“DAVIS! BLISTER? Trace?”
Elix realises the loudness of her voice is ineffective in gaining their attention.
What the fuck is happening. She thinks, seeking internal console.
Like the squeak of a new shoe on polished concrete, it breaks her thoughts and directs her attention down the recently travelled hallway, to behind Davis. Elix flicks her pistol to her sights and inches her step around Davis and Blister for a better shot.
The figure is blurred at the end of her pistol, but the colour.
That colour. She thinks, lowering her weapon a fraction to hone her focus.
That crooked nose, and, and a cobalt blue suit. Elix thinks: bewildered.
His hair has greyed but it has to be…
“Dad?” She asks softly, striding forward till she is only two metres from him, too scared to take another step, finding herself once again, frozen in his gaze.
“Elix” He replies, but something isn’t right about his voice. Elix’s eyes widen.
That voice came from more than one Hûm.
From behind her father, a mob of Assimilated fill the hallway, blocking off any chance of escape. Her body is stiff with fear; she hears more steps come from behind. Elix twists her neck slowly and out of the corner of her eye she spots her friends; her Cluster, walling her in.
“Elix…” They collectively say.
She cringes and faces her father.
“…This is your father” They add.
“Yeah and who exactly is pulling his strings?” Elix snaps, curiously angered.
“The Encephalon is in control” They reply.
“Let my father go, let him tell me himself” She pleads.
“We can’t let him go Elix, his mind is like yours, if it were to be freed, the consequences would be catastrophic”
“Why?” Elix jabs.
“…What is this all about? Why are our minds so special?”
Elix’s father takes one step forward and inhales deeply before reciting a long-awaited monologue.
“We were warned Elix. Over six thousand years ago, we were told to unite or die, and the first government of man was formed based on a visitor’s instruction. Their message of caution came at a time when the world couldn’t have been more divided. It detailed man’s demise at the hands of Knowledge. So, we invented religion, in an effort to subdue intelligence, but…”
“Religion failed humanity…” Elix interrupts.
“…It opened people up to the idea of a villain as well as a hero” She continues.
Her father extends his cupped right palm.
“Yes, you see it now. It gave them a choice, good or evil, love or hate, none or all. It bred greed, and from greed, our minds were forever changed. We wanted things, and we would invent plethora of reasons to acquire such things. That is when we had the notion to use things to our advantage”
“You used technology to control us, to give us the illusion of choice. But why though? So, you’re the only free thinkers left? That’s fucking pathetic. What’s the real reason? Who warned us?”
“Patience Elix, we have decided that you will be initiated into the Encephalon, and once that happens, you’ll be given all the information pertinent to our survival”
“Given? What makes you think I want to be spoon fed anything you’ve had your filthy murdering hands on?”
“Filthy? Elix if one thing is true, it’s that the Encephalon and by extension the Assimilated are not murderers, not even by accident”
“That’s… No! That’s bullshit” Elix’s thoughts are fractionally conflicted; there is only one instance that she can think of where the Encephalon has killed.
But why do I feel like it’s out of character now? She ponders objectively, and then her thoughts run to place of sorrow and pain that steers her into a rage and latches onto her vocal chords.
“Artemis! Don’t you forget his name, Artemis! Is dead because of you, and don’t you dare deny having a hand in the incident at the reprogramming station, Lance was under your command was he not?”
“Elix you must know that doesn’t fit our character…”
Elix flinches into a squint. Her father cracks a slight smile through his words:
“…I suppose you think we killed millions in the mass Assimilation too, but you couldn’t accuse us without any evidence, only hearsay. You could however accuse us of the death of your mentor because the evidence seems so apparent. The truth is Elix, the Encephalon has been corrupted, you could say we had an uprising of our own, but not like the one Artemis crafted. This one was bred from hatred, from a misconceived superiority over other humans. But even though they were responsible for the actions leading to Artemis’ death, sadly Elix, Artemis committed suicide…” The room collectively sighs while bowing their heads.
“…As for those in the reprogramming station… We were too late to intervene, the army we sent, was to stop Lance, by the time we arrived, we were too late”
“Fuck you! You know you’re the reason he’s dead, the reason they’re all dead…”
She raises her pistol to her father’s face, detaching all familial ties.
“…ADMIT IT” She roars, her tears rush down the paths of old tears shed.
Calmly her father continues.
“We found the culprit during a routine scan of our Assimilated soldiers, the footage was clear; in the struggle, Artemis was losing, and he swallowed a pill which took him within seconds, we’re sorry Elix…”
Elix’s hand trembles, her vision blurs through the veil of wet sadness building in her eyes.
“… But Artemis taking his own life is the logical step for a man who believes in the right of choice, don’t you think?”
Something in her father’s voice emits a certain sincerity that cuts into her resolve. Elix lowers her weapon, her tear ducts are empty but she cries anyway. Moments pass as she wails into her own hands.
In an instant she throws her hands away from her tearful eyes.
“You stole our humanity! You took our families, our loves, you took our souls! You didn’t kill anyone; but you took everything we have to live for. How can I let you continue?” Elix’s sadness is exhausted, but her anger swells once more.
She squeezes the tremble out of her hand and raises her pistol again.
“What are you going to do Elix?”
The Assimilated swiftly surround her in the once wide-felt hallway, leaving only half an arms space between her and the now tens of Assimilated at her back and countless more to the front; reaching around the passage’s corners.
“Are you going to shoot all of us?” They ask.
“An admirable sacrifice as it is, but you will run short of bullets and I haven’t even told you the best part”
“Yeah? What? You’ll swarm me? Overwhelm me with your numbers? You want to know what happens to fifty sweaty bodies rubbing shoulder to shoulder in a tight hallway when they’re shot with an EMP round? Take another fucking step and I’ll drop all of you. And once you’re all down, I’ll stroll in to that control room and shut down the satellite and we’ll all be free, no blood shed. How’s that for the best part?”
It takes a second for the Assimilated to reply.
Ominously; everyone around her laughs in a forced fashion. They all cease at the same time and collectively speak:
“Think again Elix. Those new Intelliguises our friend Abishua installed have this neat little trick when they’re overloaded with an EMP”
“Don’t tell me it kills them, please don’t tell me” Elix butts; whisperingly, full of worry.
The assimilated continue:
“The intelliguise is coated in nanites. Yes, much like the ones your cluster hopelessly crammed into your veins; only better, and in much higher quantity. What they do is simple: When an EMP is detected they form a crust around the Intelliguise’s tendrils, locking them firmly in place and shielding the devices components from harm. These nanites will not harm the ‘Hûms’ as you like to call them. It will however make their Assimilation permanent”
The word echoes into Elix’s mind.
Her friends and family stare blankly at her from all directions.
She can’t think of any other solutions to the problem at hand. Her pistol once again lowers.
The Assimilated step forward. Elix inhales a quick hot breath as they press their radiating bodies against her chest and back. Her arms are pinned to her sides. She holds tight to her pistol with her bionic arm, but the Assimilated dismantle it within her grip and pass the pieces out of the hallway.
“What will you do Elix?” They collectively ask.
Their voices aren’t loud but together they rumble every millimetre of her ear drums.
“…In one scenario, you save the planet from the tyrannical Encephalon, but it costs you your friends, your family and your humanity. And in another you save your friends and family but deny them any of their freedoms and the rest of the planet continues under our direction as planned. With or without your assistance”
The air in the hall is thick with the body odour of Elix’s former peers stewing in their clothes and breathing heavily right in her face. She feels feint.
“Let me out of here” She strains to demand.
“NO. You can’t leave until you’ve made a choice. Humph, funny isn’t Elix? You fought so hard for your right to choose, and now, when the choice is simple and literally in front of you, all you want to do is run away”
“Please just step back” Elix pleads.
Her breaths have shrunk into sharp laboured inhales and every exhale requires the full strength of her body to force out. It’s been a long time since she has felt pressure like this, emotions like this.
“It’s numbed you hasn’t it?” They ask.
“…Pretending to be Assimilated for thirteen years has wreaked havoc on your emotional responsiveness”
“Let me go” She yells: unanswered.
“This world we’ve created; of all the ecosystems we’ve managed to rejuvenate you decide to live in the city, among the cold grey walls. We gave nature back its force, we re-terraformed earth to be the paradise it truly is, and you would rather skulk around the bland skeletal remains of your once proud society? It is interesting to note though; that it did seem to be the catalyst for your evolution as a human and perhaps if you had decided to live in the wilderness we might never have found you. My point is; we need you, our species depends on it. Join the Encephalon or don’t Elix. You’ll be Assimilated regardless.”
Damn that Abishua, after all we did together for the uprising, we saved him and he screwed us. She angrily thinks.
But then calmness grips her; she relaxes her muscles and droops in between the Assims, her head bows and quietly she speaks from defeated lungs:
“Enough, I’ll join”
The Assimilated step back, Elix drops to the floor.
“Elix, you will be impressed at what we can accomplish togeth…”
Something cuts the Assimilated off.
Elix lifts her weak head; confused and waiting for the rest of the word, blinking heavily and breathing deeply the slightly cooler air surrounding her.
Faintly, yet loud enough to break Elix’s daze, the assimilated begin to mutter.
“What are you doing? No! Stop! We can help y…”
There’s a slight pause in the mumbled plea.
The pause is quickly killed by the roaring:
“OOWWH” at the top of the Assimilated’s lungs.
Something’s wrong, someone must’ve infiltrated the Encephalon.