A thick sheet of ice covered the vehicle as it lay still yet humming beside the coastal forest shore. Andrew whistled the tune that ignited the hover craft engine, and it immediately lifted off the ground, the ice sliding smoothly off the windows to reveal the transparent steering wheel that looked more suited to a 1966 Mustang than to a 20-year-old Lofty car assembled by droids prior to the lunar-earth war.
He had not been out in his uncle’s hover car for months, and now he repressed the painful and nearly forgotten memories that arose like ghost as he jumped into the driver’s seat–echoes of distant explosions, a barrage of media images associated with the war.
Looking up to the sky the glass barrier extending over his head was invisible, only the translucent inbuilt navigational maps showed the form of the roof, and a soft orange glow from the control panel lit up his face. He ascended above the breaking waves and the cliff-side spotted with gulls, and he could see out at sea a few silver droid fishing vessels hauling in nets speckled with fish.
A live video message arrived across the windshield, and he shifted to autopilot. The streaming video was from Alina.
Alina recounted to him the events of her day–seminars and meetings at yet another conference where she with her team of 47 staff represented the Amitshda (мечта) gaming system. A revolutionary program, connecting users across the inhabited universe, the game engages all five senses through a partial override of certain areas of the brain as the user sleeps, making dreams not only reality but the common currency of interaction, relationship and communication.
Countless systems were installed in almost every home throughout earth and were quickly spreading to nearby colonies in space. Every day millions of interactive dreams where being sent from one user to another, many over the public server so they could be interwoven by a supercomputer into a complex virtual world that some people were beginning to prefer over reality. Alina expressed to Andrew once again how addictive the system was and how much data it was stealing from each person. This was the price, she said, that people were paying to play.
It seemed to Andrew that it was not only the information drain but also the influence of corporate advertising and the huge and rampant sensual industry that made any romance or intimacy possible. The newest version of the program significantly expanded the capabilities of merging reality-based emotions and memories into the dream experiences so that the relationship experiences were even more realistic and, therefore, addictive, and many users sent out and received dreams anonymously, creating virtual relationships that lasted several weeks or up to six months at the most.
Although a number of groups had begun advocacy to develop the private dream exchange between monogamous relationships, something the marketers of Amitshda saw as a ridiculously outdated concept, Amitshda corporation had been able to shut down the majority of these services as they drew many users away from the public blending of data. The alternative branches claimed that they provided a space where ongoing relationships were nourished and proved to be more satisfying in all ways than the public landscape of dreams exchanged.
Alina had not shared any of her concerns with her team, as she didn’t know whom she could trust. A junior staff member could use the disclosure as leverage to climb the ranks, and she didn’t really know the senior staff; they seemed aloof at best and frighteningly serious or even dangerous at the worst.
Andrew passed over a coastal mountain range. He loved how she pronounced his name. She was from sector 18 in the old city of Moscow. He would visit her once a month and noticed that her physical appearance was changing. She seemed more and more natural and her curves were not so tight. He found out more about this during his last visit as she explained that she had found an undercover company that removed or reversed the shape-enhancing micro-implants that toned muscle and shaped the body as per a programmable image request.
Alina shared with Andrew that not only had she had her enhancers removed, she had hacked into her own profile in her home gym room and had disconnected her image program and then thrown out (actually given to a homeless women) her adjust-to-size clothing, another image enhancing feature that anybody who was anybody sported. He liked her style. Even if her body seemed less sensual, it had gained a natural beauty that he was deeply attracted to.
Her work, though it hadn’t captured her heart, certainly took most of her time, and he knew that time was short each time he met with her. Ideas of how to propose were constantly swimming around in his head, but this most-recent call to join a seminar in Paris followed by a lunar meeting seemed to frustrate them all. He would not see her for two months, only short video clips and calls would stream across to him, like today’s quick chat as he flew across the sea…
To be continued…
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