Coolest short story I have ever read – by Oliver Emberton

Oliver Emberton is currently writing the book – follow it’s progress here

Oliver on twitter

 

Oliver Emberton’s answer to:

Bond villains are such uninspiring, stupid creatures. We can do better.

Our villain is a prodigal business and scientific genius, with the kind of brash charisma and titanium self-belief that dares to take on the world. Imagine a real-life Tony Stark:

Like all good villains, our Tony begins with nothing but the noblest of intentions. He burns to make the world a better place. And he knows he’s got the skills to do it.

 

Born to a life of modest privilege in the United States, Tony rapidly asserts his abilities to build a global technological empire. He develops revolutionary new forms of sustainable energy just as the world’s oil supplies reach a critical level. As the middle east descends into a decade of conflict, the world rebuilds using his patents and products.

 

For the most part, people are grateful.

 

By the age of 40 he has a fortune to compare with the likes of present-day Buffet and Gates. Success, of course, is boring. His focus turns.

 

Tony sees the abject poverty of Africa as the greatest remaining blight on the world, and resolves to try to bring it to an end. And he believes he can.

 

He decides only a radical solution is viable: the construction of a new city, which he will fund as a gift. Pitching to several African nations, he offers to employ hundreds of thousands of local civilians which he will train, together with foreign specialists to produce a city capable of housing and employing millions.

 

As part of the deal, Tony retains 20% of the most central land, with the remaining majority to be a gift to the nation and the people who helped build it. In exchange, Tony seeks substantial political concessions, including legalisation of virtually every scientific practice and substantial tax breaks.

 

Despite great reservation, controversy, and accusations of modern-day imperialism, the plan proceeds. Within a decade – bolstered by modern construction methods – a new metropolis rises.

 

Meanwhile Tony has taken advantage of his new nation state, and invests heavily into genetic research forbidden almost everywhere else in the world; particularly the modification of the human genome.

 

His efforts do not go unnoticed. Rising figures in the United States consider him a threat to the future of humanity. Even as his company produces medical revolution upon revolution – a cure for Alzheimers, a simple injection for regrowing damaged heart tissue – these are met with active hostility: did the ends justify the means?

 

Reacting to growing public tension, many countries outlaw these products even as members of their public beg for them.

 

Business for Tony is exceptional of course, and the growing tensions only seek to make his city – as it has become known, colloquially as ‘Stark’ –  one of the most desirable places to live in the world. He moves himself and swathes of his company there as it expands.

 

It is not long before his science develops the ability to modify human genes in living patients; and ultimately in unborn ones. People could choose to have their DNA ‘optimised’ through a simple blood scan and synthesised viral injection.

 

This is too much for the world.

 

Within Stark and their growing collection of neighbouring cities, this technology allows them to virtually eliminate all birth defects, disease, low intelligence, physical imperfections and extend long life. Soon this extends to the augmentation of skills: eidetic memory, motor control, exceptional high intelligence. Changing your DNA becomes as commonplace as upgrading your operating system.

 

The rest of the world panics; the United States in particular. It is soon realised that making Stark’s technology illegal was not enough: a single person who had been ‘optimised’ could sell their sperm or eggs for a fortune. To public cries of “protect our gene pool”, and the fear of rendering ‘normal’ people obsolete, borders are closed, products are banned, and a near war-like stance against Stark’s country is adopted.

 

Tony is no fool, and he’s well prepared when the inevitable happens.

 

The US fakes a foiled terrorist attack on their soil. Using this as justification, a coalition of all-too-eager US / EU forces prepares to invade the city of Stark and depose Tony by force.

 

Unfortunately for them, this is where you make a villain out of a genius.

 

The military of the future is not so different from today; the US enjoys a sizeable advantage over the rest of the world combined, and nearly all their might stems from unpiloted drones and long range missiles. Stark has essentially no military force whatsoever, bar police and security officers who were quickly stationed on the border.

 

Their first attack was therefore predictable, if callous: there were no military targets for the coalition to attack, so they focused on aviation, industry and power instead. It didn’t really matter.

 

The US drones fell from the skies like stones. The missiles looped back upon themselves and crashed impotently into the ocean. Every automated technology the coalition could muster was all too easy for a technologically superior nation to deflect: targeted electromagnetic pulses, total satellite interference, remote hijacking of computers and communication.

 

No countermeasure was perfect of course, and many hundreds died. Yet the humble civilian city had left a vast military armada confused and humiliated.

 

Tony now broadcasts a simple message to the world, speaking over a montage of severed and charred civilian corpses. “Many of you think us evil. Yet we live in peace, isolated, our only crime is the pursuit of science that would end disease and enrich the lives of mankind’s descendants. For this, your governments rain death upon our people. Ask yourselves if that is really what you want, for what follows is their doing. Until they withdraw, we will not stop.”

 

For an hour, the world waited.

 

Agents for Stark’s cause had not been hard to find, and for the most part they were smart, secretive and organized. On cue they crippled global communication, commerce, and transport of the coalition rivals, all in just a few hours. They simply killed their power.

 

Conflict continued, but not for long. Every attempt to recover, to strike back, was blunted by Stark’s technical supremacy. When Tony crashed an array of foreign satellites on demand, the coalition ordered a withdrawal.

 

A battered and bruised world came to acknowledge: they had lost.

 

In a few years the ideological opposition to his technologies and even methods soon withered in the face of the practical advantages. As nation upon nation lifted their restrictions on Tony’s science, policing genetic purity became impractical, and then impossible. Soon, those countries who opposed him were modelled in his image.

 

You might think this a meagre victory, but consider: he died old, the richest man to ever have lived, near emperor of his own nation, having ultimately transformed the very identity of humanity for eternity. And he had quite literally taken on the rest of the world and won.

 

As a wise man once said: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

 

(I had this idea for a book ever since I was 17 or so. You can probably guess I was dying to share it somewhere).

 

Update #1: Just hours after I posted this the reaction has been overwhelming. I’m genuinely considering writing this as a book now – if so, it would be my first and I wouldn’t pretend to know what I’m doing, but I’m sure Quora can help with that! Any thoughts / suggestions on what you’ve read are greatly appreciated.

 

Update #2: Ok, I’m going to write this as a book. If you want to be notified about this please go here: Oliver Emberton is writing a novel – and thanks!

 

Rosalind Hartmann – Twitter and Facebook

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