The following is an excerpt from my latest short story. This story takes places in the year 2051 and is a prequel story to my debut novel 2149: Emergence. It follows Elizabeth and Alfred Maverik (the parents of Laura Maverik from 2149: Emergence) and their journey to creating the VR and the passing of the VR Initiative in hopes of saving the Earth from environment destruction.
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Elizabeth fidgeted with the button on her blazer. Alfred was sitting at a desk next to the large stasis pod in the center of the room. His eyes were locked on the screen as his fingers tapped the keyboard.
To say Elizabeth was anxious would be an understatement. The passage of the VR Initiative in the U.S. Senate depended on a successful demonstration of the VR. She was still surprised the representative had agreed to it, but here she was in the VR Corporation’s demonstration lab to show off the groundbreaking technology.
The laboratory was a medium sized room with a large pod, big enough to fit a person. Attached to the pod was equipment to monitor the user’s vital signs, and to the left of the pod was a computer station where Alfred sat working—setting up the VR interface.
“You’re going to lose that button,” Alfred said. He had unlocked his eyes from the computer screen and turned toward Elizabeth.
“What?” Elizabeth asked, absentminded.
“Your button. You’re going to lose it.”
She glanced down. “Oh, you’re right.” She dropped her hands and let them rest behind her.
“It’s going to be fine. We’ve done these demonstrations hundreds of times before.”
“It’s not the demonstration I’m worried about. It’s the senator.”
“I thought the whole reason he was chosen was because he’s skeptical. Didn’t you say if we can convince the skeptic, then we can convince the Senate?”
Her face cracked a smile. “I did say that, but we also need to have our Plan B ready to go in case we don’t get his endorsement.”
“You really think it’ll come to that?”
Before Elizabeth could answer a voice drifted through the open door.
“And if you come this way senator, you’ll see the demonstration pod we’ve set up for you.” The disembodied voice of the VR Corporation’s CEO entered from the hallway. Elizabeth straightened her posture and Alfred stood next to his desk.
A few moments later, four people entered the room: the CEO Adel Lovelace, Senator Jim Braxton, the senator’s aide, and a nurse. The senator was dressed in an all black, skin tight suit—the VR Sensation Suit. It provided sensory input to the user from the VR and for long-term use it helped prevent severe muscle deterioration and atrophy.
“So this is the contraption you want to put us all in?” the senator said, gesturing toward the pod in the center of the room.
“That’s correct, sir,” Adel responded, “In fact, we have our two strongest proponents of the VR Initiative here with us. This is Alfred Maverik, VP of Development here at The VR Corporation, and joining us from the Better Earth Foundation, we have Elizabeth Maverick, Chief Consultant and Liaison.” An exchange of handshakes followed the introductions.
“Yes, I remember you,” Senator Braxton said of Elizabeth, “you’re the one that’s been hounding my aides to see me.”
Elizabeth smiled. “My apologies for any inconvenience but this is an important issue and we need your attention.”
Braxton snorted. “Well, it got me here, didn’t it?”
Elizabeth said nothing but a look of content settled on her face. Indeed it did, she thought to herself.
“Now, you there,” Senator Braxton pointed to Alfred, “how the hell does this contraption work?”
“Well, senator, it starts with the suit you’re wearing …” Alfred jumped forward from the desk and moved between the pod and the senator. The remainder of the group circled around and listened to Alfred’s explanation. He pointed out various parts of the machine. The connection between the sensation suit and the pod, the equipment to monitor vital signs, the neural interface embedded in the headset, the seal on the pod to create an independent environment. At one point he attempted to explain the AI software used to manage the VR, but the senator objected that it was too complicated.
“And how many people do you have in there right now?” the senator pointed to the pod.
“We currently have 4 billion registered users with 15 million of those as full-time active users, but we’ve recently completed our upscaling project to support up to 15 billion, and in theory 20 billion,” Alfred answered.
“I see, not very high usage with only 15 million out of 4 billion users making use of it.” Braxton responded, unimpressed.
Elizabeth chimed in, “Correct, sir, but not all of those users have access to the proper equipment. They have to rent it, which is expensive. That’s why the VR Initiative is so crucial, it will give wider access to the VR stasis pods like these so a majority of the world’s population can have access to it.”
Braxton nodded with a neutral expression and turned back to Alfred. “And what controls? AI, you said?
Alfred nodded. “Yes, We have a sophisticated set of software designed for each component of the VR—vital sign monitoring, nutritional deployment, stasis pod monitoring, virtual reality creation—and it’s all maintained by QUIA.”
“Quia?” Braxton asked.
“Query User Interface Assistant. It’s the AI that monitors and maintains all components of the entire system and acts as an interface for users.” Alfred grabbed his tablet from the table and tapped it several times, then flipped it around to reveal a computer generated image of a blonde female. “This is QUIA”.
Braxton adjusted his gaze to view the image through the lower section of his glasses. “And you want to put me in there? And trust that she won’t mess up my head?”
Elizabeth interjected again. “Yes, senator. It’s our belief that if you could see a demonstration of the world the VR is capable of creating, then you could see how we can use it to save the one we live in.”
“Yes, you and my counterparts across the aisle have said as much. I still have my doubts, however the Senate Majority Leader—a good friend of mine from the opposing party—requested I try it.”
“And we greatly appreciate your willingness, senator.” Elizabeth smiled with some difficulty. Why is he so stubborn?
He grunted in response and then said, “So what’s next? Do I just lie down in the damn thing?”
“That’s the idea.” Elizabeth continued to force her smile.
Adel stepped forward. “Senator, if you’re ready, Nurse Stanley here can assist you.”
The senator nodded his approval and the nurse stepped up to assist the senator into the pod. She helped him pull himself into the pod, then she attached the equipment to his suit and initiated the vital sign monitoring.
At the same time, Alfred began setting up the VR interface. Adel and Elizabeth stood off to the side watching the spectacle.
Alfred handed Senator Braxton the large black headset. “Alright senator, slide this over your head and align it with your eyes. Similar to wearing a set of scuba goggles. Yeah, just like that. Perfect.”
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