Monday, September 21, 2009

CyberLink • Version 4.0

SHORT STORY MONDAY

"Technology... is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other." ~C.P. Snow

Today's story is another incomplete nub of an idea from my files. The original was developed in the mid-1990's, long before the Matrix series of films, but after the emergence of the World Wide Web. I was influenced, in part, by William Gibson's Mona Lisa Overdrive. Like the story Golem Terrorists of two weeks ago, it is but a beginning, a setup. Based on the reference to the slumping economy, I must have updated a few details in a re-write possibly around 2002 or so.


CyberLink • Version 4.0

From its inception, the WEB Interlock Corp. sparked headlines. A front page story in the Wall Street Journal announced the departure of West, Ellison and Bierce from Microsoft in August ’98. Cover stories in the computer mags filled in the details. Cutting edge software was the name of the game. The charismatic William West masterminded the coup, knowing fully the attention WEB Interlock would gain by combining Rath Ellison’s visionary technosis with the hyper-psychic creativity of Mason Bierce.

WEB Interlock became the first to develop a primitive form of the Hyperlock Central Series. Hyperlock Central gave users a direct eyegate capability via the patch refractory system, allowing Game Players direct graphics capabilities without the use of a terminal. Photos of the introverted Bierce and a cosmic looking Ellison appeared on the covers of Newsweek, TIME, and a half dozen other consumer magazines. William West had likewise become a fixture in the news.
Then the troubles began. It was the usual conflict between marketing and R&D. A slumping economy after the turn of the century and overly aggressive marketing goals brought internal strife to the company, with discordant accusations focusing chiefly on the reluctance, or inability, of Ellison and Bierce to bring new products to the marketplace in a timely manner.

Ellison’s concerns for safety and proper testing of the dynamic new technologies were perpetually dismissed by West.

“We’re missing opportunities! We’re losing ground!” the red-faced West shouted at his twin development heads. He ignored the rising popularity of such games as DaggerBlade and FlexoSpike, knowing that for WEB, innovative pioneer technologies were all that mattered. His fame required this single narcotic.

Ellison felt betrayed by the accusations. No one could say for certain what Bierce was thinking.

Then the unthinkable happened. A Korean company released its NerveLink program, a patchcord device that enabled a direct spinal linkup with the Net. The total package included a variety of games as well as business and military applications. While the programs and games were uniquely Korean, every other NerveLink capability was identical to research designs Bierce had been developing for more than a decade. Two weeks later, Mason Bierce packed his brain with enough chemicals to eliminate all of pre-history and died of a cerebral implosion.

The effect on Rath Ellison was this: while he remained an active and visionary force in the direction of WEB Interlock’s R & D efforts, he adopted a passive aggressive posture in regards to interdepartmental politicking. If the company wished to damage its long-term credibility by rushing products to the market and taking absurd, unnecessary risks, Ellison after stating his position but once would retreat to permanent silence. “The spirit of Bierce is in control here,” he observed in one of his more lucid moments. “W.E.B Interlock has determined to self-destruct.”

Ready or not, by the end of the year Ellison gave West what he wanted. The ultimate, as far as technology was concerned. "It's called BioShell Dropout," Ellison said.
It promised even more than NerveLink. It enabled user's to drop themselves into the Matrix. There were certain problems in the initial phase of development. Users who dropped out of their bodies often never came back, lost in Cyberspace. As luck should have it, the key to success proved to be found in the mythological story of Theseus, who entered the labyrinth to kill the Minotaur, and returned, saved by Ariadne's thread. The missing ingredient, for which W.E.B. Interlock immediately purchased universal Patent and Trademark Rights, was a product called "Ariadne's Thread."

All would have been well, but for the ten to fifteen guinea pigs who had been dropped into the Matrix and left for dead. Disembodied entities, conscious minds in Cyberspace, eager to return to the flesh and bloodness of the living, but locked out -- or locked in, depending on your point of view. Nine of these banded together to form a dark constellation of terror within the Net, wreaking havoc and performing all kinds of villainy until it be possible to gain their release. [The others who disappeared in the Net were never heard from again, and for this reason it is unknown exactly how many there originally were. The Nine we know because they identified themselves as The Desperadoes of Orion and released their names via obituaries which were repeatedly dropped into e-mail slots in all the major newspapers, with entirely fake life histories, addresses, etc, but the same names... Over and over again they kept up this charade of dying.]

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
A small collection of original stories which I have penned can be found here at my personal website.

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