_Codex.Boreal - A short dystopian sci-fi story
Updated: Dec 4, 2020
Work in progress.
Written in response to an assignment to design a library for the year 2520. Creative Computing MSc at UAL, Computational Thinking module.
The heavy acid rain thundered down onto the surface of the Aegis environmental protection system above Boreal Square. Through a flickering reality augmentation panel the raging storm above was clearly visible, shattering the illusion of the idyllic summer sky to those who deigned to shift their attention away from their Neural indulgences. The glitch delivered a dose of uncomfortable truth to the swarm of commuters below; true blue skies had long faded from living memory and they had resorted to basking under digital imitations, whilst the external environment deteriorated further. Recently the storms had been getting much fiercer and the old weather defence systems were struggling to cope with the constant uptime. The sound proofing had become obsolete and visual glitches becoming more common. With reports of leaking and flooding in some residential quarters, people were getting uneasy.
A young woman navigated through the endless river of people, delivery bots and unprotected data, weaving in and out of blank eyed commuters absorbed in their Neural.optics. After a few risky lane changes she was able to get into the correct lane for the local installation. Turning the corner towards the main entrance, she was forced to quickly step around a twitching D-Con, his face scarred and bleeding from exposure to the toxic downpour. She wondered how he had got this deep, as she progressed up the slope towards the grand entranceway, passing a squad of heavily augmented enforcers on their way down to deal with the stray.
The Boreal Codex Installation was a twisting brutalist monolith of concrete and steel contained within a towering aug-glass shell that seamlessly connected to the Aegis system. Hive series mobile pods darted around to protected Codex ports on the concrete structure, the augmented sunlight glistening off their gilded exteriors. A cascade of ice blue lasers poured from the top of the archway over the entrance, scanning all visitors for a Neural identifier and checking for active subscriptions. As the woman stepped through the entranceway, E.V.A’s menacingly calm voice spoke via Neural.dm, instantly bypassing her privacy and connectivity settings.
“Welcome to Codex.Boreal; NightingaleF13092486.subscriptionStatus = Tier.visitor.2.active; Affiliation = department.environmentalSalvage; subscriptionStatus.accessTimeRemaining = 27 days; Follow lines on Neural.optics.hud to find assigned pod. Have a productive day.”
By the time the message had finished, the woman was already halfway across the rugged concrete atrium. She knew where she was going. As she approached one of the awaiting pods, her Neural.optics highlighted a tiny chip lying on the floor. As she bent to pick it up, she recognised it as an authentication chip. Looking round she quickly scooped it up and carried on moving. A quick scan from her Neural.distal sensors showed it was clean and carried the fairly innocuous name ‘Spare Util’. Thinking little of it, she slid back the skin and slipped it into a spare slot in her Neural.sterno for safe keeping. She would return it to the front desk later.
The woman continued towards the pod and stopped in front the scanner on the door. A beam of white light scanned down her body, highlighting all connected Neurals. After a delay of a second or two, the doors slid open with a soft pneumatic hiss. The pod interior was an empty aug-glass mirrored room, with motorised floor, allowing an infinite exploration of data in numerous dimensional configurations. As she entered the room she was greeted with a shrill startup melody through her Neural.malleus and the augmented wall panels shimmered into the default monochrome fog with a stainless steel floor, before snapping to her preferred layout of mahogany planks and dark blue fog.
The data shielded pod vibrated as it flew rapidly towards the central structure, smoothly connecting to the secure server port. Once the pod docked, yesterday’s virtual desktop flashed back into life; a labyrinthine forest of pre-Eco Crash agricultural research documents, cobbled together from the remains of primitive communication networks. Slowly, she walked through the field of data, re-examining some of the program’s findings from the previous day. After letting out a disappointed sigh she began gesturing to minimise the folder, but before she finished the motion she glanced towards her analytics and noticed a significant increase in the total amount of unread content from her research AI assistant; far greater than the regular output per minute. Her curiosity proved insurmountable and she signalled to expand the inbox. It took her a second to process the findings, but then she realised that all previously redacted content had been unlocked and could now be read. Without thinking, she activated the three dimensional deep dive.
The hidden documents exploded into a forest of data around her, organised in chronological order and with spiralling branches of associated documents proliferating into the illusory digital mist. She had no idea the data yield from the salvaged old world technology had been this high. Previous sessions had come up with mere scraps of information concerning long extinct botanical species, now she barely knew where to begin.
At first the woman sorted by data type and pulled the video clips into focus. Ancient, majestic forests were consumed by lashing flames and dark oil spills poisoned crystalline blue rivers and oceans. Feeling a confusing combination of enchanted and sick, she changed the data filter to look for scientific articles. Groves of previously hidden documents began expanding off into the mist before her, again far exceeding previous results. Using her Neural.optics, she highlighted the titles and reference sections to run some parallel searches for any similar salvaged content, looking for common threads. The resulting material stunned her. It all called for an end to privatisation of water and abolition of fossil and nuclear fuels, citing their destructive impacts. Desperate pleas for change written in the stoic language of science. Documents that challenged the accepted history of the 2193 Eco-Crash and the truth as presented by the Board of Executives. The Eco-Crash was a man-made disaster. This changed everything.
Finally, the gravity of the situation dawned on her. She began frantically engaging all Neurals to close the research and signalled to begin the pod disconnect protocol. She prayed that it was not too late. She would hand the chip in and forget what she had seen. Everything was going to be fine.
She waited, but the protocol did not initiate. Her heart racing, she signalled again to end the session. This time the aug-walls flickered a few times before turning off, leaving only small strips of emergency lighting running around the edge of the floor. A screeching digital tinnitus from her Neural.malleus ensued, resonating through her head and down her spine. The last thing she felt as she slipped into an agonising paralysis was the steady trickle of blood from her mouth and ears. Everything went black.
To be continued?
Thanks for reading.