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.
“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.