VZ Goliath [Sci-Fi Novel]

21

With loud steps, the giant walked down the hallway. His face was scanned by the camera, and he submitted the passkey. The doors opened and bright light from the garden radiated towards him. There were trees and bushes alongside the fresh and fluffy grass he walked on. Above, a wall of clouds partially covered the sun. He knew that he had entered a materializer, and the sky was not real, but he could not make out the difference. His hands touched the leaves and flowers, and they greeted him, extending and contracting as they made contact, a light breeze flowing through them and over his face. The illusion had become reality. The technology far beyond what anybody had imagined. The small room he was in transformed itself with every step he took and printed new objects and surfaces in real-time. He could do anything and be anywhere inside here.

The forest seemed to stretch out indefinitely, and the white doors behind him had disappeared. It was amazement he had not felt in a while. Along the small stream, a lake formed at which several humans were fishing. They did not seem to mind him, but one woman leaning against a tree stump seemed to read his thoughts.

“If you can’t tell if it’s real, is the question still relevant? What makes something more real, something more authentic? The world in here and the one outside both feel, smell, and sound real. But here, you are not bound to one single reality, one single life. The universe and everything beyond yours to explore. You set the rules.”

He streamed his thoughts into the room, and with a sudden wave, the world transformed. Sun replaced by the moon; the lake frozen. Shivers went down his back as his breath formed before him; snow dropped on his head. The woman was rubbing her shoulders and smiled at him with an unimpressed look.

Waves were flushing away the world before him. Red sand filling the air and orange gravel became solid below his feet. White metallic cubicles popped out of the ground, and a large rover drove by. The woman was wearing a spacesuit and jumped over his head.

“Don’t be shy. You can overwrite everything. Everything.”

He closed his eyes and colors filled the space. They were reflecting and moving through crystals as he was flying through them. New colors and shapes of all forms appeared and separated themselves into tiny fractals moving through his body. Her face appeared in one of them. It was stretched out and divided itself into several shapes. One of her eyes appeared. It expanded as he moved towards it, and the green pupil grew bigger and bigger until all the lines inside extended to large canyons. Fountains of plasma erupted from the liquid of colors. He flew up towards the stars until they became a vortex of light. The view widened, and galaxies unraveled before him. Millions of stars in cloud formation, moving together bound by their gravitational fields. He stopped moving and made everything around him move instead.

Another galaxy flew passed him and towards the one he was observing. Their fields merged, and the two clouds swirled around, directing millions of stars onto a different course. A flash of light appeared as two stars collided in its center. Another flash right after. Three suns had collided and unleashed an unfathomable amount of energy. Their plasma was spurting into space, cooled down, and created thousands of planets and structures traversing into all directions.

The gravity was so strong; they stuck together while still erupting. He followed the newly born mega-sun as it was heading out into the distance. They passed the earth. Its surface became hotter until the large oceans vaporized, and grasslands and forests started to burn and turn to ash. Once the atmosphere was depleted, the planet melted. Its surface turned from solid to liquid, and canyons of lava were flowing from mountains over the rest of the planet. As the sun took off into the distance, the planet cooled down, but the crust was tearing itself apart and immense cliffs formed.

Something caught his attention. A galaxy swirling around a singular object, barely visible. Planets around it slowed down and began stretching themselves until they disappeared in the dark. The event horizon was so radiant; he first assumed it to be a star formation.

He knew what to do and approached it. While everything before him moved slow and at an observable pace, the planets accelerated the moment he passed them and sped up into a blur. He saw his head before him, alongside his legs and the rest of his body. They all blended into each other from every possible perspective. Then it all vanished.

White was fading into his eyes, and the milky view became sharper. His body was gone, although he still felt it. Warmth flew through him. A voice appeared in his head, then the body of a young girl appeared.

“It is nice to see you again. We wondered when you would show up.”

The young girl took his hand and guided him towards the small garden he had started at. There was no movement or tension that he felt as he walked with the girl, only awareness of everything around him.

He recognized the woman the moment she came into sight. She still had the same body after all these years. Dressed in a white robe, she held out her hand, and an apple tree bowed towards her. She picked an apple hanging from its branch with both her hands. She gently pulled the apple, and it separated into two. She turned around and gave him one.

The girl had run off and jumped around the trees as he swallowed the apple in one bite. V’s apple transformed and became a cherry. She took a bite, and halfway through, it turned into a peach. She seemed amused and satisfied with the mixture of the fruits.

Z was behind the trees with the young girl on his hand, and the child’s body turned into a penguin. The kid was happily waddling off.

“Instead of simulating environments, the entire room becomes the simulation.”

“We don’t call it a simulation. This is as real as everything else.”

Z smiled at him as the penguin girl transformed into a cat. Oljac sat down on the comfy grass, and the cat jumped on him, wanting to get petted.

“You remember Elias Kaiser? He was released earlier today.”

“We know. He is on his way to us right now and will ask for a job.”

It was the first in a long time that somebody knew more than him. What he felt to be a necessary reason to visit had turned into something mundane.

“I feel like I’m getting old.”

Z let out a loud laugh. V stayed sarcastic, but a humble smile appeared on her face.

“The old man has to learn some new tricks. You were a rare specimen, but now you are turning into a fossil. Even your systems haven’t been reworked in years. Living forever should not stop you from exploring what the world has to offer.”

“I’m curious how you two feel about him.”

“He is not some horrible monster if that is what you are asking. He did bad things but ultimately had good intentions. The world has changed and moved on. The problems from then are already forgotten.”

“What are you going to do with him?”

“Kaiser is a smart guy. His skills are still useful in this world. He should fit well into the network.”

The network was a collective that connected companies around the world. All structures, product cycles, profit margins, and wages were completely transparent and visible online. Every production site was connected to distributors and buyers via the network.

While it would have been easy to turn the network into a closed market that they could control, their incentive was not making the most money, but to keep the prices as low as possible while having products available around the world. Essentially, they were the only middleman between distributors and buyers and were not working for profit. Because the network scaled globally and connected every step in the process, prices were extraordinarily low.

Businesses were evaluated through the network. If one company was making a loss on one side of the planet, it was insured by the ones on the other side. If the business brought value to customers and had a positive impact, lifting people out of poverty or improving their lives in some other way, it would stay open. Money was not the sole reason to survive anymore. It also indirectly influenced the governmental debt system. As implants, wares, and services got cheaper, people accumulated less debt in the early years of their lives. It was still not perfect, and the progress slow, but already a lot better than it had been.

V and Z had established the network with Kaiser’s old companies. It was a bold move, but because the companies were already massive, it was easy to get many more to join. Establishing the network while competing with a system focused on exploiting law and labor was an enormous task. Kaiser’s money was burned in only a few years. Most politicians and companies did not want to adapt to the new paradigm, where monetary profit was getting less important than the wellbeing of all. They blocked most policies but passed enough for the system to take roots.

Once the money ran out, they had to salvage the companies. It gave them a few more years till the first ones were declared bankrupt. After a wave of companies went broke, it triggered the societal shift they had waited for. People became aware of how important the network had become and what they would get otherwise. Protest all over the world brought new policies in favor of the network and against companies exploiting the system for profit.

The network grew, and thanks to its transparency and openness to changes, it stayed alive through many small and big crises.

V and Z still owned the network but had just as much control over it than anyone else. By now, they were only consultants, and their main focus was not the network anymore. The implants they had built with Julio and the tech that surpassed it was their passion. Especially materializers.

“That was all I came here for, and I’ve been given a lot more in return. May we see each other again once the fossil rejuvenates itself.”

They smiled, nodded, and disappeared into nothingness. The cat he had been petting meowed a few times to make him follow her to the exit. She waved him goodbye with her tail.

The yellow liquid arranged itself in a pattern throughout the form. Small nodes were connected themselves by a tiny thread. Julio took out one implant that had cooled down, put it onto a wireless pad, and booted it up.

It was the newest generation they were working on. The liquid inside was the miracle they had created. It carried millions of small chips, barely visible by the natural eye. The liquid acted as a carrier of information and distributer of energy. The chips worked together as a network and were magnitudes more powerful than the previous generations.

With the new grid update that increased the bandwidth dramatically throughout the city, the chips could load VR environments and change the look of the entire city. Want to blur out all the skyscrapers or replace them with gigantic trees? Replace humans with custom avatars? Filter out people or noise around you? See the subway lines driving through the tunnels below? Turn your shitty one-room apartment into a treehouse above the city? There were no limitations, and the digital marketplace that was launching alongside was making it possible for millions of developers to share their modifications with the community. Everyone was now able to build their virtual reality on top of the real one.

The most popular third-party mods were bought out by the company and became free. The cut they took from all transactions on the marketplace was invested back into it by buying, testing, and auditing mods.

The addition of micro enhancers many years ago was extremely successful, but the improvements afterward stayed small and barely pushed the needle forward. There were even some issues down the line with manufacturers and distributors who were getting sloppy. They had to focus months of development time on establishing a new supply chain to ensure its quality.

While the technology for the ones on the forefront seemed stagnant, silently, billions of lives were improved around the world. Just as phones decades ago gave access to worldwide knowledge and connected people to a global society, the implants brought people even closer.

Shana entered the lab, and as she saw Julio smiling, she immediately knew and got excited. They took the batch of implants and took them to the testing rooms, which would get occupied by humans that more or less looked like cyborgs.

The first thing Shana did when she started to work with Julio was to build her sister a modified implant. Z helped testing it on her sister until it correctly worked. It was not much work for him, but for Shana and her sister, it meant the world. Her sister was finally able to communicate with basic expressions and share images and videos.

Her parents were more than proud, and whenever Z visited them to update or calibrate the implant, they broke out in tears and treated him like a long-lost son. He always felt slightly uncomfortable, but it did not stop him from visiting.

Although they had a big breakthrough today, Shana noticed that something else was occupying Julio’s mind.

“How do you feel about him now that he is coming back?”

“I am disappointed more than anything else. The guy had every possibility but decided to kill people for his ideal world.”

“What would you have done in his place?”

“Can’t say. I would not have killed my parents though.”

“What will you do if he starts working with us?”

“Talk.”

“Talk?”

“I want to see him for myself. Get an understanding of the guy. He can’t bring my family back, but maybe he can help someone else’s.”

For Kaiser, the years had been a calm and quiet time. A change he had embraced. Freedom from distractions and responsibility was a blessing.

He would wake up by the artificial light that signaled the rise of the sun, then occupy himself with stretching, workout, shower, breakfast. He spent the time till noon reading and meditating. Once the news was broadcasted in the evening, he got all ears and absorbed as much as he could.

A fresh set of clothes was ready for him every morning. It was pushed through a small tray on the wall. It was also the place where his food came from. It was all automated. No human contact in all those years. How efficient.

No letter had arrived. Not from his lawyer nor anyone else. It was as if he had died. The news only mentioned his name because he owned the building that had been destroyed.

Sam and Dan were very blunt with their ideas. They steam-rolled entire industries and caused disruption around the world. What most were only talking about, they implemented on full scale. It was a beautiful way to see his empire collapse. They were carving the path forward, and others would follow. At least he could witness it.

The day of his departure came unexpected. When he woke up, there was a letter on the table he had to sign. Several NDAs and the information that his implant would be monitored 24/7. If they had any reason to believe he was doing something they did not want, they would take him back in. He received a new ID and was dropped off at the place he once got arrested. A few people looked at him as he was pushed out of the car. He looked like a mix of businessman and homeless man with his long beard and greyed out suit.

He searched the skyline for the building he had once owned, but it was no more. Instead, two tall buildings with a double helix spiraling between them were in its place. As he approached, the plaza around it became a platform under which the helix continued for many more floors. The floor was replaced by glass and supported by long sculptures coming out of the ground. Modern architecture sure was impressive.

Inside the helix, he walked towards the beige entrance. It was an empty room. No humans, no doors. He strafed around until he stopped before the rectangular monument in the middle of the room.

“I’m Elias Kaiser. It’s been a while. I’m not dead yet, so I can still be useful.”

Was he expecting an answer? He was looking around for anything his eyes could focus on. Was this it? Had the world moved on? Had he become replaceable?

A click went through the room as a door opened inside the monument. A bright light was filling the space inside.