Apex Part II
Berlin, Germany, the near future, March 18th 07:56
He woke suddenly at the insistent high pitched squeaking from his mobile. Rubbing his eyes, he reached over to the bedside table, scrabbling through what had been the contents of his pockets the previous night. He picked up the phone and hit the answer button.
“Na……ja…. Ok…. Ok lass es. Brauche nur ne halbe stunde“
He put the phone down, got up, and made for the bathroom. A quick shower and coffee later, and he was in the lift. Living on the tenth floor was not his idea of
luxury, but it gave an almost uninterrupted view of the surrounding area, a fact which made him feel somehow more secure. The building he lived in was a relic from a 1960’s communist building program, but he had resisted attempts to move him into more luxurious accommodation. He was comfortable where he was. Besides, this was her home. Even ten years later the flat was still strewn with memories of her. Her perfume and makeup box still adorned the dressing table, her clothes still hung where she had left them, her favourite pictures still stared at him from every wall. It was a kind of living hell, but it was his. He lit a galloise as he left the building and headed for the S-Bahn.
Ostkreuz S-bahnhof was crowded with commuters. He liked the hustle and bustle of early morning Berlin, but not when he was a part of it. He pushed his way up the steps to the ring bahn line, jostling the assortments of humanity in his path. He pulled out a galloise on the platform, but was then forced to scrinch it out as he heard the braking screech of the approaching train. He reached stadtmitte in just over twenty minutes, via the S and U bahn.
He hurriedly lit another galloise as he turned into Kronenstrasse and climbed the steps to the Apex building.
Apex had only been constructed two years before, and inside still had that new building feel to it. There had been some complaints about the destruction of the building there previously, but that had been silenced relatively quickly and out of the public eye. The outside had been carefully reconstructed to match the surrounding architecture, so few people who couldn’t enter noticed that it was actually a completely new building. The façade blended seamlessly, hiding miles of electrical cabling, shock resistant reinforced concrete, monitoring devices, electronic countermeasures and any number of systems dedicated to obscuring the real purpose of the building. To any outsider it appeared to be just another old building converted into offices.
“Morning Rick” the laid back, slightly amused American accent told him he was not going to have a good start to the day.
“Early for you isn’t it Karl?” he said, not bothering to keep his annoyance out of his response.
“I heard they’d called the project director in on his day off” he smiled and his eyes probed, looking for reaction.
Karl Menken was the official correspondent for the New York Times in Berlin. He was a thin, rather insignificant looking man, with no real distinguishing features, until you saw his eyes. They constantly flicked everywhere. Talking to him gave you the feeling he already had the answer to whatever he asked and was merely going through the motions, a fact not lost on Karl and he played on it to great effect.
“I’m just a glorified tea boy here…how should I know?” Rick shrugged and gave his best impression of an affable grin, turning to enter the office.
“You guys are going to have to talk sometime you know” Karl wasn’t going to give up that easily. “You can’t keep this from us forever...”
The journalist’s voice disappeared suddenly as the entrance doors sliced shut. He flashed his key card, tapped his code in and heard the escape of air as the hydraulic locks disengaged, allowing him access to the atrium.
The inside of the Apex building was not what you would expect from the inside of one of the most important places in Western Europe. The atrium was somewhat non-descript, looking as it did like any other office building entrance. He passed through the security gates at reception, put his eye up to the scanner at the lift and entered. The lift automatically took him down to the correct floor.
The lift was fast, but it still took at more than a few minutes to get down to the main level. It slid to a halt as it reached its destination, the security locks disengaging and the doors opened on a chaotic scene. The office was a circular underground workstation, somewhat reminiscent of an old NASA launch centre, only smaller and seemingly less well organised. Personnel poured over computer screens, tapping their personal pads furiously while others manipulated holographic images depicting various scenes from history. A huge screen filled one wall, with various blips covering the world map which made up most of the display. Most of the blips were red.
“Kogen, get over here” Director Weismann was in no mood for pleasantries.
He moved quickly over to the directors work station. “What’s going on here sir? I just got a call to come in…”
The director cut him off, “We were hoping you’d be able to tell us. Apex has gone crazy.” He dabbed at his personal display.
“We’ve been getting holes in the grid all morning; look here...” he pointed at a stream of numbers on his display, “this is Iran” he scrolled across the screen with his hand. “See all the population figures? Seem normal, right?” He nodded, still slightly puzzled. “Ok now look here…” he scrolled across further, “Notice anything?” he looked at the stream of information pouring down the screen.
“Wait…yeah…what the hell…. Where is this?”
“This was Tehran”
“How do you mean “was”?”
“It’s not there anymore”
““Not there” sir? That’s impossible. Even if there were changes it wouldn’t just remove an entire city…” he looked back to the display.
The director was right.
According to the readouts, everything was normal, with one exception: there was nothing there. There were no fault indicators, no error messages, just a stream of information about…nothing. It gave rock composition, vegetation, fauna etc, but no people, no buildings, no radio waves, no electronic disturbance, in fact no sign of any human habitation whatsoever.
“It’s not just now either…” he scrolled back “here, 18th century” again the information flowed down the screen. “Same again. Everything you would expect, except no city and no people”
“Have you checked the other Apex units?”
“First thing we did. Same story. No Tehran”
“Have you contacted them?”
“Yep. They’re still there physically. Nothing unusual. They are as bemused as we are.”
“Are there any other affected areas?”
“Oh that’s just the tip of the iceberg. About five minutes after Tehran disappeared, we said goodnight to Xi’an, Shaanxi province, China”
“I don’t see a pattern here...”
“That’s just it, neither does Apex, it seems to think nothing is wrong. Just keeps pouring out its calculations, minus the people and buildings” he switched the view again.
“This is supposed to be Izmir, Turkey” the screen obligingly churned out the non figures.
“Is this historical too?” his tone became slightly more pragmatic as he began to analyse the possibilities.
“Yep. As far back as we can see these cities never existed on Apex. Yet they all report the same. Nothing unusual” the director was obviously on the verge of pulling out what little hair he had left.
“Have you tried any extrapolations yet?”
“Look for yourself” he gestured to the main wall. “We started this one about an hour ago. Apex seems to think all population centres worldwide will disappear within the next fourteen to sixteen days”
“That’s a little imprecise isn’t it?”
“You know how it works Rick, Christ if it doesn’t know where a rock is in the Antarctic it can set it out by an hour. We’re missing whole sections of history here” he began impatiently flicking through the readouts on his monitor. “There are knock-on effects throughout all the previous extrapolations. Apex has tried to modify half of the last century taking into account the cities we’re already missing”
“Is it aware?”
“Oh yes, it doesn’t see any problem. We’ve had it run every internal diagnostic it has. Each one has turned up nothing. We’re out of ideas here, Rick.”
“Ok let me speak to it” he pulled a pad out of the side rack and slid his fingers effortlessly over the screen, pulling up images and data from the last few days. Moving into the interface booth, he allowed the interface nodes to slip seamlessly onto his skull as he connected to the Apex network and sat back in his seat, eyes closed as the data streamed across his inner view.
Few people could handle this kind of connection to Apex. The human brain was not made for this kind of interaction with a machine. Rick, however, had taken to it like a duck to water. From the first time, it had seemed as if he’d always been connected. He manipulated Apex data as if he’d built the thing.
He’d first entered the Apex program a year or so after its inception, and had been there when it had first gone live. Initially, Apex had only been used to predict. For a few months, it accurately predicted every significant event on earth. Its recommendations were, however, treated with some incredulity initially. They were rarely large changes. Then it predicted the trajectory and all possible outcomes of a massive asteroid strike on South East Asia. Using an extrapolation from Apex, the asteroid was destroyed in space by a rail gun satellite, a relic from the US “star wars” program. After this, governments began to take its recommendations more seriously. It was given more and more power to not only access, but also change systems across the world. New international laws were passed and Apex pervaded every
possible section of society throughout the world. But people were beginning to question the current stability. There had been no disasters of any kind for nearly two years. The governments of the world co-operated in a manner they had never before been able to achieve. It was publicly put down to increased levels of safety regulation, better systems, improved diplomacy, anything which would not reveal the over-arching computerised mind that now ran the world. It organized humanity in a way never seen before.
But it didn’t stop there. Using the information it had from all available sources, it was able to calculate the information it did not have. Its accuracy was in the region of 99.999999% recurring. It could predict the life of a man who had died 5000 years previously to an impossible degree of accuracy. It used images from light years away to record data from centuries ago. With this minutely accurate access to information, Apex could view time.
And it had never been wrong.
Click here to go to part III: My Idea for a Book Part III
More by this Author
Ten ways to make that special someone feel even more special. Important date coming up? Here's my brief "how to"...
Is the Big Bang Theories resident "blonde" all that she appears to be? Read on and judge for yourself......
My tips on what to do when a relationship ends unexpectedly. How to react, how to cope and how to decide what to do next...read on....