Excerpts From Lee Baldwin’s 2015 Novel: Halcyon Dreamworlds
~ enslaved by the future of desire ~
<< SCENE: Logan sits at her computer, looking at her rapturous avatar, Yuri, in the lavish scene... >>
Logan has sweated over every detail of lighting, the right props and sensual poses to make Yuri’s island of light elegant and perfect. Looking at her dream self in the lavish setting, she wonders how warm would flow that water on her skin, what scents would ride this misted night. What if she could touch another avatar, and feel touched? She trembles with impossible longings.
Yuri, completely aloof from Logan’s computer fiddling, reclines nude yet demure in a roomy hot tub, her modesty preserved in bubbles. Her blonde head turns as someone enters; an alert panel announces a visitor.
SincerelySatan has joined the World
“Hey, dude. Welcome to Feminine Insanity.”
“’Sup, girl. It’s David.”
The sound of his voice, low and gravelly, gets her at waist level. This stranger saying girl in her dreamlike place feels maddening hot. Something dark within her wakes. Then she notices his walk. This studly avatar does not hop from one pose dot to the next as others do; he slinks toward the hot tub with animal swagger. In the dimness, SincerelySatan’s green eyes gleam and the wicked edge of a smile forms. Logan doesn’t mind that her avatar is nude in the tub, bubbles rule. In this nighttime world with its golden moonlight, steamy atmosphere and floating dance pavilion, Yuri spends many evenings in unclothed feminine company.
The male avatar sniffs the air, peering into the night. “Something wild in here.” A deep, pleased laugh.
When his eyes fall on her Yuri shivers, deliciously. For the first time she notices his face. Impossibly handsome, dark, European, as though da Vinci himself had perfected the male countenance. Behind expressionless lips, Yuri’s teeth clench. This dude is hyper-real and unreasonably hot.
“How you doing, Satan?”
“Doin’ great, how about you?”
SincerelySatan, in jeans but bare-chested to reveal his tribal tattoos, lowers himself into the hot tub across from Yuri. It makes Logan smile. She’s quite sure, if Yuri had been in a couples pose, he would have crash-landed on top of her. But she catches herself. Wait. If he doesn’t need the pose dots, he could swim over here and grab me!
She keeps her voice even. “By the way, have we met?”
Alone in his private Dreamworlds alcove, his business day forgotten, David Verkrag snarls at the blonde sex-drop on his wide screen. The bitch doesn’t remember their wild encounter.
– – –
<< SCENE: CEO David Verkrag for Halcyon Dreamworlds in a face-off with Richard Lyon, member of the Halcyon Board. Stealth hacker Nathaniel Craig gets into the mix. >>
Lyon straightens to his full height. “All right, David. I meant this as a friendly visit, but in view of your attitude, I’ll leave you with this. The board is empowered to depose you and confiscate all your work if it means corporate survival. It’s in your takeover documents. The board meets next Monday. You’ll be facing a no-confidence vote.”
When the door closes at Lyon’s back, Verkrag allows one measured blink, as though to press a mental reset button.
To Nathaniel Verkrag says, “I need a few minutes before your demo.” His gaze veers to the velvet curtain that conceals his Dreamworlds alcove. “Show her the gallery first. I’ll buzz you.”
“Standard newbie intro?”
“Correct. Take her through a Threshold session. And give her the training package for primary Arabic. You have some Arabic, don’t you? Chat with her in Arabic, before she forgets how. And do something to calm Lyon down.”
The man turns away. Even before Nathaniel reaches the gallery doors, Verkrag disappears into his curtained sanctum.
When Nathaniel strides from the elevator on the main floor, he nearly collides with Lyon.
“Thought we could talk,” Lyon says, keeping pace through the glass doors out front. Stepping among uniformed and armed valets beneath the awning, Nathaniel eyes the bedraggled free-speech-zone protestors massed across the parkway, held in check by Verkrag’s armored security detail. Lyon moves away from the canopied entrance until Nathaniel stops him.
Lyon whirls. “How in hell did you get my allegiance program away from me? You must have done something underhanded.” The shorter man’s stance conjures a street fighter.
Nathaniel offers a face of unruffled innocence. “Richard, that was entirely Verkrag’s decision.”
“When did this happen?”
“I’ve been on it a few weeks.”
“It’s been my program for two years!” Lyon practically sputters. “What are you doing?”
“I’ve subsumed player allegiance beneath user experience.”
“How completely daft! Players like new features and special offers, not touchy-feely crap.”
Nathaniel shakes his head. “When we update you board members on Threshold, you’ll have another opinion.”
Lyon snorts, eyes boring into Nathaniel’s. “And what about our metrics? We’re seeing addiction-like behavior in minor segments.”
Nathaniel raises a hard palm. “Never say addiction, Richard. Verkrag’s lawyers will sue over that word. It’s allegiance.”
“Fine,” Lyon sneers. “But give me something I can use.”
“I can do that,” Nathaniel says, “if you hold off your challenge.”
“What’s in it for me?”
“Keep the board off our backs for three weeks. We’ll toast you at the launch party.”
Lyon and Nathaniel on that city sidewalk lock gazes, each staring fixedly at the other. Everything slows, the dark limousines, scraps of paper whirled on the breeze. If Nathaniel has the look of a man who knows what he’s talking about, it’s because he made the kids in Engineering dig in, those useful nuisances who think they’re life hackers but are only self-important teenagers who can code. Nathaniel and one war vet programmer had socialized those spoiled egos and guided them to construct a nirvana machine.
Lyon breaks first. “What’s he doing?”
Nathaniel compresses his lips, deciding. “Alright. Meet me in ninety minutes. Serendipity, East 60th. Come quiet and come alone.” He turns for the building’s entryway.
“Threshold, then what?” Lyon shouts at his back.
Nathaniel swings around, steps in close. No one must hear. “Richard, it’s not about what we can make people buy. This is about the death of privacy.”
– – –