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SAPI3N — ©H. Grevemberg — 2012
SAPI3N - PART ONE
The first alien race to reach earth did not vault across the vast reaches of space, but through binding with the DNA of earth donors. These “aliens,” wild, nearly always unmanageable, were ill-adapted to society, yet more and more were spawned. Of these, the few who, through the mishandling of a geneticist, developed preternatural abilities, the “blood sapi3ns,” banded together into the voodoo cell JUSTICe.
one. THE GENETICIST two. NOEMI three. DEAN four. NIGHT AND THE RIVER five. THE ENTITY KNOWN AS 19 six. INDOCTRINATION seven. THE ENTITY KNOWN AS 30 eight. THE SCARECROW nine. SIX NIGHTS IN THE FIELD
4 16 28 35 41 48 56 62 70
one. THE GENETICIST
The sun rose orange and bland, the horizon gone to mud and the violence of walking — acrid, dim light. The geneticist made maybe fifty steps before the door. Though trembling, he hardly slowed as the air wavered into black and red blocks of light, pulsing, the same frequency everywhere. His mind locked tight, he pressed on. The ground gave way, maybe the sky, all the colors, all sound coalesced into a steady beating against it, until only white heat remained. The rapture overtook him. It was some time before he came through to the field, a plane between worlds. Made to look familiar, it appeared to be an endless stretch of winter grass, impossibly uniform. The only line that broke the horizon was a single post. Though black, it appeared to glow, to emit a strange static. Red was at the far end. He caught his scent immediately, shifting his giant legs back and forth like he didn’t know which way to go. The geneticist, scared, angry, walked quickly toward the post. “No time to wait… damned security. If the beast wasn’t hard
digging into his naked flesh. It was the sense of smell that caught them first. A miracle of creation. He boiled water for tea. The geneticist kept dead still as he clattered in front of the post and pulled him to the ground. not anymore. “Fuck him. his long. He woke up on the floor.wired I’d break those skinny bitch legs. something like the cold horror of a ghost encounter. In that instant the field wavered. only the thing at the other end was a whole world of ghosts meshed together into a new monstrous thing. He didn’t move a hair. his arms flailing over his head with menacing. only the cool grass pressing into him and the sound of the straw and wind and the dull thud of red’s lumbering gait as he returned to his rounds. alien madness.” Red let out a screech and made his way toward him. watching the sapi3n. Beyond it he could see a pulsing. like they’d already lived before and couldn’t put it together. galloping stride slicing through the wild grass. primitive beasts. “Are you thirsty?” .” The geneticist struggled to his feet and made his way to the post. who’d just begun twitching. The pain was nothing to him. her white flesh drawn tight to her bony frame. a new sapi3n lying by the door. The monster took his time scanning him with his wooden claws. The strangest things affected them. tossing the old lady’s hair into an opening near the base. her blond hair splayed around her like she was dropped from the ceiling. not a thought. horrifying quickness. She pulled herself from the floor slowly like a wounded insect. breathing but dormant. never taking her eyes from him.
instead groaned loudly.” She wouldn’t speak. her entire being bent on extracting herself from him.” He cut the stove off and went to the closet. went out the door to the front gate.” “I don’t like you. He drug her gangly form into the yard. pulling a white robe from the shelf. He left her. what was not already damned. I’m not interested in detaining you. her large eyes cursing him. When they came into view of the gate. “Here. the old woman began screaming. “Don’t worry. “She’s here. We’re going for a short walk.” “Where? Let me in!” “There’s no lock… c’mon. “I’m not going in there… you bring her out like you promised.” “Are you ready to walk?” She refused to move.” “I don’t like you.“How did I get here?” “I have some tea for you.” The old lady made a motion toward the gate. he let her to the . where the old lady clung excitedly. “Where’s her clothes you bastard! AIIIIEE!” Not wanting to drag the girl farther. put this on. let’s get this over with. “No!” She was tough. but not strong enough yet to put up a fight. but froze in place like it was made of ice.” He walked back to the room and pulled the sapi3n by her bony arm.
watching the things going by outside the window like it was all alive. the wild thing unknown. The beast! No choice. She was only six paces away before the sapi3n turned to face her. There wasn’t anything to take away the cold. would it be an abomination? What would they make from her? Maybe it wouldn’t be human at all. With no movement inside the compound. She had her doubts… No time to dwell on the implications. Something inside her knew the process. All the world was the new life. she was so wild! She left the gate open. Impossible! Just as the old woman resolved to the cold ground there was a static discharge above the dais. probably damning herself in the process. dank corridor… ___ The place was quiet as a morgue for two days. All the feeling left her in a surge of craving for the thing that was made of her. But she knew it would be like this. He had a bottle of whiskey down in the cellar to knock the dust off. afraid to touch anything more. “How the hell did they do this?” The horror of it caused her mind to pulse madly. She pulled herself up by the chain-link fence and peered madly through the wires. The damned crossings were brutal. What she didn’t know. and a glass of hot whiskey rang a bell somewhere down a long.ground and left her there. she lifted the latch and stepped on the cursed soil. and did her best to get her seated in the truck. she watched the devil throw her precious girl on the ground. So many scratches. The sapi3n rode on the floorboard most of the way. she would’ve gone mad from suspense. to the . then it was all a long fight to the truck.
point of a fracture, then everything turned upside down. The sapi3n, though nearly full grown, began to appear completely normal. In fact, the poor thing created a feeling in her something like nostalgia. Hadn’t they known each other before? “… it’s good to see you again.” The girl refused to acknowledge her, instead looked at the limbs of the trees as they passed through the outer zone. “I’m going to call you Rachael, after your great aunt.”
Rachael recoiled at the old woman’s thoughts. They repulsed her — sickly sweet poison. She could only see the shape of her and the buzzing, whirling trash, like she’d fallen into a rat’s nest. The old hag stank of burnt paper and exposure, a thousand things left to die. Why was she here? None of this made sense. If there was one thing in her that could be called resolve, it was to take the whole thing apart. She refuted all of it. The vibrating place, the moving things… she couldn’t sit with the bitch, busy with the wheel and wordless muttering, but she wanted to see more, so she struggled out of the floor onto the matted fabric of the seat. Below the glass a great plane of asphalt and houses rose, with lines strung overhead on wooden crosses. It looked like something made by primitives with no thought to nature or the flow of energy. Who were these barbaric people? The buildings rose to dominate the plane until shadows fell from above and their movement slowed…
“Too many batty old ladies looking to produce a new version of themselves. I’ve got to find a new line.” It was all there was to the geneticist’s life, the search for donors, and a long parade of sapi3ns blanketing the world in their special brand of half-breed sentiments: confusion, violence. Impossible to tell how many were adding to the stream, though from the amount of portals shut down by JUSTICe, there must be dozens. The work of a geneticist was what it always was, the bait, the lure, the catch. If there was anything to the game it was one of seduction — his specialty. He was a salesman, a liar, with a long face that gave him the look of a bird of prey. He had broken hands from the desert, scars and tags and the wild look of someone from the outskirts. To his advantage, he was fairly handsome. He played with the tension between his ruggedness and a nice haircut, expensive clothes. He was well read as far as desert reading: Dostoevsky, Beckett, Camus, H. Miller. He was a fractured man, as all geneticists were. He preyed on women who were vulnerable, who weren’t able to reproduce. As always, a larger pattern gradually became evident, reflected in his work, though its nature was quite peculiar, and dangerous. He was one of the few who sold themselves to the alien horde. The question that bothered him, why all the old ladies? He needed a new game. It was with this he was occupied when he found a patch of shade behind the hospital. It was a blistering hot day. A beat old convenience store shimmered across the street. As he stood in line behind a middle-aged woman of no
particular interest, he caught the end of her conversation. “…but I’m barren.” “Who cares? Gail, I don’t understand you sometimes. You never wanted kids.” “I want the option...” “OK, look, I’ve got customers. Could you call me later?” The woman in front tensed, looked over her shoulder. “Oh… nevermind… just give me a pack of smokes.” He followed her out, his head ringing with the possibilities. Was this what he thought, because it sure looked like a goldmine? He waited until he caught her at a crosswalk. “Excuse me miss, I couldn’t help overhearing you back at the store. I’m a… geneticist.” He handed her his card. The woman appeared as if she were expecting him. A strange creature with abnormal senses and eyes like sunlight through the wilderness, she would be a good donor. “Do you think I want to be involved in your experiments?” “Experiments? I’ve got a success rate of 100%, a thousand references. Times have changed, ma’am. You don’t need to suffer this hardship.” The walk signal took her from him. He went to the hospital, to see where she’d come from. There were many offices associated with gynecology and fertility, but what stood out was the EX-Lap procedures of Chris Pearson MD.
Dr. Pearson was nearly out of his mind with an endless string of patients broken only by a call from a geneticist who
wanted a private meeting. He moved the 4’o-clock and had the man up for five minutes. It gave him an excuse to take an hour, as he was very brief. “Dr. Pearson, I’ve got a business proposal that will interest you.” “Well get to it. I had to move a patient to get you in here.” “Right, and I respect that. I’m sure you’ve heard about the new genetics?” “The sapi3ns?” “The subject is far too complex to get into now, but let me assure you the science is proven out, winning new clients every day.”
Gail felt like a bird too enormous to fly, her gangly arms like bat wings withered to her frame, her breasts empty, no eggs inside her. Doctors, geneticists… what had she been reduced to? She was well past the breeding years, but still well defined, even beautiful. She had normal hair and normal clothes, or that she dressed younger than her age. A professional, she was sharp and self-reliant, tending toward masculine. Alone, surrounded by people, she was hardened and somewhat humorless, of the new generation of working women who occupied the territory at great price, who adapted by becoming androgynous, who, in the end, felt a great lack. A dark, lonely night, it wasn’t long before she had a bottle of wine in her. Pacing in front of the TV, she eventual realized it was a show about babies, and turned it off. She woke at 3AM
How could the sapi3n be fully grown so quickly? The horror of details was intoxicating. I’m making a trip out to the lab in a few hours. Why did she agree? There was something profoundly wrong. the voice on the other end cold and electronic.” She thought about it over another half-bottle of burgundy. the judge. “This is my chance to fuck the machine. she found the Geneticist’s card. Meet me at the corner of 6th and Monterey at ten. ___ The trees sliced menacingly by as the city streets gave way to the open highway. Somewhere along the way she started liking the price. deep in an unfamiliar forest in Louisiana. In a moment of defiance she switched off the arbiter. What drove the geneticist mad were the cold rays emanating from . scraps of the day’s turmoil. It was hard-wired. receipts. the witness. black with raised lettering of dull metal. like a messaging service. more time wasted. Does anyone sleep anymore? She called him. She thought it was a dream but no. but there was no way to move a portal.” ___ The drive out to the compound was the worst part. still in the grip of all that occurred. all of it. but it was him. “That’ll be six thousand dollars.” “Six – thousand?” “That’s right. She followed the geneticist to his lab. She had so little — so much drained from her. the breeding instinct — what else? She started emptying her purse.feeling guilty about the wine.
The bulk of the attacks were against the megacorps. the beginning stages. She looked out at the corrugated metal and security wire as the geneticist moved toward her and began screaming. the lack of oxygen. with a large dais visible from the gate. He said nothing to her. A lock of hair! The . what he would do next. as if drugged. probably kill him in the process — but why? Why go against their own? ___ They pulled into a firelane between a deep forest. They would find his eventually. anything… JUSTICe… the strange cure that grew out of the ruined landscape. They already had control of him. pulsing with the heat of the sun. The pine forest opened up like a beast. He could only breathe in shallow gasps. the ringing in the ears. Gail was afraid to exit the car. with the only opening far ahead. but many went unreported. like the air was filled with nitrogen or some other inert gas. she was strangely calm. What confounded him was their ability to shut down the portals. the feeling that something was terribly wrong heavy on her. He grabbed her from the car as if he were expecting it. even so far from the door… he had to put his mind elsewhere. It seemed she was paralyzed by some invisible energy field or gas. Unable to move or even speak. He pushed her to the side and cut something behind her neck. but it was the cold that burned. It didn’t look like a laboratory.the thing. or tried. more a compound behind a hurricane fence. the new terrorism. dropping her on the ground near the gate as he reached for a pair of scissors.
“If this was going to be a game of survival…” She lifted the latch of the gate and entered the compound. wafting in and out with the fading light. There wasn’t anything to eat in the car. It was very compelling. From her position near the fence he eventually came into view. She struggled to move her limbs. broken things washed down from the heights. though the curved arms of the dais glistened strangely. If anything else moved she would’ve screamed! Evening. The tin buildings were arranged in a crude circle around the dais. The night fell like strychnine. to free herself from the drug before the coyotes came. rooted there by a strong wind. Nothing to do but wait for his return. The cold ground. never had she been so intimate with it. just to touch something that was hers. There was no sign of the Geneticist. the ragged earth. to her horror.sound of the scissors sickened her. he fluttered softly like a pale flag. an emanation that beat into the wind until. dead grass. busy with some elaborate ritual in front of the dais. She made her way to the gate. he disappeared. the smell of old tar and rosin sickening her. The paralysis wore off so slowly that she resorted to a fitful sleep. so the tiny and safe world of ants. Naked. It was nearly dawn before she could stand and walk. When her arms were freed she dragged her stony legs across the ground until she reached the car. no movement. It left her weak. Many were . pieces of insects. turned and turned until their story was lost. vulnerable. It looked as if he were walking in place. There were so many peculiar things. She could only move her head slightly.
which was filled with technical manuals on metal refining. a few old geological texts. his mouth was full of blood. but she found an untidy library with a cellar full of canned food and MRE’s. and the field was not life. He couldn’t help getting some on his hands and the bundle. molecular chemistry. like a bomb shelter. . a catastrophe! A sapi3n born from combined DNA was a death warrant — but there was no way back unless he went through with it. ___ At the field Red took longer than usual. but for the sharp pain of his bony claws… when he finally rose.locked. There was something wrong with him. He pressed the geneticist to the salt grass until he felt the darkness overpowering him. She peeled open a can of sardines and brought two more up to the bookshelf. and what she was looking for — a pile of old classics.
Back at the compound he hurried past. at least openly. putting them away.. ___ . here. “Fuck them. unconsciously he began circling the room. One thing for sure. he was out of the business. he left her on the floor and called Gail out. the seemingly small detail. left him breathless with its destructive power. Afraid of what would happen if she recognized him. picking up things at random. Though there was time. Shocking mortality. and that a terrible one: to find Dean.” ___ What had occurred. There was only one chance to survive the beast he’d created. unusually white.two. female with white hair. an inevitable arc through all of his plans. He couldn’t help but notice it was small. NOE’MI Everything appeared normal. but the geneticist had no illusions about what he’d made.. ignoring the usual routine. dreams.
. Noe’mi plotted her escape through a crack in the door. Though she was civil. unless you’re trying to sell something. her thoughts turned to the strange environment.... Gail picked up the phone and called her friend at the convenience store. no.” Gail walked into the room with the phone.” .” “And. who had no interest in her life or anything about her. is very crude... She was hardly able to handle Noe’mi.. they hardly spoke. For the past month she’d studied Gail’s habits with the intensity of a caged animal... because she’s such a beast.. this dark place? What part of this… needs to be continued? I can’t remain here. “…no discernible qualities.” “What!?” “Belief isn’t worth anything. ‘the literature tells you you’re superior if you believe. no deep insight. causing Noe’mi to recoil.. As she mulled over this. occupied with the one upstairs. The demand that you believe. or else stayed to her room with a peculiar focus on placing objects carefully in various places. no ambition. you’re scaring me. what is it this time?” “The last conversation we had was about religion. “You wanna hear more sapi3n lore?” “Gail..’” “I can see her point. Noe’mi waited behind a door for her to leave.Gail moved slowly through an empty room. She gave me one of her crazy looks and said.” “I wanted her to go to church. Why did she bring me here. Seeing Gail’s shadow fall nearby. movement.
” The clerk leaned on the gloomy counter in a vacant store. to the left there’s a comb.presents?” Gail lunged toward the door. “What if I don’t want no fuckin’ .” “Do you think she’s satanic?” “Nah.. “Noe’mi!” Not finding her outside.. and a black dress. I haven’t noticed.. Is Rachael doing anything like that?” “Like what?” “When I enter the room.. immediately struck by the strange order. All of it had to go — . ___ Whatever it was had to be dismantled. None of it was true.. I believed all kind of shit. stood in an elaborate. The phone still in her hand.” The sound of a door slamming wrenched Gail from the conversation.“I didn’t mean to get all fucking right-wing on this. I’m not sure… It’s a ritual she does. they’ll get lots of presents. even the order of clothes in her closet. the whole Santa Claus thing — it’s like they’re training kids if they believe in this mythic figure. she opened the door on Noe’mi’s room. “They’ve gotta be good though. in the back a pocketknife and a clock... “The things in her room are. no.” The old woman closed the door on Rachael’s room. a coat. The closet has three hangers: a jacket. A glaring poster behind her advertised JUSTICe: two menacing figures.” “When I was little. a compass. mirror image of Noe’mi’s. 27 and 19.. she called the old woman.” “Uh. gothic portrait. arranged.
There were many barriers beyond the cement way. as the noises rose to a fever pitch. She stood for a long moment facing north.. The fog was a curtain cut through with streams of light. “What was she doing out there? She doesn’t have any documen- . at the crosswalk named “Everglade” Noe’mi turned toward the water. a distance. of flight! The street familiar. She walked slowly until she was hardly moving anymore. cold darkness heavy in the open place. there were clues: a new defiance. a stand of trees in the distance formed a subtle archway. the banks of tall grasses. dark. the furry blackness. She stopped. ___ The night fell with no sign of Noe’mi. The heat of it. Noe’mi knew to follow the river. in the wild. behind them a patchwork of fields sloping down to the dark. In the soft air so many images. finally she resolved to walking a path in the backyard. eternal. She knew it would end. The was sustenance.. or inform the police. Gail had mentally prepared for this. all the square fields like cages with nothing inside. Distance. ___ The anguish as Gail watched the door through half the night. not sure of the ground. She’d always known. fragments. She walked through the blackness. the chorus of insects increasing as she sank near the sand drifts. Endless miles. she stumbled into her room and picked up the compass. ___ A new road with tiny stones.all of them. Refusing either to hunt her like an animal. but at night distance was always negligible. finally.
. any experience. if there were a demarcation between the two worlds.the things she talked about: the knife. all the implications. The color gone..tation.. ___ Noe’mi pressed through the tall grass. why did I get involved with this?” While wrestling with this... white hot. felt for the thing that was supposed to be there. She was forced to bend down and feel her way like an animal.. What was she worried about? The room.. She hardly knows how to feed herself! Oh God. The river. Dark water soundless flowing... ___ “Gail. Noe’mi was unable to dis- . the light paltry. everything had an ominous weight — a dream landscape.” Something bothered her.. The old woman opened the door on her sleeping angel. it was there. was alive. more than a channel through the strata. the steady driving into blackness allayed her fear.” ___ Unknown shapes in the dark. the compass. emotions. Rachael was. immobile. things arranged in a certain order. Everything was clean inside. brought out into the night a thousand impressions. “Oh God! . she slid the compass into her pocket. the skeletal branches.. damp air pulled along. sinking into the soft ground. Down past the dark shape she found the large tree. it can’t be so difficult. Past a figure large and dark. full of life and the lives dissolved in it.. The cold sand. the plain sloped down to the final rambling expanse of the river.
but it was far. she knew what it was. wet leaves and dead things consumed by the forest floor. The rustling. turning like a magnet into the drift. she fell to the floor. What felt to her like a nest of thorns was the trunk of a tree with gangly roots to the riverbank. The coast. not in the soft black. largely buried in thick forests with overhanging vines. the same straw and thorns. far from land. stumbling noises of her probing filled the mute wilderness. was strangely familiar. the old branch serving as a crude paddle. Finally the craft found its use. “Why!? Why did I come here?” She hurled the branch overhead. was a ragged line quickly devoured by rampaging plant life. Powerless. How long it must’ve waited there. She climbed in among its ribs and peat and shoved off. but with a definite wooden echo. She had no way to gauge the distance traveled. though hardly visible through the haze. its old dragon head peering into the same tangled vines. shoehorned it into a patch of weeds and dead limbs. In its element the boat was strangely animated. It was the jolt of running aground that shook her awake.cern one from the other. cobwebs. It was another dark hour before she worked the boat free. it landed. above to tangled underbrush. Even before she wound her way up through the thicket. Rising with purpose. the useless tool! Strangely. at the mercy of the strange craft. it cut across the waves. The sun was out. slowly rocked to sleep by the gentle motions. She took a scrap of cloth from her things . or suspended in tangled thorns. or the course she took. She pulled the boat to shore. She pulled a dead branch loose and thrashed the whirling blackness.
didn’t notice her at first “Hello.” The heap of weeds fell to the ground. The thing. she was lost. well-cared for. She passed a dozen before reaching the village. ___ . then more and more carelessly. and planted it above the craft. She raised her head. but it refused to raise its head or otherwise acknowledge her. With all of Noe’mi’s trouble. With her. Her shoes gone. struggling to discern what it was. Surely she’d survive this. covered in primitive clothes made of straw and reeds. already with their heads to the ground.. immediate. it was important. recklessly. close enough that she could see it trembling. she hadn’t been outside more than a moment. the time. slogging down the trail. A few bends and the river receded. inexplicably. She walked up to it. ___ Gail beat a path into the ground. things were always pressing. to mark the place. as if she were royalty. It was broad. but her concern was for those in Noe’mi’s path. its forehead pointed toward her. though fairly crooked. with some sort of mask or headdress. as if Noe’mi had drained her to the last impulse. easy to discern in a yard otherwise gone to weed. without her. she walked carefully at first. She found a trail above the sandbar. Now. At the next bend there were more of them.and tied it to the old tree branch.. There were no sharp objects anywhere. Now there was only the quiet fading. In the dark forest a figure walked toward her.
a strange scene! All of the buildings were crudely made. the iron grate. in angular forms: She cried out. this horribly distorted image. At first she wasn’t sure. a few at an angle overhead to mimic the rooflines. things only she could’ve known: the curb near the old house. At the entryway there was a long branch planted like a post with a piece of flat bark tied to it. They were obviously designed to take the place of real buildings. she scrambled past the crude sign. not real. few doors — there were no walls! Skeletal structures. On it was scratched a word. they fell along a dirt path.Noe’mi peered over the pile of sticks. back to the place she’d . There were no windows. as if made by children. She shuffled down the only street she’d know. Everything was so crudely made. Old branches were lashed together in rough squares. but there were unmistakable cues. the birdhouse. Unable to grasp what it meant.
as she made the final turn there was a sudden calm. Strangely. out of sight. as there was nothing in the other place. She entered the small yard that would be hers and touched the threshold. She bent to investigate. At first she thought her heart would burst. dead. She was. covered her face in a greasy mask.. ___ After the shockwave some part of Noe’mi was exhausted. ___ As Gail continued to pace. she noticed a bundle of sticks in the back yard. as expected: the knife. extinguished. boiled from her skin. though crudely made. a scarecrow. there was a sudden trembling. to stand for long moments watching the birds in their gruesome work. past the familiar obstacles to the room she was to stay.. In the opening she found a stick figure. The sky lit up in electric arcs.just escaped. and there was the compass! ___ . but it was only the first wave. she made her way through the maze. but no compass! As she mused over this. Curious about what it could mean. She was on the ground — deep cold. To her horror there was no mistaking the “person” who’d fallen there. in some way. all of the odd occurrences building toward an inevitable end. It was. It was Gail. the connection between this world and the other terribly unstable — the shock wave blasted upward. a relief. The sense of dread congealed in oily sweat that covered her limbs.. She stepped through the crude doorway.. The things were there.
was progressive. but was largely quiet. fierce. He spoke loudly. There was something of the indigenous tribe in him. the driving force behind the big shift. strong featured but not overbearing. when he chose to respond. Because everything had to be done in secret. If there was no mask. the indomitable will of the alien horde. he was very aggressive. His face portrayed. sullen. knives. who waited for him to finish taping what must’ve been his fortieth missive. he often wore dark sunglasses. to capture his attention. mask or no. enthusiasm was waning. Like all the sapi3ns. a natural leader in the old model. His. He could’ve been either a surgeon or lumberjack. a germ of an idea. but there were cracks in the armor. a small man with fine features. He was the man largely responsible for the JUSTICe movement. to shield him from the glare of humanity. where politics wouldn’t allow one the same rights. dominating. He moved with a startling directness to a particular place in the room that he seemed to favor. His hair was brown. He strode slowly past Dean. the same opportunities. It came from one of the many situations that developed in the workplace. That was all. The problem . always the same spot. his eyes brown. as someone else. he reverted to the old model: voodoo.A hulking figure passed in front of a dais covered with objects of war: bullets. and many contradictions. They made a video with the sapi3n in a mask holding an item he’d pilfered from the workplace. and so his features. JUSTICe started as a prank. At the time there was a very lethal sapi3n known to straighten people out. muscular.. a seemingly normal human. funny. He was tall. He showed the amulet briefly.. machinery. Dean.
though no place on earth would be remote enough. fourteen more. now known as 27.. the most elusive character in the northern hemisphere? A heavily forested highway through the dead of night does something of its own.was quickly resolved. became popular. The sapi3n.. but had a natural resistance to their peculiar noise. into a pitch black landscape. As the miles ticked ..” “27. a human gone wrong can hardly be salvaged. finally. They eventually formed JUSTICe to protect him and the others who joined. you can see the explosive potential. the magnetic earth pulling him. Dean wasn’t sapi3n. How was he to find Dean. he scrambled for the keys like a lunatic.. The engine blasted him out of the dark forest..” “Dean! I don’t have time for this!” “The blood sapi3n I’m seeing is.” “I don’t care. his black mask with pointed ears bristling like a startled beast. Not to say there weren’t other problems. why haven’t I known it?” “It’s a strange dream. for the air to clear..” ___ The geneticist waited. He walked out. I’ve been dreaming again.. but the power structure was substantially altered.. “That’s all. the bond that he’d formed still pulling him.” The hulking form started. At least he had the ability to recover. a woman.” “I’ve got. Not yet! Into the car. “If there’s another one. you’re not going to believe me. threatening. days. a wilderness that offered some relief.
a suggestion began to form.off noiselessly. an angle. . the speedometer frozen in cruise. slowly the fragment of an idea.
Noe’mi pulled the compass free from the pile of old sticks… The days passed. The trail was easy to discern. Could she be dreaming? Why so many details. DEAN Gail was dead! There was no mistaking it. She had to think! This place was not real. the struggle to sleep in the cold. but different. on awaking. She paid little attention to them. things would suddenly be touched. The witness gone. moved slightly.three. Was this the way she’d come? There was no sense to what was occur- . The sun had shifted from before. but it was no illusion. she fell deeply into the rhythm of the village. and how. the dreams she had. with conviction. such vast expanses of time? The nights were difficult. They brought her food. a thousand before she returned the compass to its place. what was to be conveyed. It was from this communication that she rose suddenly from her wilderness surroundings. bothered. the leaves faded with the season. impossible to gauge. by the slightest adjustment. and found the path to leave. She could tell what they were thinking.
as usual. all of it. he refused to say anything more. The forest called her in the old way. Night of a thousand nights. it was the land itself. There was no light in the distance to summon her. It didn’t matter. 27 broke away. He was. their tiny legs strumming to .” “This one is real. the thread gone.” 27 remained silent. What did it matter how things went? Somewhere past the village she wandered off the trail. She marveled at the tiny movements. the forms naturally occurring in the wild. stormed out. an invitation to lose herself beneath its canopy. a wild beast on its rounds. such that she began to address it as an entity. There were many times when the quiet allowed a glimpse of the orchestration behind it. the pull of gravity. Tapped into a different universe. of no use. What he needed was to focus on the thing he was to do.ring for so long that her intuition was useless. followed closely by an agent. the darkening treeline began to rumble with the insect hordes. There was some similarity of rhythm to sentient life. often revealed. through the touch of outside forces — here the wind. ___ Dean had a few moments with 27 before his car arrived. “You know I’ve got to do this. ___ Flight! It was coursing through Noe’mi. he was unreadable. symbolism of a different order.” “Your ideas control you. Though the appearance of quiet had no relevance to either of them. as in the village.
Dean had to be sure of every point. the sun stirring devils that spat and spun out in lonely arcs. drove an old truck. a hive. JUSTICe! In strange times. Here there was no other world. “The beast is no longer breathing. ___ In the heart of darkness. With no visible demarcation. the strange cure. Was it a fluke. no racing through . The hotel was a cave. By the morning the old truck would be dismantled. other than to wish that he would soon be gone? And that they had friends everywhere. The wind picked up near the mountains pushing a thousand feet of dust across the ruined landscape.” It was this pleasant thought that brought Noe’mi to a clearing. a crazy blast to the east. His truck warbled and vibrated across the plane. from one to the next. or did things fall into place by themselves? The receptionist made the sign. ___ The open highway was a threat to those in the underground. an impulse. a ring of trees that captured the exsufflation from above. no distraction. the sort of place that drew outcasts like him. There would be no trouble there. Who would notice him. there was no reason to resist. He throttled down in an old desert town. a different car waiting. to her. It was there he felt the first hint of her. a dim recollection. He wore torn clothes. It was time to feed. a funnel of silver that appeared to pull the empty void within reach. the safety of the growing shadows comforting to them.the faltering sun.
the cloth she’d tied to a tree branch — how many days ago? The shock of recognition spun Noe’mi. nothing of the one who entered the wilderness. She knelt among the ferns. no escape the blasting heat of existence. The morning damp already settling. the ragged form of the boat. so old the cloth had nearly disintegrated. As soon as the land fell away the old river returned her to an eerie calm. she found a new piece of driftwood along the bank and pried the boat free. burrowed into the soft bank to wait for the dawn. There was little to . heavy. she fell. whirling. Mind. in some sense she did. holding her own arms. her emotion one thrilling blast. the white ground nearly fluorescent in the silver night. bending to the ground in ecstasy.thorn and brush. Was it the damp fog. Blindly she reached out and there found. a bemused tangle of hair and limbs. unmistakably. a ringing that resonated all through her body. On first light. She could’ve remained there forever. from the night’s splendor. the gentle swaying — or was there some immunity found in the crossing? The headstock rose as before and found its course. After all the ravages of the forest floor. it was an intense pleasure. like tetrazine. again. How long had she been in the village? Horrified. for there was nothing after. Her thoughts fell away. She fell along a line of trees. slowly. There was a sound: a humming. There was a time to walk again. nearly in tears with the things coursing through her. How did she exist before that night? She fell. the cold sand conforming to her bare feet.
At first there were more natives. noiseless. Things moved as if by magic. He had to be away for a moment. Screams and other primal sounds rang out of the hollows. ___ . far enough that he could get his bearings.. accompanied by strange birds stirred from their nests. Another hundred miles into the Mojave.do but record the strange scenes drifting past. here and there. walked past the dilapidated old station into the chaparral. She was far. They floated overhead. billowing.. Dean stopped for gas. He slid down into a wash and dug into the sand. immeasurably far. He was there only a few minutes. though bright. shifting. who raced alongside to witness the passing. appearing out of nowhere. scattering filaments of light and shadow. was stretched to a blurry line by the slanting rays. Was she being followed? ___ There was no urgency in the desert. was sinister and dark. the strong smell of creosote sharpening his senses.. The white Volvo rattled in full throttle again across the endless plane. toward the border towns and empty reaches of Texas. there smudged into the horizon. They were all ghosts. In cold shafts of air from dark tunnels through the woods. something moved. The mood. no need. suspended above the narrow ribbon of highway a white Volvo. here floating above the rolling sand. but long enough to pick up the scent.. mirages.
Together they moved swiftly across the dark campus. No one made the mistake of looking directly at him. lighting — all the things that brought 27 to brilliant HD. or meeting his gaze. there was no outside contact.The agents formed a wall in front. the sand. 27 paced noiselessly nearby. and they were in. his large frame impossibly animated. They had on IT uniforms.. rocks. boulders passed in a torrent. though a very effective weapon. here nearly overpowering. dark glasses. The road crew threw together the taping apparatus: greenscreen curtain. there was little communication with him. which was quietly nudged from its furious duties. You got the feeling that this monster. ___ The land flowed. There were all sorts of data centers. but always a basement with easy access to whatever wires. The lead swiped his security passcard. The things were spiders. every node aware of every other.. often Dean was the only one to speak with him. 27 held a token up to the camera. could at any moment devour his support team. “We’re up. like a damned spider. There was hardly time to set up the equipment and the beast was on cue. It was here in the flurry of activity that Dean found the filaments sometimes . two behind. the line connected through mountain range to fungal spore and on through the spinning. a dark figure in any setting. To that end. whirling stars to the end of existence.” Apart from this. hidden mics. and the room froze. dead silent. move the dns. Beneath the racks an agent plugged into fb terminal bx75329.
.visible — a torrent that never ceased. not yet. yet there it was. she wasn’t on the same wavelength.... . One thing was sure. whistling past. node after node. It was illusion to move through phenomenal existence.
the distance. It refused to be resolved. At some point the shoreline faded.four. gain intensity. pulled her to the floorboards. He left the road to its vibrating madness before he lost the thread to haste and progress. Distance was mute. The light fell softly through the haze. The sun turned red through the pulsing miasma — symbol. The impulse was to continue on forever. movement… it was as if Noemi were at a standstill. The river appeared to widen. had Dean perplexed. but it was an empty promise. and deep. The fatigue of the night’s turmoil did their work. Sleep there was easy. vibrating with the things of the river. sky and river interspersed. static white noise — pure mind in its essence. the heat drawing boiling drafts into clouds of vapor. NIGHT AND THE RIVER The boat sliced through gentle rapids. mother. . road. gurgling. ___ The strangeness of the bond. death. Apart from the random crashing of limbs there was only the sound of water: tinkling.
Inside the old paneling stank of mildew and decay. Was it the last? Instantaneously the door. bone white from age and. the older ones blasted to cinders. and all was lost. so beautiful in her ragged clothes. ___ The need for sleep fierce. their blue trunks resonating in amber hues. like a cossack or indian. the feathery pull down to the depths sudden. A seeping cold invaded her limbs. The landscape was a heightened version of the eternal: forever repeating. it was furious. There was something wrong. This was the place. was the thing that leapt out of the highway. Whatever it was. It was her… but . He felt a strong beating from the south. The gravestones glistened in heated rows. the dark thing nearly enveloping her. He paused at a dilapidated gravestone as if listening to something far away. proximity to a graveyard. There was no remembering after. iconic. gouging the flesh. impossible if not for the underground carefully erasing him. the witness made ubiquitous. How Dean had alluded capture was a thing of wonder.A tiny hotel. perhaps. Always in the unfolding scenes darkness wavered. Giant trees dominated the plane. the horn of Triton piercing through from below. surrounded her in a choking curtain ringed with pearls. as if Noemi were to leave that world. things too old to define. ___ A figure appeared out of the desert night. At the door between the two planes there was only a moment to study the limp figure drifting away. unnaturally deep. a simple horseshoe.
What could’ve been so powerful… was she to be simply devoured? There was no resisting the cold grip. and he couldn’t imagine what she must surmount. that clung to the emanations. suffocations. No chance he would get any help from him. threatening to blot them out. to observe the thing at the core — the source of the emanations. spontaneous combustions. paroxysms. ___ The thing that boiled beneath would not relent. unless… As he turned from the resonance the form of a guardian or sentinel jutted out of the rock-strewn hill. shadow selves. but she was so young. and released? And would she remain in control of here senses? Surely there would be a moment. devouring. At first it seemed irrational. It was maddening! The trail had nearly gone cold. It was no coincidence that he found himself there. drownings… how would this one be brought to the threshold. what demonic forces. drained all the way down to a single flower tossed by the wind . falling from great heights. final. Dean couldn’t sleep — not that night. Why make a deal with the devil for a single girl? But she was no ordinary girl. Noe’mi had no choice but to surrender to it. blinding torments. There was so much boiling beneath the surface.there was something ominous. She wasn’t in any real danger. antimatters. its strength unbearable. All of her energy was gone. 27 was underground for an indeterminate time. loss of limbs. No amount of lucid dreaming could avert the flow. a monster of such proportions that its tendrils stretched forward and backward in time. at least. There was no use risking the road.
pulled the vines loose. was gone. to remove the thing that caused it. Pulled downstream by the current. With the boat gone. gathering strength. something in the way. left many .in a forest meadow. closer… “AIEEEE!” She awoke suddenly as the boat sank beneath the river. forcing air into her lungs. she was drawn through the tangled mass as if she herself were magnetized. The nectar rose to her throat. all hope of resolving the troubling thing that drove her here: the nearly violent method of her birth. She swallowed the dark water and bellowed. She bobbed and sank. Come closer. long moments of sitting at the base of a tree. the night now nearly pitch black. There was little pleasure in her continued existence. Though there was no trail or sign that anyone had passed before her. she subsisted on pale roots and ferns. mushrooms. She laid down flat and gathered leaves. with no method of escape? These thoughts encompassed her so fully that she hardly payed attention to her movements. Thrashing. A beast of the forest. for in what horrible place was she now trapped. trembling for the bee’s furtive tongue. but she knew now where to direct the fury. She rose from the muddy bank as if in a trance and shuffled through the dark woods. She moved the rocks to different places. but the way ahead would always become apparent as soon as she regained her feet. and soon bothered her way to shore. beating the bottomless depths. There were moments of doubt. she fought a quarter mile before there was any hope — a tree branch! She had no way to grab it. her limbs were numb from untold hours in the seeping damp.
on will alone. He was tall with a lean build. she began drifting above the ground. all of which he struggled to erase. The ground seemed to glow with the windswept soul of the place. Many things had been written about the monster. The wind that carried her. no barbed wire. but the clearing was obviously carved out of the forest with great effort. but not irreversibly. a silo. It was easier once the ground was lost. quickly brought her to the edge of a field. She sank to the ground in the lovely expanse as if it were a holy place. It was not so much his features as what animated them. half of them were true. Away from the confusion in the south. floating like a specter. with no allegiance to JUSTICe or any organization. with wildflowers of many varieties. in the distance. He was demonic. Just as she became intoxicated. Tired of walking. a black sedan switched to overdrive. toward the strongest signal in the hemisphere: 19. it headed north. ___ Before the infernal rays broke across the horizon. like a man who’d fought his . the intense fragrances — to her dismay she saw. its tall grasses thickly intertwined with briar patches and stands of canes and reeds. with no restrictions.footprints along the creek bed. If you looked at him directly you might be paralyzed with fear. There were no posts to be found. alongside the raccoon and deer. Dean had seen his lethal visage on many occasions. with a warm feeling of safety and contentment — the golden hues. The field had been left to weed for many seasons. ruthless.
But he had no illusion of footing with them or of enlisting their services. Easily the most sensitive of all the sapi3ns. its members were hard to discern.way up through the system. uncontrolled existence. lended to a preternatural charge. It was with these thoughts that he drove. in his case. a phrase. It was part of his strength: the virility. a very dangerous. but not from worry or fatigue — it was death. often wearing a hood to obscure his fierce presence. he would know all that was unfolding. the strange nature of the girl lost to the currents. Like a samurai or Zen adept he no longer feared what lay beyond. he was nearly always in the wilderness. the meanness. Though not outwardly anti-social. he had no contact with anyone. Surely he had not had an easy time of it. Because of these peculiarities. maybe he would allow a clue. Though the network was vast. not without a bait. This freedom from mortal concerns. with dark circles. not into the city. he would need to remain in close proximity to JUSTICe. no need or reason to bond. multiplied by his sapi3n blood. ___ If the geneticist were to survive the thing he’d created. He pushed the needle past 90. a word. but east to the offices of Tetrodonic. He had to enter their way. They would more than likely quicken his demise… he followed instinct. . His eyes were dark. giving him the look of a druid or executioner. so there was nothing to ensnare him. Maybe. that this toxic group would be the only possible weapon — if there were some way to resolve this without giving his own life… it was a doomed mission from the start.
the sound of the wind. it would’ve been too abrupt. down to the color of light. The light faded all at once. THE ENTITY KNOWN AS 19 The external was a metaphor for internal processes. With the silo nearly as far as when she began.five. movement. Though a familiar sun moved quickly through the sky. The field was its own process. there were no shadows. In places the earth was nearly white. drifting through tree branches. as if a beast of some size drifted through the weeds. hindered her. a dim glow emanating from the ground. she finally pressed down into the weeds. was it part of this ragged place? . She gained ground as the field dictated — toward a sound or color. like moonlight. as the soul of the wilderness drained away as soon as Noe’mi discovered the farm. There was no great joy in turning over the possibilities. She didn’t walk directly toward the silo. There were things in the field with her. The thing above that followed her. It wasn’t like the other place. There was no more following the signal. that made an impression.
a seamless block of concrete in the financial district. the name of Sidney Walsh. was the echo of tiny voices around his. as they rarely interacted. Tetrodonic was a corporation against corporations. It was very bizarre. meaning sapi3n run. Things didn’t work out for poor old Sidney. Tetrodonic recruited thousands of his type. that it had to be privately funded. no friends. Sidney. but the profile fit the JUSTICe model. or any of his kind. but toxic corporate environments. not rivals. like ascending the notes of a scale. usurping. The abrupt thing at the end of the signal. The fear . etc. It was the natural predilection of the wild. ___ The volume of static increased as Dean penetrated the blackland prairies. to what end he had no idea. one of the rejects from the old neighborhood. Of course the geneticist had no proof. He turned militant soon after the geneticist started with the sapi3ns. one of the freaks he collected. politics. nearly all animals followed the same pattern. going against the grain in so many instances.___ Tetrodonic was a known troublemaker in the corporate world. as if he were broken into countless miniatures. the imprint of the alien installation. was the guy who never looked up. what confused him as he raced toward it. was heavily guarded — another clue. The head office. He made it through the security checkpoint with the only card he had. Of course he had no fear of humans. intolerant of megacorps. There were twenty levels of noise. 19 made no effort to conceal himself.
He was nearly at the center of the yard before Dean’s evil head poked through the brush. forming .. Before them 19 saw the obstruction. He moved slower than usual. He followed these for no reason other than for his own enjoyment. his angular movements were unmistakable. as he waded through a sea of turkeys who appeared to move with him in a strange choreography. the land burning from intense heat..” He walked toward the protuberance. There was no reason to conceal himself. there. his blood scent. ___ In the field the turkeys shifted toward the back fence like an eddy in a stream. There were a hundred oaks before the first clattering: a warble in the atmosphere. But it was the dark figure walking toward him that dominated the scene. “The coward Dean. obscuring the ground. along with it excitement. As he drew near. In the end he left the car to the road and crossed the fence. the ones in front folded back in the ranks.. 19 knew he was coming. There were tangles of oaks with enormous ones here and there like signposts. that the reading often followed the spirit. the turkeys flowing around him. An old tin shed across the yard reminded him of the many geneticists compounds he’d witnessed.. The fool! ___ Dean could smell them before he reached the fence of a sinister-looking turkey farm.rose. Though 19 wore a black hood. the same eerie lines. a rustle of thousands of tiny feet.
it was with a note of ridicule. “You filthy bastard! If you cross the fence. Just as she began to grasp the deeper meaning.” “Why do you interfere?” ___ The field.” “You know I can’t finish this.” “I can’t help… humans. not a blade of grass moved. a pattern of objects that made sense.” “19… I need your help. the hum and whirl of eternity fell to the dark recesses. leaving pulse alone: an unending. Dean was certain he would not survive the encounter. the thatched roof nearly black from age. was made of grey stone. but nothing. The farmhouse. the pulse of radioactive slag. but not the way she’d learned. unhindered. its roof blown off in whatever cataclysm. neatly arranged. though there was no outward show of aggression. . Ghost world… The silo was empty. The stray electrons canceled all other signals. the movements were its own language — untrammeled. her imprint was its voice. She pushed open the door to a faint rustling and found a warm interior. When 19 finally spoke. maddening rhythm of speed and decay. but Noe’mi was no intruder. as if the distortion field obscured the intent. The sound of the wind receded. The field accepted all. overgrown with weeds.a long line of warlike birds. the windows shuttered. There was a rustling near the door. she stumbled on the first of many white stones that marked the end of it. you cross me. abandoned. It was a place completely left to its own. was replaced with a white tone.
The entity known as 19 saw the girl. ___ Dean had only a few moments with 19. and for the first time knew where to find her. 19 seemed preoccupied. ___ The geneticist paced outside Sidney’s office under at least a half-dozen security cameras. a thousand piercing eyes. First. like some form of intelligence. He would not be on foot for long. but what was it? The more he thought about it. More than that. again the four walls. nearly musical but more complex. He told him nothing. The sheer size of the place put . It was safe there.The interplay of things occupied her thoughts until darkness invaded. the turkeys moved in a distinct symmetry. His movements? He had a peculiar gate. Inside. he turned over what had transpired. What this entity known as 19 projected was contrary to the angry figure at the center. If he were to draw a line through 19 and the birds. the sealed box. something more than driving him away. and sleep. but as he made his way through the underbrush. something private… and in that moment Dean glimpsed her. At the first road he turned toward the heat. the more convinced he was that something had been communicated other than their terse conversation. gave him nothing. The flickering beasts were an extension of 19. there were a few alarming details that had him perplexed. to look objectively at the overall pattern. it passed something to her.
the finality — it was with a dark mood that he approached the recruitment office. you’ll have to go through the indoctrination like everyone else. restrictions.” As he left Sidney’s office.. What a strange fellow! Sidney motioned for him to come in.him at ease. ___ Noe’mi awoke with a feeling of obscure horror. as if he were being watched. William?” “I came to see you. . Alone.” Sidney looked at him for a quiet moment. the geneticist struggled to remain calm. Curtainless windows the only light... she could discern only normal things.” “Indoctrination?” “You have to cut the cord.. What was so frightening here? Nothing out of place.. There was no turning back. No ties?” “You know me Sidney. there are certain.I haven’t heard from you in a long time.. almost imperceptible: a murmuring. What else?” “Once you’re in. The farmhouse was empty. You understand. “I don’t think you understand. The weight of all that had occurred. but there were things.. Everything would be lost. “What are you doing here. If you want to join Tetrodonic. a fluttering like moth wings. This was going to be easy.” “I’ve been working. with the sapi3ns. he waited nearly an hour before the door opened. Only if he could remain there.” “ . He really liked the fellow. quickly. stranded between worlds. sounds.. as if she were not fully formed.
Noe’mi didn’t belong there. . His nature did not allow for restraint. ___ The coward Dean left before 19 found reason to evict him. empty and alone. It was life diluted to the point that only a faint echo remained. or elsewhere. she hurried across the field. no thing moved. as if the people there never existed. It was time to feed. He was crazy about the woman who would be 30. rather it was what was missing.not one object in the room. no door or blade of grass. It was a mistake! In a rush of emotion. Noe’mi felt her. Though she saw all of this. At the sink a woman washed the dishes. The thousand eyes of the entity know as 19 reflected on this as a battered sun melted into the trees. She couldn’t remember the direction she’d come from! Eventually she found an opening and fell into the treeline. her dark thoughts. or existed only as specters. nor did he have any insight — there was no way to impede the progression of events he worried over. or merely an impression. now unsure if she were truly alive anymore. A child paused briefly before walking out to the sunlit yard.
“Lights out!” At 3AM The lights flicked back on. At the front of the room an old agent. Do you understand?” A few men nodded. marked. found their numbers quickly. The Geneticist found a bundle of clothes next to the number 0297. most stared blankly from the lines. “You’re not allowed to move from your line unless you’re in a group of three or more. examined. down to their clothes. a similarly numbered set of black trousers and a hooded shirt. They were stripped of all their possessions. “Face forward. a resonat- . live by your number. He dressed quickly along with everyone else. Your number corresponds to your place on the floor. sleep. The bleak room . INDOCTRINATION The geneticist was crowded into a room with a hundred other candidates. started from behind a podium. left to shuffle their feet and wait.six. Remain in your spot until I say otherwise. You will eat.” They were photographed. already made obedient. The men. a master.
sabotage. forcing the men into position.’ meaning to sit cross-legged. it was its own entity that drew from the aliens whatever could be extracted. But 0297 was far too busy to marvel at the framework. Even before the echoes died out. It has not even begun. they were . where the sea of men boiled and writhed in anticipation. he will tell you to ‘get comfortable. pushing him to a state of delirium. his knees. but what struck him as a Zen discipline. the chaos that speaks through them has not been exhausted. “Get comfortable…” After a considerable pause. for effect.” There was a dichotomy here that 0297 had been unaware of. the master continued… “There is no JUSTICe without opposition. “Before the lectures begin.” The master waited a few moments more. or subversion. The environment reflects its conditions. The sapi3ns need to be pressed down. coups d’etat. showing them the correct form. again boomed to life. Tetrodonic had adapted to the needs of JUSTICe. Three-thousand times the bare concrete abraded his hands. everyone must kneel. even if ultimately they are a force for good. simultaneously turning the interchange into opportunity. These are the only positions allowed. forced to press their heads to the ground. to the thundering crack of an enormous drum. Tetrodonic didn’t just supply agents and operators to JUSTICe. He wasn’t being trained in covert ops.” A few masters wove through the ranks. “When the master decides. After the first series of lectures they were brought outside. Who is the arbiter? There is no final word.ing chamber fronted by the a podium.
Weeks? Someone near him whispered under his teeth. Intricately interconnected. If one acted in haste.” He didn’t look to see who it was. “I’m not going to take any more of this crap. shafts of light penetrated the dark abyss. talked over the commands. All of this will be covered in the following weeks…” At this the men groaned. now truly lost. or forgot the correct placement of the glass. What for? There was a noticeable thinning in the ranks. twice a day. even the meals. of droning lectures. in a forced orchestration which gave the masters still more leverage over them. “There are forces that dictate the flow. . these are. Throughout the day the marks fell like rain. hardly enough to keep alive. that we are powerless against. which leads to the realization of the Absolute and enlightenment. the great doubt.brought back to the floor. Their rigid order was challenged by pacing guards. who fucked around with everyone’s utensils. a new mark on your record. kicked their feet out of place. For the condition of life and death. the terrible pain of sitting cross-legged on the bare floor. They ate their tasteless gruel. Each one meant extra hours prostrating on the cold cement. which were designed to punish. ___ In the dark woods again. a near paralyzing communion. Some had left during the night. different aspects of the same phenomenon. in fact. Their indoctrination appeared to be a question of endurance. or were somehow dispatched. picked up a spoon instead of a knife. More than twenty and you were out.
The vines and limbs appeared to gain mass. cut through the underbrush and down a sloping terrace. blasting out all of phenomenal existence. it seemed quite likely that she would come and go with no trace. no contribution. large open expanses that gradually shifted his thoughts from the pressing matter to his own survival. Still on foot.. the familiar sound of civilization: a car horn. These small instances helped contain the madness. forever churning. expanding. there was no mistaking its ragged appearance. a multitude of voices. the canopy overhead became more dense. ___ At the crossroad Dean turned south. She’d begun to formulate a deep understanding of the patterns of phenomenal existence. Unknowingly she’d turned from the path and fell on a deer trail. The deer trail led nowhere. informed in peculiar ways the structure and underlying forces. of the core. or it seemed deeper into darkness. as all was in a state of flux. Along the dark trail a knot in a tree or tangle of ferns would capture her. the dark forest leapt past like in his dreams. hardly breathing. In this excited state she became aware of a voice.Noe’mi was reduced to taking minute steps. Suddenly Noe’mi realized — did she hear it? She was close to the river. which pulled her through the bracken and thorns farther into the woods. At the point where hope was lost.. What manifested here or there wasn’t significant. across a series of barbed-wire fences. For the same reason he left the road. He flagged down a large truck and so made the crossing to Louisiana. fields of weeds. Free and alive. he fell into a cadence to save resources. .
more hours in the courtyard on their knees. an old cabin of green clapboard. something of the inner world leaked through with every crossing! It gave him the courage. You had to be current with the network to know where to go. There were men outside. Less food. everything down to the minimum of functioning. even there. beyond. recoiled when he made the sign. all around it. The Calcasieu River. He left town in an old Ford pickup — the tiny highway. Strangely. One of them. an incremental existence. less sleep. all of them were. an enclosure that allowed a heightened state. the conditions worsened. swollen. More than this. began to shine with austerity and hope. 0297 was the image of death. the pine trees glistening in the damp air. He could not sustain or create it. well worn. There was some effort to choose nondescript places. and the limitless plane that was revealed beneath. ___ Even though the end was nowhere in sight. a half mile down from the docks. in the backwoods. was the place.Lake Charles was the nearest town large enough to have operators. This only at intervals. JUSTICe had no fixed address. it appeared when conditions allowed. It quickly became apparent that there were two worlds. the conviction to stick it out. Regardless. the walls blown out. waiting. Had any of the . beyond the pain and suffering he found a peaceful core. it appeared to have sank to some degree. in what he saw as a chrysalis. when he was able to heighten his awareness. Heavy from the humid conditions. the cruel. the men found their harmony together. hard reality that drove him inward. who walked toward Dean.
They were brought to a large hall in the center of the complex. In the dream she saw a handsome man in a white truck under a bridge. They bared their left forearms. She rose remembering the dream. but grew weary of the struggle to maintain it. She studied the place. ___ The river was death. nine days in the desert. In the dim moments before sleep she listened to the strong noises of the river. She succumbed slowly to the ground in a curling motion. She made camp in a rolling meadow that fell toward the dark currents. for all they’d suffered. the beat of the enormous drum… the doors were thrown open. or did they possess some ungodly inner strength? When the final bell rang only 36 remained. which finally pulled her under. listening from a safe distance like an animal. the connection they’d made. not exactly. Well. In the thick weeds she found solace. The final ceremony was quick. Noe’mi writhed in her bed of weeds until she could stand the damp cold no more. She had to be at the bridge soon for the thing to be completed. The smell of burning flesh. which a master marked with a small brand. a false flag. and they were free. where a party of masters waited. was the only one connected to HQ. He spoke about the work they were to do. with his sapi3n background. Noe’mi stayed away from it.others discovered this. He was human. the whites of their eyes. but not fully — he had the symbol on his arm. They were immediately split into teams to begin training for covert ops. 0297. His first post. his face. the .
He pulled to the side of the road just under an overpass. pulsing. Noe’mi was there. I… get in.man who’d haunted her.” . which cascaded outward. a thousand trucks racing across a web. “You’re not sapi3n. but a freeway! And in the distance an overpass. the thing collapsed into a resonating husk. from another one like you. thrust screaming. enveloping the darkening wilderness. I learned to… communicate your way. the signal became nearly palpable.” “No. the smell of ozone. The hemophage asphalt blew like a cataract into the swamp. projecting him into the heart of the wild place. she witnessed. “Dean?” “Noe’mi. The shift began miles before the Father of Waters. the hurtling steel drawn into a hot bolt. gradually adapting to each other. the oscillations. He kept to the center. Like spiders eggs the lines burst. catatonic… at the bare end. waiting. Who would dare interfere? As she made her way over the hill. suddenly leaping in arcs across the horizon. the truck throttled down to coasting. It was with a note of defiance that she stumbled down to the river. the truck vibrated with the crossing as if it were sentient. his only recourse. the bridge from the dream! ___ As Dean continued east. The road flickered from state to state like a channel or flume. not a flowing deluge.” They drove in silence for a hundred miles.
but she moved with him flawlessly. The strange creature! ___ “She made it through. as a rule. There was no reason or use bonding with Dean.Noe’mi refused to respond. She was appreciative. There were many things Dean picked up from her that made up for this. Dean managed to hold her for a few days. like a shaman’s drum. though remained quiet. which poured out of the field in sonic waves. There wasn’t a moment where dialog from him was tolerated. In fact.” “Yeah. She was a blood sapi3n. “It’s time to go. A thousand miles away Noemi stirred from the racks of the army surplus and turned to Dean. but she was nearly without words.” The entity known as 19 walked fluidly. The slow pacing inflamed the primal frequencies. no sexuality or emotion.” “Train?” . Sapi3ns don’t talk much. the thump of tiny feet a synchronous thought or projection. nearly visible.. but he lost all hope of capturing her. to at least buy her some new things. she had such little concern for her appearance that her clothes had nearly disintegrated. tough bitch. there’s a train station at the end of town..
life that is not life. busied himself like a good drone. what wasn’t already trammeled into the concrete… a great deal of his soul leaked out of that office. THE ENTITY KNOWN AS 30 The retrieval was painless. joshua trees and saguaro. the controller had risen to leave. Unfortunately. “You want to stay here? This isn’t a… we don’t need operators anywhere near HQ — are you crazy?” 0297’s life. He wore the uniform. you’re on for silver six. He said little as the black sedan crawled across the creosote plain. He was quickly returned to HQ. “0297. to remain alive. His goal. A waiting car had him on the freeway in minutes. ___ . he was designed for work in the field.seven.” I… is there any work here?” The computer already shut down. headed east across a quiet desert. moving death.
and closed his eyes. easily influenced.” “She’s young. He signaled the operator to leave.After the hours with Noe’mi a fuse had blown. their arms… but they weren’t trees! They were humans hanging by their feet! He awoke with a start. but as he thought this he began packing his things. He had 27 on the phone in minutes. He’d had always been good at tracking things. traces. but Dean knew there were more of them. When he finally made it to the next city he fell to a dark hotel bed. It was how they knew each other. walking alongside 19 across the field he was forbidden to enter. It was an instinct. in a dream. their embryonic merging sending ripples through the ranks. why hadn’t he noticed before? Behind them the trees writhed. Not that they welcomed him. The birds splayed out from them in a kaleidoscope of jagged lines. reading signs. There was a strange cohesiveness that Dean hadn’t seen before. Dean could hardly keep to the road. . He’s the one with the stronger signal. how the instinct works. the figures at the center fitting together as if they were of the same tribe. He found her again. but he resonated with them in some way.” 27 put the phone down slowly. It does introduce a considerable delay. the scent of blood. ___ 27 refused to help. asleep instantly. Their movements. He’d found all of them many times over. folded his hands.” “What about the elders? Do you have any contact?” “There are no more. He had no sense of the elders. “Noe’mi… it looks like she’s bonding with 19. hadn’t felt anything for a long time.
to the end of life. The passengers came in waves. as untold generations before. to dominate. though it intruded through every gap. passing through the luminous world of grasses mown. But it was strange for her to be inching across the continent with them. hard work of humans to intercede. How many thousands of miserable souls had he waded through? ___ The train. were easy to control. were aware of whatever games they were playing. trees pruned… there was little of the wild. Humans. lively with all of the night creatures. stare at them for a few moments. There was solace in movement. The long. though narrow-minded. and cut the switch. one of the few places where close proximity was tolerated. filled with strangers. She walked a few miles north. Why should he bother going over details? He would kill whatever scheme they were running. down a long stretch of unbroken highway. the fencerow. before she realized she was in the grip of powerful currents. suited Noe’mi. he’d reached the point of cutting dialog altogether. the linear plane tranquil. caused the energy to flow . She soon became frustrated and exited the train.___ The new node was online before 27 crossed the state line. pressing on. In fact. like many of their gambits. an electronic pulse or mechanism. Their machines. Good enough! At some point he might have resorted to chicken wire. Like tribes they hurried past. How much of it was beyond her control? Out on the dark highway the ditch. but there wasn’t time.
It was the curling energy that drew her from the road. moving slowly. In a fitful sleep he dreamed of… crows. Thousands of them! They gathered in trees nearby. ___ The friends began to gather. For once she had no need to hurry. she projected through the plasma like a solar flare. It was not for him to understand. yet it soon digressed to its circular madness. her presence already felt in the forests. ___ The bastard Dean tracked another one! What a nose! If he wasn’t so useful… the yard began to ripple with the new one’s approach. 19 would not sleep that night. No longer shielded. They understood each other. watching him with their soulless eyes. pinning Noe’mi in their lovely clattering. He remained trapped. ___ After the server was coupled. clean white — their beating hearts! At the farther reaches there was a dis- . A crow lighted nearby. The swirling beasts were like nodes in the ectoplasm. now pulsing with her filaments. decoupled. She spoke to him for a long moment. Were they speaking? He couldn’t understand their words. The underground pulsed. It was not them… it was her. curious. and put back online 0297 was on the road for a few days to a dead zone (DZ). The noise of their cawing shook the forest. They were very strong there. a spiral that wound through oak forests and abandoned fields.in linear patterns. In the DZ he waited. to gain ground. Like a galaxy they slowly revolved. then remained silent.
the beginning of Bayou Chene. 19. Noe’mi placed a hand to 19’s shoulder. cascading blasts of natural forces. the spinning vortex pulled her quickly to the center. what she knew as 19. The black horde drew Noe’mi into his spiraling madness. data stream of the sapi3n. After miles of emptiness. There was a faint glimmer along the shore. a cacophony of planar language. every nuance full of meaning. There were moments where the scene defied explanation. hardly moving their wings. rumbling. their movements broadcast through air and ground. of sunlight filtered through trees. clear and pure lines ran to the horizon. No longer bound by gravity. spilling out on all sides with resonating chords. a thousand at least. of a keychain rocking against the steering wheel. The tendrils had already formed and touched the thing. ___ The road led nowhere. frequencies crashing. The crows floated in an embryonic web. There. the filament world flaring ultraviolent through the eyes of the multitudes gath- .turbance. the sky broken in a static discharge. or missing. The two at the center intently at each other as if they were Gods. bending. There was a long moment between them where the wild overflowed the field. a ripple of activity. but… ___ The dark sky erupted in flapping wings as Noe’mi skimmed over the ground. He breathed through flickering throats. It was easy to see what was modified. Nothing unusual. Collision. Dean came to a natural barrier.
“You no longer have a name. the rustle of the birds. metal to metal. 30 slowly raised her head to an empty field. assimilate. tears streaming.” “What am I to do?” “Observe. to kneel on the ground. now fully formed. ___ “The sky is rendered here. her forehead to the ground like the crossing of swords. The existence of a new node is selfperpetuating. in which whole galaxies were made. like the sound of an old transistor radio. in which the entity known as 19 flickered in and out of oblivion.ered. consumed in their own entrails. clean white static.” As the plane descended below the axis. You are to be known as 30. There were eons between movements. Noe’mi broke from his grip slowly. that you may pass. splayed into a funnel or node. the two locked in embrace. From this apex a small voice emerged.” In the pitch black aftermath. The interspersion of filaments with the phenomenal world was in some way affected. now a shadow. . This had a great effect.
but that whole ideology depended on a sense of permanence which he never had. He was a projectile.. The thing that informed him. before he found an old pirogue. . as the need to find a resonating chord diminished.. The world may have revolved around domestic concerns.. the way either obliterated or accepting of him. The struggle became less of a burden as he matured. The expanse of swampland before him was marvelous. the source of his strength. musing. to exist in the space that opened inside an event. But there are more pressing concerns. Maybe you will figure him out.. THE SCARECROW To pull the plug was a running theme. was it there for a reason? He began to suspect this when it swung strangely in the current. was not human. He stared into the tangle of tree branches and brush for many long hours. Dean was a beast of a certain kind. as it occurred. Dean had been on the road so long he’d developed a taste for it.eight. He preferred to leave things as they were. It wasn’t negotiable. certainly.
curled around the terrain. its shorelines amorphous. Her beautiful friends found so many things. the various goings on. Was it that he’d grown up there? He was lost to the currents. Life on the river for any man or boy was mesmerizing. servers. ___ When 30 moved from the field it was not toward something. to such a degree that he hardly thought about the elders for many hours. coiled and uncoiled. far across the tangled forests Dean drifted aimlessly in the old pirogue. The training 0297 received was between nodes. sensing… did he glance toward them? At these distances… ___ The organization was fluid. listening. In a circular draft she watched them play with each other. They took everything in the flow of things. a web of control centers. There was certainly a wild heart in those fields. like children.In the evening the river became catatonic. The crows were some kind of cure. The swamp began to dominate. flowing to the plane. He was tentatively on . operators. its sinewy power.. until he felt an old beast out there. what structure was assembled. The waters pulled gently. The river was eternal. As she and the crows silently converged. insiders. changing with the tides: crumbling. what detail could be discerned in the pale moonlight. decaying.. like pieces of a puzzle — the nest. something between the real and imagined. much like the animals that inhabited it. burning alive with strange vines and fern-like tendrils. but never to a final. somewhere.
away from the stinking depths. bearing west. If there was a trace. toward the town of Erath. often branching from abandoned logging towns. The steel and cement confines of the server racks. to the point that JUSTICe was mythologized. ___ The black water showed no promise. The backroads of Louisiana had their own logic. In the crime of it. There were many levels above him. though he hardly saw him. It was taken offline and put back into service several times under his watch. anywhere in the winding drifts… instead. it was difficult to put together anything conclusive about the business he was in. As he was constantly being monitored. At first there were only dead runs in the guise of data mining or planting devices. saved files from various machines. he assumed. rebuilding arrays. He never knew if the work was real or not. Dean found the craft pulling west. arranged in gridlike patterns around 40-acre plots. they patched into the network. testing. It was an easy job. In between pulling servers. There was no glamour to it. Endless gravel stretches that mirrored each other — only the hunters knew to what end. the calm eye. prepared a particular unit for a disconnect. again. the constant noise put him into a lull.support for 27. until the Sabine. On foot. . At a datacenter of a nameless corporation 0297 led a small group in IT gear to an underground server farm. Dean spent four days in the grid. Could he have been wrong? Finally he pushed onto land. what would be transfer point 5095 for an upcoming event. He was there only minutes before a car arrived.
scenes. 27’s car floated miles. austere. the only comfort in the world was moving through it. their tight formation too conspicuous. This was not their world. His operators quickly assembled. They split at an overpass. 27 was activated. boiling out of several nondescript buildings in the industrial district. the changing scenes somehow uplifting: the constant sway of the car. windows down. Life on the road allowed for the JUSTICe organization. no going home. There was no place for them. the secrecy — suspended between events. As they pulled out. a convoy of seven identical cars. How many nights? For 27. the faces. Only a sapi3n would tolerate the constant movement. but he would someday return to the road. but a society forms from whatever conditions. .___ It was time to move. shuttered. Initially. places.. the poster of Rasputin. The operators had already packed their gear. They walked quickly across the dark campus into waiting cars. daylight only tolerated. the server plugged back to its plodding work. the wind. the decay — ruin. Life in motion. streaming past in roadsigns. the long waiting for the light to change. gas stations.. ___ The eternal glow of the dashboard lights. beating cylinders and speed.. the end of civilization. The dark city was a thing of wonder.. bothering. no rest. diners. all brought to a single point — the murmur of things being done. Only 19 had found a way to remain rooted. the dust. soon raced into the dark. the howl of the night flapping.
Who would’ve conceived of a multi-threaded governance? Yet the sapi3ns demanded it. he came to a field. The woods were dark. for whatever reason fell into a practice regimen. it was a massive glow on the horizon. the anonymity. How did they go unnoticed? As long as JUSTICe stood. ___ The team was already in place. for this is where everything . some life 27 couldn’t piece together. they were free. Dean didn’t need a coded message. some facility with it. those that built the rotting carcass of a city haunted it now as if it were worthy of their attentions. the vitality of the governing forces was weakened. These were the only ones who could adapt. As Dean mulled over this. It was the fabric of JUSTICe. There should be some sort of stone or symbol engraved there. and was gone. but the relationship was tenuous. The turmoil of the street slowly drifted past. No one came that way. 27 was plugged in. What beasts! The lines blurred again with the changing light. Following the sunlight toward an opening. What suffering and meanness — the confinement! Their burrowing habits. Certainly there was room for both. communicate. The lights flickered menacingly down a broken street. There were humans who resonated with them. Removed from the concerns of others. None of them used their real names — they carried nothing. who. There were a great many things suspended.the car to change lanes. There was no time to be fooling around in the field. Out of a thousand maybe one or two had some result. he worked his way through a familiar oak forest. with no discernible trail.
I had no choice. She appeared to be floating as in a diorama. understand. Dean hesitated before crossing the fence. Was she dead? “Why have you returned?” “I’m looking for an elder. surely.” “Why? I don’t believe you. “Why are you involved with them?” “To study. snickering loudly. threatening. There was a loud clapping sound and the birds fell to circling quickly above them. with 30 in the lead.” “You’re an abomination. “Human! What did you understand?” Into the corn. Dean cut through the forest to another series of fields. The sky erupted in an enormous burst of crows.” “Why do you interfere with us. It was a sapi3n who… trained me to be a messenger. rapacious.” At this 30 paused.” “You.. the first heavy with corn..” “I allowed the alteration so I could.. As 30 drew near Dean was horrified to see that her feet were dangling inches above the ground. of course she knew he was there.. 30 walked slowly toward him. you.. all of them cawing and lunging menacingly. to learn..changed. a dark cloud.. have joined together. He’d already felt a sharp beak on his back! . To his horror the black army boiled out of the forest.. I didn’t expect. the leaves rustling loudly — he was to be consumed.” “…to fight. understand! How could a human understand?” At this the crows descended in a black fume. not knowing how she would react. any of us?” “Others.
The crows nearly ate him. but in the cornfield there was another of the things from the other place. She followed the broken stalks. What was this thing? Did it connect to a third world. The crows boiled from the sky. It would be years before he’d understand the weird alignment of forces that saved him. still she clawed the cornstalks. curious. ___ Dean came through the forest from behind. the way Dean had gone. 30 still isn’t certain that he didn’t drive her toward it. The human sentiment. They played with him at first. what there was of life on this plane. It was the intrusion that infuriated her. When 30 rose from the corn. ripped it apart. but more on this later. catching them mid-air. carrying off pieces of him. She saw in a moment the mind who farmed the fields.Suddenly the black horde relented. the poor hands that tied together the crude representation — she could not condemn them. one before this? Were there more levels yet? “AIEEEEEE!” 30 tore the thing from its perch. Instead of Dean the straw man. It was this… interdependence that struck her. Beyond reason. their long struggle against the elements. the earth… it was no use. He wasn’t supposed to be there. There was soon nothing left. it was with a new determination. It was not a battle she would follow anymore. There was no existence apart from the web of sentient life. The crows held back. who created the monster to protect them. . It wasn’t anything that she wanted. it still confounds him.
“My beautiful friends. go then. but for a time their wonderful lives flickered through her.The crows had already filtered out.” .
SIX NIGHTS IN THE FIELD Windowless.” ___ The pursuit of an elder was not only a waste of time. the room was bare except for a wide table.” “But he knew about me. Instead he pushed the table out of the way and joined her on the floor. white walls.” “He carries the imprint?” “It’s the only way. visited him before retrieving you. the filaments have strengthened. 27 gestured at the walls. Dean. but said nothing.” “The messenger.” at this. the door.nine. “You’ve met 19?” “Is he here?” “No… he doesn’t like this either. “So you’re the only one here?” “… there are others in the field. Was 19 the one who called me?” “No… He couldn’t. “This isn’t what I expected. But with you. 30 was on the floor when 27 entered. He paused for a moment. It had to be an elder. it .
There were a lot of storage bins stacked in rows with long corridors between them. to search for some type of shelter. feeling his way deeper into the mist. and the noise of the field being devoured by insects. until there was nothing but burrowing sounds. Though they were to spend a few nights at the DZ. There was no sign of the crows. Dean had difficulty filtering what signals belong to whom. the fields remained untrammeled. But there was something wrong. ditches. he resorted to the primal. across streams. He slogged through tangled vines. highways. He hoped that 30’s appearance would draw one out of the deep woods. there was a marvelous charge through the ranks. snorts. there was no discernible difference. ___ There was a new sapi3n and talk about 19 returning. Though always the beat of wings. thankfully. In fact. as morbid as a fly trapped in a web. so quick the rope he never saw . He walked into the blackland prarie as if entering a fog bank. beckoning. bogs. followed them. but as he approached the boundaries of the zone the signal noise became directionless. He’d hardly crossed the first before he felt his feet slipping. He found a million things glinting. Soon lost. he became more and more disoriented. 0297. the line of the forest.was a punishing test of reasoning. He climbed over the first wall into a sort of enclave. ran to the back of the lot. Before the light had faded he stumbled on a pile of tiny sticks on what appeared to be a raised berm. fences — everything in his path. from there watched the evening fall across the field. something more than the news from the road. As the noise increased.
___ With Dean. The strobe effect lulled her. Strangely. At dawn he realized he’d stumbled. throbbing. It was him. In the pounding. He walked . ___ 30 didn’t mention anything to 27. She drew him up. It was difficult for her to walk the few miles without hovering. but the one who’d caused her birth was near. hovering above the rows as he passed. the pain receded in a wave of white noise — not what he expected. nothing. She had to be careful. archetypes — in rapid succession. an eerie quiet. He could hardly breathe in the bindings. through the dream — symbols. the one who haunted her. “Is everything bound together?” All of the events pressed through the fabric. He hardly resisted. his heart exploding from hanging upside down. She drifted up behind the old metal. from behind the metal. who held her to this place. but 30’s nest. the one who pulled her into this nightmare. She called him from the others. to the end of existence… In the cold morning the field lay down gently. “There’s something back here. a tiny figure suspended. to perceive their mind: the unbridled resonance revealing its splendor in complex spirals forever branching out. The sapi3n world! For him to be connected to them.her face. not into a giant circle of twigs. only a tiny thread remained. was soon obliterated in what appeared to her as blinding heat.” She could feel him pulse in and out of the filament world.
“Humans are so weak. In the small things that appeared. He turned toward the broken fields and followed him. a tenuous balance struck by each. 19 had no difficulty holding them. movements with an unfocused eye. away from his obligation to 30.” ___ Dean was five days on the throbbing ground. But 19 was sensitive enough that he picked up something through the forest. It was only a matter of time. then paused. The information that passed contained whole worlds. appeared to resonate along a winding path. ___ The sapi3ns were impossibly complex. It was this disassocia- . what boundaries were true: the horizon. It would have to wait. “No…” A sense of foreboding pulled him into the dark woods. following her example. There was a considerable turn in the ranks after 30. Only a tiny thread remained. but the bond was weakened. He could not go on. Was he a part of the landscape? Was it alive with him? He fell. which never held them. no longer sure of his existence. the silhouettes projecting out in relief. the color drained to meaningless shades until there was only darkness. the rows. the way shown as if designed. A few days and one made it through the barbed wire.carefully across the rivulets. the exchange. forms. The trees. allowing them their intrusion as if he were invisible. following his inclination. He watched the shapes. He took a few steps.
” 30 noticed a woman in the warehouse district with a garbled message. for what purpose no one knew. and these have already been filtered through the switchboard. 19 was near. a burst of sparks from the forest.tion that allowed him to remain bound. there was no mention of this. but to spawn. He knew. Moments later she knocked on her door. ___ 30 felt no pleasure killing the Geneticist.” 30 watched the stream of grievances flow across his computer screen. as it had to be resolved. the last thing he remembered. She glanced into 27’s eyes for a moment. otherwise he surely would have lost the thread. Their meaning was the tribe and the thing growing between them. “How do I choose?” “…there’s no way to regulate it.” “Hmmmm.” “You? You look… human.” “Please… I’m desperate.” . A blast of wind careened toward him. “We’ve been running everything from the board since 19 went dark — it’s getting hard to control this son of a bitch. the hive. There was a flame. in the fury of their work. “Yes?” “30. But. but neither a choice. Dean stretched a hand out to signal for him. All of them had strange births. He understood. They weren’t made for the generations. sentient. and the same lonely journey to erase them.
She would be sorry. flinging him out the window. the rope burning. and there. all the pieces in strange detail. impossible to miss. a figure floated toward him. He swung gently. but he couldn’t free his limbs. there was no need for anything more. throbbing… ___ . He hardly took a step before succumbing. she moved toward the impression which sprang out in putrid colors. As the bitch strung her way through the maze. a nervous habit.Behind her the room was destroyed. When the pieces finally fell to the floor he lunged toward her with a knife. strewn in piles against the walls. everything broken. It appeared to be… an angel of death! The window became suspended in the ectoplasm. 30 knew what it was. The filaments still visible. “ARGGGGGGH!” There was a paralyzing sting like a bird of prey ripping. burning him. ___ The criminal had her bound very tightly. a diseased mind caterwauling through the ethers. the noise. tearing. Exhausting to wait through the interminable movements. her horrible eyes shone. the thing crushing his throat. in that moment. his ears ringing with the frequencies. “What happened?” She pointed to a dress buried in the wreckage. hanging him upside down. He glanced out the window. On the street.
her hot breath. He called a guard. or straight out of prison.” “How are we going to record this?” 30 refused to talk further. It appeared she was from the street. “What are you doing in my room?” “You’re on the list.” “… I have to work out something. but nothing. only her. ___ Serge had just finalized the paperwork on a new field. At first he feared the worst. “You don’t need the cameras. on the list of names. “I’ve called security. enough to bankroll the whole Gulf exploit — when a woman slipped into his room. but there was no response. A production crew had assembled a small greenscreen surrounded by a dozen sodium lamps. a gang or terror cell. the beat of wings… what was it? The damned thing suffocated .” “Use the team. After many spare moments watching the camera operators adjusting their instruments she was handed a small tablet with a list of names.” What happened next? He could only recall the bitch crossing the room in time-lapse. and the pulse.27 called her back “You don’t have to go to them. It was an easy steal. I’ve got some ideas.” 30 was shown to a simple room in the basement of a large warehouse. instead. a known producer. and none of the bastards knew the real numbers. There were billions at stake. focusing.
became an iconic image even before there was any street presence. revealed the struggle with 30. the . With her. She added a much-needed feminine charge: the balance. Words only. He could sense her. The web was alive with sightings. pictograms. there was something. the body hovering behind him a few feet above the ground. she was well known. unable to connect. however feebly. ___ Although 30 was hardly defined as a member of JUSTICe. He was better when he quiet. tenebrous web which now. images. across the plain there were thousands of souls unaware. stories told and retold to abstraction. the look. borrowed phrases… for this thing to take hold. the noise around her. would be a miracle… but 30. her moment of turning. It was the combined force of her and 27 that excited everyone. to then combine her with her familiar. 19 found him in a field. when he awoke… ___ The bastard Dean. simplified. His brain waves.. Though no information passed. but the beasts were far from any true communication. In the plain. a giant. still discernible. 30 was damned hot. He raised Dean’s body with a simple gesture and turned to the West.him! All he knew for certain. here. the wild element. Her features. his handwork shone like tendrils going back to the switchboard. and 27. had reached him. the lights shone between gulfs of black like a crude network.. This world would be so different. JUSTICe became a tangible myth. there was a near promise of something real.
but I don’t see a reason to change. As they neared each other their thoughts careened through the narrow confines of their human forms.” “What about the elders?” “Too far!” “Maybe they’re after me…” “Yeah… Maybe.” “How would you know?” “Have you noticed a shift in the filaments?” “… I’m seeing you.devil himself? ___ 27 became agitated.” 19 stood outside the warehouse. concerned. the room had emptied.. “19. 27 walked directly to the door opposite 19. so the taping for the day was put on hold. bursting like cataracts through the flimsy biosphere. Without any outward movement the door sprang open. aware of nothing. the two facing each other in a soundless flickering. vacant. the building. was visibly shaking.” “There was no reason to stay after 30.” “She’s changing JUSTICe. “I see the birds have returned you. waiting. who were horrified at the security doors inexplicable malfunction. An agent followed him to his room. Before 19 and 27 spoke.. listening to the movements inside. I’ve got . began shouting when the monster was revealed. the hallways. The agents. and her… but it’s dim. to what the elders intended.
. He had no patience. 19 strung up a writhing criminal.my work.” He needed more time to recover. He was in the hospital a week before they released him. When he returned to the warehouse he was noticeably quiet. Node based.” “He found me. but said nothing. He walked from the window. all guilty of crimes that had gone unpunished. pushing the infrastructure with . An operator ran the web interface. but alive. Instead. ___ 27 found Dean in an alley nearby. leaving several hanging forms. weathered. he turned to the door. to relieve a worn operator. instead he was returned to the switchboard. We need you on the switchboard.” Dean. “He’s not seeing much value out there. He wouldn’t have bothered if you weren’t of some value. remarked.” “They couldn’t be worse than 19.” “You wouldn’t survive one.” ___ In a dark cityscape.” “Then why were you in those fields?” “To find an elder. JUSTICe reflected the viral properties of the internet. “19 did save your life.. Dean. “Stay away from 19.” “You weren’t tracking him?” “No.” 27 grimaced. looking at a newspaper with a photo of a cityscape of hanging criminals. dirty and bruised.
It was his defiance. There had to be a break somewhere. From outside it appeared as a corporate entity. He was never one to blindly follow orders. interrogated. who’d been with them the longest. 19’s on a rampage!” . The interplay of forces that governed JUSTICe allowed the infrastructure to spawn and transform and eject members as the flow dictated. He wasn’t particularly studious.” “Forget it. or even prompt. had no qualms pursuing his own agenda. as complexity requires an element of independence.” “Look at the news. invisible network. something important I have to do. though to the sapi3ns it was unbearable.each new advancement. wisely left the central node unmonitored. manipulated. Server farms were raided. members jailed. Dean. not because he was suited for the intense environment. a necessary ingredient in an evolved human being. cycling through training periods of intensive meditation. but the traffic became increasingly difficult to obscure. aware of this. but it was all a façade. a forum of grievances filtered through the sapi3n algorithm. Dean was one of the few who ran the board. “Do you know the new procedure?” “I’ve run it before… is something wrong?” ”I’ve got to go. gave the ability to assemble into a coherent. It was an organic process that couldn’t be forced. The long training periods heightened the process. The sapi3ns. In the early stages it was entirely BBS. and further iterations of the cloud. policed. well organized. Torrents and their multiple generic hosts. to the point that there was almost no contact.
their… hierarchy. and through that miniscule thread the elder had established a connection with Dean. There was some pleasure in it. so many threads! How did they negotiate .“I don’t see how your dumb ass is going to solve anything. How do you know?” “I’ve seen them… in 27. There was no mistake. He’d seen something in 27. the humans were easily switched. the unmistakable impression of an elder.” ___ Dean returned to the lonely highway with a new determination. in case you do find one and don’t return?” “You flag what you want them to handle. “How am I supposed to cover.” “No… you’re right.” “Nobody’s seen one in years. d34n. He knows where one is.” The operator mulled over this. sign in with my name. If anyone asks. but there was no way to do anything clean.” ___ 30 could see why the family had gathered now that the depth of the canker was revealed. Like flies to carnage they revolved around a rotting corpse. “This has to be flawless.” “You want to bring another one out of the woods?” “I know them. An elder is the only one they’ll listen to. He was being retrieved.” “Then why should I cover for you?” “I’m going to find an elder. just tell them you’re me. No big deal.
their own neurosis? Fortunately. . 19. there was an immense upheaval to the north.