The Warm World, My Cold World
“55%... 63%... 78%... 91%... 100%! Total simulation achieved.”
“Flora holograph complete. Error on Fauna M0224 through M0335. Error on Fauna F1008 through F1042 and F0035. Error on Fauna F0051. Aqua holograph complete. “
“Physical holograph construction complete. Nanomachine codes download at 43%... 72%... 100%. Nanomachine assimilation 100%.”
“Resident nanomachines codes upload complete. Download 54%... 100%.”
“Sensory nanomachines upload complete. Wide-area dispersion activated.”
“Sound systems operating normally, no issues. Ready to record”
“Video feed syncing 89%... 100%. Ready to record.”
“Everything is ready, sir. We can bring the residents in.”
“No, not yet. Let run time reach 15 minutes till the main engines, generator, and the core reaches stabilisation at temperatures of 25°C ± 2°C, 43°C to 47°C, and 33°C ± 4°C. If anything fails or goes beyond a 3% error from the standard, stop processes immediately.”
The man who gave out instructions had dishevelled hair and wore fluffy slippers as he leaned back on his chair. In front of him were holographic and physical screens along with buttons and lights. There were a few people behind him who were glaring at him, but the man didn’t bother.
These people were at the far end of the room, closer to the two exits. The further one goes towards the glass pane and screens, the lower the flood becomes by a few steps. In between were other people facing screens and paying attention to data or the screens at the far end, opposite side of the doors. There, they could watch the live feed from cameras taken inside the simulation room.
“Mr. Koldner. Everything is up and ready to go. Why not start now?” One of the men spoke. Murmurs could be heard around him, agreeing with his statement.
“I’m afraid I can’t do that Mr. Galner. If the systems have not stabilised, the chances of the residents dying or the simulations collapsing may happen.” Kristoff tried explaining to the man and the rest of his audience.
“Their experimental subjects, no? If any accidents happen, it’ll be fine, right? They can be replaced any time.” He mockingly said in front of Kristoff and Lisanna beside him. “And the simulations? It’s just light and nanomachines, right? They can all be paid with money.”
Kristoff had already snapped when they denigrated the residents, and now he felt even more furious when he belittled the simulations and nanomachines, thinking everything can be paid with money.
“Mr. Galner and company, with all due respect.” And he proceeded to harshly criticise him.
“They may be experimental subjects who have no idea they are one, but they are human still. I am not so cruel and inhumane to think lightly of human lives. I, for one, can say that I can have you all arrested here and be made as test subject under the Unified Shelter Code of Conduct.”
Guards inside the room standing at attention became more prominent to the eyes of the guests. They may only be six guards compared to more than 20 guests, but they still exude such a terrifying aura.
“Specifically, the section regarding guests stating that, if the second party, which are guests of all classifications, interferes with the work of the first part, which is us, the shelter staff, the managerial positions of Quadrant Overseers, Section Heads, Sector Heads, Assistant Division Chiefs, Division Chiefs, Assistant First Division Commander, First Division Commander, and the Shelter Director has the power to incarcerate the second party.”
Porvus Galner’s face turned red as a tomato. He felt insulted and embarrassed by a mere researcher. He wanted to raise his voice, but someone beside him whispered into his ears, calming Galner down.
“But Mr. Koldner.” Another person stepped up to ask a question. “We are guests of triple A classification, meaning CEOs of conglomerates, high ranking politicians, and even other shelter authorities. Your actions does not justify-“
“But it does, Ms. Svraya.” Kristoff interrupted the woman’s sentence mid-way. “Did you not hear what I said? Or rather, did you not read the most common thing for visitors to do when visiting another shelter? ‘Guests of all classifications’ also pertain to Shelter Directors, Board of Members, Presidents, etcetera. What power does a mere triple A class guest hold against those big wigs? Certainly, not much.”
The woman, Kylka Svraya, turned red from embarrassment and shrunk and faded into the background mobs.
“Then what does a mere researcher like you hold against us? Appearances wise, you can’t even compare to anyone here who are dressed more fashionably and strict. We can pay any amount in Central to have you removed. Heck, we can even pay the Division Chief to remove you.”
Everyone, apart from the guests, gasped. One even started hyperventilating until he fainted on his seat, leaning back. Lisanna started to hyperventilate as well, but not as severely as the others behind her. The guests were bewildered with their reactions but even the last man who spoke realised he has gone far. Instead of apologising, he gulped and stood tall with a straightened back, looking down of Kristoff with his domineering height. But Kristoff, himself, was calm as water. He showed almost no expression of anger or rage. Kristoff only sat on his chair, leaning back on the rest and spoke.
“Mr. Alkas Trigrano, yes? Have you really not done your research? Even if you have not, you should have inferred by the set-up of this space. Who typically sits on a command desk such as this? Why am I giving out all the orders? Besides that, let’s go to your personal attack.” Kristoff changed town slightly to one of mockery.
“I dress as such because it’s comfortable; it’s easier to move in. You don’t exercise using a tuxedo, do you? You don’t go out in the snow using a speedo, do you? Same thing. I don’t dress to look good. And besides, the staff basically lives here and no one cares how you dress up. If you want to dress up as an exhibitionist, go for it. If you want to dress up with a full body costume, why not?”
Kristoff looked at his watch. There were only a few minutes left before the 15-minute stabilisation run time was about to end. No one bothered to talk while he had paused and turned his chair, facing his command panels, the people operating other systems below him, and the large screens from the live video feed. His back was fully turned against the guests
“Going back on how you haven’t researched, I will tell you that Lisanna here is an assistant to a commander. I also applaud you and Mr. Polvus Galner for bringing money into the table. That was the final nail in the coffin that also screamed you didn’t do basic research.”
Kristoff turned silent again. He was waiting for a comment form anyone but to his disappointment, they were all silent.
“I’ll tell you a little bit about money. Firstly, we don’t need that here, in this facility, in Avurgaevs. We need time and non-monetary resources like raw materials and elements, technological advancements, and people willing to actually work here. People signed up in this shelter knowing fully well they won’t be paid with “money”. You could also say the staff in this shelter are cast-aways, social rejects, desperate people, unemployed, and many more. Could you imagine the amount of training given to them and the mental capabilities of these people? If I were to say, they could easily fit into the capital as an A class citizen. Also, the residents, who you said are replaceable? That’s the best joke I’ve heard in my life. Tell me, Mr. Polvus Galner. How much do you think the vehicle, the amaroq, you rode on costs? In terms of “money”. Kristoff made air quotes while speaking in a mocking tone every time he said money, making it clear that money holds no value in the shelter.
“It-it’s around four million Gravos.” As he spoke, the people were shocked to hear the amount.
Gravos is the currency used by some shelters that have managed to communicate with another and come to a standard. Around 3.6 million Gravos could raise anyone’s status up to an A class citizen. Bringing it to perspective, about five thousand Gravos is the annual income a middle-class family in the capital earns. And upon disembarking, there were about 40 of those vehicles that headed for Avurgaevs. There were only a few hundred A class citizens and a hand full of triple A class.
“Oh, so it’s that cheap.” The guests were shocked and confused when Kristoff said that amount was cheap. “A single resident here is on par with an amaroq. Cheap right? So, could I ask the both of you to donate some of your funds if I need to replace a resident? After all, you are all triple A classes, right? I wonder how much this facility would improve if we had the support of 27 triple A citizens. Maybe donating about 150 amaroqs would be a good start. It would be a definite help to us. After all, we sometimes need to transport thousands and tens of thousands of residents to other shelters.”
Yet again, no one dared speak up. They all pushed themselves towards the wall. Some of them were tearing up, some were already crying silently. A few of them wanted to go home and leave for the capital but they can’t until their business is complete.
“I also forgot to mention. Mr. Polvus Galner.” Kristoff called out and Polvus jittered and stuttered as he responded. “What is your net worth? In “money”. He made air quotes yet.
He didn’t want to respond for a few reasons and one of them being he didn’t want to reveal his worth to the other 26 who are potential business rivals.
“No answer, huh. Well, no matter. There are about 69 residents across all divisions who are at least triple A class. So, if ever they get into an accident or die, I’m hope you would be able to “replace” them, as you said earlier. Thank you in advance. Also, in case you didn’t know, the structure of a shelter has the first division on top and the other divisions beneath it. The first division is also responsible for the main gates of each sector.”
That was the final nail in the coffin for him. He had no idea who the man was in front of him is. Since Kristoff has been greatly offended by Polvus himself, his ideals of being rich and striking it big all went down the drain. Alkas had felt the same.
“Alright, less than a minute left before run time stabilisation is over. Look alive people!” He stood from his chair and informed the rest of the scientists who were a bit dumbfounded and lost in thought.
After hearing him repeat his orders again, they suddenly became active, checking the system still displayed stable output feeds. Meanwhile those behind Kristoff just either stared blankly at the ground or quivered in fear and anxiety.
[Simulation Complete. Activating delayed cooldown.]
A mechanical female voice resounded in the room, relaying the general notifications after post-simulating.
After the simulation ended after about an hour, the scientists and researchers, those who were operating the other control panels, cheered and made smiles.
“Extract the codes and data we found and upload it into the 5th enhancement ward. After installation of bugs onto resident nanomachines, inform them I would want a report of this month’s findings next week. That is all.” Kristoff gave out his last set of orders for the day.
He leaned back once again and returned to his dishevelled and lazy look. As he did so, he turned to Lisanna and spoke to her.
“Lisanna, who’s in charge of this group’s data collection?”
“It’s…” She was shifting through the list on her clipboard. “Kreija Senvoska, Mr. Koldner.” She gave her answer.”
“Oh? The intern is now left in charge? Alright then, I’ll leave it to her.”
“Is it alright, Mr. Koldner? She’s still and intern and it hasn’t even been a year since she started working here.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine.” Kristoff waved his hand silly as he spoke. “Rather, I trust her ore than some other’s who have been working here for years.” His face turned serious for a moment.
He got up from his chair and directed his body towards the guests.
“So, ladies and gentlemen, have you enjoyed the show? The residents were able to interact with holographs that have been designed with hyper realistic textures. A feat no other shelter has achieved.”
He asked but no one responded. Some were focused on the screen, others had eyes on the ground, and a very select few were actually listening to him.
“Well, anyways, I shall personally guide you to your rooms. And tomorrow, we shall talk business.”
Kristoff led the way, signalling the guests to follow him and as they walked, the guards also followed suit.
The residential district is as active as ever, especially in the games and other entertainment systems are located. In the place near the bookshelves, where tables and chairs are, sat three people. Esther was explaining something to Erias and Zsally while holding up a paper and pointing at multiple parts.
“Okay, I hope you get it now.” Esther said as she brought the paper down.
“Well, I do, since a few days back. It’s just really hard to believe that it happened.” Erias spoke as he lay his head on the cold surface of the table. “I mean, all I remember that day was, after the simulation, we were sent to a NEWard. After that, I went to bed in my capsule.”
“Me too. I understand too.” Zsally raised her hand as she spoke. “But I also remember going to sleep after heading to NEward.”
“That’s because that’s what other people who have been cleaned would say.”
The cleaners are coders and programmers who install bugs or remove suspicious into resident nanomachines, specifically the chip installed on the resident’s brain. The term cleaners were attached to them because majority of their jobs require them to bug and debug codes on nanomachines so the system would function as planned.
“Cleaned?” Zsally asked and even Erias didn’t know what she meant.
“Ah, no, it’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.” Esther waved her hand side to side, gesturing to ignore what she had just said. “It’s been a week since you forgot about that incident. But remember to write down anything you see or hear as suspicious.”
After the two nodded, she got up from her seat and left them. She waved goodbye and walked away. They only watched her back slowly disappearing into the corridor.
As she walked, she made sure to watch her surroundings, making sure no one was following her. As she walked, she entered the room where all the capsule beds are located. She headed to her bed first but after confirming no one else was near her nor looking at her, she quickly moved to the sides and into a space between a bed and a wall. It was a tight space, but she managed to fit. At the end of the path was a small door and beside it was a scanning interface like what most door shave. She brought the back of wrist to it, let it get scanned, and the door opened.
As she entered, the people inside looked fiercely at her and she did the same to them. After a little bit of silence, one mad spoke.
“Good, Esther is here.” The man who spoke was at the far end of the room whose whole figure was covered in shadow welcomed Esther. “Now, let’s begin planning your escape.”
The man stood up and walked forward slightly, revealing only his trousers, a bit of his untucked shirt, and a white coat.
As he declared so, Esther just looked at him with furrowed brows and squinted eyes.