V-Ger 7

V-Ger – Stars of Eternity – Chapter 7 – Cortex

Chapter 7: Cortex

I, Saul Rackett, have been dreaming since my earliest childhood. Waking dreams, sleeping dreams—I have not always easily distinguished between the two.

Growing up lonely, I found myself often left to my own devices, despite the affection of loving parents and grandparents. As an only child, I invented extraordinary worlds and imaginary friends with whom I could converse and share, lacking real companionship.

I imagined traveling through time and space from exotic realms to distant lands inhabited by strange people with mysterious powers. Fascinated by the stars, I loved observing them at night with the naked eye and, aided by the telescope my father had given me, I scanned the horizon in search of other worlds, other peoples, searching for friends and siblings I did not have.

In one of my dreams, I saw an oceanic planet in a neighboring constellation send one of its own to the far reaches of their system to be transformed into a human computer.

In another dream, a priest from a vast island in the middle of the oceans battled fierce enemies, while another priest in a distant land tried to escape assailants by carrying a precious Tome in his hands, soon joined by a blonde warrior in armor fighting to preserve her home, from which an scarlet witch escaped, riding her broomstick and flying into the sky under a blood-red moon.

As I grew older, I abandoned my waking dreams to become passionate about technology, science, and computers.

I devoted myself to the study of computer science and taught myself programming. After a few years, my achievements, once stumbling, astonished those around me. My programs were innovative for their time. Deciphering ancient symbols, creating music and art, analyzing the human genome—I enjoyed delving into all fields of knowledge.

And I loved challenges. Hacking into institutional systems was a highly stimulating pastime during which I could unleash my creativity, generating a virus here to gain complete control over the targeted structure, or opening a security breach there and siphoning the contents of selected databases.

Yet, this activity did not provide as much satisfaction as expected. I found it too easy, therefore boring in the long run, and above all, immoral. After all, men had spent months or even years deploying ingenuity to design and implement these security systems, which I had barely taken a few hours to overcome. This realization came to me when I learned that the father of one of my classmates, responsible for the cybersecurity of his company, had been fired because of me.

Even though I anonymously detailed my attack technique to the targeted company, trying to rectify my fatal mistake, it was in vain because ultimately this man had lost his job and, over time, found himself and his family in a state of great hardship.

So, I swore to myself to no longer act childish, out of challenge and pride, and to use my skills to help others rather than amusing myself at their expense.

As a young adult, however, I had another dream in which I saw a machine in the shape of a sphere, controlled by an old man, into which one could project all one’s visions, memories, and feelings.

Upon waking, I knew immediately that I would dedicate my life to realizing this dream. That old man would be me in a few years, and I would be the one to build that machine first.

I embarked on engineering studies in computer science, which bored me greatly, quickly followed by a doctorate in neurosciences, in order to combine computer science and the science of the human brain, accumulating the necessary knowledge to realize my dream.

During this doctorate, while studying the functioning of neural networks, I understood the similarity between brain function and quantum computer networks, and I came up with the idea of combining Artificial Intelligence and brain wave decryption to try to decipher the human thought system.

So, I set to work and first studied the best way to collect brain signals in a non-invasive manner (without electrodes implanted in the brain). I first turned to electrical waves, electroencephalograms, but it was particularly difficult to differentiate the intricate signals from various brain sources, and I quickly abandoned this path.

I then turned to Magnetic Resonance Imaging, which was very interesting because it was easily achievable and had good anatomical specificity. However, this technique had major flaws. It did not allow access to real-time information, due to its information sampling type, and it was necessary to repeat the acquisitions made during experiments many times in order to collect a signal free from noise. So, I also abandoned this path to turn to magnetoencephalography.

In preliminary experiments, I had discovered a way to separate the magnetic waves generated by the brain in such a specific manner that one could isolate very delicate brain activity centers and analyze them in a relevant way. However, the available equipment, huge and non-mobile, did not cover the entire brain and proved to be too simplistic and complex to use. I needed to invent and create my own brain investigation tools.

As a young graduate, I went to the City in London where my parents had some acquaintances, to raise funds to create my brain functioning analysis company: Cortex.

After showing my preliminary results to astonished investors, I easily obtained from them a starting capital to launch my company, on the condition that I repay them within three years, of course with interest.

I then found partners to join me, a businessman, an expert in cybernetics and neural networks, and a psychiatrist, and we set up our new offices in the heart of the city.

The three years passed in the blink of an eye. We devoted all our energy to designing a device that was lightweight, portable, and accurate enough to record brain waves in any circumstances.

We recruited the best developers specializing in Artificial Intelligence, algorithms, and signal processing, to design the software system that would allow us to decode brain waves and access the human mind.

At the end of these three years, we managed just in time to produce a functional prototype of our system for the investors, and I still remember their astonishment when we placed one of our helmets on their heads and projected their own thoughts onto a computer screen in real time.

We had succeeded! We had reached a decisive milestone.

The news quickly leaked to the media, and we experienced our moment of glory. Acquisition proposals, partnerships, capital flowed from everywhere to develop and commercialize our system.

The potential applications were simply phenomenal.

From the sick unable to communicate to those who wanted to record their dreams and thoughts, passing through lie detectors and memory sharing, all of human society could benefit from this new technology.

The following years saw us grow exponentially, and from a small startup in the beginning, we built a gigantic multinational corporation, the world’s leading company in terms of revenue and profits.

However, the enthusiasm of the early days, of research, gave way to a commercial routine of a large corporation that was starting to weigh on me, and gradually, I drifted away from the society I had founded, leaving my original partners in power.

That’s when I met you.

You appeared to me, splendid, one afternoon near Covent Garden, your azure blue eyes illuminating my life in a fraction of a second.

You seemed so familiar! As if I had known you well in the past, when I had just seen you for the first time.

You also stared at me insistently, and it was you who approached me first. What you said to me then will be forever engraved in my memory:

« Hello Sir, please excuse my boldness, but as I look at you, I have a strange impression, a feeling of déjà- vu, of already knowing, as if we had already met and had once lived an entire life alongside each other… »

I was stunned, speechless, not knowing what to say, even though I had exactly the same impression. Then, smiling at me, you said:

« Forgive me, I must have been mistaken, my mind sometimes has some whimsical hallucinations… »

And you immediately disappeared. I searched for you all day in the nearby streets, to no avail. And in the following days, I returned to the same place, hoping to see you again, preparing what I would say to approach you, and invariably returning empty-handed at the end of the day.

You obsessed me, I had lost my appetite, my sleep, and my interest in the work that I had completely lost. For me, who had focused my entire existence on the realization of my work, on this immense work, at this precise moment, it had no value.

Then one day, as I lost hope of seeing you again at last, you appeared to me again. Not in Covent Garden, but at a charity event organized to raise funds for terminally ill patients.

My company being a generous donor, I had been invited to this Gala.

When I saw you, I had to overcome my apprehension to approach you, and it was not easy. My company being internationally recognized, my face was familiar from magazine covers, so I was not a stranger, and it was you who came to meet me once again.

We talked for a long time, rhymed, and shared views so similar that it seemed downright unreal. We exchanged contact information, saw each other again, and finally united. And from that moment on, you forever entered my life and my heart, and you upset the course of my existence.

You loved nature, serenity, calm, vast ocean expanses, travels to the ends of the world to meet peoples and experience their daily lives.

You hated artifices, lies, vile, manipulative, and self-interested beings, and you had the innate ability to perceive the deep intentions of your interlocutors.

You didn’t need my technology for that, you had the gift!

I didn’t know why, but you reminded me of a dream I had as a child, in which, as a little boy, I sat by the sea and, listening to the waves, dreamed of you. You appeared to me then with sublime beauty, just as I now perceived you.

Together we traveled the lands and oceans of the world, and over the next few years, we developed an astonishing synchronicity, you completing the sentences I started, me feeling what you didn’t say, both of us knowing what the other was experiencing even when we were separated by a huge distance.

One day, you gave me the immense joy of announcing that we were going to start a family, that you were expecting a little being who would be the best of both of us, that I was going to be a father.

I exulted with joy! I was also very worried because I knew you were of fragile health, and I feared that things would not go well during pregnancy or childbirth.

The eight months that followed were very stimulating, as we prepared for the arrival of our firstborn, but also very anxious, with medical visits and repeated health checks that deteriorated over time.

On that fateful Friday morning, you left me, forever, and you took with you the unborn child we cherished.

I could do nothing during childbirth when things went wrong and you had that cataclysmic hemorrhage that took you away.

I was devastated. For me, this existence had no reason to be. I had lost you forever, I had lost our child forever, everything was collapsing around me.

There’s no point in building an empire if you can’t share it with those you cherish.

Driven by the burning desire to find you again, I came up with the idea of projecting your images and memories of you into a vast computer simulation, so that you could live again, so that I could see you again and be by your side again.

But your image and memory were no longer enough for me, I needed to be able to spend the rest of my life with you again. That’s when I started studying the possibility of transferring my consciousness into a centralized Artificial Intelligence that would allow me to build a virtual world in which we could both evolve and create our common future.

Tasking the best scientists and doctors on the planet, I invested colossal sums in creating brain hybridization equipment to achieve my goals, and underwent numerous neurosurgical procedures to be able to transfer my consciousness into a thinking machine.

Having assigned all my scientific and development teams to the creation of this Cyber Brain that could host my consciousness and bring you back to life, I invested all my fortune in this project.

Knowing that the journey I was about to embark on would be one-way, I resigned from the company I had founded and entrusted what remained of my shares to my most competent associate to grow our company, the product of our labor.

Months passed and Cortex gradually took shape. The central Artificial Intelligence, named after our company, became self-aware on October 13, 2037 at 7:59 p.m.

After performing all routine tests and checking the system’s stability, everything was ready for me to take the leap. To leave this world without you, and to find you on the other side of the mirror in the virtual universe I had created for us.

As I prepared to enter the chamber that would connect my mind to Cortex, a clamor grew louder and louder in the laboratory where I was.

Employees, researchers, all staff were in turmoil, panicked. A phenomenal news had just been announced in the media.

Spaceships from outer space had just penetrated Earth’s atmosphere and were flying over the world’s major capitals.

Humanity had been hoping for a close encounter of the third kind with an extraterrestrial civilization for decades, and we had developed highly advanced observation and trans-spatial communication tools to achieve this.

We had finally managed to attract the attention of some other civilization, but we would have been better off remaining silent because the intentions of these beings from elsewhere were not friendly.

The main cities on the West Coast of the United States were the first to suffer attacks. Then came New York, Boston, Washington, then Paris, Berlin, and finally our city, London.

Their death machines used a singular technology that preserved monuments, machines, and animals and exterminated all humans.

As our armed response to the aggression was awaited, and just as I heard the screams of terror from the employees, I closed the chamber on myself and initiated the  process of transferring my consciousness into this centralized Whole.

While through the laboratory’s security cameras I saw my body in the transfer chamber disintegrate, I felt myself being sucked into a tunnel of light towards other horizons of consciousness. Then Darkness fell.

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