VZ Goliath [Sci-Fi Novel]

09

Standing far above the city, he saw the little flames on the outskirts and the puffs of smoke slowly rising into the evening sky. A tall apartment complex had caught fire on the upper floors. It looked majestic with the buildings around it, reflecting the red flames.

The office for their meeting was not the highest spot in the city, but the most recognizable on the peak of the needle-like structure. The lights and fires from the city brought more light into the room than they needed. The three sat behind him. They watched as well but were not as pleased as he was. Most essential targets would get hit first. It was a clean-up, cutting loose ends. Everyone who had been involved or knew that he was, had to go. Their deaths were disguised among many others, which was not hard in this chaos. Most of them lived in the outer city anyway.

The woman behind him made a nervous cough before she started to talk. Against his advice, all three were following the news and reports on social media.

“When will it stop? Wasn’t this enough? The damage should already be irreversible.”

He answered her without turning around from his window view of the burning city.

“I told you how it would go down and you agreed. Everything is proceeding as planned.”

The half-bald overweight man in his tight suit was whipping his leg rhythmically. He was nervous as well. The other woman at the table was relaxed. She was the oldest of the bunch and could be their grandma. She was the most corrupt of the three and it did not bother her how many would die, as long as she got what she wanted; a big fat paycheck.

The apartment building on fire erupted a massive fireball. Something must have exploded inside one of the apartments. A moment later, he received the first status update. The teams had been deployed and had taken over the company building. The electricity had been cut and three people were arrested. The next part of the plan was to bring the electricity back online and update the servers.

Small blinking lights from police and ambulance cars started to mix into the fires of the evening. He followed the dozens of them slowly moving over the highway into the outer city.

“If this keeps going, millions will die. It will damage far more than just the company.”

The woman behind him was getting impatient and started to crack. He did not like it one bit.

“It would have happened regardless of your participation or not. Now at least the government won’t get the blame, and many less will die because of you. People will hear the news and soon you will be among the richest people on the planet. Turn off your feed and relax. We’ve already talked about this.”

She continued to babble and the fat idiot joined her. He was getting a headache. He had to get out of here before it would ruin the success of the evening.

Many years ago, the three had gotten on his radar. Due to his involvement in ELIM, he had access to investor and shareholder data. One day he found their names on the client list of a company that had invested billions into ELIM. They were elected officials, which forbid them by anti-corruption laws to own, work, or supply any company, directly or indirectly. What they had done would get them out of office and into jail. While he could have reported them, he knew better. As it turned out, it would get convenient later on. He kept a close eye on them as the years passed. They were not just a little corrupt; they were the most corrupt of the entire government. They used every small legal loophole and grey zone to their advantage. His files on them grew and grew. He would be considered a hero in front of parliament if he shared all the ways in which they managed to trick the system, but he waited, and now they were in his hands.

When he confronted them with the choice of either doubling down on their corruption or face the consequences, they all choose the former. He made them a deal they could not refuse. It meant he had to tell them about his plan, but he made sure not to give them any details. It would be their word against his, while he had the files for their demise in his hands.

If they supplied him with what he needed from the government, they would get a share of DELPHI and play a critical part in the government’s redemption. Because of them, the government would get out of this whole disaster with barely any scratches. The government would win against the evil corporation. He made sure it would turn out that way. His plan was not to break the government and cause a rebellion after all. He owned a fair share of the media, and they would happily write the narrative. The three of them agreed and accepted his demands. His plan took shape and they did not question any decisions, until now.

He turned around to the woman; she had stood up by now. The fat idiot’s head had turned red from all the babbling and thinking, and even the old woman seemed to start to get doubts and was tapping with her fingers on the table. He was getting pissed as he saw the three of them.

“You are disgusting human beings.”

They stopped their discussion and looked astounded at his expression.

“You have used and abused the system for years and never questioned your actions. Exporting weapons to conflict zones, deregulating companies and the market, cutting financial aid, and forcing people into involuntary debt. People have been dying on your hand for years, and you made the system even worse for them.

And you three are also responsible for today happening in the first place. You were the main drivers in the deregulation before the 5.0 launch. Not because implants needed fewer regulations, but because ELIM would take over the entire market and balloon your portfolio. Even after all these years, you are still blocking all policies that would regulate the market, and therefore ELIM.

And don’t pretend that you suddenly care for all the people dying in the streets. They have been dying for years and none of you cared. You just want me to comfort you, that it is not your fault, that you are not to blame, but I won’t. You are responsible for all of this. Accept it. Confront the truth; you are the worst of the worst. You created a system in which people are born criminals and will never make it anywhere in their lives because the system is actively working against them. They are the reason for your success and wealth. All your achievements are built on the dead bodies piling up in the streets today. Mine will be too, but at least I can stand behind it and own the fact. To turn this shit around, drastic measures are needed. A few million dead is better than half the world turning to anarchy and bombed back into the stone age.”

All three had silently listened to him vent. It was dead quiet in the room. Slowly his face calmed down and the anger vanished. He received another message. The servers were back online and had pushed the hotfix. The government was already issuing information for citizens and media. ELIM executives were arrested and company assets seized. The last phase would distribute the narrative; Government good, ELIM bad. The regulations for implants were already written the way he wanted them and signed by all three. Their signature on the documents was the last thing he needed from them, and they had given it just a few minutes ago. Now they were dead weight.

The fat idiot stood up and straightened his back.

“I’m not responsible for this. This was your plan. You are to blame, not me.”

He clumsily made his way around his chair and walked towards the exit of the room. Kaiser turned back towards the window and watched the show. The night had gotten darker, and the flames brighter. The blinking lights danced in a disturbing symphony. He continued.

“Your legacy will not be forgotten. After you saw the devastation today has caused, you rushed to sign the paper with your colleagues and then decided to end it, knowing all the atrocities you have committed to this world. You still did not want to face or fix them. All of your involvements will be leaked, and the system will fix its loopholes. The parliament will get cleaned from your kind, and you will be forgotten. Another body to count towards this tragic accident.”

The overweight man tried to open the door with both his hands, but it would not budge. He pulled a few more times with all his strength, then looked scared in Kaiser’s direction. The old woman at the table started to laugh. She understood what Kaiser had done. He had used all of them and would not let them leave the room alive. It was a proper way for her to go, used by someone else. She kept laughing while the woman next to her went pale and started screaming.

“You can’t do this. You need us. We will make sure DELPHI controls the market and that nobody else can get in our way.”

“I don’t need any of you. I am more than competent enough to do it myself. And you still don’t understand. I don’t want to rig the system; I don’t want to corrupt it. When this is all over, the world will be born anew, from the ashes of your deeds. But things will have to get a lot worse before they can get better.”

The old woman stopped laughing and looked Kaiser in the eyes.

“Just do it already. We both don’t have all day for this.”

Kaiser smiled, took the small pistol out of his inner pocket, and shot her in the head. As she fell off her chair, the woman next to her started to scream. He pulled the trigger until the screaming stopped. The ball in a suit was charging him. He was not giving up that easily but was way too slow. With each bullet, his slow jog turned into a walk, then a crawl, until he dropped over at Kaiser’s feet. What a mess. But at least he did not have to clean it up.

As his quadcopter flew him away, the entire floor went up in flames. The windows blew, and the fire made its way upwards till it reached the antennas on top. The building turned into a giant torch, visible in the entire city and blending perfectly into today’s scenery.

The web was in uproar. Users were streaming at an unprecedented rate. He knew the reason and understood its implications. Should he intervene or let this play out? If he did, the trajectory of this evening and the next months would turn into a completely different direction. What reason did he have? If he did something now, what was the reason not to stop it altogether? He only influenced the game; he never decided it. One part of him felt an obligation, but the other warned him; he would only make it worse. There was no reason for him to play because if he did, he would inevitably lose.

He saw the ID of a chip coming online he had sold quite a while ago. It connected to a bunch of servers it should not have access to. He knew the ID, but he did not know what it had been up to all this time. The connection dropped and the ID went offline. He checked the files it had uploaded and understood. That’s what they had been up to. He knew they were working on synthetical backups, but now the pieces came together. It was a path that had opened for them, but he was surprised that they had taken it. They could have just taken the money and moved on. Maybe this was more exciting for them, after all.

They had gotten so close and failed. Could this be considered a nudge? He calculated the pathways with his intervention. It would barely alter the results and eased his mind. Both sides would still be pleased, and none could prove his involvement. He smiled. It was time to play god, give the ball a nudge, and see where it would roll. He distributed the update.