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Chapter four

Chapter four project Mars

Majid knew that his computer didn’t look like much. On the outside the boxy plastic shell with an IBM logo in the corner was  the only decoration other than a sticker that proudly announced Intel inside!

Inside however, his laptop could rival ten thousand dollar gaming PC’s in terms of shear processing power and memory. Over the years, all of Majid’s earnings went to upgrades and custom parts. He would have loved to have an alienware with a massive 26 inch 4k monitor and 10.1 sound but something like that would draw unnecessary attention from the wrong people.

No one would look twice at his circa 2005 IBM shell here.

Ever since the message boards on the Dark Web discussed the secretive project that Eli Tusk was involved in and the ongoing recruitment for a vaguely named PM Inc. for 3D animators and proficient programmers, Majid knew that things were not what they appeared. Tusk wasn’t the type to make something for entertainment or profit. He was a visionary and it was common knowledge that he was a leading voice in space colonization. Whatever this secret project was, it was likely to be a tool towards implementing this.

Majid knew from his uncle that sometimes the only way  to do things was by force, for the good of the people of course. But people are weak and easy to manipulate and needed a firm hand to guide them like a shepherd guides his sheep.

When the announcement came online, Majid had jumped up and punched the air. When it came to strategy based games, there was no equal and racing games were one of his favourites. Especially ones where you could take out the competitors a la Mario kart or death race 2000.

In an MMOG, the cash opportunities came in the form of customization, tools and extra content. In a game as anticipated as this, the potential was limitless. The game would not allow for any third party to access or contribute to the in game economy but it was Majid’s experience that people would pay good money for highly level-upped avatars. He made a name running a small army selling maxed out players in Skyrim to those who didn’t have time to invest in doing all the side quests and finding all the secret weapons. At first his uncle scoffed at the idea but once he saw the funds being generated, he created a gaming unit where a team of 20 soldiers would play a number of popular titles on separate consols and level up the characters. Individuals could either begin a game and build a character and submit their user name and password or have a fully customized character and pay for additional levels of achievement. People often just wanted to blow shit up with God level powers as they had little time to spend hours in an epic gaming session. These people were also the people with the most money.

With this army, Majid surmised that he would ideally need the entire contingent to play the game in order to grab as many markers as possible. With land being limited on project Mars, he could potentially corner the market and sell the land rights for tens of thousands of dollars. Depending on how popular the game was, maybe hundreds of thousands, maybe more.

He had already drawn up the pricing tiers and was ready to request for more soldiers to be added to his team. A mercurial man, there was no telling what his uncle’s mood was at any given moment. But money was a language he understood.

Ujjal Khan liked to be referred to as “Boss” as it identified who he was without any pretension. He was the boss, plain and simple. It was modern and in ancient times, he would be referred to as King. He smirked at the thought as he shuffled through border reports. The rebels were conducting raids along the Afghanistan border to gather resources and financial support with weapons supplied by the West. Not that he cared much for the natives but these raids attracted those who wanted to escape his regime. Most countries used their borders to keep people out but in this case it was meant to keep people in.

He made a mental note to reinforce patrols when he heard a knock at his door.

“Come in, “ he called as he took off his glasses and blew his nose on his handkerchief.

The door opened and his nephew walked in. “Majid my boy, come come. Sit. Can I offer you some tea?”

Majid knew that this was a favourite game of his uncle. If he said yes, then his uncle would pretend that he just ran out and shrug. If he said no, then his uncle would pour him a cup anyway. It was a power move, passive but effective. Majid decided he was thirsty and so, shaking his head he politely refused.

“No thank you uncle, I mean boss, “ Majid said as he traced the raised lettering on his laptop shell.

The boss seemed to not hear the answer as he buzzed his assistant. “Shah, being me and my nephew some tea and some biscuits.”

“Yes Boss,” came the reply. “right away. “

Boss smiled as he looked up. “So,  how can I help my sister’s son? How is your mother? It’s been ages.“

Majid knew this was all pretense and what his uncle was actually saying was,  “why are you wasting my time? “

“She is well thank you boss.” said Majid. “As for my communications unit, I would like to increase the size to one hundred ; and I would like to pick them. “

He knew he had to be bold and get straight to the point before his uncle began to play with items on his desk and gave half answers to requests.

Boss eyes widened as he leaned back in his chair. With his hand folded on his belly he looked at Majid before speaking. “that’s a lot of resources for a video game unit. We’re in the middle of a war and we need all the soldiers to be available.”

Majid knew it was a long shot. He couldn’t justify paying soldiers a full salary to play games that wouldn’t immediately pay dividends. It would be a stretch during peace time and not remotely likely now but his uncle could hear the vision, then he might come on board.

“boss, can I show you something? It won’t take a minute of your time. “ Majid opened his laptop and loaded up his presentation. His uncle was like a fidgety child at dinnertime; incapable of focus and often needing pictures to understand.

“one minute, “ agreed his uncle as he emphasize the point with his index finger. “then we talk of this no longer. I’ve already wasted valuable time. “

“yes sir. I’m ready. “ said Majid as he placed the computer before his uncle and clicked play.

The video was commercial grade and, knowing his uncle’s love of the original star trek, started with William Shatners voice over a flyby of the solar system. "Space, the final frontier…"  captain Kirk’s voice introduced as the camera panned from the sun, past mercury, venus, the earth, and then centring on Mars. A quote from the 1992 film far and away appeared over the planet.

Without land, man is nothing.

The planet began to transform into the lush healthy planet and the partitions were seen as the screen was filled with markers.

A voice over introduced the basic concept of the game as a demo showed artist concepts of what was possible.

"Imagine having a world to explore where you can share your creations and feel what it would really be like to colonize a fully terraformed Mars based on actual data and fully mapped for your pleasure."

The screen showed a building module and various ways in which the player could customize their vehicles and experience.

"Just like on earth, once you have the land, it’s yours to do with until you decide to sell it on the market or trade for another piece of land."

The Boss watched with rapt attention as Majid could almost see the wheels turning.

“my boy, I have to admit, at first I thought that this was some silly pastime but I can see the potential here. Yes. “ the boss nodded thoughtfully, “ but I’m afraid I can’t give you any more resources my dear. We will re assess once the game goes live and see how it goes mmm? “

Majid couldn’t believe his ears. His uncle’s generation had no vision and were doomed to be stuck in feudal politicking. Before he could find any words to plead his case, his uncle’s assistant’s hand was already on his shoulder signalling it was time to leave.

The boss was already back looking through the file on his desk as Majid let the door close behind him. He frowned as he buttoned his jacket and placed his laptop bag over his shoulder.

I’m going to have to do this my way then, he thought.

Brute force wasn’t his style anyway but it would’ve made things a lot easier. As he walked back down the empty hallway, his mind began formulating various scenarios at lightning speed. One way or another he would show them that he was a leader and worthy of respect.

He was going to conquer Mars after all.