I think it is important to note that for most of human existence we have fought without much success to avoid death. Over time we got better at avoiding it, lifetimes grew and grew, often extending well into the century mark. Ultimately, finally, inevitably, we passed over into the great void of the unknown and vanished from all but memory. Death occurred singly, alone in the quiet of the night and sometimes it was a group event as large numbers of humans perished in the many notable tragedies which history records. It is to one such tragedy I now draw your attention.
Husband and wife, Anthony and Kathleen Agnew reclined peacefully, comfortably, and unaware of anything around them. They were fully immersed in a virtual landscape contained in an advanced and experimental quantum computer based operating system. The system itself was not located in a room or laboratory in some glass walled research center. This system resided in multiple locations spread out over several states on the Eastern seaboard of the U.S. Each processor was about the size of a slice of white bread and was capable of not merely performing calculations far in excess of any silicon based process ever developed, but also of, in a fashion, replication of the quantum dimensional process we call “Thought”! While traces of the element Silicon were to be found in the device, its main component consisted of protein bases and were semi-crystalline in nature. Tony and Kath were connected into this network not with wires but carbon nano-tube filaments coated with this same protein based component which had taken several months to grow from tiny penetrations behind each ear directly into the structure of their brains. The process was highly classified and even more highly controversial.
“Brickyard 922, descend to two thousand and maintain 270 knots!” Crackled in pilot Hadid Chalad’s headphones. “Rodger approach, two thousand, 270 knots” At a nod of his head co-pilot Susan Myrtle gently reduced power to the twin jet engines and looked up to utter what the cockpit recorder would preserve as her last words, “What the hell is that?!” The drone wasn’t all that big you understand, but it was no longer responding to the frantic attempts of its owner to regain control of it. At almost three thousand feet and with flight 922 traveling at just under three hundred knots, it penetrated the co-pilots window with a sickening roar and split Susan’s face pretty much in half. Hadid instinctively rammed the throttles forward and pulled back sharply on the yolk. While there are many tales told of heroic airmen coolly recovering from near tragedy, this isn’t one of them. The nose began to pitch up sharply until the sudden force on the tail resulted in the left elevator assembly snapping off at the fuselage. Not fully detached it folded back uselessly behind the crippled craft.
It took twelve seconds for Brickyard 922 to roll on her back, point her nose to the ground and impact a quiet suburban Southern New Jersey neighborhood. The data recorders showed her inverted at 172 degrees and nose down 64 degrees when it entered the single story dwelling of Tony and Kathy Agnew. They, Hadid and Susan were the first to perish. One hundred three passengers and cabin crew along with six members of the Simpson family, who happened to be the Agnew’s backyard neighbors, soon joined them!
Tony! What was that? I don’t know, I felt it too. I think somebody is in the house, Tony, take a look around. I can’t! What do you mean, you can’t? Open your eyes and look around. I can’t! You try it. What the hell is going on? Marty! What the hell is happening? Tony and I can’t get back to the house. Yeah, I see that from here Kath, we’ve lost the connection somehow. That’s not possible, whenever we lose the comm we go back home, we don’t stay in the portal. I don’t know what to tell you right now, we’re checking it from our end now. Give me a minute will you!
Tony, I don’t like this. I want to go home now! I don’t like it either but give Marty’s team a minute to figure it out, something glitched. They’re on it, trust the process as you like to say.
Hey guys! I need you to go to the lounge in portal 7 right away. Why? What’s up in the lounge? Just go, the news viewer is on and it’ll be easier than trying to explain. Portal 7, now!
Whoa! Alright Marty, what are we looking at here? All I see is a lot of flames.
Umm, it’s an airplane crash guys.
OK, that’s why we lost comm. Did it cut the lines?
Well, yeah kinda.
Kinda? What does that mean?
Tony, Kat, I don’t know what to say, that airplane crash is your house!
(Silent pause) (Long silent pause…)
Marty? Yeah Tony. What are you saying here, what’s going on?
We’re evaluating it now guys, I’m not sure what to tell you right now.
Evaluating? Marty! We’re in the house!
I don’t think so, not any more. I think you’re both here.
Marty? Yes Kathy. Marty, I want to call my family. I don’t think that’s a good idea right now Kath, I don’t think I can allow that. What do you mean, “Can’t allow that” Marty?
We are quarantined at the moment.
We? Who’s we?
I’ll lay it out for you guys, this is an experimental and classified project. You signed confidentiality agreements. Remember?
Classified my ass Marty, we didn’t join the military. This is a gaming project!
Who do you think funded this so called “Gaming project”? There are three of us in the control room right now, myself on comm, Ronda is running graphics, and we’ve been joined very recently by a nice man in a very sharp uniform with a very large sidearm! I’ve been informed that as of now we are under some sort of special classification and until a few things get sorted out at a pay grade way, way above ours, nobody is going anywhere. You guys now know as much as I do so sit tight, the bar is open at your end, I’m starting to wish we had one here.
Marty? Yeah Tony. Marty, can we go private at this end? Kathy and I would like to talk things over between ourselves if that’s alright. Tony, I’m getting an affirmative nod on that request. Why don’t you two head to portal 2 and switch on the privacy screen, I’ll be right here, apparently… If you need anything just call.
So what do we do now, Tony?
I don’t know if we can do anything at this point, Kathy. We seem to be OK here for the moment.
Yeah, that’s the part that bothers me, the “for the moment” part. What if someone decides they don’t want to keep a couple of digital zombies around and just pulls the plug?
So you think we’re dead out there?
It sure looks that way. What I don’t get is, why aren’t we dead here?