Jake Wilson opened the heavy glass door and strode into the imposing building, leading Eva along by the hand. Eva carried a black briefcase. The couple dressed up for their presentation; Jake in smart navy blue business suit and Eva wore her favorite gold and black blouse and black skirt. After spending months researching the technology sector of that Earth, they decided on an indie company trying to break into the hardware market.
InnerTech successfully crowdfunded their first gaming console the previous year. Despite the polish of the hardware, the company struggled to attract developers for their platform thanks to the deeper pockets of their competitors. Jake was a game programmer on his Earth, and sympathized with their struggles. He decided to help them corner the market.
“Are you sure about this?” Eva asked when they stepped into the empty elevator. “I mean, I know we’re not time travelers, but it’s pretty much the same concept.” Eva hefted the briefcase toward Jake. “This is way more advanced than anything they have here.” Jake squeezed Eva’s hand, and smiled at her.
“Yeah. Remember, we’re doing this for Oren. The more playmates he has, the less time he has to slaughter entire Earths.” Eva’s crystal blue eyes narrowed.
“You still don’t trust him?” Eva released his hand and crossed her arms in front of herself. “We’ve spent almost a century with him, he’s a great kid.”
“I do trust him, but he’s still just a kid. A very impulsive kid. That in itself isn’t bad, but he’s so powerful and he’s still trying to learn right from wrong. I just want to give him a safe environment where he can practice his social skills.” Jake stepped closer to Eva and wrapped his arms around her. “Does that make sense?” Eva nodded.
“Your heart’s in the right place, but I’m not sure an online game is the best place to learn social skills,” she chuckled. The elevator chimed, and the doors began to open.
“It’s a start, and we’ll be there to help him.” Jake stepped out of the elevator and walked to the receptionist with Eva next to him.
“Hi, we have a meeting with your R&D team.” Jake indicated himself, then pointed at Eva. “Jake and Eva Wilson.” The receptionist smiled at them.
“Of course. Just down the hall, room 3703.” The auburn haired woman pointed toward the hall to their right. “Second meeting room on the right.” Jake thanked the young woman and walked to his right. They walked into an empty board room with a large oval shaped wooden table in the middle, surrounded by leather chairs. Eva placed the briefcase on the table and popped it open.
A small boy’s head popped out of the briefcase. He was a pale boy with a widow’s peak in the center of his forehead. He startled Eva and she jumped backward with a yelp.
“Is it time?” The boy asked. “I heard the case open.”
“OREN!” Eva yelled with a harsh tone, then took a deep breath when she saw the hurt in his translucent grey eyes. “Sorry, you scared the crap out of me.” She walked forward and kissed the boy’s head.
“Sorry! This is going to be so awesome though!” Oren smiled. The sound of a doorknob turning caught Jake’s attention.
“Hide!” he said. Oren’s head ducked back into the briefcase, leaving an empty blackness. Jake turned to see several well dressed men and women filing into the room. One woman wearing a red dress walked straight up to him.
“Mr. Wilson, I hope you won’t be wasting my team’s time.” The woman extended a hand and Jake shook it.
“Trust me, Ms. Carlson. You won’t regret this,” Jake said. Ms. Carlson appeared unconvinced. She turned away and took the last empty seat at the table. The rest of her team had filed in while she chatted with Jake.
“Go ahead, Mr. Wilson. Let’s see this revolutionary product,” Ms. Carlson said. Jake nodded then walked over to the open briefcase. He reached his hand into the darkness and pulled out a black and gold helmet. The helmet appeared to be made out of a black metal with thin golden lines tracing over the surface like a circuit board. In the front of the helmet was a solid black visor that was impossible to see through. He handed the helmet to Ms. Carlson, then reached into the briefcase to pull out another one. The lid of the briefcase prevented any of them from seeing how deep Jake stuck his arm into the briefcase to grab the helmet from Oren on the other side of the portal.
“This helmet is just a prototype for proof of concept, but we’re exploring several other designs.” Ms. Carlson’s face remained unimpressed as she passed her helmet to the employee on her left.
“What does it do, Mr. Wilson?”
“This is how your customers will log into the AlterNet. Imagine a network built around telepresence. Two people from different sides of the world could project themselves to meet in a virtual location to spend time together, or even play games together. Anything from simple pub games to complicated role playing games where you and your friends can fight dragons.” Jake found himself wishing he’d rehearsed the presentation. He counted on the tech to speak for itself, but he felt beads of sweat forming on his brow. He heard Ms. Carlson sigh.
“So, you’re telling us you’ve invented virtual reality, only a few years after everyone has it already?”
“And the internet,” one of the employees added with a smirk.
“And online gaming,” another said.
“Thank you for wasting our time, Mr. Wilson.” Ms. Carlson moved to stand up, but Eva stepped forward and began speaking.
“It’s true that all those things already exist, but he only used those examples to get the concept clear in your mind. Instead of imagining two people from different sides of the world imagine two people from *alternate* worlds.”
“I’m sorry, what?” Ms. Carlson’s face finally showed emotion. Puzzlement.
“The AlterNet is network built on a parallel Earth. Using this you can project yourself there. You’ll have a physical body that allows you to feel, smell, and react in real time, but it is not your real body. The gaming implications alone will make you all very rich,” Eva said.