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.

The Collective Begins

Akira darkness
Human consciousness, as one.

Paul bent at the waist and stared in the face of the agent closet to him.

“Now, what were your orders?”

Billy-Bob, free from Paul’s mind control, stepped forward, and keeping his Glock pointed at the DHS agents, signaled for them to lower their heads to the carpet.

“You heard the man. Kneel before Zod.”

The men were in rough shape. Bleeding badly from the exploded vans and having taken gunfire from Billy-Bob earlier, they looked almost relieved it was over.

They both dropped to their knees. Billy-Bob patted them down for weapons but found none.

Akira then grabbed one of the agents by the throat and lifted him off his feet, only to body-slam him to the ground while digging her fingers into his throat.

Her steel grip tightened.

“I can’t breathe…get her off,” he gurgled.

“Enough,” Paul said calmly, touching her shoulder.  “I got this.”

Akira released her grip and stood back.

“Why are you after us?” Paul asked, helping the agent off the carpet.

“Orders are to bring you in dead or alive.”  

“Why me?” Paul asked. He really didn’t know.

“They saw you controlling the minds of the crowd. Rumor is you caused people to herd, or to flock. They used some big words, some fancy psychological jargon…miles above my paygrade, but I don’t get paid to think. I get paid to bring you in. Whatever it is you got, they want.”

The agent fell back onto his knees. Not too be outdone, the other agent spoke with an eagerness to please Paul:

“They say you could be worth billions.  If what you have can control crowds, you might be able to control voting. In that case, you’d be worth more than billions…”

Akira stepped forward. “Who wants us?”

“Everyone,” they agents responded simultaneously

“Who’s everyone?” Lasseter asked.

“Everyone from corporate leaders to the president himself, James Bass. There’s practically a bounty on your head and every acronym of the federal gov’t is after you.”

“Which acronyms?”

“You know, the usual list of federal agencies,” the agent responded, almost laughing. “CIA, NHS, DHS…”

“There’s also Treasury, Justice, State…”

“And the Russian GRU, British MI6…”

“And the corporate mercenaries hired by Bozo’s and Muscatel…”

“It’s almost a contest to see who gets to you first.”

“And don’t forget Black Hole Ops.”

“Oh yea, them too.”

“Whose Black Hole Ops?” Billy-Bob wanted to know. He though he knew them all.

“They’re part of the deep, deep state. They reverse engineer alien technology and shit like that. No one knows who they are or how much money they spend, but they’re dangerous.”

Lasseter rolled his eyes. “I’ve heard of them. They have one of my ships.’

Akira ignored him. “They only want Paul?”

“Not us?” Lasseter added quickly.

“Why would they want you?” the agent responded.

Billy-Bob turned his head and covered a smirk.

“Only him.” The agent gazed at Paul. “They want to weaponize you.  They either want you alive, or they want your head on a stick.”

There was a pause.

“They…said… you could be used to control the entire planet…bring about the New World order or some bullshit.”

“What about the rest of us?” Lasseter asked, looking confused.

“The rest of you?” The agent’s eyebrows furrowed. “You’re just three idiots who happen to be in the way. You have no value.”

What about my girlfriend…Akira?” Bill-Bob’s hand covered a smirk.

“They said something about her being a ‘dangerous bitch’ and don’t take her lightly, but take her out if she’s in the way…”

Akira turned toward Lasseter. “That’s good then. Give them Paul, and let’s go.”

“We’re not giving them Paul,” Billy-Bob interrupted.

“They don’t want us. They want him.”

“You’re heartless.”

“I am who I am.”

“We stick together,” Billy-Bob said flatly. “It won’t be long before they want you as well Akira. They’ll figure out what you are soon enough. When that time comes, our chances of survival are better if we stick together.”

“Stick together. Like a team?” Paul asked, sounding surprised.

“Yes, a team. The Seals are a team. The military has all sorts of teams.  No one goes it alone and survives out here.”

“That’s it!” Paul shouted, raising his arms to the skies.  “Teamwork! I’ll form a collective consciousness and we’ll work as one.”

The crew exchanged glances.

“And meet our newest members,” Paul waived his arm towards the bloody, defeated and beaten Federal agents. “Agents, introduce yourselves.”

“I am Josef,” one spoke.

“And I am Reed.”

“You are now part of The Hive,” Paul announced. “We’re not going to kill you. Go free, let us join with others, and let us overthrow the system.”

Josef stood, brushing off the dirt and dried blood. “May I ask what may seem like a strange question?”

“Sure,” Paul answered. “Go ahead.”

“Do you have any red shirts laying around? I have the strangest impulse to put on a red shirt.”

 

More later.

Paul’s consciousness flowers just in time.

Metalic Akira
“Insects! You’re all *** insects to me!” Akira screamed.

“Kneel before Zod!”

Paul screamed at the top of his lungs at the two remaining agents, arms high in the air, fingers flapping wildly.

Bullets whizzed past his head. The drywall exploded behind him sending chipped, white shards rolling over the carpet like broken marbles.

Billy-Bob hurled himself at Paul, encircling his waist with powerful arms and tackled him to the ground.

“Stay down!”

Lasseter could hear intense gasping as the wind was knocked out of Paul’s diaphragm and he tried desperately to regain his breath.

“That must have hurt,” Lasseter laughed, ducking behind the couch while bullets pierced the wall like so many flying insects against a rapidly moving automotive windshield.

“Get out of here, now!” Akira whispered intently, staring at the three of them as her finger remained tight on the trigger of the RPG.

“I’ll take the shot whether you’re a safe distance or not. Remember: I don’t care about any humans. Even you. I care about one thing…” She turned, patting her abdomen, “This!” she screamed.

With the blood in his mouth and his head still spinning, Paul couldn’t remember if he heard the bullets first or felt the powerful arms of Billy-Bob tackle him to the floor. Looking around, he could see everyone was armed, locked, loaded and ready for another killing spree.

Everyone except Lasseter. He has hiding behind the couch, probably sipping away at his flask, laughing and waiting.

Paul knew what he had to do, he just had to do it.

His brain was foggy and his eyesight was slowing returning to normal. It was like he was looking at reality from an underwater pool. Everything was a blur, a bit hazy, but he knew he had touched their minds.

“They haven’t seen the movie,” Paul screamed, breaking free from Billy-Bob’s iron grip.

“What movie?” Lasseter asked from safely behind the couch.

“Superman,” Paul answered, standing once again to face the agents shooting from the shadows.

“When I said, ‘kneel before Zod’, all I got pinged back was confusion. They don’t know who Zod is or what I mean…”

“It’s an old movie, Paul.”

“It was the first thing that popped into my mind.”

“Can you try communicating with them a bit more effectively?”

“If you’ve tapped into their minds, speak to them in their own language, you idiot!” Akira frowned at Paul, muttering to herself: “Insects, you’re all fucking insects. What am I doing here?”

“Did it work? You finally tapped into some minds?” Lasseter peaked his head above the couch.

“Yeah, yeah,” Paul answered. “These two are among the nanite anointed.”

Another bullet ricochet off the wall, grazing Billy-Bob’s thigh.

“Then start doin’ your nanite thing like you did to me,” Billy-Bob screamed, grapping his leg and limping away to join Lasseter.

“Let me pull the trigger. It’s easier that way.” Akira squinted her eyes and resumed her aim.

Paul stood up, directly in the line of fire.

“Forget about ‘Kneel Before Zod! Throw down your weapons!”

That was something everyone understood.

Immediately Billy-Bob’s Glock rolled across the carpet and hit Paul’s foot.

“Not you,” Paul whispered.

“Couldn’t help myself,” Billy-Bob answered.

Paul peered through the shattered glass. Sure enough, the agents had thrown down their weapons and were standing motionless, awaiting their next command.

“Approach slowly,” Paul yelled.

Immediately Billy-Bob was standing nearly glued to Paul’s right shoulder.

“Not you, I said.”

“Can’t help myself.”

Paul turned again to see the agents ambling toward the front door.

“Okay, now everyone except Billy-Bob come in and sit your asses down,” he screamed.

Billy-Bob heaved a sigh of relief.

Akira took her finger off the RPG and locked the safety.

“It’s not perfect yet, but ‘twill do,” Lasseter uttered, coming from behind the couch.

Sure enough, he was sucking on his flask.

The two agents, bloody yet ambulatory, sat on the floor, backs against the wall, smiling and gazing upon Paul lovingly.

Paul bent at the waist and stared the closest agent directly in the face.

“Now, what were your orders?”

More later

Actual Bhodi Tree
My cat joins me at my personal Bohdi Tree.

Welcome To My Thought Experiment.

Symbolism
Paul discovers himself.

“Paul, it’s time to shit or get off the pot.”

Billy-Bob was the most pragmatic among them.

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m talkin’ about us dodging bullets when you actually haven’t done anything.”

“What would you like me to do?” he lamely shrugged his shoulders.

“Do something. Anything,” Billy-Bob answered, frustrated. “Rob a bank. Cause a riot. Take control of something for Chris’ sake.”

“That’s not me,” Paul said firmly. “I don’t want power or control. I never did.”

“Then tell me what the hell I’m doing here,” Billy-Bob grabbed his Glock and held it high over his head, shaking it.

“Your protecting us from the Government!” Paul’s whined, sounding helpless.

“That’s it, Paul. Why am I protecting you? Why does the Government want you?”

There was a pause. Paul shook his head from side to side, looking confused. Finally, he looked at Billy-Bob with an air of clarity.

“They’re hunting me because of what I might do. What I could do.”

“And what could you do that makes them so afraid?” Billy-Bob leaned in closer.

“Ah, I see where you’re headed.”

Lasseter approached, pushing Billy-Bob gently aside. He knelt down to meet Paul at eye level. “I’ll take it from here…”

Akira stood at the back of the room and watched. She seemed to be holding some type of equipment. Billy-Bob returned to cleaning his weapons and eyed Lasseter suspiciously.

“Paul, I know this has been traumatic,” Lasseter said in almost a whisper, “and you don’t have a handle on what you’ve become, so let’s get back to our scientific roots, shall we?”

“I’m all about being who I am,” Paul responded.

“Let’s do a thought experiment together.”

“Okay, that’s a good place to start.”

Akira dimmed the lights and approached with several candles, both black and white. After placing the candles around the table and lighting them carefully, she retreated to the couch, sitting next to Billy-Bob.

“This is a thought experiment, not a séance,” Paul quipped.

“There are imperceptible lines between technology, religion, science and magic,” She answered, opening the window to reveal the dimming moonlight.

Owls hooted in the distance.

“You’ve chosen the perfect time, Lasseter. The moon is waxing. This magnifies the vibration of the candles. The shape and size of the candles, even the duration of the flames, will release enough energy to help Paul step into his new reality.”

“Where’d you get the candles?” Billy-Bob asked.

“I knew this day would come,” she answered, without turning her head.

Paul threw Lasseter a look of distrust.

“White candles are used for purification and protection,” Akira continued. “Blacks candles absorb negativity and evil.”

“You mean absorb evil like Bass?” Billy-Bob laughed.

“We’d need bigger black candles than these,” guffawed Lasseter.

“And a lot more of them,” Billy-Bob responded.

The expression of disbelief on Billy-Bob’s face activated something within Akira.  She snapped at him before he could speak again: “The Universe, including you and I, is all inter-connected strands of energy, Billy-Bob. Don’t you dare laugh at something your feeble insect mind couldn’t possibly comprehend.” The words spit out of her mouth like venom.

Billy-Bob lowered his gaze and returned to oiling his guns.

I barely understand the Universe,” Akira cackled, her hand reaching for her Iphone.

As fast as she picked up the Iphone, the room was filled with the reverberating music of a sitar. “These frequencies help,” she said softly. “The parabolic curve of the jawari emits a Helmholtz motion…if you allow it, this motion can bring you and Lasseter right back to the Higgs Boson field.”

Akira sat back, appearing contemplative, but glanced fiercely at Billy-Bob to keep him in check. Seeing that he meekly continued cleaning his weapons, she turned once again toward Paul and spoke calmly.

“Now, as they say, ‘do your thing.’”

With the candles lit, the room darkened and the flames casting long dancing shadows, Paul was ready.

“Breathe Paul. Breathe and focus,” Lasseter whispered. “You’re connected. You know you’re connected. What do you feel?”

Paul put his hands on his knees, palms up, and took a long, deep breath. Maybe it was the vibrations of the candles or the frequency of the sitar, but he felt something.

His faced winced. “I feel pain.”

“Is there anything you can do about the pain?”

A tear rolled down his cheek. “No. There’s too much of it.”

“What else do you feel?”

Paul’s body jerked. “I feel a hatred. I feel anger. I feel evil.”

“Is there anything you can do about that, Paul?”

“No, there’s too much of it. It feels ancient, too. Old stuff. Old hatred. Old anger. It’s stagnant and putrid. It feels like rot.”

“Can you describe it, Paul?” Lasseter pressed.

“He’s describing the collective consciousness,” Akira stood, listening intently, turning her gaze toward Lasseter.

“It feels like thousands of individual souls, thousands of tiny little people, lost, isolated, all in pain,” Paul replied.

“That’s it, Paul, you’re connected. Can you unite these tiny little people?”

“How? How?”

“Give them a command. Unite them with a command,” Lasseter answered quietly.

“I don’t want to command anyone,” Paul screamed.

“Give them a purpose, Paul, a purpose. Command them to do something simple, something harmless. Something to unite them.”

“Like what?’ Paul yelled again. “Drink more Rum and Coke? Drive into more sidewalks?”

Billy-Bob stood quickly, agitated “They can help us, Paul. I need all the help I can get protecting you from the Government. Ask them to help us.”

“How?” Paul squirmed. “How could they help? What do I ask them?”

“Jesus, he’s clueless,” Akira whispered, poking Lasseter’s rib.

“They’re out there, Paul,” Billy-Bob answered quickly, “but we don’t know where they are or who they are. Command them to wear something to help us quickly identify them. Can you do that now Paul?”

“Maybe you’re not such a feeble-minded insect after all,” Akira said, placing her hand on Billy-Bob’s shoulder

He backed up.

“Red shirts,” Akira announced proudly.

“What shirts?” Billy-Bob asked.

“Red shirts. Give them a simple, benign command and tell them put on a red shirt. It will help us identify everyone you’re connected to. Everyone connect to us.”

Akira paused. “They are connected to us, aren’t they? Like a Hive,” she giggled. “Does that make you the Queen Bee Paul? Or am I the Queen Bee?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Billy-Bob interrupted.

“Red shirts. It’s a start,” Lasseter said, nodding his head in agreement.

“I don’t know…” Paul droned.

“It’s a thought experiment Paul,” Lasseter urged, “Imagine you’re back in the lab, safe. It’s just another thought experiment. If you can imagine multi-verses and sub-atomic particles dancing in the dark matter, you can imagine people putting on Red shirts.”

Paul closed his eyes and focused on the harmonics from the sitar. The flames flickering from the candles. He did feel something. Something seemed to be working. He imagined he was connected, telling everyone to put on those red shirts. Maybe he’d tell them to dance the night away and forget about all their pain.

But before he could, all hell broke loose.

 

–More later.