Collective Minds

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Chapter 13

The next several months rolled by in a montage of differing situations around the base. The guests settled and began living in the twentieth century, the soldiers were exposed to modern warfare, weaponry, and tactics, and the scientists we’re shown things beyond their wildest imaginations in the fields of natural science, mathematics, physics, and chemistry.

Einstein and Hawking spent most days in the lab, which was now lined with dry erase boards to the ceiling on several walls. The two eggheads would confer on complex mathematical equations, as Einstein would write and erase during the exchanges. They understood and fed off each other, and seemed to be coming together in their quest to harness the power of the singularity.

Kat opened a door to a large underground hangar, with madame Curie, DaVinci, and Ben Franklin behind her, all outfitted in lab coats. The three marveled at the sight of the alien ship, which was suspended by chains and blocking in places. Standing at the front of the hangar was Xiang Lo, who greeted them all warmly and welcomed them inside. The Chinese mastermind began showing them how to use instrumentation and analysis tools, explaining everything along the way.

Outside of the base, Jack was set up on the firing range with Khan, Geronimo, Wallace, and Hannibal. The Colonel was demonstrating the finer points of the M-16, explaining to them the safety, magazine, trigger, and bullets. None besides Geronimo had ever seen such a weapon before, and were intently focused on what it was capable of. Jack, a solid marksman, lined up on a wooden mannequin that was set up down range and fired a shot that went right between the eyes. Then he fired another that went straight through the chest, and a third that hit in the abdomen. Without lowering the rifle, he flipped the thumb switch and changed to fully auto, then open fired until the mag was empty. The dummy flew apart, as limbs blew off and splintered. Khan, Wallace, and Hannibal were flabbergasted, as Geronimo looked on with an impressed smile.

In the main lab on another day, Einstein and Hawking both sat with welding goggles on. The alien power supply was on the table in front of them between two huge electrodes. As the static discharge between them ignited and struck the energy field around the anomaly, the black hole inside began to spin faster. Einstein cranked up the juice, increasing the power exponentially, which caused the hole to spin faster yet. The lights in the lab and on the base began to fluctuate, causing Einstein to cut the power and regroup. He and his cohort looked at a computer monitor after the test, comparing notes.

Several weeks later four Army green buses rolled up outside the guard shack. Marty and General Irons stood in wait, with arms crossed behind their backs. The doors opened, as soldiers began to descend the steps to the tarmac. The first one down was decked in Navy blues, with his name, ’Rodriguez’, over his left breast pocket. Over his right pocket was another patch, with the acronym ’S.E.A.L’. One after another, the best of the best unloaded from the carriages. There were airborne rangers, green berets, special forces, and SWAT team members, all of whom looked eager to fight. Marty ushered them to a separate hanger near the main one, and slid the doors open. The inside had been made into a reasonably comfortable looking barracks, with cots, showers, storage areas, televisions, a weight room, and a basketball court. The troops filtered through, and began settling in.

Two weeks later, in pouring rain, Hannibal commanded his platoon. His soldiers were all garbed in rain ponchos, while the chiseled General wore only a white tee shirt. Circling the troops, the hardened leader commanded that all remove their rain gear, as petty things such as the elements had no bearing on a soldier’s mettle. The men all looked angry and disgusted, but followed orders. It wasn’t long before most were drenched and shivering, which swayed their commander not one iota. Rodriguez, the SEAL from the bus, broke rank and confronted the mighty Barca, arguing the need for protection from the elements while pointing to the sky. Hannibal barked back briefly, then struck the uncooperative soldier squarely in the middle of the nose, knocking him to his hands and knees on the ground. Blood spewed from both nostrils, as Hannibal, furious at the insubordination, punted Rodriguez in the ribs. The startled troops all watched in fear as Hannibal called cadence, igniting them to move out, as their comrade laid face down in the mud.

Nearby, on a hot, dry day, General Irons stood in the blazing sunlight in dark sunglasses holding a stopwatch. He waited at the base of a large, rocky mesa in the desert with huge granite formations all around it. Behind him was a garrison of soldiers, all outfitted with medallion-sized amulets around their neck with the solo denotation of ’ALIVE’ printed on the front. Irons clicked his stopwatch on, and ushered half a dozen soldiers up the narrow path into the quarry. About a minute later, one of the troops came back. The amulet he wore had been turned around to reveal the back, which was stamped with the word ’DEAD’. One by one his fellow troops marched out, all ‘dead’. The last of the six emerged, prompting the General to click his stopwatch again, which came to a halt at five minutes and fourteen seconds. Geronimo waltzed out with a disappointed look on his face, staring at Irons and shaking his head.

The clock on the wall of the lab read 11:58 pm, as Kat quietly entered to find Einstein and Dr. Hawking both asleep. Einstein was face down on the table amidst scattered notes and crumpled up wads of paper, as Dr. Hawking was snoozing upright in his chair. Quietly and gently, she woke the frizzy-haired genius and ushered him out the door. Carefully, so as not to wake him, Kat wheeled professor Hawking out as well, turning off the lights behind her. As she did so, she glanced back at the disarray, clearly concerned at the rate of progress of the two smartest people in history.

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