The following is the first chapter for e-Sc@pe: Nascent. It’s a Cyberpunk / Science Fiction Novel. If you’re interested in hi-tech futures with strange and sometimes twisted social structures, action, and a bit of humor thrown in, then you’ll probably enjoy this novel.
Tripp Anderson sat on the sofa, pressing buttons on the data pad in his hands. A nanobot programming manual filled the screen with the date prominently displayed in the lower right hand corner: July 5, 2170.
A fiber-optic cable glowed softly, connecting the data pad to the nano-belt worn around his waist.
“But dad, I’m seventeen.”, Tripp said. “All of my friends have one. Besides, it’s my birthday.”
“Shshsh, not now son.”, Carl said. His attention remained focused on his meeting, which was held over the net. He shifted slightly in the padded gray chair.
The sleek, metallic eye-phones hooked over his ears, interfacing with the nerves in his temples. Two fiber-optic wires protruded outward. They curved at the ends and projected laser data links into the pupils of his eyes.
Black Tactical Sensory Input gloves, or TSI gloves, covered his hands. The fingers of the gloves were covered with thin wires and sensors that merged together into a fiber-optic cable.
It was joined by a similar cable from the eye-phones that plugged into a data jack, embedded into the interface panel on the arm rest of the chair.
“Dad, c’mon. We really need to talk about this.” He watched his father making odd gestures with his gloved hands. The lights on the interface panel blinked and beeped.
“Son, not now. I’m in a meeting.”
Tripp sighed and slumped back into the soft cushions of the sofa. It hummed quietly and adjusted itself to fit his body. His fingers tapped the data pad as if it were an afterthought while he watched his father.
Carl spoke aloud in a clear voice, addressing the other participants connected to the data link. “I’m sorry, it’s my son. He’s seventeen today. You know how kids are at that age. But corporate policy, children should watch their parents work so they can learn.”
It seriously irritated Tripp, being referred to as a kid. The strictness of his parents always seemed blown out of proportion, even to those who didn’t know them. “I can’t believe this. You still treat me like a five year old. This stupid elementary school nano-belt, no net-access chip, might as well give me a four-eighty-six processor to play with.”
Carl smiled in Tripp’s direction, speaking softly. “Four-eighty-six eh? Good one son. At least you’re learning your computer history. Now please, we’ll discuss this after my meeting.” He used another fiber-optic cable to connect his own nano-belt to another data jack. It beeped softly. “Now, back to the matter at hand. I’m ready to download.”
Lights on Carl’s nano-belt flickered. Data from the net poured into its buffer circuits. Faint blue sparkles drifted around him as microscopic nanobots activated. They transferred data directly to his brain.
Tripp daydreamed as he watched.
“I’ll never understand why he won’t accept the procedure from the corporation. It’s not like he’ll have to pay for it. A data jack interfaced directly into your brain, that would be awesome. Bandwidth like that, bah, I’ll be lucky if I get my own net-access chip before I move out.”
“Download complete.”, Carl said. His fingers wiggled as he manipulated virtual objects with his brow raised curiously. “I understand your concerns, but the licensing agreement checks out. However, I will pass this along to my wife for a more detailed analysis.”
The one-sided sounds of the virtual meeting droned on, like soothing, low volume feedback in an audio circuit.
Tripp stared at the name tag his father wore, attached to his dress shirt. It read: Carl Anderson, MCCA, Cyber-Auditor. To the left of the wording, there was a realistic looking, three-dimensional holographic photo of him.
Tripp’s impending future weighed heavily upon him, a future employee of The Multimedia Copyright Corporation of America. In spite of all the propaganda he heard every day of his life, the mega-corp message always felt sinister to him. He shut his eyes tight, as if trying to force that feeling of destiny from his mind. His thoughts drifted to a conversation he had with his friends earlier that day.
* * *
“I know it’s illegal, but is it possible?”, Tripp asked.
Nik gestured politely with his hands. “Yes, but extremely dangerous. A standard civilian nano-belt isn’t designed for that type of power output. The tetradyn coils aren’t rated for that kind of voltage, not to mention the extra load that many nanobots would put on the particle emitters. There’s no easy way to say this. But, Frank you tell him.”
“Why do I have to be the one to tell him? You’re the electronics genius.”, Frank said.
“Perhaps, but you tend to explain things in a more, that is, easier to-”
“You mean I dumb it down enough for anyone to understand.” Frank folded his arms, then glared at Nik and Tripp.
“Well, something like that.” Nik smiled sheepishly.
“Somebody just tell me already.” Tripp stared at them impatiently.
Frank sighed. “Look, with a standard civilian nano-belt, maybe. But with that kiddie belt your parents gave you, forget it. Even if we had the medical programming libraries, there’s just not enough memory in that piece of junk for the program to run. Then, there are the safety protocols and medications needed if something goes wrong. Look, having the nanobots build a net interface directly into your brain is a cool idea, but we just don’t have what we need to pull it off.”
Tripp’s shoulders slumped a bit. “But your dad is a biologist, you could get the libraries from his lab. And Nik, with all that hardware your dad has laying around in his shop at work, you could get the-”
“Dammit, we aren’t research employees.”, Frank said. “Even if we could somehow get past security to swipe the stuff, it’s just too dangerous. Stop living in a fantasy and grow up. The wild west days of cyberspace are long gone.”
Frank and Tripp glared at each other for a moment.
Nik softly broke the awkward silence. “Frank is correct. Your safety is more important. Perhaps one day, when we’re older, and work for the corporation.”
* * *
A steady beeping sound squawked from Tripp’s data pad, pulling him from his daydream. He glanced at his nano-belt, then back at the data pad.
“Compiler Error: Unable to link required libraries.”
Tripp started to fidget with the belt. He sighed before replacing its Type A Energium power cartridge, then pressed another sequence of buttons on the data pad.
“File Saved Successfully.”
The message blinked across the screen for a few seconds, then displayed a long listing of files.
He tapped the screen, pointed at one of the files, then pressed a down arrow.
The belt around his waist gave off a thin cloud of blue sparkles. Tiny nanobots sparsely covered his body, entering anywhere they could find an opening between cells. Once inside, they attached themselves to his nervous system.
A mild, pleasant sensation tingled inside his head. The nanobots uploaded the file into his brain. He closed his eyes and concentrated. Schematics and technical documents slowly drifted by in his mind, in his imagination, as if he were in a vivid dream.
“Fiber-optic data links, speed limited safety processor, guaranteed to transfer data at the safest speeds to your child’s brain, and powered by affordable, low capacity Energium-A power cartridges.”
The same rubbish had been printed on the box the day his parents gave it to him, marketing hype for parents. Now that he was older, it meant the thing transferred data so slowly, you had time to watch water evaporate. Still, it was one of the technological miracles of the Corporate Revolution. However, in this instance, the documentation was practically useless.
Nanotechnology was just one of the many profitable new industries. They could do much more than just data transfer, but not for a civilian. And not with the slow, underpowered, safe nano-belt Tripp had.
His friends were right though. Using nanobots to perform surgery without the actual surgery, to give himself the holy grail of net interfaces, it was a theoretical possibility. However, without the proper equipment, it was just another pipe dream. He had taken the project as far as possible with the limited resources at his disposal. The program would have to remain incomplete, stored in his nano-belt memory core.
The sound of his father disconnecting the eye-phone interface quickly shook Tripp from his download. He tapped a button on the side of his nano-belt. It powered down and the blue sparkles faded. Then, he quickly disconnected the fiber-optic cable linking the belt to his data pad, and stuffed it into his pocket.
Carl disconnected himself from his net terminal and eyed Tripp suspiciously. “So, what’s got you glued to your data pad? I hope it isn’t another one of those old cyberspace fiction novels. You know those things will rot your brain.”
“Uh, no dad, not this time. Honest.”
Carl stood and walked over to the sofa.
Tripp took out his data pad and held it up, showing him the screen.
“Just downloading some nano-belt schematics, and some stuff on nanobot programming algorithms.” Tripp smiled sheepishly.
Carl blinked and stared at him for a moment. “You’re really into this stuff?”
“Yeah. I hate to destroy your dreams and everything, but I think I want to write nanobot programs for a living. Cyber-auditing content licenses doesn’t look all that appealing to me.”
Carl smirked, though he fought hard to hide it. “I’m deeply hurt. What will your mother say when she finds out?”
“I imagine she’ll be happy.”, Tripp said. “I’ll be able to put her in the best nursing home money can buy when she gets old and gray.”
“Hey, what about me?” Carl put both hands on his hips. He tried to give Tripp a scolding look, but the wide grin on his face just made him look goofy.
“Sorry dad, you won’t live that long. You’re so good at your job, you’ll eventually learn too much. The corporation will paste you the moment you cease to be useful.”
Carl blinked. “Huh? What? Did you just imply your mother sucks at her job, or that I’m a workaholic? Where do you come up with this stuff anyway?”
“From those brain rotting, cyberspace fiction novels about the early days of the net. Where else could I learn quality insults?” Trip burst into laughter, joined a moment later by Carl.
Carl reached out and ruffled Tripp’s hair. “If nanobot programming doesn’t work out, you can always become a stand-up comedian for the MCCA Entertainment Department.”
Tripp forced himself to chuckle, but just the thought of it made him feel nauseous.
“I have to meet your mother at work. A problem with our latest surveillance project. When we get home, we’ll take you out for your birthday.”
Tripp waved his hand towards Carl. “Sure dad, don’t worry about it. I’m getting used to being put off.”
“Son, listen. We’re not neglecting you. Our work for the corporation puts food on the table, clothes on your back, and provides us this nice place to live in.” Carl gestured in a mock grandiose manner at their surroundings. “Sure we aren’t rich, but we’re better off than a lot of other people out there. I don’t expect you to understand now, but someday you will, when you work for the corporation. For now, just remember, we love you.” He bent down and hugged Tripp while lightly patting his back.
“I love you too dad.” Tripp felt a brief pang of guilt wash over him.
“Before I go, here. Consider this a down payment on your birthday celebration.” Carl smiled and pulled something from his pocket. He offered Tripp a small box, wrapped in holographic paper that projected a dazzling array of rainbows across the room.
“What is it?” Tripp gingerly shook it close to his ear. His eyes were filled with hope and anticipation.
“Open it and find out. I have to get going now, but make sure you finish your homework before you spend all evening playing with it. Remember, mom is depending on you for that nursing home.” Carl grinned, picked up his coat, then walked out the door.
Tripp waved goodbye to his father and turned his attention to the box. He almost felt angry for allowing himself to hope it was what he had asked for. Holding his breath, he tugged on the ribbon. The wrapping paper slid off the box easily. He lifted the lid, peered inside, and blinked. He was so surprised, it took him a moment to realize what it was.
“Sweet.” He plucked the small chip from the box. “Just like the early days of the cyberspace pioneers. This is gonna be awesome.”
He ran over to his father’s terminal and sat in the padded reclining chair. The leather upholstery still felt warm from where his father had previously been sitting. He pulled the TSI gloves onto his hands. They hummed briefly. The nanobots built into them adjusted the material and shape of the gloves to fit him.
Next, he picked up the eye-phones and placed them upon his head. Then, he checked the fiber-optic cable that plugged them into the data jack that was built into the right arm rest. Slightly to the left, he connected the data jack for the gloves. Next, he plugged his nano-belt into the third jack. Just below the data jacks, his fingers drifted over the chip slot.
“Here we go.” He took a deep breath, then slotted the chip. Next, he turned his attention to the control panel embedded in the left arm rest. His thoughts raced, going over all the things he wanted to try on the net. He held his breath and pressed the button.
To his dismay, instead of a net-access welcome screen appearing, little cartoon characters marched in front of him. An array of colors in various fractal patterns flashed across his field of vision as the equipment powered up. After a moment, the digital landscape stabilized.
“Welcome to the net.”, chuckled a digital clown.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”, Tripp said.
He used the gloves and gestured wildly to push the clown out of the way.
“Now that’s not very nice.”, the clown said.
“Ugh, that’s creepy.”
It didn’t matter how hard he pushed the clown, or which direction he tried to travel, the clown followed him.
“Main Menu, show me what I can access.”, Tripp said. A large menu full of buttons appeared, listing various games, puzzles, mazes, videos, and interactive stories. It was the latest popular kids programming, pumped out by the MCCA Entertainment Department. He tried to move it, but it wouldn’t budge. “Command Override.”, Tripp said.
“Access denied. Naughty naughty.”, the clown said.
Tripp jerked the eye-phones off his head and yanked out the chip. He stuffed it into his pocket and grumbled. “This bites, it’s all kiddie crap. Access locked.”
He slouched down into the chair and sighed, then looked up. His father’s net-access chip caught his eye, laying carelessly underneath a stack of vid-discs. “Jackpot.” He grabbed the chip and slotted it with one quick motion, then donned the eye-phones once again.
This time, a feminine voice echoed in his head. “Welcome to Net-Access Online. Local Net selected.”
A whirlwind of colors whizzed by, forming an almost artistic view of various files, servers, access nodes, and links to other networks.
“Now let’s see what we can do.”
Tripp navigated the three dimensional cyberscape. Colors spiraled by as he traversed the data pathways, like riding down a freshly painted road on a high speed motor bike through a digital city.
It was awkward at first. He got swept along the data streams until he figured out how to control his movements; but he learned quickly.
“Bot Board, access index.”, Tripp said.
Immediately, he flew forward and upward, then down through a twisted maze of pipes. In the blink of an eye, he was dumped into a large, cavernous structure that made of various geometric shapes.
Stacks of small squares hovered all around, connected by a glowing ribbon. A small hamster avatar peered at him for a moment, then scurried away. Tripp couldn’t help but grin.
He gawked at all the stacks for a moment. “Ah, each stack must represent a discussion thread.” He slowly floated over to a larger stack and peered at it curiously. Each square in the stack had a thin ribbon connected to it. The other end of the ribbon was connected to one of the smaller stacks. He gingerly lifted one after another and skimmed over the words that scrolled across each one.
“Hey, stop hogging the index. Use the search function if you’re gonna be that picky.”, someone said.
Tripp turned around quickly to face a female digital avatar. She looked like she was about the same age as he was, with blue eyes, black hair, dressed in tight leather pants, and a black tank top.
“Uh, sorry. I’m sorta new here. Where’s the search function?”, Tripp asked.
“You’re kidding, right? The search function is the same place it always is on any bulletin board site. What, your parents keep you sheltered from the net your whole life?”
“Uh, well, yeah. Sorta. Look, just point to it. I’ll figure it out from there.” Tripp folded his arms and glared.
“Geez, I was only kidding. Wow, must suck living in your house. It’s there.” The woman pointed to a glowing white ball hovering above the index.
“Thanks. So, um, I’m Tripp. Who are you? That is, if you don’t mind me asking.”
“Mo- er, Midnight Blade.”, she said.
“What kinda name is that?”, Tripp asked.
“The kind you use on the net when you don’t want people knowing who you really are. It’s called a handle. Wow, this really is your first time. I’ll show ya the ropes. The net can be a dangerous place. If your not careful, you could run into the wrong crowd. Maybe end up as a vegetable in a mega-corp hospital, or get pasted.”
“Pasted? You mean, as in your body recycled into glue at a factory? I thought that was just an urban legend.”
“You really have a lot to learn. Stick with me and you’ll stay alive.”
“Yeah, okay. Well, in that case, I guess you can call me…” He thought long and hard as the clock cycles in the digital world ticked by.
“I’m Midnight Blade, and you’re…”
“I’m uh, I’m…”
“You’re Veggie-Boy.” Midnight grinned widely. Her avatar’s mouth stretched into a goofy looking Cheshire cat smile.
“Yeah okay, I guess. It doesn’t really sound all that cool though.”
She smirked and shook her head. “You still don’t get it. On the net, a name isn’t what makes you cool. It’s what you can do and what you know that makes you cool. A name is just a label. Without the name, you’re still you. It’s also about what you’ve done that gets you a reputation.”
“Well that makes sense. Okay then, oh fearless leader, I’m looking for data on nanobot programming. Specifically, data jack construction via nanobots. Though, anything that gives tips on getting the most out of crappy hardware is worth a look.”, Tripp said.
“You sure have lofty goals for someone who knows jack about the net.”
“I may be a net noob, but I know my way around a nano-belt, front, back, sideways, while blindfo-”
“Yeah yeah, and you go to school in six feet of toxic snow, barefoot, uphill, both ways, backwards. I hope you aren’t one of those creepy old men that run around the net, using a young avatar to prey on women.” She eyed him suspiciously.
Tripp’s jaw dropped and he stared at her. A giant, cartoon-like question mark, followed by an exclamation mark popped up over his head.
“Never mind.”, she said.
“People really do that?”, Tripp asked. The disgust on his face was plainly obvious.
“Like I said, you’d best stick with me.” She took his hand and nodded. They floated up to the glowing, white ball that hovered over the index stack.
“Here, just hold it and speak your search terms.”, she said.
Tripp followed her instructions. A brief moment after he spoke, the digital landscape exploded into fireworks of colors. Translucent stacks of small squares appeared at his feet.
“See? Easy.” Midnight winked at him. “Those are only temporary. When you’re finished, just toss them away. Your search results will also vanish if you leave or jack out. Here, this might help too. I got together with a few friends and we recorded what we know about the net in this file. Don’t let anyone know you’ve got it though. It’s sorta banned from publication.” She pointed her finger at Tripp and drew spiral shapes into the air. A black ribbon appeared, trailing after her finger. Slowly, it wound its way around Tripp.
“Upload it to your belt.”
“And how exactly do I do that?”, he asked.
“Eat it. It’s a standard command. It’s a signal to your interface, tells it to transfer the data to your belt, so you can upload it to your brain whenever. Great time saver. And please, no lame jokes about taking megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes, or anything like that. They’ve all been done to death.”
“Heh, okay. Here goes.”
Tripp opened his mouth and took a few bites out of the ribbon. It had no flavor. A faint, pleasurable tingle washed over him as the data transferred into his nano-belt in the real world, then slowly into his brain. He closed his eyes and smiled.
Midnight held her other hand in front of her. A small window appeared, showing various progress bars. “Ooh, he likes it. Ninety-nine point nine percent retention rate. People usually forget most of what they upload to their brains after the first couple minutes. Sorry Veggie-Boy, but this is as far as I go on the first date. See ya around.”
Midnight twirled around in circles. Tiny, bright sparkles spewed forth from her avatar before it vanished.
“Wait, when can we meet again?”, Tripp asked. But no answer came. She was gone.
He turned his attention back to the data he was downloading. It was surprisingly useful and understandable.
Next, he started on the stack of search results in front of him. He viewed translucent technical documents, transferring useful ones into his nano-belt, then into his brain while he continued to search.
Just like a kid with a new toy, he read, learned, and coded some practice programs. One article segment in particular stood out.
“We did a study of one-million people. Out of the entire population, 99.9% of them forget most of what they download into their brains within the first five minutes. This percentage drops by five to ten percent each time the same data is download into their brains.
These people are the primary market for nano-belt technology and programs, as well as Energium Type A power cartridges.
The other 0.1% percent retain most of what they download into their brains during the initial file transfer. Out of this group of people, one percent will retain a complete record of the data they download into their brains on the first download.
These last two categories of people often become nanobot programmers and engineers, or successful criminals. The last category is of particular interest. These individuals are highly sought after for weapons grade nano-programs, or tend to be the target of assassinations of rival corporations or gangs.”
Tripp felt deeply troubled by the article. He grumbled quietly. “Is this why mom and dad didn’t want me on the net? No pressure there. Hmm, let’s see what dad’s up to.”
He kicked over the remaining stack of search results. They vanished in small, decorative star bursts. With a nod of his head, he floated up and out of the bulletin board site, entering the main data backbone once again.
”Access MCCA Net.”
His body floated faster over the electronic landscape, then went spinning down into another pipe-like structure, an access node. Metallic barriers parted, and allowed him to enter unchallenged.
A computer generated voice greeted him. “Welcome to MCCA Online. Net-access key recognized. Access granted. Hello Carl.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me. No password, no voice recognition, just dad’s net-access chip? These guys must be morons.” He poked around carefully.
Various colored boxes lined the area and other colored shapes zoomed by in the background. After he inspected them for them for a bit, it became clear that each color represented a specific type of data.
He read through a few interesting technical documents about online service upgrades and learned how the internal MCCA systems operated. But for the most part, things were fairly boring. There were financial reports and earnings statements; it was normal data you would expect to find in a corporate system.
Then, something caught his eye. He floated down into the center of a circular platform. “Hmm, looks like some sort of corporate mainframe.”
The platform was divided up into sectors and blocks, which somewhat reminded him of a pie.
“Access sector seven, sub-block alpha.”
A gruff, digitized, male voice responded. “Access restricted. Input password.”
“Don’t wanna give up your secrets eh? We’ll just see about that.”
Tripp held his hands in front of him and concentrated on the empty space between them. “Load hack and access.” Black sparkles drifted out of the head of his virtual self, coalescing into a cube held in his hands. With one finger, he traced odd shapes, math formulas, and other code symbols onto the it.
His thoughts poured out of his virtual avatar. Streams of ones and zeros filled up the cube held in the clutches of his digital fingers. After a few minutes, the cube changed shape, until it looked like a deadly, black pitchfork. He checked the code three times to make sure everything was perfect, then took a deep breath to steady himself.
“Hack and access, execute.” He stabbed the pitchfork into the sector on the platform.
A black cloud with tentacles burst forth from the newly forged weapon. It violently probed the platform. A crack formed in the sector, followed by a blinding light that poured from it.
Tripp gripped the pitchfork tightly. It vibrated in his hands. Colors rapidly whizzed by, and his virtual avatar was pulled into the crack.
After a few moments, everything stabilized. The walls were translucent inside the data block. “Hmm, it looks bigger on the inside. It must be compressed.” Various colored shapes lined the walls and shelves, storing secret information not meant for his eyes.
He felt nervous about where he was, but he also had an overwhelming urge to satisfy his curiosity. He pulled translucent copies from the block and ate them. He could feel a brief tingle in his head. He tapped the waist of his virtual avatar and signaled his nano-belt to store the data for later viewing.
One particular cube looked rather interesting. He gently poked at it until it came to life. The cube flattened out into a square screen. A video file played.
A gruff looking bald man in a fancy business suit stood at the head of a large table as the video came into focus. It was Richard Ronwald, the CEO of the MCCA. He was speaking to the others at the table.
“I just received our instructions from the board of directors. The bribe-, uh, I mean the campaign contributions have been paid on their end, to both congress and the senate. The provisions in the new laws will be slipped in on a rider. They were so eager to get paid, they didn’t even stop to think about how these new provisions could be used. Most didn’t look past the cover page.”
A nervous looking man raised his hand. “Excuse me sir, but this all sounds, um, well, you know, dangerous. I mean, what if we’re caught?”
It was Larry Morgan, the Research and Development Director. He was a thin, wiry man with short blond hair and blue eyes. Even though he wore a business suit, his body language and mannerisms suggested he was a coward.
“That depends on why we’re caught. Hypothetically, if it’s your fault, for example? After your employment is terminated, canceling your rights to a closed corporate investigation, you will be arrested by the FBI based on the evidence the government finds in your files, files that we turned over to them. They’ll find evidence implicating you and exonerating everyone else, naturally. I’ll be asked to step down, and you’ll go to prison. Hypothetically of course. So don’t screw up.”
“Y- yes sir.”
“Besides, it’s not our place to question the board’s decisions, no matter how risky-” He cleared his throat, adjusted his tie, and took a deep breath. “Now, we are to execute phase two of the plan. The board wants to use this as an opportunity to get rid of some of those people down in the lower levels.”
Phase two documents exploded into view. A red security light flashed in Tripp’s eye-phones, and a klaxon rang loudly in his ears.
“Shit, I’m being traced.”
Tripp’s fingers flew across the data. He quickly grabbed translucent copies and scarfed them down, His nano-belt stored file after file With that much data, it would take time to transfer all of it to his brain. Especially with his slow nano-belt. Time he didn’t have.
Tripp yanked the eye-phones from his head, then pulled the gloves from his hands. The abrupt end to the session left him feeling a bit disoriented. He groped the armrest of the chair, pulled his dad’s net-access chip from the terminal, and tossed it onto the desk. The equipment powered down with a groaning whine.
His heart was pounding. Silence settled in. He expected corporate soldiers to bust through the doors with pulse rifles aimed at him. He had seen it hundreds of times in the vid-discs, and read about it in all those stories of the cyberspace pioneers. But everything was quiet, except for the rapid thumping of his own heart, and his racing thoughts.
“Were they unsuccessful? Did I jack out in time? This is heavy stuff. I need somewhere safe to hide out until the data transfer is finished so I can figure out what to do.”
He scribbled a note on paper, and attached it to the fridge with a small magnet. It was a quaint form of ancient communication his parents still enjoyed.
Tripp grabbed his backpack, walked out the door, and locked it by passing his hand over the access panel. It emitted an audible click and beep. Then, he quickly made his way down the gray, sterile hallway, through the airlock.
* * *
Richard sat at the head of the table. In spite of his plump appearance, he had an air of command about him. “Now we are to execute phase two of the plan. The board wants to use this as an opportunity to get rid of some of those people down in the lower levels.”
His head turned slightly, staring at Larry Morgan. “Research division, you will construct a secret lab in the K-Vegas Sector. The people living there don’t care much for anything except parties and night clubs, so you can use that as a front to hide it.”
Larry trembled nervously while he tapped on the data pad in his hand.
“Make sure you use expendable people for the construction. Hire as many low level dwellers as you can for the manual labor. Once finished, we’ll arrange accidents for them and recycle the bodies at the glue factory. No evidence, no leaks. Then, develop the Type C Energium. What do our egg heads think of the data the board sent over?”
“They were very excited.”, Larry said. “Up until now, Type C Energium was only theoretical. But now, they believe they can actually produce it in a lab. They’ve already started discussing how we could retrofit power plants to use it as a clean, limitless power source.”
Richard rolled his eyes. “Hold off on the perpetual motion machines for now.”
“Oh? Then what does the board want us to build with it?”, Larry asked. He twiddled a stylus in his fingers.
“A what?” Larry’s stylus dropped loudly onto the table.
The room immediately went silent and everyone stared at him.
“Are they out of their minds? The amount of energy that would be released w-”
Richard raised his hand quickly to silence him. “These meetings are recorded, remember? You wouldn’t want the board to think your overstepping your bounds. Now, calm down and restate your concerns.”
Larry’s voice crackled nervously. “Of course sir, my apologies. I have safety concerns with constructing an explosive device using Type C Energium. An accident would be catastrophic. As in, everything within the blast radius vaporized. We’re talking about a very large blast radius, even with only a small amount.”
“I think that’s the idea.”, Richard said.
Every department head just paused a moment, looked at each other, then back to Richard.
“It’s just for insurance. The board feels that we have a better chance of being successful if we have something at our disposal that’s more powerful than the government’s nuclear weaponry. As I understand it, there won’t be any radioactive fallout from an Energium-C detonation?”, Richard asked.
Larry responded with a little more confidence. “No sir. From my studies of all types of Energium, the calculations show that Type C emissions should have an extremely short half-life outside of living tissue, lasting only milliseconds.”
Richard nodded with a slight smirk.
“Sir, remind me again, what is the goal of this plan?”, Larry asked.
“The board feels the country will run more smoothly as a corporation instead of a government. Once we’re successful, other countries will follow suit. Then, it will literally be nations in economic competition with each other. Wars will be fought through the stock exchange instead of on the battle field. It will be extremely profitable. But the first step is removing the current corrupt government.” Richard parroted the same words the board of directors spoke when he asked that same question. It sounded as hollow now as it did then. But they were dangerous, powerful men. And these were dangerous times. He didn’t dare go against them. Instead, he wanted to be one of them.