An attempt at creating a sci-fi novel. This is a preview of about 4,100 words.
| The digital world is like a foundation. It sets up the basis for near-instant communication and near-instant processes. It can provide an abundant number of resources, entertainment options, and numerous means to use as communication. In a way, it’s brought mankind a way to ensure immortality. However, immortality may not seem real in the digital world, as sometimes, data banks can get wiped clean from the Internet—the heartbeat of the digital realm. In addition to that, even the most pristine of users can wake up with multiple charges on their head. Like the real world, the digital world is fraught with danger, but rewarding.
The Internet was heavily used by a small group of colleagues in Manhattan. Although there were only five members of the group, through online donations, the group became an outstanding company. The leader, Thomas Maxwell dubbed them “MaxNet.” This new website functioned like a second life for many people. In only one day, MaxNet earned the state of New York. The next day, nearly every country in the world had members on MaxNet. The new company was a success, and by this time, they offered many job opportunities.
“Uncle Harry,” a cheerful young woman’s voice said to a man, in his apartment, “What are you on?”
“I’m on MaxNet,” Harry replied, “I’m looking for a job.”
The young woman came and sat next to Harry, and viewed the website. It had a silver background with an interface that looked like that of Facebook’s. The current page he was on literally had a list of jobs available, and thankfully, site programming was a need for MaxNet. In an instant, he clicked the link and was prompted to deliver one paragraph as to why he should be hired for the job.
“Quick,” Harry said to his niece, “What do I—“
She was gone, like a ninja. It was typical for the daughter of a military-trained neighborhood hero to be athletically gifted. Harry took a look at his recent family photo. Two men were standing in front of a young woman. The man wearing a white shirt and black jeans was jacked, and had a body that endured months of physical training. To his right, was a man who was younger than his brother and had a body that endured months of programming his home made video games. This man had a red shirt, with the number 45 on it. At the bottom of the picture was a svelte young lady, in a high school’s cheerleading uniform, sitting in a white chair. She was the one who looked the happiest in the photograph, since her smile was wide. Harry then placed the photo down and worked on the paragraph he was to submit.
After spending only five minutes sending what was required, he pushed the submit button, and had only but to wait. In the meantime, Harry took a look through the window of the top of a 14-story apartment building. The roads were neat and streamlined, containing no visible blemishes. Buildings that outlined the streets were clean, and often had tanks flowing with electricity. In the sky, holographic billboards that displayed MaxNet’s logo were a common sight. In fact, there was probably not one place that didn’t affiliate itself with MaxNet. The golden cars that hovered only inches above the ground also had some means of advertising for MaxNet. It nearly seemed like MaxNet owned Manhattan. Harry felt that he waited long enough for a response and clicked a tab (which just appeared) that read, “Results.” At that moment, he knelt and said, “Yes!” three times, and he clicked onto his media player and played one of the electronica tunes, and danced wildly to it. He stopped dancing when he saw a video with the face of a man with soft brown hair. The man’s face was somewhat aged as well, maintaining the fact that he was one of the founders of the group.
“Hello,” the man said, “And congratulations on getting your job at MaxNet. Here at MaxNet, we have hired around 500,000 people. One of them being you! As a member of MaxNet, you have limitless opportunities to grow and flourish.”
Suddenly, the man shrank into a website page outlining career requirements. “As you can see, many people are taking this job seriously. Positions are filling up fast, but you signed up, so you’ve got your job! No interview required—just your effort and dedication. Please check your e-mail—it’ll tell you everything you need to know about your new life as a member of MaxNet. I’m Thomas Maxwell, and I’m happy to welcome you aboard.”
The video faded out, and now Harry made haste to check his e-mail. As Thomas said, the e-mail would tell him everything. There was a schedule listing when he was to work—as well as what to work on. He even got an added note to his schedule. It told him that any mistake, no matter how big or small resulted in termination with no chance to reapply. Harry skimmed over the details, as he picked up a phone and began to contact his niece.
Within minutes, he heard her voice.
“Hey, Uncle Harry,” she said, “Does this call mean—“
“Yes, Kayla, I got the job.”
“So, did they tell you how much you get paid?”
“I don’t think they did.”
“Well, wouldn’t it be a waste of time working for free? I mean, you’re not in a charity.”
“I know that, but I don’t think they listed my salary in the e-mail.”
“Check your e-mail again. I know how you miss the smallest things, but this is a job. You can’t miss anything—not if you want promotions and bigger raises.”
With that, she hung up, and Harry went up to his e-mail. There it was, in plain sight. Harry would be receiving around $80 an hour. Harry simply sighed. Then he looked at a link in his e-mail (apparently, one he skimmed quickly past) and was directed to a new webpage displaying a compressed folder holding codes to the website. As soon as he accessed the files, it revealed a large amount of pages filled with only numbers.
Easy—he had encountered these before when tinkering with video games.
“Looks like this will be even easier than I thought!” Harry said to himself, as he began to explore the codes. Most of the numbers running across the page were zeroes. On the other half of the page, there were numbers like two, four, and nine. Harry soon found himself confused when he thought he saw an “A” in the list.
His stomach growled: time to eat. The programmer headed to the kitchen to make himself a sandwich and some juice. He ignored the thought of using a plate for this small meal. While quickly shuffling to his computer, his front toe was interrupted by some thick manual he had left on the floor. Harry caught himself, only spilling a little of his drink. Once he sat at the computer, he took a look at a readme that came with the compressed folder. Apparently, the codes used to run MaxNet weren’t supposed to contain letters. Harry, naturally shocked, jolted up, accidentally deleted one number, instead of the letter, and spilled his drink over the computer.
“Oh, great,” Harry said, as he helplessly examined the mess he inadvertently created, “I just had this cleaned.” Harry tried to clean up his keyboard first, but then it led to him mixing up the codes and them to MaxNet. A second later, his entire apartment building suffered a blackout.
“Please let this be a dream.” Harry said to himself consistently. The computer was never able to turn on, no matter what he tried. He sighed, and closed his eyes.
He couldn’t stay at the apartment anymore. He fogged up the codes that were meant to run MaxNet, and he fumbled them. It was up to him to fix it. Harry picked up a nearby coat and other necessary belongings and headed outside.
It was only when he finally stepped on the fresh pavement that he felt relieved about the blackout happening during the day. Unfortunately, Harry discovered that other nearby buildings in the complex also suffered the blackout. It didn’t stop there—lights on the highways, as well as holographic signs, vanished. People using their mobile communications were unable to even activate their devices. Many establishments and businesses were virtually locked. The situation was a little like Black Tuesday, except this time, MaxNet crashed. Harry said, “I just might lose another job.”
Nightfall came upon the city, and for the very first time in centuries, a traditional restaurant was crowded. Harry was just on his way to eat something, but he saw how many people were in the restaurant. He could see nothing save for only the top of the flat screen TV.
Harry approached the restaurant, and pulled one of the doors to go in. Inside the restaurant, one could get the sense that it was just a small-business in its heyday. The weathered tiles gave evidence that there was some sort of lackluster cleaning done by whoever ran the restaurant. The white walls and the ceiling were the only other things that Harry ever got to look at besides half of the television. Since the blackout was widespread, there was nothing much to do.
Harry looked up, and saw that lights were on. He then shimmied over to the cashier, and found a generator behind him. He then looked back at the television.
“If your generator can power the restaurant, shouldn’t the TV be on?” Harry asked.
“It should,” the cashier said as he rubbed his chin, “But, it wouldn’t be of much use, right? I mean, I heard that MaxNet crashed, so even if the TV was on, we couldn’t watch anything.”
Of course Harry should have known that. But now that raised a new question.
“Is there a place that sells generators?” Harry asked quickly.
“Well, there is one place around here, but it uses a lot of MaxNet stuff, so—“
“What about another store that doesn’t run on MaxNet?”
The cashier thought long and hard, but soon came up with an answer. “You might try going to Family Discounts. It a store that basically no one comes to.”
“How far is it from here?”
“It’s not even around here—you’d have to go to Queens, and look for a store with lights on.”
“Hold it,” the cashier said before Harry left, “You will want to use this map—it’ll point you in the right direction.”
Harry went back to his apartment, but had to take the manual route, and that was not easy with a blackout in the night. The building was dark, and bore no noise except that of Harry. As he made it up to his room, and opened up his door, a small light was seen in the computer area.
Harry didn’t recognize that light, so he came closer to see what it was.
“Oh, that’s it?” Harry said as he only saw a silver orb with light coming from four parts of it. Before long, two arms came over Harry’s face and all he saw were two black bracers and some parts of the light poking out. Whoever held Harry like that knew how to fight, as he didn’t budge while Harry was trying to reach for something. As he tried shaking him off, even, the aggressor still held on, but he applied some pressure and now it seemed like he wanted to pop Harry’s head like a balloon.
Harry tried to walk away, but the intruder held still. Now, he tried a new technique—he picked up Harry and landed Harry on his rear. Then, he brought his knee into Harry’s back, while applying the hold from before. Harry was focused on trying to free himself, and at one moment, he tried pulling the arms away from his face. He soon heard the intruder exhale. Harry somehow allowed the attacker to bring the arms on his throat, turning it into a choke hold.
The intruder dug his knee a bit further into Harry’s spine, but finally, Harry found a loose plug, and dug it into one of the attacker’s arms. The attacker released him, before the plug went in his bracer. At last, Harry got up. Harry just acted as if he only knew how to fight, and ignored anything else. Harry charged with a straight tackle, and both men landed on the ground, breaking through a bookshelf. The light gave Harry a look at what he was fighting against—a man with dark hair, and a dark colored combat uniform. The man also happened to be wearing a pair of night goggles. Harry was frightened, but ready to fight.
The man pulled out a handgun, but there was something odd about it—it had four holes for firing four bullets at once. Harry quickly foresaw the outcome and made a mad dash for the front door. The gun was fired and four bright lasers flew behind Harry’s back. Harry juked at the last second and the lasers hit a nearby wall and created a large hole. Through it, he saw Harry fleeing. The dark man saw a window showing the court area. He jumped through the window and landed carefully.
Harry, in the meantime, ran down the flights of stairs as fast as he could. Unfortunately, the man closed in on Harry and greeted him with consecutive gunshots. Harry hid behind anything that was hard and thick. Everything he hid behind melted, leaving little room to hide.
Before Harry lost all hope, he heard the sound of sirens: police officers. True, the world run by MaxNet had shut down, but vehicles and their operators could still help. One of the officers broke in, and fixed his gun on the attacker.
“Freeze,” the officer commanded, “You’re coming with me.”
“Am I?” The dark attacker said as he fired a quick shot to the officer.
The officer basically was reduced to a skeleton. A woman, wearing a police uniform like him was at first scared of what had happened, but she picked up her rifle.
“You’re under arrest!” She said in a fierce tone. “Drop your weapons!”
“I’m in the middle of my work, and you’re telling me to stop?” the attacker said. The officer was about to continue, but then the dark man fired off a shot, and missed her.
“The name is Nightslayer. Don’t cross my path again.” He warned.
Harry, by this point was long gone. He had used the diversion the police created to escape. Where he was running he did not know, but he knew one thing—he needed to get there soon, before Nightslayer found him.
After landing in near a safe place, he thought to himself, and wondered how anyone could contact anyone when the network was down. In fact, he wondered who Nightslayer was. In two seconds, a gunshot was fired. Harry was no longer safe. He began to continue his fleeing, but then, he ran into several dead ends, until a hovering SUV came and stopped near him. A door opened by itself.
“Get in!” Someone ordered.
Harry jumped right into the van and prayed that nobody in there was set to kill him.
“You buckle up,” the driver ordered, “And keep yourself occupied. This will be a long ride.”
Harry exhaled as he followed the commands. Then, he closed his eyes, and tried to force himself asleep. Every half hour, he was plagued with the constant thought of seeing his boss, after he caused the massive shutdown of the entire network. This then caused him to think of his brother and his niece, both of which could only contact him through the network.
“Hey,” a woman’s voice called out.
Harry responded, by getting himself up. He couldn’t see much except the person staring back at him. She looked well-armored, as she wore a navy blue protection vest. Her legs were covered with military style pants, each with black kneepads. In addition to that, she had some sort of insignia on one of her shoulder pads. Looking at her face, it almost resembled Harry’s beautiful niece. Even though her hair was covered by a beret, Harry could tell she was a natural red-head.
“We’re almost there. Before we go in, I thought I might get to know you.”
“What’s it for?”
“I want to establish contacts,” she said, “So, let’s start, okay? I promise, it’ll be over before you know it.”
Harry shrugged and loosely hoped the woman would keep her word.
“I’m Shirley Garrett,” the woman said, cuing Harry to fill in the blanks.
“Ok, I’m Harry Plummer.”
“Ok, great. Now, I’d like to ask if you have any family.”
“I have a brother—Not sure where he is—and a niece—great girl.”
“You’re really fortunate. I think I met your brother before.”
Harry took his eyes off her and eased up, before the car came to a stop.
“Why’d we stop?” Harry asked.
“We’re here,” the driver said, “Welcome to Ultranet HQ—watch your step, and keep your hands and feet with you at all times.”
Harry went out of the van after Shirley did, and the first thing she did was smile. Naturally, Harry was a bit confused as to why she smiled so early, but then, she pointed to something behind him. It turned out to be a man with crates on a cart.
“Hello, Ms. Garrett. We’ll need someone to bring these inside to the armory.”
“No problem. I’ll take care of it.” She said.
“Thank you, ma’am,” the man said as he left. Shirley motioned for Harry to take the cart.
Harry gazed at some of the warehouses before Shirley tugged his arm, and threw her hand into the direction of a large domed building. It was silver, containing rivets to decorate it. Around it were large crates that overflowed with older computers—each crate being guarded by groups of two men dressed like Shirley.
Though the men gave looked like they were superiors to Shirley, they treated her as if she was the very existence of their jobs. They quickly let Shirley and Harry in, without any quarrel.
“What is this place?” Harry asked while he was wheeling the cart.
“As we have discussed, this is Ultranet. We had set up a communication network like MaxNet’s—to improve social networking. Unfortunately, MaxNet took over the world much sooner than we expected.”
“Really?” Harry asked, “This looks a lot like a top secret agency or something.”
“Our chief advisor had advised us to take precautions, and so we did.”
“Precautions.” Harry slurred as he looked at various officers.
“Don’t worry about them. If you’re with me, you’re friendly to them.”
Sheila and Harry made it to a door. When Sheila unlocked the door, a large storage space was seen. There were about twelve rows of steel shelves, each housing a number of crates. Sheila walked Harry to an area with an empty shelf. As if her word were law, Harry managed to unload the crates, and then they were on their way.
While Sheila was still giving Harry the grand tour, a muscular man with a stone-like face blocked their path. Sheila simply placed her hands on her hips and presented a cocked eyebrow. The mighty man smiled.
“Word on the streets is that there’s some programmer who shut down MaxNet.”
“Yes,” Sheila said, signaling to Harry that she would be doing the talking, “He’s right here. Does the chief want him?”
“Absolutely,” he said. He walked ahead, and neither Sheila nor Harry had to figure out what that meant. They followed him quickly and silently, while he began to tell a story. Along the way, he said that the founders of MaxNet were at fault for creating such a frail network. Harry got to see what his name tag read after seeing him turn around to ask Harry personal questions—which he answered willfully. The name tag read, “Johnson.”
Harry, Sheila, and Johnson eventually reached a cylindrical elevator. They took the short ride up to the fourth floor. Here, it looked less populated than the other rooms. There was only one room ahead, and there were two bookshelves posing as security guards. Johnson placed his ID card in a slot and then a voice was heard from an adjacent speaker.
“That’s you, Johnson?”
“Yes, sir,” Johnson replied, “We’ve got the Plummer guy you wanted”
“Capital! Bring him in here.”
The doors opened, and the three went inside.
Harry looked at the room, which seemed fitting for someone who had been acquainted with technology. Pulsing blue lights danced all over the room, to match the patterns displayed on a ceiling with grid lines. On one wall, there was some makeshift newspaper that screamed, “MaxNet shuts down world.” Harry then looked at the chief advisor and found him to be much different from what he expected. The man was a shorter, aged man, with a lot of soft facial hair. He had some slick hairstyle to accompany it. Unlike Sheila or Johnson, he wasn’t clearly as fit as Harry expected him to be—the chief had a soft belly and an overall round figure.
“How long will you stand there, son?” the chief asked, snapping Harry’s head to him.
“We used MaxNet up to sometime today. I had some of my men track people who were looking for a job in that area. Looks like you were one of them.”
“But why bring me here?”
“Mr. Plummer,” the man said loudly, “According to our reports, you caused the inevitable shutdown of MaxNet, and in turn, the world.”
“How did I? I just tried to understand the codes.” Harry sifted through his mind, trying to stave off potential punishment. “I—it was an accident. The juice, and the—“
The man placed his hand on Harry’s shoulder. “Did you know anything about MaxNet before you took a job from them, especially as an online programmer?”
Harry stood befuddled. The man began to walk around and present valid reason as to why MaxNet was able to take over the Internet, by creating their own internet. This eventually led MaxNet to advance technology to the point where internet access was required to open a front door to someone’s home.
“The reason MaxNet thrived, in our time especially, is that they work with other electronic manufacturers. Their TVs, refrigerators, security systems, and even their little phones now require updates from MaxNet.”
Harry was about to ask what would happen if someone didn’t want to update their system or electronic device. The following response was that the said device would simply be almost unusable.
“Dictatorship is what it is,” the chief continued, “MaxNet wants to control everything in the world.”
Harry was about to continue asking questions, but the old man sat in his desk and folded his hands. “Plummer, you’re going to be caught in the midst of warfare between MaxNet and us.”
Before Harry could ask why, the chief led Harry to the elevator and brought him to the armory.
“We’ve asked MaxNet not to take over the web for too long, son,” the chief said, “We’re going to have to shut them down.”
The first week of “joining” the UltraNet brought surprises to Harry. Occasionally, he would get something done right, but he wasn’t used to living a new life over at UltraNet. Despite its name as an internet-friendly service, computer technicians and devoted countrymen alike were training like they were young military officers. As he passed by the hallway leading to his room, he overheard the word, “tonight.” Harry thought nothing of it, as he was battered from training. He wanted nothing more than to sleep.
“Blue Team,” the loud PA barked, “Assemble near gate 4 and prepare to embark.”
Harry groaned and held a bundled package of his uniform and boots to his stomach. Harry had always wanted to live comfortably—without working. However, it couldn’t happen with a war over the internet—and the thing was it wasn’t even like one of those wars that would flood a webpage with comments. Of course, that was preferable to facing MaxNet as a soldier.
Two burly soldiers walked by Harry, and without him asking for two seconds of his attention, the soldiers turned their heads to him. The shorter one of the two simply asked, “Looking for the men’s room?”
“Where is it?” Was what Harry was about to ask, but the soldiers pointed to a scrawny soldier near the water fountain.
“You see him? Just walk to him, and hang a left.”
Following the directions, he made it to the bathroom and asked himself several questions. Harry was really thinking hard of how to get back home, so he could just live until the blackout ended. Just as soon as he had an “Aha!” moment, one of the two soldiers came in to let Harry know that it was time to go. Thankfully, Harry didn’t have to do anything other than put on his uniform.
“Thank you,” Harry said quickly. The soldiers replied politely, and headed to gate 4, like the other soldiers on Blue Team.
Harry couldn’t see much except for a straight, dark highway. The UltraNet team had left at night, so headlights were important. Many buildings served as landmarks for identifying areas, like the Center Complex, or the Shining Plaza. On this night, these men were speeding through the street. A common person would think that they were trying to set a personal record, but these soldiers of UltraNet were cruising to MaxNet’s Headquarters—at least, that’s what the squad leader said to them when they were hopping into jeeps-like hover cars.
“How will we know when we found MaxNet?” Someone asked.
“That’s the problem,” the driver said maintaining focus on what the headlights presented to him, “We don’t know where they live. For all we know, they could be dispersed in random homes. That’s why we have Red Team. They’ll check out towns and homes.”
“So,“ Harry chimed in.
“Blue Team is going in for a personal meeting.” The driver responded.