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