GM - Story #3

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Chapter 5

Tucked subtly across the top of the screen sat a distinctive version of the Google logo with the word Trinity below it. The T sat below the two O’s making a stem-like shape. A third O sat above and between the two Os in the word GOOGLE to form a set of overlapping circles like a three-leaf clover.

The Trinity application had started as an idea that Greyson’s older brother, Michael, had developed in College along with a brain trust of his friends from Pepperdine University. The concept was to merge use of the cell phone, the computer and the television into a single experience using an app that they developed on Google’s open development platform. The app synched use of the iPhone or other PDA as a controlling device for both the computer interface and the emerging networking capabilities of most newer televisions. It included hooks to leverage numerous other apps such as social networking, video recording technology and GPS positioning software. He created his own profiling tool and developed some basic social interaction capabilities into his app, which he envisioned as someday competing with the big players in the industry.

He had initially modeled his app after Facebook, complete with user profiles that could be set up and shared with networks of friends, family members, former classmates, co-workers, etc.

By the time Michael had developed the software, social networking apps had already transitioned from cutting edge to commodity. And consolidation in the marketplace could make new innovators like Michael instantly rich if they could attract a major buyer, like Facebook, Google or Apple to acquire their idea.

Michael partnered with Hannes Waggoner, a friend from several of his classes, who had taken the concept of Twitter, combined it with the concept of YouTube and developed a site called Vid Bits. Members of the Vid Bits network could share their thoughts by posting quick video clips of themselves, which could be accessed by members who signed up as followers. The videos had to be 2 minutes or less, just as Twitter enforces a word limitation on tweets.

Vid Bits hit the market just as the proliferation of built in video cameras and Skype-like services exploded into the mainstream and caught fire as the hot technology of the year.

But while its video component was simple to use and hip to a generation that had already grown tired of typing their thoughts into a little text box, the profiling and network management capabilities lacked the ease and cool of Facebook. Michael shrewdly partnered with Hannes and worked out an arrangement where his interface and integration with telephony operating systems would serve as the front end that wrapped around the Vid Bits engine and interface. The combination gained popularity like the mixing of peanut butter and chocolate and their user base grew quickly following their national launch.

Mikey had used Greyson’s meager show business connections and a considerable chunk of his savings to create a national prime time advertisement. The very funny commercial, which he wrote and directed, featured a mime sitting at a computer screen, with a giant text box superimposed above his head. The mime tries to describe a surreal scene in which his baby slips on some ice on the sidewalk with his younger sibling, his mother and his father each slipping on the same ice patch all over a Paris sidewalk. The story is mildly funny when read in the 140-character text box. Then, in the blank space next to the mime, the Trinity site pops up. A baby dressed as a mime, complete with the striped shirt and painted face, walks down a French sidewalk followed by an older sibling and two adults equally made up in mime costumes. The older sibling walks down the street, conducting the cliché “trapped in a box” routine. The mother mime pretends to be pulling on a rope and the father mime looks like he is running through a wind storm.

Suddenly, the baby steps on the ice and immediately falls. The older sibling looks at the camera with a Buster Keaton double take and also slips. The mother puts her hands on her cheeks, runs to help and also slips with her feet in the air. Finally, the oblivious dad, moving ever slowly closer to the ice tumbles over the family and lands face first in the snow, smudging his make-up. As the scene closes, the mime can be heard speaking in muffled tones, with the French curse word “merde” clearly audible at the fade.

“A Tweet is worth 140 characters.

A Picture is worth a thousand words.

But a VidBit … just might be worth more than a Google.”

For a short, intense period, Michael had succeeded in launching “The next Facebook” or Twitter, combining some of the best social networking features of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. He later cloned similar functionality to Reddit, Foursquare and several others to compliment the expanding use of real-time video in conjunction with web-based voice communications. Essentially, he had built the Star Trek video phone application and started to elevate it into the mainstream.

He had helped promote a culture change in human communication. Plain old speaking into an inanimate devise was quickly becoming passé and un-cool. In fact, typing at all started to decline as an old art, practiced before the dawn of cheep and effective Voice to Text applications. Video chatting and tweeting, or “Facing” emerged as the new mainstream, mode of communication among a younger technology adopted generation.

Michael named his company “Holy Trinity”, a jab at his highly religious parents. By his 26th birthday, his innovation skyrocketed. New early adopters of Trinity called themselves “Triverts”, which became a nickname for users who have converted from Facebook to Trinity.

The success of the Trinity network and Michael’s innate ability to thrust himself into the spotlight made him a rock star in the technology industry. And long after Hannes Waggoner had faded into the background as a silent partner, Michael started showing up on CNN news spots, technology magazines and newspapers and in the tabloids for his budding celebrity lifestyle and newfound fortune.

But the money he made from marketing and promoting Trinity only paled once Facebook started acquiring the players around them in their marketplace, gobbling up each new innovation with corporate imperialist attitude and a fat checkbook.

And when Apple plastered their “Face Time” capability across millions of iPhones in all corners of the globe, the novelty of his product faced its first major threat.

Google went on to acquire several video-driven social networking players in a bid to compete and maintain their dominance as one of the biggest, most successful companies in America. Eventually, as the consolidation craze swept across the Social Media industry, Michael received an offer to “join the Google family of technological innovations”. And a couple dozen million dollars later, Google Trinity hatched, and the user base expanded from shy of a half million into the tens of millions nearly overnight.

Greyson pointed his iPhone at the TV and scrolled through his e-mails, mostly work-related. He read several posts and scanned the videos of interest before opening a drawer next to his couch and pulling out a plastic bag filled with a few scant flakes of pot – not enough to even make up a joint. He rolled back over and slinked into his galley kitchen to fix himself a drink of the cheap wine that he kept in the area under his kitchen sink, next to such items as the Windex, the dishwasher detergent and the Liquid Drano.

He looked over his shoulder as he fixed his drink and focused on two small video feeds playing at the bottom of the TV screen. Both seemed innocuous enough. The one on the left was dark and lonely. His sister Melanie used Trinity as a redundant security system, broadcasting her security feed to her inner family network. Michael also posted a password-protected, encrypted feed to his inner network which Greyson had opened on his viewing screen. But Michael’s feed was more about sharing visibility into his daily life with onlookers from his network than about concerns for security. He had one feed for his fans, which displayed his massive great room, where he frequently entertained executives and celebrities. He had other feeds reserved for closer members of his network that provided insight into everything from his kitchen to his laundry room. It created a sort of perpetual reality program chronicling his life in real time.

Just as Greyson instructed his clients to do, Michael often stopped in front of the camera to comment on events in his life or in the media, like an impromptu on-line video tweet.

One of the video posts on Greyson’ bulletin board caught his attention. It was from a Marine Captain at Camp Pendleton in San Diego. Greyson had reached out to him several weeks earlier, contacting him through his Trinity network to engage his assistance in finding his cousin, Cael Block, who had been stationed in Afghanistan off and on for several years. Greyson had received regular video updates, emails and posts from Cael’s first three tours. But soon after his most recent deployment almost eight months ago, all communication suddenly stopped.

The government had not helped at all, transferring him from line to line and giving him vague, meaningless updates along the way.

Your relative is currently classified as “Active” Status according to our intelligence. He is on a sensitive assignment that requires him to cut communications with civilians. He is not listed among the injured or fatally wounded. His mission does not have a defined end date. We would expect that he would get in contact with you once his mission is completed.

Every call and inquiry Greyson made about his cousin, who had been his best friend growing up, resulted in a similar, if not identical, word-for-word response.

The message from Captain Lance Winger, a close friend of Cael’s who had served several tours with him, did not provide any comfort to Greyson either.

No way to identify the Marine in the video you sent to me … sorry. Looks like him, but not a clear vantage point and very grainy footage. Keep me posted if you hear anything. Will let you know if I hear any further information …

Greyson frowned and clicked the video link that he had asked Captain Winger to review. He had seen it a thousand times. He had watched the coverage when it happened live. He had always remembered it, but never re-watched it on YouTube until several weeks ago. He had peppered his Trinity network with requests for anyone with information about his cousin. He had also published numerous photos and engaged facial recognition software to scour the net for matches. That’s when he came across the footage of a marine jumping across the frame in a firefight, which looked promising. Greyson had sent the clip to the only friend of Cael’s that he knew about - asking him if he thought it was possible that the burly Marine in the video for all of three and a half seconds could be his cousin.

The video started on a black screen and faded into an image of what looked like thousands of fans at a rock concert or a sporting event. Centered across the scene, a title had been superimposed reading “Miracle in the Middle East”. The camera panned across the crowd and focused on the tall, slender preacher, Jaio as he addressed the throng from the central square in Bethlehem.

Greyson fast forwarded to the outbreak of the violence and watched passively as the terrorists approached Jaio. He pointed his iPhone at the screen and adjusted the speed of the video to slow it down by half just as the image of the lone terrorist rose into the picture, pointed his gun at the preacher and buried a bullet right through the middle of his flowing white garment.

He recalled the uproar after CNN aired the footage of Jaio’s shooting and how the clip subsequently went viral across the net. In addition, three other amateur videos surfaced on YouTube, each providing another angle on the scene. The CNN angle clearly showed the terrorist aiming the gun at Jaio and firing at him, point blank, resulting in a gaping hole in his garment, just to the right of the center of his chest. A video, shot on a cell phone by one of Jaio’s followers showed the exact same moment, but from the side. The bullet could be seen entering the front of his chest through his loosely fitted white robe, exiting out his back and shattering against the sandstone behind him. A second amateur video showed Jaio tumble backwards, roll side to side and then get himself up off the ground by his own power. The third and only other known video of the shooting wiggled and jostled throughout the moment, but provided the best view of the escape, clearly capturing Jaio looking as strong and capable as ever as he and an unknown Marine ran across the plaza to safety. The last image of the third video clearly showed the hole in the back of Jaio’s robe as he ran directly away from the camera.

His believers trumpeted the videos as verification that Jaio had truly been the Son of God and that his survival represented proof in the form of a modern-day miracle. Other analysts and Religious Studies experts dug up by the news networks debunked the miracle with various logical arguments.

In one opinion, he had been shot, but the bullet had travelled between his lung and his heart, causing minimal damage. Another analyst suggested that maybe he had been wearing a bullet proof vest. Or, perhaps he hadn’t been shot at all because the gun jammed or failed to go off and the two holes in his garment had been there all along. Bullets careening off the wall behind him could have been ricochets from the firefight or snipers missing him from another location. All four videos could have been fakes promoted by the liberal media or the Catholic Church. Some even claimed that he had been killed and that the man running away in the third amateur video was only a body double.

The confusion cast doubt on the credibility of Jaio and his movement. He took considerable blame for endangering all of his supporters by putting them out into a very public and dangerous situation. The fact that he and his followers had laid low since the melee without even so much as producing a video or an audio to alert people of his survival further eroded his base of followers. The press gave up on the story and he faded into the lexicon of pop memory.

Greyson tried to envision a scenario in which his cousin, Cael Block, would have been stationed on one of the rooftops, or somewhere in the shadows behind the stage.

He slowed the video even more and expanded the bottom right corner section. Jaio fell backward on the stage. His expression never changed, but he lost his footing and landed on the back of his head. Almost instantaneously, a figure rose from the bottom right edge of the picture and brandished an AK47 rifle, the butt end of which caught the radical soldier by surprise, smashed across his nose and jaw and knocked him instantly unconscious.

The figure blurred across the screen with no discernible features other than a mass of darkness and shadow. But then he turned toward Jaio, who had just started to pick himself up off the stage. The Marine came into view for only a split second, grabbing Jaio and pulling him off-camera.

Greyson froze the clearest image from the series of screen shots but could not tell if the heroic figure in the video matched his recollection of his cousin.

The last message he had received from Cael referred to a new assignment on the other side of the “ME” or Middle East. He expressed excitement over a mission that finally means something and referred to himself as a convert. His exact last words were “Gonna change the world.”

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