Snippet 1: Investigation (Precious Galaxy, #2)
Monstre Corporation Headquarters, Planet Carina, Aurelis System, Precious Galaxy
The sound of Solomon Vance’s shoe made a sharp clacking sound as he tapped it on the white tile floor. His mother used to tell him that patience was a virtue. She was constantly spouting clichés that were inherently false.
Currently, Solomon’s patience was at an all-time low, as he stared at the back of the head of the scientist who sat at the main control center.
“We’re going to try it again,” he ordered.
Susan turned, her loose bun nearly falling out from the movement. “But sir, don’t you think we should make some changes to the process first? We lost two consciousnesses with the current protocol.”
“You’re fired,” Solomon spat, his lips forming a hard line.
Susan’s mouth popped open with alarm. She would know he wasn’t kidding, but it had to be a hard reality for her to accept. Thirteen years she’d worked for Solomon; he’d recruited her right out of school. Maybe this snap judgement was a result of his low patience, but he wasn’t about to go back on it.
“But, but, but—”
Solomon cut her off with a curt shake of his head. “You know better than to argue with me.”
“Yes, sir, I just thought—”
“Maybe it is you who lost the consciousnesses,” Solomon interrupted.
Susan shook her head furiously, visibly shaking. “I only did what the protocol dictated.”
Solomon put his back to the scientist, his eyes on the distant corner of the all-white room. “Dean, prepare the memory wash chamber immediately. Susan Gibbons will be there very soon.”
“Yes, sir,” the AI answered overhead. “The chamber will be ready in two and a half minutes.”
When Solomon turned back, he was revolted by the sight before him. Susan was crying, her nose turning red and tears streaming from her eyes.
“Oh, and Dean?”
“Yes, sir?” the AI replied.
He ran his hand absentmindedly down the sleeve of his suit jacket, smoothing it out as if there were wrinkles. “Send in another level-four scientist to replace Susan.”
“I anticipated this and have already paged Bruce James,” the AI informed him.
Solomon released a steady breath. Why can’t everyone be as efficient, he wondered.
“Sir, please,” Susan begged. “Please give me another chance.”
He shook his head. “You know the rules.”
“But my memories,” she argued.
This only confirmed for Solomon that he had made the right call. Susan had forgotten her place at Monstre Corp. She thought her opinion mattered. That Solomon tolerated insubordination.
“Your memories are the property of Monstre Corp. You know that.”
“Please let me keep them,” Susan begged, more tears falling. “I promise I won’t talk. I won’t tell anyone what happens here.”
Solomon released a sadistic smile. “There’s only one way for me to ensure that.” He lifted his hand, his silver ring with the gnarly-headed monster catching the light as he pointed. “The memory wash chamber is expecting you.”
A loud wail echoed from Susan as she turned, hurrying for the entrance with her head down. The glass door opened as she neared, and Bruce James, a thin, young man, held it open for her. If he was curious about why Susan was crying, his face didn’t show it.
Bruce strode over to Solomon, his chin even. “You wanted to see me, sir?”
Solomon pointed to the seat Susan had vacated. “I need you to run the consciousness transfer process.”
Not missing a beat, Bruce pulled out the chair, sat down and began typing. “Which consciousnesses should I use?”
Solomon turned toward the row of windows that overlooked the Chumash forest, a place that had been reported to have high levels of radiation and was therefore uninhabited and classified as a no-fly zone. Obviously the forest was safe; he’d planted the reports about the radiation levels. It was the perfect location for his headquarters, with views of endless forest and protected from spying eyes. The building, a flat structure, blended into the landscape, even at the top of one of the highest peaks.
“Use two level-one consciousnesses,” Solomon ordered, staring at his own reflection in the window.
His long forehead was lined with wrinkles, but his eyes were still youthful. His bald head reflected the light above. He ran his hand over his scalp, enjoying its smoothness.
Bruce typed on the keyboard, pulling up a file. “I have two miners from Phoenix Tech.”
“That will work.” Solomon turned, his eyes swiveling up to the large screen.
Bruce double-clicked the mouse, pulling up a 3D image of a face. It rotated, the man’s eyes widening, trying to look around.
“Hello! Is anyone there?” the man on the screen asked.
Solomon placed his hands behind his back and lowered his chin, giving Bruce a commanding glare.
The scientist cleared his throat. “Bob Howard, can you hear me?”
“Hello! Yes! Where am I?” the man yelled, his face showing his stress, as wrinkles sprang to his eyes.
“Hold on,” Bruce ordered, typing. The image of Bob Howard disappeared, replaced with the 3D graphic of another face, a man about the same age as the first.
“Tom Culver,” Bruce stated. “Can you hear me?”
The man blinked rapidly in astonishment before a grimace took over his face. “Let me out of here! What have you done?”
Solomon gave Bruce a forceful nod. The scientist agreed silently, pulling up both images on the screen. The faces rotated, looking around but not actually being able to see anything. A copy of their physical bodies was stored in the database, locked in their file with a sample of their DNA, should they ever need it. However, it wasn’t necessary to grant them a body in the database. It would only confuse things.
“Okay, I’ve only got to erase the physical composition of the first subject,” Bruce said, leaning over the keyboard and typing. A cursor ran over the image of Bob Howard, erasing him one line at a time.
“What’s going on?” Bob asked, his voice frantic.
Bruce turned to Solomon, a proud smile on his face. “Don’t worry. I have them muted.”
“I’m not worried,” Solomon said flatly.
“Aggghhh!” Bob yelled. “Something is happening to me!”
Bruce shook his head, tapping his fingers on the desk, his eyes intent on the smaller screen in front of him. “You’re not feeling anything. I’ve only deleted your physical composition files.” Bruce looked up at Solomon with a laugh. “Maybe he feels a little naked.”
Solomon’s face remained stony. “Now copy his consciousness into the second subject.”
Bruce’s smile dropped as he looked back at the screen. “No problem.” He jabbed at a few keys. “That should do it.”
A progress bar popped up on the screen, starting at ten percent. Solomon watched as it increased, everything in Bob Howard’s consciousness downloading into Tom Culver’s.
That had been a part of the plan from the beginning, besides having a database of brilliant minds. The end goal was always to have all the minds compressed into one; the single smartest mind of all time at Solomon’s disposal.
A red box popped up on the screen. Just like before.
The white words were a bold contrast against the red of the box. ‘Transfer failed’.
Solomon let out a sigh. Again, they’d lost two more consciousness. The transfer of one mind seemed to overload the other, killing them both.
“Let’s try it again,” he ordered, turning again to look out at the serene forest, where the trees towered, the giants of this land.