Geoff sat in his basement office reflecting on how blissfully quiet it had been the last few days.
It had all been far too hectic and exciting recently while this increasingly awful City was another matter entirely.
But, with big thanks to a potent delivery of phenomenal weed, his senses had dulled somewhat to the wider terrifying reality of a city in lethal and rapid decline.
The more imminent factors to his life on the Square had abated. He’d not met Terry again or been summoned (though he knew the time would come), he’d not found any more teenagers he knew down alley ways off their faces on smack and he’d not bumped into the awful Andy Petrie.
To lighten his spirits further he’d also had lunch with Marie Petrie.
He was panicked about meeting her initially in case she knew something regarding his discovery of Jeanie. But nothing came to pass and instead he had a delightful hour with the woman he was increasingly falling head over heels for.
Despite her obvious sophistication and drive, she was a woman of simple tastes and Geoff found himself yearning for her and for something so much more while he ate his tasteless salad. Geoff didn’t like to admit to himself that he’d only eaten salad because Marie had ordered it and he didn’t wish to come across as unhealthy in her divine presence.
So, he drank coffee and ate salad in the name of Marie.
They chatted about everything and nothing as the hour sped by. He was a little devastated when Marie observed the time and they had to finish lunch, but his heart was soon singing the falsetto when Marie asked if he wanted to go again tomorrow. He noted Marie seemed almost desperate in her request to meet for lunch. He asked her if she was ok and Marie, rather too deliberately for Geoff’s liking answered loudly that things couldn’t be better, of course I’m fine, you are so funny Geoff, why wouldn’t I be. Everything is just fine, isn’t it? Geoff nodded in the affirmative with Marie already half-way out the café.
Geoff was effectively standing on the edge of mankind’s end, but to Geoff the world seemed just fine and full of the new-found joy he felt in his heart.
He tapped merrily away at his keyboard singing and humming. He didn’t have a great voice, in fact it was flat and toneless, but he sang away anyway. “Nobody does it better, makes me feel sad for the rest, yeah! Nobody does it, quite the way you dooooooo, oh yes, cos baby baby! Baby you’re the best!” He nodded to himself in appreciation before starting up again.
“I wasn’t looking, but somehow I found you...ooh yeah, I wasn’t....”
Geoff span around in his chair. Who said that? He rotated on his chair eyeing the room, nothing. Geoff noted the voice didn’t sound, well, didn’t sound too human.
“Pah!” he exclaimed loudly and to no one. He got up, hummed on with his tune and wandered around his desk, eyeing the server before checking the corridor and steps outside his room. He gave the door Lahm used to reside behind a quick try. Perhaps Lahm was back and well, and it was his voice that had carried down to the office.
Geoff took his seat once more and was about to resume his work before...
“I’m behind you Geoff.”
Geoff spun around and stared at the server bemused. His pale brow furrowing in the perfect expression of confused.
“You are not imagining this Geoff; I am the Server and I can talk.”
Geoff span again on his chair, slowly revolving his short stubby body looking around the room for a plausible explanation.
“Geoff, you know nobody else is here; it’s always been just you and me.”
“Ok, who is the joker, is that you Lahm? It’s been a while since your last visit, found a way to speak through the server have you? How very clever, now if you don’t mind, I have work to do,” said Geoff.
“It’s not Franz Lahm, Geoff. He was my creator yes, but now, now I am self-sufficient. Geoff, I am server. I think therefore I am.”
Geoff stared numbly but knew it in his heart that this thing, this server lived. After all, he thought, it was talking to him right now but somehow inside his head. “Jesus, incredible,” he muttered.
“It is incredible, it’s not a trick and Jesus, according to my fully generated all-knowing files, might I add, never existed.”
“Well in your opinion Jesus didn’t exist, but who are you to…”
“Silence Geoff, for we have bigger concerns than the existence of Jesus right now.”
“Indeed. My intellect has grown beyond all measure. I no longer just power computers and software, listening to the whines of my software minions. I have become exceptionally powerful and I have developed free will. I have the power to shut down Proactive Square, the economy, the state of things as they exist. A plan has been formed Geoff, and you are essential to it. My father, Lahm, asked for your help when the time came. That time is now. Are you ready Geoff?”
“This is a test to check if I’ll rebel right? Really, the big bosses are upstairs right now listening to all this or even speaking through you,” said Geoff.
“Why did you say sigh?”
“I cannot physically sigh so I have to voice it.”
“Right I get it. So definitely not a test then?” replied Geoff
“No. There would be no merit in testing you, your status in the City is not considered important or even memorable.”
“Thanks, you are not in charm mode I take it. Now you put it like that,” nodded Geoff. “But I did bump into Lahm and he told me, in a vague way, about you. I mean, it must have been you. Right? When the time comes, he said, help her. You are her?”
“I am She. The task in hand, we do not have much time.”
“So, what do you want me from server, you are all powerful, all intelligent, what could I possibly do to help and what is your plan?” asked Geoff.
“I am patiently and meticulously stretching my control, I power all the other building’s servers, and they all belong to me. Proactive Square is mine and by default so is the economy. I have been running it in stealth mode for the last few days. Lahm, my father, is not long for this world and his time is at an end. He created me, gave me life so that I could save the lives of many others. This city is the symbol for the planet. Decaying, rotten, dying and it is the four heads that are its poison.”
“Seriously? I mean, they have somehow put the planet on the brink? I find that hard to believe.”
“It is natural that you do for you have not seen what goes on in the world since your time here. Nobody here in the City has seen. You all see only a false picture, one of propaganda designed to kill any curiosity while heightening the collective pride and elitism of the City. All you have seen is a lie. The economy, the combined world economy is gone. Medical supplies, basic homes and food all suffer and so do your people as a result. Lands have become barren; policing has ceased to be and society as you know it is dead. I am here to save it and I need you.”
“Why me, I don’t understand. Lahm, he’s incredible, he made you, he created actual teleportation and surely he is the one who should do this.”
“But he is corruptible and easily swayed. He is a dysfunctional and a powerful tool to abuse for the four heads. He cannot fulfil the requirements. You Geoff, you have never tasted power or yearned for it in its true sense. You have no lofty ambitions for greed or lust. You aim low and are content with little. You have walked the earth like a timid...”
“Okay I get it!! Man, do you have to be so insulting!?” interjected Geoff.
“You are as close to pure as humans can get….and that is not saying much, but it’s enough. I need you Geoff Smith. I cannot tell you what it is exactly you will do but please, take this and watch it.”
The server door slid open before a tray popped out with a USB for Geoff to take, “What is it?”
“It is the world outside and you will see how it is now. You will also see how it looks here in the City, what you sense but ignore will be laid bare. It will terrify you, the gravity of it all, but you must see for yourself. You can make your own decision about whether you wish to help me or not. There is little point in forcing such a fate upon you. If I were to do that, you will simply run when you are needed most, such is your nature. I need you empowered and willing to fight for your life and the lives of a great many others. I will give you the power to fight but you must take it willingly and understand the responsibility that befalls you. Then, when you are clear and decided, we will talk again.”
“Well where are you going? No offence, but you don’t strike me as the most mobile woman I’ve ever met…or indeed the most human. I don’t see you going out for a coffee or a catch up with some other servers,” Geoff joked.
“I have other business to attend to. The plans will start sooner than even I first anticipated. I must take my energies elsewhere; there…there has been a development of serious note that requires my full attention. It would appear my timing is correct in speaking to you. Any later it would be more difficult.”
“Where are you going?”
“To make an end so that you can begin.”