Triangle Opportunity, Part 2
“See that sudden look of surprise when their first E-hancer is put on? Absolutely precious. Some parents call it the “Aha”, or “Oh” moment. The official term of course is the E-hancer Eureka, but there’s no harm in taking minor liberties.”
The screen depicts a row of photogenic babies on a blue and gold blanket against a white background. A pair of hands belonging to an offscreen woman places a blue and gold E-hancer collar around their necks, one at a time.
As the collar snaps into place and the flexible probe in the back burrows into the base of the neck, the infant looks at first distressed, then shocked. Finally the eyes glaze over and it begins to smile, helplessly. A surge of dopamine will do that.
“Of course, you’ll want to capture this milestone in your child’s life with a commemorative photo. Perhaps such a photo of your own E-hancement hangs on your parents’ wall back home, the source of many embarrassing stories when guests are over!”
Canned laughter. The narrator finally appears. An aged man with poofy white hair, combed back to conceal baldness. He stands against a backdrop of countless two, three and four part photo frames. In the smaller, bottom frames are pictures of various babies. They all have one central, larger frame with the same man’s face, light radiating from behind it.
Bruce Hance. A washed up silicon valley entrepeneur. Serial fraudster before that, with a storied history of investor scams behind him. His one notable invention was a collar containing rudimentary, smartphone grade processing power and an honestly quite innovative brain interface.
His original idea was to market it as a fitness aid. It puts you to sleep, then controls your body, putting you through a full workout every day that you feel none of. Another use he considered was for low wage workers in unfulfilling jobs to be able to perform those jobs while mostly unconscious.
But, some time during his trip to India to negotiate the mass production of the Mark I E-hancer, he realized there was a much more lucrative application for the technology. One which would guarantee 100% market share, forever. Although that’s really the smallest part of it.
Why did Pharaoahs order the pyramids built? To be remembered, and glorified long after their deaths. Some people get off on that, I suppose. Bruce Hance was one of ‘em. To say he succeeded doesn’t begin to describe the extent of it.
As I drive somberly towards the hulking, gaudy structure ahead I pass a video billboard advertising a History channel special, “Who was Bruce Hance?” A bespectacled obese bald man identified only as “Hanceology expert” laments the confusion, misinformation and propaganda surrounding the life of the most important man in Earth’s history.
“Whenever you hear anybody denying what is commonly known about astronaut, quarterback, nuclear physicist and Navy Seal Bruce Hance’s life, check the authenticity of their E-Hancer. Dollars to donuts, they’re dehanced. In that situation you have to assume some degree of krionic influence shaped their opinions of Dr. Hance. Many are just shady degenerates who resent the moralizing effect of the E-hancer and refuse it because they want to indulge in all forms of hedonism.”
He went on, but trailed off such that I couldn’t hear him as the billboard receded into the distance. In the night sky above it, a full moon shone down across the desert, with “E-hance your life with the E-hancer full body krion remover!” carved into it by a multi-decade series of atomic bombings of the lunar surface.
I finally arrive at the Rovind County E-hancer Mega-Motivational Center. A building roughly the size of a football stadium with nearly as much seating inside as well as a McHancer’s if you’re hungry and a Hancebucks if you want some joker’s interpretation of coffee.
The main attraction is an immense theater of sorts with multiple jumbotrons, lasers, and a stage decorated in the most obnoxiously over the top opulent style imaginable. Huge fake gems studding fiberglass pillars, gold toned banners proclaiming the timeless wisdom of Bruce Hance and perfection of the E-hancer, and so on.
I stepped out of my beat up van, purchased from a diehard survivalist because it’s old enough there are no electronics in it beyond ignition, lights and radio. The reverend Thomas Logain greets me. A friend I met through Samantha, before the divorce.
“Out so late again. Skull and dagger stuff?” I smiled, but ducked slightly and peered around as if wary that we were being surveilled. “Krions never sleep, so neither do we.” He grinned, flashing his dentures at me, then invited me inside.
The “we” I refer to consists of myself and six former vagrants the good reverend took in, providing us someplace to sleep, hot meals and so on. Originally out of the goodness of his heart, but since then I’d begun to weave a tale of conspiracy and intrigue to explain why I was frequently coming and going at all hours with those six in tow.
So far as he knows there is collusion among the krion-afflicted dehanced to infiltrate the highest levels of government, only I and my ‘associates’ know about it, and he is helping hide us from the state while we work to identify and take down the infiltrators.
In fact, I don’t know any of these men. I abducted the first from a boxcar. The second from an alley outside a bar, the third from a heroin den and so on. Men nobody would go looking for. Then, I fit them with E-hancers.
Not of the vanilla variety, though. Modified just a bit, so that rather than simply compelling the wearer to sing the praises of Bruce Hance and the E-hancer while locating anybody not wearing one and pressuring them to try it, the device is instead fully programmable and possible to control over the internet.
But, I get ahead of myself. How did things come to this point? I was a family man for thirteen years. Happily married to Samantha, love of my life, who I once believed would never come back to me. I first heard of the E-hancer from her, urgently pushing it on me as the ‘E-hanced’ tend to do.
I declined for a time. But as the bizarre contagion consumed the US and then the world, I decided I could not beat them, so I’d join them. As transparent as it was, it just spread so damned effectively that before long it was the new normal. Instead of being a weirdo if you went around in the E-hancer standard jacket, shilling for the E-hancer to strangers, now you’re a weirdo if you don’t.
Because I gave in, she came back to me. A steep price to pay, but for the only thing I’d ever really wanted. And admittedly, I was happy. It’s difficult to describe the mindset it puts you in. You are constrained in your thoughts, but invisibly.
You just can’t seriously entertain thoughts critical of the E-hancer, of Bruce Hance, or decide that it’s all a scam. “I could”, you might say, “I just don’t want to” or “I don’t because that’s not the case, the E-hancer is the most revolutionary invention in human history” yada yada.
That might’ve been the end of it. Except that a solar flare knocked out roughly a third of E-hancers on the side of the Earth facing the sun when it occurred some years ago. Mine included. All of a sudden, for the first time since I’d put the damned thing on, I remembered what it really is, how it works and why I’d resisted for so long. The feeling of violation is indescribable.
That’s what drove some of the newly liberated to attempt rash, foolish assaults on targets they guessed were in some way related to the plague. That’s still going on. Two or three times a year some immigrant kid tries to blow up a cell phone tower, believing that because E-hancers contain a 5G radio, knocking out cell towers will disable them.
No use, that’s just to call home if the device is tampered with. So many precious, dehanced lives lost that way. Until we got organized. I remember biting my nails, watching news footage from a police chopper chasing down a dehanced man, outed by his own son. Leaping from building to building as the shaky spotlight struggled to stay on him. Finally, a sniper put him down.
Before long, somebody in Turkey cracked the incredibly complicated encryption used in the device, and made their own competing knockoff, the C-hancer. Samantha’s C-hanced now, and it’s because I declined to be C-hanced as well that she left me. The appearance of a competing contagion sent the E-hanced majority into conniption fits. The E-hancer does not tolerate competition. Predictably, the world erupted into war as a result, and soon after that the shortages began.
I snuck backstage, found the storage room the reverend set up with bunks for us, and unlocked the series of deadbolts. Inside, my six loyal “drones” slept. They spend a great deal of time that way as the rest of their down time is spent working out, under the direction of their collars. I need them in peak physical condition for my purposes.
I sat at my desk, array of monitors surrounding me, and pulled up the signal broadcast by the motivational center’s on-site TV station. 24/7 testimonials about the greatness of the E-hancer and Bruce Hance, interspersed with advertisements for related products and some opinionated talking head style programs discussing social issues. With exactly the slant you’d guess.
“Now personally”, the clean shaven handsome fellow in the suit on the left said, “if some boy comes to my front door because he thinks he’s taking my daughter on a date, he’d better let me have a look at his E-hancer. If it doesn’t check out, he’s gone. No E-hancer, no date. I don’t need my princess getting tangled up with some dehanced loser, or worse yet, a tragically misguided C-hanced immigrant. He doesn’t really love her, as all genuine love comes from Bruce.”
Clapping followed. The blonde woman opposite him in an identical cushioned seat may well have been strikingly pretty, it’s just difficult to tell under all the makeup. Her business suit no less sharp, but a garish pink color, an E-hancer shaped pendant hanging from a thin silver chain around her neck.
“Oh, tell me about it. Look at the typical E-hanced person. Well dressed, fit, attractive and successful. Compare that to the typical dehanced failure of a human being. Jobless, probably homeless, a drug abuser, unmarried and hideous. Who would choose that life? The only thing worse would be to fall for the C-hancer scam.”
An enormous display panel on a robot arm positioned itself behind them, and lit up with a map of the world. “Look at how the C-hancer spreads.” Red dots propagated outward from turkey, spreading like a mold colony in a petri dish until most of the Middle East was solid red. The audience booed loudly.
“Like a virus! Undoubtedly there are krions at work here. But there’s good news! Just look at the progress the true, original E-hancer has made encroaching on C-hancer territory just in the last year!” Green dots now propagated from northern countries down into the Middle East somewhat. The audience cheered and clapped.
What a difference changing the color of dots can make. The E-hancer spreads the same way, they just don’t perceive that as a bad thing because they can’t. Like fish that don’t see the water they’re in. It’s all around them now, somebody born after it consumed the world wouldn’t know anything else. They were raised with it, consider it absolutely normal and because the E-hanced control every major institution around them, it seems authoritative and beyond suspicion.
The solar flare and resulting wars created a unique condition. Suddenly there were millions of dehanced people in the world, and not enough enough E-hancers to “rehance” them due to the shortages. At first most kept quiet as the state hunted down and killed rogue dehanced individuals who fought in vain trying to find some way to reverse the whole mess.
But gradually, more and more people revealed themselves as dehanced. Popular, beloved figures and people in positions of power. A few were nonetheless removed from office, professionally ruined or otherwise targeted, but eventually there were just too many of us. They could no longer get away with such overt measures.
Now it’s been reduced to a sort of intense, lingering resentment that we exist and a deliberately perpetuated social stigma against hiring us, voting for us, dating or marrying us, or otherwise having anything to do with the dehanced except where law or corporate pragmatism requires it.
It beats being hunted in the streets. They even allow us a voice in the media occasionally, though they routinely pick the fattest, ugliest, least successful example to speak for us. Then spend most of the interview talking over him, muting his mic or slipping in passive-aggressive mockery.
You can’t get anywhere in this world if you’re not E-hanced. They see to that quite ruthlessly. They take an even less charitable view of the C-hancer, as the point of the E-hancer is to spread as widely as possible, afflict humanity for as long as possible, and not to be superceded by competitors. So naturally, good ol’ Bruce thought of that ahead of time, and pre-emptively sabotaged would-be rivals looking to poach some of his devotees.
“Bruce himself even predicted this would happen!” the blonde breathlessly exclaimed. “It is written on the original archived E-hancer website, that false Bruces will appear, with their own fraudulent E-hancer imitations. And it’s happened! What more proof does anyone need that Bruce Hance was the most visionary, far-seeing man the world has ever known?”
They then introduced their guest, a “real live dehanced individual”. As ever, they’d gone looking for the most appalling specimen to serve as our public face. A dumpy middle aged fellow, no hair save for a few strands here and there, and a patchy beard reaching partway down his neck.
The suited man was first to address him. “My good man, do you know that in the original archived E-hancer website, Bruce Hance said “He who denies the greatness of the E-hancer is a fool”? Why do you choose to be foolish?” The guest sighed and looked dejected. “No answer, eh? Perhaps you can tell us why you people look like such hopeless outcasts”.
The guest elected to answer this time. “You’re the ones who cast us out. It’s tough to find anybody who will hire us if they know we’re dehanced. There’s almost nobody in congress or the senate who is dehanced, so nobody defends our wellbeing. We struggle to find love because E-hanced women are coached to stay away from us lest they be corrupted, and many of us turn to drugs as an escape from the suffering you ca-”
The blonde cut his mic. “You didn’t answer, why do you choose to be foolish? And why are you protesting the right of students to wear E-hancers in schools?” The homely bearded fellow again ignored the barb, but answered the second part.
“That’s not what’s happening. Nobody is forbidding children of the E-hanced to wear their E-hancers to school. We just don’t want you E-hancing the children of the dehanced. You frame it like we’re interfering with the rights of your kids, when what you really want is access to other peoples’ kids so you can-”
Again, cut off. “I’m afraid that’s all the time we have for this unfortunate fellow. Stay tuned for a special report on our charitable outreach efforts!”
I furrowed my brow, then returned to reviewing recent match results. When you’re outnumbered seven to one, trying to fix the problem with conventional methods gets you nowhere. When I finally discovered how to decrypt an E-hancer and reprogram it, a new path opened up to me.
Of course, I could have pulled another C-hancer type stunt. The fellow who created it added in his own additional instructions to make it more competitive. Instead of simply spreading itself and resisting efforts to remove or supercede it, the C-hancer also compels the host to wage total war on those who would oppose its propagation.
That little tidbit made a world of difference. Since then, by bombings, shootings and all manner of other unpredictable acts of barbarism, the C-hanced spread aggressively outward, growing to a sufficient membership that its permanence is all but guaranteed. Much to the consternation of the E-hanced.
The two disturbingly fake looking hosts returned. “Now, let’s go to Turkey, where under military guard, our E-hancer ambassadors are tirelessly working to render aid to these poor malnourished refugees.” The scene changed to soldiers milling about in the background as a woman wearing a blue and gold uniform doles out food and medicine to a line of hungry Turkish children.
She kneels and poses next to one of them, handing the little girl an E-hancer. “This little tyke would have perished if not for the Bruce-like generosity of our organization. Soon I’ll serve her a nice hot meal. But first, she’ll put on her new dynamic, revolutionary E-hancer full body krion remover!”
The woman in white stares expectantly at the little girl, who pushes the E-hancer back into her hands. “I said, she’ll put on her new dynamic, revolutionary E-hancer full body krion remover!” the woman repeated, her stare becoming increasingly stern as she foisted the E-hancer back into the little girl’s hands.
“I don’t want this” the girl stammered. The woman in white laughed nervously. “She doesn’t know what she’s saying. The soldiers sometimes teach them a few English words as a joke.” The little girl tried to back away but was held in place. She protested again. “I don’t want E-hancer.”
The woman in white was silent for a moment, but recovered quickly. “Then you don’t want food or medicine. Is that right?” The girl shook her head and explained that her mother has a severe infected wound and needs medicine. “The E-hancer IS medicine, little one! The best kind! It removes krions! And nourishment for your little tummy is nothing, next to E-hanced nourishment for your heart and mind!”
The scene changed. A man in a stately looking one piece blue and gold outfit with a white band around the neck just below where his E-hancer is attached, sits in a prison cell with a man he informs us is a convicted slanderer of Bruce Hance who tried to burn down a motivational center.
“Even now, he is not truly lost. There is hope for redemption, should he hear the words written on the archived E-hancer website, and partake of the E-hancer krion remover. What’s more, his sentence will be markedly reduced.” He offers the familiar blue and gold collar to the man, sitting quietly, head in his hands. He takes it, tears in his eyes, and slowly raises it to his neck.
Simply creating a competing variant would accomplish nothing. Same outcome, but with a framed picture of my smiling mug in everybody’s home instead of Bruce. Nor would programming an E-hancer to compel the host to seek out and remove E-hancers from others. I’d have to make millions of modified E-hancers for that to work.
Ever since the C-hancer outbreak, world governments keep a close eye on E-hancer manufacturing. It’s locked down so tightly I’d never manage to make any significant number of my own before the E-hanced US government crushed me like a soda can. For years I wracked my brain trying to devise some way for one man, working in secret, to somehow unravel all of it. Like when you pull the hanging thread on a sweater.
The first step was to hide in plain sight. There are constant sweeps for underground bunkers, secret rooms, anyplace someone might be tampering with the E-hancer in violation of the TOS. That’s the official rationale for the raids anyway. By some huge coincidence, all of their targets are either the dehanced, or C-hanced. Not that I detest the C-hancer any less.
The next step was to remove my own E-hancer and reverse engineer it. An active E-hancer will kill you if it’s removed. Releases a potent neurotoxin directly into the brain. But the release mechanism is electronic. If the whole thing is fried instantly, sensors included, it can be safely removed. In fact, that’s the only safe way. Bruce saw the knockoffs coming, but couldn’t predict a solar flare.
I then set about brute forcing the encryption key. Part of why I sought an in with the reverend is that these mega-motivational centers have some serious hardware on hand to drive their 8k jumbotrons, to encode HD broadcasts, that sort of thing. After hours, I’m free to use it for my own purposes. Even so, it took four years to finally crack it.
With that done, I discovered Bruce’s ingenious brain interface went almost totally unused by the native E-hancer software. All it normally does is reward certain behaviors with dopamine and seratonin, punish others with norepinephrine, as well as subconsciously injecting certain marketing slogans and pre-prepared defenses of the E-hancer for use on skeptics.
But once unlocked, an E-hancer can access motor control, vision, hearing, smell, touch, the full gamut. Or enough of it to control a person remotely. I gave extended consideration to what I could use this for. Spying, sabotage, terrorism. No good. If captured, his E-hancer would be removed and studied. They might devise some countermeasure.
The solution turned out to be videogames. Absurd on the face of it, but there’s a method to my madness. After abducting the six vagrants and attaching my modified E-hancers to them followed by a few months of having them exercise rigorously every day, I sent my ‘hired muscle’ out to bag me a skilled programmer.
The E-hancer itself is not intelligent. Doesn’t need to be. We are, and it can control us towards its own ends. Whatever knowledge and skills you have remain intact when you’re E-hanced, but are used thereafter for its benefit moreso than your own.
So it was that the poor fellow I’d discreetly borrowed programmed over the course of two years a simple but appealing online shooter. More importantly, an artificial intelligence tied to the game which records the most effective strategies players have used against it, looking for patterns.
All of the game scenarios are modelled after situations where the odds are stacked steeply against the human players, so very few succeed. Those that do, contribute to an ever growing body of data which can then be used by the AI to command my human drones.
With the heavy lifting done, I wiped the programmer’s memory, removed my modified E-hancer, replaced it with a stock unit, then gave him a mega dose of LSD and left him wandering aimlessly on the outskirts of his home town.
For all he or anybody knew, he’d been given a bad batch, headed off into the wilderness and only barely managed to return alive. I have no idea what’s become of him, and mildly regret hijacking him for my own ends. Although it’s not as if he wasn’t already, by that fucker Bruce.
Sometimes as I’m working, I hear his laughter. Echoing from the past, at the huge mess he’s caused and the impossibility of fixing it. That’s what drives me. One man against the world, a lone candle in the darkness. You think it’s too late to stop it? You think I can’t fuck you, Bruce?
Once the tactical database was satisfactorily robust, I sent my commandos on their maiden voyage to rob a bank. The AI searched only the match recordings from the bank heist scenarios, positioned the plain clothes drones accordingly, then set it all into motion. Masks on, guns out, the whole thing over and done with in six minutes and fifty seven seconds.
The guards didn’t know what hit ‘em. The van was back in the garage before the cops even arrived to the scene. The money funds constant modifications to the van, forged license plates, and of course weapons, armor and other gear for the drones. Bless his heart, the reverend still hasn’t made the connection.
The money also funds cash prizes for the most proficient players. It was necessary to popularize the game quickly. The AI is only as effective as its database is large. I’m already an old man, if I’d had to promote the damn thing myself I’d be dead by the time any significant number of people played it.
I knew money laundering was the riskiest part of it. And I always suspected that’s what would do me in. When I arrived home, the lights were off. It only struck me halfway to the kitchen that I remembered leaving them on when I left. I bolted for the door, but was too late. A smoke grenade came in through the window, then the door was kicked down.
The blue and gold uniformed SWAT team that flooded in through the breach subdued me with little effort. A bag was pulled over my head and after a ride I estimate lasted perhaps thirty minutes, I was herded into a facilitiy of some kind and strapped to a chair by the wrists and ankles. When the bag was pulled off, it was even worse than I’d feared.
All manner of surgical tools and what I recognized to be “enhanced interrogation” devices lay on wheeled metal tables around me. The dank concrete room illuminated by a single bulb, against which my probable torturer stood in silhouette. “Where are your men.”
I blinked, the harsh light making it difficult to focus. He approached, and planted his fist in my gut. I threw up on myself a bit. “I SAID WHERE ARE YOUR MEN!?” The next blow was to my jaw. I spit a bloody tooth out. Then it dawned on me. Slowly, a maniacal grin crept across my face. “If you don’t know,” I muttered, “then you’re already dead”.
Right on cue, I heard muffled gunshots outside. The silhouetted man turned, startled, and pulled out a blackberry. “What the krion is going on out there?” The reply came in distored by static. Just more gunshots, and the dying wheezes of whoever’d answered. Then an explosion split the steel door into a tangled mess, and before my interrogator could draw his gun, I was covered in his brains.
Cautiously, my six tactically perfect assassins entered the room. Once I was untied, one threw me over his shoulder and began the trek out of the facility. It was a massacre. Gore strewn through every corridor. Hundreds of uniformed men, either blown apart into a mess of entrails or collapsed in a pool of blood leaking from a single perfectly placed gunshot to the center of the forehead.
On the way through the lobby I overhead the dead guard’s radio. A report about unusual properties of the solar flare responsible for the ‘plague of dehancement’. I was bruskly dumped into the van, this time outwardly remodeled to look like it belonged to an E-hancer kid’s Summer camp, and headed for the mega-motivational center.
I couldn’t very well go home. And my last line of defense would be rendered impotent should the computers the AI runs on be destroyed. I had no plans to flee the country, it would be worse than pointless as there’s no place left that’s not crawling with the E-hanced.
I could only hunker down and make my last stand. Luckily, I’d included just such a scenario in the game. I suspected they’d get me in the end, but for every drop of my blood they spill, my drones will spill a gallon of theirs. I already had a good deal of it on me. I picked a bit of jiggling grey matter out of my hair, and flicked it out the window.
My face was all over every video billboard on the way to the church. I feared the worst from the reverend, but it actually worked to my advantage. “Those foul government infiltrators finally discovered you I see”, he said as I climbed out of the van. Thank goodness for the gullible ones. “Yes. They’ll broadcast all manner of propaganda, accusing me of terrible crimes. The whole world will be after me. I cannot guarantee your safety.”
He shrugged. “I’m an old man. Dedicated my life to spreading the good word of Bruce. If I must die defending his legacy from dehanced corruption of the fed, so be it. I can think of no higher honor.” It brought a tear to my eye, for a couple reasons. Soon my drones were situated around the center as called for by the AI. I couldn’t be certain when they’d come, but I knew they would.
I hunched over the computer in the hideout, streaming live feeds from the drones’ eyes on my monitors. Then I brought up a news channel to see if they would report on the situation, hoping for information I could use.
“Stay tuned for an announcement from the White House! But first, due to widespread shortages of the dynamic, handsome E-hancer full body krion remover caused by international strife, a remarkable alternative has been announced by curators of Bruce Hance’s archived writings.”
I raised an eyebrow. “It seems he predicted this as well! No surprise there. In the event that not enough E-hancers can be made for everyone, there exists a “collar-less E-hancer”. That’s right! All the benefits of E-hancement without any need for the physical device! How does it work? It’s simple! First, the world is ending soon. He didn’t say how soon, it should be assumed that it’s always imminent. Which is why it’s urgent to recruit as many as we can while there’s still time!"
"You see, anyone can be saved, but you must first revere and deeply love Bruce Hance with all of your heart. Devote yourself to him for the rest of your days! If you ever stop, you will receive a terrible punishment. It happens after you die so of course I cannot prove it to you. Likewise with the fantastic reward you will receive if you go to your grave still cherishing Bruce!"
“If anyone in your family objects to your participation in this wonderful opportunity, cut them off. Go out and become collectors of men, recruiting as many of the dehanced as you can with these teachings, so that they might also go out and do the same, exponentially increasing our numbers!"
"Finally, as always, beware the dastardly krions who are behind any information you see and hear which contradicts Bruce’s teachings. Rely not on your own reason to evaluate such claims, but reject them outright and believe only what Bruce has said! That’s all there is to it. Amazing in its simplicity, and power to change lives!”
Next, the special announcement. But...not about my escape? It looked like a clip from some Hollywood summer movie. An immense spherical spacecraft hovered above the whitehouse. Why would they report on this silly scifi shit instead of a terrorist attack? When the reporter began speaking it soon became apparent that what I’d just seen was real.
“The world is in turmoil tonight as a vast, mysterious craft of some kind has descended upon the nation’s capital. A joint statement by NASA and the USAF confirm they did not see it approaching Earth, it simply appeared just beyond the Moon, then entered low Earth orbit and began transmitting claims that the solar flare was caused deliberately ahead of arrival as, I quote, “standard procedure to sterilize inhabited planets of possible machine parasites”. The meaning of this statement remains unclear, but for fear of offending our mysterious visitors, the president authorized them to land.”
I began to laugh. At the absurdity of it, first. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. A ruse to draw me out? A distraction, if for some reason they did not wish the public to know of my escape? But she just continued reporting and as I flipped through other news channels, all were reporting the same event. With footage from different angles, not obviously CGI that I could tell.
My laughter intensified, this time because I realized I was saved. Against all odds, the most improbable deliverance. The contagion gripping the Earth must not be unique, but a common problem on planets with intelligent life. So whoever these space freaks are, they must make a point of eradicating it wherever it crops up. Tears rolling down my face, I sat there speechless, overcome with relief.
For all the work I’d put into planning for every possible contingency, a fucking real life first contact event with actual aliens never entered into it. Who plans for that? Who considers that a realistic possibility? But here it was, unfolding before my eyes. Salvation from above.
A circular seam appears on the underside of the sphere. Then extrudes downward, a cylindrical shuttle of some sort small enough to land on the White House lawn without crushing everything. The president himself, accompanied by a contingent of secret service spooks strides confidently out to the cylinder to make contact with the first intelligent extraterrestrial life known to man.
When it opens, I recoil. In part because they’re hideous, resembling large hairy wingless houseflies but with complex forearms, seven segmented digits to each hand. But also, because of the little grey electronic caps they’re wearing. The creature offers one to the president in what he interprets as a diplomatic gesture. He gingerly places it on his head, and suddenly, his eyes widen. Then they glaze over, and he begins to smile.
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