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Apex Part III
He let his mind drift through the system as he sought to find any anomaly. Distorted images interwoven with lines of code crossed his vision as he began to stabilise. The Apex spread out before him. The view was truly spectacular. Being able to view time in this way was unsettling for most people. It was nearly impossible to reconcile the stream of information assaulting the brain. In here, time was no longer linear; it was another dimension in the landscape. It added textures that did not exist.
He looked at the last extrapolations. Some had not yet been amended to remove Tehran, as they were saved on the systems database. They all seemed perfectly normal. Everything was there. Up to a month forward was safe for a human to view. He could see weather reports for Manchester in infinite detail, birth and death rates in South America, newspaper reports in New Orleans. No indications of anything unusual. He scanned backwards, using the live system. Everywhere outside the affected cities seemed to be normal.
He closed in on what had been Tehran. He noticed that the affected zone diminished slightly as he went back through the centuries. He panned down to the edge of the affected area, focusing on the people entering or leaving it. As they entered, their detail faded, until they did not exist. He scrolled ahead. No further record of any person entering the zone existed. Their families were there, if they lived outside the disturbance, including offspring born after the subjects entered the area. But wherever they should have been, was just….nothing. Apex didn’t seem to have a problem with babies appearing out of thin air.
He panned back and checked the other two cities. It was exactly the same story. Everything appeared normal, except for the cities not being there. Moving back to Iran, he manipulated the dateline to a time prior to Tehran’s founding, and scanned for signs of life.
“Now we’re getting somewhere” he thought as he found, near the edge of the affected area, a goatherd casually watching his charges grazing. All the data was normal. He panned the dateline slowly forward, months at a time. As he watched a village began to form in his view. He continued to watch, then, on the western side of the village, houses began to disappear, along with their occupants.
He moved his view to the western side, attempting to trace the disturbance back to its source, panning back and fore through the years as if following a shortening shadow. It moved slowly westwards, until eventually it hit the Tigris, around 1782 BC. He panned in. A massive city loomed in his view, covered with torches and huge temple buildings. He moved toward the disturbance, locating its source. At the end of a narrow street, just under the wall, a man appeared, dressed in the garb of an Imperial soldier of Assyria. He was moving cautiously, as if hiding from something. Rick moved in closer.
He could see the building behind the man with an odd oval shape missing in the wall. He positioned himself closer as the man dropped to the floor. On the rooftops behind, a lone archer cried out in triumph. The disturbance grew, encompassing the fallen body, which disappeared. His pursuers came in to view, crowding into the area now blackened by the disturbance. Their images shimmered, distorting gradually as the anomaly widened, taking in the surrounding buildings and spreading up the wall, leaving darkness in its wake. He could make out a kind of shadowy world within, but nothing was well defined enough to stabilise the view.
He panned back and fore, viewing the man’s death over and over, looking for something significant. Finding nothing, he moved back further, following the man’s route backward through the chase. He noticed the man putting something in his tunic as he stopped. Moving his view in closer, he saw the parchment.
Manipulating the view backwards he attempted to locate its origin. He panned right back through the chase. It began at a small building in the north of the city. The building was richly decorated, yet it was not conspicuous in this part of town. There were much finer buildings in the immediate locale. It had an almost palatial air about it, but perhaps that of a lesser member of the local royalty. He watched as the man climbed backwards up a pillar, sidled along a ledge and into a second floor window.
The room was dimly lit. Two men were knelt on a luxurious finely woven rug laid across the intricately carved wooden flooring. They were both heavily adorned with jewellery, each with a silver band around his head. They spoke in hushed tones with each other and the man he had seen killed. One of them was writing furiously on a piece of parchment. He panned time forwards to the point of the man leaving the room. The door burst open, smashed in by spear butts. Several soldiers rushed in, followed by a man dressed in similar garb to the two unfortunates. He walked imperiously toward them, and, without a single word, slit both their throats.
Rick switched back to the parchment, realising this was the probable cause of the men’s deaths. He viewed from the perspective of the writer, storing the finished article in the Apex log for translation.
Director Weismann listened intently as Rick explained his findings.
“Have you checked this Kogen?”
“Yes sir, the data streams match up with the visual. The three anomalies appear at the dates you see. They’re all in or around relatively minor incidents.”
“An insurgent’s death in Assyria, A hoplite captured at the battle of Corupedium and an administrator from 1st century China finishing some tax reports. It doesn’t make sense, sir. These incidents don’t seem to have anything in common.”
The director pulled up the stream of the incidents recorded on ricks station.
“There is one clue, however; the insurgent had something important. A message, I think.” He pulled up the image. “I put a copy in the log, but it’s written in Akkadian. As for the others, I’m out of ideas. The only thing they have in common is that they are all the inception points of the disturbances in Apex.”
“Ok we’ll get this translated, maybe we’ll find something” He didn’t sound convinced.
Honestly, neither was Rick. He couldn’t figure out what possible connection there could be between an ancient message and the odd disturbances in a 21st century super computer network.
He tapped up the latest reports on his main view screen. The latest set of runner directives had just gone out. Runners were the front line of Apex, applying the changes where it was necessary to have a physical presence to do so. Anyone could be a runner; there were no specific entrance requirements or special prerequisite skills. Most runners were not even aware they were one. There were a select few, however, that were fully aware. These few were the ones responsible for disseminating some of the directives, carrying out only the more sensitive ones themselves.
Because of their high level of impact, they were required to have no contact with the outside world other than as specifically required by Apex. They spent most of their time in a sealed off section of the Apex building. Nothing could enter or leave this section without a fully detailed extrapolation from Apex. There were no exceptions. Food, air, water supply, the tiniest particle of matter, it made no difference. The section was completely sealed. No-one had been in since its completion. It was supplied through a heavily monitored access tube deep below the building, which mostly consisted of a pressurised vacuum. Each Apex building had its own section, which usually housed around twenty of these so-called “shades”.
Once recruited, a shade had to dedicate the remainder of its existence to Apex. They were always single, childless, with no surviving family members. They were selected for the amount of impact they had on the world around them, always right before Apex predicted death. The less impact, the better the shade would be. Once inducted, all previous record of the person the shade had been was permanently removed, except for those in Apex. Apex records concerning the shades were not accessible. Everything they did outside of their own section was heavily timed and coordinated.
It was rare for more than one to leave the building at any time due to the huge amount of monitoring required every time one of them did so. Each shade had an implant in its spinal column with a direct connection to Apex. Through this implant, Apex had practical complete control over the shades.
Rumours, of course, were rife about them. The usual ones such as they could not sleep, felt no pain, had no emotion etc. There were, however, slightly more disturbing rumours. Rumours of what they were thought to be capable of. Rumours of how old some of them were alleged to be. For the present, the shades were in lock down. In the current situation, a shade outside Apex could not be sufficiently monitored.
Rick brought up the last field run made by a shade. It was nearly six months old. The shade had been sent to an armaments depot in northern Russia. It was a fairly unexciting mission, but Apex had given made it a priority. Extrapolations had shown that a future high ranking officer in the Global Defence Force would be killed in an air crash, which the shade was sent in to prevent. The cause had been a damaged fuel line in the port engine. The shade had repaired it, rechecked the extrapolation and left. A fairly routine mission. The plane had taken off from the depot and flown to a military base 160 Km away. There had been no crash. A total success. He sifted back through a few more shade runs, looking for any unusual occurrences, then finding nothing, sighed and shifted his seat so he could look at the main screen.
The latest extrapolation was still running. Rick looked at the blinking red dots covering the world. Every moment Apex did not function correctly, billions of lives were being put at risk. Without realising it, every man, woman and child on earth had become completely reliant on the tweaks it made to their every day existence.