Friday, November 23, 2007

Nakagawa Presents The Future-- an Excerpt from THE WORD Is Law

With impeccable timing, Shuichi Nakagawa appeared resplendent on the stage. At six feet tall, Nakagawa towered over the Japanese national average. His pepper hair had a dash or two of salt at the temples, and his face was smooth and angular. Nakagawa held back his broad shoulders and slightly tilted his chin to the ceiling. Not too much- the stage and Nakagawa’s height made it impossible not to look down on his audience, and too great a tilt could display condescension rather than confidence. Public speaking was a total drag, which was why underneath his tailored coal gray suit, Nakagawa wore a cute little pair of red lace boyleg panties.

The kind employees at Hatcher House[1] had provided him with a podium behind which to stand, but if thirty-five years on the spearhead of technology as the co-founder and recently elected president and Chief Executive Officer of the SimSum Corporation[2] had taught Nakagawa anything, it was that podiums were for liars and for milksops. A man behind a podium was a torso on a pedestal. A large electric phallus obscured his head and face from the view of the congregation.

Behind the phallus, the fabulist could spin increasingly improbable tales all the livelong day and never give away his telltale facial tics to an unsuspecting and tragically credulous audience. Behind the wood, the coward could obfuscate and equivocate until next Tuesday without his rapt assemblage ever noticing the conspicuous brown stains on his trousers. Behind a podium, a man was hardly a man at all, and a woman was even less than that.

Owing to his displeasure with podiums, Nakagawa had conducted past presentations using headphones with built-in microphones (these messed up his hair), earpieces with microphones (these fell out of his ears), and a boom operated by Nakagawa’s most put-upon right hand, Junsuke Uchida[3] (every time Nakagawa would suddenly move or change direction, Uchida would accidentally boom him in the face).

The best available technology was a clip-on microphone, but this was flawed enough for Nakagawa to hate only just a bit less than every other option on the table. They often fell off of Nakagawa’s lapel. The corded models would tangle up and trip him, and the wireless models would cut out at random and inappropriate moments.

One day, thought Nakagawa, we will implant tiny microphones just above our voice boxes. These microphones will turn on and off with a thought, just like moving a muscle. We’ll be able to control the volume of the amplifiers in the same way we control the volume of our speech. I’ll never have to wear another ridiculous clip-on microphone ever again.

To his favorite subordinates and admirers he was Boss Nakagawa. To his sycophants and to people at whom he was irritated and to overwhelmed fan boys and to strangers attempting to show proper respect, he was Nakagawa-sama. To Rita, the sexy blonde American woman he liked to fool around with every time he was in the United States, he was Ichi-Peachy. Nakagawa spotted Rita in the third row, sucking on her index finger. He resisted the urge to wave at her.

Rita was young. Nakagawa was not sure how young, because she refused to reveal that information, mumbling when pressed for more details that she was in her “early tmphphs.” Regardless, she made Nakagawa feel young when they were together, and that was more than he could say for any of his previous wives, or for his current wife, anymore.

Nakagawa loved the way that Rita wore her straight platinum hair in a pixie cut. This cut was popular among Japanese schoolgirls. For some strange reason that Nakagawa could not fathom, this made him feel that to be with Rita was a transgression against the dark-haired people of Japan. That titillated Nakagawa even more. The index finger in Rita’s mouth now trailed down her supple neck to the breast of her black satin jacket. Rita tugged a little, and Nakagawa caught a glimpse of the red lace camisole that matched his pretty panties.

It was a struggle for Nakagawa not to lose control of himself right there in front of the entire tech press corps and the applauding audience.

Evie the Conduit- who counted herself among the applauding fanboys- didn’t know about any of this, because she did not yet feel THE WORD coursing through her body. Instead, she was particularly concerned about the wig that she wore. Evie with her own hands had fashioned the wig of mohair blend yarn, into a cascading multicolor piggy tail style. The headpiece was magnificent, but cumbersome, and now that Evie thought about it, the poor geeks sitting behind her probably couldn’t get a decent photo of Boss with all that green and purple mohair in their view. Evie slouched down in her chair.

That yarn had been expensive, too. For a ball of one hundred sixty-five yards long, eighteen-gauge fiber in the color scheme Virgin’s Bower, the cost had been thirty American dollars. To make the wig, Evie had required three Virgin’s Bower balls and two balls of equivalent size, gauge, and price in the color Atramentous.

The swim cap had been a terrible choice for a base. As Evie adjusted the bangs, rivulets of sweat flowed down her face, leaving fleshy streaks in her porcelain makeup. Evie was just about to rip the wig off in a rage when Nakagawa started to talk about the future.

“One day,” began Nakagawa, “we will not need eyes to see. We will not need nerves to feel and smell. We will not need tongues to taste, nor ears to hear.”

“Do you notice,” whispered Surge to Evie, “how tiny his ears are?”

“Yeah, they’re little,” said Evie. She slouched some more, hoping to give the geeks behind her a better view of Nakagawa’s peculiar ears. The base of Evie’s spine now rested at the edge of the seat. The balls of Evie’s feet bore some of her weight, but most of the load went to her lower spine. She shoved her shoulders into the back of the seat and leaned her head forward.

“What are you doing?” asked Surge. He was dressed in a brown suit.

“Nothing,” said Evie. “I’m listening.”

“Virtual reality is the key,” said Nakagawa. “We’ve all seen the movies, of course, written by eager young scribes keen to explore the possibilities of this exciting step in technological progress. The writers often get tripped up about questions they assume can only be answered by the metaphysical. There’s often a killer, an NPC, inside a video game. How exactly does the serial killer escape the simulation and enter the real world? Magic. The killer is just that evil.

“In truth,” continued Nakagawa, “the applications and implications of VR are fully grounded in the four-dimensional space we inhabit. Right now, SimSum is working on a VR console for personal home use. It’s goggles and gloves today, but tomorrow, as neuroscience solves the mysteries of the brain, all we’ll need is a disk drive somewhere near our brain stems and some compatible software. Brought to you by your friends at SimSum, of course.

“Imagine,” Nakagawa continued after the applause, “if my good friend Dr. Stephen Hawking could go rowing again as he did at Oxford when he was seventeen years old. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis- or Lou Gehrig’s disease- has ravaged and killed his motor neurons. Stephen can neither move most of his body nor speak to his wife and family. Technology has enabled him to communicate and to get from one place to another. Imagine if technology could allow Stephen Hawking to experience his own body in motion once again.”

“Dude,” whispered Surge, “am I crazy or did Boss just name-drop the Hawk Man?”

“You’re crazy and Boss name-dropped the Hawk Man,” replied Evie. “Did you call me dude?”

Evie was thinking she never should have agreed to share her suite with Surge. She was thinking that Boss was sort of sexy, even with those weird ears of his, when he got talking about technology. She was thinking that maybe Nakagawa enjoyed liberated American women who, in turn, enjoyed listening to him get all fired up about the future.

“His fingers would grasp the oars again,” said Nakagawa, “and he would feel the pulling of his shoulder muscles against the resistance of the water. Perhaps, after an especially good row, Stephen would jump on land and do a victory dance. He might be clumsy at first, as he gets to understand the controls. But in a strange way virtual reality would be just the opposite of ALS. Instead of losing the capacity for movement over time, Stephen would gain it in VR, as his operation of the controls would become more innate.”

Just then Evie lost her balance and slid to the floor. Her left foot, clad in a heavy leather boot, collided with the chair in front of her.

[1] Established in 1989 as an upscale meeting place for discriminating businesspeople, the three-story mansion was located on a sixteen-acre estate in upstate New York, and included an 86-seat amphitheater, five meeting rooms, thirty-five luxury suites, and a dining hall.

Preston Sellers, Hatcher House’s Executive Chef, had graduated from the Culinary Institute of America with a Bachelor of Professional Studies degree in Culinary Arts Management, and an Associate in Occupational Studies degree in Baking and Pastry Arts. If a guest required a companion for the evening, Sellers was also very tight with the proprietor of a local escort service.

[2] Primarily known at that time for its simulator video games (including “Dogfight: 1943, and Battle-Sim of the Republic), SimSum Corp had also produced a popular operating system for off-brand cell phones, and a calculator application still in use to the present day by students of quantum mechanics.

[3] Uchida, though a more competent and loyal general Nakagawa never could have found, was a bit of a klutz. He had hit his head on his car door at least three times per day, every day for the last fifteen years. For his habit of asking, “Are you okay?” after hitting someone in the face with a door or spilling hot coffee on someone’s lap or running headlong into someone and knocking him or her to the ground at least six times per business day (and who was to say what happened on the weekends?), Uchida was known around SimSum HQ as “DaiJunbu.” Most at the office assumed that his nickname was a secret well kept from Uchida. They assumed incorrectly.

A secret kept from Junsuke Uchida was as a unicorn. It was as a mountain troll or a proper biscuits and gravy at any restaurant north of Johnson City. There was simply no evidence that it existed, or ever had existed, and no reason to believe it ever would exist. If it involved SimSum, its employees or their families and friends, its affiliates and/or subsidiaries, their employees, or their employees’ families and friends, Uchida knew every detail about it.

Some years after his retirement, Uchida would shock and amuse his former colleagues when he titled his memoir, “DaiJunbu: My Calamitous Life as Boss Nakagawa’s Right Hand.”

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