Short Story: Birth of a Tyrant

Unlike the giants of and before its time, spawned of boardroom wars and the reverse cell-division of elderly mergers, Arc Systems started in a garage with two key-jocks. Theirs was the same rags to riches tale as their one-day benefactor Cameron Mobility. A tale more rare by the day. In an era where days were already far shorter.

Night was taking over. Not true night, but night all the same. That perma-twilight hailing the realities of Sprawl living, its police-state of corp control, currency, and finally, collapse. Long before Augs and their struggle, their coder-fathers were dreaming big.

They had to be. They’d conquered the planet. Where else was there to go but parts beyond?

Countless, open-platform and proprietary systems; OS, informatics, GUIs both human and automated– all software coded for so-called next gen tech, meant to revolutionize the industry. It never did, of course, but that didn’t change that modules, portions, or whole programs of Arc’s code were running all over the world.

In short, brothers Hank and Allan Womack, were software geniuses well-placed to make change. More than Hackers, they were virtuosos. Their code backed a million computers and security systems, globally. They’d cornered market share on corporate sector when it mattered most; long before anyone else.

In their case, before anyone realized the extreme importance of software security to begin with.

Arc and the brothers were simply waiting for their opportunity, their opening. When it came, they grappled with both hands, wrestling it into submission.

An old schoolmate had seen Allan on a vacation-trip to town. Over beers, he and Allan spoke of work. Thomas Marin, former Marin Medtek CEO and now major share-holder and partner with Cameron Mobility, spoke vaguely of designing “next-gen” prosthetics.

Apprehensive but enthralled, Allan agreed to a preliminary meeting.

Truth was, everything was “next-gen” in those days. It was a buzz-word. Used by people who didn’t understand a generation was just the gap between eras. There was nothing noteworthy in the design, apart from revelations of the speaker’s ignorance.

Allan knew Thomas though. He’d never spoken in hypotheticals, was far too intelligent to be ignorant of his own implications. If he truly believed it a wave of the future, it damned well would be.

Or, at least, could be.

Thomas and his employer needed software. Good software. Cameron couldn’t risk their in-house teams knowing or screwing up the code. They wouldn’t have the chops, anyhow. They were GUI programmers, less than hobbyists in comparison to specialist virtuosos like the Womacks– Arc.

That meant outsourcing the designs, ensuring against information leaks, potential saboteurs. The best way was NDAs; small firms, a whole helluva lot of money on the line. In the end, the brothers saw no logical reasons not to pursue the contract.

Decades later, they’d remember Thomas’ arrival with the on-call Cameron Mobility Lawyer. The pair strolled into their new, strip-mall location, sat down at the six-person conference table, rented just for the occasion. There they remained…

For all of fifteen minutes.

The lawyer’s eyes said he didn’t know such squalor could exist, let alone spawn business. Hank was testy. Allan saw it in his eyes. From then on, he did the talking. Hank added only a few words for things he’d forgotten.

Intros and NDAs aside, they outlined the project’s particulars: Arc Systems would receive prototype prosthetics and comprehensive instructions on use, purpose, ability. Then, beneath corporate oversight, Arc would program them to specification regardless of time required.

Money was no object either, the brothers were assured, but the prototypes were irreplaceable. In addition, Thomas would act as liaison; the corporate oversight and link between companies, present at all meetings and often enough in the office to verify work was being done.

The Womacks received an advance, torn from a corporate check-book. The lawyer held it to himself thereafter like an undertaker his mortician’s log. Reading out zeroes but incapable of much else otherwise, the brothers Womack, Marin, and the wage-slave parted.

The rest is history. Arc Systems received the prototypes and set to work, eventually revolutionizing the prosthetic industry by forming the basis of something much larger, grander. Few innovations have had the lasting effects of Arc’s.

Even Cameron Mobility, on the cusp of every advance in prosthesis since the 1950’s, had admitted they were out of their element. Hiring the Womack’s meant bringing people skilled in tech. The same people giants and Titans of industry refused to allow pre-digital kids access to.

Ones like the Womacks, whose expertise was now invaluable, begrudgingly needed.

That collision of worlds had been long approaching, but it gave birth to bionics, Augs, everything after. Optics and mental control, though still in concept stages, existed then too. Controlled by tiny, photo-reflective rings, wire receivers, or headband-interfaces– the bases of all, optic, aural, and HUD-based controls.

The first wave of augments were designed, completed, tested. The eventual, human subjects to were merely the first prototypes of a species’ post-evolutionary dreams. Before the phenomena, the endless ethics arguments, the corporate-take over and catalysts that lead it– and the greatest mass-conflict in history…

Until then, the corporation was the future.

Arc Systems learned it first-hand, growing tenfold in its first year. By the fifth, when its contract with Cameron Mobility was finally completed, they were on-par with the Med-Tek giant. Equals, as much as two Colossi could be when not at one another’s throats.

Partnering not long after allowed the Womacks to buy out.

Selling the name was easy. In the end, it was the people that mattered. Though neither cared to anymore, nor needed to, either could have made a living working alone on hobby-projects.

Nonetheless, the two-sided blade severed something deeper, more important.

In their quest to gouge themselves on the new, black gold of trans-human and elective augments, the corporation became a monster. Each one, in its own way, contributed to the Paris Incident. Yet equally, had the brothers not contributed to the corps, history would not remember either.

The past, like the inevitability of one’s moving further from it, cannot be changed. The Giant’s birth that was Arc Systems, would one day prove more sinister than anyone could have anticipated. It would prove it was not just another giant born, but another tyrant, too.

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