Los Gatos shone in the setting sunlight.  Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, felt as powerful as the mountain lions for which the city was named as he gazed out from his corner office.  He had the past of home entertainment by the throat, ready to rend so that the future could live.

Soon, only months away, the burden of DVD rentals would be unloaded onto Qwikster, leaving Netflix streaming to flourish.  A few malcontents were already canceling their accounts in protest to the complication of two services, but Reed knew that most of America would embrace the two part system as a necessary step in progress.  The tired old practice of having a physical copy of a film could at last be relegated to secondary importance, and allowed to die as Netflix’s streaming content flourished and grew. 

Though some might protest the end of DVD, now was not the time to worry about that.  For Reed, now was time to bask in the orange and blue light of his victory.

Blue light?

Reed whipped around to see the air opening in front of his desk.  The royal blue crack roiled and spat, sending out electric blue flickers.  As Reed watched, a black dot appeared in its center, growing steadily larger.  He reached for his phone, but flinched as a static shock raced through his forearm like a razor.  The black dot grew larger, and larger, and gradually resolved itself into a human, reaching out, shouting over the rushing air, “Reed!  Don’t do it!” 

The man crashed onto Reed’s desk, sending pens and papers flying.  Catching the precariously tilting monitor, Reed stared at his visitor.  A skin tight suit, goggles, a belt full of gadgets: who was this man who had dropped in out of the blue?

A knock on the door.  “Mr. Hastings?  Are you all right?” 

The visitor’s head snapped up.  With reflexes rivaling a rattlesnake, he pulled one of the gadgets from the belt and flung it at the door.  It stuck where it was thrown, pulsed once, twice, and then spoke in Reed’s voice: “I’m fine, Amelia, I just knocked something over.”

The visitor strode over to the blinds and shut them.  He turned to Reed, who inched back in his swivel chair.  “What day is it?” the visitor demanded.  “What day is it?”  He crossed the room and shook Reed by the shoulders.  “Reed, you have to stop it.  You have to take back Qwikster.” 

“The new system hasn’t even been established yet!” Reed spluttered. “What are you talking about?  What the hell is that glowing thing, a time portal?  And who–“

“Wait–you haven’t started yet?” The man sighed with relief.  “Thank God.  I thought I was too late.”

A chill crept up Reed’s spine.  “Too late for what?”

The visitor’s eyes narrowed.  “Qwikster.  You’re going to destroy the world, Reed Hastings, and it begins with the division of Netflix into Netflix Streaming and Qwikster.”

Reed gaped for a moment, then shook his head.  “You’re wrong.  Qwikster is going to do so much good.  Who are you to tell me it won’t?”

“My name is Ryan/Albert Johnson/Snow, and I come from the year 2131.  Our world is dead.  Earth won’t be able to sustain mankind much longer–what’s left of us, anyway.  In desperation, our scientists combed through history to find the bad steps that led us down the path to destruction.  Qwikster is not the only one, and we know that you meant…mean well, but it has to stop.”

Reed hung his head.  “I don’t understand.  How will putting DVD and streaming on separate sites cause the apocalypse?”

“Do you know how much comfort people take from having one online service that handles both DVD and streaming?  To have one place to rate, rent, and watch TV and movies?  You simplified their lives, Reed, and Qwikster took it all away.”  Ryan/Albert shuddered.  “Some people wouldn’t stand for it, and canceled their accounts, and others managed to incorporate the change.  But there were some who suffered terribly.  Having to enter two different URLs, two, maybe three more clicks to access both accounts, paying two bills…It was as if their minds were split in two along with their entertainment.”

Reed couldn’t stand it anymore.  “That explains your strange name, but this is ridiculous!  DVDs are dying!  They’ll be gone in under a decade with or without Qwikster, so why can’t I take some initiative and push humanity forward?” 

Ryan/Albert’s glare could have wilted a redwood.  He leaned in close to Reed.  “When you phased out Qwikster, human minds flew back to the comfort of material things.  Qwikster users began to riot, and they roped in Hollywood when they proved that your “progress” was exterminating the profits of DVD sales.  Directors and distributors demanded that you reinstate the old system, while Hulu and other streaming sites fought for the dominance of online content.  With entertainment in chaos, full of strikes and strife, the world became an unhappy place.  A very unhappy place.”

Ryan/Albert grabbed Reed’s collar.  “Ten years from now, if you don’t cancel your plans for Qwikster, the leader of the United Internet Army will open the event “Third World War” on Facebook.”

Reed stared at Ryan/Albert.  “Do we win?” 

Ryan/Albert raised an eyebrow. 

“All right, all right, internet can’t survive without the physical world, people can’t live without internet, the world dies.  How long will it be before DVDs go extinct like the dinosaurs and Borders?  How long until streaming lights up the home computers of the masses?”

Ryan/Albert gave a small smile.  “I don’t know, Reed.  But the world isn’t ready yet.”  With that, he stepped back into the blue portal, which vanished.

The room was eerily quiet.  A pop came from the door, and Reed looked over to see that the little device had disintegrated.

Reed burst out laughing.  It was probably some elaborate prank Bill Gates was playing, something to laugh about at the next meeting of the Microsoft board of directors.  The public would accept Qwikster, and then–

The blue portal opened again.  Ryan/Albert’s head poked out.  Reed jumped.  “Geez, what is it now?”

“I just wanted to make something clear.  Netflix will lose most of its money in the Qwikster crisis, and you’ll be forced out before the war starts.  He-Who-Must-Be-Friended will end up with your company.”

“He-Who-Must-Be-Friended?  You don’t mean–“

“I do.  Do you think that this office would look nice in Facebook Blue?”  Reed shook his head.  Ryan/Albert vanished into the portal once more.

Reed snatched up his phone.  “Amelia?  Yes, call the board of directors.  We need to cancel Qwikster.”

(photo credit: Eric Pratt and Liz Luu)