Short Story – Corporate Life by Aaron Safronoff
“Welcome to Clandestiny.”
A tall, graceful woman entered the lobby and addressed the small group waiting there. She was in her late twenties, and dressed business-sexy, a classy sweater hugging her body closely from shoulders to hips. She wore no jewelry, but her thick red hair was held loosely in a twist by a pair of metallic sticks.
The lobby was brightly lit with a marble floor and glassy white walls. A video was streaming on a wall depicting Clandestiny as a company ahead of its time. The opposite wall was a slideshow of accolades. There were couches, but not one of the young visitors was sitting.
“I’m so glad all of you made it,” the woman stepped forward confidently. She greeted each of the youths by name, shaking hands. When she finished she addressed them collectively, “For those of you whom I’m only meeting for the first time, my name is Rhiannon. I’m the head of the North American offices, and your orientation leader, today.”
Rhiannon’s bright emerald eyes surveyed the group; there was arrogance and anxiety divided among them equally. “I think you’ll discover that Clandestiny is a wonderful company with numerous amazing opportunities. You’ve all been selected—chosen, really—to be a part of our continued success.”
Passing her eyes steadily from one to the next, she subtly suppressed their wills before asking, “Do any of you have questions before we begin the tour?”
“Right then. Let’s begin.” Rhiannon opened the door and ushered everyone into the hallway, “This doesn’t have to be a lecture—I’m your guide, your peer, really—so please feel free to interrupt me at any time.”
Rhiannon passed between the youths, taking the lead, and gracefully shifted to her talking points, “Clandestiny was founded over thirty years ago by Christopher Glowshen, a master of computer science and mathematics, and later, a doctor of neuroscience. His goal was to unlock the future by harnessing the processing power of the mind.” She gestured toward a window. The laboratory beyond the glass was filled with various models of brains, both virtual and physical. Researchers purposefully moved around the room.
After some seconds of observation, the tour continued down the hall, “While his ultimate goal was lofty, Dr. Glowshen focused on small steps, the first of which was to create a device to convert thoughts into processing cycles.” Rhiannon stopped in front of the next window, “A harness.” The room was a timeline of advancement from chair-mounted helmets to a digitally magnified nanochip. “The translation of thoughts to cycles is still a vigilantly guarded secret, but the harnesses are used worldwide, today.”
“What’s that?” a young woman pointed to a long set of wires, buckles, and leather strung up across the back wall.
“Early experiments were done on animals, including whales.”
“Did that work?” another young woman.
“Yes and no,” Rhiannon continued walking, “The harness maintained a signal, but the derived processing was erratic, and we knew that consistency was essential to our success.”
Gesturing and stopping at the next window, “Which brings us to Clandestiny’s next great breakthrough: the harness was redesigned to interface exclusively with the right hemisphere of a human mind.” A tableau of researchers hovered over an exposed brain.
Rhiannon went on with barely-restrained enthusiasm, “We discovered that the right hemisphere acted as a compiler for the more powerful, abstract engine of the left. Refocusing the harness to pull only from the right we were able to maintain consistent cycles.”
The tour continued, “Today, Clandestiny is responsible for 90% of human-processing going on worldwide. Each day, millions are paid for their time—for their thoughts—just like any other job, except their contributions are more effectively utilized.”
Rhiannon lead the group out onto a catwalk. They passed over hundreds of people in chairs divided by simple partitions. The cubicles had no keyboards or monitors, instead the workers wore harnesses.
“Each medium-sized farm provides enough computational power to simulate an ocean. Not only that, but also predict the location of every molecule of water in that ocean three days into the future!”
The group continued across the catwalk, “Clandestiny yoked that impressive power and directed it toward improvements to processing technology, and we’re already rendering ourselves obsolete.”
“That is, obsolete until today.” Rhiannon opened a door and everyone shuffled into a large auditorium. The wall opposite the entrance was streaming footage of base-jumping, free-climbing, deep sea diving, and more. The video cycled from one death-defying adventure to the next.
“Please everyone, take a seat.” The applicants jostled a bit, and then sat. “As I was saying, our farms were designing processors that were better than the farms themselves. At Clandestiny though, we innovate. It’s what we do best. That’s why you’re here. You’re the best of the best, suited to be pioneers in this new era.”
Prompted only by the habit of modern theater, the audience found their headsets and began adjusting them for comfort.
“We’ve unlocked the full potential of the human mind,” Rhiannon paused, allowing the gravity of her words to sink in. “Have you ever wondered what happens the moment before you die? What does it mean to have your life flash before your eyes?” she waited. “We finally have the answer. Your mind accelerates, an exponential increase in processing power, as it sifts through the details of every experience you’ve had in nanoseconds looking for a way to survive!”
Rhiannon stepped away from the center stage and the lights dimmed, “Today, Clandestiny knows how to tap into that moment,” her voice was in their heads now, her body a perfect digital replica indistinguishable from the real woman.
Inside each headset, inside each mind, the theater opened up to expose a vast world. Each environment was uniquely tailored to the individual based on detailed profiles of their lives.
Rhiannon watched their heads as they looked up and down and around, exploring what she couldn’t see. Some moved their arms and legs, twitching like dreamers running. She left the room.
Rhiannon toured her facility, this time alone, winding herself down from the day.
Her virtual secretary appeared by her side and walked with her, “Miss Welsh?”
“The new employees are settling in well, and I thought you’d like to know that applications are up five percent from last quarter.”
“Excellent. And what of our recent changes to the ReNDEr?”
“As you predicted, we’ve achieved an increase in productivity, though there was also a slight increase in mortality rates especially in our older employees.”
“Hmmm, well, let’s continue to monitor the results. We may be able to identify employees that can’t handle the stress sooner. It’s early retirement no matter how you look at it,” she smiled to herself.
“Yes, Miss Welsh.”
Rhiannon took a deep breath. Shaking her head mildly, “Do you think we pay them enough, our employees?”
“I’m not sure I understand your question… I think we would receive fewer applicants if our remuneration was not satisfactory.”
Rhiannon smiled at Cass, and then raised her eyebrows, “Right, of course you’re right. I guess I’m just tired.”
“You really do give yourself to your work, Miss Welsh.”
“I really do. That’ll be all, Cass.”
“Good night, Miss Welsh.”