It’s been a week since my new book, kongo.com, was released. This was an interesting book to write. It contains three novellas that started as serials on my blog. The fourth novella is from an original story that has never been published. The intent of this story is to pull the other three together to show the ultimate goal of this corporation and the truth behind its technology.
In this post, I’m sharing the first part of this story. It’s called 3D life.
Fifteen-year-old Jeff Beckett clicked through the kongo.com web site nervously. His Uncle Steve gave him a $100 gift card and he couldn’t decide among the hundreds of thousands of things on which he could spend it. He knew whatever he picked would have to be approved by his mom. Ever since his dad left with a young analyst from his company, Mom had been very restrictive of whatever Jeff did. He felt like she was punishing all men because of what his dad did. It wasn’t fair. The analyst was kind of hot, though.
Jeff finally decided on a new holographic game controller for the Kongo Z-Con game console his dad gave him for Christmas. The console was the most expensive on the market and was obviously a guilt gift from his dad who left just before Thanksgiving. Jeff couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw it. His mom hated it and it was the first thing to be taken away whenever Jeff was punished for something. The tech was cool, and Jeff liked the holographic sports games. He had one Z-Con holo-controller. A second one would allow two-person games using the full display capabilities.
The controller was $89.95 leaving him about $10 on his card. He decided to use that on music downloads. His mom had to approve every song, but he could live with that since she didn’t understand the music he liked. He could sneak songs with secret lyrics by her with no problem.
His mom was in her office going over some files for her patients. She was a school psychologist which made her mind games even more unbearable. Jeff knocked and poked his head in.
“Mom, I decided what I want. I want to get another holo-controller. I put it in our check out bin. Is that okay?”
His mom’s face said it all, but she relented.
“As long as you’re not spending more time on that game. I could kill your father for getting it for you. It’s a waste of brain power.”
“I know, Mom,” Jeff said with a patented eye-roll. “But, can I get it?”
“Yes. I suppose so. I’ll put it through after I order some other stuff that we need. We’re low on Kongo chips and your sister needs some clothes and school supplies.”
“Okay. Let me know when you send it. I want to invite Justin over to play later.”
“I will. Just remember, school starts soon and you’re not going to spend hours on that game once summer is over.”
“I know, Mom. Just let me know when you put it through.”
“Okay. Love you.”
She always had to say it. It was almost like a question that demanded a response.
“Love you too, Mom.
Jeff went into his room and logged on to his computer to chat with his friend Justin. He brought up the Kongo-comm chat app and clicked on Justin’s name. Soon, his friends face appeared on the screen.
“Hey Jeffy. how’s everything? Did you get it?”
“Yeah. My mom said it’s okay. She’s going to put it through in a little while. Why don’t you come down and we’ll wait for it?”
“Okay. I can’t wait to try out that new Kongo World Cup 25. I heard it’s like being in the stadium with that holo-controller.”
“It’s cool in single player mode, but I’ll bet two-player is a lot better.”
“It is, because then I can kick your sorry butt.”
“Yeah, whatever. I’ll see you when you get here.”
The friends signed off and Jeff went back downstairs to see if his mom had ordered the controller.
Retailer kongo.com was a behemoth. Over 15 years, it swallowed up every competitor, big box department and book store and was now zeroing in on the grocery business. Kongo’s founder and CEO, Jack Burgess, was the perfect combination of technology and retail genius. He was Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos rolled into one amazing visionary. His brainchild, kongo.com, took delivery to a new level. The industry had progressed to mail order retailers offering next day, and eventually, same day shipping was the norm. Then kongo.com raised the bar to a level that no one anticipated. They introduced instant delivery.
The process was in the works for years. Burgess pulled together brilliant molecular scientists from all over the world and used his seemingly unlimited funds to conduct nearly ten years of research. What emerged was a process that could take in a top-secret raw material, put it through a patented process and used a cabinet that was a type of 3D printer/replicator, like the fictional one from the Star Trek television series, to produce whatever the customer ordered. It didn’t matter if it was clothes, electronics, or food, the ‘closet’, as it was unofficially named, was the delivery method for all goods.
As customers ordered goods, the appropriate raw materials, in molecular form, flowed through a conduit into the closet and the item appeared. The time it took to create the item varied based on its molecular complexity.
Over the past few years kongo.com had spent billions to run the conduit lines, much like telephone, electrical and internet service to nearly every location in the United States and most locations in modern countries. The company’s leadership, along with the U.S. State Department, was now in talks with China, Eastern European countries and even North Korea, to run supply lines to large cities. Despite the billions spent, Kongo had earned back the money spent on the infrastructure in less than two years. Along with paid services from its customers, kongo.com had established a pipeline supplying free food to the parts of the world that needed it most. Burgess was viewed as a humanitarian and was even being considered as a potential candidate to win the Nobel Prize in both the science and peace categories.
The secretive processing of kongo.com’s raw materials was the key to the success of the company. Although the source and composition of the raw material was the most closely-guarded trade secret in the history of business, speculation abounded, and theories ranged that the raw material was a combination of desert sand and water or a secret new chemical element. All this speculation incorrectly identified the source. Burgess was able to protect the secret by having a nearly 100% retention rate of the staff with the knowledge of the process. He paid them very well and, if the money wasn’t enough incentive, each employee involved in the process signed a combination non-compete/non-disclosure agreement that would find them virtually unable to get a job anywhere if they divulged any secrets. Even their generous pension and 401K program would be wiped away if they felt the need to speak about the process after retirement. Though the agreement seemed threatening, the salary and benefits offered to these specialized individuals would never be matched in another company.
Jeff was sitting in his room when he heard a knock at the front door. He could see the front of the house from his second story bedroom. He saw Justin’s bike leaning up against the magnolia tree in the front yard. He opened his window just enough to yell down to his friend.
“Just come in. It’s unlocked.”
He heard the door open, a muted greeting to his mom and then the plodding footsteps of his friend as he made his way up the stairs.
“Hey, Jeffy,” Justin said as the door burst open. “I didn’t catch you doing anything you shouldn’t, did I?”
Jeff shook his head as he looked at his friend. Justin was overweight and unkempt. Unlike Jeff’s mom, his parents didn’t regulate his video game time and, as a result, his body showed the effects. Jeff loved video games, but he also liked to be outside and played in multiple sports. Theirs was an unlikely, but solid friendship.
“Right, Justin. I told you to come in. Did you think I’d just keep at it? I know it takes a while to haul your manatee butt up the stairs, but not that long.”
“Bragging again, I see,” his friend said with a smile.
The teasing between them was the kind that only best friends could get away with.
“Just for that, when I get that holo-controller, I’m not going to go easy on you. You’re toast.”
“Right. You can’t match my skill. I’ve got a lot more hours on the console than you’ll ever have.”
“I know,” Jeff retorted. “That explains your ‘body by video games’ physique.”
A slight look of hurt crossed Justin’s face and Jeff regretted the comeback. He knew Justin’s parents were on him about his weight, but, as they were both obese, they couldn’t teach or demonstrate any kind of self-control that would change his fate.
“Hey, I’m just short for my weight,” Justin answered in his self-deprecating style.
Jeff let it go and changed the subject.
“Let me check to see if mom put in the order with the holo-controller yet.”
Jeff logged in to the kongo.com site and, sure enough, his mother had ordered the controller. The queue indicated that it would print to the closet in about 10 minutes.
“We’ve got 10 minutes,” Jeff said. “Let’s get a snack before it prints.”
“Sure, first you tell me I’m fat, then you offer me food.”
“Does that mean you don’t want some leftover coffee cake?”
“I didn’t say that. I was just pointing out the irony.”
Jeff and Justin descended the stairs to the kitchen to wait for the closet to deliver the goods ordered from kongo.com.
The kongo.com closet was about the size of a small refrigerator. It was essentially a hollow box with a door on the front and a thin layer of highly-sophisticated circuitry between the inner and outer walls. The unit could be custom ordered to fit the décor of whatever room it was in.
There was a nine-inch display screen on the front of the closet that served multiple purposes. It showed the time and local weather when the closet was inactive. It could be used to leave messages, compile a grocery list, send text messages and even make phone calls. Its primary purpose was to give status updates when there were incoming goods. The goods were fully created within the closet by rearranging the molecular structure of the raw material that flowed into it from a small pipeline in the back of the unit.
The cost of items produced in the closet was based on three factors. First was demand. If something was very popular, kongo.com used traditional laws of supply and demand to set pricing. The latest fashions, electronics and other tangible items were priced at premium levels. The second factor was complexity. Something small and electronic might be much more expensive than something large. A Kongo-Fit wristwatch, for instance, might cost $400 while a six-person tent might only cost $150. Third was the amount of raw material required to create the object. The density and weight of an object would help determine how much it would cost. The intersection of these three factors determined how much the customer would pay.
Because the raw material and technology to produce each object was the same, there were no situations where items were out of stock. For objects that were too large for the consumers closet unit, kongo.com had regional fabrication centers that could produce automobiles, semi-trucks and even component parts for buildings in very large fabrication chambers. These components parts could then be picked up by consumers or companies that chose to use kongo.com as their manufacturer for customized items. This capability had changed the consumer and small company manufacturing industries overnight.
Jeff and Justin finished their snacks. As they sat at the kitchen Island, they could see the items ordered from kongo.com queuing up on the closet’s display screen. The Kongo Chips were the first to appear. Kongo Chips were one of the revolutionary food products created by the company. They were completely synthesized, almost completely comprised of healthy proteins, fiber and vitamins. They were extremely nutritious but, unlike virtually all healthy foods, delicious. They had a taste that could only be compared to crunchy potato chips with a hint of buttered popcorn and just a touch of sweetness. This was all with minimal calories.
The chips were not only available to consumers, but they were provided at no cost to countries struggling with hunger and malnutrition, a PR boon for kongo.com. The military also purchased a version of them to virtually replace their traditional Meals Ready to Eat or MREs, as they were affectionately called.
Jeff retrieved three bags of chips from the closet to make room for the next item. Apparently, his mom had ordered some underwear for his older sister. This grossed him out, but he could see Justin had some interest. Unfortunately for him, when Jeff retrieved them gingerly from the closet, they were boring white garments with no titillating value whatsoever.
Finally, the holo-controller was the next item on deck to print. Jeff and Justin snacked on Kongo Chips as they waited the interminable ten minutes it took to produce the sophisticated electronic device. Finally, when it was complete, Jeff grabbed the controller and they hurried to the family room to sync it up with the game console and try it out.
Once the sync was complete, they loaded up Kongo World Cup Soccer 3D. Jeff and Justin put on their headsets and chose their usual avatars from their favorite teams. The avatars earned points based on their success in the games in which they had participated. Based on the number of points, they were chosen on teams that were formed in the game’s virtual community. You could choose to play on the same team as friends, but Justin and Jeff chose to be on opposing teams. They both had extensive experience with the game and were chosen on Level B teams, three levels below the elite AAA Level teams mostly populated by professional gamers.
A timer floated away from the TV screen and hovered in mid-air counting down the 30 seconds until the game started. Jeff’s position was a left wing on his team. Justin ended up as the opposing team’s goalie.
As the timer approached five seconds until game time, a virtual stadium crowd encircled the family room and Jeff and Justin’s avatars appeared as holographic images in the center of the room along with their teammates. User names appeared on the front and back of the avatars’ colorful jerseys. This allowed them to, of course, keep track of their own player along with the capability to address other players on their teams.
An imposing looking referee appeared and placed the ball in the center on the side of the field for Justin’s team to kick off and start the game. The game started in earnest and the opposing right winger dribbled the ball near the sideline. Jeff could see that he had difficulty controlling the ball. He waited for the right moment and deftly stole the ball as the player, Beckham42, tried to pass him by. Jeff expertly mashed the buttons on his controller and dribbled the ball into the other team’s territory. As two players ran toward his avatar seeking to double team him on defense, Jeff waited until they both committed and passed the ball off to the center forward. He then maneuvered his avatar at an angle toward the goal being careful not to get behind the defenders and be cited for an off-sides violation. Once he was in position, the experienced center forward with the user name, Pele72, passed to Jeff at just the right moment. He could see Justin’s avatar waiting for him in front of the goal. When he felt he had the right angle, he kicked the ball aiming for the upper right-hand corner of the goal. Justin’s avatar reacted with lightning quickness, however, and expertly tipped the ball over the top of the goal resulting in a corner kick for Jeff’s team.
The closely matched play went on for quite some time with no score until Justin’s team finally broke free with the ball and scored a goal with a minute left in the match. That was the score at which the game ended. Jeff never had another opportunity like the first one to score on Justin. For now, Justin would have bragging rights. Jeff knew that he would push the bravado to a certain level but would back off before taking it too far. He was a true friend.
As the friends waited for the completion of the game and the summary statistics began to pop up. Jeff felt a slight tickle in his right ear. It wasn’t an electrical shock exactly, but just a tiny stimulation of the hairs in his ear that was barely noticeable. He didn’t give it a second thought. If he had mentioned it to Justin, however, his friend would have told him that he experienced the same thing.
The boys shut down the game and decided to go up to Jeff’s room and check out what new games would be coming out soon now that Jeff had the second holo-controller.
If you enjoyed this snippet of the final story, please consider purchasing your copy of kongo.com from Amazon by clicking HERE.