Dreamcatcher

The year is 8083 AD, everything good is dead.

$876,224,560 trillion dollars. That’s what it cost. Even for Omnicon, that was quite a bill to foot, especially considering that in the end it amounted to nothing. Next to the final expense check was the execution order for 1742 scientists. Failure was not rewarded in Omnicon. After 15 years of research and many failed attempts to make the quantum computer work, the Omniaudits team was sent in to shut the operation down. No more time or money could be spent on this moonshot project than what had already been.


Next day, the decision to terminate 1742 nonperforming scientists was announced on all Omnimedia channels worldwide, along with a hurried remark extracted from the head of research at Omniquantum:

“We are all terribly sorry, the superimposition does not work, if I may just get an audience with the chief before the execution though, please, it’s important!”

Family members of Omniquantum employees — fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, spouses, children — many of them working at other Omnicon facilities, even at senior positions, could do nothing but to clinically distance themselves from those set to be executed. If there was a bigger error than not performing at Omnicon, it was policy violations amounting from deviant emotional outbursts; everyone knew how things worked here.

If you want to live, you keep your head down and your mouth shut. Or you resist and die. Simple.

Aurora had been watching the bulletin, right now, she was carefully scrutinising the expense check and the execution order on her desk. As the chief executive at Omnicon, she was responsible for the ultimate fate of Omniquantum employees, while not known to be particularly merciful, she was nevertheless a shrewd administrator, with a focus on one thing and one thing only: Increasing profit. And the expense check in front of her was just money down the sinkhole, she had to make recovery one way or another.

The news about the execution orders has been passed on to Omnimedia directly by Omniaudits, the final call was still for her to make. Omnimedia could always just selectively erase news updates from citizens’ minds later if things changed. Aurora picked up the phone and spoke without a pause:

“Get me the chief researcher at Omniquantum.” “Right away, chief,” the voice at the other side answered.

A few minutes later, chief researcher, Dr. Derek Fontaine, was ushered into her office. This was a man who knew his death was certain, despite that he maintained a calm demeanor and greeted:

“Good evening, chief.”
“Perhaps if the evening was in fact good, I wouldn’t have to see you today under these circumstances, Dr. Fontaine?”
“You are right, chief.”
“So tell me… do you have any good reason why I should not sign this execution order for you and 1741 of your team members right now?”
“If it pleases the chief, there is something I would like to present.”
“Go ahead but don’t waste my time.”
“I will keep this short, chief. Our quantum computer prototype failed, you know this, but in the last two years, we kept a project or two going in our R&D lab as a way to hedge against the possible failure of the quantum computer… many senior researchers were losing faith in the project.”
“Go on…”
“Well, one of those projects was about a neural device that tapped into the dream world of subjects, we… what we discovered was really quite extraordinary.”
“What did you find?”
“We found a way to harness the subconscious of the subjects in order to do calculations, wildy fast and staggeringly complex calculations.”
“I’m listening…”
“This is what I wanted to tell you, chief! We don’t need a quantum computer anymore, right here, within the deep minds of any one of the billions of our citizens, is a computational powerhouse that can put the fastest physical supercomputers to shame.”
“Are you joking with me, Dr. Fontaine?”
“I wouldn’t dare, chief. The fastest grids of supercomputers we have right now operates at 10¹³ PFLOPS, with the quantum computer, we were hoping to cross the 10¹⁰⁰ PFLOPS range… but this… my god… our experiment on a single subject revealed a computing power well over a hundred trillion orders over a base of ten. With this kind of power, there is nothing we cannot solve, all the complex tasks that are grids are working on right now will be computed within mere nanoseconds. We will have instant singularity. We will harness the sun, the galaxies for energy, we will build machines at infinite speed, we will peek into the black holes and unlock the quantum theory of gravity, we will reverse-engineer this universe, and create many more, everything we want, we will have, without intending. We will become gods.”
Aurora’s brain was picking up the concepts and working faster now. Profits are great. But are they greater than literally playing god?
“I’m most intrigued by your findings, Dr. Fontaine, let’s say if I manage to spare the lives of the researchers working on this side project, because let’s face it, someone still needs to bear the brunt of the failure of the primary project… how soon can we get this off the ground?”
“Anytime chief, anytime we want, but there’s a catch.”
“What’s that?”
“We can’t extract the computational data unless all of mankind is set to dream simultaneously, we can see that the computations are working, but we can’t extract anything useful. It’s as if nature has imposed an unseen rule here as with many other places — impossible inexactness.”
“What happens to Omnicon?”
“That is a call you need to make chief… do we want to stay small and self-preserve? Or do we want to expand infinitely and become a permanent feature of spacetime itself?”
“Thanks, you may leave now.”
“Thanks for your time, chief.”

Next day, most scientists on the Omniquantum roll were executed regardless of Dr. Fontaine’s revelation; only a core team of 30 scientists now survived, based on his recommendation. Over the next two months, Dr. Fontaine and his team compiled the final piece of firmware that was to be uploaded into the execution module of every Omnicon citizen at exactly 2100 hours OST.


Aurora had made her peace with the decision. She had reached the conclusion that self-aggrandization was the ultimate goal of any living entity. Omnicon, the brand, may not survive, but the immortality of human beings was assured. Aurora had been groomed for this role for over 30 years before she took the position, in the Omnicon society, chief executives are selected at birth based on their expected gene expressions for objective decision-making. Emotions and feelings still circulated the gene pool, but with less and less frequency in the last thousand years or so. As advanced a civilization as Omnicon was, natural selection still played its part — the emotional traits just didn’t survive the test of time.

D-day, a few minutes before 2100 hours, citizens are sent a notifications for an important firmware update; in synchronization, 21 billion humans prepare for it. This particular update came with auto-overrides signed by the chief executive so that you couldn’t delay or skip it even if you wanted to.


A garbled screen flashes in the viewfield of every person alive, then a countdown, 3, 2, 1… then a message starts to scroll.

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YOUR ENTIRE LIFE YOU HAVE BEEN LIED TO

CHEATED, EXPLOITED, AND ABUSED BY THIS SYSTEM

THIS OMNICON

THIS DISEASE OF MANKIND

PROFIT EVEN AT THE COST OF DEATH

BUT YOU WILL SUFFER NO MORE

IN A FEW MINUTES, YOU WILL DIE

CONSIDER THIS A GIFT FROM THE SILENT MINORITY

THAT WAS OPPRESSED FOR TOO LONG

YOU WILL BE FREE

FINALLY, YOU WILL BE FREE

[message complete]