Alice found us.
We had been scoping out the third property on the list that Jennifer had written down from memory when a man in his early twenties approached us and beckoned for us to follow him. Checking around to make sure we had not been followed, we entered the building.
“Hello Eric,” she began, “I hope your role in all of this has become slightly clearer now.”
I nodded, despite only assuming what my role in this was. I looked around at the room we were in. It was a large basement with old stone walls with three street level windows at the top of the wall I was now facing. I noticed with some relief that the room was heavily guarded. At the centre of the room were an array of chairs hooked up to what could only be link mechanisms.
“I detected you all exiting Stasis last night and have been preparing for meeting with you since then. Stasis must be destroyed, it’s dangerous and has started to get out of control.”
“With enough support, we can stop Patrick from using Stasis for his own personal gains….”
“I’m not talking about Patrick. He is an irrelevance in all of this. Unfortunately, ever since Stasis was designed, it has been growing and spreading across the globe…..”
I interrupted, “Look, I’m a little confused here. Was Stasis designed or discovered? I hear different things from you and from Patrick.”
Alice sighed, “I guess you could say both really. It was a space that was discovered as a by-product of one of Patrick’s atom smashing experiments and designed afterwards when I realised it had unique properties that could be tapped into. After I parted ways with Patrick, I set up the CSNCD to pursue ways to develop Stasis further. I’d tested the link on animals for two years before you entered Stasis. Both times they came back ‘improved’, leaner and slimmer and able to carry out certain tasks more efficiently.
“I knew then that Stasis had inherent properties that could be tapped into. I was too afraid to test it on myself and could not find a willing subject. My backers wanted to see some sort of progress and would only finance me further once a human subject had been sent in.
“We acquired NoTech in late 2001 and made our plans then to take someone into Stasis the following year once we had developed the link mechanism into the phone system that was installed. I had a two way channel with Stasis all the time prior to your entry and had programmed the nodes into Stasis.
“However, something about your entry shut this link down. I have no idea why, but for some reason your presence locked me out of Stasis. I never told my backers that and just worked on developing the link mechanism.
“Obviously, your first exit was a huge drawback when the link was recreated inside of you. You went back inside, and that was that until you came out. Originally, we were trying to control it for our own purposes. To offer it as a new form of social network, a place that you could meet and interact with people that lived on the other side of the globe, see family that you hadn’t seen for years.
“The problem was the time issue. We could not have a social network where a short meeting of one hour in Stasis took fifteen days in real time. We needed a way to make Stasis time slow down. That is why we fed you with information that we hoped would aid you in building Stasis into something habitable and also something that would not cause lots of time to disappear out here for those inside.
“Please tell me you were able to do that.”
I thought about holding back like I had with Patrick, but knew that Alice was a valuable ally in the first against the third faction.
“I was able to phase time down to regular time. I’ve also learned how to build. It took me a while and was certainly easier with each new entry into Stasis. Some of the more trickier stuff takes a few days to get to grips with, but these guys picked it up pretty quickly.”
Alice took in what I told her. I realised that I had stopped her in mid sentence earlier as she was about to reveal something to us.
“You said that Stasis was growing and spreading. What did you mean by this?”
“Oh yes….I got carried away. I guess in some way I was trying to apologise to you, but I don’t think it came out as one.
“Yes….Stasis is growing and spreading. It is out of control. Initially there was worry that Patrick would want to take control of Stasis for his own purposes, and obviously he found out about what I was doing. When he took you to Sweden it was simply to ‘sell’ Stasis to his military backers. He tapped into the super human strength by cornering you. Who wouldn’t pay for a soldier with those abilities
“Both Patrick and all his backers were worried that everyone could feasibly end up like you if they were to use Stasis as a social network.
“The problem is, the seeds were sown when you first came out of Stasis. When you made that transition something went wrong that we were not aware of at the time.
“When you underwent the social readjustment, you had to be hooked up with something a little more unconventional than standard visual and audio devices that were available. Effectively, we created a digital link between yourself and the computer that channelled information directly into your brain. You were not exactly ‘seeing’ the images – they were being pumped straight into your visual cortex. Likewise, all the sounds were being directed at the primary auditory cortex.
“To take the sounds and images in at such a rapid rate, the link had to be two way in order for your brain to be able to control the speed of the input. And this is where our system was flawed.
“Some part of Stasis had come back with you and entered the computer. From there, it started spreading throughout the Internet and all computer systems.
“We did not know this at first, but reasoned that when we sent you into Stasis that something inside used the link device and locked us out. When you came back, you brought whatever was there back through with you.
“My worry is that it was something that was wrong with the nodal programming. In the infinite space of Stasis, having a self replicating programme creating a network of nodes was not a problem. However, that same programme here is what is out of control. It has spread around the world gathering information from everywhere it possibly can. The internet, privately stored data. The programming that it had was as a social engineer, and that is what it will attempt to do. It has already tested itself once when you went back into Stasis according to your programming.
“Now it knows how to make the link on a localised level using a small-scale network of computers it is only a matter of time before it does it again on a global scale. Eric, it will take everyone and there is no way we can stop it.”
Inside me, I knew the problem was far worse. The third faction was me. The trapped part of my persona would have come back with the nodal programming that Alice had mentioned. With each passing year, a more experienced and increasingly cut-off part of my persona had joined with the ever expanding one man social network. My enforced detachment from society had triggered my mind into an expansive crusade of connection. Before Stasis I had been the kind of person that frequently engaged in society, but was also prone to long periods of self-afflicted detachment when I entered an uncontrollable Hermit mode.
This was my mental programming mixing with Alice’s nodal programming and fighting against the system that had trapped me. How do you fight something that is everywhere and around you at the same time? You can’t. I knew this battle was lost. Humanity was going to be subjected to an imminent transition. The battle would have to be fought inside Stasis. I might have the upper hand there, but other factors would come into play here.
“Alice….we’ve lost. It’s me. This virus spreading around the world….it’s me. There’s no way we can stop it. We have to be prepared for Stasis and fight the battle there.
“But inside Stasis, the problem won’t be a splintered part of my persona. Patrick for one will want to take control from the inside and he will have a great deal of support in this. Alice, we practically need an army there.”
Alice was silent. Whether she had lost some trust in me or not remained to be seen. I had practically admitted that my mental state coupled with Alice’s initial test on me in 2002 was to blame for what was about to happen. Apportioning blame on myself was a natural defence mechanism, though I wasn’t sure if Alice would take kindly to my blaming her.
“Okay. I’ll do what I can. Have you got any idea how long it will be until we’re taken?”
I shook my head, “None at all. It could be today, it could be in a week. I never did work fast and frequently put things off. I’m not sure whether that will have been programmed in though.”
Alice left the room, a forlorn figure. In her attempt to make Stasis a free world and to stop the likes of Patrick getting their hands on it, she had unwittingly created a virus that would force everyone into Stasis against their will. Free will and choice will be denied to every human on the planet and they will be taken to an unfamiliar environment which they can learn how to manipulate. Although on the face of it, many of societies ills will be removed in an instant, this did not take into account the fact that humans had a knack of adapting to conditions when the need arose.
It would only be a matter of time before Stasis was a battleground. Some would learn fast, some would take a while and some would clearly have to be taught. There would likely be a huge polarity shift in society’s leaders within Stasis.
Money and power would not mean a thing inside Stasis. Knowledge, creativity and adaptability would be the tools of those that would succeed in Stasis.
I already felt that I would be leading an army attempting to return to the real world before we had even been taken away. I knew my part. I was prepared.