A cult of consciousness

A brief continuation…

“How did that feel?” Paul echoed. “I can feel minds. They’re empty…”

Lasseter yanked him towards the exit. “Well that explains a lot…”

Sniper fire. ‘Copters crashing. Smoke everywhere. Breathing, difficult.

Paul fell into Lasseter’s arms as his eyes widened and the world expanded within him, nanites connecting to nanites, personalities pooling, consciousness turning into a river, into an ocean.

An ocean Paul controlled. He gasped for breath. The suddenness of the change choked him, changed him.

“It’s all a paradox, everything…” he stammered, eyes wide, grabbing Lasseter’s shoulders, pulling himself upright. “No God, but demons, yes. Evil. The mind, the Universe, a Void. Light, a wave, a particle. Nothing rational. No explanations…no sense…”

“That’s why I drink,” Lasseter yanked him to safety behind a pillar. “They’re shooting live rounds; we need to get outta Dodge….”

The gathering turned into a throng. Paul stared at the reality of what the gathering had become. Gas masks had appeared, as if by magic. First aid supplies strewn randomly. Sticks and pipes in people’s fists. Baseball bats, hockey sticks, make shift weapons of every kind and home-made armor from trash can lids.

“The resistance forms itself,” Lasseter smirked.

“Not gonna work against this overfunded military machine,” Paul retorted. “Bass using soldiers with live ammunition against our own citizens…against Americans…he’s crossed the line. History is with us…martyr’s…martyrs solidify a movement…any movement…”

“A movement? When did you become a movement?” Lasseter returned his flask to his breast pocket. Eyed it lovingly.

“Not me. Us. A cult. A cult of consciousness. I can feel it. It’s a tidal wave, and it’s starts now. It’s here.”

They turned to watch a barrier form against the incoming Black Hawks not under Paul’s control. Broken furniture, doors, overturned automobiles, all seemingly piling itself into a mound with people crawling under it like roaches.

Something cold and hard brushed Paul’s arm. He looked up. Billy-Bob prodded him with the point of his rifle.

“Time to go. Live another day.” He threw Paul over his shoulder and ran for the exit. Lasseter followed.


Lasseter bellowed against the wind.

“Akira? Akira takes care of Akira.”

More later.  


The sound of thousands of voices rumbling through Paul’s mind was nothing but white noise. The static of a television. The fuzz of no signal.

The sharp crack of the sniper’s rifle from above created a preternatural focus.

Head shot for Paul. Followed by more.

That was when the sky erupted into ear shattering explosions of thunder and flashes of lightning.

The weather hadn’t changed. That was the sound of .50 caliber machine guns opening fire. Paul never handled a weapon in his life, so the sounds and recoil shook him to the core.

The rotors and blades of the Black Hawks created high speed winds that threw dust and debris in every direction.  The crowd panicked and scattered. Lasseter, Billy-Bob and Paul stood their ground, bobbing and weaving through the carnage.

Akira threw her arms skyward, greeting the chaos.

Billy-Bob shielded his eyes, tracking the Black Hawks. “They’re shooting each other!” He yelled, grabbing Paul’s shoulder pulling him backwards towards safety.

Paul responded with a painful wink and a grin.

Abruptly, the firing stopped and the helicopters banked hard toward the empty parking lot on the opposite side of the mall. The crowd tripped and clawed in a mad scramble to escape.

This was American soil. A friendly crowd. Black Hawks firing. Flashbacks to Afghanistan.

“They’re clearing out!”

Paul stood transfixed. He’d connected with the infected minds and in the ‘copters and ordered them to shoot­­—at each other. At the engines. At the search lights. At the snipers.

It wasn’t long before he connected with the pilots, ordering them to bank away.

The ‘copters he couldn’t control had to go down.


That wasn’t the loudest explosion Billy-Bob had heard, but based on their altitude, he knew the crashes were survivable.

The death toll would be at a minimum.

 Acceptable levels.

If it were up to Akira, we’d all be dead.

With her arms raised and with the wind billowing her hair, she looked in control.  

But she wasn’t.

Billy-Bob knew. He knew.

Lasseter slid his arm around Paul’s waist, propping him against the wind, shielding him from the debris. He cupped his right hand into a semicircle, yelling to be heard.

 “How’d that feel?”

He took a swig from flask, rolled his eyes skyward, and smiled.


“My mind to your mind. My thoughts to your thoughts…”

“Really, Paul?”

Akira raised an eyebrow, tilted her head off center, but managed to keep her focus on the incoming Blackhawks.

“Does that chant work on a mass scale?” Lasseter smirked.

“It seemed appropriate, that’s all I could think of…”

Paul’s eyes went wide as the Universe expanded within him, as the nanites activated themselves in the minds of those around him; activated his neurons, his every synapse, and connected him to a sea of minds that was vast, endless. It was an ocean of consciousness and Paul was riding the wave.

He was looking down on himself from inside the helicopter. He saw the four of them on stage, Lasseter, Billy-Bob and Akira huddled ‘round him in a protective circle, like a herd of elephants protecting a newborn from an attacking pride of lions.

He was two places at once. It couldn’t be, but it was.

There was no time to think, question, analyze. That would come later. He was seeing himself through the thick film of a helmet, the vision smudged, blurry: he was the door gunner, aiming at himself, finger on the trigger.  

The helicopter was descending hot, fast. The targets, stationary: should be an easy kill. The Blackhawks were swinging towards the targets like pendulums, swaying from left to right. Although stationary targets were easy to hit, I need to remember to aim not directly at them, but I need aim so the bullets run into the targets, which in this case meant aiming approximately a foot to the left, using the momentum of the flightpath to swing the bullets right into the group.

“I wonder what will happen to my consciousness if I rip myself a few new assholes with this .50 caliber…” Paul found himself wondering as he fingered the trigger.  

“Gunner, take the shot.”

The command came through the headset loud and clear.

The pilot screamed: “What the fuck are you waiting for?”

“Those are Americans down there…” Paul yelled back in a voice that his but not his, keeping his grip on the gun. “Do you want another Tiananmen square?”

“Orders, gunner. Shoot or we’ll have to swing by for another pass. They could bolt. Shoot now!”

Paul felt a hand pull his shoulder. He spun, looked directly at the face of Billy-Bob stepping out of the shadows.

“We gotta go! Get behind me!”

“Bruh! I got this!”

A return to pure energy?

Paul’s eyes widened as he felt the presence of the many minds within his own. It was difficult to maintain control, but he was amazed as his consciousness expanded to make room for the sea of humanity entering his mind. There were as many neurons and synaptic connections within his brain as there were stars in the Universe, and he felt his own brain expanding, moving, absorbing, growing. There was room to unite all of humanity. And room for much more.

His nanite infection had reached critical mass and Paul could clearly see within the minds of his followers. He could feel their greatest fears, their greatest ambitions and their wildest dreams.

Amongst all those minds, he finally sensed what he’d been hoping to find: the truth. The single common denominator uniting all forms throughout the galaxy.

Buried deep within us, obscured by fear and manipulation to consume, to spend, to acquire, to compete; buried beneath a lifetime of programming from the capitalist cult of mass media was a common denominator humanity had never faced nor admitted, but which they intuitively knew.  And this explained everything.

In Paul’s mind, this explained all the stories from our past, the various myths of every culture, each and every God of every religion, all explained by one simple truth, one simple premise.

Paul shook his head. It was so simple. Why had he not realized it earlier? Every form had a simple, innate desire…no, a yearning…to be free. But that meant freedom from the constraints and limitations of matter, whether the form was human, beast or mineral.

A return to the simple, elegant state of pure energy was the only way to achieve this freedom.

Paul could see it clearly now. And this explained the slaughter of millions throughout history.

“My nanites were never meant to be political,” Paul said, turning to face Lasseter and Akira. Billy-Bob remained in the shadows.

Lasseter grinned. “Anytime you get a group of people thinking the same way, it becomes political.”

“It’s dangerous,” Paul responded quickly. “My red shirts don’t care of they live or die. Deep down, they want to die, and they’re beginning to acknowledge this…”

“Let them die.” Akira shrugged.

Lasseter ignored her. “It’s impossible to fight people with no fear of death. That’s why the government is out to stop you. They fear a movement developing that will effect voting, spending…everything, in fact.”

“How can I put a stop to this?” Paul looked worried.

“You can’t,” Akira jumped in. “You’re past the point of no return. You started it, but you can’t stop it.”

Billy-Bob stepped out of the shadows. “Give them hope…”

“There’s that word ‘hope’,” Lasseter laughed. “There is no hope…”

“There’s always hope…” Billy-Bob inched forward, catching Paul’s glance. “I didn’t fight in two wars to listen to you telling me I actually wanted to die…”

“Maybe you did want to die,” Lasseter replied quickly, taking a moment to gulp from his flask. “Otherwise, why go to war? You wanted to die but were afraid to admit it.”

“I admit it,’ Akira added. “I want everyone to die.” She didn’t even smile. “The sooner, the better.”

“Guys, guys,” Paul interrupted, “Billy-Bob’s right. I have to give people Hope. A reason to live. Any ideas?”

“Stick to the basics.” Lasseter’s palms went skyward as his shoulders shrugged slightly.

“What basics?”

“Sex, drugs ‘n rock n’ roll.”

“Lasseter, this isn’t a joke.”

“Life is a joke.”

“At this very moment, my followers, my red shirts, are about to get mowed down by Bass’s militia. They’re protesting in front of the White House and they’re about to get fired upon.”

“That could be a good thing,” Akira cackled.

More later.

Not the usual riot.

They gathered, at last

“Oh, Christ,” Turner said. “Another fucking riot.”

“Again?” Bass responded.

“Idiots everywhere,” Turner said. “Damn it all to hell…”

Bass pulled himself upright, sloshing his precious Macallan. “Hand me my Bible. I’ll waive it at them. Works every time.”

Turner pulled himself upright and reached for the Bible across from his seat. The President always kept one handy, just for instances like this. He’d never seen him read it, just wave it around and mutter a few passages.

The President never read the passages correctly, but no one seemed to notice. Or care.

Beyond the windshield was a street full of people. Funny, Turner thought. They didn’t look angry. They weren’t waving signs. There was no chanting or raising clenched fists in the air to demonstrate power.  Where was the rage? Where were the hotheads? The anarchists? The socialists? The communists?

Where was the threat to the American Way of Life?

Why were the all wearing red shirts?

Turner looked out the passenger window and saw the President’s entourage was prepared for violence. The motorcade was trailed by what Turner jokingly referred to as “The Pilot Fish defending the Beast.” These were the fish that depended on the President to continue feeding the military and security budgets to keep them alive as they defended the President—and the system—from parasites like this.

The people were the parasites.

He could see the squad cars. The decoy Limos. The State Troopers on motorcycles. Secret Service in various non-descriptive and obviously government owned black sedans. Hazmat vehicles, the White House Comms vehicle, followed by body guards dressed like Marines.

Hundreds of tiny drones and counter drones flew above the Beast and on all sides of the convoy, equipped with sensors and sights to make sure the Motorcade was never taken by surprise.

Funny again, Turner thought, those drones aren’t flying in the correct formation. Hasn’t anyone noticed?

Among the decoys was the Army Colonel with the Football—the briefcase containing the nuclear launch codes—should the worst happen.

Turner prayed the worst would never happen. But he didn’t believe in God, so he often wondered to whom it was he prayed.

He looked past the motorcade into the crowd, looking for a sign. A flag. Anything. Give me a clue, he thought. What lies do I have to tell you idiots in order to get you to disperse peacefully?

He saw people of all races, creeds and nationalities. A huge crowd. A sea of people. Thousands, hundreds of thousands? He couldn’t tell. Young, old, male, female. Every color, every race. But what did they want? What was their message?

Turner looked. The crowds and the anticipation of a riot increased the tension inside the Beast. He turned his head to hand Bass the Bible, and he finally saw what he’d been looking for.

Outside, in the distance, a young woman, beautiful, even from this far, waving a sign. Long blonde hair, a shirt cut at the waist showing an hourglass figure with breasts that caused the shirt to hike even higher. Turner squinted. The sign read: “NANITES UNITE.”

What the fuck does that mean, he thought, suppressing a chuckle.

Turner was about to find out.

More later. 

Black Hawks Down

“The Status Quo will stop at nothing to maintain the Status Quo.”

Whoop. Whoop. Whoop. Whoop.

The sound of approaching death grew louder as the black dots in the distance grew larger, finally recognizable to everyone.

Heads turned. The crowd murmured.

Paul felt control slipping out of his grasp. This could get dangerous.  His first followers. He had to protect them. But how?

Akira spoke first.

 “I don’t care about these people at all,” she said flatly. “They’re just insects to me. But these are your nanite infested minds, under your control…so you care, don’t you Paul…?”

 Akira turned her attention back to the cell phone in her palm, fingers flying over the shiny black surface, not waiting for an answer.

The sound of the approaching Blackhawks grew louder. Paul turned toward Lasseter: “She’s right. Any suggestions?”

Paul sensed the rising panic as the helicopters got closer.

Lasseter didn’t hesitate: “Douse those brains with chemicals.” 

“Chemicals?” Paul’s eyes bulged.

“Figure it out, Paul. You can do it. This is your first test of power and control. Own it.” Lasseter nudged Billy-Bob with a sharp elbow.

“Don’t hold back,” Lasseter went on calmly, “Hit those brains with everything…release the chemicals…”

Paul closed his eyes, turned toward the crowd, raised his arms high and concentrated.

He remained motionless far too long.

Billy-Bob watched as the crowd sat in unison, as one single organism, assuming the Lotus position.  All looking ecstatic. All ignoring the threat from above.

“What’d you do?” Billy-Bob forced himself to remain standing.

“That was easier than I thought,” Paul grinned, the sleeves of his robes flapping in the wind. “I flooded their brains with chemicals…natural chemicals…Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin…they feel so good now they won’t panic…then I took over their cerebral cortex and planted the suggestion that they sit.”

Billy-Bob fingered his Glock. “How long can you keep them that way…?”

Lasseter interrupted. “Won’t take long for fear to override bliss.”

“Just give me more time, more practice,” Paul answered quickly. “Eventually, I will remove all fear from their consciousness. Even fear of death. Once I remove fear, they’ll be free. This will be my gift to all mankind.”

“Fear?” Billy-Bob echoed, pointing upward. “Right now, we have several very good reasons to be afraid.”

“They’re coming,” Akira responded. “The status quo will kill to keep the status quo…”


Lasseter spoke quietly. “Akira, time to do your thing…”

The wind began to howl as the rotors from the Black Hawks created their own dust storm as they began to descend.

“What exactly is ‘her thing?” Billy-Bob shouted over the howling wind.

As if to answer, Akira nodded slightly towards the corner of the plaza, and Billy-Bob heard the sudden high-pitched whirring of thousands of drones skimming over the head of the crowd still sitting safely in the Lotus position, rapidly rising skyward, like a flock of birds or a swarm of mosquitos.

“If it’s digital, electronic, connected to the internet, has a man-made brain or electronic circuits, I own it,” she said.

Billy-Bob watched in astonishment as the wave of drones increased in number and headed straight for the Black Hawks.

“Something I learned from your Martial arts,” Akira continued intently, “If your enemy goes high, you go low. If they push, you pull. If they go big, you go small. In that way, you transmute their greatest strength into their greatest weakness.”

Billy-Bob shielded his eyes and watched the sky darken.

The drones were rising faster now, their fans whirring and whining, lifting them over the heads of the crowd and lifting them above the buildings straight for the helicopters. Drones of all types were in the mix. Toy, recreational drones that happen to be in the area. Police Surveillance drones that were recording Paul’s first appearance.  Small and large drones. Copter and winged. Single Rotor and Multi-Rotor Drones. Fanned and jet. Some Police Drones in her net were even equipped with small guns to manage crowd control.  If it was in the vicinity, it came. Her army. Off to do her bidding, like humans under Paul’s control would eventually do his bidding.

Akira ignored Billy-Bob and Lasseter and Paul and lifted her head to focus.

“And this helps us how, against them?” Billy-Bob yelled against the wind.

“Even with their weapons,” Akira answered, “Even with their guns, how many can they shoot out of the sky before these little Kamikaze’s clog up their engines and rotors, or take out their pilots?”

Billy-Bob face-palmed.

“Paul,” she continued, “Instruct your sedated minions to walk out of the plaza quickly but quietly before the explosions begin.”

–More later

“I am the resurrection.”

“Akira could hear pitchforks hitting the pavement”

Paul froze in his tracks. Akira leaned on him firmly, pressing him towards the exit.

“No,” he said simply.

Billy-Bob and Lasseter grabbed him by the arm, tried pulling him off the balcony.

“Never underestimate the power of the right moment,” he said, spinning, turning back to face the crowd.

“What?” Billy-Bob, stunned.

“This is my moment,” he answered, lips upturned.

Paul raised his arms, the sleeves of his multi-colored robes swaying gently in the wind.

“I am your Christ. I am your Buddha,” He announced, raising his hands towards the sky, his fingers stretching toward the heavens.

Akira turned quickly, her defensive algorithms gearing up, expecting to see pitchforks hurling towards them.


“I am the resurrection,” Paul continued. “I am your truth. We are the nanosphere!”

A stunned silence fell over the crowd as hundreds of eyes fell upon Paul.

“Can you feel them?” Paul asked.

Billy-Bob and Lasseter exchanged glances. Shrugged.

“It’s absolutely sublime,” Paul whispered. “This is my exalted moment. Look at them Lasseter, Billy-Bob. You too Akira. Hundreds of souls falling into synchronization. They have little in common but me. Listen to their breathing. Listen to their heart beats. Feel their bodies and souls come together as one.”

Billy-Bob and Lasseter looked out upon the crowd.

“They are falling into a single rhythm,” Akira stated flatly. “Like one pulse. One heartbeat. It’s quantifiable.”

“Coincidence?” Billy-Bob asked, nudging Lasseter.

“No such thing,” Lasseter responded. “Everything’s connected.”

“These people are connected to me,” Paul answered. “Through the nanites. Connected directly into my mind. We are now one consciousness.”

“Welcome to the nanosphere,” Paul yelled loudly. “The merger of science, technology and spirituality is now complete. This is your second coming!”

Billy-Bob’s hand slid onto Lasseter’s shoulder, gripping it firmly, as he leaned in and whispered, “Is Paul starting to believe his own bullshit?”

“It’s not bullshit,” Paul replied, overhearing, moving only the corner of his mouth.

“It’s true, Billy-Bob. Science will never lead the masses to realize who they truly are. Will never lead the masses to true peace. I see this now as an absolute truth. Why had I not seen this earlier? Scientists are the ones who create Frankenstein monsters and atom bombs. The number of lives scientists take exceed the number of lives they save.”

Paul turned his back toward Billy-Bob and faced the crowd once again. The crowd, the masses, now moved as one, breaths and chests now heaved and moved as one organism, as if a giant whale had come to occupy the courtyard.

“Can you feel it, my children?”

“My children?” Billy-Bob repeated, his face contorting.

“Feel the peace, purity and wisdom emerging from our intertwined minds. Feel your neighbor as you feel yourself. When you hate your neighbor, you hate yourself. When you hurt your neighbor, you hurt yourself…”

A sigh came from the crowd sounding like a gentle breeze.

“…and when you love your neighbor, you love yourself.”

Silently, the heads in the crowd turned as people looked at each other, as if for the first time.

“I am your reality,” Paul continued, “The nanosphere is your reality.”

A loud whoop.

“I have no agenda but to set you free. Church leaders, politicians, those with agenda’s, are nothing more than salesman who lie and manipulate to enslave you….”

Paul inhaled before continuing…

 “I want nothing from you but to save you from yourselves.  I am your connection to the nanosphere. Through me, through technology, I will set you free!”

The crowd roared. Akira could hear the sound of metal pitchforks hitting the pavement.

‘We’d better pack up our nanites and get outta dodge,” Billy-Bob interrupted, looking skyward, watching what were once little black dots grow perceptively larger.

Black Hawk Helicopters. Getting dangerously close.

Paul lowered his arms and spread them forward as if to embrace the entire crowd.

“You got this?” His face turned grim as he turned toward Akira.

Akira met his eyes. She saw eyes that were once bright with hope become clouded with fear.

Without saying a word, she reached deep into her robe with her right hand, calmly removed a small object, cupped her fingers around it and placed it in her palm, then held it directly in Paul’s line of sight.  

A cellphone.

The sunlight glimmered off its reflective surface.

“I got this.”

More later.

A New Reality Begins.

A Living God emerges.

The four marched solemnly out onto the balcony, hands clasped as in prayer. Four figures wearing dazzling full length scarlet and white robes. Leading the four just a few steps ahead of the others was a lone figure who wore the only multi-colored robe among them: pure white edged in gold, with Rose, Red, Green, Purple and Violet threads stitched throughout. The hood was pulled forward to obscure the face inside. On the breast was embroidered a nearly imperceptible insignia of the symbol PI, looking similar to the ancient Stonehenge monument—a slab supported by two non-parallel support beams—representing the symbol of infinity but also the first two initials of Paul’s full name: Paul Isaac Evans.  

Akira orchestrated the event perfectly, even down to the precise time of day. The rising sun at their backs created the halo effect she desired, while obscuring the eyesight of the masses.  A huge cheer went up from the crowd. Television camera’s edged in, while thousands of flashes momentarily blinded the four as hundreds of Iphones snapped photos to record the moment.

Paul used the din to converse with Akira:

“Is this necessary?”

“You’re now their Living God. You have to look like the part.”

“But robes?”

Akira turned her head slightly. Behind her, she could sense Billy-Bob and Lasseter listening intently.

Lasseter grinned at her approvingly, while Billy-Bob nervously caressed a barely perceptible bulge on the right side of his robe. The Glock. He never went anywhere without it.

“We are addressing their collective consciousness and cellular memories,” she whispered, wanting to end the conversation quickly.

“Everything we’ve chosen for this moment dates back centuries…thousands of years before even Christ…an event designed so this pitchfork crowd will recognize you on such deep, subliminal level, they’ll fall in love with you instantly, without knowing why.”

“And be even more receptive…”


The crowd was finally growing silent, waiting for Paul to speak.

Paul stood a few feet in front of the rest, reached up, and slowly pulled his hood back. He smiled alluringly across the crowd of his infected faithful. There was a look of disquiet about his face that suggested he felt their deepest concerns and fears. That their pain and uncertainty was his. As the rising, bright sunlight silhouetted the back of his head, the cheering increased.

Lasseter, Akira and Billy-Bob turned toward Paul, applauding him, then raised their arms towards the crowd in a call for silence.

Paul raised his own arms to support the call for quiet. The crowd went silent as the infected faithful held their breath. The flashes from the Iphones stopped, and even the babble from the media whores were stilled.

“I want to thank all of you for making this Pilgrimage,” Paul began. “I know it was a long and difficult journey for some of you, but we are about the change the world…”

Paul turned to face the other three, and their arms continuing to signal for silence.

“You have felt my mind, and I have touched yours,” he continued. “The New Reality is just beginning. It has touched your hearts as it has touched my own. You could see it coming, as I could see it coming. The world is past the point of no return unless we join together to raise our consciousness. Economic collapse. Climate Change. Thousands of years of mass insanity is finally coming to an end.”

Lasseter lowered his head and whispered to Billy-Bob. “The climate change thing is irreversible and planet earth is fast tracking to become a K-Type star.”

“An actual star?” Billy-Bob’s hand stopped caressing his gun.

“Sorry to be the one to tell you. That’s one reason why I have to get Akira off this planet.”

“Does Paul know?”

“I’m not sure.”

“The very rich have been living a life of ease and decadence, and while you slave away in their factories and stores for scraps, the pedophile elite who rule you rape your beautiful young daughters turning them into harlots and whores…”

An angry roar gushed from the crowd, fist shaking violently in the air.

“Look,” Akira giggled, “An actual pitchfork. Someone’s shaking an actual pitchfork. This is great!”

“This we must change!” Paul roared, holding his fist high.

The angry roar turned into a naked, violent scream of adulation.

“Together, we will ascend. We will no longer identify with race, gender, age or nationality…those things which divide us…together, we are one…the new reality begins today…a new reality where everyone lives in peace, love, abundance, joy, truth, compassion and higher dimensional consciousness.”

A burst of euphoria surged through the air.

“We will not only stand equally in the whole cosmos, we will spread throughout the cosmos, we will not destroy ourselves and this planet…together we will conquer the stars and spread throughout the galaxy!”

The euphoria was palpable and the decibels grew, causing Paul’s robe to vibrate.

Billy-Bob abruptly stepped forward and grabbed Paul’s shoulders in what looked like a warm, congratulatory embrace.

“It’s time to go,” he whispered. “They’re coming.”

Off in the distance, flying into the sun, small dark spots approaching in a formation that only a trained eye could identify.

Black Hawk helicopters, racing towards them at 183 mph.

Akira didn’t waste a moment. She gently spun Paul towards the exit, waving to the crowd.

More later.

It’s good to be assimilated.

He could feel them watching.

Josef stood bare feet in his room for ten seconds and looked around. It was the same, but different. He couldn’t tell how different; it was just different. Perhaps it simply felt different.  Or maybe he was different.

The room smelled like stale cigars, stale whiskey and bad breath.

Josef had never prided himself on his cleanliness.

He prided himself on his ability to get the job done. At any cost. The ends justified the means. Always.

He’d been a terrifying man, given to fits of anger and blind outbursts or rage. Which accounted for his rapid rise in the ranks of the DHS. He found a place where he fit in. His murderous rages were not only rewarded, they were both justified and applauded.

As long as he could control himself around his superiors, he could get away with anything.

Give him a gun, a badge, and he could do what he wanted. Such a feeling of power!

But he didn’t feel so powerful at this moment. Not standing in this room now.

His room looked filthy and ridiculous.

He couldn’t believe he’d been such an animal.

He couldn’t believe one encounter with a stranger named Paul made him see things so differently. Made him feel so different. So much more alive.  So much a part of all humanity.

He’d been ordered to kill or capture. Instead, he had joined with what was once the enemy. He was now part of the Hive. And he finally felt human.

This was his first mission failure. But it felt more like his biggest success.

He looked around the room and made mental notes of what he would clean up first. The kitchen table. The dishes. The empty beer bottles.

Taking off his shirt, unholstering his weapon and sitting on the edge of the chair to remove his shoes and socks, he prepared to take a shower.

Josef was still covered with dried blood and debris from the explosions.

He had walked away from fallen comrades, and instead of killing the group responsible, he had joined with them.

That would be unforgiveable in the DHS. But, no matter.

This thought left a brief twinge of regret for the man he once was­­—but this was quickly replaced with joy for what he had become.

He was connected to the Hive. He could feel more minds connecting as he sat there getting ready to clean himself off.

The shower would be his official baptism.

He smiled. He felt accepted. Not just by the small group within the DHS, but by everyone. He would no longer have to compete with another human being for anything. Not for jobs. Not for money. Not for love.

He was now part of a growing collective. All would be shared if you were in the Hive.

Standing in the shower, turning the cold water on as high as possible, he felt his skin become taught and felt his old, underlying feelings of anxiety wash from his soul as easily as the dried blood sloughed from his skin.

The cold water was revitalizing. It shocked him awake.

His eyes were open. He saw his old life for what it was: a life of addiction, endless cravings, long stints of boredom, mixed with daily confusion, distress and social isolation.

He did what he was told by the government and got rewarded for it. Day in, day out.

This created a Pavlovian system of rewards and punishment that kept him completely brainwashed throughout his entire career­­—throughout his adult life.

He was Russian. He should have recognized it earlier.

But was it not the same for any person plugged into the delusions of the corporation? You show up for 8, 12, 14 hours a day and are constantly bombarded by corporate messages, constantly harangued by the distant drumbeats emanating from somewhere deep within the jungle of the corporate boardroom.

These messages eventually drill themselves into your consciousness and soon, you believe them. You believe every word. Making you nothing more than a corporate drone. Willing to do their bidding for but a scrap of a reward.

Just like one of Pavolv’s dogs.

The phone rang, interrupting Josef’s reverie.

Stepping from the cold shower, not bothering to towel dry, Josef reached for his cell phone, next to the empty beer bottle.

It was the Secretary of Defense.

“What do you mean they fucking got away?” the voice bellowed from somewhere over the ether.

Josef smiled. He had learned early in his career to stick to the facts. He wasn’t paid to provide analysis, editorialize, or give opinions unless specifically asked. “They must have help from a foreign enemy. What they did to us and how they escaped is simply not possible with our existing technology. They escaped as if by magic.”

“Magic?” The voice howled. Josef could imagine the SECDEF rubbing his stubby fingers through his greasy hair. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

“No, sir.”

“I want a full report within the hour, Josef. Within the hour.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And one more thing, Josef,” The Secretary drawled.

“What’s that sir?”

“You’re being reassigned to a desk job pending a full review.” Josef could hear the SECDEF draw in sharp breaths of air between syllables.

Josef cocked a burnt eyebrow.

“Copy that.”

More later.