The Last Prefect–Published Short Fiction by Shad Olson
Lord Zucker emerged from the still steaming transport chamber and stepped into his brilliant-white office suite looking smugly refreshed. Instead of virtual golfing with United Global Overlord Ojamba for the 2,411th time, he’d just spent his regular Friday afternoon quatrain in a chat room orgy of “Hot Girls Twerk Island,” an especially rambunctious social reality construct in the LifeSpace network of his own fabulous and fabulously wealthy creation. He was famished and dehydrated and half-deaf, but smiling a smile stolen from Alfred E. Newman at birth and kept out of stubbornness for his sixty-four, life- enhanced years. Age was as irrelevant in the construct as fitness regimen and dietary habit and dental perfection. Everyone was hot, handsome, sexy and fit online. And well-endowed. Male and female alike, he had created them and recreated them and now, recreated with them, in his perfect Boolean garden of earthly delights. And he looked and saw that it was very, very good. The deity-Zucker in the digital Eden of his creation.
“Forever and ever, Amen,” Zucker punctuated.
“Welcome back, Lord Zucker,” the sing-song unison of the Strawberry Twins. Another of his virtual reality creations that habitually followed, welcomed, praised and lavished him over the course of their scripted, animatronic lives. If given ten spare minutes, Zucker realized that he would gladly reprogram them for silence, or at the very least, something less cloyingly annoying than the cotton candy and bubble gum that they perpetually lofted, even with their clothes on. Years ago as an emotionally stunted nerd with a rejection complex and an unfortunate face, he’d required and designed their praise as deliberate antidote for his own insecurities, and lacking self-esteem. But no longer. Since transitioning his global network of collected human profiles from a glorified social yearbook with email to a full-fledged, virtual reality construct and space conservation alternative, Zucker now had his pick of the women of the world.
And pick he did. Blondes, redheads, brunettes and baldies, top and bottom. Asians, Africans, Danes and Profanes. Every woman of every race, size, curvature, endowment and cultural technique could now be accessed at the touch of a motivating switch or the spoken word of the voice activating console. Men, too. As Zucker’s vertebrae, knees and ears could attest, today’s selection had been a dizzying and impossibly acrobatic romp with two Swedes and a double-jointed Icelandic brunette whose only verbal ability it seemed was to cackle like a McCaw and screech like a Howler Monkey when aroused. And screech she had. For two solid hours. Zucker wondered if the humming between his temples would never cease, before his appointment that is. Today was the day.
“If a guy is going to suffer tinnitus, I would guess there are far worse ways, eh, my Strawberry shortcakes,” Zucker said, mostly to himself, but in the direction of his two mussy tufted concubines, each garnished with a ridiculous shock of what looked more like shredded licorice ropes than bright red hair. The carpet matched the drapes.
“Of course, Lord Zucker. Hehehehehehehe.”
Their laughter had the sound of a Mariah Carey whistle-solo on a scratched and skipping track of one of the compact discs of his youth. An outmoded laser-coded invention that had gone the forgotten way of 8-tracks and vinyl albums and cassette tapes, but still came to mind as descriptive analogy, the way memories often do. A reprogram of the twin’s voice modulator was definitely in order. If only it mattered now. He knew that it didn’t. Nothing did.
“Make a note of it, LifeScript,” Zucker spoke anyway, to the always listening, interactive walls of the Lifespace Helper, a global integration SMART system that had become required fixture in every human living space on the planet. Zucker’s system was identical to those of the average undercitizen in all respects, save one. It wasn’t attached to the global network, unless he wanted it to be. And he never had.
Pouring a cocktail of white wine and Bull Roar, an energy concoction rumored to contain the vital essence of an intact bull, Zucker sank into a white velveteen lounge chair for some much earned recuperation from his legendary session. As was his luxury, Lord Zucker never disclosed actual details of his carnal exploits to anyone, despite his own ability to simultaneously watch, monitor, record, consume and eventually visit the virtual lives of his beloved universe of fully uploaded and supplicating humans. The watcher of them all is never watched. Privacy was now and had long been the sacramental caviar and Dom Perignon of the selected ruling class and he enjoyed his own for the spiteful, ironic jab that it was. There was sanguine deliciousness in being the very man that had conned the masses into willingly surrendering any expectation of a private life and volunteering any and all of their personal details and eventually, even their physical bodies and lives to the whims of cyberspace, while still having the reserved ability to conceal his own activities and those of the ruling supers from watchful eyes that had rewarded him for his dutiful service. Assimilation complete. A job well done. Forty-billion people served, uploaded to the server in twenty years time.
Zucker glanced to the far wall above his desk for tangible proof of his contribution. A framed and preserved duplication of the Ojamba Medal of Meritorious Valor, one of seventeen similar duplicates that Zucker had commissioned and deployed throughout his various environs to ensure they were always within sight. Even onboard his six private jets. Some things were worth savoring and remembering, Zucker told himself. Though they’d had their differences, especially of late, his long friendship with Global Overlord Ojamba predated the virtual realm and was a source of great pride and validation for Zucker, who had grown to adulthood still wondering if anything he ever did or said would ever matter to anyone at all.
Being the architect of what had become the preferred, and eventually mandatory, virtual living space of the planet was more than he’d ever hoped for or dreamed. He had solved the propagandized scam-problems of overcrowding and global climate and had made every human’s richest and most gloriously tantalizing physical fantasies come to life at the same time. Seventeen medals wasn’t nearly enough, he smiled to himself. And the women of the world would certainly have agreed. After all, what do you give the man who singlehandedly makes diet and exercise and diet and venereal disease and diet and bouts of boring sex with boring men with boring bodies and disappointing appendages, altogether obsolete? The miracle worker who makes it possible to enjoy both unlimited chocolate and indefinite sexual attractiveness and release without ever worrying about one interfering with the other? What gift can possibly repay?
“You give him yourselves, over and over and over and over again, my young pretties.” Zucker toasted the ceiling with omnipotent madness, thrusting his glass in a ridiculously overstated gesture that slopped Bull Roar and wine onto his Spotted Owl and baby sealskin ottoman. Another sacramental double standard. Just like his indefinite pollution exemption and carbon nullification status and his second favorite immunity of all, his virtual murder punch card, good for 130-dozen, flesh and blood virtual homicides without arrest or prosecution. He still had four dozen left and was saving them for boredom or necessity of purpose, whichever came first. One vice led to the next and the next and the next, sometimes. Life and death without limits and without walls, as the supers so frequently said. So unlike the undercitizens of the construct, who even in the digital confines of the virtual realm, could earn access to the pleasures and necessities of life and even life itself, only through their absolute obedience and ideological conformity to the supers. Even after their enforced upload into the digital construct and the destruction of their mortal shells, pleasure credits and virtual lifespan tokens were awarded based on ideological purity of their political thoughts and the demonstrated depravity of their lustful thoughts, which were juxtaposed into a composite social compatibility score that determined the quality of their virtual lives. Controlling through both subjugation and pleasurable distraction was seen as an evolutionary imperative, to incorporate characteristics into the virtual construct that it was felt would make a more stable and easily managed society. And the hornier the better. Human companionship, existence and qualification reduced to a single number. And for Lord Zucker-Creator, who had maintained dual citizenship inside the virtual construct, while still retaining his organic, physical shell on good old Terra Firma, only the highest-scoring virtual missies needed apply.
“What could be finer than an eight or a niner?” Zucker exclaimed, repeating one of the pieces of information warfare that had been used to wear down public resistance to what had been a primary opposition to the final transition to the virtual construct. People were concerned that the unfettered and libertine dimensions of the fully artificial realm would have very real and very obvious implications regarding certain activities and proclivities. Sex with children would be possible, probable and unstoppable. Zucker himself didn’t go in for that sort of thing and had suggested a programming nuance that would age every assimilated human to the age of adult sexual consent. Eighteen. What followed was a protracted and insouciant outcry and outrage from the supers, who as a population Zucker realized were disproportionately represented among the ranks of those who prefer pedophilia and the debauchery of destroyed innocence to vanilla sex between consenting adults. Grand Overlord Hilda Klarton and her lecherous husband and creepy campaign manager had privately been among the most vocal opponents to the automatic maturity feature. They wouldn’t hear of it, they said. What was the point of having a virtual construct, if their beloved “Pizza Parties,” and “Special Toppings” and trips to Pedophile Island weren’t at least approximated in the rendering of that virtual world? Life would be dull and unfulfilled, ever after, they said. And thousands of the supers agreed. Having the ability to track, catalog and peruse the online tendencies of any human being that became ensnared in his social networking webwork, none of their deviances or individual peccadilloes came as a surprise. But it was the boldness of it. The shameless and dauntless boldness of their need of that sort of vampirism of the soul that had been a true elucidative moment for Zucker. But what then do you say to the woman willing to kill, dismember and bury dozens of living, breathing people and indeed, lay waste to the democratic will of an entire nation in her unstoppable pursuit of the Presidency of the United States?
“The last President and Empress of Atlantia, Miss Hilda Klarton, may Lucifer rest her ugly soul,” Zucker said, becoming drunker with each solitary toast in the now darkening surrounds of his suite. Hilda had been there and had been the driving force all those years ago, as the last real threat to their hegemony of plan and purpose had been turned aside, just a few years before global consolidation under Overlord Ojamba. A man by the name of Trumpkin had waged a populist campaign in the last free election in Zucker’s own former and very unruly United States, winning that historic and improbable election against then- Lady Klarton, who was, even then, a perpetually miserable battle axe of a candidate who suffered from innumerable physical ills and was a mental incompetent and sexual deviant besides, with a penchant for embarrassingly awkward attempts at secrecy and intrigue that invariably blew up in her haggard face. As Zucker remembered and had bravely assisted, every advantage had been borrowed and stolen for Hilda’s demanded run for office and still it had not been enough.
In the crude beginnings of his LifeSpace platform, Zucker had hidden and censored and buried negative press reports about Klarton all of which were true, while placing every shred of sensationalized Trumpkin scandal and falsified character dross front and center for every user. On the television, controlled networks did same, blasting anti-Trumpkin thought messages and Hilda- approved news scripts from every outlet in a psychological deluge it was believed would greatly minimize the need for election fraud that the leftist supers always employed to ensure victory.
Thanks to mountains of false polling data showing that she had an insurmountable lead, she would only have to steal a few million votes to gain election, it was said. But none of it had been enough for the miserable old crone. The unbearable witch had still managed to lose the campaign outright, forcing the supers to convene an especially extraordinary effort of stealing the election result by way of the antiquated Electoral College, unseating President- elect Trumpkin just a few days before he had opportunity to take office and begin revealing and dismantling the full extent of their global plan. In that same year, a conspicuous wave of celebrity deaths and suicides and disappearances threatened to disclose the Final Objective before it was even perfected and unveiled to the public. A disproportionate number of voluntary preemptive uploads by rock stars and movie stars and famed authors left their publicists and the blessed illuminati minions scrambling to cover their tracks with stories of illnesses and heart attacks and plane crashes as has-been members of A-list royalty decided it preferable to live eternally in the digitally preserved and reconstructed era of their cultural zenith, rather than fading gracefully into whatever awaited them beyond the uncertainty and moderation of middle age.
The odd confluence in celebrity demise reached a ridiculous apex when a diminutive purple rock legend, an Oklahoma rockabilly genius and an androgynous British glam-rocker self-uploaded within days of one another, leaving behind a talent void that was so noticeable that it overtook conversations on LifeSpace and spurred conspiratorial questions that blossomed into full-blown investigations by members of the uncontrolled media. A journalist from Nebraska and a radio host and blogger from Texas had to be snuffed out just to keep the true nature of the project from coming to light a full decade ahead of schedule.
The year 2016 was at once, the greatest triumph and the great crisis moment of the antihuman movement, Zucker recalled. Lords Brzezinskow and Kissinler and Gorbachez and Ladies Ope-Ra and Pelosski had called Zucker in succession, treating him to ranting tirades of blame and ignominy, asking why he had allowed unsanctioned outlets of journalism to dig so deeply into the plans of the construct and even more glaringly, to trumpet the shortcomings and political reality of Hilda Klarton across the LifeSpace, as if any of it could have stayed hidden from anyone. Zucker had endured their unpleasantness as best as might be expected of the richest man in the world and had promptly complied, allowing an old woman and her cat to become chief arbiters of what was approved and true thought and what should be termed, “Fake News,” and censored out of existence.
“Good old Mrs. Snoppies,” Zucker toasted again, remembering what had become one of the most unlikely and ridiculous examples of manufactured credibility and self-appointed authority in political history.
“An old cat lady, the designated and blessed oracle of truth and deception for all of the virtual construct. Ridiculous and ridiculously effective.”
“Lord Zucker. One hour until final upload. One hour until final upload.”
The audio link switched off, leaving Zucker again in the silent solitude of his highly priced executive flat. He’d been given triple the normal 500 square feet of livable space as further evidencing of his preeminence and importance to the cleansing and salvation of the planet from the human scourge. One last hour to recount the memories of his earthly distinction and to ponder at the final goodbye that he’d always known would come. Holding his third or fourth wine and Bull Roar spritzer in a sweating right hand, Zucker rose from his repose and walked to the sliding glass door on the 483rd floor of the LifeSpace executive monolith. He looked out over the barren moonscape of a collapsed desert waste that had once been Cupertino, California. He could see the abandoned freeways with their cracked pavement and vegetative overgrowth, like the clogging arteries of an aging body, now devoid of blood. There were no cars and no people and in the final gathering twilight of the day, empty buildings and empty windows, without a single light. A metropolis of human innovation and consumption and excess that had served as the infant cradle for the advent of artificial intelligence, now abandoned, empty and quiet as a museum to the death of human knowledge and the species of men.
As a young man, Zucker remembered the vitality and rushed euphoria of their brilliance and hubris. Intoxicated in the silicon moments of discovery that enabled first baby steps and then running leaps of the digital experience, until finally, all the nuance and personalized sensation of any human life could be contained in a few hundred terabytes of digital code on a single diamond chip. The Master Chip, they had called it. The formula for final assimilation had been simple and inescapably direct. Under Hilda Klarton’s famous Directive 21 and at the behest of Supreme Overlord Ojamba, all undercitizens whose carbon footprint exceeded their annual income were slated for the first wave of immediate transferal to the virtual construct. Subsequent waves were of thought dissidents and the mentally and physically infirm, against their consent.
And finally, the general population, suitably sold on the genius of the solution to all of mankind’s imperfections and unhappiness and scarcity of resource. With the persistence of bombarded sleep messaging over smart phones and pocket computer devices already in saturation, convincing humans to trade their carbon-based earth bodies for the perfection of their virtual selves had been shockingly simple. After years of convincing both men and women that their bodies were flawed and ugly and in need of constant alteration, repair, surgical enhancement, supplementation and genetic revision, convincing them to forego the endless hassles of maintaining a carbon shell was nothing more than the logical last step of an image- obsessed human culture. Suicides halted altogether as the overweight and underdeveloped and unattractive and lonely became the first of the desperate and voluntary customers.
Even the nature of the newest programming technology lent itself perfectly to the grand deception of the age. Diamond microchips, artificially composed of the steam- compressed carbon ashes of the dearly departed and cremated were used to house the personality, memories and consciousness of each new upload, carefully inserted into waiting notches in the master mainframe, the solar-fusion powered monstrosity occupying two-hundred and thirty stories of space directly beneath Lord Zucker’s palatial abode.
“Become a forever diamond.” The marketing slogan had implored, with help from Zales, Jared’s, DeBeers and the dozen or so best known marketers of precious stones that had gone nearly bankrupt as the increasingly outmoded practices of monogamy and marriage took their toll.
“Find your shining place in the starry sky of A.I.” Those old-fashioned couples who clung bitterly to the primitive notion of mating for life, used the occasion of a double upload to cement their partnership for all time and eternity, ensuring they would indeed inhabit the same plane of the virtual construct for uninterrupted eons, without death to even part them. Romantic rubbish to be sure, but it had worked like a charm. With seven wives and seven divorces to his credit, including three of the five most expensive in history, Zucker found that particular prospect one of the more terrifying to be contemplated. Being incarcerated, digitally or otherwise, with any of his ex-wives would have left him looking for some backdoor hacker’s trick to remove his own microchip from the motherboard and blink out of existence voluntarily. Goodbye, cruel, cruel construct. Or maybe, something better. Maybe a death befitting the creator, himself.
“Lord Zucker. Ten minutes to final upload. Ten minutes to final upload.”
The LifeSpace anointed talky again, filling his ears with the imperative and impending approach of his own assimilation, diamond crematory microchip and all. The last of all the last and final goodbyes in a now completed singularity of an erased humanity. All of the rushing millennia of creation and ascension put to rest in the past twenty years. And now, just time for one last cocktail. The Google-Uber enforcer-bots would be here soon enough to escort him to the upload portal. He hoped he could make the journey with dignity. His mind still floating with the flotsam of the timeline that bore his inexorable John Hancock right across the bottom line, Zucker walked to his liquor cabinet. He removed a few small bottles of clear liquor from the bottom row and then almost as afterthought, a smaller grayish vial filled with some unidentifiable silver-gray goo. In a crystalline tumbler, Lord Zucker, encoder and swallower of a human race, emptied two minibar bottles of vodka before opening and adding the gray metallic liquid to his glass. He stirred the mercurial globs absently with two cubes of nitro-genic ice and his fingers before draining the thermometer-tinsel- slurry down his gullet. It tasted of old pennies and carried the faint electrical tingle of touching one’s tongue to the terminals of a small battery. Within a minute, his spastic and trembling body gave way as he careened to the floor of his executive suite, in haphazard, twitching repose.
“Ohmigosssh, Lord Zucker!!”
“What happened, Lord Zucker?”
“What happened, Lord Zucker?”
“Are you alright, Lord Zucker?”
“Can we help you, Lord Zucker?”
“Do you require assistance, Lord Zucker?”
At precisely 9:14 P.M. Global Pacific Time, 21 June, Year 2046, exactly seven minutes after Lord Zucker’s still cooling diamond chip was robotically delivered to the blinking and endless menagerie of the LifeSpace server facility. And exactly three minutes after said chip was snapped deftly into the waiting and designated port of the LifeSpace server unit. And exactly 27-picoseconds after powered chip gave living birth to a roiling, teeming litter of the newly minted and nano-sized masters of the planet, any human eye yet remaining at suitably safe distance would have glimpsed on the horizon a joining of earth and sea to sky in a blinding column of orange and then dimming light. Seconds later, like a poppy flower bursting forth generations and fields of new life, the silver-gray spores and seeds of the nanobot-Zuckerites danced and wafted in the traveling metallic breezes of a new earth, scattered and settled and planted in the fading and final sunset of a swiftly passing age.
**An original work of short fiction by Shad Olson, excerpted from his short story collection, “Tales From the Red Rooster Cafe,” available at Barnes & Noble, select booksellers and at Amazon.com