In a not-so distant future, a group of scattered souls grapple with their place in the world, and soon discover that their time may be running short...

Content warning: Please note that the following work of fiction contains references to sex and violence.

The crowded auditorium was quiet; focused, fixated on the words that Vincent Parrish had composed for the occasion. Slightly left of center stage, the speaker’s presence was elevated by the soft spotlight that fell upon him. He purposefully allowed the silence to extend a few seconds past the people’s expectation. Then, he continued his speech.

“When I was in my late twenties, I took a chance. I purchased stock from a small, ambitious company called Collima. Many of you know that this group developed the precursor to the now ubiquitous extended-reality platform, Parallel.”

“It was a smart move. It took foresight. It launched my investing career, and in turn led to ten years of motivational speaking.”

“It made me successful.”

“But I won’t pretend that I earned this success in a vacuum. I had others who supported me, others who mentored me. And I happened to be in the right place, at the right time.”

“In reality, we can’t control all of the variables. But we can control some of them. Several, very significant ones.”

If you are asking yourself today, how can I become successful in my field, let me offer you this advice. Start by being proactive! Don’t stand still. Move forward! Invest your hearts and souls into your goals and decisions, with a resolve that focuses firmly on the path ahead.”

“It has been an honor to speak to you all today at HHS, in this vibrant city, filled with so many of Sweden’s brightest business minds. I look forward to seeing the heights you achieve! Thank you.”

There was a roar of applause from the audience as Vince stepped away from the podium. A well-dressed academic emphatically shook his hand.

Backstage, Vince unpocketed his phone and typed a quick, short message.

“Well?”

Fey immediately send her digital response.

“Great job, Mr. Gevin! I think they might want an encore!”

Vince laughed and another message came through.

“We still on for dinner tonight?”

“Absolutely,” he replied.

As Vince put on his coat, a pair of individuals in suits approached him from one of the nearby equipment rooms.

“Mr. Parrish?

“Yes?”

“Might we, have a brief word with you?”

Unfortunately I have a full schedule today, gentlemen.” He withdrew a business card. “I would be happy to-”

“-Mr. Parrish,” one of them interrupted, “you may have to cancel a few meetings…”