“Welcome to Clandestiny.”
A tall, graceful woman entered the lobby and addressed the small group waiting
there. The woman was in her late twenties. She wore a pearlescent sweater that
hugged her body from shoulder to hips. Her pants were dark lavender leather, close-fitting, but not tight. She wore no jewelry, but her thick red hair was held up in a French twist by a pair of shiny metallic sticks.
The lobby was brightly lit with a marble floor and glassy white walls. A video was streaming on one wall, a commercial cut depicting Clandestiny as a company ahead of its time. The opposite wall was a slideshow of accolades. There were couches, but not one of the young visitors was sitting.
“I’m so glad you’re all here,” the woman stepped forward confidently. She greeted each of the youths by name, shaking hands. When she finished she addressed them collectively, “For those of you whom I’m only meeting for the first time, my name is Rhiannon. I’ve personally read all of your bios, and I have to say, I’m quite impressed.”
Rhiannon’s bright emerald eyes surveyed the group; there was arrogance and anxiety divided among them equally. “Do any of you have questions before we begin the tour?”
“Restroom?” a young man interjected.
A woman appeared in the room, a hologram, “I am happy to show you the way to the restroom, Mr. Jones. Please, follow me.”
“That’s alright, Cass,” Rhiannon addressed the hologram, “I’ll handle requests from the applicants, personally.”
“Yes, Miss Welsh,” and the woman faded away the same as she’d arrived.
“Good help is so hard to program,” the comment was natural, difficult to tell it was well-used. Rhiannon motioned to the young man, “I’ll show you the way.” She placed her hand on the wall and the door slid open, “Anyone else?” A smattering of head-shakes and mutters were returned. “Okay. We’ll only be a moment.”
The hallway was as stark as the lobby, but it wasn’t far to the restroom. Rhiannon stood outside casually reviewing notes on the wall. She was undisturbed by the sound of Mr. Jones puking.
Rhiannon swiped her work off the wall as Mr. Jones emerged. He appeared deflated, but managed to pull himself back together under the scrutiny of the attractive hostess.
After a moment, “It’s okay, Sam, it’s natural to be nervous.” Then with fervent eyes, “You’re at the beginning of a great adventure. So much is going to change for you… this is an exciting time!” She confronted him, unwavering, “Are you ready for it?”
He took a deep breath, puffed himself up, and squared his shoulders, “Yes.”
The pair returned to the lobby.
“Right then. If there are no other questions, we’ll begin the tour.” Rhiannon opened the door and ushered everyone into the hallway, “This doesn’t have to be a lecture though—I’m your guide, not an instructor—so please feel free to interrupt me.”
Rhiannon passed between the youths, taking the lead, and gracefully shifted to her talking points, “Clandestiny was founded over thirty years ago by Christopher Glowshen, a master of computer science and mathematics, and later, a doctor of neuroscience. His goal was to unlock the future by harnessing the processing power of the mind.” She gestured toward a window. The laboratory beyond the glass was filled with various models of brains, both virtual and physical. Researchers purposefully moved around the room.
After some seconds of observation, the tour continued down the hall, “While his ultimate goal was lofty, Dr. Glowshen focused on small steps, the first of which was the creation of a device to convert thoughts into processing cycles.” Rhiannon stopped in front of the next window, “A harness.” The room was a timeline of advancement from chair-mounted helmets to a digitally magnified nanochip. “The translation of thoughts to cycles is still a vigilantly guarded secret, but the harnesses are well known today, and used worldwide.”
“What’s that?” a young woman pointed to a long set of wires, buckles, and leather strung up across the back wall.
“Early experiments were done on animals, including whales.”
“Did that work?” another young woman.
“Yes and no,” Rhiannon continued walking, “The harness was able to maintain a signal, but the derived processing was erratic. We needed something more reliable.”
Gesturing and stopping at the next window, “Which brings us to Clandestiny’s next great breakthrough: the harness was redesigned to work exclusively on the right hemisphere of a human mind.” A tableau of researchers hovering over the exposed brain of a patient was on display.
Rhiannon went on with barely-restrained enthusiasm, “It was discovered that the right hemisphere was a compiler for the enormously powerful, intuitive engine of the left. Refocusing the harness to pull only from the right we were able to maintain consistent cycles.”
The tour continued, “Today, Clandestiny is responsible for 90% of human-processing going on worldwide. Each day, we employ millions of farmers. They get paid for their time—for their thoughts—just like any other job, except they are contributing to the greatest super computer ever built.”
Rhiannon lead the group out onto a catwalk. They passed over hundreds of people in chairs divided by simple partitions. It looked like any set of cubicles in any corporation anywhere, but instead of hands on keyboards there were heads in harnesses.
“Each medium-sized farm provides enough computational power to simulate an ocean. Not only that, but also predict the location of every molecule of water in that ocean three days into the future!”
The group continued across the catwalk, “We used that power to think about building better processors, and we’re already rendering ourselves obsolete.”
Rhiannon opened a door and everyone shuffled into a large auditorium. The wall opposite the entrance began streaming a video full of happy and excited youths. The actors displayed were base-jumping, free-climbing, deep sea diving, and more as the video kept cycling from one death-defying adventure to another.
“That is, rendering ourselves obsolete until today. Please everyone, take a seat.” The applicants jostled a bit, and then sat. “As I was saying, we wereoutlasting our usefulness, but we innovated… it’s what we do best. That’s why you’re here.”
“We discovered the key to unlocking the full potential of the human mind,” Rhiannon paused, allowing the gravity of her words to sink in. “The moment you believe you are about to die the capability of your mind increases exponentially,” she waited, “Your brain rifles through every experience you’ve had in your life in mere nanoseconds looking for a clue to help you survive!”
Rhiannon stepped away from the center stage and the lights dimmed, “Today, Clandestiny knows how to tap into that moment.”
A movie began explaining payments, how the applicants would never have want for anything again. There were details about the procedure, how the chip would be mounted, and the risks involved. Threaded throughout were testimonials, employees explaining how exciting their lives were.
At the end of the movie, Rhiannon moved to the front again, “Do you have any questions?” She indicated a woman at the back, “Yes, Devon?”
“What… uh, how long does the average person…?”
“First, let me say that not one of you in this room is average. Clandestiny continues to improve our selection process. We’re in this togeth…”
A young man interrupted, “Bullshit, you aren’t tempting death every week.”
“That’s true, James, but this is a partnership. Clandestiny’s investment is not small. We do not benefit from anyone’s early retirement,” addressing the group, “Each day from the moment your chip is imbedded you can live as though it is your last. Your daily expense account will vary of course, depending on the terms of your individual contribution, but it can be almost unlimited for only one moment of work a week.”
Rhiannon let the money work into the crowd, and then went on, “It is accurate to say that there are risks, but with great risks come great rewards. To return to your question, Devon, the risk is dependent on your participation. I will discuss every detail with each of you when we negotiate your contracts.”
“Why not just fake it?” a short boy sitting in front, “I mean, why does the risk have to be real?”
“Excellent question, Robert.” Rhiannon projected her voice smoothly out to the group, “Simulated near death experiences were prototyped, but failed to generate the increase in processing power that we anticipated. We couldn’t fool you because you knew the context. You became complacent, and our results diminished.”
There were a few more questions, but by the end of the day, every applicant was having the same conversation with Rhiannon; working out the details, signing up. After the last applicant left the building, Rhiannon toured her facility again alone, winding down.
Her virtual secretary appeared by her side and walked with her, “Miss Welsh?”
“Twenty-one percent of our stock is in breach of contract as of 5pm.”
“A three percent gain over last week? Excellent! Do we have enough Reaper teams in place to cover the increase?”
“Perfect,” Rhiannon took a deep satisfied breath. Shaking her head mildly, “They all think they can have something for nothing. They sign up, take advantage of us, and then try to ditch their contracts. If they only knew that’s how we derive the best results.” She smiled at Cass, and then raised her eyebrows, “Losses?”
“The suicide rate continues to rise, but remains below one percent. Accidental deaths are up as well, but the Reaper teams are trying new tactics to cut costs. The largest problem is still depression, resulting in diminished processing power, and the active termination of more than two percent per day.”
“As long as we’re still adding more than we’re losing though, and that’s all that matters… business as usual. Good night, Cass.”
“Good night, Miss Welsh.”