Archive for virtual

Triple Vaccination

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , on July 24, 2012 by javedbabar

The man in the white jumpsuit flashed his badge and said through his mask, “Good morning. We are agents from The Authority’s IT team.”

TJ knew this stood for Immediate Threats. What were they doing here at the Lucerne Valley Lodge? Their sister organizations were ST (Sustained Threats) and UT (Unknown Threats), the three organs collectively referred to as ITSTUT, which he’d always thought sounded stupid.

The agent continued, “There has been a virus scare; we require you to take immediate action. Step One is to seal all exits. Step Two is to inform all persons. Step Three is to undergo vaccinations.”

TJ said, “Is it a physical or a virtual virus?”

“I’m afraid we can’t say for sure, so everybody must have a triple vaccination.”

“Physical and virtual, what’s the third one?”

“It’s a control vaccination,” said the agent.

“What’s the purpose of that?” TJ was thinking ahead. He had a full hotel tonight – a corporate group, local and global tourists, and drunks from last night. He’d have to explain to all persons why they couldn’t leave and must have three treatments, so he may as well get the lowdown from the Man.

“It’s a balancing treatment,” said the agent. “I am unaware of the technicals, but I have been told that it’s important. There is no refusal option.”

“Erm, okay. I’ll do as you say.” TJ made a hotel-wide announcement. He instructed all staff to report to their departments and all guests to return to their rooms. The IT team would work through the building, treating everybody.

“Thank you for your compliance,” said the agent. “Well, let’s start with you. What percentage android are you? Twenty percent? Okay, good, but I thought you would be more, as you have a very good way with people. I’ve made the adjustments. We’ll start with the Physical. Are you right-handed? Please roll up your left sleeve.” The agent rubbed a sterilizing wipe across TJ’s inner arm, just below the elbow, and using a small needle, injected a blue solution.

“Now, the Virtual. Are you plugged in? You’re not? Good, can you please turn around for a moment?” He inserted a cable into the back of TJ’s head. The software update patched into his meatware in a few seconds.

“Finally, the Control. Take this with a glass of water, or a rare whisky if you prefer.” He handed TJ a yellow pill and winked. “I’m sure you have access to the multispirit machine.”

TJ knew the real purpose of the pill. It was to reach the areas that software couldn’t access. It was an unconscious fix. You believed you were better, which was half the battle, or the Authority somehow convinced you you were better, and who knew what else besides?

Drunky Taxis

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Unknown with tags , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2012 by javedbabar

Danny was drunk for the third time this week at the Lucerne Valley Hotel. The barman was considering giving him a one week ban, but then he thought, where else would he go? The guy was already lost in life; why steal away one of his few remaining anchors?

He’d had one too many though, and was annoying customers; Donna in particular. It was a wonder that she put up with his persistent propositions and bullshit without calling him out. A guy would have decked him along ago. Maybe women were just nicer.

“Time to go home, my friend,” the barman said to Danny. “Better make sure you’ve got your keys. You don’t want to be locked out do you?” When Danny drew his keys out of his pocket to check, the barman swiped them. This worked every time with drunks. The barman pulled out Danny’s car keys, put them in a tin behind the bar, and returned the rest of the bunch to its owner. “Time to go home, my friend.”

Danny didn’t protest; he knew where he stood here. He was a hopeless drunk and his opponent was the king of this joint. The barman said, “I’ve called you a taxi. It will be here in five minutes. You can wait outside.”

Danny got into the taxi and asked how much it would be to Kalash, the subdivision beyond the Golden turnoff, way up the Lucerne Valley Road. The taxi driver said, “That will be fifty bucks, pal.”

Danny laughed heartily. “That’s a good one, buddy. How much really?”

“It’s fifty bucks, my friend. I’m giving you a break already. It’s thirty kilometres at two bucks per click, that’s sixty bucks, and at this time I could charge you half-rate for the return trip. But I won’t do that.”

“Fifty bucks!” said Danny, his head in hands. “Fifty bucks!” He started sobbing, then opened the door, cursed the driver and got out. “F***ing drunky taxis! Fifty bucks! Stuff it up your ass!”

The driver radioed his base to report an abusive passenger and drove away. Danny re-entered the bar. The barman called out, “Hey there, I told you already, time to go home.”

Danny told the barman that the taxi had refused to take him as far as Kalash. The barman shook his head and called one from the other company in town.

Danny tried his negotiation skills again, but the driver stuck to the standard rate of sixty bucks, and also wanted half-rate return, so it would now cost ninety bucks. “Ninety bucks!” wailed Danny. “Ninety bucks! The other driver was charging me fifty!”

The driver said, “Well you should have gone with him then, pal.”

Danny asked the barman to order him another cab, but he refused. Danny called both companies himself, but they declined to transport him.

“How much money to stay here?” he asked the barman. “Upstairs in the rooms?”

“It’s sixty bucks a night, my friend.”

“Sixty bucks!” he cried. “Sixty bucks!” He winked at Donna along the bar, nudged up and smiled at her. “How about sharing a room here, honey? Only thirty bucks each.”

The barman was stunned when she agreed to the proposal and led him off to bed. The barman didn’t know that in the real world, Danny had been a real gentleman. Donna had been a troubled woman, who Danny had helped, expecting nothing in return. She had later almost died from a drugs overdose, and his permanent vegetative state was the result of a stroke.

They were both now living their lives via virtual retinal projections. Some people coped with this change better than others. Donna knew that Danny wasn’t doing so well, and needed a hand now.

Health Infomatics

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , , , , on June 1, 2012 by javedbabar

Health Infomatics had come a long way, thought Liz. Even in the time I’ve been working at Lucerne Village Medical Centre, primary patient care has transformed from purely personal to mostly technical. Sure, you get a few moments with a health care professional, but then it’s straight onto machines, and computers do the rest.

Liz was underpaid and underworked, but it was better than it used to be – underpaid and overworked. But hers was a valuable role – the observer, and when needs be, she would step up to actor; she had the skills and experience needed to handle emergency failures.

The doors slid open and a middle aged man walked in. He looked around nervously and walked up to the desk. Liz said, “Good morning, Sir. How may we help you?”

“Em, I haven’t been inside a hospital for years. They sort of scare me. I was feeling unwell and went to see my doctor. He couldn’t really say what it was, so he sent me here.” “Ok, Sir, that all sounds fine. We’ll give you a check up and take it from there.” She clicked open a new file and asked for his ID, which she scanned and returned. “What form does your unwellness take? I mean, what are you feeling?”

“It’s tightness in my throat and chest, and a puffy nose. It could be an allergy, but…”

“Follow me, sir. Let’s not try to second guess. We have the best equipment here. It will tell us everything.”

Liz asked him to remove his jacket and shoes and lie on the bed at the centre of the room. She removed the EMU (Electromagnetic Medical Unit) from its charger and keyed in the codes for White, Forties, Male. EMU units were a great advance – not so much in medical technology, as they performed the same function as flux MRI scanners; more a medical convenience. They weighed three kilos and could be passed over the patient’s body with ease. There was no need now for the whole “entering the tomb” ritual. Their sales had been boosted by a marketing campaign where an animated emu races ahead while an ostrich stays with its head buried in sand. The message was that the EMU tells you everything, even the things you’ve never thought about and don’t want to know.

“Okay, Sir, the EMU says that your sickness is psychosomatic. Do you know what that means? Yes, that’s right; it’s caused by your mind rather than by your body. There is however another indicator showing a ninety-seven percent chance of your developing brain cancer within three years.”

The man looked shocked. “Do I need to start chemotherapy?”

Liz smiled and shook her head. “Sir, when was the last time you were treated in a hospital? More than ten years ago? I thought so. Medical technology is much improved since then. You will need just twenty-four hours of treatment, and your current respiratory complaints and future ontological complaints will be gone. Please come here at ten o’clock tomorrow morning, prepared for an overnight stay.”

The man blinked rapidly and said, “That sounds amazing. How will you treat me?”

“We have several options. I suggest the HEAL machine, which stands for Holistic Emotional Astral Landscapes. The Law of Attraction motivates your healing, creating parallels between your perfect inner state and your perfect outer place. The patient chooses a desirable environment in which to spend the next twenty four hours. Popular choices are deserts, mountains, forests or oceans; you may prefer to be projected into the future, or back to Renaissance, medieval or Biblical times; you may also choose the body of a man, woman, child or foetus; some men find feminine energy more healing and prefer to take that avatar. Many people feel empowered by ancient cultures, and visualize powerful symbols such as the Ankh, Taijitu, Alpha, or OM.” The man was dazzled by all of this.

Liz continued, “You will be immersed in the world of your choice for twenty four hours, while nanobots modify and replace your defective cells. You will wake up feeling better than ever. How does that sound?”

Liz saw the thrill in the patient’s eyes. These HEAL machines almost made you want to be sick.

Fading

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Global Travel, Lucerne Village, Unknown with tags , , , , , on May 31, 2012 by javedbabar

It was surprising how few people enjoyed the Botanical Garden. Danny was often alone there, or maybe there were other people around but in different sections – the Amazonian Rainforest or Egyptian Oasis areas, or in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, though these were being regenerated after the recent war. Anyway it was a shame that more people didn’t make better use of Lucerne’s wonderful amenity.

Danny had first met Sophie – with her long arms and legs, black hair and big brown eyes – at the seed fixture, and their date at the garden’s cafe had gone very well; he often saw the green-suited founder of the place, known as The Gardener, strolling around. But apart from some young rascals running between bushes, that was it in terms of regular visitors.

He spotted a new guy strolling along the main path and said hello. The next day he saw him again, and said hello again. The new guy didn’t look too well. Maybe he was recovering from illness and taking a stroll daily for his health. He moved with hesitation and his responses to Danny’s greetings were slow. Danny also imagined that he could be mentally sub-normal, or maybe depressed. He couldn’t enquire about these things of course; it would be considered most rude.

One day the man really looked terrible. His skin was greenish and his greeting was more slurred than usual. Danny said, “Excuse me, are you feeling all right?”

The man stopped struggling to walk and stood beside Danny. He said, “Yes I feel okay, thanks pal.” But this was difficult to believe when he was green and trembling, with froth forming on his lips.

There was a crash in the bushes and some cries for help. It must be those boys mucking about again, thought Danny. They’ll hurt themselves.

The man said to Danny, “Listen pal, I hope you don’t mind me saying, but you don’t look so good either. Your skin seems green and you’re shaking.”

“That’s funny,” said Danny. “That’s what I noticed about you. Maybe we should leave this section of the garden; there may be allergens here. Are you allergic to pollens or spores? I suffer from severe hay fever but I’m not sneezing. It could…”

“Look at those caterpillars,” said the man, pointing to yellow and black-striped bugs the size of his thumb. “I’ll bet one touch of those would make you break into a sweat. I picked one up when I was a kid and it…”

Danny wasn’t paying attention to what the man said. His eyes opened wider as the man reduced in intensity, became transparent, and faded away. Was it a trick of the light, or of his eyes? Where had he gone? Was this a joke?

Then he noticed that his own hands had disappeared. A moment later he was no longer in the Botanical Garden.

Danny was back in a bed in Lucerne Village Medical Centre. Misalignment of satellites had caused his signal to break up, and neither his, nor other patients’, virtual retinal projections could be sustained. He was just another client of the centre’s Permanent Life Enhancement unit. He would never walk or talk again, but once the satellites were realigned, he could at least continue to enjoy the garden.

Ancient Warfare 6

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , , on April 7, 2012 by javedbabar

David was banned from playing video games. He was usually allowed one hour per day, plus whatever he sneaked in here and there, but his mother had checked with his father and realized that he’d been playing them off against each other. “Can I play my hour now?” he’d say to his father while his mother was out shopping, and he’d say “Sure son;” then when his father was out drinking he’d say to his mother, “Can I play my hour now,” and she’d say, “Sure love;” and David ended up with two hours-plus of gameplay.

He mostly played Worldball 2016. His hand-picked team, King David’s Defence XI, would battle and often beat mightier nations such as Italy and Germany. King David’s Defence XI had a rock solid rear formation that few teams could penetrate, and their unorthodox attacks bamboozled opponents. They made it to the final but then lost to the faultless teamwork of Chairman Mao’s Select Party People. David took this loss badly and stopped playing Worldball. He bugged his parents for Ancient Warfare 6. “It’s really, really good,” he said to his father. “It has powerful weapons and amazing avatars. Dad, can I have it as an early birthday present?”

“Ok, but don’t tell your mum how much it cost. Tell her there was a half-price offer. Here’s sixty bucks.”

Ancient Warfare 6 was so much better than Ancient Warfare 5. Whereas before you had only personal weapons, now there were group weapons such as siege towers and battering rams. The Avatars were built upon your own photos, and so realistic that it felt like looking into a mirror sometimes. The Point of View (POV) was smooth and sharp but retained peripheral vision. It was a virtual/real-life experience.

His friend Amir would come around to play most days. King David’s Defenders conquered much of the Holy Land, but Amir’s Arab Armies made inroads too. Now that David was banned though, they just got bored together.

Amir said, “When can we fight again, my tribal foe?”

David said, “Next week, when my ban comes to an end.” Amir said that David’s mum was at the neighbours, so they could squeeze in a quick game right now, but David said, “She’s told me already that if there’s any mischief, the ban’s extended.”

Amir threw a mini-Mars bar at David, but he defended himself successfully. It didn’t really hit him, just disappeared somewhere.

“Do you think that warriors had real powers?” said Amir. “I mean in ancient times? Magical powers?”

“Like what?” said David, still searching for the mini-Mars bar. It must be somewhere. His mother would be angry if it melted and left a mark. Where had it fallen?

“Well there symbols in the game – the coins, swords, beer, and meat – are empowering. The warriors become stronger.” Amir looked up as if heavenwards. “But they also capture holy symbols like Om signs, Stars of David, Allah banners, and golden Crosses. They have mystical properties. They can do special things.”

“Well if they absorbed the symbols, then I guess they would have magical powers.” David felt a sudden rush of energy and said, “Hey want to play catch?”

Amir raised his eyebrows. “Is that allowed?”

“Sure it is,” said David. “It’s just a gentle children’s game, right?” Of course it wasn’t. Their version of catch involved pitching items as hard as possible at each other, and when the item was deflected or hurt them, saying, “Should have got it!” David said, “Ok, I’ll start,” and threw a ball hard at Amir, which hit him in the ribs somewhere. “Should have got it!” Amir responded by launching a dollar coin which also struck its target. “Should have got it!” David grabbed a hardback maths textbook and sent it spinning towards Amir’s stomach. “Should have got it!” Amir whirled a music CD into David’s shoulder. “Should have got it!” David flicked a datastick which hit his opponents head. “Should have got it!” The laughed and chased each other around and upset a side table, just as David’s mother returned.

“Right!” she said. “Your ban is extended by a week!”

“No mum! Please no! We weren’t playing video games. We were just playing catch.”

“Look at the mess you’ve made. What were you catching – cannonballs?” David looked down, ashamed. “Well go on then! Pick up that stuff and put it back on the table. If anything’s broken, you can expect another week’s ban.”

Two weeks later David and Amir next played Ancient Warfare 6. It was the most intense game they could remember. Amir collected ball symbols, before throwing cannonballs with incredible power that destroyed David’s walls. David hoarded coins, and had so much wealth that he built them up again, bigger and stronger. Amir gathered books, and invented new technologies and projectile methods to augment his attacks. David amassed discs, creating new sonic weapons using the vibrational potency of rhythmic sound. Amir’s assembly of data symbols changed the game entirely; they now fought in machine code rather than with graphics. Their virtual/reality threshold thinned, and their bodies and avatars were much the same now. Each item pitched at their bodies had been absorbed by, and now empowered, their virtual selves. Modern and Ancient worlds had merged for them. They heard drumbeats and shouting, and then a flaming boulder smashed through the roof of David’s parent’s house.