The Blockbuster Experiments

Working steadfast into the night, Professor Friday hunched over an ornate lab table riddled with devices. His lab coat was stained with butter and salt from his weekly binges after hours. Glasses hung from his neck while he watched a thin strand of black fiber weave itself into a bigger band. A computer printer fed a near-endless stream of paper with zeros and ones to the white laminate tile floor below.

“That's right... That's it... You just keep spinning my thread little one. You have no idea how important you will be to the future of humanity!”

He cackled lightly to himself as he sat hunched over the table. A knocking on the full pane window behind startled him and he sat up straight. Looking behind him, a red haired boy about fourteen was waving a movie in the air.

“Hey, since you're here can I return this now so I don't get the late fee?”

Mike instantly put his glasses up on his face and blushed. Nodding, he pointed towards the main door of the video store he owned. He had simply hoped that no one caught him turning it into a lab at night.

Opening the door for the boy, Mike grabbed the VCR tape from him and looked at the rental code on it.

“Ah, yes, Total Recall. I'll be sure to put a note on this one. Thanks for bringing it back.”

Mike and the boy stood there awkwardly for a moment, until finally the boy spoke up.

“So what were you doing in here?” he glared over at the counter's plethora of strange instruments. “You own the place I'm assuming?”

Mike cocked an eyebrow and opened the door a bit for him.

“What are you kid, a cop? Yeah I own the place.” motioning inside the store If you really wanna know I'll show ya. You like movies I take it?”

Straightening his light brown and balding hair, Mike cleared his throat. He had been itching to tell someone about his experiment. Goodness knows his ex-wife isn't going to give a hoot.

The boy seemed reluctant to enter the corner blockbuster store at eleven-thirty at night with a strange man. Despite what was likely his better judgment, he entered the store. It reeked of popcorn and fresh printer paper. Mike walked him over to the counter and opened the small door for employees only. Beckoning him over, the boy walked over to the black thread weaving back and forth.

His jaw was dropping at how quickly the thread was being so precisely woven.

“Beautiful isn't it?”

Mike smirked as the boy looked up in wonder at him.

“Wow! My Mom would love one of these! She always talks about how it'd be so much cheaper if she could weave her own fabric and-”

Placing a hand lightly on the boy's shoulder, Mike chuckled.

“No no, kid. You don't understand. This isn't your typical fabric. It's a DNA storage fabric!”

The boy hit him in the leg lightly.

“Don't touch me!” Mike immediately withdrew his hand and cleared his throat.

“Sorry, didn't mean anything by it. Anyway, this fabric has every movie ever made recorded into the very DNA of the fabric! Right now it's weaving the tape I'll need to put it inside a special VCR and I can watch every movie ever made!”

He looked at the weaving with a renewed curiosity. It clearly intrigued him.

“Whooooaaahhh....”

Mike looked at his watch and realized he should probably get the boy home. He likely was sent on a short run to drop it off to avoid the fee.

“Neat huh? Listen, you should probably get going. I don't imagine your parents want you out for too long this time of night huh?”

The boy's face grew grim with fear.

“Crap! My Mom is gonna be pissed!”

Mike watched as the boy started for the door, and shouted to offer another idea.

“Hey hold on buddy! I can walk ya home and just explain we got caught up with you insisting on the fee being waived. It'll earn you brownie points trust me.”

The boy stopped and thought for a moment.

“Well, then I wouldn't have to run twelve blocks...”

Mike was amazed his parents let him walk that this far this late. He may not be in downtown proper, but he's close enough. Especially with all of the Condiment Killer commotion at the Unleaded Zeppelin across the street.

“That just tells me I should be walking you home. Cmon, this'll be fine by itself.”

Tossing off his lab coat on the counter, he locked up the store behind him. The night was warm in the late summer, if a bit muggy. Still, he was glad at least the weather wasn't a danger to the boy. Now it was just getting through the city without the very wrong person around.

They walked in relative quiet the first five blocks, until the boy finally opened up to him.

“So, you're telling me once that thing is finished and a full tape, you can just pick which movie you want to watch?”

Mike nodded with a smile.

“That's right. It's amazing what technology can do kid.”

Their steps echoed in the quiet night as they passed beneath the street lights. Small apartments and a couple houses between them, he led them to a small older house in the nicer neighborhood.

“So, what are you going to do when they make new movies?” asked the boy as he went to put his hand on the door.

“I guess I'll just make new tapes. New editions with each genre on them. They'll be huge kid I'm telling ya!”

Opening the door, the boy shouted to his Mom that he was home. Mike heard her begin to yell at him for taking so long, until she walked up to the door and saw Mike standing there.

“Hi, ma'am. I own the Blockbuster, my name is Mike Friday. I wanted to walk him home to make sure he got here safe.”

The sounds of sirens began blaring and she looked up in fear. Turning his head around, a massive stack of black smoke billowed into the sky amid a bright orange glow. A building close by was burning. At that moment Mike remembered a critical piece of information he had forgotten before leaving the store.

He had originally been making another batch of popcorn in the maker upstairs while he checked on his VCR experiment.

“No! No No no!” he shouted at the top of his lungs.

Mike ran the full twelve blocks faster than he ever thought he could. As he approached the main street where his store lay, he knew by then it was already too late. The whole store and building was up in flames, including the apartments next to his shop. A crowd of people stood on the opposite street, most of them in their pajamas.

He was thankful to see that at least it appeared his neighbors made it out of the building. Sadly, the building was ablaze in a way he'd never seen before. It burned so bright and hot it was almost taunting him. Somewhere in his heart he knew this was his fault.

Not only had he managed to burn down his home and all of his neighbor's homes, he also burned the only device capable of creating the DNA thread that took his entire retirement fund to specially fabricate. That device was the reason he now lived above a Blockbuster while managing it.

“Well... Crap.” was all he could manage to say as his heart broke in two.

So Much Knowledge, So Little Intelligence

Words zipped past Reg's view in his augmented reality as he read an eBook in class. He'd managed to program in his reading speed which allowed him to speed read through just about any book.

“Reggie, are you paying attention?”

Miss Hooper, a tall blonde woman who looks about ready for a mid-life crisis by wearing jeans and a really tacky turtle neck sweater to a high school. Reg turned off his book feed of Advanced Survival Techniques: Deserts and cocked an eyebrow.

“Yeah, I guess so.” sighed Reg. Last time he spoke his mind it ended up making him look like an idiot in front of his entire class.

Miss Hooper smiled dryly and turned back to the LED screen wall she was delicately writing on with a stylus. A lesson plan on beginning Calculus. Reg rolled his eyes and thought “Already read two books on Calculus, and even theoretical physics”.

Bored after a moment with the lesson plan, he straightened himself in his classroom integration chair. All he'd have to do to learn anything he wanted to know was use his neural up-link to sync with the school's galactic internet connection, key in a couple search terms, and upload the information to his brain.

Hell he could learn to be a five star chef in under a week if he really wanted to be. Reading was just something to keep occupied while he had to be forced to dredge himself to school every day. Most days he doesn't even learn anything from the classes.

“You're not actually paying attention, are you Reggie?”

Putting his hands on his temple, his frustration showed. Reg had always been ahead of the curve but for some reason the adults who were somehow in charge of him felt the need to drag him slowly through this muck of social awkwardness.

He could have taken an apprenticeship for building matter manipulators, but no. This washed up old hag wants to teach him about something he's known about since twelve.

“I'm sorry Miss Hooper but I'm not. I can't. Everything you're covering was in two lesson plans I uploaded already, and I've even read two books on Calculus, and another on theoretical physics. I'm racking my brain trying to figure out why you won't let me skip high school altogether. Hell, what's the point of it at all?”

Looking around the room, he realized he was one of three kids sitting a room of twenty CIC's. One girl sat with her eyes glued to the floor, while the other was a boy who looked like he was filling out a worksheet on his augmented reality by waving his hand in the air as if to write out the problem.

Miss Hooper stood up straight and sighed. Shaking her head, she put her hand on Reg's black hair and ruffled it.

“There is a point of you being here Reggie. No one doubts that you can learn whatever you want. You're here because you refuse to apply that knowledge in any functional manner.”

Reg held his breath a moment and tried to hold back the anger within him. There were so many holes in her argument he had to try not to laugh. It wasn't hard.

“Apply the knowledge? How am I applying knowledge by repeating problems over and over again just so you can say I know how to apply it? I never asked for your opinion of my ability, now did I?”

Miss Hooper pushed down on his head and really ruffled his hair.

“You have no idea what life is like. We put you here because we've seen more life than you, and we know what you'll need to be a functional part of society.”

Reg had heard enough. Grabbing his brown messenger bag, he swatted her hand away from his head and stood up. Without a word, he made his way out of the room.

“Where are you going?! Class is not dismissed mister!”

Placing the strap over his shoulder, he stuck his hands in his white cotton hoodie and stormed out. Automatic doors beeped over and over as he passed. A clean white hallway with small black square projectors jutting out from the walls. Classroom numbers with information on class currently in session appeared next to the doors on his augmented reality feed.

“Reginald Bower you get back here this instant!”

A scowl washed over Reg's face. He'd had just about enough of adults telling him what to do. Loading the school's main server hub, he bypassed the firewall and installed a small virus file to the school's speaker system. Immediately the lights dimmed and the halls filled with a slow and somber violin solo. Turning back to Miss Hooper, she looked at him in surprise.

Reg whipped around and walked backwards, mocking her by pretending to play the world's smallest violin. Her slender face filled with rage as she stormed back into the classroom. Laughing and righting himself, turned back around to head towards the elevator. As he reached the end of the hall where he would make his descent he pulled up a feed of the school's suborbital camera.

Every week he had to take a shuttle out of the atmosphere to take classes on the Glasgow Federation Space Station. Staying there Monday through Friday was as awful as it sounds. At least on the weekends he could explore worlds with his virtual reality.

Titan IV had the most beautiful jungles. Thankfully in virtual reality bugs and diseases aren't an issue. Since the Glasgow Federation began terraforming planets for habitation they learned to scan the environments with pinpoint precision. This drove a whole host of tourism-themed VR games that basically let you explore their world sans people for free.

Most people would travel there to see more of the culture, but Reg was more interested in the evolution of plant and animal life on terraformed planets. A species of deer that could camouflage itself based on it's surroundings evolved on Titan IV. They say Legacy Prime could evolve a neanderthal type species over the next millennia.

The elevator dinged and pulled Reg out of his reverie. Sixteen and he had already explored so much in life through the wonders of technology. Stepping into the elevator he signaled it towards the hangar bay. His friend Germain ran cargo to the space station every day and would gladly give him a ride back whenever. Beats waiting for the weekend shuttle.

Quiet soothing music played over the elevator speaker as Reg pondered his next move. It was still only ten o' clock standard time so he probably had a while before Germain even showed up with his daily delivery. His AR feed signaled a hint at possible suggestions in text out of the corner of his eye.

[\Suggestions/]

1) Contact Germain to find his delivery schedule, then decide next course of action

2) Wait for Germain at the hangar, consume various media

3) Order Pizza, Win at Life

That last one was programmed to always show up for a giggle. Although contacting Germain wouldn't be terribly difficult... thought Reg. If it weren't for the school then hearing our every word and sending security to detain me before I could leave. Maybe two and three are appropriate.

With the decision made, Reg continued his course towards the shuttle hangar. There he could ask where the delivery bay was so he could wait for a non-existent package from Germain's shipment. Maybe he can even get a time from someone so he can go check out the arcade. Credits weren't an issue when you knew how to just bypass the payment system altogether to play.

At least he didn't take tickets out for prizes if he did it that way. Reg was an honest hacker. The elevator dinged and doors opened to a dirty looking hallway. Grease marks littered the steel floors and walls. Two men in overalls stood talking over coffee at a gravity manipulation machine.

“Excuse me gentlemen, I'm looking for...” Grabbing a piece of paper out of his pocket, Reg pretended to read something from it. “Shuttle 8221, Germain Lasko... They didn't give me a time but the package is a condenser for robotics class and my teacher says I need it today. Can you help?”