Chapter One: Count Down

It makes perfect sense when you think about it: The most valuable company to ever exist would be the first one that figured out how to cheat death. What began in the heady days of the third dotcom boom and was expected to send shockwaves through both the venture capital markets, as well as the star eyed techo-blogosphere. The presumed IPO of the fourth company in a string of successes for Peter Long, Cyonix Inc was a mystery. Started as a research project four years prior, and completely financed by Long, little information could be gleaned from its official website save for extrapolating a date from a count down timer. Widely regarded as the most original mind in biotechnology and as good a businessman as he was a scientist, the spotlight was upon him while still an undergrad. A serial entrepreneur, Peter was a billionaire by his middle twenties, having perfected minimally invasive implantable biotechnology while at CALtech completing his first Phd. His marketing plan for that venture was as simple as it was bold. The world watched as he became the first fully cybernetic human, live during his company’s IPO. They couldn’t issue shares fast enough and the resulting valuation dwarfed anything that had happened before or since. Within 3 years his implants were practically available in vending machines and his net-worth started to rival the GDP of most of Africa. The upgradable human was a reality, and Peter Long had brought the tech to market first and in an ingenious twist he had laid the foundation for the first cryptographically secured bionic neural network.

The count down timer on the Cyonix homepage sat centered and ominous reading a mere 8 hours to go. The date, April 8th 2020 was seared into the database of every neural implant 4 years ago, becoming a de-facto holiday on Wall Street, with capital markets holding their collective breath in anticipation. For his part, Peter Long had revealed very little about what Cyonix was up to. People had assumed correctly that he was researching cryogenics, but to what end no one could say. There wasn’t even a physical location associated with the company besides an empty stall and mail slot in a Canoga Park strip mall.

A journalist would note that April 8th was the death anniversary of Peter’s mother 17 years prior. But no one had made the leap of what that day had meant for Peter. At 12 years old, his life changed course dramatically. A series of seemingly random events conspired to take his mother away forever and set him down the path that would forever change human existence.

The morning of the announcement with 8 hours left on the timer, coordinates appeared directing interested parties to a location in the pacific northwest. A large complex had been under construction, nestled into the banks of the Columbia river, sharing the same abundant hydroelectric power that dozens of other buildings crammed along the river bed shared. The servers that made modern life possible and virtual life nearly as good as the real thing were working tirelessly inside. Hidden in plain sight, construction on the facility had started 3 years prior. The building seemed like the others in the area, just another minimally staffed server farm. While this was partially true, the vast amount of bedrock disposed of during construction hinted at something far more interesting.

Peter arrived at the facility, landing his helicopter on the roof and entering through a bio-metrically secure elevator. 200 feet below the surface the doors opened revealing for the first time a space just recently completely, but one he had seen in his minds eye from the beginning. A small featured, balding man in a lab coat greets him as he exits the elevator, “Peter! Welcome, welcome, what do you think!” the man bubbles in direct contrast to the cool energy Peter radiates. “I love it Charles, I can’t believe how well it turned out.” Peter embraces warmly his old friend, a man who had guided him through medical school and set him on his current path. “You know Charles, you might be the last bald man on the planet.” Peter chided his friend and mentor attempting to catch his reflection in the shiny, even skin of the other mans forehead. “I can’t give up all the wisdom that this bald head has earned me so readily”

The cavernous lobby of the subterranean structure was carved out of stone, with hardly any visible support structures. The elevator doors close silently forming an unbroken rock face, the seam hidden by a slight overlap completing the sensation that you are fully entombed below the earth. Several passages branch off organically like a termite mound, or an ant hill, tunneled along natural veins in the granite walls. The ceiling glows indifferent to its construction, thick stone radiating a subdued but somewhat menacing luminance. Solid rock somehow made feeble against the weight of a million suns, arrested at the moment just before the rock gives way and the full force and power of that light vaporizes everything in the cavern. Ignoring the visual struggle overhead, the resulting light fills the space with a warmth, that feels like a midsummer sky dappled with wispy cirrus clouds. Peter can’t help but marvel at the design, one he had envisioned years ago but the technology did not yet exist to make it a reality. A few moments spent watching him work and you would not be surprised that he had personally developed the laser system used to create the nano fritted stone responsible for the striking appearance of the caverns roof. Achieving an unblemished rock face with 95% of its strength while allowing light to pass through as if it was frosted glass. The abundance of light, the radiant warmth and the natural curves created an inviting space that betrayed the fact that the room was several hundred feet below ground.

“We all set?” Peter asked. Charles nodded, they head down a short hallway to an atrium that houses three doorways and a sitting area with a small arboretum. A slender somewhat severe looking woman draped over a chaise her face buried in a tablet, while a pair of young men with crew cuts kept a vr display company. Their entrance was met by an attentive alertness by the two men who immediately stood up as if by habit, while the dark haired woman lethargically lowered her tablet and smiled as the pair approached. “So Peter Long has finally arrived to check on his little experiments” the women remarked as she swung her legs to the floor, her feet slipping into a pair of red moccasins. “Charles” she continued as she stood, finishing a glass of champagne. “I hope you don’t mind but we just had to open a bottle” She drained the glass while rising to meet Peter’s gaze.

Stepping towards the woman whom he had never met, his brain reeling for a moment, convinced that the intimacy he shares with her is real, mutual and not the result of nearly a year spent examining every detail of her life, down to the code that makes up her DNA. Taking the empty glass in his hand, bringing her slender pale fingers along for the ride, he doesn’t break eye contact while reaching for the bottle in the ice bucket. Her eyes meet the challenge, beaming a petulant indifference to the stares of men. Raising the glass to her lips, she smiles wryly just before tipping and swallowing the entirety of its contents. “So you’ve come to check on your popsicles.” He smiles at her, a deep penetrative smile, employed with no result. She ate men like him alive.