A peek at a new sci-fi blogfic / series I’m working on. ;)
It was the turn of the century. The Technology Age had reached its peak at a point in time when a group of programmers were working on a highly experimental and controversial project that was about to change the world—but not in a way that anyone expected, for if there is one certainty about technology, it’s that good intentions can inevitably be used for the wrong purposes, and the expected should never be expected…
Taurus Labs, April 14, 2000
No one in their right mind would give up a date with their attractive girlfriend to spend a Friday night cooped up in a computer lab—but then again, there were many who said that Simon Wong’s mind wasn’t quite right.
“You’re insane,” said Donnie Bratts, Simon’s head assistant programmer. He stood at the interface console with Simon and half a dozenm other programmers and engineers who’d opted to put in some overtime to meet the Beta project’s deadline. Subsequently, they all stood huddled around the project mainframe in the heart of what was called the “TechnoBin,” a geek term for a large room cluttered with computers and wires of all kinds. At the center of the room, and around which all other equipment was arranged, a circular platform had been built that supported a high-backed chair. In other words, to the un-enlightened passerby, the place might have looked like Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory.
“Maybe…but I’m…betting that…this works…anyway,” Simon smirked, watching his computer screen as the latest build of the software driver compiled. When he was eight, he’d gotten in a car accident which had killed his parents but left him alive, albeit with a fair amount of damage to his spinal cord. As such, his upper body was under-developed, his eyesight was 20/240, and he walked with a slight hunch. His accident was also the reason for his slow, drawn-out speech, though that in no way mirrored the natural speed and efficiency of his mind, the mind that had gone through four years at MIT, another four at the Technological Institute of Southern California, and the last six here at Taurus Labs, where his theories on biotechnics were at last being turned into a reality.
“If this works,” said another of the programmers, Todd Forster, who sat on a stool munching a Snickers bar, “you’ll be rich enough to buy your own insane asylum to commit yourself to.”
Everyone laughed. Simon did too, but it was peripheral to the work he was doing. He simply turned to watch a pair of engineers who were messing with some equipment on the upload platform nearby. “Hey…guys,” he called out. “First run…in five minutes. Have…everything ready.”
The lab lit up, then, as all the computers were brought online.
It’s almost like in the Mark I days, thought Simon as he went over some last minute checks at his terminal. An entire room filled with big, bulky equipment that’s only purpose is to transfer the electromagnetic impulses from a human brain to a computer hard disk. At least, that’s what we’re trying to do.
“System up and running,” called out one of the other tech guys. “We’re ready when you are.”
Simon nodded and walked over to the platform, where Donnie stood.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Donnie asked as Simon got unflinchingly into the chair. “I mean, not to bash your work or anything, but there’s no guarantee here. What if you get stuck in the buffer? What if we get a crash? What if there’s not enough memory?”
“Then we…sue Taurus and…I get to have…the most expensive…funeral in…history,” was Simon’s reply. His smile explained that he wasn’t expecting any problems, and that he wasn’t going to get back up out of the chair until he knew it was possible to upload his mind onto a computer and then download it to his body again.
Donnie shook his head and lowered the helmet over Simon’s head. “Gotcha. We’ll never know until we try. All right, then. We’ll have you uploaded into a pre-programmed locale—is Jonny’s Quake 3 training temple okay?”
“And your character?”
“Of course. If we encounter any problems, we’ll stick you in the buffer first before doing any disk scans.”
Once the uplink helmet had been fastened securely onto Simon’s head, the uploading process began. Donnie sat with the other programmers at the console and began entering the appropriate commands while glancing back at his friend routinely, just to make sure things were going smoothly. As expected, Simon convulsed lightly and briefly in his chair as the upload began transferring his brain impulses, the patterns of energy that made up his mind, onto the server.
“All right, guys,” said Donnie, watching the percentage counter on his terminal. “Ten minutes until completion. Now we wait.” To his left, one of the main servers churned like there was no tomorrow; to his right, Jonny’s monitor displayed the empty arena where Simon would soon be appearing as Razor.
Todd took off his glasses and wiped the lenses on his shirt before standing and pulling a fiver from his wallet. “I’m gonna get something from the snack machine. You guys want anything?”
“No thanks,” said Donnie. Jonny, apparently mesmerized by the upload process, mumbled something similar. Someone from the rear of the lab, one of the engineers, called out, “Yeah, get me a bag of pretzels!”
Nodding and casting one more half-curious, half-nervous glance towards Simon’s comatose form, Todd left the lab. The vending machine was at the end of a long, overly air-conditioned hallway which led to the rear exit of the Taurus building. As he walked, he thrust his hands into his jeans pockets and focused on the vending machine, trying to guess what he wanted before he got there.
“Let’s see,” he mumbled. “Twizzlers…no, Corn Nuts? No…Grandma’s Peanut Butter cookies—”
It had been a long night. He was tired, and therefore not as responsive as he might have been earlier in the day. He didn’t notice that there was something wrong with the shadows coming from the exit until it was too late and the intruder had pounced on him. All he caught was a blur of black before his glasses were knocked off and he was slammed into the wall.
“W-hat the h-hell?” he gasped, the wind knocked out of him. He squinted, trying to make out the features of his attacker, but it was pretty much useless, for in a moment, the intruder had a grip on his neck and with one snapping pinch, blew his pressure point.
“F-fuck…me…” were Todd’s last words as he sank down onto the floor.
The upload was at sixty-five percent when eight men clad in black bodysuits and armed with assault rifles came rushing into the lab without warning. They swarmed in around the programmers and one began shouting orders:
“Listen up! Do what you’re told and no one will get hurt! I want all of you to get up slowly and lay down on the floor with your hands over your head! Now, move!”
Donnie nodded at the rest of the programmers and engineers as he slid off his chair and did as instructed. For a moment he feared that these men might harm Simon, since he couldn’t hear or respond, but to his surprise, they ignored him and flocked to the computer consoles instead—save for two who remained on watch.
Damn, these guys mean business, he thought, straining his eyes to see what was going on. The intruders conversed with each other in Japanese. One produced a portable disk drive and plugged it into the computer, making it clear: these men had come to steal the Beta program. But dressed as neo-ninjas?
The heel of a heavy boot knocked against Donnie’s skull and sent flashes of red across his sight. As he lost consciousness, he knew that it was all over, that someone had wanted their technology, had waited patiently until it was finished, and had now stepped forward to claim it as their own.
“…what do we do with Mr. Wong here?”
“…take him with us. Once the upload is complete. Darkwwod has made it clear that we’re not to allow any harm to come to his body…”
That was the last Donnie heard before falling head-first into the abyss of sleep.