Project Argus

5

Black marble tiles, stony silverish concrete walls accompanied with centralized heating vents—grand, rectangular glass table garnished with jet-black leather swivel seats. On them: suits, blazers, shirts and ties—all sporting their shimmering deep diamond blacks. Nondescript laptops, tablets and phones cowering atop the greenish glass.

Enter a young man, chin up, shoulders wide, chest out—draped in full black suit, just like everybody else. Brown leather attache case on his right grip. Stubbly sharp jaw, eyes glamoring ocean blue with a gaze screaming “Hello, ladies!”. As he slammed the attache case on the fragile glass top, the conference room fell into a dead silence.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank you all for attending the meeting on this fine afternoon. I have a little something from the R&D department that would surely… pique your interest. However, before I begin, I would like to tell a brief history.”

He reached into his breast pocket for the presenter; the projector was already connected to his online presentation file. “In the past century, the number of supernatural entities has grown exponentially. Research suggests that this was either a natural order of things, or that we were just getting better at looking into the anomalous.” He clicked on the presenter and showed an image on what seemed to be a multi-story octopedal entity.

“Our brethren over at the RPC Authority was formed specifically to contain these entities and maintain the order of society but of course, I’m very sure you already know this.” He clicked on the presenter once again and showed a video of a containment attempt of various RPC objects.

“These entities are—obviously—a clear and present danger. It is their duty to protect the general public from these anomalies. However, it is our duty to find new and effective ways to contain and maybe, just maybe, combat these anomalies” As the video ends, a schematic of a heavy-water nuclear reactor appeared on the screen.

“Take the nuclear reactor for example. Specifically, nuclear heavy-water fission reactors. First observed in nature—or should I say, supernature? In 1899, only to be thought up and patented in 1933 by Leó Szilárd. However, with a little bit of data and cooperation, we were able to boost the nuclear reactor technology by fifty years and we’re able to build the world’s first nuclear reactor as early as 1942. This reactor later became the Chicago Pile-1 and it helped immensely in providing power to RPCA’s containment sites. What I’m going with this, gentlemen, is that Nucorp Industries have an important role in protecting this world, just like the RPC Authority.”

A voice emerged from the back of the room, interrupting his speech. “See, that’s all great story and all but… What in the blue hell does all that have to do with your little R&D project, son?”

He grinned, from cheek to cheek. “I’m glad you asked, Chairman Anderson.”

He pulled out a tablet from his attache case and connected it to the projector screen. “I want you to meet… Argus.”

A black circle on white background slipped into the screen. “Argus is our next generation of threat analysis A.I., specially designed to monitor any and all threats regarding the anomalous, including the agencies assigned to contain them. It uses data from news outlets, social media and even internal company personnel files—bank records, emails and everything else. With this, we can pinpoint the location of a potential anomaly anywhere in the world, deduce the riskiest anomaly to contain, reduce the human error factor with many, many more features to be developed in the coming years. At its current state, we can already analyze events of the entire world… but we’d only get the results in three weeks. So obviously, not as useful. That is why I’m putting forward a funding request for Argus’ computing servers and memory modules.”

The same man who interrupted him earlier spoke out his mind once again. “I’m sorry, what I’m getting is, you want to spy on the entire world just to… what, find anomalies? That sounds dangerously Orwellian; are you sure the Director approved of all this?”

“Oh now? No, this is just a prototype; he’d be notified once the funding is approved.”

“And how does it work, anyhow? A program designed to spy on the entire world can’t possibly run on even the best supercomputers?” A woman across from Chairman Anderson asked.

“That… is an excellent question.” His grin faded. “We realize that mere zeroes and ones are not enough to detect all the anomalies in the world—not even quantum computing would achieve the desired results. So, we incorporated a logic-based anomaly program—courtesy of our friends over at the RPC Authority—to… ‘mate’ a neurological pathway of a human subject into the algorithm. In short, we incorporated the way someone thinks, in this case, Nathan Keller… into Argus.”

“Nathan Keller? I’ve never heard of that name. Is he one of your test subjects?” The woman asked once again.

His already-faded grin fell into an obscure frown… and he sighed. “Oh no. No, he’s not with us. Nathan Keller… is a Sierra-8 Investigator; one of Authority’s elite MST units, comprised of the best detectives in the world. Our friend Keller here, is their top performer. He is… The man above men, if I would say. Of course, he was until his wife and daughter left early for heaven and now… he’s a drunken mess.” He said, slowly turning his body towards the projector while caressing his neck.

Chairman Anderson chuckled. “Sounds like you have something against him. How’d you get his… ‘brain data’, anyhow?”

“Oh no, I have nothing against him—nothing at all. It’s quite the contrary; I admire him… His will, his integrity… And, his mind, obviously.” He briefly paused for a second and took a deep breath. “We got his physical performance evaluation when he was selected for the Novusbellum Program. The supervisor insisted on assessing the candidates’ brain activity for future references, I assure you, we acquired the data legally. With Argus, we can make a thousand Nathan Kellers, minus the mental problems… But enough about him, what do you say, ladies and gentlemen?”

The crowd murmured to each other, some even gesturing to the others to drop the vote. Not long, Chairman Klaasenberg, the one closest to him, stood up. “I admit, this is a great program, might even be a breakthrough but… we just don’t have the funds; the development of the Mayfly EW Aircraft had already set us back a hundred million dollars. I’m sorry but… I vote no.”

“Chairman Klaasenberg have a good point. I vote no.” Chairman Tam dropped the vote, on by one until the whole room reached a unanimous vote.

The Presenter chuckled. “I’m sorry, I forgot to show a demonstration. Please, hold your votes for the time being.” He operated Argus from the tablet, inputting several data for the demonstration. “I will now input our personal company records… and send them to be processed at Argus’ central computing farm.”

Not long, Argus’ logo on the projector screen started reflecting soundwaves, a feminine robotic voice emerged from the speakers. “Chairman Malcolm Fischer, transferred a sum of 300,000 dollars from the company’s employee pension budget into an offshore account to one: Sebastián Faustino Franco—a known alias to one: Pablo Escobar. Imminent danger, terminate immediately. Chairman Debora Baumgartner…”

As Argus mentioned every single sin ever committed in the conference room, chaos ensued among the board. The Presenter just stood there with a smile on his face, pressed tightly against his teeth, watching the fire.

When he decided it was enough, he deactivated Argus and demanded everybody’s attention. “Well, that surely doesn’t look good. Perhaps I could be… ‘persuaded’ into reconfiguring Argus…”

“Look, how much do you want? We’ll give you whatever the amount you need.” Chairman Anderson negotiated.

“Well, let’s see… I’d need full autonomy on the project with a full crew—my personal picks, of course. And… let’s say, ten million dollars to kickstart the development? I’ll also throw in the bonus of keeping today’s events strictly… hush-hush.” He said, with a cheek-ripping grin.

“Alright. That’s a deal. We’ll sign the funding contracts immediately.”

He bowed down, arms wide across—grin still holding up tight. “Well, this has been a progressive afternoon. I assure you, this is a decision you will not regret.”

The Presenter turned his back on the Board, trying to hide his giddy excitement, pretending that he didn’t just threw a corporate equivalent of a frag grenade to the middle of the room. He looked at Argus’ logo projected on the screen, admiring its beauty—fantasizing everything he can do with it. “You and I will create great, big things, my own all-seeing eye.” He whispered to himself.

He turned back around with his grin still holding up, facing the Board who still had terror on their faces. “Now, shall we talk investment?”

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