“Gentlemen,” said Pearson. Dennison knew how much his old friend loved to greet them all with “gentlemen” when they came into his office but today was different. This was a discovery of monumental importance and it had exactly zero to do with Pearson, besides him being now the patent holder and largest stakeholder in the company that produced what had up to this point only been rumoured to exist. “Gentlemen,” connoted a kind of condescension to people he may consider on paper to be equals, but were under his wing somehow, and they all knew what inferiors they were at this point to Pearson, what grovelling lay ahead for them.
Everyone gravitated to the large model city in the centre of the room. They had seen many like them, but this one was spectacularly detailed, if monotone.
“Impressive,” said Stewart Macomb, folding his arms.
Christian Whitehall rediscovered the liquor cabinet and poured a drink at his leisure before strolling over.
Pearson watched the men admire the model city, and withheld laughing at their growing perplexity.
“I assume there’s more to this,” Whitehall said. “This is just a model city, and not a great one can I say—there’s no colour, just grey plastic, I was under the impression there’d be something worth seeing all the way up here.”
Dennison was way ahead of them. In a recess below the table the headsets were kept, he pulled one out, inspecting it, and Pearson winked. The men followed suit, turning them around in their hands, peering as through new spectacles through the eyepieces.
“My nephew has one of these,” said Goodman.
“Put them on,” Pearson said. The men looked with incredulity or maybe nervousness around at each other, each not wanting to be the fool, then complied.
Dennison hemmed his approval. The featureless grey architect’s model was now alive. Steel and glass shone on a million different surfaces; people walked through the CBD, stopped at the lights, chit-chatted inside the coffee houses and around the subway entrances. Cars of every make and model busied the roads, the overpasses, intersections and surrounding suburbs.
“What in the name of God,” Whitehall intoned. Pearson watched his friends with pleasure as they moved around the city, leaning as far as they dared into the faces of the minuscule inhabitants.
“I don’t believe it,” Macomb said.
“Believe it, gentlemen,” Pearson said, taking Whitehall’s bourbon from his hand before it spilled. “This is the result of decades of a AI work and psychological analysis. Every intelligence bureau, security contractor, market analyst and advertiser is going to want to fork out for this.”
“Are they…are they real? What am I looking at?” said Whitehall.
“Simulations,” Dennison said, taking off his headset. “Correct?”
“Correct,” said Pearson. “This is merely the front end for a massive computer terminal located underground in Switzerland, the user-friendly representation of a big number cruncher, for plebs like us. Sexy, isn’t it? The data going in is unfathomable. The data coming out, on the other hand…” He took a step back. “Apollo, show them what we know so far.”
The men jumped back, confronted by some ballooning graphic that made them afraid. Pearson strolled to the computer monitor at the head of the table.
“Stock market stats, elections, opinion polls, protests, fashion trends, even mass shootings…all ahead of time. With the data we have right now, we can predict with accuracy what will happen twenty years into the future.”
Dennison looked up. “And what will happen twenty years in the future?”
“Complete societal collapse,” said Pearson, smiling. “The beginning of something great, gory, and extremely lucrative.”