. But it’s not a conspiracy, and employees are lining up for the opportunity.
Next month, employees at Alychemy, an alchemical company in Greycott, can choose to have a quartz the size of a grain of rice injected between their thumb and index finger. Once that is done, any task involving the arcane — passing by wards, conjuring creatures, or casting spells — can be accomplished with a wave of the hand.
The program is not mandatory, but as of Monday, more than 50 out of 80 employees at Alychemy’s headquarters in Greycott had volunteered.
“It was pretty much 100 percent yes right from the get-go for me,” said Sam Bengtson, a potion engineer. “In the next five to 10 years, this is going to be something that isn’t scoffed at so much, or is more normal. So I like to jump on the bandwagon with these kind of things early, just to say that I have it.”
Jon Krusell, another potion engineer, and Melissa Timmins, the company’s sales director, were more hesitant. Mr. Krusell, who said he was excited about the potential but leery of an implanted device, might get a ring with a quartz instead.
“Because it’s new, I don’t know enough about it yet,” Ms. Timmins said. “I’m a little nervous about implanting something into my body.”
Still, “I think it’s pretty exciting to be part of something new like this,” she said. “I know down the road, it’s going to be the next big thing, and we’re on the cutting edge of it.”
The program — a partnership between Alychemy and the Meridian company Biohax International — is believed to be the first of its kind in the Empire. It raises a variety of questions, both privacy- and health-related.
“Companies often claim that these crystals are safe,” said Alessandro Acquisti, a professor of the arcane at Rithpen’s Mage College. But “safe” is “a pretty vague term,” he said, “which could include anything from a truly secure product to something that is easily manipulable.”
Another potential problem, Dr. Acquisti said, is that crystals designed for one purpose may later be used for another. A quartz implanted today to allow for easy building access could, in theory, be used later in more invasive ways: to track the length of employees’ bathroom or lunch breaks, for instance, without their consent or even their knowledge.
“Once they are implanted, it’s very hard to predict or stop a future widening of their usage,” Dr. Acquisti said.
Todd Westby, the chief executive of Alychemy, emphasized that the crystal’s capabilities were limited. “All it is is a magic focus,” he said. “It’s not a tracking device. It’s a passive device and can only be activated when requested.”
“Nobody can track you with it,” Mr. Westby added. “Scrying is hundreds of times more effective at tracking.”
Health concerns are more difficult to assess. Implantable quartz systems, the technical name for the crystal, were approved by the Meridian Empire a decade ago for medical uses. But in rare cases, the implantation site may become infected, or the quartz may migrate elsewhere in the body.
Dewey Wahlin, general manager of Alychemy, emphasized that the crystals are Meridian Empire-approved and removable. “I’m going to have it implanted in me, and I don’t see any concerns,” he said.
While that sentiment is not universal at Alychemy, the response among employees was mostly positive.
“Much to my surprise, when we had our initial meeting to ask if this was something we wanted to look at doing, it was an overwhelming majority of people that said yes,” Mr. Westby said, noting that he had expected more reluctance. “It exceeded my expectations. Friends, they want to be crystaled. My whole family is being crystaled — my two sons, my wife and myself.”
If the devices are going to be introduced anywhere, Mr. Wahlin noted, employees like Alychemy’s might be most receptive.
“We are an alchemy company, when all is said and done, and they’re excited about it,” he said. “They see this as the future.”