Every time Max summoned him to the corner office, Farker would pause outside the door to quietly repeat his centering mantra. “Grant me the serenity to accept what can't be changed, the courage to change what can't be accepted ...and the good sense to not choke the living shit out of bosses who can't tell the difference.”
This accomplished, he raised his hand, knocked, and prepared himself to wait. Why is it, he wondered, that when I barge up here unexpectedly I can get in to see him right away, but when he summons me, he always makes me wait?
“Enter,” said Maximilian.
Farker let himself in and closed the door behind him. “Please state the nature of the medical emergency,” he said, dropping into a leather chair.
Max glared at him, brows knitting together in suspicious bafflement. He had not been with PanGames long enough to recognize Farker's quotes. “What medical emergency?”
Farker sighed. One more suit without a soul. “I mean, what's up? Whaddaya need?”
Max pursed his lips. “What I need, what this Company needs (Farker could hear the capitalization) is people I can talk to without a fuckin translator.” He paused to tap the ashes off the end of a cigar. “The Realm of Egypt deal closes tomorrow. Are we ready for the inclusion?”
Farker tried not to look at the cigar. He knew intellectually that there were people who still smoked tobacco, but it still shocked him.
He tried not to breathe. “Of course we're ready.”
Max regarded him. “You're awfully sure of yourself. Didn't even pause to consider. No worries at all?”
For the nth time Farker wondered how Max had ended up as his new boss. In the three weeks that Max had been at PanGames he had never asked Farker a single technical question. Was it that the man did not even care about where the money came from, or were the rumors true – that managers were conditioned from an early age to automatically delegate any non-financial thinking?
But how do you speak of neuroadaptive computational matrices and quantum hypercomputers to such a person? “It's what we do,” he said finally. We've done it lots of times.”
“My point exactly,” the man behind the desk retorted. “From what I've seen, PanGames has been swallowing all its competitors for years now. Sooner or later everything reaches its limits.”
“Nowhere near them,” Farker assured him. “Our system is so fast it meets itself coming the other way.”
He could see from the way Max's eyes narrowed that the man wasn't convinced. Max had no idea of what he was running, he thought. Way behind the learning curve. But then, he reflected, so were about 90% of his fellow humans. All of the changes wrought in the last few decades had left most dazed and detached.
First, W3 had melted national boundaries. Free trade and air travel had been softening the cultural barriers for over a century. W3 merely knocked down the crumbling fragments. No one knew what lab screwed up and released the virus. It was hard to believe that anyone would do so without a vaccine for it. Most thought that one of the nukes exchanged in the preliminary minutes of the War had busted the lab seals.
Whatever. The virus had escaped containment. Nobody noticed at the time because they were busy waiting for nuclear annihilation. Angry little countries had spent decades enriching uranium and developing missiles to take out old rivals. And when the first salvos launched, the other, larger countries nuked the little nukers, to shut them up before it could escalate into a global holocaust.
The funny thing was, people had been predicting forever that The Big One would be between the US and Russia or China. But it never happened. In a virtual moment of unanimity, military artificial intelligences joined electronic hands across the oceans to coordinate surgical strikes. The remaining small players were vanquished before the conflict could reach a level that could threaten the biosphere with a nuclear winter.
Everyone left alive breathed a sigh of relief that it was over.
And then people began dying of the virus. It was airborne, you see. Once out of the lab that spawned it, there was no stopping it. Entering the body via the lungs and nasal mucosa, it quickly induced fever, palpitations, nausea, vomiting and exhaustion, incapacitating its victims before they could seek medical attention. Doctors were appalled at the ingenuity of its creators. It denied its sufferers the mercy of a quick death, taking days to weeks to kill, so that medical centers were overwhelmed trying to care for all of the dying.
Attempt at vaccines were ineffective until they sequenced its genome and realized they were dealing with twenty seven distinct strains of the damned thing. Finally, they could develop 27 effective vaccines and combine and distribute them in one no-fail full-spectrum dose.
The nuclear mini-war had killed millions. The Virus made everyone left forget all about the nukes. Within less than a year the Earth's population dropped from ten billion to two.
And then the real fighting began.
It was a cold thought but a valid one, in Farker's opinion, that dreadful as the nuclear exchange and the plague had been, they had also been a blessing. All of the remaining missiles were in the hands of the major nations. With the smaller countries effectively toothless, the major countries were able to use conventional forces to crush any resistance easily and implement a world government. International wars and alliances were a thing of the past. United Earth replaced the United Nations – there were no more separate “nations” so why keep it in the title?
Most of what was called the Internet had survived. Within short order, the global community of surviving programmers had cobbled together the first workable quantum-encrypted e-voting system. United Earth was legitimized as a global representative government. Minor pockets of rebellion would continue to form out in the more rural areas, but the need for continuity and order stabilized things in the surviving cities.
The political transformation of the planet, as drastic as it was, was nothing compared to the effect of global peace on technology budgets. The progress curve ramped up, bequeathing cheaper energy, more powerful computers, and vastly improved crops and farming that could easily feed UE's diminished population. It took determination and ingenuity to starve these days.
Looking at Max, Farker almost felt sorry for his boss. Sure, the principals of business and capitalism had survived the changes in the world practically unscathed. But surviving isn't enough if the evolving science leaves 90% of the world behind in accelerated future shock. Max understood how PanGames's technical infrastructure worked about as much as the nearest cop understood the gravity nullifiers that let enforcer vehicles float down the city's streets.
“Let me put it this way,” Farker told him. “This is the first acquisition since you came on board a couple of weeks ago, so I can see how all the details might worry you. But even if we were absorbing ten new realms tomorrow I wouldn't bother to come to work early. Our system automatically generates all the procedures to include a new Realm into PanGames. Adding Realm of Egypt to our menus and interfaces will take less time than it'll take to sign the paperwork.”
Max scowled. Farker could tell that his boss didn't like being patronized. He tried to imagine how he would feel if the situation were reversed and Max was telling him not to worry about his salary, that the little credits would all go into the right balance, that restructured financials would keep the firm and his bank balance above water.
“Try to relax,” he advised Max. “We, or rather our system, has done this before, many times. We've never had any problems, and there's no reason to expect that we ever will. We're ready for it. Anything else you need to know?”
Max puffed on his cigar, then sighed. “I suppose not. Let me know immediately if anything, any problem at all, comes up before we close the deal.”
“Nothing will,” Farker said. “I'll call you if there's anything, but there won't be. Verily I say unto thee, nothing will happen.”
This turned out to be wrong.
It is always wrong. Things always happen.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish