Published on 08/29/2022
Davis walked down the pristine city, flanked by three gleeful women. He had his wife hooked in one arm, the cute babysitter in the other, and that one coworker that would always take extra glances at him was now lightly massaging his shoulders as they walked lightly down the road. The sidewalk was less crowded than normal, and everyone who passed by seemed just as happy as Davis. The women laughed and joked about things that had happened in the day, and Davis laughed with them since he knew exactly what they were talking about. His mood was so elated, he felt as if he could float on cloud 9 at that very moment.
So, he decided that he would do just that.
His feet began to slowly lift off the ground, and as he turned his head to look back at his little harem, he could see the three women giggling and waving to him as they looked back up at him from the ground. Up and up he floated, waving at the random strangers in the buildings he floated by, who in turn laughed and responded with joyous waves. Finally, he had passed the highest sky scraper and had a full view of the city at night. The lights sparkled in his eyes as he looked down at the cars now turned to the size of ants. The glow of billions of led lights that once were large advertisements were now like little sparkling post-it notes and gum wrappers from where he hovered.
“I’ll bring those girls the moon”, he thought to himself as he looked up to that white disk in the sky. He made a tugging motion in its direction, and it slowly became larger and larger as if his motion was literally bringing it down from orbit. This was the perfect night, where he was in control, and everything was good.
And then, just as everything had been so calm and wonderful, something roared by him nearly knocking him out the sky.
He began to fall but quickly reoriented himself and hovered once more, turning angrily to see what had just blasted by him. It was a military jet, screaming towards some location in the city. From behind him three more jets blasted by him, all going in the same direction. Davis was perplexed. Unordinary occurrences such as being able to float and manipulate things were very common here, but nothing like a military jet nearly smacking him out the sky had ever happened before. Just as he was turning to his waiting ladies down below, he heard a dull boom. He snapped his head to the direction of the sound, and saw dark smoke begin to billow from the part of the city where the jets had headed.
This night, which had never gone wrong, was suddenly turning sour.
Davis shot through the sky towards the smoke, traveling faster than the jets that had gone by him moments ago. In just a few seconds, he was 100 feet above the source of the smoke. On the streets, he could see tanks and military vehicles lined up, their cannons pointed towards a now smoldering crater. At least 70 advanced military soldiers, armed with the most advanced weaponry, exoskeletons, and armor to date, were flanked behind the tank. Their guns streamed red laser pointers at the center of the crater, still filled with dark smoke. Behind them, lines of police cars with red and blue lights flashing blockaded the road. The officers were crouched behind the opened car doors with their guns trained at a target Davis still could not make out.
He began to descend, straining his eyes to make out what had caused such a commotion and retaliation. Finally, from within the smoking crater, he saw a crying little girl slowly walking through the smoke. She was wearing a pink frilly dress that was now torn and burned from the blast of the explosion. Her blond hair was dirty from the soot that had been kicked up, and her tear-strewn face was covered in ash. In one hand she limply held a teddy bear that was now missing a leg and dragging on the ground, and her other hand was trying to brush away the dirt from her eyes as she continued to cry. She must have been no older than 8, and yet, over a hundred laser dots from the soldiers’ and officers’ guns were trained on her, waiting for the order to fire.
“Wait!” Davis yelled as he shot to the ground. He landed in front of the soldiers and tanks, and the men averted their guns so that the lasers would not be pointed at Davis.
“What are you doing?!” Davis shouted angrily turning to the nearest soldier. “This is my daughter! Why are you attacking her?” He began to walk to his daughter but was stopped by a firm hand on his shoulder. The soldier that Davis had shouted at had run up to get a hold of him.
“Sir, please wait. This is not your daughter. She is an intruder. She should not be here,” the soldier explained, pointing at the crying girl.
“Do you think I can’t recognize my own daughter when I see her? Get off me!” Davis angrily shrugged off the hand, and walked up to his daughter. The little girl continued to sob, but looked up at Davis as he approached.
“Daddy, I’m scared...” she babbled through the tears. She dropped the bear that she had been holding and reached out both arms in a request to be hoisted up by her father. Davis crouched down and reached out to lift her, but stopped short at just the last moment. A look of surprise passed over the girl’s face, which then turned into more sobbing. He straightened up and took a step back.
“I know honey, daddy’s here now, I just have to ask you one question and then daddy will make all the bad men go away, ok?” Davis said softy, dropping his arms to his sides. Though this girl definitely looked like his daughter, and sounded like her, he also knew that these soldiers and officers behind him weren’t just any military force. They were there to specifically keep him safe. Any person could be in trouble in this world, and these men would not bat an eye or give any attempt to assist. However, if Davis needed help, they would send thousands to ensure his well-being. If there was any suspicion in their minds that this child was dangerous, they would bring their full force down as they had already begun to do. To completely dismiss them would be foolish, and Davis liked to think that he was brighter than the average person.
“What is the name of your teddy bear, darling?” Davis asked, pointing to the bear she had dropped. The girl didn’t answer and instead looked down and continued to cry, wiping her eyes with both hands.
“Caroline, you’re not in trouble, but I need you to listen to daddy. Can you tell me the name of your bear?” Davis repeated, this time a little more sternly. His daughter took that bear everywhere she went, and was always asking her father to play tea-time with it and herself. If this girl couldn’t tell the name of the bear, Davis would know that she was not his daughter and would retreat immediately to allow the attack to continue.
The girl continued to whimper loudly but seemed to be trying to get the words out.
“Darwin…” she murmured still looking down, tears streaming down her face.
“Very good sweetie, thank you,” Davis smiled softly, stepping back towards his daughter. The girl shot her arms back up to him eagerly.
The soldier that had grabbed Davis before again reached out a hand to get a hold of him.
“Sir I would highly recommend against- “
“Oh shut up and stand down. This is my daughter.” The soldier stood frozen for a moment, then stepped back and placed his gun into resting position. All soldiers and police officers behind him followed suit but continued to look at Davis and his daughter.
He crouched down and drew the girl close. The crying had stopped.
“There we go, see? Daddy’s here now, the bad men won’t hurt you anymore,” Davis cooed, stroking her long hair. He was met with complete silence from the girl.
The response that invaded Davis’ ears was not from a frightened girl, but from a man that sounded mildly annoyed. He stopped stroking her hair and held the girl back out in front him, but was met with a figure that was not his daughter. The crying girl had now taken the shape of a grown man. He wore combat shades and a full black dress suit with golden trimmings and embroidery. His hair was a bright blonde, neatly swept back, and his face was clean shaven. His left hand was made of a shimmery black metal, obviously prosthetic and full to the brim with advanced tech. Davis looked up at this man whose waist he was still gripping with a look of absolute confusion.
“No kiss on the cheek for your daughter?” the man said sarcastically. He reached out his robotic hand and gripped Davis’ face.
“Wha-?” Before Davis could complete the first word, everything around him went black. He could not see anything, and he was no longer standing on anything. At the same time, he wasn’t laying down or hovering either. At best, he felt like he was suspended in something, but he could not see nor feel what exactly it was. From all around him, soft music was playing.
“Hello?” Davis yelled. There was no answer or response. Davis squirmed around, but could not reorient himself no matter how he tried. With each struggle, he felt a little weaker. The already soft music was fading, or rather, it was as if Davis’ ears were becoming weaker with the rest of his body. In one final effort and with the last of his strength, Davis whispered “Manual Override: Wake up”.
Nothing changed. In the final seconds where his ears still had the ability to hear, he could have sworn he heard someone say “nice try.” Then, he was dead.
Vincent opened his eyes, allowing them to readjust. The visor wrapped around his head showed him a heads-up display including monitoring of his vitals, CPU usage, any warning messages, and various other points of information. The visor screen was made of a transparent plastic, and after focusing his eyes past the HUD he could see two people sitting at computers across from him. They were plugged from the head directly into the console so that only they could see the screens being relayed to them. While they could accomplish most digital commands through thought, their hands still typed furiously away at the keyboards in front of them. Thoughts tended to mesh together, and while for civilian technology an error in thought was no problem, an incorrect thought could lead to a nuke being launched in the military. Thus, most commands and inputs were still done manually here.
Vincent turned and saw a woman standing over him. She was looking down on him as if to scoff at something he had done, but he paid her no mind. He pushed up the visor and sat up in the large seat. A chair hardly described this apparatus. It was a large metal contraption screwed directly into the ground. It could be described as egg-shaped if eggs had sharp edges and millions of dollars’ worth of technology built into it. The user would sit reclined inside of it, with various buttons and keys at his disposal on the arm rests. The visor was connected to the top of the chair and came down on to the user, and there were multiple chords protruding from the head rest to plug in to the person’s skull.
“You almost got blown to bits,” the woman said coldly, glaring at Vincent. He sighed and stood up from the seat, stretching exaggeratedly. “You could have made any number of approaches, but you chose the loudest and most dangerous one possible.”
“And in the end, it worked like a charm,” he responded, barely giving her a glance. “Thanks to these guys, it only enhanced the ‘daughter in distress’ look and everything went as planned.” He walked to the other two people who had been working at the computers and gave them each a quick, quiet thank you. They responded with a small nod before immersing themselves back into the grid, still laden with a full day of work to do. Vincent gave a smug smile and shrugged back to the woman, who responded with a scowl.
“The plan was to have Davis rescue you from petty thieves, not the entire security force of his Anti-Virus defense,” the woman scolded, following him as he walked into the hallway. “If you had been booted, there’s no telling the amount of trouble this entire unit would be in. If word get’s out – “
“You’re throwing a lot of if’s there, Dolly,” Vincent Chided without even a glance.
“That’s General Adams to you.”
Vincent ignored her and continued. “If this, if that. The fact of the matter is, everything worked out. Davis is dead, the mission is accomplished, and I am in due need of a good cup of coffee.”
“You can only be so arrogant for so long Vincent” she retorted, striding to keep up with him. “Sooner or later, you’re going to mess up big time, and everything will go up in flames. We don’t have the buffers necessary to have people like you doing whatever they want.” Vincent shrugged again, keeping that smug smile on his face.
They stepped into the cafeteria and Vincent walked up to one of the servers. Before he had even said a word, the server was already scowling.
“One cup of coffee with one cream, two sugars please. Oh, and make sure to use arabica beans please, not in the mood for anything too bitter.” The server glared at him, gave him an empty paper cup, and pointed him to the coffee machines at the end of the counter. “Maybe tomorrow” Vincent muttered glumly.
“No matter how you think, asking for your “specialized brew” every day is not going to make it magically appear” Dolly scoffed. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the servers here purposefully burn the coffee daily because of you.” Vincent ignored her and walked up to the machine. While pouring the coffee, he caught a glimpse of his reflection on the pot.