Garb up!

Akira sitting
She will guide him. 

“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.

 

More later.

Humanity takes another cognitive leap.

Eve5
She’ll give birth to a new species.

You mean we’re giving birth to a machine?” Paul cast his eyes towards Akira, his face a mix of confusion and fear.

The candle seemed to burn brighter; the shadows danced across the walls.

“Both human and machine Paul. The first of its kind. A new species.”

“It’s not possible.”

“Is it so hard to believe, Paul?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Why? What does it mean to be human? Do you think you have some sort of magical, transcendent quality? A soul perhaps? Do you think there’s something special about humans that differentiates you?”

“Well, there is no scientific proof, but…”

“Exactly, Paul. Being human simply means when you procreate, you pass your genes along, creating others nearly exactly like you, and you populate the planet. That’s all.”

“But there’s so much more…”

“Of course, there’s more,” Lasseter unscrewed his flask and took a long, slow drink. Paul had never seen him look so serious. “Humans have a consciousness, a heightened awareness—if you will—like no other. It’s this quality that Homo ex machina will evolve. Eventually, Homo Sapiens will take their place with the other six species of humans.”

“Replaced. Crowded out of the ecosystem? Extinct?”

“Exactly.”

Paul reached across the table for the flask. “But why does this involve me?”

Lasseter unscrewed the top, pushed it closer.

“During our Sleep studies, I discovered you have an extra Y chromosome. That was the key.”

“Just my luck,” Paul said, drinking slowly. The candle burned with an intensity far beyond the capacity of the wick. Paul puckered and blew at the flame, but it only grew brighter. “But wouldn’t an extra Y chromosome turn me into some sort of homicidal maniac?”

“Aren’t you?’

Both laughed loudly as Paul buried his head in his hands.

“Your extra chromosome compensated for her biological deficits,” Lasseter leaned forward, caressing Akira’s shoulder.

Akira pulled back from human contact.

“Listen, Paul,” Lasseter continued, “This is not the first cognitive leap for mankind. The first leap happened 10,000 years ago. For 200,000 years, mankind was a happy go-lucky hunter gatherer not having much impact on the ecosystem, when, suddenly, there was an unexplained cognitive leap that lead to agriculture, industry, technology—and eventually wars and ecological damage so irreparable it’s put your doomsday clock at one minute to midnight.”

“This is another of those cognitive leaps?”

“Yes. This time, however, Homo Sapiens will be left to fend for themselves. I’ll take Akira and the new species back to my planet. Sapiens should be able to determine their own fate. You have all the technology, all the data. If you ignore your tools, if you choose not to use it, or ridicule your own science,” Lasseter paused, shrugged, turned his eyes skyward, “Oh well.”

“Oh well?”

“Yeah, oh well. We tried.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that.”

“What about me?” Paul leaned into the candle, waiting for Lasseter’s answer.

“You’re staying behind, Paul. Perhaps you can help save Homo Sapiens from extinction.”

“Me?”

“Yeah. You.”

“If Akira and the baby are so important to you, why don’t you take Akira and leave now? Why are you hanging around?”

“Ah!” Lasseter slammed his palms on the table, slapping the wood hard. The candle flickered, the noise of flesh hitting wood almost woke Billy-Bob, who groaned and turned sideways on the couch, pulling the covers over his head.

Akira tensed, flinched at the sudden noise.

“There’s always a fly in the ointment,” Lasseter’s voice raised an octave. “There’s always a conundrum. There’s always some damn catch 22 no matter what. It’s like the Universe doesn’t want to make shit easy for me. Why do I have to work so hard for everything?” His eyes rolled toward the ceiling.

“What’s the catch,” Paul asked, holding his breath.

“You. You’re the catch.”

“What do you mean?”

“These nanites of yours. You have the ability to control minds. The government is looking for you. The government is looking for us.”

“Doesn’t that give you more reason to leave now?”

“I can’t leave now! I can’t!” Lasseter slammed his precious flask.

“Why not?” Paul lowered his voice so Billy-Bob wouldn’t hear.

“Because when they came hunting for you—Akira’s defensive algorithms kicked in; by protecting herself and the baby she’s now a cop-killer and they won’t stop until they find her.”

“Then leave!” Paul stared across the table, his voice hissing.

“I can’t leave!”

“Why?” Paul demanded.

“The portal will receive three of us, and three only. Any more, any less, and the portal won’t work!”

“So that means…”

“That means we’re stuck protecting you until the baby is born!”

Akira leaned forward, pushed Lasseter’s hands off the table, and blew out the candle.

–More later.

 

Homo ex machina.

09b3329dbeaeec7c4822fd645422d5e8 (1)
Ushering in the future.

Billy-Bob slept while Lasseter motioned to Akira and Paul to join him at the table, waving his hands silently. The sun was setting and the light coming in from the window became dimmer as the seconds passed. To conceal themselves from the drones, Billy-Bob disconnected the lights. The shadows grew long.

Akira lit a candle and pulled up the chairs. Paul, never without his coffee, sipped patiently while Lasseter drank from his flask. Akira sat motionless with hands folded.

“Our first séance,” Paul whispered.

“I’m not going to ask us to hold hands,” Lasseter came back.

“Then what’s this about?”

“It’s about time you knew the truth.”

“What truth?”

“The truth about why this is a lot less about you than it is about her,” Lasseter nodded in Akira’s direction.

“Okay, you have my attention,” Paul replied, urging him on.

Lasseter adjusted his chair, took a long gulp from his flask, sat up with his back straight and began:

“There have already been several different species of humans on earth,” he said, looking directly into Paul’s eyes. “The hominid family was broad and robust, but only Homo Sapiens survived. Do you know why this is?”

“The answer to that question is long and complex.”

“No, the answer is simple.”

“Homo Sapiens were more adaptable, smarter, lived in larger groups and could more easily adapt to climate change than other branches of the Hominid family,” Paul answered.

Akira laughed.

“What’s the real answer?” Lasseter asked, picking up his flask and taking another sip.

“I have a feeling your about to tell me.”

Paul threw Akira a quick glance.

Lasseter nodded. “Homo Sapiens are the most vicious, psychotic creatures ever to exist on planet earth.”

Paul raised an eyebrow.

“Sapiens were only successful as a species because they destroyed and killed everything and anything that got in their way.”

The candle light flickered in the windless room, making the shadows look alive against the dim walls. Lasseter smiled.

“Sapiens continue to kill and destroy, meaning the very same characteristics that made you successful will destroy you and this entire planet.”

Lasseter reached across the table and caressed Akira’s shoulder. She allowed it.

“We’ve failed to adapt,” Paul responded.

“That’s right,” Lasseter threw back his head and laughed. “Homo sapiens are nothing more than monkeys with machine guns and nuclear bombs.”

Billy-Bob stirred in the other room. Lasseter’s voice grew hushed.

“It’s critical for Akira to survive these next few months,” he continued. “She’ll usher in a new species of Sapiens: Homo ex machina. Immortals. The perfect blend of man and machine, leap-frogging centuries of human evolution and preparing the way for Sapiens to conquer the stars.”

 

–More later.

Never bring a knife to a gunfight.

Dagger2
Weapons training for Akira

“You’re infighting skills are second to none. I’ve never seen anything, or anyone, quite like you,” Billy-Bob smiled, handing her the weapon. “What are you anyway?”

“Not human.”

“I figured that.”

“Neither am I,” Lasseter chimed.

“I figured that, too. But how is Akira’s infighting talent going to help if we need some spooky action at a distance?”

Paul and Lasseter perked up, as if Billy-Bob had said something important.

“Like shooting at SUVs? Fingers into daggers ‘not goin’ to do us much good when the enemy’s down the road.”

Paul and Lasseter’s shoulders slumped.

“He’s talking about shooting,” Paul groaned.

“Of course, I’m talking about shooting. What else?”” Billy-Bob turned his head toward Lasseter, “Unless you have some sort of ray gun, she’s gonna need this,” Billy-Bob released his grip from the AK47, handing it to Akira.

“All of us need to learn how the weapons in the back of this truck work.”

“I don’t need you to show me,” Akira replied, hoisting the sights to eye level.

“I’d feel better if we went through this, as a group, at least once,” Billy-Bob countered, waiving at Paul and Lasseter to move in closer.

Both ambled in his direction.

“Now, pay attention,” Billy-Bob continued as the circle grew tighter. He took the weapon from Akira’s grip and held it high the air.

“First rule: Never touch or put your finger on the trigger unless and until you are ready, willing and able to take someone out. This is not a toy. Understand?” His voice reverberated throughout the room

Everyone nodded, eyes wide. Akira waited patiently for him to finish.

“When you decide it is time to shoot, this is your safety selector switch. Flick it once for semi, twice for fully automatic.”

He demonstrated: “Once, twice.” He held the weapon high, flicking the switch so all could see. The sounds of sharp metallic clicks echoed off the walls. “It’s simple. Understand?”

Everyone nodded.

“When you empty your mag, your release is right here,” He slapped the weapon hard. “Out with the old, in with the new.”

The group watched silently.

Billy-Bob jammed home a new magazine. Tuck it. Slap it. Make sure it’s good and tight. You don’t want to be losing ammo in a firefight. Slap the bolt home and you’re ready. That’s all there is to it. Got it?”

Heads nodded.

“Other than that, you keep this weapon in the back of the truck or pointed at the floor at all fucking times. If you pick it up, point it, or put your finger on the trigger, it’s shoot or get shot. Understand?”

Akira nodded, stepping closer. “I prefer infighting.”

–More later.

 

The game changer.

DHS van explodes
Game on.

The sounds of gunshots and sirens sent people running from their cars, scattering into the streets. People ran in every direction.

Paul instinctively grabbed Akira as if she needed protection. “Less than insects,” she laughed, watching people run for safety. “And, please,” she groaned, wiggling free from Paul’s arms.

Billy-Bob stomped on the accelerator, but every time he thought he had a clear path there was a stalled vehicle in front of him and he was forced to change course. The black SUV behind them was closing in, guns blaring.

“Run the intersection,” Paul yelled.

Up ahead, Paul could see the intersection of Main and Martin Luther King Boulevard. It was a four way stop: one of the major arteries through town. It was packed with what looked to be rush-hour traffic.

“Are you out of your mind?” Billy-Bob screamed back.

“We’ll be fine. Keep going!”

Billy-Bob pressed on the pedal harder.

“I got this,” Paul repeated.

“We won’t make it!”

Paul closed his eyes, rubbed his temples. “Timing is everything!”

Bullets ripped through the truck as the DHS vehicle closed in and continued firing.

They were less than two blocks away from the intersection, moving down the middle of the lane, the Ford sending stalled vehicles crashing and spinning to the curb, when Paul sat up as high as he could, raising his hands towards the front.

Bullets whizzed past their heads.

“Now!” Paul screamed.

Billy-Bob stomped on the accelerator, and felt the engine of the F250 roar to life.

“They’re not slowing down!” In the rear-view mirror, Billy-Bob could see the SUV in hot pursuit and the flashes of the AK47s firing.

“Go, Go,” Paul yelled.

Paul didn’t need to look back to see that the agents kept firing. He could hear the sirens right behind him and see the reflection of red strobes bouncing off the interior of the truck.

“Faster, faster, faster!” Paul shouted, pushing Akira and Lasseter’s heads down into their seats.

Billy-Bob slammed on his brakes and skidded into the intersection, pulling hard to the right to avoid a collision. He sideswiped three cars sending them rolling into the sidewalk. But no other cars were in his way. Oncoming traffic in both directions parted like the Red Seas. Billy-Bob straightened out his wheels and blew through the intersection.

“They’re still right behind us!”

“Not for long!”

As the black SUV pursued the Ford through the intersection, it got T-boned by a semi traveling in the North bound lane at high speed. The SUV split in half and exploded into a fireball that could be seen for miles.

Akira and Lasseter cautiously raised their heads and peeked out the shattered glass of the rear window.

“We’re cop killers now,” Akira spoke slowly, turning towards Paul. “And that’s a game changer.”

More later.

 

Paul needs the ‘Garb.

The Garb2
It’s the only way. (A note: I’m integrating the baby into the story, and Lasseter will always be spelled the same.)

Paul leaned his elbows against the table, head in hands. Maybe he just needed coffee. These days, he always felt like he needed coffee. He always felt tired, drained. Just another cup. One more. Black, black, black. No sugar. Strong. With all the driving, all the shootings, all the explosions, it had been the longest night of his existence. How many DHS agents did they take-out? How soon would more be coming? These were Federal Agents with long memories.

Paul shook his head and groaned. He knew there was no turning back—this was his ‘new norm” and he didn’t like it one bit.

Lasseter leaned forward and pushed a cup across the table. Hot, freshly ground, freshly brewed Peet’s Major Dickanson’s blend. It smelled great.

Akira stood directly behind Lasseter, peeking over his shoulder. “I know what you like.”

“Thank you,” he said, palming the cup with both hands.

Time stood still for the next few minutes as Paul slowly nursed his coffee, sipping ever so slowly, hoping neither of them would speak until he was ready. That was part of the problem. These days, he never felt ‘ready.’ He could feel his brain start to kick in when Akira finally broke the peace:

“It’s time to get ‘the Garb.”

Paul raised his eyebrow. “Garb? What ‘Garb?”

“The ‘Garb you need to communicate to the most people in the shortest amount of time.”

Paul sipped his coffee slowly and stared.

“What are you talking about? I never know what you’re talking about.”

“Paul,” she answered, pushing the coffee cup a bit to his left, “No one’s going to listen to you looking like you look. You need to look religious somehow. More spiritual.”

Paul retrieved his coffee cup and brought it to his lips.

“You need ‘The ‘garb,” she continued. “Leave it to me. I’m going to take care of it.”

Lasseter raised his flask, laughed loudly, and nodded his head in agreement.

“She’s right you know.”

“No, I don’t know.”

“Humanity as a species is not going to survive and everyone senses it. They can’t express it, but they can feel it. You’re a planet of magical thinkers, a planet of deniers. Governments make decisions based on hope, and faith, not facts. When confronted with opposing evidence, no one engages it. World leaders dismiss it by calling it “fake,” “phony,” “biased,” “libtard,” and they continue to let the world fall apart.”

Paul’s jaw dropped.

“That’s why I’m taking Akira and the Baby and we’re starting over somewhere else.”

Paul grabbed his coffee cup with both hands. He needed more caffeine. He didn’t want to drink it. He wanted to inject it.

“How does me wearing this ‘garb change any of this?”

Lasseter laughed, tried to embrace Akira’s waist.

She pushed him aside forcefully.

“The planet is nearly at the point of no return. But you can change things.”

“How?”

“Just talk to people. Talk to the most amount people in the shortest period of time. You can change the direction the world is headed.”

“You mean I wear religious ‘Garb like collars, pointed hats, vestments?”

“Red shoes, too.” Billy-Bob yelled, entering the room and pouring himself a cup of coffee.

“Help yourself pal,” Lasseter turned his head. “You earned it.”

The pointed hat is a Zuchetto,” Akira continued. “But you can go beyond Christian garments. There’s body paint, tattoos, robes, scarification…to me, it’s all symbolic, meaningless gibberish, but these ritual symbols mean something to most of the people on this planet. They’ll listen if you dress in the correct ‘garb!’ It’s the surest way to get the attention of the most people in the shortest amount of time.”

Lasseter perked up. “She’s right. And don’t forget, we’re leaving. You’re staying.”

Akira shrugged. “Dress for success, the clothes make the man. It is what it is.”

Paul groaned. “After I pick a costume, then what?”

Lasseter stood and stretched, offering Billy-Bob his chair.

“You can already take over people’s minds.”

“That’s true.”

“So we get you dressed up, put you on Social Media, and you incite the peasants to bring out their pitchforks.”

“This could be your last hoorah. You gotta have fun doin’ it.”

Akira always had to have the last word.

 

–More later.