“I’m your Queen.”
Akira had taken it upon herself to obtain her own garb. She sat cross-legged in front of Paul, wearing an ancient Pagan headdress adorned with raven wings, a black choker, ornate shoulder pads atop a black, silk dress, with a garter belt and a tight corset underneath.
Billy-Bob and Lasseter stood back, smiling ear to ear.
Gazing upon her, Paul felt his stomach churn and his knees weaken.
Billy-Bob obtained cameras and video equipment. They were about to go live on social media. Akira’s control of DARPA’s Cloud ensured they would have millions of views.
They were going to start a revolution, taking down the Bass administration and goons supporting him before they were captured or assassinated.
Akira’s black eyes stared right through Paul. “What are you going to need,” she asked.
“Besides a miracle?” Billy-Bob chuckled.
“Bling. Lots of Bling.”
“I thought you wanted to be like Jesus?”
“No,” Paul answered quickly. “Today, people worship wealth. Religious leaders take money from the poor—but they’re not poor themselves. In fact, they have mansions, planes, chauffeurs—if I want to look like a religious leader—and compete with you,” he leered at Akira, licking his lips before continuing, “I’m going to need bling.”
Lasseter stepped forward, pointing to the table. “We’ve gathered all the ritual artifacts and symbolism you need. It’s time to choose.”
Paul looked at the collection. Lasseter had been meticulous. It was all there. A collection of religious symbols representing every belief of mankind. Christian Crosses. Bibles. Beads. Crystals. Nine pointed stars. Hoods. Red shoes. Star and crescents. Islamic symbols, Druid symbols, Hindu symbols, all of it.
Lasseter smiled, untwisting his flask and taking a deep drink, as in celebration. “If you want to steal people’s money you dress up in a suit,” he said, laughing. “If you want to take people’s money, you dress up as tax collector, “ he paused, making sure Akira and Billy-Bob were listening, “And if you want people to give you money, you dress up like a religious leader.”
“And you, Paul, are the new Messiah,” Akira added.
“Let me remind you,” Paul answered, slowly looking over the collection of artifacts assembled before him, “This is not about money. This is about influence. This is about getting people to listen to us. To believe us.” He paused, gently reached down and retrieved up a dull silver band from the table and placed it to one side so it sat alone.
“We can do without this,” he said, pushing the silver band far from the pile.
“You don’t like Hinduism?” Akira asked, innocent.
Billy-Bob leaned over, took one look and grunted.
“It is both a Hindu symbol and a Buddhist symbol,” Paul explained, “but take a minute to access earth history…we don’t want a swastika in the mix.”
“Definitely not,” Billy-Bob agreed, flicking the silver object onto the floor.