Bashar Mati: Apocashitstorm Tour, day 10. So here's where I learned how the world would end. My second Apocalypse in a year. Looks like there's a lot of construction going on now... Why would that be?
I was surprised when FAS sent me out here, and not just because the meeting was to going to be held in real-space. I was surprised to discover that anyone at FAS still knew I existed.
When I returned to work after treatment, HR informed me I'd been reassigned to the Vantage project. It was exactly the professional death sentence I was expecting, the career equivalent of getting sent into a Red Zone without an environmental suit.
Everyone knew Vantage was one of those doomed projects FAS kept around solely for the purpose of assigning dead-enders to them--especially "head cases" like me who couldn't be summarily fired for fear of parity litigation. Month by month, management would pile losers on a lost cause, then cancel the project and lay everyone off.
A ship of fools sunk with a single torpedo. Ain't wrongful dismissal if it's down-sizing.
I had nothing better to do, so I spent my time studying the tech. Chip design wasn't my forte, but I knew enough to admire what the engineers had accomplished with the Eternity chip. Stored data was guaranteed to last 50,000 years or more without degradation. As for the Vantage itself, the project was little more than a failed marketing plan. The idea was to promote the tech by burying unlocked Eternity chips at scenic locales around the world. Public domain time capsules where enthusiasts could cache date-locked data. The project got as far as developing the "spikes"--portable drill applicators--to sink the chips, then stalled when Grass-Heckel encapsulates came on the market and stole Eternity's thunder.
Anyway. I'd been at Vantage three weeks when FAS unexpectedly sent me out here for a real-space meeting. Me, a dead-ender working a doomed project, dispatched to a high-security FAS R&D site inside King's Peak. It didn't make sense.
Security put me in a small conference room and told me to wait. It was downright claustrophobic--dim lights, bad ventilation--more like an interrogation room from one of those '90s cop vids. But what really got my attention was the noises coming through the walls: the non-stop bang and clatter of construction bots building something deep in the mountain--something big.
The door opened and some doofs wearing FAS badges file in. I recognized one of them--Brad Andac, a military division replications engineer I met when I first joined the company--but I don't think he recognized me. He stayed at the back of the room the whole time, looking distraught.
I was about to ask what the hell was going on when a woman wearing a hijab walked in. She didn't introduce herself, but she didn't have to. It was Samina Ebadji, former lead archivist of the Odyssey, architect of the entire HOMER project. Not a global celebrity by any means, but if you grew up following the Odyssey project like I did, you knew her on sight.
Ebadji sat down and started asking extremely precise questions about the upper-range tolerances of Eternity chips. Then she asked me to speculate about the feasibility of various upgrade paths. The interview lasted maybe ten minutes, whereupon she thanked me for my time and left. Everyone else filled out after her.
Security came for me a few minutes later and escorted me to my vert. The whole way back to FAS, I kept trying to figure what had just happened. What was Samina Ebadji doing at a classified Faro R&D site, asking me questions about Eternity tech? It didn't add up.
By the time I landed I knew I wasn't going to give up until I'd puzzled it out. The worst that could happen was I'd get fired, and that was going to happen anyway.
It took a couple days and some geo-work, but I got a fix on Brad Andac soon enough. He was going to a different bar every night, drinking to the point of blacking out. I shadowed him until I managed to proxy his Focus and dupe his net protocols.
I didn't find anything strange in his financial records or media patterns. I was starting to think I'd wasted my time.
Then I accessed his dreamBoX account and found the journal he'd been keeping the past few weeks.
It was all there. How the world would end.
My first thought was, well, at least my Ma didn't live to see this.
My second thought was that nothing mattered anymore.
Which made it pretty obvious that I should kill myself.