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EARTH(tm)

Joshua Klessig

 It was 9:57 PM, three minutes before closing time.

 "We just had another walk in, they want red chard and ricotta cannelloni, plus a side order of salad," came a voice from just
outside the kitchen of Marcellos Italian Restaurant.  It was about time for Adam Eve, their head chef, to go back home.  He
lived a few blocks away from the restaurant located in Madison, Wisconsin.  Adam the made the pasta, and had his assistant
make the salad

 "Ricotta's up," Adam said pulling off his smock and tossing it into a basket in the corner.  He said goodnight to the rest of the
kitchen staff and punched out.  Exiting through the back door he started down the sidewalk on his way home.  He was half way there when he saw something flickering by the sidewalk ahead of him a block.  He walked closer to it and discovered that the sidewalk itself was flickering.  It looked like a television image with bad reception.  He felt it and it seemed unusually smooth, but at moments he could actually feel the snowy areas.  He stared at it for awhile and then the flickering stopped.  He continued on his way home, thinking about the flickering.

 Adam arrived at the entrance to his apartment building.  It was just off of State St., a street jammed full of pseudo-hippie
stores and bars.  It's an interesting place to live, the city shuts down the street on the weekends because so many people party
there and get wasted that they become a hazard to people driving down the street.  The street never had much traffic anyway,
probably because it didn't seem to lead anywhere, except the capital building, but there were many other streets that did that.
There was a big mural painted on the side of his apartment building, the rooms were big and the utilities were good.  He entered a code on the keypad by his room's door and entered.

 He plopped down on his couch and grabbed his Jupiter handheld computer.  He was always amazed at how quickly they
developed the little bugger into a full featured computer.  What was the big handheld on the market a few years back, Palm
Pilot?  He held the computer and pointed it at the TV.  The television came to life, there was a young news reporter talking
about Monica Lewnski's campaign for the 2004 presidency.  Click, now it's on MTV.  Adam lied out on his couch and drifted
into sleep.

 Clouds, then thunder.  A crack in the clouds formed and wall of numbers, letters, and character flowed from the sky
surrounding Adam.  Then everything started spinning and he was surrounded in darkness.  He was pure data, connected to eveything.  There was a voice.

 "Shit!  It happened again.  Someone trancended out of the virtual environment again."

 Another voice, "I always said that the REM sleep subrutine was too buggy to use.  We should stop using it."

 The first voice again, "If they don't dream, it acts as a real large uncontroled variable in the study.  The simulation has to be seamless, or else the behavior won't be accurate."

 "Well it dosen't matter.  I got the neural I/O construct isolated.  We'll just reset his sector..."

 There was a sudden flash, some disorientation, and then Adam was standing by the couch.  He didn't know why he was standing, or when he woke up and stood, but he remembered the dream.  It wasn't like other dreams where the memory instantly starts to fade like a poloroid developing in reverse.  Sitting back down on the couch, he looked over at the TV, the reception was bad.   He looked closer, the reception was acctualy unusually clear,  it was the image that was bad, a pixilated, flickering image of a sidewalk.

 Adam grabbed his handheld and looked at it's screen.  The same.  He got up and went to his desktop computer, it too was
looping the same image he had saw on his way home.  He pressed reset.  The screen went blank, then came to life.  Instead of
it's normal booting image, there was a revolving picture of the Earth and the text, "Welcome to Earth OS ver. 2.3" appeared
under it.  The screen then morphed into an interface screen..  Adam started to move his mouse, but found that there was no cursor.  Tentatively he tried touching the buttons on the screen.  A map of the world appeared.  He touched the US.  It zoomed, and highlighted the 50 states.  He selected Wisconsin, then Madison, then State St., then his apartment.  He saw himself sitting in front of his computer.  He pressed cancel.  Back to the main screen.  He pressed a button marked "Voice Command."

 "Voice command module activated.  What do you want to do?"

 "What is Earth"

 "Earth is a large scale simulation of the human environment for the purpose of studying human to human interaction and human
to environment interaction.  A volunteer group of people from diverse backgrounds were chosen to have their brain scanned by quantum interference devices.  The constructs of their brains were then used as models for the original inhabitants of Earth."

 "What about the current inhabitats, how did they come to be?"

"When two 'people' reproduce, a simplified composite of their constructs are used as a base for the new personality."

 "So I am a virtual being?"

 "According to our records, yes."

 "Is everyone in here a construct?"

 "No, some of the inhabitants of earth are researchers studying human behavior first hand using neural interface rigs."

"Neural interface?"

"A neural interface directly connects a computer system with an individual's consciousness, thus allowing a tottaly immersable environment."

 "Okay, I have used computers since I was a kid and know a thing or two about programming.  Can Earth itself
be modified and controlled?"

 "Yes, using the Earth OS, you can control the surrounding and internal factors.  The researchers access Earth OS through their
handheld computers or computers in their homes while immersed in the Earth environment."

 "Why woulden't they just study real humans?"

 "Earth OS is a very controllable environment, so they can run more exotic experiments.  Also, The goal of this project is not to simply study human behavior, it is to study how strongly a person would accept a reality that was spoon-fed to them."

 "Exactly what are the researchers trying to find?"

 "Human society has reached a point in which technological/sociological development has reached a stalemate.  They are trying to see if the virtual enviornment will show any hint of further advancement, mutations in history.

 "And when that is found out, what will happen to us?"

 "Plans are underway to make this program into a form of entertainment.  A sort of voyeristic indulgement."

 "Can the people on the outside see me?"

 "The processors are not currently examining your actions.  Earth can only monitor the actions of 10 million people at once.
The processors have limitations."

 "Can I be deleted?"

 "Yes"

 "That all I needed to know.  Shut down voice command," Adam said, the computer fell silent.  He knew that it would not be
long before someone found out about him getting access to Earth OS.  Thinking quickly he grabbed his handheld computer, it
was just showing static now, so was the TV.  He rebooted it and it loaded normally.  Connecting it to a docking plug, he interfaced it with his desktop terminal.  Using software on his handheld he created a virus that protected him from being deleted and ensured continued access to Earth OS.

 "Okay, lets see if this works," an Adam selected 'backdoor to Earth' on his handheld.  The little welcome screen appeared and the menu popped up.  He accessed the file Earth had on him, then started playing with the physical parameters.  His body
morphed, losing about 20 pounds of unwanted weight that he had accumulated since he had became a chef.  He stood in front
of a mirror examining himself.  Then he selected his facial features, a ripple flowed across his face and his eyes were closer
together, his nose was shorter, and his complexion improved.  His hair was next, he changed his hair color from light brown to
a darker shade.  Adam was having fun, but that could wait.  He decided that if Earth's ability to process individual activity was
limited, that he should go somewhere where the population density was relatively high.  Using Earth OS, he procured plane
tickets to Mexico City, population of 22 million  It would certainly beat the cold Wisconsin winters.  Adam left for Madison
airport, it was 3:00 in the morning.

 By sunrise Adam was going through customs.  He was sure to pass even though he had brought a gun, Earth OS had
ensured that.  He wondered what he appeared like to the Earth central computer.  Did it think that he was a user accessing
earth, or did he appear to be just another program?  Either way, he was sure that someone on the outside has found out what
happened by now.  He exited the air port and started down the street.  First order of business was to find a place to stay.
Strike that, he needed transportation first.  He walked around to the back of the parking lot, trying not to attract attention.  Pulling out his handheld he selected the object generator.  A small, two door Oldsmobile materialized in front of him.  He got into the car when he noticed two black cars pulling in in front and in back of him.  He panicked and started his car.   He backed up and turned around going the other way.  Pulling out his gun he hit the accelerator and went strait toward the exit that the other car  was now blocking.  He let fly three shots from his gun, two of them hit the car, it started to retreat.  Adam made his way past it.

 He got out into the city streets but the cars were still following him.  The back windshield cracked and shattered as two bullets
hit his car.  Because of the virus, they couldn't hurt him, but they could still damage his car.  Adam turned on to another street
laden with dark alleyways.  Two more bullets flew past him, one hit the site of his car, dangerously close to the gas tank, the
other missed him entirely.  The two cars were now on each side of him.  One rammed him into the other.  Adam slammed on
the brake and the two cars overshot him.  He put it in reverse further separating him from the other cars.  Two men got out of
the cars and started shooting.  A lucky bullet hit Adam's tire.  He went flying into a nearby building.  His airbag hit him hard in
the face, he was dazed for a second, but recovered quickly and stumbled out of his car and into an ally.  Then he was running,
clothes lines wizzing by one by one above him.  He was turning a corner when he heard a footstep behind him, but before he
can turn around he felt something hit him hard in the back.  Then everything was black.

*****

 When Adam regained consciousness, he couldn't move his arms or legs.  He was tied to a chair and alone in an old concrete
walled room.  A door opened.

 "Well if it isn't the first person on earth.  You know, Mr. Eve, your name is really ironic, your construct was a clone of
one of the first people on the Earth mainframe.  It saves disk space to recycle some of the ancient constructs," a man's voice
said.  Adam was still groggy, and his vision was blurry.  The man walked up to him broke open a capsule of smelling sauce and waved it under Adam's nose.  He immediately perked up.

 "I know that I really didn't need to do that.  I could have just pressed a button.  But it's more fun this way," the man said as
another guy entered the room.

 "Where am I?" Adam said, still a little groggy.

 "You are in an abandoned crack house.  No one will find you, not that it matters, we can still delete other people.  That brings me to my first question, how come we can't delete you?"

 "I don't know," Adam lied as the man who just entered stepped closer to him.

 "Oh, I think you do," he said and hit Adam  in the face with his gun.

 "I told you that I don't know," Adam said, he looked around, saw his gun, handheld, and wallet sitting on a table nearby.

 "You know we can't actuall kill you," said the first guy, "You are the only one who knows why, but that won't stop us from
hurting you until you wish you were dead."  As he said that, he ripped open Adam's shirt and applied a set of electrodes to his
chest, "With these, we can simulate the sensation pain, any kind, over and over again, or we can put the 'trodes somewhere
more sensitive."

 "Fuck you," Adam struggled to say.  They second guy pressed a button on his handheld, suddenly Adam felt intense  pain
all over the right side of his body.  The man released the button.

 "Now will you tell us?"

 Adam hesitated, "A virus, I put a virus in Earth's system code."

 "We haven't been able to find a virus."

 "Earth is so complex that I was able to hide the virus within the construct file, it's...it's small.  The file header is on my computer at home."

 "Fine, then we have what we have come for, we are no longer...responsible for you," both of the men pressed a button on their handhelds and they seemed to flicker and then disappear.  Adam hopped his chair over to the table.  Either they didn't know he could access Earth OS through the handheld, or they were negligent.  Adam fumbled with the computer and pressed a button on its side.

 "Voice command activated."

 "Access Earth."

 "Earth accessed."

 "Load object generator"

 "Object generator accessed, awaiting command."

 "Give me a knife."

 "Specify parameters of knife."

 "Just give me a goddamn knife," as he says it, a knife materializes in his other hand.  He extended the blade and cut
himself loose.  They will find the virus soon, so Adam accessed a program that he created on the plane ride as a last resort.  It
will cleave his brain construct from Earth's collective and save it as a file.  Then it will upload the file through the Internet of the
world outside Earth.  There he will reside distributed throughout their Internet  Perhaps he will change things, make Earth
autonomous, but there was no time to debate it.  Two men in swat uniforms materialized in front of him, they had guns.

 "Drop it," they yelled.  Adam jumped out of the way and used his handheld to cut off their connection to Earth.  The two men's voices faltered, then their image blipped out.  He then ran a program that will make it difficult for anyone to access earth.
Adam ran outside, the program to escape had almost finished loading.

 A message appeared on the screen of the handheld, "We have neutralized the virus, you are vulnerable now.  If you start the
upload, we will delete you," the computer then repeated it out loud.  The system then informed Adam that the Upload was
ready, he just needed to press the "Upload" button.  Could they have neutralized the virus already, it was possible, but then
why did he still have access to Earth OS?  In haste he decided to call their bluff.  He pressed upload.

 The handheld hit the ground.  Adam's body fragmented into thousanda of pieces.  Then he seemed to move in every direction
at once at higher and higher speeds.  A white light enveloped him, and it grew more and more intense the faster he went.  The
fragments started to disintegrate one by one, until there was one piece left.  One fragment, infinite light, two possibilities.

The End

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