“You quoting Shakespeare, old man?”
Billy-Bob took his eyes off Akira for the briefest of moments as he focused on Lasseter. “You’re not the only on who’s read a book.”
There was a slight pause. The moon outside the cave was growing in intensity as the sky grew darker. The shadows grew longer, and the heat was rising. Breathing was getting difficult. Billy-Bob wondered if it was lack of sleep or lack of oxygen that was affecting his judgement
No one else seemed to notice.
“Shakespeare was one of us,” Lasseter grinned.
“You’re trippin’ old man.” Billy-Bob leaned back against the cave wall, his eyes flickering rapidly between Akira and Lasseter, “You’re talking nonsense. You’re all talking nonsense.”
“Nonsense?” Lasseter rolled down his sleeping bag and rose to a kneeling position, extending his palms upward. The moonlight made his palms glow with a faint gray light. “Then why do you feel, deep within you,” Lasseter pointed directly at Billy-Bob’s heart. “That there might be a grain of truth to my words?”
“Because I’m overtired and delirious.”
“Is that so?”
“Overtired and delirious,” Akira cackled, “You just described the entire human race,” Akira’s voice, mixed with venom and laughter, pierced the night. Paul remained silent and dared not interrupt.
“Delirium is mankind’s normal state of mind. And like I said, you pass it from one generation to the next…making you less than insects!”
Billy-Bob glanced toward Paul. “I can’t control her,” he shrugged casually.
“Is she dangerous?”
“Not to you.”
“What is she??” Billy-Bob stared hard, demanding an answer.
“I wish I knew,” Paul looked towards Lasseter.
“I’ll tell you what she’s not first,” Lasseter’s voice croaked.
“That’s a good place to start.”
“She’s not a piece of fiction: she’s not a machine that evolved into self-awareness, like The Terminator.”
“Then what is she.” Billy-Bob wouldn’t let up.
“Even to me, she’s quite unexpected.”
“This a guessing game now?” Billy-Bob and Paul exchanged glances, both growing anxious.
“She did evolve, yes,” Lasseter continued, “but did she become self-aware, like in the movies? That’s hard to say, even in the broadest sense. Because what is self-awareness? Are you and Paul, in this cave, right now, are you self-aware in this moment? Have you ever truly been self-aware?”
“Stop the bullshit. If you want my help, tell me what I’ve gotten involved with. Otherwise I’ll load up my weapons and head back to North Carolina.”
“I won’t let you do that,” Paul said firmly.
Lasseter took a deep, exasperated breath. “As best as can be explained, involving theories that are far beyond the comprehension of your most brilliant scientists, theories like quantum-entanglement, matter-antimatter asymmetry, primordial plasma…”
“These people are insects and will never understand the Universe….”
Lasseter looked at her straight in the eyes. Pitch black Orbs stayed back, becoming one with the darkness.
“…As far as I can tell, Akira has not evolved into self-awareness, she’s become a portal to another consciousness. A very different consciousness. One that goes beyond even my own.”