Solomon Vance’s Private Office, Monstre Corporation Headquarters, Planet Carina, Aurelis System, Precious Galaxy
The forest wasn’t a place of peace for Solomon Vance. He’d heard many speak of finding themselves when in proximity to nature. That was ludicrous. The notion that one could ‘find’ themselves was preposterous. There was no self to find. Creatures were all connected by star dust and other forces, and Solomon was that much closer to proving it. Not that he’d ever tell anyone once he’d proven this and assimilated hundreds of consciousnesses. That would forever be his secret.
Finally, after thousands of trials, he had successfully combined two consciousnesses. Adding a third, though, had proved problematic. Deadly, actually, for the test subjects. Still, he was that much closer to having the smartest computer in the universe, owned and operated by the fastest, strongest processor known to man: the human brain.
Solomon’s eyes swiveled away from the forest lying just beyond the bank of windows in his office. He hadn’t built the headquarters to his most prized company, Monstre Corporation, in the Chumash Forest because he found respite among the trees. He did it for practical reasons: he liked the privacy. That was exactly the reason that this office, where no one in the building was allowed but him, was his favorite place.
His eyes landed on the quote written across the far wall, the one he often read while sitting at his desk: “‘He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.’ – Adolf Hitler.”
He had many favorite quotes by that dictator, but this one had to be his favorite. Those words were what had inspired Solomon to build the monster. And now he owned more than the youth; he possessed a large population of minds.
“Those who own the greatest minds, gain the future,” Solomon said to himself, his voice echoing in the mostly empty office.
“Dr. Vance, I apologize for interrupting,” Dean, his AI, said overhead.
“Go on, then,” Solomon ordered.
He had known his private moment alone with his thoughts wouldn’t last for long. There were too many projects in the works. Too many that were nearing completion.
“Dr. Lukas would like to speak with you.”
Solomon let out an impatient breath. “Put him through.”
The screen hovering above his desk, seemingly suspended by nothing, flickered to life. The long face of the doctor stared back at Solomon. It had been many years since he’d seen Alan Lukas in person. The last time had been when he’d put him in charge of Starboards Corp and cut all ties to the company, or so it should have appeared. Solomon didn’t want to be traced back to the things he’d put Alan in charge of. He didn’t have that same fear at Monstre Corp; he was too removed from Federation law to be caught or punished.
“The agents from Ghost Squadron have escaped from Sutra Six,” Dr. Lukas said, his tone rising as he spoke. Solomon could hear the panic.
He shook his head and lowered his chin. “I told you that they weren’t my concern.”
“But that was when you thought that they’d be blown up when we detonated the building,” Dr. Lukas argued. “Now they’ve gotten away, and we don’t know what they took. What if—”
Solomon held up a hand to stop the constant babbling. Yes, he’d thought that the monster had uploaded everyone on Ricky Bobby. It had at first been frustrating when he learned that Dr. A’Din Hatcherik had escaped the monster, but worse was that he’d trapped it. That was no matter, though. The monster got away, and those remaining on Ricky Bobby were so few. They would try and come after him, as he’d seen, but there was no way they would succeed. They were simply outnumbered in force, prowess and numbers.
After a long pause, Solomon said, “They have the locations for the databases, you said.”
Alan nodded. “Yes, and they have the codes. I think we should change them. Possibly move the databases. We can’t risk—”
Solomon shook his head, cutting off the other scientist. “I have no plans to do any of that. We don’t run from ants, Alan, we squash them.”
“But, sir, they managed to break into Starboards’ headquarters and also Sutra Six.”
Solomon’s eyes narrowed. “I let them into Sutra Six, knowing we were going to blow it up. You are the fool who allowed them to trespass into Starboards.”
“I realize that I’ve made mistakes with security,” Alan said in a rush. “I figured that, due to this headquarters’ location and deceptive qualities, it wasn’t necessary to have many more security measures.”
Solomon sighed. He’d given Starboards Corp a floating building that was camouflaged in the sky, and still, Alan had messed things up. “We are going forward as arranged. Changing codes would stall our plans. As for changing locations, that’s out of the question.”
“But what are you going to do when Ghost Squadron tries to break into another database location?”
Solomon felt the wicked smile break across his face. “I’m going to be prepared for them. I’m not running from these pests, I will ensure they are taken out on their next attempt. Then we will no longer be concerned about their intervening.”
Alan nodded, an unsure look on his face. “That’s a good plan, but—”
“Dean, disconnect vid comm,” Solomon said, interrupting Alan.
“Yes, sir,” the AI replied, and the screen went black.
Solomon strode for the door, his pulse beating harder, as it usually did just before he entered the room he was now headed for. “Dean, deploy a fleet of combat pilots to Makare and the surrounding area in the Hapeti system.”
“I calculated an eighty-seven percent chance you would make that decision, based on the current threat,” Dean stated. “I will enact defense protocol alpha now.”
Solomon wished that Alan could be as competent as the AI, but that’s where human error came into play. One human was prone to mistakes, whereas hundreds, maybe even thousands of consciousnesses, would behave much like an AI—only better. It wasn’t artificial intelligence. It was real.
When Solomon reached the unmarked white door, his chest tightened with anticipation. The rush was always the same. “Dean, open the door.”
At the conclusion of his sentence, the door slid back to reveal a solid white room. Solomon stepped forward, and the door shut behind him. The material of three of the four walls, as well as the floor and ceiling of the space, were made of a unique carbon-polymer material that conducted electromagnetic energy.
The special wall construction ensured that the monster didn’t enter Monstre Corp headquarters, where it might become disoriented and upload employee’s consciousnesses by mistake. The reinforcements kept the creature caged while it was home. However, most of the security measures weren’t necessary, since it followed every order Solomon gave. He was, in a way, its father, its creator.
Solomon stared around the all-white room, waiting for the monster to reveal itself. First came the loud humming, like that of an engine starting. Then the area in the corner filled with what appeared to be gray smoke, the density intensifying moment by moment. Solomon’s heart beat faster, but he kept his chin raised and his face neutral.
The monster rose off the ground, like an animal getting up after a nap to greet its master. Sparks began firing inside the monster as its color darkened, making it appear almost like a black cloud.
Solomon looked up at the monster, marveling at its appearance. It could expand to cover a great area, or shrink down small to fit into a room this size. It was the most changeable beast, with the ability to do one unimaginable thing: it could steal consciousnesses.
The monster roared with what Solomon interpreted as anticipation. The creature could understand him, but, for all his trying, he didn’t understand the strange noises his invention made. He’d programmed it, though, so he knew what it would say if words were available to it: ‘Yes, master. How may I serve?’
“I have a job for you.” Solomon looked up as the monster reared overhead, its outer edges unfurling like plumes of smoke. “You are to go to Sutra Seven on planet Makare in the Hapeti system. Stay vigilant for intruders. Only upload those not associated with Monstre Corp.”
The different lights buried deep within the monster glowed at once, seemingly in response to the order.
Solomon remained frozen as the biosynthetic machine floated closer, nearly grazing his face. Yes, he knew the monster could upload him. Take him. But that would never happen; its programming prevented it. Since its inception, Solomon had told the monster one thing over and over: ‘You can upload all but me. My control of you is absolute.’
The words that inspired this method came back to him then: “‘Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they’ll believe it.’ – Adolf Hitler.”
“Dean, release the barrier,” Solomon ordered.
A buzzing sound that he had barely registered over the noise the monster made fell away. The creature inched forward, nearly touching Solomon’s upturned nose.
“It is time. Go and follow my orders,” Solomon barked, his voice clear and loud.
The roar of the monster increased. Its black form spread, clouding Solomon’s vision like he’d stepped into a pitch-black room. He didn’t move, although something inside him squirmed. He didn’t blink, although his eyes were drying out from staring up.
And then, quite gracefully, like a storm cloud moving over a great land, the monster pushed backward, sliding through the solid exterior wall, out into the Chumash Forest and away.
Determination releases August 30th!