On the outskirts of Washington, D.C.
• 2015 •
"Otis, so kind of you to pay us a visit. I was beginning to worry that you would not—I trust the directions were easy enough to follow." The man cordially greeted the current President of the United States. President Otis Bernard felt his body spasm, then stiffen as his eyes met the black sunglasses of the man who had greeted him. The stranger walked toward him gracefully, polite smile plastered on his pale white face and arms spread out in a welcoming manner.
Too welcoming, President Otis Bernard thought warily, the memory of this same man and one of his companions having met him within the Oval Office not two days ago. They were unwelcome, unwanted, and altogether unnerving in their presence. Both men had almost appeared to be twins, dressed in similar pitch-black suits and wearing similar brand sunglasses and fedoras upon their persons. He had bristled at their lack of decorum almost as much as he had with their over-familiarity with him as well as their barging into his office, unannounced. They had not had an appointment, nor had anyone recalled letting them into his office—let alone seeing them leave. The only evidence he could show his Cabinet that these "white men in black suits, glasses, and fedoras" had existed was a three-dimensional white business card, The Collective Corporation embossed on the front in bold slanting letters. Everyone had puzzled over this strange incident, as the name of the Collective Corporation had not meant anything or sounded the least bit familiar.
"Yes, clearly I was able to find my way however difficult the path. And I would much prefer if we keep this strictly professional, Mr. Obsidian," President Otis said as politely as possible, taking a proffered chair in front of CEO of Collective Corporation's desk.
"But of course, President Bernard, I would not want to be anything less than professional, especially since it is business of prime importance we must, indeed, discuss." Mr. Obsidian conceded, his tone almost placating. Otis felt his skin prickle, the dark skin of his knuckles growing taut and pale as he gripped the sides of chair in an effort not to snap at the strange man. But he reminded himself that he must not act rashly— no one knew he was here, save his private detail, and they were not to come in unless he felt or Mr. Obsidian— "Such an odd name for such a pale man," his subconscious mused —lashed out at him. His host took a moment to compose himself behind his desk, allowing President Otis Bernard a moment to glance at his surroundings.
Everything inside Obsidian's office was painted in some shade of gray, giving the room an almost cell like quality. The floors bore no carpeting, the walls were free of embellishment and any portraits of family, previous CEOs, or even the odd landscape painting of cows eating inside a meadow. President Otis Bernard felt cold seep through his clothes and unseen pressure wind about him, binding him to his chair like a prisoner. At the White House inside the Oval Office, he could push a button or dial a phone number and armed guards and his service detail would be there immediately. Here, inside this mausoleum, he was trapped and alone.
"I am so glad you decided to accept my invitation, President Bernard— especially after our less than cordial discussion in your office."
"As I recall, you and your companions were uninvited and had not scheduled an appointment, " President Bernard bit out. Mr. Obsidian looked at him over the tops of is dark glasses, his strange bluish eyes dancing at him. His bony fingers slowly fell together, the tips pressing together until it looked like they might fracture.
"Oh, yes," Mr. Obsidian amended, the sliding from his mouth in a slow hiss. "I do apologize again, but my associates and I felt it was our highest moral obligation to offer our services and support to you, especially after what happened in Ferguson."
President Otis Bernard rocked back in his chair, the strange pressure that had been coiling around and suffocating him suddenly off dissipated as though someone had flipped a switch.
"How am I to blame for the racial riots in Ferguson?"
"Well, pardon me for saying this, but many have questioned whether or not you are capable of handling the Presidency, especially with police brutality on the rise and rampant racism becoming more apparent. My associates and I are also wondering how you can stand the strain, especially considering how you share a common ancestry with the oppressed or wronged in Ferguson, Missouri. Which is why we visited you and offered our assistance."
On shaking legs, he rose to his feet and stepped one...two...three steps behind his chair. Splinters snapped and embedded themselves in the skin beneath his fingernails, his hands going into spasms and grasping for dear life for the support of the chair. "I fail to see how And just how, might I ask did you and your associates here at the Collective Corporation intend to assist me—the President of the United States of America— with the riots in Ferguson? Do you think you and your men alone can solve the issues or take on my burden?"
"Not entirely, no," Obsidian admitted, rolling his shoulders in a slight shrug. "But we might be able to help one another—if you would but listen."
"I do not see how. The state troopers have been called in to assist and support the police in Ferguson in ending the rioting and looting. Though I do not condone what happened, I do know that we all must put on a united front—."
" 'A united front'—a façade of peace, solidarity, and brotherly affection, you mean?" Obsidian countered, interrupting the President mid-flow, his tone dripping with condescension and something Bernard could not quite identify.
"Those are the right words, President Bernard— but they are not your own. Kennedy, Nixon, Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush— all greater and, in some cases even viler men, than you—have said those same words, in some form or other; however, just like them, you will be able to do nothing without my advice or guidance. And that would be a terrible shame, especially for your own family."
The wood beneath President Bernard's hands groaned, the inner fibers of the wood warping and bending to the pressure of his hands as it began to give beneath his digging fingers. Kennedy, Nixon, Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush— all former United States Presidents who had been embroiled in some military confrontation or political scandal. A few had met tragic ends, others still living out their lives in some state of happiness— fathers, grandfathers, even great grandfathers, leaders and teachers in every sense of the word. An image of his own daughters flashed inside his head—smiling and laughing at him as he knelt and spread his arms wide for a hug—while his wife stood beyond in the kitchen entry, her welcoming smile and love-filled eyes warming his heart, even from across the room. He wanted to live to see them and to be with them. But, more importantly, he wanted to be brave for them and make the best choice regarding their future—not just the country's future.
The wood sighed beneath his easing fingers as President Bernard once again took his seat. "What is it that you had in mind for our country, Mr. Obsidian?"
Mr. Obsidian smiled and moved slowly, his eyes seemingly never leaving the President's as his arm disappeared behind his desk. Something jiggled and turned, followed by a low sliding screech of a drawer opening. Bernard blinked and flinched, eyes wide in wonder as a large white folder seemed to materialize in front of him. Though not bulky or overflowing with a cascade of papers, the binding of the folder was quite thick. Reaching out slowly, Bernard took the folder in hand and silently read the file's name: The Utopia Initiative. He looked over the folder brim at his host.
"Many countries have tried initiating utopian societies before— all have failed and left their people in ruin. Just how will this initiative help me, the people in Ferguson, or the rest of the country for that matter?" He asked, the feeling of unease creeping back up his spine.
Mr. Obsidian raised his hand, slowly removing his dark sunglasses and laying them on the desktop. Electric blue eyes pinned President Otis Bernard to the spot, Obsidian's polite smile evolving into something predatory and animal like. Rising from his chair like a perfectly folded black paper suit, Obsidian loomed over Bernard.
"Since World War II, my predecessors and now my colleagues and I have been noticing patterns in societal and cultural behaviors within different ethnic groups across the United States—how they live, what they can do to better assist society as well as take into account what stimulates their better behaviors or invigorates their darkest urges," he stated simply, slowly circling around the desk to stand beside Bernard, who had already opened the file. Eyes on the pages in front of him, Bernard continued to listen intently to his host's explanation.
"We have studied almost every social strata within the United States—whites, blacks, reds and browns or Native Americans and the Mexican and Latino populations, not to mention growing minorities such as the growing Arabic and Middle Eastern population. Simply put, we have introduced stimuli to see what offsets the balance between races while also taking into account scientific research— pre-World War II and current research, side by side— in order to find a way to keep the negative behaviors and unattractive genetic traits in check...."
Mr. Obsidian continued his slow circling, moving closer and closer to Bernard. His words, once so clear were now nothing but a low droning in his ears as his sole attention was on a page entitled, EUGENICS RESEARCH: WHERE HITLER FAILED, WHERE WE CAN SUCCEED. He skimmed through the pages, the pages sticking together then slipping from his fingers as words and phrases such as "fetus," "disabled," "mentally handicapped," "undesirable," and "mandatory abortion for multiracial specimens" swam across his vision. He turned a few more pages, this time stumbling across a portion titled, RACIAL SEGREGATION PROTOCOL— detailing how racial segregation and proximity limits were necessary to keep the human race properly functioning.
Each race would belong to their own caste, suburb, and would help provide for the collective Utopia based on their talents. He flipped a page, skimmed on how the Native American or red-coded caste would be in charge of forestry, animal conservation, and fresh water fish farming while another caste, the Asian or gold-coded caste, would be in charge of scientific research, medicine, surgery, and healing. Perplexed, Bernard flipped back through the file until he found it: the white and gray coded groups.
"Ah— I see you have found our research and summation of the racial issues within the United States. This was my personal project, collecting data across so many ethnic groups. Although we do intend to allow limited proximity between each caste, they will essentially live separate but equal lives within— I am sorry, what is it that you find humorous, President Bernard?"
Crumpling in his hands, the folder fell from Otis Bernard's hands, the papers spilling out in a cascade of black and white all over the floor. For a moment, everything was still when a loud, mirthless laugh escaped from between President Otis Bernard's dry lips, reverberating through the halls Obsidian's mausoleum, yet no one was there to hear him or see his tears of hopelessness and agonizing anger.
"I find it funny," he said, attempting to compose himself as the President of the United States, "that you believed I or Congress would allow such a travesty to befall our people. What you propose, Obsidian, is not a solution so much as a snare—this won't help us achieve equality or peace. Separate but equal? BULLSHIT!"
He jolted up right and spun around to face his opponent, nearly jumping back against the desk. Obsidian stood not but an arm's length away from him, his electric eyes shining without mirth. Although he had appeared to be a young man, perhaps thirty-five, Obsidian looked almost ageless— as though time had not ever touched him or his porcelain white skin.
"The Whites— those of direct European descent—would rule and judge us all, based upon racial predilection for crimes and lawlessness, while the Grays— my Caucasian American citizens—would protect and serve as their guardians, peacekeepers, and strong arms for hire. How is that different from what you say is happening? This procedure will not help us— it will cripple us, sending us back over a hundred years. No, Mr. Obsidian—I do not condone your Utopia, not will anyone else. I forbid it and—."
A hand clamped down over his mouth, cutting off his words. Unseen bodies grasped and confined him, hauling him backwards into the dark hallway. An indifferent stare on his face, Mr. Obsidian watched the proceedings before slowly following the strong-armed President down the hall. As they traveled within the darkness, he spoke to President Bernard. His voice did not sound angry, or disappointed—simply resigned.
"I must say, I am not surprised that you did not accept my help. Though you are a man of vision, a man of the people, Otis, your problem is that you fail to see the bigger picture."
White light enveloped Bernard, blinding him and causing him to scream and writhe against the people who bound him. Suddenly, the arms were gone and his mouth free to scream, to breath, and to pray. Disoriented, Bernard sagged to the floor, momentarily weightless and exhausted, only to be hauled up once more. Cold metal bit through the fabric of his shirt as someone pinned him to a metal table, leather straps trapping his hands and feet. Something slammed into his face, a heat wave of pain enveloping the right side of his face.
Vision clearing, President Otis Bernard looked around him. He was in another cement room, but instead of office furniture there were trolleys, medicine cabinets, and large metal canisters lining the walls like some strange, pop-up infirmary. Head strapped in place, he tried to look to the right, then to the left but could not. Suddenly, Obsidian was there— all electric blue eyes, pale skin, and sickening fake politeness.
"You do not see the bigger picture or how this is necessary. In this, you simply lack vision—our vision, to be precise," he said, looking beyond Bernard and nodding, almost as if he were talking with himself. "Yes, vision, and that is what I shall give you. Soon, Mr. President, you will see things our way."
Otis opened his mouth, intent on spitting at Obsidian and telling him to go screw himself.
"Go screwwwwWWWAAAAAAAAAARRGHH!" he howled, pain running white hot through his spine and limbs as something sharp penetrated the back of his skull. Ice crept through his veins, fire twisting and slashing through every nerve as he tried to escape, thrashing and writhing in his restraints. Obsidian soon blurred into the grayness, becoming nothing but a disembodied voice that sounded like not one but a legion of many.
"Welcome to the Collective, Brother Otis, and the bigger picture."