Another day in the life of John Baxter, CEO of New Worlds Corporation, it was not. Just another day, he thought. To the captain of the largest, richest corporation in North America–and, a good part of the entire world, this was just another bump in the road.

It’s been a good run, thought John as he finished the final polish of his resignation document. The pages flashed across the bluish-grey holographic image above the table-top screen. The executive had grown accustomed to the effortless mental motions he would use to transfer files to and from the chip at the base of his skull to the company’s mainframe, at will. He did appreciate the novelty of an actual, living and breathing assistant more but, the chip worked just fine. It gave him full access to all of NWC’s inner administrative workings. Soon though, the chip would be wiped clean of all classified documentation and access–all except it’s basic programming. Programming that would still provide conveniences like location and information services.

No problem for the CEO though, he would be glad to have that executive weight lifted from him when that time comes.

The screen flashed as the files zipped from one end to the next. It worked more as a visual reference to help him not fully lose the sensation of being connected to his work even though he knew well that the productivity chip made him a lot more connected than anyone could possibly imagine. For the average person that carried one, it was a gateway to information and the link to V-tech. For John, it was much more. It was his brainchild.

New Worlds Corporation had grown into one of most powerful companies in the world, built on the virtual world technology it helped to develop and launch into a platform that became a place for human beings to turn to in these stressful times. It gave them a release, an escape. It kept kids off the streets and crime at an all time low as people merely vented in the virtual world instead of real life–on family members or strangers on the street. People could go anywhere, be anyone, do anything, in worlds that felt as real as they wanted them to be.

It was a big and lucrative business in a world that was falling apart from greed, bad politicians, over-use of resources, escalating pollution and overcrowding in most of the major cities and their outlying areas. The world economy was upside down and the only thing that worked better than drugs and depression medication was V-tech, the NWC virtual world technology nicknamed as such by the younger generation.

NWC also took its V-tech resources, built upon the now 20 year old trans-space technology, headed to the stars and built successful mining stations and outposts. The company then outfitted every space-bound facility with V-tech. It was a good strategy too since no one had seemed to be able to find any planet close to being habitable by humans since space travel was made possible. The only mineable rocks and resources found out there were in hostile environments and on worlds where colonies had to be fully protected from the harsh elements of those worlds or the cold hard, embrace of space. It was just as bad out there as it was here on Mother Earth, maybe worse.

NWC and its V-tech was the world’s drug.

That thought, made John’s stomach twist. He helped grow all of this but greed and corruption in his company was forcing his hand. Board members, internal executives and investors, all had their hands in someone else’s pocket, all owned by someone else.

It was time to go.

John looked up from the transition screen as the last of his documents disappeared into the small virtual holes that looked like doorways to what was the graphical mainframe access point. The halo screen blinked off.

He sat back in his chair and his attention fell upon the image enclosed within a real cedar wood picture frame on his oversized executive desk. The background, her image, immortalized in digitized form. She was beautiful. The moving picture captured her reddish blonde hair, milky skin, green eyes, and just about everything about her but, it was not her and nothing beat the real thing.

He was looking forward to getting this resignation announcement over with so he could go home and see Jessica. He felt as much in love with her as he was when he first met and fell for her.

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“You are amazing,” John said as he held her hand and looked at her from nose to toe, trying not to focus too long on any one part of her nor appear to be groping with his eyes.

Jessica just blushed, smiled and held his hand a little tighter.

“Thanks, you don’t look so bad yourself.”

John looked down at his grey suit, briefly oblivious to the fact that he was wearing one. He was too captivated by his date and quite nervous.

They moved their way into the street-side Bistro on Union Street. It was one of the best places to be at and be seen at in San Francisco on a Saturday evening. Tonight was no exception. The place was packed.

The evening seemed to race by, as there was no shortage of conversation between the pair. Food and drink was good and the noisiness of the restaurant seemed to fade into the background as faint white noise against their own words.

Romance followed and the night finished well for these two young lovers. Sleep came easy only to Jessica as John was immersed in the same dream that had consumed his nights for the last few months.

It would always start the same, his flying along and into darkness that, would open up into a landscape of glowing lines and shadowy mist. The lines and mist would swirl and dance until they struck each other and formed a shape. The shapes would dance and merge and create even larger forms until he was looking at what appeared to be a city, one he had never seen before.

Spires and columns towered above the city’s base and glowing lines danced across every feature. He could see towers, structures that looked like pyramids and strange ships and vehicles that darted between the buildings. All this, and on a world he had never seen. He could never make out the features beyond the city’s limits.

Each consecutive dream seemed to bring him closer into the city and he could make out more detail. Each time, he would be knocked away by a shadowy figure.

He was never able to make out the features of the figure but could always feel its dark, cold, presence. The thing was there but he could not see it. He could hear its breathing, thick, wet and sickly. Its darkness engulfed him.

He would turn away each time, drawn away by a flash from the corner of his gaze. The light came as a luminous blade that cut through black velvet darkness. The blade illuminated an armored hand, then gave way to a forearm, then shoulders, torso and the remainder of its body. It was man nor beast. It was a machine but, it was not lifeless.

John could feel the life force emanating from the metallic body which, looked a lot to him like a large crustacean. Its armor was made up of layered, bluish plates. One hand was more like a large claw. At the end of the claw was a cylinder from which bright purplish energy would erupt from in a piercing beam. Purple light seemed to erupt from the joints between the plates.

From a large tube mounted on its back, erupted eight glowing tentacles, four from each side. The energy burst forward and toward their target–John. Each time this happened and as the tentacles of energy hit him, he awoke. Sweat poured from him and he gasped for air.

“What’s the matter John?” asked Jessica, barely awake.

“Nothing. Just a dream.”

He reached over and kissed her on the forehead.

“Go back to sleep.”

She smiled, grasped his hand tight to her as he put his arm around her and pulled close to her. She closed her eyes again, quite content to go back to sleep.

He kissed her again.

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John looked up from Jessica’s picture, suddenly aware that he was daydreaming and needed to get to the board meeting. This was going to be the end of one chapter and the start of another.

Tomorrow, he will take The Black Venture, the transport vessel Jessica purchased as his retirement present, on its maiden voyage. It will be his first mining transport mission as a free man–free from corporations and board members, that is.

He stroked the purple gem on the antique pendant that hung around his neck. Who would have thought the old lady that gave it to him decades ago, could have been right this whole time? Right, about his life and the world that was ahead. Back then, he thought fortune tellers were crazy people. Now, he just wondered. Who are the crazy ones, really?

Just another day, thought John. How much more exciting could it get? Afterall, he was just John Baxter.