Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Microstory 1262: Atticus Morel

Virtual architect, Atticus Morel spent more of his life in simulated environments than he did in the real world. He didn’t have any particular affinity for the constructed at first, though. In fact, the reason he got into the business was to make these artificial worlds more lifelike. Over the years, after artificial intelligence was created, human civilization changed a great deal, specifically by shedding much of what made them who they were before. Things like war, food scarcity, and dangerous weather were becoming things of the past. And the most important impact was a loss of the human labor force. Many of the crappy jobs people didn’t want to do could be done by automated systems instead. Even better, a lot of these jobs were simply eradicated, so no one—or no thing—would have to do them at all. For instance, it took a lot of people working in the background to keep a single skyscraper running. Maintenance repair technicians, cleaning staff, security, and the like were all essential to the smooth operation of only a single building. And many of these collectives were needed, because there were many more buildings beyond this one hypothetical. These buildings existed, not to support the intelligent lifeforms on the planet, but mostly to indulge the overly complicated, and economically saturated, infrastructural system that was only necessary because every human felt they deserved an entire section of the planet for themselves. Of course, that’s an exaggeration, but the point is that enough people were clamoring for their own space that the species soon ran out of it, and most of what we were left with was excess. By consolidating systems, and altering the definition of ambition, people were free to pursue their dreams without interfering with other people’s dreams. Humanity stopped needing so many buildings, because they became more united, and driven to support the system as a whole. The most important advancing technology in this regard was virtual reality. There was no need to waste real estate to exorcise one’s aggression by smashing a bunch of legacy electronics with a bat. All one needed was a simulation of such a thing, and any given simulation, at its worse, takes up space as measured in millimeters. But they also didn’t mean much if they didn’t feel real; if the user could not—if only temporarily—suspend their disbelief that their physical bodies were still sitting comfortably in a chair, say in Panama. Atticus had the ability to design realistic environments to make people’s lives easier, and he eventually found himself more at ease in them himself, because they belonged to him. He created this art, and he came to love it deeply. So it was quite a jarring experience when he was suddenly ripped from the world he had built, transported thousands of miles away, and basically forced to begin serving on a warship.

A woman named The Overseer claimed to have knowledge of a timeline where he, and everyone else she had conscripted, had led completely different lives. They had evidently been part of some kind of rebellion to overthrow a tyrant, and were so successful, that they reset time so that none of it actually happened. He had little trouble believing any of this, but he also had trouble caring about this further work he was expected to do. Though the tyrant was gone, her followers weren’t, and it was this new ragtag crew’s mission to combat them. He didn’t want to be part of this, but he bit his tongue, because he was promised it wouldn’t take very long. Even if the mission lasted years, he should still be able to go right back to his old life, where he would later upload his consciousness to the network, and live forever. Unfortunately for his plans, there were other forces at play here, who felt this one job would only be the first of many. According to a history that never really took place, Atticus once took on the codename of Gatekeeper. It was just a name he used to disguise his identity in an alternate reality, which he didn’t even remember, so it meant nothing. But some people with the power to make convoluted temporal connections liked to use them to make more connections. These people provided Atticus with special water that made him immortal, so that he could be in charge of a very dangerous place forever. Now he indeed was a Gatekeeper, and he couldn’t have hated it more. The worst part about it was that he was no longer allowed to enter any virtual reality simulation. No, this would not do. He had to find a way to escape, even if it meant opening the gate.

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