VZ Goliath [Sci-Fi Novel]

20

“And you think it will work this time?”

“It has to.”

Julio was confidently sitting on the medical chair. V and Z were standing before him while Shana monitored his health and brain activity.

The first few tries had resulted in small electric shocks, to the concern of Shana and amusement of V and Z. After several attempts, they finally had a breakthrough. With a thin latex helmet, they remapped his brain activity while an AI auto-adjusted the parameters.

Z took the small planter from the table and dropped the implant into the slot. Julio nodded, and the planter cut open the skin with a thin lazer. The cut was barely visible until the skin flap opened and made space for the implant to slide in. It only took a few seconds, and the procedure felt like someone touching your skin, not cutting it open.

The second wave on Shana’s screen had quickly synchronized with the first, and both were now swinging harmoniously.

Julio activated the program on his interface. It was a basic stimulant that worked similarly to how DELPHI implants had worked, but instead of focusing on evoking strong negative emotions, it was triggering and stimulating positive ones. Programmed not to go overboard or into extreme territories, but work like a micro and give a small boost of emotions. Julio dialed up the intensity, and his brain activity changed.

“Seems to work. How do you feel?”

It was as if he was letting go of unnecessary thoughts in his mind. As if the fog before him was slowly clearing up. V stood before him and zoomed in with her eyes. His body was behaving completely normal. His facial structures, pores, and temperature showed no signs of illness or discomfort.

“Let’s see what we can juice out of you.”

The five sliders they had developed reconstructed the brain when amused, excited, satisfied, surprised, and relieved. The different mixtures of those were the presets they were building into the implants. One preset for learning, in which the person was exciting and surprised about the topic while triggering satisfaction and amusement during the learning process. Another preset for demanding physical work, in which relief was the primary emotion and made it more relaxing and enjoyable. They were working on a couple more to get released with the first generation.

After a few hours, Julio was fully exhausted from the intensity of the different emotional states. By using specific hardware parts for the implant, the intensity was capped way below the level of a strong psychoactive. Enough to get people slightly high, but not enough to make them lose control. They would not release something more powerful in their first generation, if at all. The brain was building a resistance to the presets anyway; the more intense, the more resistance over the next days. They adjusted the presets accordingly and brought them to a level at which resistance was barely kicking in. This way, the presets could stay active for half a day and be used again just as strong the next.

The world did not know about Project Goliath, nor what Kaiser had done. Elias Kaiser was a businessman that had stepped away from his empire and vanished into the privacy of his own life. It was in the government’s interest to not share what he had done; else they would expose their involvement. They destroyed all the evidence that linked to Kaiser and locked him in a cell. Instead of getting killed by the government in fear of him plotting against them, he was in the government’s hands and kept in isolation. The more time passed, the less of a threat he became.

As tempting as it was to leak everything, it would create more problems than resolutions. While Goliath was killing thousands in the outer city, the focus had been on the terrorists in the inner. Even months later, most remembered the building collapsing, not the strange suicides.

Once it had gotten around that the people who committed suicide were criminals, people were relieved. As if some higher power had cleansed the streets and rid them of their impurities. Violent crime dipped noticeably, but money-laundering, smuggling, and illegal distribution of wares and services stayed the same. The market for drugs, implants, and augmentations had not vanished after all.

“Kaiser’s companies will be our testbed; we are not taking a cent from them.”

V was leaning against the cabinet, Z and Julio were relaxing on the small couch in the back. Shana was spending time with her family and would come back as soon as they had finished planning.

“I still have contact with a few people working in manufacturing that visited my shop. Their production sites are completely automated, so there won’t be anyone we have to hire.”

“We also won’t need any shops but can distribute everything online. Inserting implants is covered by almost all insurances, so we won’t have a problem on that end either.”

“What about government approval? Don’t they need to get safety tested first?”

“Not after Kaiser policies. Implants need to get audited at least once every six months, but not before the first distribution. What worked for DELPHI will also work for us.”

“What are you going to do with DELPHI anyway? You guys literally own the company.”

“We’ll let it sit on autopilot. Wouldn’t be much fun if we gave ourselves an advantage.”

“And what about all the other companies from Kaiser?”

“We have some ideas.”

She was tired out by her colleagues. They were always complaining about their job, and although they were supposed to make hers easier, they made it mentally infuriating. It was not the first time this had happened. She had switched places every half year because of it. The atmosphere was friendly initially, and people were warm and welcoming until they dropped the charade, and their true selves came to shine. She did not mind if her colleagues were toxic apes, as long as they stayed away from her. But her appearance and reputation made them do the opposite.

After a few weeks, she always had at least ape scheduling their work around hers. Either to gossip, to learn from her, or to gain reputation by being around her. The robots she was working with were more accommodating than most of her colleagues. There were some exceptions, but they were drowned out by the noise and often bullied until they quit their job. She had never expected to work in such a toxic environment, but it helped her focus on her work and patients.

Several times she stood up against the chimps dressed in white, but it never lasted. A few days, they would stay quiet, but then slowly wind up back to baseline. Sometimes she could understand them. Working shit hours for shit pay while being treated like shit from patients and bosses had to leave their marks. They needed to get rid of their negative energy somehow, but most just shoveled it onto the next person.

It was already dark when she left the hospital. It was time to switch places again. The nurses in trauma were turning her shifts into nightmares. They would not clean the operating tables, not sedate the patients, or take her supplies without giving them back or restocking them. She would waste time on those small things during which she could not save lives.

Her black coat was way too long and went all the way down to the pavement. It was hitting it every time she had to walk stairs, and the fabric had already given up. The navigation took her to a bus stop. It started raining. The three minutes until the electric bus arrived were enough to make her wet down to her skin. The bus scanned her retina and checked for her ticket. As an employee of the hospital, she had a quota of free rides every month, which had been reduced again without her knowledge. She sighed as she bought a ticket.

The bus had a transparent ceiling at which an army of raindrops was hammering against. A few stops passed without anyone getting on the empty bus. Tonight, no lost soul was out in the rain. She was all by herself.

As she got off the bus, an old fella got on. He greeted her with his hat, and she smiled at him with her metallic jaw. Usually, people would give her a weird look, but this one either did not care or his eyes were already too bad to see clearly in the darkness of the night. The bus took off and whirred away while she made her way to the address. The rain splashing on the streets and into puddles around her were the only sound tonight. It was relaxing, but she was freezing.

The meeting with her father was leading her into a small street and down a long set of stairs. The streetlights got dimmer. Was this the place he wanted to meet her? He must have had some twisted kind of humor suggesting this place. It was a small restaurant right next to a butcher shop. Both buildings stood out, completely redesigned. Light was coming through the windows, and she smelled chicken soup through the slit of the door. She was almost an hour late.