AN EXCERPT FROM THE NOVEL:
“He’s come up with something,” the man sitting in the darkness said excitedly. His voice had a mature certainty that marked him as someone with a strong vested interest. His sweating hands gripped the cool arms of a buttery leather chair, “I don’t know what it is yet…but it’s something extraordinary.”
Lights hovered with a dim glow down a long hallway. Cool, dry air hissed through ducts nearly silent. It was filled with deep greens; forest lush leaving the impression of nature…burnished brass and copper fixtures, amber glows, fine wood veneer beneath footsteps echoing from some unseen stranger passing. It was only one hallway in the Network’s massive compound of structures that thrust up out of the city in sublime and muted brilliance. Inaccessible from the outside, its entrances and exits were guarded both electronically and by the only known predator vicious enough yet malleable and tractable enough to use for any purpose. Humans.
A woman spoke in a throaty voice halfway through the door, “What do you mean something?” She closed the door to the dim outside light and entered the plush, lightless room walking up to the glass looking intently at the huge control complex and the dark figure who presided over it.
They were in a room at the end of the hall beyond closed doors where huge, flat video screens bathed the darkness with flickering blue light and artificial, electronic colors. A frail, hunched figure sat at a vast computer console, hands flying over the switches and keys in a euphoric dance he alone was witness to. He recalled great masters of lost centuries who themselves had sat at grander consoles of huge pipe organs and swept their fragile, mortal hands across the ebony and ivory eliciting god like crescendos that lifted all those within hearing on wings for an ascension into heaven prepared or not. The thought infused him with energy. Tiny lights from the switches and dials and liquid crystal displays reflected in the man’s eyes as he knew he would soon affect people far more deeply.
Behind the glass in the darkened chamber beyond were other men. They were a different sort, another breed, more cunning, perhaps more adapted as if they were a species further on the evolutionary ladder who had not needed to pass through any perceivable strata on their sojourn to perfection but had arrived all at once in full possession of things that others sought in vain to hold. They had wealth and position and too many years of living well for good health.
“It’s happening… right now it’s happening!” A younger man replied with a masked hostility. “God, it’s so new… you’ll see, just wait. It’s like nothing you’ve ever known!”
“What the hell are you talking about?’ Peering through the glass Roxanne was beginning to get curious, very curious. Whoever was at the console was oblivious to her, and so she pressed closer until her breath fogged the ice-like surface. The monitors flickered with rapidly changing images designed to grab attention and hold it with short vignettes never giving a full view, but leaving the completion of the scene to the viewer. “If I could hear it maybe…” wondering if she was missing the point or if they were just entertaining another anal management idea. The images that fled across the monitors were, she admitted to herself, striking, the colors saturated and lush, the pictures, mostly people, computer generated she knew but none the less beautiful and vital, yet nothing extraordinary, truly extraordinary like what they all wished for and worked for in programming to take the network into the next psychovideo level. It was the unknown she was after, and even if it were to present itself she wondered if she would know it or like other discoveries would it take a genius to see? She could picture herself in their place though, those electronic phantoms who flitted across the screen that were the result of computerized manipulations of 3D, holographic video that, despite her full knowledge of their creation, had begun to take on lives of their own often minimizing and dominating her own existence. Characters in the void that lived and breathed in the mind. This was normal. Expected. Everyone watched. It was as if she could feel the winds that brushed across the images, the wisp of electronic hair that she tried to brush away from her own face, as if it were real, as if she were…suddenly a violent embrace upon the screen as two virtual people grasped each other in passion. Roxanne felt uncomfortable and looked back into the darkness at the men who she knew, though nearly forgotten, were also witness.
Then it happened. The pressure of fingers on her arm that made her look to see who was there, the feeling of a kiss on her neck, the sudden blueness of the sky and a weightlessness, a sheer, frantic exuberance. Her knees nearly buckled the wave of sensation was so strong. A thick, sickly sweet feeling of desire that overcame her senses and knotted her stomach. And there were whispers, words, though she forgot them immediately and they passed like conversation among friends without consequence. Then she was staring into the darkness where the men were seated. Someone called her name.
“Roxanne?” He said distantly. “Did you see it? Did you feel it?”
“I don’t know what I felt. Like I was hit by a car, I felt like I was…”
“…there, right? Transported…”
“More like I was experiencing it at the maximum, full blast. Everything was amplified. I’ve never had emotions that strong.”
“That’s it! I told you! Now you’ll believe me. Some god dammed discovery huh?”
The mysterious figure on the other side of the glass looked down at the computer touchscreen into a familiar landscape. The function and purpose of each of the keys, switches and dials before him registered with symbolic meaning He thought of it all like a city. His city. It was the place he inhabited most, more than any place outside the control room; his home, the street, the sky, more than his own thought universe and memories. In fact, like most inhabitants of the Earth the virtual city was his home, yet with him it was more intimate, more essential as he was one of its creators. Its functions supplanted his own functions as a living being and gave him breadth and space and meaning where he perceived he had none before. Lent its color to a monochrome, its music to the silence of his heartbeats.
Once before the computer had gone down, its digital images dissipated to the virtual ether while the photons and electrons slowly abandoned the printed circuits and optical fiber and cables bringing the entire system to complete blackness. For those few, brief minutes he ceased to exist. Darkness overtook him against his will, without any consent and simply erased his memory as finely as if it were the computer’s own held in electronic equilibrium only mimicking the tension of a living being. The parameds had to revive him with a shock to the heart. This was the reason he was perfect for the job. Images came and went at his command, sounds were brought up and sweetened, universes were created with his every breath and transmitted to millions. He had finally devised a fail-safe back up mechanism in case the main computer should go down again in the form of an independently powered, portable optical unit that automatically duplicated all files that raced through the central processor and would immediately switch on for his use within milliseconds of a blackout. This was a great comfort to him. He carried the portable unit with him everywhere and laid it beside him on the bed at night to console him for dreams that never came.
But of love, he knew nothing. It was a concept without meaning; not the bitterness of forsaken love, nor the cold remembrance of a love that was wrongly wasted, not the rage of betrayal nor the fond, fading, beautiful sadness of unrequited emotions. It was as a draft of smoke in a turbulent wind and perhaps only in a former lifetime might its embers be found coolly lying on burnt and salted ground.
“You felt it too?”
“Of course I felt it. You think I’m dead? Jesus!” Then the man grumbled as if apologizing for some imagined shortfall. “It’s not complete yet, he’s still working on it.“
“What the hell is it?”
The man rose from his chair and walked forward to the glass looking into the control room where the strange figure was still furiously at work in total ignorance of the events taking place just behind him. “Photonicss.” He said.
A voice from the couch, “We really don’t know yet. He’s discovered something though, a new light particle he says. Over at R&D they say that’s impossible. But still…”
“It can’t be explained.” The man at the glass spoke raising his fingers to the cold, smooth surface to touch the unnamed. “We wanted you to see this and perhaps toss a few ideas around as to how we might use it.”
“It’s incredible! It’s unbelievable!!” She replied.
“You can see a slight burst of light if you look away you know,” glancing at her with sly wonder from the corner of his eye, “that is if you’re not looking directly at the screen. It’s unusual, nearly outside the visual spectrum; it seems to have something to do with the new organic-iridium light emitting diodes, OILED carbon to you–only two millimeters thick, but the light radiation is intense. They were made in a complete vacuum so there is not even the slightest resistance inside and it seems to amplify the emissions somehow.”
“But only at certain wavelengths. We have control, that’s what’s so exciting.”
“Does anyone else know about this?” She asked keenly, suddenly, with full attention and a slightly malicious smile.
The man at the glass looked back at the older man in the chair, “No.” He replied, “no one at all outside this room. Except him…” They all looked at the apparition seated at the control panel, hands still passing across the keys, still absorbed. “…and he’s not talking to anyone.”
“I hope not, we could lose millions, or even market share!”
The woman folded her arms tightly across her breast and rubbed the cobalt blue wool of her sleeves absently feeling a quick burst of energy as she began to realize the potentials of the phenomenon just witnessed. She surged to the center of the darkened room, animated. “I’d like to run this on some focus groups, hit the demographic spectrum and see where it falls.” Her voice rich and dramatic punctuated by a lilt at the end of each major thought making the most innocent and capricious comment sound ominous in its final resolve. She appeared to know much more than she did with this illusion of certainty, and surely it was in part responsible for her promotion into management. “Have we got any cohesive product yet?”
“No. Just random visuals. Like I said, he’s discovered something, we don’t know what yet.”
“Writers…” the older man interjected, tinged with disdain and a certain carelessness that was obviously being relished for some private reason, “and art directors – we’ve got them working with a team of sFx Technos to see what they’ll come up with. We pulled some freelancers in from the outer networks just this morning so we should have concepts ready by the end of the week.” He looked into the darkness and the other three people in the room could feel his attention on them like a chill. “I love the arts you know.”
“What’s he doing out there?”
All eyes went to the video monitors as a peculiar sequence of lights, colors and images raced by causing all of them to imagine they had skipped through time in brief segments like a strobe light missing every other interval and made their hearts race in anticipation of the power to come. “Jeeezus god! Did you feel that? I can hardly believe it? Can you imagine that with content, drama?”
“We’ve got the hook.” The older man said.
“We’ve got the drug.” The woman interjected with lights flickering, glimmering and shining in her eyes, dancing on the edge of brilliance, flirting with oblivion, wondering where the limits were. “The perfect drug.”