Billy-Bob barely had time to react. If he hadn’t been cleaning and oiling his weapons, they’d be dead. Bringing up the Glock in one swift uninterrupted motion, he instinctively pressured the trigger and fired three shots—two to the chest, one to the head. A triple tap, it was called in training. No thought was involved in this action. It was pure muscle memory. Ingrained into his very essence. He had been trained well. The DHS agent fell to the carpet, DOA.
Jumping behind the couch, Billy-Bob and Lasseter took cover. Paul just sat there, barely coming out of his self-induced trance, wide eyed. Billy-Bob didn’t know if it was from the shock of another DHS agent appearing out of nowhere, or from his mind being gone while creating new red shirts followers—probably both.
Akira picked him up like he was a rag and threw him to safety. He bounced off the back wall and nearly landed in Lasseter’s lap. That had to hurt.
Billy-Bob checked the Glock. Instinct again told him to make sure it was fully loaded. Sure enough, he’d discharged one from the chamber and two from the magazine—leaving 14 rounds of 9mm ammunition to play defense. That should be enough, but without knowing how many agents survived the bombing, he couldn’t be sure.
But then, he had Akira by his side. She was an unknown. He didn’t know what she was fully capable of. She was a random factor impossible to predict—like having a weapon not knowing if it was loaded—of if it would even go off. Or when.
Leaning over the back of the couch, he pulled another weapon and spare magazine off the table and threw it in her direction. She caught them mid-flight, as easily as Malone caught alley-oops from Stockton. This girl had skills.
If any other agents had survived, the sounds of gunfire would draw them in like flies to shit. Unfortunately, they were the shit. Billy-Bob had been lucky he’d seen the agent first and had his weapons within fingertip reach. He may not be that lucky again. It was at that moment he remembered what his Dad and former little league football coach always said: “The best defense is a good offense.” He decided at that moment to take the battle to the enemy, rather than wait. But to do that, he needed more information. A lot more information. Because in this case, unlike any other situation he’d ever been in, that enemy was his own Government.
And that filled him with a rage he’d never before experienced. It was a betrayal of the first degree. Like getting shot in the back by friendly fire.
Jumping over the couch to the window, he pulled back the curtain to see the dimming moonlight.
“How many men?” Akira asked.
“I see three silhouettes.”
“They gotta be in bad shape. Remind me to complete the job and take a body count next time.”
At the thought of being hunted by his own government, Billy-Bob’s rage began to build. If rumors were true, and Bass was working with the Russian’s and guilty of treason, or if Bass was trying to take over the entire US Government for his own purposes, that meant his entire life as a decorated SEAL had been for nothing. Why fight all those enemies abroad when the real enemy attacked and conquered from within?
“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?”
“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?”
“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.
With the recent failure of the snatch/reconnaissance mission, as well as President James Bass breathing down his neck to identify some unnaturally perfect looking bitch code-name“Goddess,” Director of National Intelligence Sean Turner hadn’t gotten any sleep, which only served to make him drink more, and made his reactions even less appropriate. When the Ah-64 Apache flared and touched down, scattering leaves and debris at such velocity that the dirt felt like razors tearing his skin, Turner was already outside, staggering, yelling and waving at the cockpit.
As soon as the Black-Ops agent hopped out, code-named “Knuckles,” Turner grabbed him by the collar and dragged him to the back of the restricted hanger. This was a dangerous act. Turner didn’t care. He could hear the Apache’s rotors rev as it lifted off to its next destination and he felt more high velocity debris tearing his flesh.
Once in the back of the hangar, he didn’t care who heard him, he just began shouting. “What the fuck!? You really screwed the pooch! Nine dead. Nine! They blew the shit out of your vans and made you look like Keystone Cops! Two scientists and some bitch did this to you? Did this to Black Ops? You’re supposed to be our best!”
“That’s what happened.”
“And more bodies were dissolved? Dissolved? What are they, fucking magicians?”
“Bad mojo, I guess.”
Turner waited for further explanations, for some insight, for some commentary, for anything useful to come out of this knuckle-heads mouth, but since the agent didn’t know any more than he’d just reported, he wisely kept his mouth shut.
“Idiot!” Turner shouted, “Fucking stupid idiot!” He was beginning to slur. “What the hell am I going to tell Bass?”
Knuckle’s knew he had a higher security clearance than the Director of National Intelligence, and that he didn’t have to stand here and listen to this shit, but he also knew that Turner and Bass were drinking buddies, and Turner could easily influence the president by well-timed whispers in his ear.
Knuckles didn’t want any of those whispers to be about Black Hole Ops. There was too much unaccounted money at stake. He tried to report the facts, and kept his opinion to himself.
“Where are these scientists and this bitch right now? Right at his particular God-Damn moment?”
“Her name’s Akira, sir.”
“Oh! You do know something! Please, tell me…where are they right now…”
“We don’t know.”
“Damn it Knuckles or whatever your real name is, don’t play mind-games. I’m already stretched too thin! Where the hell do you think they are? Answer me, or I’ll have Bass take a deep dive into your organization and I’ll personally name you as part of the swamp!”
Knuckles felt like reaching out and choking the living shit out of this semi-sober National Security Director. Turner was replaceable. But the damage Bass could do by looking too closely at the funding could be irreparable.
“They have to be somewhere in Washington, but we don’t know where.”
Turner wanted to put a bullet through the agent’s useless heart. “That’s the stupidest mother-fu…” he stuttered, lost his balance, slipped. Knuckles caught him, propped him upright. He fought the temptation to crack his skull on the concrete.
“We’re the US Government,” Turner continued, regaining his balance. “You’re using the most sophisticated surveillance equipment on the planet. You had satellites in fucking space watching them the whole time. How could you possibly…possibly… not know where they are?”
“Sir, let me explain.”
“Please, yes, please, do.” Turner gasped for air, straightened himself and brushed himself off.
“The surveillance equipment, the satellites, everything…everything came off line at precisely the right moment to help them escape.”
“That can’t be a coincidence!” Turner roared.
“We don’t think so either.”
“Who’s helping them? I demand an answer!”
“You’re not going to like the answer.”
“We don’t think this is a case of—pick an enemy—any enemy—” Knuckles splayed his fingers as if he were holding a deck of cards, “We think this Akira—code name Goddess—had something to do with it.”
Turner regained his composure, hoping his calm demeanor would elicit responses that made sense.
“How? Tell me how?” Turner took a deep breath, speaking slowly: “How? How is this Akira taking the entire universe of our most advanced, sophisticated surveillance equipment off-line at precisely the right moment to elude capture from highly trained killers, assassins and butchers? How is that even remotely possible?”
The air became a whirlwind and the debris once again tore at Turner’s flesh as the Ah-64 Apache returned to pick up the agent for his next assignment.
As the helicopter touched down, Knuckles ignored the National Security Director and ran past him to jump on board. He turned his head slightly as he yelled:
“What’s that Billy-Bob?” Paul answered, cocking his head slightly.
“Philosophy is for pussies, Paul. Philosophy is for those who can’t do anything. Philosophy is for those who think that existing is the grand accomplishment. You won’t stop wars or change the world with philosophy.”
Akira, Lasseter and Paul exchanged quick, furtive glances.
“Forget about sexual favors then, “Billy-Bob continued, “Cash in. Command people to give you money. Churches do it. Command your people to make direct deposits into your account, to mail money, or to use PayPal. Just take the cash, Paul.”
Akira watched as Billy-Bob calmly unloaded his weapons, quickly and quietly, as if he we back in Afghanistan. His muscles tensed and his tattoos seem to have a life of their own. First, he finished cleaning his Glock, placed it on the table, then he moved on to his rifles, swiftly taking everything apart, examining each piece as if he were determining the value of diamonds, rubbing them gently with cloth, and applying small drops of oil where needed.
“If people need a philosophy, teach them how to shoot a gun,” he said, reverently placing a rifle on top of the stack and picking up another.
“You think like a small-minded capitalist, Billy-Bob. We’re bigger than money. Paul should start by raising your consciousness,” Lasseter answered, instinctively moving away from the barrel of the weapons.
“Sorry,” Billy-Bob answered, “I’ve been trained to fight for money, oil and the flag since birth. Remember, I come from a long line of Rambo’s.”
As quickly as he had broken the weapons down, he just as quickly reassembled them, loaded the rounds, and put one in the chamber. “Now we’re ready for bear, DARPA, DHS, ICE, or whatever set of acronyms they want to throw at us,” he smiled proudly at Paul. “And I can’t believe I’m fighting against my own Government. They’re supposed to be the good guys.”
“You’re starting to see the truth,” Akira answered, stepping closer. “And we will never need money.”
“Why not?” Billy Bob replied, sliding a Glock into that small hard-to-reach part of his back where it’s hidden from view but quick to pull when needed. “Everybody needs money.”
“Part of my brain is tapped into the New York Stock exchange. I’m front running stock trades scalping fractions of a penny before each transaction.”
“Does that add up?” Billy-Bob’s jaw dropped in surprise
“Over time, yes. Goldman Sachs does it. Technically, it’s cheating. But we only need money to pay for supplies, equipment and lodging. We need to keep moving, and that does require cash. I won’t be able to spend a fraction of what I’m stealing from the markets before Lasseter and I—and the baby—will take off from this broken-down piece of shit planet and I’ll never have to see you Homo Sapiens again.”
“Wait,” Billy-Bob replied, “Only part of your brain is trading? What is the rest of your brain doing? How does your brain work, Akira? No one’s explained that to me…”
Lasseter coughed and grinned. Paul leaned in closer.
Akira picked up one of his rifles and clicked the safety on. Then off. Then on again.
“Think of my brain like a dolphin’s brain. Instead of half my brain being asleep while the other half stays awake keeping me alive, only a small, molecular segment of my brain needs to be operating in this physical world while the rest of my brain continues to function in what you would call a different reality…”
The metallic clicking of the safety was putting Billy-Bob on edge. All of his training was telling him to disarm this woman. Anytime he got within a certain distance of Akira his alarm bells wouldn’t stop ringing, and he had to fight the urge to take her out.
“Think of it this way Billy-Bob: The Homo Sapiens’ brain operates at about 100 hz. Even if my brain ran at agonizingly slow 800mhz, which is about the speed of your early computers, it would mean I can perform 800 million mental calculations in one moment than your pathetic brain could do in a lifetime.”
She turned the rifle around and stared down the barrel.
“That’s loaded, lady.”
“The safety’s on.” There was another click, and she turned the barrel at Billy-Bob. “Now it’s off.”
She continued: “My quantum qubit brain exists in a state where it’s both on and off and the same time. Numbers and processing speeds don’t begin to describe what I can do, what I have become. That’s why I can’t stand humans anymore. In my opinion, bricks have more brains than people.”
She dropped the weapon on the table and leaned into Billy-Bob’s face. “And you know what’s preventing me from shooting you right now? What’s preventing me from shooting all of you right now?”
Billy-Bob fought the urge to pull the Glock from that hidden, hard-to-reach place in the small of his back. Instead, he leaned slightly away from his pile of weapons and peered deeply into Akira’s large, shimmering dark orbs, then in almost a whisper, replied: