A Future Invested is a collaborative, interactive and multi-author online story that follows the life of a young American venture capitalist and the near-future technologies he encounters on a day-to-day basis. The goal of this project, set 30 years into the future and published a chapter at a time, is to provide a blast of inspiration for today’s tech entrepreneurs (as well as a bit of entertainment). You can read more about the project here. We encourage you to leave a comment at the bottom of the page with your feedback, which could be incorporated into a future chapter, and to let us know if you’d like to participate!
Topher grimaced and toweled the sweat off his face as he trudged up the side of Olympus Mons, the tallest volcano in the Solar System, also conveniently located on Mars. A dry wind kicked up dust just ahead, but his sneakered feet remained clean. He glanced down at the rubber surface beneath them and keyed his mic.
“The resolution is fantastic, Adam, but the depth is slightly off. See if you can improve the parallax. I’ve got a meeting to attend.” He froze the simulation and walked across to a doorway set flush in the wall. “Open,” he commanded, and strode through. Adam looked up from his console and gave him a thumbs up.
“I’ll get right on it, sir!”
“Another thing, Adam. The surface is wrong, somehow. I realize that we can’t do much about it, but I can still feel the slight rise towards the center of the room. What can we do about that?”
Adam shrugged and frowned. “Sir, the technology is spherically based, and you’re only treading on the top. We needed to dig down fifty feet to get the whole sphere installed, and the SLIPS technology needs the rubberized surface. Slippery substances need to grab onto something.”
Topher thought for a moment, then snapped his fingers. “You ever have a beach ball when you were a kid, Adam?”
“You remember what happens when it starts to go flat? How you can push one end into the other, like a double-walled hemisphere?”
Adam’s brow furrowed, then he broke into a huge grin. “A folded sphere! Yes, sir! I think we can make that happen, sir!”
“That’s why they pay me the big bucks, Adam,” Topher punched him lightly on the arm and then turned to Bob, his driver.
Topher grabbed a towel and mopped at the sweat on his brow, then put on his digi-glasses. “Give me the keys, Bob. I’ll take the car myself. Go ahead and take the rest of the afternoon off.”
Bob looked perturbed, but complied, handing him the keys. “Will there be anything more, sir? Shall I check with you after your meeting?”
Topher activated his digi-glasses and murmured “calendar”, then scanned the optically generated image that seemed to float just before his eyes. “Nope, the rest of the day is free for me and, as a result, for you too. Can you get a ride back home?”
Adam raised his hand and Bob nodded. “No worries, sir. Have a safe trip. Where are you going?”
Topher muttered “maps” and the glasses displayed a satellite view. As if from a great height, the picture automatically centered on where he was standing, just inside the lab space of OmniPlanet, his company. “Directions to Mayor’s office,” he muttered and a red line snaked its way from OmniPlanet, across surface streets to the nearest highway, which would take him into downtown Lincoln, Nebraska. Numbers scrolled and traffic densities were highlighted along the route. A single word hung blinking in the air. “Fastest?”
“Confirmed,” Topher mumbled. The map realigned itself, redirecting around the densest traffic. The glowing numbers marking estimated time dropped by seven minutes. “Downtown to the Mayor’s office, Bob,” Topher said in a normal voice. “And I’ve only got half an hour to get there. Later guys!” He waved cheerily and exited the building.
As he walked through the parking lot, he thought back to the events surrounding last week’s eco-activist attack. A group calling themselves the Juvenal had disabled, violently, twenty percent of the world’s ability to extract and deliver oil. This attack had been done with meticulous timing and professionalism, without a single death. Had they killed anybody, Topher grimaced, they would now be labeled terrorists. He pushed a button on the keyfob in his hand and a small nondescript sports car blinked its lights at him. He grinned, thinking that this might very well be the fastest vehicle in all of Lincoln but, to look at it, it didn’t appear to be anything special. Just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill sports car painted a nondescript gray. Sometimes being wealthy had its advantages.
Under the hood was an engine modified to process algae as fuel, and Lincoln, Nebraska was centrally located in one of the most productive agri-business states in the nation. His team were on the verge of bringing their new fuel to market and he was heading off to a meeting with the mayor to propose that all vehicles, public and private, be switched to algae power. In six months he hoped to begin feeding algae-power into the local power grid, as well, rendering oil an obsolete energy source. Sometimes a tragedy was necessary to set good things in motion.
He started the car and called up the news on his glasses. Video winked on in front of him and, when he shifted the car into drive, the sound automatically reset to the internal speakers of the car and the video disappeared. The volume was a bit too loud, but lowered when he mumbled “too loud.” He pulled out of the parking lot and followed the red line superimposed on his windshield, leading him to his meeting.
His mind drifted to the infrastructure necessary, should the Mayor decide to go ahead with Topher’s proposal, to produce the quantity of algae that a city the size of Lincoln would need. It would be fairly easy and cost-effective to convert a few of the local corn crops into algae-producing farms as long as he could convince the city to sign a contract that would keep his product in demand.
As he neared the mayor’s office, Topher was distracted from his mental calculations by a news announcer speaking in some kind of unfamiliar language. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? The announcer went on to explain that this phrase was Latin for, “Who will guard the guards themselves?” Apparently, Juvenal often cited this quote in explanation of the group’s bizarre and sometimes senseless behavior.
As he turned onto Highway 2, heading northwest, Topher heard two quick beeps which interrupted the news report immediately followed by an incoming text message. He accepted the message and let go of the steering wheel as his car automatically shifted into autodrive. The message, marked urgent, was from Topher’s business partner Martin Webster and it appeared to float just in front of him. Topher’s jaw dropped involuntarily as he read the text. Noble Oil had just unveiled an algae-based power station on the outskirts of Omaha, less than an hour’s drive away. Even worse, Noble executives had announced a partnership with the city of Omaha that sounded like a shot-for-shot ripoff of the idea Topher was about to present to the mayor of Lincoln. It would be operational within a few weeks.
His car bucked and began to lose speed. What in the world? He glanced in his rear-view mirror and glimpsed a suspicious-looking black monocycle whose rider wore a bright red helmet. The rider pointed some sort of angular device in his direction. He wondered whether it was a gun but quickly realized it was what had caused his car to stall.
As his car came to a complete stop, the rider rolled up alongside. Just as Topher opened his mouth to inquire what this was all about… blackness.
Topher came to his senses feeling a bit woozy and wondering why his head felt like it had been hit with a rock. His eyes widened as he spotted a gaping hole in the car’s console area. The vehicle’s entire computer was missing, obviously wrenched out in a hurry. In its place lay a rectangular digicard which showed five simple characters in his favorite font. QCIC?
This was bad. For security reasons, the only copy of Topher’s personal and business files automatically followed him around through a personalized network of computers in his home, office, clothes and vehicles. The nearest and most powerful computer within the network automatically took over storage duties as Topher moved from place to place. Most recently, that computer had been located here in his car.
But why would someone want to steal his files? Dumb question. How did they know what his car looked like? It might as well have been painted in camouflage. Who was his unexpected assailant? How did Noble Oil get into the algae fuel game without his knowledge and how could they build a power plant right under his nose without arousing his suspicions?
This was a truly perplexing situation. He needed some time to regroup and a place to think. He felt for his glasses. They were still there. At least the monocyclist wasn’t a complete monster. He speed-dialed his assistant and said with a tired voice, “I need you to arrange for some alternate transportation. Also, will you let the mayor know I’ll be running a little late?” Questions swam in his head as he waited for his ride and he remembered that, sometimes, a tragedy was necessary to set good things in motion.