Fall 2008. The financial crisis. There is no longer any trust in banks. But the most powerful, gifted and progressive realized this early on. Sergey Brin initiated the merger of major corporations: Meta, Amazon, Netflix, Google, Apple. Thus the M.A.N.G. A. metacorporation was born.
To create a digital financial system capable of resisting the unstable dominant one.
Increasing influence, penetration into all spheres of governance of the states of the civilized world, attempt to control the cryptocurrency market, progress in the field of i-technology. The world is on the verge of a new format dictatorship, where every breath is under control.
But every action breeds opposition. Not the whole world is ready to enter the digital paradise, seeing in it signs of dystopia. However, he who holds the power is always stronger. Fewer and fewer are willing to risk their lives for the sake of illusory freedom.
And one day the seeds will sprout, the veil of illusion will fall, and the world will tremble...
Dr. Mim was cautious to the last and refused to meet with Yota in person, wanting to just call him on the encrypted channel. But apparently he was in a hopeless situation - after a month of negotiations he finally agreed. Or maybe it was just that by that time he had secured himself as much as possible and stopped being nervous.
The advantage of the Doctor was that Yota had no idea who he was and who he represented, while Mim knew little more than everything about his interlocutor, and in the correspondence hinted that he knew about his machinations and sexual preferences.
Yota's trump card was the Alliance, the power of the hundreds of Chinese clans and diasporas whose interests he represented. It was no less powerful than the Chinese state apparatus, and in some areas it surpassed it, because, unlike the state, the Alliance did not care about the rules and laws, it had its own code of honor. And a guarantor in the person of the Mediator, that is, Yota, who made sure that the clans did not violate each other's interests and cared about the prosperity of the Alliance.
And if Dr. Mim ditches the Alliance, they'll take him out from under the ground, trepanate him, and feed him with his own brain.
Iota sat down in the chair opposite the exit, looked at his watch: it was five minutes to eleven. Dr. Mim was about to enter the conference room. Even though there was not a single random person within half a kilometer, and hundreds of snipers had taken up positions, his mind was uneasy.
It was obvious that if the experiment didn't go according to plan, everyone who saw the customer would be mopped up. So Reyna took her time, especially the five-year-old dark-skinned girl she was leading to meet the big boss was in no hurry, either. Her hot hand tried to slip out of Reyna's sweaty palm.
Her muscles were stiff from worry, as if a knife had been driven under her shoulder blade, and it took a tremendous effort not to stretch to get rid of the pain temporarily.
Reina did not know which of the founders of MANGA was coming to inspect Site 326. Hardly Sergei Brin; he's not interested in the military, intelligence, or anything else, and this project is just that. And not Steve Jobs, who funds medical projects because he's more interested in them than anyone else.
Zuckerberg doesn't bother with that sort of thing, and neither does the founder of Netflix. Jeff Bezos? Most likely, because his grandfather designed missile defense systems, and he is rumored to be an active collaborator with the CIA. In fact, it was through this office that Reina, who had said goodbye to her career after the fiasco in Belarus, got a place in the Object.
Stop in front of the elevator door, scan the iris, put her hand to the sensor panel so that a light wave rolled across it.
Maria hated mathematics even more than her retrograde father's lectures, and more than her stepfather Muharramka's visits. Because her father called from distant Russia not more than once a week, and the stepfather came even less often - when he did not have enough money not only for dope, but even for food. My mother traditionally took him in, but what if a miracle happened and he got rich? A stormy night ensued, and on the second, or at most the third day, she banished her ex-husband and the father of the twins. Sometimes the exorcism was accompanied by ritual yelling, breaking appliances and dishes, and sometimes even the police were called in to help.
Even God could not banish the mathematician. Worse, the devil himself, or one of his cronies, said that it should be studied, it helped to understand the universe, and Daddy agreed with him, and Mary became more and more convinced that her father was an accomplice of Satan, and if not his right or left hand, then certainly his finger...
Professor Kian, a youthful, ever-smiling Irishman with bleached hair and augmented reality glasses with fierce green frames, enthusiastically looked at the monitor, dictated a formula, and, obeying his voice, numbers and letters flashed on the monitor of the classroom board, whose meaning escaped no matter how Maria tried to strain her brain, raped by Xs and Ys.
What did the teacher see instead of a dull screen of letters and numbers against a background of flashing green sparks? All the classmates, except the epileptic Isaac, had either augmented reality lenses or glasses. Both, as the Manga developers assure us, contain scripts... Or whatever... In general, they affect the brain through the senses, and it works more efficiently, so the information is better absorbed.
After receiving the message from the strange clown, Reina shifted to the right with her chair and moved forward to cover the monitor from the hidden cameras, which she assumed were in the corners of the room opposite the entrance-she hadn't looked for them specifically, they were perfectly camouflaged, and searching would have raised the suspicions of her employers.
Her first inclination was to turn off the computer and pretend that nothing had happened. But when she looked at the screen again, in place of the message was an open folder of books, the message had self-deleted. Breathing in and out, Reina poked randomly at the first file she could find - she had to act natural and pretend she was reading.
If this Dr. M. had managed to hack into the system and send a disappearing message, he must have taken care of the cameras, too. Or did he? Or is this a test and a report should be written that there's a renegade in Subject 326?
What nonsense. She's too small, it's easier to eliminate her than to check her.
But what if it is a routine inspection, and all the employees received such a report? Whoever reports, stays, whoever doesn't speak, gets scrapped. At such sites they took people of a certain type, studied the psychological portrait of each for a long time. She herself had a degree in psychology and for six months she held a post at the military academy - she tested the students to understand whether this man belonged in the ranks of certain troops.
"You want to feel alive? Take up Thai boxing!" - that was the slogan Desmond came up with to promote the sport among schoolchildren. But it wasn't understood. They considered it irrelevant, because Esperanto's students are already the most alive.
Apparently, even those who are interested do not know the intoxicating feeling of being announced in the ring and standing like this, squinting against the blinding spotlights, the eyes of the audience reading adoration or hatred, the liquid fire running through your veins. The cheerleaders, friends and admirers, roar and applaud. The heart races like a machine gun. Breath is knocked out.
And then the rival comes out, looks you in the eye, and you read there the determination. You look, smiling a little, waiting for him to get nervous.
Harry's dark-skinned classmate cheers himself up with swear words, begins to dance. Gloved hands touch.
The air sparks with tension. It smells of sweat and... money.
The ring announcer is Nick in the eleventh grade, a hundred times better at talking than boxing. And the referee is the trainer, an old Latino Enrique Rios, who used to fight at middleweight in early nineties and stopped his career because of a heavy knockout, now half of his face is paralyzed.
Before entering nursery bedroom number six, Rayna looked at the doctor squeezing the doorknob and whispered:
- What's your name?
Without a second's hesitation, she gave her real name:
- I'm Rayna. Go ahead, I'll stand guard out front. I wish I had a second gun to cover me.
Mike instinctively stroked the silencer, swung the door open, and burst into the bedroom, huddled against the wall. Reina stretched out in a string.
- What bitches! - It was clear from his exclamation and the scolding that followed that the children were dead and the caregiver was gone. Mike ended his tirade by saying, "They're women! A woman is supposed to give life, not take it away.
"Heartbreaker," thought Reina, glancing around the room and sharing his indignation, the boy sprawled just outside the exit, his throat slit, a pool of blood stretching all the way into the playroom. Judging by the position of the body, the child was trying to escape.
The undead surrounded Gia in a tight ring, wheezing, gurgling, staggering, but in no hurry to attack - waiting for a command from the fox in black rags, who soared to the vault of the cave and began casting a spell.
It was moments like this that made Gia wish she had chosen the path of solitude, when you are your own paladin, mage, and healer, with no one to help you.
- Give birth quickly," she tossed to the lich, and, as if he had heard her, he gave birth.
That is, he waved his staff, showering the undead with brown ash, deadly to the living. Gia remembered this maneuver of his, turned on the lethal aura and received a notification that the aggressive influence was neutralized. Drawing her curved sabers, she broke into the crowd of zombies-the ones that came into contact with the aura scattered ashes, bones and experience units sprinkled from them.
It's a shame that the aura only lasts ten seconds. True, it increases by one with each levelup. Gia was level 73.
This dungeon, designed for players of her class and included in the quest chain, she could not pass the second week, so she knew what to do next: retreat to the wall, as much as possible wielding sabers and crushing the zombies, who, unable to surround her, crowded in the way of each other.
The emergency exit from the underground part of the base was probably unlocked because particularly valuable employees were being evacuated. Or maybe the guards ran out in a panic and forgot to lock it.
- Follow me," Reina commanded Mike and the kids waiting below, and walked forward.
The narrow corridor is twenty paces. Another door-open!
There was a rumbling, gunfire behind it, so Reyna looked out carefully. There was a huge hangar, littered with boxes. It was so flimsy the joints between the sections were seeping in through the light from the helicopter's searchlight. Its blades seemed to whistle through the air above the roof.
A large-caliber machine gun fired in bursts. The light struck her face, blinding her, and she backed away, hiding, ready to shoot the shining man. When she looked out again, she saw a man in overalls, a working man, with a bandage on his shoulder. He was shining the light on himself so that she could see it, holding a machine gun with a shortened barrel in his other hand.
Five paces away, a fresh corpse lay flat, the pool of blood beneath it continuing to grow larger.
The five roses, heroically obtained in Aunt Nadica's garden - you might say, plucked from the teeth of her Rottweiler - were sad, hung up their leaves and petals. Luca himself resembled a hanging flower.
Even three hours ago he felt like a soldier leaving for the war, and was worried that Jasenka will not wait for him, after all, three months is a long time, and under the terms of his contract, he would not be able to call anyone during that time. He was worried, but he shoved his fear away with the certainty that everything would be all right, he would come back rich, and then her heart would melt.
But forty minutes had passed since the appointed hour, and every moment brought closer the realization that Jasenka was not coming on the date. Not because trouble had happened - the girl had simply decided she didn't want Luca.
But why not just call and say, "I changed my mind, don't wait up for me? He once again dialed Jasenka's number to hear "the subscriber's phone is switched off or out of network coverage," but it rang, there was a click, and some man spoke on the other end of the line:
- Listen, you pauper! Get away from Jasenka. Find yourself a match.
Luke gasped with indignation, but found the strength to pull himself together and ask:
- Who are you?
- Who am I? Simon Novak. Have you heard of him?
To keep her mother from stealing the car, Maria got up at six in the morning on Monday and was already rolling to school at seven. And considering that she had been trying to figure out how a quantum computer worked until three in the morning, Maria did not get a catastrophic amount of sleep.
Her brain worked clearly, but her body didn't agree with it - she yawned, was lazy, and wanted to sleep.
Maria had tried to understand quantum computers before, but as soon as she talked about superposition and qubits, her brain exploded and agreed to perceive this very superposition only as something magical that was beyond perception.
Now the fragments of knowledge came together in a clear picture. How simple everything was! How simple in principle everything was! She wanted not only to absorb knowledge, but also to share it, but the day before yesterday she had received an anonymous warning in verse, the essence of which boiled down to one: keep your head down. And if you include the newfound logic, it turns out that you have to hide, otherwise...
Or else what? Are underground laboratories waiting for her? Or the world behind the scenes is not stupid and will not waste such a valuable resource, and Maria is waiting for a contract with a corporation for hundreds of thousands of dollars? Or maybe those same corporations are not interested in the existence of people like her? Why should they be?READ COMPLETELY
If Desmond had found out the day before yesterday that the most vicious terrorists were sponsored by the government, and his mother in particular, he would have shrugged it off - so what? So he had to push the community into some kind of solution; if you cut down the forest, the chips fall where they fall. He himself was ready to push the cattle this way, just to raise his status and to change the purple stripe of his personal code into a white one.
Now, coming back from the psychologist, he saw this world from the inside: a wineskin full of maggots and spiders - not people. Disgusting, hypocritical... In his class a couple of people looked like people, the rest were nothing but pus. He is not a human being, and he has no idea if he is a human being or not a human being, but he is a human being, and he is a human being.
Even Linda seems normal only because she is in love with Desmond and thinks only good things about him. Used to want to lead the biomass, now wants to fence it off.
The psychologist said... Did she? Said? His/her name was Joe, he/she bore and gave birth to two children, but asked to be addressed to him/her in the masculine gender. And the youngest son was allowed to use the word "mother." Although such deviations, that is, peculiarities, were encouraged by society, in Desmond's family and among his conservative friends such a thing was considered savage.
So, the psychologist listened to the slander story, nodded, sort of empathized, but advised him to calm down and let the situation with Max go, so as not to spoil his characterization. No surprise, though: behavior that was more characteristic of a robot than of a human was increasingly considered normal. The little-emotional Desmond was fine with that.
The thought of Coker's bloody suicide had displaced his thoughts. He didn't want to believe that this was the same Cocker who had been dancing to his mother's tune... I didn't want to, but she was thinking of him all too obviously! The only thing unclear was whether he really sacrificed himself for the idea, or people like him - agents of the globalists, identifying the unreliable?READ COMPLETELY
The strange sensation of a mouse crawling into her brain vanished as if by a click, perception became clear again.
To ponder what it was, Gia had no time. She walked along the littered street, dispersing the chickens and the little kids, looking at the shabby houses, at the inhabitants that matched them, and a word she had never used before, but it fit perfectly with what was happening: favelas, the abodes of beggars in South America, where you can get hit on the head, be kidnapped and robbed... Ha - let them try! She didn't even have time to grab her passport! And in the car, left in the yard, there was only her ID, a man's glasses, and ten pesos in coins.
It was as if someone else's thoughts came to mind: it was the same in Manila as it was in Brazil and Argentina. Filthy cats and dogs, people who would never see anything... I remembered my father's answer to why his family lived in Manila, not far from these lambs. Now it was clear: it was easy to get lost among the poverty.
The thought that her father was definitely dead, and maybe her mother and sister, too, came, looming, threatening to collapse and crush her, and Gia walked faster to outrun the inevitability, to stall the realization and think that she was just taking a walk. It was impossible to run so as not to draw attention to herself.
Right on the curb around the netted patch, people were huddled together-the cockfighting was going on, there was yelling, men, boys, and a few women encouraging their birds by shouting as if that would help. A little to the side, a barefoot alcoholic was sleeping on a cardboard bed, and further away the owners of the fighting birds, housed in wicker cages, waited their turn. Gia approached the pandemonium, standing on tiptoe to watch the roosters fight, but though she was the same height as the tallest men, she couldn't see anything.
The guy who turned around smiled cheekily:
- Do you want to make a bet? Got any money?READ COMPLETELY
When Luca crossed the threshold and found himself in the virtual world, a voice sounded:
Hello, Luca! Welcome to Underwelt!
Luca turned around, but the door that closed behind him took on a ripple and melted away, cutting off the way back. He stood in the middle of a hilly plain, where the gray hairs of the feather-grass fluttered in the wind, flecks of poppies bloomed between them, and a little farther, pink gramophone flowers the size of human heads swayed and jingled like a hundred bells.
Farther up were the higher hills, turning into mountains with snow-capped peaks like those painted in cheap pictures.
The landscape was supposed to be peaceful, but somehow I had a feeling of strangeness, as if an enemy was lurking behind me, and all this beauty was only to avert my eyes. My brain felt as if a bug had crawled into it.
I smelled grass and flowers, and the wind blew through my hair and stroked my skin. It felt incredible. I wish I could get rid of the anxiety and the bug in my head! It seemed to him that this bug was broadcasting a badly tuned radio, and manifested either other people's thoughts or voices... I mean one man's voice...
It was a disgusting feeling. Damn nerves! Luca wanted to bring his hormones back to normal, so as not to worry, but he was immediately told that it was not advisable and he did not insist.
Luca, do you wish to change your race?READ COMPLETELY
Maria, now called Rosa, stood on the deck of a barge cluttered with containers. Three hours ago the barge had set sail and, according to a rudimentary calculation, was now in French territorial waters. My father's partner, Gennaro Panzutto, said that Spain was less dangerous than France, but in principle not to worry, he had everything covered and the customs officers were well-fed.
Maria could not calculate, she just had a deep sense that she was being taken seriously. Would all transport ships be stopped? There wasn't enough information to answer unequivocally.
There was a throbbing in my temple. My brain felt like it was expanding and pressing against my skull, my ear was ringing, and I felt the presence of a stranger.
Some kind of schizophrenia. I'd have to study medicine to be able to make diagnoses, instantly analyzing the full range of nuances.
Right now, breathe out and let go. Too much has happened: my mother and sister and brother are dead, Maria is hunted by the entire civilized world, and it certainly doesn't need her alive. But Maria's psyche had not yet fully accepted what had happened and was saved by her aloofness.
Her mood was like the gray sky reflected in the water of the Celtic Sea. And it would be much faster to swim to St. Petersburg. Before my eyes unfolded a detailed map of Britain, including every last detail-as if I'd opened a tab on the Internet! In my head, as if a mouse was scraped, a voice came to me, or a noise of interference.
Yes, indeed, it is a stone's throw from Russia. But because of the international isolation would have to make a detour, and then another flight. And, if they did get the Mary, the first thing they would do would be to stop ships going toward Russia.READ COMPLETELY
Looking at Mr. Yegor Tochinov, Gia felt like a frog in front of a snake, all her strength was spent on hiding her fear, appearing independent and defiant. This Russian asks what her strength is. She has always believed that with friends and partners to be completely honest, but now the rules of the game have changed, and nothing bad would happen if she does not lie - even silent, that she is able to influence the devices in reality. But let her know about the virtual.
- On the Internet, if I go into the virtual through a simulator instead of a computer, I can influence the code with my mind.
- And what happens? - Tochinov asked, licking his eyes with impatience - oh, and unpleasant man!
Like he doesn't know, like he was not told!
- Your man Serge should have told you.
- Our man? - Tochinov raised an eyebrow, and his surprise did not look played.
Gia did not look away, nor did Mr. Yegor.
- Why did you conclude he was ours? - Tochinov asked.
What if he doesn't know that Serge gave Bao's number through the questgiver? But, if this Serge is not in league with Mr. Yegor, then who is he? How does he know Bao's number? And isn't he playing a double game? After hesitating for half a minute, Gia told him. Tochinov listened silently, not a muscle on his face, only the right eyebrow, or rather, the right brow rises with each word she spoke.READ COMPLETELY
Luca thought for sure they wouldn't be looking for him under the guards' noses, at their booth, which stood near the helipad. Fifteen meters away were a thicket of grass... or not grass - Luca wasn't a botanist and didn't know what it was. In general, plants with broad leaves, a meter and a half, under which, kicking out an impudent mongoose, Luka made a nest, fell asleep and slept.
And he woke up from the screams of the guard, calling for some Boris.
The sun had already shifted to the west, he wanted to eat, and his body warned him that in five hours, he would limit his functionality if Luke was not refreshed.
Hinges creaked, a yawn was heard. The second guard mouthed something in English, the first one answered him, and Luca's knowledge was enough to understand: some beast had come and eaten, and today it was gone because it might have been killed.
Luke realized they were talking about an exiled mongoose, and tensed up - what if they go looking for a pet? As if to confirm his hunch, a guard with a bowl came out from behind the kennel, called for Boris, did not wait for him, and headed toward Luca's hideout. He clutched his scalpel, quieting the hormones injected into his bloodstream. A second guard followed, with a machine gun slung carelessly over his shoulder.
Near the bushes, the guard squatted, set down a saucer, peering into the darkness, to where Luca squirmed, ready to throw. This comrade has a pistol in his waist holster. If it's loaded, Luke has time to take him and his partner down-his reactions now surpass those of the average man. If not, would it be enough to evade fire? Fifty-fifty, better not to check.READ COMPLETELY
They didn't let Gia sleep after all. It seemed as if she had just closed her eyes, and now they were shaking her, telling her to get up. And in the dream was so good - my mother's pies, my father tells me what is the most reliable stock exchange, Max is waiting in the network, in the "Altera" - the unkillable boss, in the garage - a motorcycle...
It's a pity, it'll go for parts.
Gia opened one eye, scolded the cheeky man who had so treacherously intruded into her sleep, opened the other eye and smacked her lips, remembering yesterday. Before her stood the Russian oligarch Yegor Tochinov in person.
- There is information about Maria," he said in an even tone that did not betray his mood in any way.
- Alive? - Gia asked, getting out of bed-she had fallen asleep with her clothes on; well, there was no need to get dressed now.
- It's hard to say. We need your friend to contact her-" He twiddled his thumbs in the air, searching for a word. - Telepathically.
He wanted to ask what news, and why the hurry, but Tochinov anticipated the question:
- You try to connect, I'll explain everything later.
It's easy to say "contact," but how? It was Desmond appeared in her thoughts, he has such a gift. But why not try it, see if it works?READ COMPLETELY
While waiting for the Chief to arrive, Deborah walked on the coastal sand and drew a line with her bare feet, tracing it from one palm trunk to the next, as if to string together the crazy events of the past days.
The chief managed to talk to her personally. No threats, no reprimands, his tone was calm, as if nothing had happened, but Deborah suspected that this silence was not the morning windlessness, but the eye of the cyclone. It was very likely that the Chief would first question her carefully one more time, after which she would simply not wake up - her heart would stop or her brain would hemorrhage. Or perhaps she would go swimming, drown, and her shrimp-eaten corpse would be washed ashore in a few days.
The right thing to do was to pack up and run away, but where would she go? So Deborah enjoyed the last hours of her life-drinking wine (in moderation, of course), swimming, diving, basking in the sun. But still she wondered what had happened on the island yesterday and whether disaster could have been prevented.
It wasn't the strange helicopter crash in which Bernard Baruch had flown away (I wonder if it was the same Bernard, so successful at rejuvenation, or his son, named after his father?) that kept her busy. She couldn't figure out where the bodyguard's stiffened corpse had come from in the bushes. If he hadn't begun to stink in the heat, he wouldn't have been found so quickly. She'd seen the guy climb into the helicopter after the boss with her own eyes. She might have assumed he'd been thrown from the helicopter for some mischief, but the bodyguard hadn't fallen from a height - there were no injuries on his body. They had cut open his aorta with a sharp knife while he was eating berries and he died, and the berries remained in his esophagus.
But who was with Baruch then? The only version that seems to be true is the murdered man's twin brother.READ COMPLETELY