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Push The Limits

Finally, Friday!  However, the last day of the week was not too exciting.  Everything was usual, even scary: it felt like a Thursday.  He could now easily go home and do all his homework, but he still retained a small bit of sanity.  Slowly he strolled home and got to the computer, then called Chloe.  He felt as if a veil were covering his eyes: the reality was distorted, worries were gone, and fun lay ahead.  Yet, that was mixed with his ongoing goal-PI.  He has gone too far to stop now, and now, either alone or with Chloe, he would go to the place on a map.  Luckily, she was going with him.
It was 5:59.  The elevator door opened, and he stepped out.  He was about to ring the doorbell, when his watch beeped and the door opened.
“Uh…  Hello.”
“It’s six…  Wow.  How the heck did you—”
“You’re not the only one who likes to be on time,” she interrupted.  Suddenly, he grabbed her wrist and looked at her watch.
“Black leather.  Wow!  And it’s exact…  Who are you?” he smiled.
“Who are you?”  Their watches were synchronized to half a second.  They both smiled.
“This is so weird.”
“What is?”
“Going to a place I don’t even know, just because I found a map on a floppy in the back cover of an illegal book.  What the heck?”
“You don’t like to curse, do you?”
“Not in person.”
“Do you curse in animal?”
“When did you find out?” he gasped in fake surprise.
“I’ve known it the whole time.”
“O, my!  I must eliminate all witnesses.  Nah, I’ll keep ya.”
“Thanks so much.”
“I’m going to run down.  You take the elevator.”
“You’re crazy.”
“I know.”
As soon as the elevator door started to close, he darted downstairs.  As the doors were opening, she saw him, pointing at her.
“Gotcha.”  She glared at him.
He shook his head.  “How do you want to get there?”
“I don’t know.  Why?”
“Do you like walking?”
“Okay.”  He smiled.  “Let’s walk.”
“How are you?”
“I’m good.  How are you?”
“Just good?”
“Well…  Yeah.  I mean, nothing happened today.  I turned in the report I had to do.”
“I see.”
“Why do you ask it so weird?”
“Enallage.  Just want to talk to someone.”
“What do you mean, ‘What?’”
“Enallage?  What’s that?”
“Same thing as a transferred epithet.  You said, ‘Why do you ask it so weird?’.  You made weird refer to me as opposed to ‘ask’, as it’s supposed to be.”  He continued to look straight ahead.  She looked at him, and almost immediately, he looked back at her.  She turned her head, but he continued looking at her.
“Looking at you, I know.”
“Why not?”
“Why would you?”
“Just want to.”  She smiled.
“Not too many people like to look into people’s eyes.”
“Doesn’t it become so annoying, sometimes, to try to see someone’s eyes to tell him or her something?”
“O yes, I know that feeling,” he smiled.
“Then how are you, and what’s new today?”
“I’m good, I think, and nothing’s really new.”
 “Tell me.”
“‘Cause I wanna know.”
“I just do.  Is that okay with you?” she smiled.
“It’s Friday, and I think it’s pretty cool that I’m going to this place with someone I don’t know very well.  I’ve had a strange week.  My identity was erased.  Call any info service, and I won’t be there.  But I’m not at all scared, it’s kinda cool.  I wanna talk to someone, but I can’t find anyone.”
“You have friends?”
“Of course.  But there’s something… missing.”
“I don’t know.  It’s like they don’t know what I feel.”
“Like what you think and the way you think it?”
“It’s that weird feeling.  You think something and you know it’s true.  And you’re always right.”
“Whenever you call someone, you know that the number is going to be busy, or that he or she won’t be home.”
“Or, when you see a friend, you know that he’s sad.”  He raised his eyebrow.  “One of the things about it is that you can’t hide anything.  If you do, the other will know.”
“If the other is understanding enough, she or he will keep asking.”
“Otherwise, she or he will assume bad things, and it will lead to loss of trust.”
“Ouch.”  She looked at him with a warm glance.  He smiled at her with a tired look in his eyes.  “And you just wish you could talk like that with all your friends.”
“Or just meet someone who does.”
“Now, tell me.”
“It’s the people in school.  Some of them are very annoying.  And friends…  No one seems to know what’s going through my mind.  I mean, I am going to this place, with you…  How many do you think know that?”
“Whom did you tell?”
“All those who asked.  Only one.”
“Why don’t you just tell them?”
“I don’t work like that.  I’m a Leo, remember?  Leos need attention.  If anyone were to talk to me for about an hour, they’d know.”
“Why an hour?”
“Because if they talk less then it means they aren’t interested.”
“Maybe they don’t have time.”
“How come I always do, then?  That’s the thing with me.  I can’t associate with anyone I know.  Well, you…”
She smiled. “Me?”
“You know more than them.”
“Yes.”  He smiled.
“And there it is.”  He looked on the map again.  “Yup.  What is this place?”  It was a building with a few doors.  However, the map pointed to neither one.
“This mark…  Where is it, exactly?”
“It’s not that door, but not this one.  It must be in between…” He suddenly stopped.
“You all right?”
“I see it.”
“Look.  The mark is not at the house.  It’s about 20 yards away.”
“Yes, so you’re saying…”
“There.”  He was pointing at a shaft, not really a shaft but two grated doors leading down, a rectangular manhole.
“You kidding me?”
“Do I ever?”  He came to the metal doors and bent down, then opened one of them.  “See?”
“See what?”
“There’re stairs.”
“Don’t go there!  It’s a hole in the ground!”  But he was already climbing down the ladder.
“Oh boy.  What am I going to do with you?”  She came to the opening and looked down into the blackness; slowly, she put her feet on the handle of the ladder and started to descend.  “See anything there?”
“Not really…  This goes down pretty low.”
“Just don’t slip into the sewer.”
“I mean it.”
“Thanks.  You too.”  Suddenly, his feet found flat ground.  He waited for Chloe to climb down.
“So where are we?” she whispered.
“I don’t know, but this is cool.”
“Well, don’t you ever want to climb down…”
“Oh.  Well I do.”
“It’s scary.”
none'>“Okay, they’ll eat you first.”
none'>“No, you.”
none'>“Okay…  Only there is one problem: there’s nowhere to go.”
none'>“What?”  She walked around three times, her hand feeling nothing but concrete.  “You’re right.  Where are you?”
none'>“I’m down here...  Nope, it’s a sewer, all right, and the water goes down there.”
none'>“What is there?”
none'>“Gratings leading to pipes.”
none'>“But there must be something down here!”
none'>“Maybe it’s not down here after all?”
none'>“Maybe it’s...”  They both looked up at the same time.
none'>He started to climb up.
“There’s…”  They both gasped because of a sudden beep.
“What’d you just do?”
“I think I pressed a button…  Hey, look!”  A dim beam of light was coming from a pad a few yards above the floor.  She climbed up to his level on the left side of the ladder.
“Wanna call someone?”
“This isn’t a phone.”
“Oh.  What is it, then?”
“How am I supposed to know?”
“Well, you know that it’s not a phone.”
“Oh, be quiet!”
“It’s a door, and this is the lock.”  He looked at her.  She was as excited as he was; he could see it in her eyes.  “You’re pretty.”
She smiled.  “Thank you…  That’s not what you usually say to people in sewers though, is it?”
“I’m not a usual character, am I?”
“Not at all.”
He grinned.  “So what’s the number?”
“Since this is a lock, a number would be a key.”
He saw the same idea flash in her eyes that has just visited him.  At the same time they started saying the seven letters: “Zqrtmtz.”
“Don’t you just love that?”
“Saying things at the same time?”
“So, on the phone, it would be 9-7-7-8-6-8-9…  Backwards, it’s 9-8-6-8-7-7-9…” The device emitted a loud buzz.
“Now what?  You okay?  Sam?”  For a few seconds, he started into the nothingness with his eyes half-closed; then he opened them again.
“Add or subtract?”
“Remember, they never use the number.  Add or subtract?”
“Subtract.”  They both smiled.  “9,778,689-657,218 will be… O man!”
“Backwards, remember?”
“Okay… 174,121,9.”  The device emitted a high-pitched quiet sound.  “Alright!  Gotta write this down… 9,121,471…  Looks like a phone number.”
“O stop it!” she smiled.
“Oa-ky.  So it beeped…  I guess we have to do the other number…”
“You’re good.”  She smiled and dialed the number.  The device emitted a similar noise, and the door clicked.
“Yes!  Give me five.”
“Don’t do that!”  She poked him in the ribs.
“Why’d you do that?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, then…” He then poked her.
“Aah, don’t poke me!”
“I will.”
“No you won’t!”
“Yes I will.”
“Okay, fine,” she sighed.
“Aren’t you scared though?”
“Yes,” she paused.
“It’s hard to explain.  I don’t usually go to sewers and open doors, so I think I should be scared, but...”
“You’re not?”
“It’s weird...  It feels...”
“Feels like nothing’s going to happen, right?”
“Right.”  They both smiled.
“Then, let’s go.”  They slowly crawled into the dark low passage.  The only sources of light were the open door and his watch, which had lighting.  Slowly, they walked along the wall, feeling their way.  He could hear their breaths and knees on the quiet metal surface.  Somewhere, nearby, a drop of water hit the floor.  It was getting darker as they went around a corner.  She was crawling behind.  Soon there was only the light from his watch, which he used sparingly.
“You okay?”
“My shoulder scraped something…”
“Let me see…  It’s a way out!”
“Anything else along this way?”
“No, there’s a dead end.”
“Okay, then, I guess, open it.”
“You sure?”
“Okay.”  He slowly felt the “doorknob” and turned it.  Bright light shone in their eyes, making then squint.  The door swung downwards like a ladder.  Soon, their eyes adjusted to its brightness, and he peeked outside to explore.  “Man!”
“What is it?”
“I don’t know, but you better look at it.”  He climbed down the “ladder” into the light.
“Wow!  What is this place?”
“I have no idea!  Wanna go in?”
“I’m scared.”
“Don’t be.”  He got out from a gray air shaft.  The room was filled with rows of control panels.  There were neither people nor surveillance cameras.  He safely walked around the floor and then told Chloe that it was safe.
“What the heck is this place?”
“I don’t know…  These are certainly computers, but what are they computing?”
“What if someone comes in?”
“This is so scary!  But…”
“Tell me, please…  What do you think of this whole thing?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I…  I’d rather be here than not.”
She smiled.  “Me too,” she said after a pause.
“Want a hand?”
“I was just about to—”
“I know.”
She smiled.  “Okay…” He extended his hand and she took it, jumped, and landed softly onto the floor.  The floor was covered with white linoleum tiles; the air in the room was damp.  None of the computers looked useable for they had neither keyboards nor mice; other tables seemed to serve a purpose known only to those who created them.  There were two doors on the opposite sides of the room.  Florescent lamps illuminated the bright surroundings.  A quiet steady buzz reminded Sam of a laundry room, a laundry room with sophisticated washers and dryers.  He suddenly said, “How the heck is this place related to PI?” Indeed, nothing in here, save the computers, seemed useful.  He unsuccessfully tried to make sense of what they said.  Something was inhibiting him from trying to find the truth.  Normally, he would try everything to make any change, but today he wanted the computers to remain intact and their intrusion to remain unknown.
Strangely, Chloe seemed to have more understanding of machinery than did Sam.  Oblivious of him, she walked around trying to make sense of what was written on the screens.  She noticed his confused expression but continued walking around the room.
“What do you think this is,” he asked after a long pause of silence.
“If only I could read it.”
“You look like you can.”
“Somehow, all of it looks familiar.  I don’t know how.”
“Let’s go to another room.”  They walked to the sliding door to the right.  As they entered another room, they noticed the sudden change in atmosphere: the cool air actually seemed fresh, while the room itself was uncomfortably scary because of its quiet.  Indeed, they could barely hear their footsteps on the rubber-like blue carpet.  The room led to at least four other smaller rooms, all of which were dark and even more mysterious.  He tried to open the doors, but found only two of them open.  He came into one and subconsciously started looking for a switch.  There was a panel next to the wall.  There were small screen, a tuner which didn’t do anything (he checked), and a few buttons.  He pressed them to see what would happen.  One of them suddenly turned on the light.  He looked around and saw a strange-looking bed.  Indented, was a figure of a person, as if someone invisible were already occupying it.  Over the bed was the other half of this “coffin,” together, the two could conceal a body.  He pressed another button.  The two parts turned on and moved closer together.  The small screen showed the picture of the bed, with a cryptic message blinking on a red background.  He walked towards the bed, which now looked more like a table, and tried it.  It was soft, so he decided to lie down.  When he did, he suddenly felt very relaxed and sleepy.  The other part started to move down, but it stopped to leave him enough room to leave.  A sudden line of blue light started to scan him from his feet up—he felt as if he were photocopied—and back.  The rays felt warm and comforting.  He felt extremely tired for no apparent reason.  He just wanted to close his eyes and sleep…
When he opened his eyes, the machine was just turning off.  He got up feeling refreshed and happy; the door was open, and he could leave.  He turned off the light and went into the previous room.  Chloe was in the other open room.
“You scared me!” she gasped.  “Hey.”
“What the heck is this place?  I’ve just been photocopied.”
“The room next to this one…  There’s a table, you lie on it, and it scans you.”
“It scanned you?”
“Yes,” he smiled.  “Watch out for evil twins!  It wasn’t so bad, actually.  You know, I think this may be some kind of a lab.  That was probably some…  Weird new scan.  What do you think?”
“And the computers hold the databases?”
“Yes…  But…  Damn, I don’t get it.”
“How the two are related.  If there’s research, then how is it related to PI?”
“Let’s look in more rooms.”
“What’s this one do?”
“I think if you press some button over there the helmet will work…”
“Did you try?”
“Yes…” she said shyly.
“What happened?”
“I don’t know.  It feels really weird.”
“And that scan thing feels refreshing…  Hey, wanna go there and I go here?”
“Okay.  To turn it on, press this button.”
“Okay, and to turn that on, let me show you…”
He returned to the new room with a helmet.  What the heck are these dials?  He turned a few of them, but nothing happened on the little screen—there was a similar little screen with a big circle, to represent the brain, he guessed.  He pressed the button and sat on the soft reclining chair, then put on the helmet…
He felt as if he immediately fell asleep.  He saw dreams, the strangest dreams he has ever seen.  He was fighting at one moment and playing baseball the other, then he was flying and ducking under a tree branch…  Again, he felt so sleepy that he, surprising himself, ignored those dreams and started to slip…
When he woke up, he felt entirely different.  He felt like he was standing under a bridge, and thought, like a fresh new stream, were flowing through his head.  He’d never been filled with so many thoughts at once.  He felt hope and sorrow, joy and sadness, but, most of all, freedom.  When he closed his eyes, he could imagine anything he wanted.  He hurried to tell Chloe, but she wasn’t in the scanner room.
He walked to their first room and proceeded to the door to the left.  This door led to the stairs, leading to a small office-looking room.  There were about eight useable computers; Chloe was exploring one of them.
“Hey–” he started.
“My God!”
“You scared me.  This, this place…”
“What about it?”
“Come here.  Look.”
“What the heck?  What…  What is that?”  He nervously looked around.  No cameras, no people.  “That—”
“That looks a bomb.”
“Neutron bomb.”
“Classified material.”
“No kidding…  I don’t like this place.”
“They have so many files that aren’t supposed to be here.”
“And I doubt that this is FBI headquarters.”
“I was just about to say,” she chuckled.
“That helmet thing…  Everything feels so weird now.”
“But it feels like I can understand everything much more clearly.”
“And faster too.  Thoughts just flow—”
“Like a cold stream under a bridge.”
“O my God!”
“Can you read my mind?”
“I don’t think so…”
“You just did.  Exact picture.”
“That’s…  I can’t find the word.”
“I think I know what you mean.”  They both smiled.
Suddenly he was filled with a wonderful happy feeling…  He looked at her and saw the exact same expression.  “Do you think that we’re… connected somehow?”  For a split second he thought that he should add more to make himself clearer, but she replied,
“Yes, I do.  Do you?”
“Yes,” he added slowly.  “Yes.  My God!  This is...”  They both smiled and looked at each other.
They were interrupted by a slight noise.  It was coming from the other end of the room.
“What was that?”
“Uh-oh.  That sounds like someone.”
“Let’s get out of here.”  They started towards the stairs in front of them, quietly enough to hear the door slam.
“We’re in trouble.”
“Not necessarily.  You go first.”  They ran to the control-panel room and then to the air duct.  “Go.”
“It’s too high.”
He put his hands together.  “Stand on my hands.”  She put her foot on his hands and pushed herself up; grabbed the door of the air shaft and climbed it.  He was following closely behind, afraid to turn around.  Head first, he squeezed himself into the shaft and turned around.  As he was closing the swinging door, he saw a shadow about to open the door on the left—he slowly pulled it shut and turned the knob.  Without making a noise, they crawled a long way back to the door, from there they reached for the stairs, closed the door shut, and only then did they exhale loudly.
“That was scary as hell!”
“What did you see behind?”
“I saw someone about to see us if we were three seconds late.”
“I can hear my heart beating.”
“I can hear mine.”  They, she first, reached the top of the ladder and got out from the sewers.  He closed both doors and suddenly hugged her.  Expecting her to pull away, he was surprised to find her standing still, with her arms around his neck.
“Just wanted to hug you,” he whispered.  “You don’t mind, do you?”
“No.  That was so scary!” she said, after a long pause.
“It’s all over right now.”
“Yes,” she smiled.  He felt a sudden wave of warmth on his back as he heard her say that.  He didn’t want to go—and neither did she, so like that they stood for quite some time, after which they headed home, discussing and commenting on their unusual adventure.  He walked her to her door, where, again, he gave her a warm embrace, after which, having said Bye, he hopped down the stairs and then to his apartment.
PAIN!  He woke up with only this thought on his mind.  Extreme pain.  He could not move any part of his body without wincing.  Even breathing was painful, let alone trying to sit up.  However, his head felt light and rested, as if he went to sleep at 9 and woke up at 7.  With much effort, he sat on his bed; with even more effort, he stood up and walked to the shower.  Having dressed, he walked to the kitchen and looked at the clock—it was 9.  Whoa, this is early.  God, the pain!  He dropped to the couch and turned on the TV.  Nothing but junk.  Anything interesting?  He walked around the kitchen, muttering “I’m hungry, I’m hungry not.”  He decided that he wasn’t; so he went back to his room and dropped onto his bed.  He wasn’t at all sleepy, but he wanted to rest.  As he was about to put on the headphones of his CD player, the phone rang.
He tried to sit up but it was too painful, so, again, he dropped on the bed.
“Get the phone.”
He lifted his head with his elbows and rolled to the side, put one foot on the floor and then another, and stood up, leaning on the wall.  Thus, walking along the walls, he got the phone from the kitchen.
“Sam!  I didn’t wake you up, did I?”
“What are you doing?”
“Well I was lying in my bed.”
“So I woke you up?”
“No, I was already awake.  I’m tired and so sore!”
“Tell me about yesterday.”
“You’re back already.”
“We didn’t get back too late, but I was tired, so I went to bed early.”
“No wonder.  Yesterday, it was so great!  That place on the map, it pointed to a sewer, but halfway into the sewer there was a door to an air shaft.”
“You’re kidding me, right?”
“Do I ever?”
“That shaft led to I don’t know what it was, some sort of a computer room of a research facility.  There was a scanner bed and a brain-scanning helmet...”
“They scanned your brain!?”
“Seems more like cleared it up.”
“But the best part it this: Chloe uncovered the files of a neutron bomb.”
“WHAT?  How did you know it was a neutron bomb.”
“The drawings were labeled, ‘Neutron Bomb.’”
“Yes.  But then there was someone, so we got out just in time.”
“How come she discovered the files?”
“I...  I don’t know.  I actually thought she would be in the photocopy room.”
“The what?”
“The bed with the blue lights...  But it was so weird.  I don’t get it.  It was cool though.  I was there, with her...”
“I can imagine.”
By four o’clock that afternoon, his mind was awake.  His muscles were sore, very sore, but still he wanted to do something.  Thus he started doing his homework.  His eagerness surprised him a little, and surprised his parents quite a lot.  His parents, especially his dad, did not understand him.  He wrote programs and drew pictures and composed poems; they’d seen some; but he knew that they didn’t share his enthusiasm.  Sometimes, he could live a program.  He skipped many a breakfast, creating multiple lines of code to perform an elaborate task, and all they saw was a boy playing on a computer.  When he created an unreal world containing his personal experience, very rarely did they have the time to read the first two pages of the story.  He knew that they loved him and he loved them too, but when it came to discussing something of his life, he turned to his friends who were always there for him, friends who read his stories and talked to him whenever he had problems, friends who were thinking the same way as he did.
He was doing his Calculus homework when his mind wandered off in thought of yesterday’s adventure.  When he imagined putting on the helmet, he suddenly looked at his paper.  He was done.  He looked at the clock.  He was done in fifteen minutes.  Usually Calculus took him a good half-hour, but today he seemed more awake that before.  Wow.  He moved on to his language translation.  He was lucky, because it was easy: he knew almost every word, so he was done with it in another twenty minutes.  Wait a minute...  Next was Physics, but he was good at math, so he knew how to solve those problems.  No way!  How the heck do I know how to do this?  I’ve never done this before.  Yet, it’s so simple!  He was done with all his homework except for English: he had to read a few pages of a boring novel.  Having nothing better to do, he decided that since he was tired the only thing he wanted to do was to read.  He opened the book and started reading.  Word by word, he set his whole mind into descriptions of places and people and things.  He didn’t notice that he was reading much faster than he started, and he only stopped at the end of part II.  An hour passed.  He could not believe that he was reading for the whole hour.  For a second he wanted to pinch himself, but when he moved his arm he was well-aware that he was not dreaming: the pain was real.  He was done with everything he had to do.  He felt empty.  He always prioritized: he did what was most important to him first.  That was why he usually stayed up until midnight doing his homework: creating worlds and making programs was much more important to him than re-doing the things he already knew.  It was not very often that he did not have anything to do, but today was such.  He slowly walked to his computer and checked his e-mail, then checked his programs.  There were only two that he wanted to finish.  He loaded one of them and looked at the code, and then started typing.  Commands were coming to his mind; he didn’t even have to think about names of variables and functions.  He was done with one of them and felt uninterested in finishing another.  All that he wanted to do, he did.  He was bored.  He wanted to create something, not finish something, anything, just to know that he had something to do.  He could not live without a goal: he immediately turned lazy.  He had to want to do something; when everything was done—he was happy about it for a few days but then immediately he wanted more.
Luckily, his parents were going out that night and he happily joined them.  It still hurt to walk, but he gladly got out of the house.  After a long walk in the park (his parents were walking along a concrete path, while he was lurking between the trunks of beautiful ancient trees), they went to a restaurant and then back home.  Having nothing better to do, Sam went to sleep.
The next day was less painful and more exciting.  He woke up and was very eager to go somewhere.  He called Ashley and they decided to go to the movies.  Although his legs still hurt, he allowed himself to jump over low obstacles.
“Yay!  I love to jump!”
“Yes you do.  Weren’t you sore, though?”
“I was, but I feel better now.  Whee!”
“You’re crazy.”  He took a few steps and leaped gracefully over a rather tall sign.  “Be careful.”
“I am.  I think.”
 The movie was not the best one he has seen, but it was not the worst one either.  It had a sense of humor but a poorly developed plot, and he didn’t like it.  On the way home they briefly discussed it and then separated.  He came home and called Chloe, but she was not home at the moment.  He spent the rest of the day reading and watching TV.
Although the next day was Monday, he did not feel tired.  The pain in his limbs was almost gone, and his mind was still very sharp and clear.  He quickly got up, took a shower, and then, after a breakfast, got to school.  Because his first class was computers, he got on and started working on his program.  He wasn’t bothered by people passing him by as he usually would be, because he was so into his program.  As he read the code, he unknowingly analyzed every single statement.  Two or three times he deleted a few lines and wrote new ones, without paying any attention to what he was doing to the program.  After the roll call, he finished two functions, then rewrote two others he made before.  Then he decided to add more options and more user interface.  He did not know that he was already done with the program, for he fixed all the bugs, for now, he just wanted to make it better.  His imagination went on to adding frames to options to make the look prettier.  For forty minutes, he was coding more and more statements without testing his work once.  Then, in an instant, he finished a function and stopped.  He did not want to do any more, all his creativity was gone, and he ran his program.
“Seven hundred lines!?”  It was only then that he looked at the number of lines he added that single day.  “Holy cow!”
“When the heck did I write so much?”
“You were typing like crazy today.”
“Well, I was typing a little fast, but that many lines!?”
“Let me see your program...  What’s this?  How...  Man, you have too much free time!”  His program was pretty.
“Let me test it.  What do we need to enter?  1, it works.  2.  3.  4.  5.  10.  20.  500.  10,000.”  He opened his mouth.  “10,000.  20,000.  What?”  He was looking at a long list of numbers that appeared on the screen.  “What?  Come here, test this program.”
“Okay, what do I do?”
“Read the directions.”
“Hmm, very nice.  So I want ‘E’ and the number 5.  10.  It works.”
“Try a large number.”
“50.  100.  Seems right.”
“No, a large number.”
“10,000.  How the hell?”
“Please tell me.”
“I must see your code.  What the?  That’s it?  It took you five lines to make this function?  Mine’s about thirty!  What the?  How did you do this?”
“I have no idea, but I like it.”  He smiled.
“Hey, Ashley, guess what happened.”
“I made my program work about four times as fast.  And I don’t know how the heck I did it.”
“What do you mean?”
“It must be my lucky day or something, because it all just came to me.  I just wrote what I thought I should have, and it worked.”
He wasn’t used to having nothing to do after school.  It was too early to go home, so he went to the track.  Some of his friends did track that year, and he himself liked running.  He walked along the rail and sat on the bench, watching the freshmen struggle over hurdles.
“Hey Sarah!”
“Hi Sam, what’s up?”
“Lots of things.  How are you?”
“I’m good.  How are you?”
“I’m very good.”  He smiled.  “Like running?”
“It’s alright.”
“Can I jog with you?”
“I’m just warming up.”
“I’ll warm up too, then.”  They ran two laps, then sat on the fake grass and stretched.
“Wow, you’re flexible,” she said as she saw him touch both knees with his head.  He smiled.  “I wouldn’t be surprized if you beat all of them.  Oh, how is Pi, by the way?”
“It’s...  I don’t know.  I didn’t do anything with it for a week.”
“Nothing else to do with it.  There are other things right now, like my mind.  I think very clearly now.”
“You’re just smart,” she smiled.
“Hmmm.  Hey, I wanna sprint some,” he added when they were done stretching.  “Are you going to sprint too?”
“Will they let me?  I’m not on the team.”
“The coach doesn’t care.”
“Yay!”  He got in a group of people.  By two, runners were called to race each other a hundred meters and everyone was timed.  Soon it would be his turn.  “I don’t have spikes.”
“Don’t worry, most of them aren’t good runners.”
“But I ain’t one either.”
“Yes you are.”  He sighed.  It was his turn.  He was paired with a sophomore he didn’t know.  “Runners, take your marks.”  He got in the blocks.  “Get set.”  He lifted his body and started to rest it on his fingers, however, before he was stopped, in a split second, he bent his elbows and rested his weight on the palms of his hands.  “Go!”  As the gun shot and the sound reached his ears, he felt as if he lost control of his body.  It was more like he set himself in “autopilot”, very suddenly pushing off the blocks and off the ground.  He jumped forward and started running, his arms and legs swinging with exceptional sync with each other.  His shoes did not have spikes and he felt his feet constantly slip the ground.  He was running mostly because of his initial impulse, but it was already faster than he ever ran.  He kept gaining speed even through the finish line, stopping with some effort.
“12.0 and 13.7.”
He turned around and saw that everyone was looking at him.  By then “12.0” reached his consciousness and he started to walk back.
“12.0.  12.0.  No way.”
“Sam, good job!  You should be on the track team!”
“Thanks.  12.0.”
 “If you had spikes...”
“I wanna try the high jump.  Wanna go there with me?”
“Maybe later.”
“Okay.”  He headed to the mats and got in another line.  The current height was 5’4”.  He remembered last year: his record was only 5’, and he has not jumped since then.  When it was his turn, he took a few steps running to the pole and jumped.  He raised his arms and tilted his head back, then kicked his feet and then landed on the mat.  Even in his flight, he felt that he was 6’ in the air.  He got up and looked at the people staring at him, turned around and walked away.
“This is wonderful!”
“That scanning machine, remember?”
“Well, I don’t know how, but it enhanced my muscles!”
“Today, I ran 100 meters for 12 seconds flat.”
“No way!”
“I did!  And I high jumped at least 6 feet in the air.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“No.  I did.  Do you have lots of homework?  I want to get out somewhere.”
“Don’t you have any?”
“I finished it.”
 “Sorry, but I still have a lot left.  Call Chloe!”
“She isn’t home.”
“Oh.  She isn’t home much, is she?”
“No.  Strange, doesn’t it seem so?”
“And now, I must go.  I’ll talk to you later.”
He wanted to do something.  He was full of energy and enthusiasm; he felt freedom rush through his mind and body.   He wanted to go outside and do something…  But what?  He realized that at the moment, he did not have any long-lasting plans.  He found the secret of PI; he knew the code.  Now, possessing strange powers, he could not use them.  Run?  Jump?  For what purpose?
As he tried to find a goal for himself, he could not find any.  Every night, he would work on cracking the secret; but now, now…  What would he do now?  What did he want to do now?
He headed towards the library.  Maybe meeting Chloe would provide him with some answers, or at least something to do.  No matter how hard he tried to come up with something he would like to do, he could not.  Suddenly, he imagined a scary picture of nothingness: he was surrounded by a black veil of fog, which he could not penetrate.  He could almost reach something that was very close, just beyond the fog, but it would take him time and energy to reach it…  Even though his body flourished with strength and his mind soared above clouds, his motivation, suddenly, disappeared—to nowhere.
His view was suddenly obstructed by this strange vision.  He tried to blink to shake it off, but it has nested deeply within his consciousness.  He could feel the sudden pressure, the sudden blinds over his eyes, whose source he could no identify.  What the heck?  This was weakening him: as he was strolling towards the library, he could feel the arousal of a battle in his mind.  Whom was he fighting?  He could not tell; he could only feel the repression that he wanted to eliminate.  But to get rid of the problem, he would first have to identify it.  What was it?
He realized that it started a few hours ago.  He couldn’t talk to anyone since then…  Why not?  He tried to, but he just couldn’t feel the connection to people.  He was blocked from them; none of his emotions could get through the invisible shield on the back of his head…
Or was he imagining everything?  What shield, what connection?  How much of this was he making up?  His mind liked to wander into the unknown worlds.  But were those worlds based on reality?  And how did he make this so complicated?  Complicated, why was everything so complicated?  Every aspect of his life seemed connected with everything else, building an intricate network of relationships between his moods and emotions…  But who made it, anyway?  He was trying to discover the creator of this spider web, in which he trapped himself, but all fingers pointed…  To himself!
Why, he thought, why did he make it so complex?  Who needed this?  It was so simple, so simple that he would have never believed it…  Of what, or of whom, was he afraid?  He didn’t know; he feared something.  But why, why must I fear?  I am the master of my emotions.  Why can’t I control them?  But I can’t, can I?  I mean, how can I control my emotions?  But who else does?  I am the only one who can make myself either sad or happy; why can’t I do it now?  What has gotten into me?  He could feel a foreign thought lurking through his mind.  How did it get there?  No, it must’ve been his.  Why was it there?  But the problem was getting rid of it.
And how did he manage to weaken himself in 10 minutes?  He was walking up the resounding stairs and along the soft carpets of the library.
“Hey, Sam, didn’t expect to find you here!”
“Well, here I am…”
“Are you alright?” she said after a slight pause.
“You seem faraway…”
“What is with me?  What just happened within the past hour?  I have gone from being happy to being trapped by my own mind, as if someone has infected my mind with a virus that slowly blocked my thoughts from going into a certain direction.”
“What’s the direction?”
“My imagination is blocked.  As I try to gaze into the future, I see nothing but a blank screen.  I feel like there is no future, but everyday routines that will go on for eternity.”
“When did you become such a poet?” she smiled.
“Another thing is that I can’t find a reason to smile.”
“Why look for one?  It comes naturally.”
“Not when you try to take control of the lowest parts of your consciousness.”
“But why would you want to do that?”
“To prevent myself from…  I don’t know!  I don’t want to; I want to give in and live my life for a day or two, to not worry about the outcomes of any of my actions!”
“Do you worry?”
“Subconsciously, yes!  Whenever I close my eyes, I can feel that somewhere in the back of my head there is something that prevents me from relaxing.  Like there is an imminent event for which I have to stay awake…”
“Go to sleep.  You’ll wake up.”
“But what if I don’t?”
“Then the event won’t require you to wake up.  Answer this: do you think that any of it is created by yourself?”
“You are how old?  And what have you to worry about?  You think that in the next few years you will go to college, get a job, get married, get kids, and completely change your lifestyle.  You worry that everything you do now will go to your résumé, and that you cannot make any mistakes.  How old are you?  Now, look ten years back.  Look at how much you’ve changed and how much you’ve learned, how many skills you’ve acquired, and how much you’ve suffered.  As you get older, things will gradually get more complicated, but so will you.  Whatever you feel now will go away and you will laugh at it two months down the line—why must you even worry about what will happen tomorrow?”
“I don’t…”
“Do you think that if you don’t have the will to wake up one morning, then the rest of your life will be lost forever?  No!”
“Do you think that the point of life is to have a goal?”
“I understand that you are weakened, although only you keep the secret of its origins, but you will get strength as soon as you get your mind to relax.  I mean to stop thinking and to observe.  You do not have to enjoy, by no means!  Still, submerge into the present without trying to control it: with so many variables, you won’t have any time left to reap the benefits of this perpetual struggle.”
“All right, who are you and what have you done to Chloe?” he smiled.
“So you’re feeling better, I see.”
“You know so much about me!”
“Just as much as you know about me.”
“You’re saying that we are so alike that most of—”
“Yes.”  They both smiled.
“Thank you,” he said after along pause.  “Thank you so much!”
“You’re truly welcome.”
“Truly…  How little honesty and truth is left!  With the world fast-forwarding for no reason, true intentions get lost on people’s carelessness.  Why is it like this?”
“That’s not the question.”
“But we already have changed it—between ourselves.”
“Don’t you just love—”
“How we can understand each other.”  At that moment, for a split second, he let his mind join hers.  They were looking into each other’s eyes and holding each other’s hands.  Time has stopped and embedded the present into a giant crystal made of happiness, vanishing with every heartbeat.  Soon, they were back to reality, having forever captured this magic moment.
The week was lazily passing by.  Since his classes were easy, his mind was relaxed.  Every day, he would come home and quickly finish his homework, and then take a stroll or watch TV.  Yet, for most of the time, nothing seemed a challenge to him.  He was bored.  He called Chloe, but, as usual, she wasn’t home.  Always busy, he thought, why couldn’t I be that busy?  I won’t be so bored then…  But hey, she isn’t usually busy on weekends.
“Hey, it’s me!  Am I calling too late?”
“No, it’s ok.”
“What are you doing on Saturday?”
“Nothing that I can think of…”
“Wanna go see a movie?”
“All right!  I’ll call you then, on Friday, if you stay home.”
“Ok, ‘cause I think I will stay home on Friday.  But you’ll understand…”
“If you’ll have to go?  Of course!”
“How are you?”
A sudden burst of joy lit his soul.  It protruded from her image—not her surface but her complete person—and spread through his mind.  To him, it was no secret: she interested him and evoked a feeling of belonging and respect; he wanted her to feel the same.  Somehow, in his subconsciousness, he knew that she did feel the same, for at least she shared with him some aspects of her personality that no one else knew.  Then again, he continually kept blindly stumbling into a closed door: although they freely exchanged their shared tastes and interests, she was reticent about her free time.  Sometimes, he felt that she was busy all day long up to his phone call; other times, she always seemed to be relaxed and deliberate.  He could never understand that; however, not all people are the same, he thought, and he could easily overlook that aspect of her, for he himself was probably far from perfection.
He was absent-minded in school.  He even slept through his classes, because he knew that once he glanced through his book he knew the material very well.  His life was slowing down: with improved abilities let him rest, and it is rest that he needed for such a long time.  Mostly, however, he was waiting for the Saturday to come.
He ran after school, improving his time to 11.5 seconds, worked on his high jump and hurdling.  However, soon these activities became boring.  He needed a challenge.  Furthermore, with his imagination soaring and his strength progressing, he could not ignore the idea of training himself.  For what?  He did not know; however, every day, he would jog and run, stretch and do flips.  Suddenly, he felt as if he had acquired a new toy: he tried to do something and he did it, and that gave him joy and excitement.  He did round-offs and cartwheels, front flips and back flips.  Of course, he first asked people to teach him; upon seeing his progress, his friends could barely believe that he had never done any acrobatics earlier in his life.  He would kick punching bags and throw and catch racquetballs from surprisingly close distances.  His reaction time was at its peak; he was overflowing with energy.  Consequently, he would often share his enthusiasm with his friends, cheering them up and helping them through hard times.  Overall, he was happy.
Saturday!  He was filled with a sense of excitement.  As if he had recovered all his strength during his few hours of sleep, he was full of energy and will.  He woke up early and decided to play a computer game, for he had nothing else to do.  Finally, he called her and set off to leave.
He rose to her apartment and knocked.  She smiled as she opened the door.
“Hi.  You didn’t ask who it was.”
“I didn’t have to.  No one else knocks like you do.”  Indeed, he would often beat the rhythm of a famous song of everyone’s door.  He smiled.
“Ready to go?”
“Of course.”  She locked the door, called the elevator, and turned to the stairs.  “You aren’t going to run this time?” she asked.
“No, I’d rather be with you.”  They both smiled.  When they were walking along the street, he took her hand in his.  They were talking about everything, including his new accomplishments and the side effects of the scan he received in the underground lab.  At times, it seemed to him like she was the only person who cared.  He put his arm around her shoulders and they continued to stroll, chatting carelessly.  Just as they were almost at the plaza, they heard an unusually quiet click.
“What was that?”
“You heard it too?”
“Yes…”  Suddenly, he felt a strange tingling sensation in the tips of his fingers and on his face.  “Do you feel something?”
“A little tingling…”
He was opening his mouth to reply, but another force overcame him.  Unconscious of his actions, he pushed Chloe to the side and behind him, and at the same moment he saw a dark figure jump from behind a corner and point a knife at his chest.  It took him a few seconds to realize that his life was in danger.  He finished opening his mouth and looked up.
“Give me all your money, and no one gets hurt.”  Only now did he notice that they had ventured into an alley away from the main street.  As he began reaching for his wallet, he felt Chloe’s hand clasp his tightly.  He, too, held her stronger, but at the same time, as if it were coming from her through their hands, he felt a surge of not energy but concentration.  Instantly, he felt in control of the whole situation and inhaled deeply with his eyes close.
“Hurry up, damn it!”  Sam managed to put fear on his face to appease their attacker, and at the same time as he blinked again, he dashed back and grabbed the attacker’s arm with his left hand.  He moved it towards the wall, and, after releasing Chloe’s hand, turned around and performed a skillful back-kick, slamming the attacker against the wall.  The attacker dropped the knife and backed off a few steps, putting up his fists.  By now, Sam was fully conscious of his actions.
“You want to fight me?” he asked.  He heard no reply.  “Why do you want to fight me?”  Suddenly, the attacker charged with a high punch.  With no effort, Sam raised his hand and once again clasped the figure’s arm and kicked his shins, lifting his legs to ensure a certain fall.  By now, the attacker was enraged.  He tried to kick and punch but Sam ducked all of them.  He then grabbed a broken bottle from the nearby trash can and swung at Sam.  At the same time, Sam did something he never attempted before: he jumped forward and landed on both hands, somersaulted, and projected his feet at attacker’s chest.  The attacker landed on his back; stood up, and started running away.
In the meanwhile, Sam walked back to Chloe and looked at her.  They stood silently in an embrace, and then he whispered,
“Are you all right?”
“Yes, I think so…  That was…”
“Yes, I know; and I never knew how to fight before.”
“Were you scared?”
“A little, but then…  It’s a completely different feeling, but I was in complete control over my actions…  The feeling of freedom was amazing!  But…  How?”
“The machine.”
“It’s so cool!”  They both smiled.  Soon, they resumed their walk.  Filled with joyful energy, both of them were truly happy to be together.  They liked each other, and with a feeling of freedom (and some leftover shock) they felt wonderful.  They sat in the middle of the theater and she cuddled close to him.  The movie was exciting, and with every surprise, he felt her slight gasps.  The held each other’s hands and heard each other’s thoughts.
He got home late at night and could not fall asleep for a long time.  He had a wonderful time, and knowing that she would be there for him made it even better.  He didn’t want the day or his joy to ever end; but he didn’t want to stay up either.  Thus, reluctantly, he went to sleep, but not after adding a large passage to his story.
The next day, again, he had nothing to do.  He called his friend who wasn’t home.  He called Chloe, but her parents said that she wasn’t home either.  He wanted to do something, but he had nothing in mind.  But where has the endless quest for a goal gone, he wondered.  Haven’t I always wanted to do something?  Instantly, he answered his own question: he had a set of abilities that he needed to explore and perfect.  He went outside and jogged and stretched and jogged again, to be in the most awake state.  As he was running to the end of the park, a sense of adventure overcame him once again.  He was now walking among the trees, hearing occasional footsteps and remnants of conversations.  He was alert and aware of everything around him.  And now he wanted to use his abilities.  But what would he do, ambush strangers to show off his fighting technique?  He did, however, want to do something similar—use his skills to learn.
The only place was the lab.  What was the best that could happen?  The worst?
However, it wasn’t remotely dark, and he didn’t feel like climbing into sewers in broad daylight.  But there was a building nearby that surely had an access to the underground floors…
Soon, he was inside.  It was a common set of business offices and other suites.  There were an information desk and a set of elevators, and nothing suspicious about it.  However, the elevators did not go below first floor.  Then how did those people end up there, through the sewers just like us?  There had to be a way.  He checked the stairs, but they led down into a concrete wall with no apparent secret entrances.  Maybe someone’s office had a secret elevator?  Or how would one get downstairs?
“How would one get downstairs?”
“What do ya mean, downstairs, there is no downstairs here.”
“No basement?”
“Not for you, unless you have a special pass.  It’s only a storage area, so I don’t see why you’d want to go down there.”
“Just wondering.  Thanks!”  So there is a basement!  But where?
How silly, to be in such a place for no good reason, looking for a hidden basement.  What am I, a comic detective?  That was how he felt: with no plan, he was wandering aimlessly around a corporate building.  Yet, he had nothing to do otherwise, so why not?
Well, of course!  If there is a warehouse, then there must be loading and unloading!  He went outside and walked to the opposite side, looking for a garage door.  He found quite a few, all of which were locked.  Great!  Now what, I knock?  But he had to get in.  Maybe he would pick a lock?  But he’d never done it before.  Steal a truck and pretend to deliver something?  Too hard.  Examine the doors?  He looked closely at all the doors.  On one, he noticed a small gap between the door and the doorframe.  He looked closer and saw that the door was not bolted but closed by a simple latch.  He looked around.  No security cameras.  He took out a paperclip that he always carried around, bent it, and then pulled the latch.  It moved a little.  He rotated the paperclip and pulled a little harder.  With effort, he depressed the latch and opened the door.
Inside, he was overcome by a foul smell of oily rags and rotten food.  It was a typical dim warehouse with large crates resting on some large shelves.  In the end, there were doors leading to the business part of the building and to another room or the warehouse.  He was surprised that he did not see those doors, but he was more interested in what was below him.  Some doors, once again, were closed, others he opened only to find other rooms.
He remembered the approximate location of the sewers, and the distance he traveled rightward.  The stairs, however, were to the left, and, adding the distances, and reversing left and right, he walked approximately fifty yards to the right.
The only door he saw was old and rusty.  However, a nearby keypad attracted his attention.  It was a 10-digit pad, covered with oil and dirt.  He looked closer to find that some digits were cleaner than others.  “Brilliant!”  He pressed the first and heard a click.  The second did nothing.  He pressed the first one again and then the third, and after trying for a few times, he heard a very loud click.  The door was open.
It wasn’t nearly as rusty as it appeared.  In fact, it didn’t screech at all.  The floor was neat and clean.  He closed the door and proceeded downstairs.  It was so quiet that he could feel his heartbeat.  Near the end of the flight of stairs, he looked around the corner.  He was in the end of a long hallway with many doors and intersections.  He quietly walked from door to door, peeking inside.  Strangely, he did not see anyone.  It was quiet, except for the incessant buzzing of some machinery.  He went around the corner into another similar hallway, when suddenly he heard a door open.  He quickly jumped back and waited, crouching.  Quiet footsteps approached him.  He wanted to retreat or hide, but he could not do either one, as he was in a wide opening, hiding behind a corner.  The footsteps were slowing down and becoming quieter, pausing and planning an attack.  He saw a shape jump in front at him and look above his head.  He sprang up and clenched the other person’s wrists and pointed them upwards, using other arm to protect himself.  Thus they stood for a second, when the person sighed,
“Phew, it’s just you.”
“What do you mean, just me?”
“Well, you are not one of them.”
“Wait, I haven’t seen you before…  Who are you?”
“I’m…  Me.  But who are you and what is this place?”
“You don’t belong here.  How did you get in?  Do you work for them, huh?  Answer me or I’ll shoot you!”  Sam skillfully clenched the weapon of the guard and held it high above his head.  “O no!  Now you’re going to shoot me!”
“I am not going to shoot you!  Now could you please tell me…”
He was interrupted by a deep voice, saying, “What seems to be the problem here?  And who are you?”
“Nothing, Mr. Stanley,” mumbled the guard in a shaking voice.  “Nothing at all.”
“And who is he?”
“I don’t know, he just…”
“How did you get here?”
“Through the door,” replied Sam.
“How did you find the door?”
“I looked around…”
“Have I seen you before?”
“I really don’t know.”
“Do you know that you can get into serious trouble for being here?  Who sent you?”
“No one sent me.  I found this place by myself.”
“Long hours of researching…”
“Do you think things should be simple or complex?”
“Umm…  What do you mean?”
“Well, do you think the world is simple or complex?”
“It depends…”
“Well, just hear this: don’t ever confuse simple and complex.  Simple things should always be simple, and complicated things should always remain complicated.”
“You can’t work on them until you further understand them.  If you take a complex thing and make it simple, then you’ll miss most of it.  If you take a simple thing and turn it complex, then you’ll keep adding modifiers to fit it, and go crazy.”  He smiled.
“Go crazy?”
“Yep, and it all comes from my personal knowledge.”
“I see.  But tell me, why do you mention it?”
“Well, it all started from that class I went to.  And a bunch of people tried to turn something simple into something complex.”
“What’s the class, and what did they do?”
“Well, remember the lab we discovered?  That’s where the class is.  I found it!  I found the entrance.  And it led me down the stairs, and into a classroom.  The teacher was boring, but at the end I got to use the mind and muscle machine again.  I know that it can’t read my mind, it can only give me images.  But one thing that really got me was the fact that they turned something innocently easy, life energy, into the study of your anatomy.”
“Life energy?”
“Do you believe in it?”
“Well, is it simple or complex?”
“Simple, of course.”
“And they are confusing us.  There is something fishy about it.  But I’ll find out more really soon.  How have you been?”
“Okay…  School still gives me a whole load of homework.”
“And you like to be in the library.”
“It’s a really nice place to be.”
“I still don’t understand why you don’t like being at home.”
“Sometimes I just feel like going elsewhere…”
“Yeah, I don’t want to stay home for a long time now either, because I finish everything and have nothing to do.”
“You’re lucky.”
“Now, does everyone remember their assignments?”
“What assignments?”
“Oh, yes, Sam, I forgot to tell you last week.  The first assignment will be today.  We have a practice lab with some data on a computer.   The assignment is to copy that data onto a disk and bring it here.”
“What’s the point of it?”
“Well, for one thing, it will teach you about teamwork.  Also, ever heard anyone say that the best way to learn about computer security is by hacking?”
“Well, it’s like that.  We made an agreement with the company I mentioned the last time that they don’t call the police, and warn their security.  So, the time has been predetermined; but don’t take this assignment lightly.”
“It sounds really exciting.  So, what are the exact details?”
“They are all written…  Here.  But basically, this is the building; on the fourth floor there is a computer system, you need to access it and download the files from this directory onto a disk.  Return back here, and it’s the end of the assignment.”
“Okay…  So we all meet where?”
“Here, at 7.  Wear something dark.  Remember, it’s not like you are stealing, but it is a training zone.  I’ll explain the meaning of this assignment in more detail when you return.”
He tried to call her.  He wanted to call her and tell her about this strange assignment that he was about to receive.  He was always a master at noticing the slightest changes in everything he could observe.  And something didn’t make sense.
He always wanted to reconcile what was said with what was done.  And often, so often, the two complemented each other…  Yet, he could never ignore things hidden from the unaware eye.  He never understood why he had to look through everything so carefully; he had not known himself to be a perfectionist; but he still observed.
When he could not explain something, he turned to his friends for help.  Sometimes, they told him what to believe, sometimes—to listen to his heart.  However, he never based his judgments on opinions; and when there was a lack of facts, he stopped investigating until the need arose once again.
And now, he had to investigate two things.  One was his mysterious assignment.  The other was Chloe.
He wanted to turn to her and to tell her all his worries, because he knew that she, of all people, would understand him.  He was quite skilled at being alone, analyzing himself and telling himself that everything was going to be okay.  He was never afraid of showing his emotional side—only no one wanted to see it.  Then he met her…  But she was busy.
He would never ask her to talk to him rather than do what she was doing; that was his nature.  He tried to call her, but she was never home.  He left her messages and wrote her e-mails, but she seldom responded.  Her apartment was 3 minutes away from his; she barely had 3 minutes in a day to write a simple hello.
He was alone.  He had always been alone.  Only now, he was helpless against it.
He was walking down the cold street.  He was used to feeling his skin shiver as the wind blew into his face and hair.  However, today the air was different.  No matter how much he tried to hide his face from the chilly wind, he could always sense the smell, the smell that mysteriously brought him back into his childhood.  For the first time in so many years, he felt a strange nostalgia for the times he walked back from school.  The memory was as vivid as if he were still carrying a 6th-grade backpack and walking in the snow.  The sun had set a long time ago; the street was some distance away from the main road.  Cars and buses luxuriously rolled through between piles of dirty snow, random voices and laughter carried across the wind.  And far away, illuminated by infrequent streetlights, a boy was sliding on the ice and running into the humps of cold crunchy snow.  He would stop and pick up a handful of it and mold it into a ball, and throw it not far from where he was.  He was wearing brown boots and comfortable pants, and a warm jacket with moist mittens.  The mittens had frozen bits of ice on them and his fingers were freezing, but he didn’t care.  In fact, he could not think of anyone who cared.  As he was walking, he was foreseeing his future, his long excursions along beautiful lakes, through snowy mountains and sweltering deserts, admiring the beauty of untouched nature, and having no one to listen to him.  Now, he was walking to the classroom in the basement, about to receive a strange assignment.  And for the first time in many years, he realized that he felt exactly the same way.  He wanted to talk to her, to discuss his situation and to hear her opinion, to know about her life and to tell her about his…  But she was elsewhere.
He approached the building.  He was ready, ready to do what he was told.  He had a mission, which he did not know very well, because he did not really know the insides of the building.  On the fourth floor, he needed to hack a computer.  Well, not hack, but access.  He could do that.  He wanted to see what it would be like.  Besides, there was no risk involved, because the mission was just a practice one.  Still, he had an uneasy feeling about it, but he did not want to turn back; he continued walking into the underground classroom.
Half the people were already there; they were all waiting for the other half.  In the meanwhile, he decided to use the muscle and mind machines for the third time.  He turned both settings to the maximum level and relaxed, as his brain was flooded with images and cleared of all extraneous thoughts; and as his muscles were relaxed and fed godly energy.  When he was done—this time, it did not take very long—he found that the group was almost ready to leave.  He was quiet—he did not want anyone to know his thoughts.  He was willing to try; but he could not commit to something unknown.  Nor could he commit to something that he did not like.
They were ready.  They reviewed the plan, which, by now, almost made sense; and agreed to meet there in a half-hour.  He slowly walked towards the building.  They were divided into groups, each with a different mission.  His group’s was to take those files.  Others had to do something else, but he was never told what.  Fourth floor.  He talked to his group.  They were as confused as he was.  They decided to scour the building for hidden entrances, and regroup in 15 minutes.  He was alone.
He was walking along the wall and looked up.  There was an open window above, on the second floor.  It was difficult to reach.  He jumped on the ledge and looked around.  He could grab onto the curves of the building, but it was too risky.  He continued examining the place, and noticed that the windows were very narrow—small enough for him to jump and stick his legs to both sides of the cement pane.  With a little effort, his hands grabbed the window, and, opening it more and pulling his body up through the opening, he was able to drag himself inside.
He looked around what looked like an office.  A computer terminal, a chair, a desk with lots of papers, carelessly lying around; nothing attracted his attention.  He walked towards the door.  It wasn’t locked from the inside.  He twisted the handle and slowly opened it.  The second floor turned out to be the first floor for those entering from the other side of the building.  He went down the stairs, and noticed the first video camera.  It was located really close to a large climbable column; he climbed up, and unplugged a wire from the camera.  He went to a window and unlatched it, peeking outside to call his group.  They were already waiting for him, and so they were now climbing quietly through the window.
Getting to the fourth floor was a bigger challenge.  Although the stairs were opened to the first and second floors, all the other doors required a keycard, which no one from the group had.  They went to the roof; the roof was closed, and the entrance was guarded by an emergency alarm.  “What do we do now?”  No one knew.  Suddenly, Sam had an interesting idea.  He walked down to the second floor, and summoned an elevator.  All the above floors required similar keycards; however, he was more interested in the opening on the roof of the elevator cabin.  He twisted the handle, opening it, and climbed up.  Fourth floor.  He grabbed the cable and started climbing upwards.  His hands were hurt by the slippery metal of the cable; but he continued to climb.  On the fourth floor, he jumped to the thin ledge of the elevator doors.  One of the group members had a thin metal rod; as he tossed it, Sam caught it and used it to open the elevator doors.  Everyone followed.
As Sam looked around, he noticed another camera.  As it turned away from him, he ran and quickly unplugged its wire.  He recalled the diagram of the fourth floor that he saw earlier—he could not remember where he saw it; but as soon as he tried to remember it, he could see it vividly, like a déjà vu or a flashback from a cold nightmare.  He went along the long hallway and turned left.  He approached the computer room.  The main terminal was inside.  The door was locked.
Why is the door locked?  He stared at it with surprise.  Why could he not get in?  Why would he get in?  He was not supposed to be there; did anyone want to let him in?  Would things be better if he did get inside?  Would anything change?
And why was he in the building, anyway, following the orders of someone he did not even know?  But if not follow orders, then how will I come up with ways to live?  It’s either listen to others, or live autonomously; yet, have I the potential to do what I want to do?
Of course, I can do what I want to do, because I am the master of my life.  He examined the door.  He could not pick the lock—he did not know how.  He tried to slide the metal rod to unlatch the locking mechanism, but the gap was too narrow to do that.  Were there any other ways into the room?  He looked at the ceiling—standard removable tiles.  He put one foot on the doorknob, pushed off, and soon, lifting a tile, ended up in that narrow space between the fake and the real ceilings.  After crawling on his knees, he ended up above a large desk.  Removing a tile, he peeked down.  Another camera.  He crawled towards it and unplugged it from the back, not letting it ever see him.  He jumped down on the desk and tried to open the door, but it was locked from both sides.  He approached the computer terminal and turned it on.
He expected some unknown operating system to prompt him for the password, like computers did in all the movies.  Instead, it was his everyday, encrypted, password-protected, hackable system.  It required a password.  He took out his pocket-knife and got under the table.  He unscrewed the case in the back of the computer, took it off, and temporarily removed the battery.  (“How dusty!” was his first thought.)  After putting it back in and restarting the computer, the password was no longer required.  He took out a disk and inserted it into the drive.  Before any operating system could load, his program ran.  It allowed him to access the drive, decrypt it, and copy all files.  After finding the necessary files, he started copying.
He looked outside; most of his group was gone.  They must’ve ventured off somewhere, he thought, continuing to observe the copying.  Suddenly, he heard some ruffling noise outside.  He ran towards the windows, but still saw nothing.  He wanted to get out, but he had to wait for the disk.  “Come on!” he said loudly.  It was almost done.  He was looking at the screen, waiting for the “done” message to appear, the same message he saw thousands of times, the same message that just rushed into his brain and disappeared almost immediately.  He was used to seeing it every day for so many times, that he started ignoring it altogether.  Now, however, it was his signal to leave.  He removed the disk from the drive and turned off the computer and looked up to locate the source of the sudden cracking noise.  Someone was falling thought the ceiling!  The person landed gracefully and quickly turned around.  Sam saw something in the hands of the stranger and grabbed both wrists with his hands—the disk still in his right—and looked at the person’s face, his mouth agape.
They continued to stand in this awkward position, Sam and Chloe, staring into each other’s eyes.  No one dared to say anything; no one was willing to move.  The expression of both of their faces was that of surprised disbelief, relief, and slight shock.  Priceless time was slowly passing by.  Their first reaction was to be close, but there was an unknown force between them.  Something was not right.  They were on the opposite sides of the same canyon, with a thousand-foot drop between them.  They wanted to be together, but they could not, not at this place, not at this time.
“Hi,” he said in a low voice.
“Hi,” she replied, in a similar voice, with a hint of a smile.
“Life is so amazing,” said he, widening his smile.
“Yes, it is.”
“You’re here to get this disk I am holding, aren’t you?”
“You know me so well!”
“But I can’t let you have it.”
“Neither can I,” she replied, trying to reach it as he held it high above his head, his elbow bending.  “What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know.  What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know either, but you don’t have much time.”
“Do you need the disk, or do you just need to take it away from me?”
“Does it really matter?”
“It might.”
“You don’t need it either, do you?”
“Of course not.”  They never fought.  Aside from trying to grab each other’s arm—Sam usually succeeded—they made no progress to their situation.
“There is only one solution to this problem,” said Sam, as he turned around and broke the disk in half.  “Each of us gets a half of it.”
They both smiled.  Suddenly, a key was turning inside a keyhole.  Sam turned around and saw the opening door.  He jumped on his hands and landed on one foot—second still in the air, landing on the chest of intruder and pushing him away from the door.  He signaled “bye” to Chloe and darted off towards the stairs.  He somersaulted over the railing and ran down to the first floor, and ran outside.  After running for a while, he let himself slow down and walk.  He was still holding half of a disk in his right hand.  He put it in his pocket and started thinking.
Chloe was involved.  The mere thought of that completed the circle of mysteries, and intensified his disbelief.  Was it real?  How could it be real?  He could not believe it, for it was too strange, too coincidental…  Or was it?
He went home and sat at his computer, putting the broken half of the disk away to the pile of things he randomly chose to keep.  Everything finally made sense, but he was too tired to think of it.  He put on some relaxing music and felt his mind drift, thinking of some pleasant and exciting thoughts about the summer vacation, increasingly pleasant, random, and deep.  He was asleep.
He woke up in a few hours with a strange thought, “See me.”  “See me?” he said out loud.  He looked at his watch—it was almost midnight.  Who wants to see me?  He instantly remembered his adventure, and his encounter.  He wanted to see Chloe, and so, putting on a warm jacket, he headed outside.  The elevator rose to the 38th floor, and he stopped.  Should he go?
Would she want to see him?  He wanted to see her; he needed to talk to her.  His hand rose.  He was nervous.  What would he say?  What would she say?  His finger pressed the smooth white button of the doorbell.  The door opened.  She was standing on the porch, her expression as confused as his.  He walked towards her, and before she had a chance to follow her instinct and back up, their bodies locked together in a warm embrace.  Thus they stood, oblivious to everything around them.  Their cheeks rubbed, and he pressed his lips against her neck.  He felt her lips on his cheek, as they continued to slowly turn their heads, until their lips met and time froze in a passionate kiss.
They dropped down onto the couch.  Sam took Chloe’s hands in his, and sitting this closely to each other, they watched TV.  The movie that Chloe was watching was a funny comedy, and so they snuggled tightly and laughed together.  Neither of them was thinking about the events of the evening; instead, their attention was concentrated on their being together.  A strange change occurred in Sam’s mind.  He felt as if he were passing through a threshold, on the verge of a new phase of his life and his existence.  His arm was wrapped around Chloe’s shoulder; she filled his heart.  He was happy; and he knew that she was, too.
The movie ended.  They turned towards each other and looked into each other’s eyes.  They spoke, though it was unnecessary: they merely strengthened their belief of almost complete compatibility of thoughts.  Sam told Chloe about his assignment, and she told him about hers.  They talked about the organizations, and her long-lasting involvement in one of them.  He was surprised how deeply her assignments threaded her life; yet, this was what he could never comprehend, this was the missing link, the solution to all of the subtle puzzles that he noticed but could never solve.  He told her that; she just smiled.  He examined the expression on her face, every curve around her eyes and her mouth, her head, slightly turned downwards, her breaths and her sight.  He felt as if he could read everything—everything that she wanted him to know.
He extended his hands to feel a familiar barrier, the dark barrier that prevented him from knowing her before; and this time, it was gone.  She wore no mysterious smile that indicated hidden thoughts; she was concealing nothing from him.  This level of openness overwhelmed him; but he welcomed being so close to her.  He was happy, happier that he has been for a long time.  He was with her.  They were together.
It was late, but they did not want to go to sleep.  In fact, his parents trusted him as long as he told them where he was and how to reach him.  He wanted to stay, and there was no reason for him to leave.  He suddenly asked,
“Did you really need the disk, or did you need to prevent me from taking it?”
“It would be nice if we could have it; but the important thing was to not let your group learn the information on it.”
“What is on it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Want to find out?”
“Yea, but…  How?”
“Well, you could go back there again, decrypt the encrypted hard drive, and copy the files onto your system…  Or glue together the two halves of the disk…”  He was smiling.
“Did you keep your half?”
“Did you keep yours?”
“I asked you first.”
“You kept it, too.”  They both smiled.
“But how…?”  He grinned.  “You didn’t…  O no.”
“You told them that the only disk was destroyed.  And the guy who entered (did I hurt him too much?) was the witness.  I told them the same thing.  No one knows.”
“And no one will know.  Right?”  They looked at each other.
“How important to you is our friendship?”
“Why do you ask?”
“So that you know that I won’t tell anyone either.”  They continued to gaze at each other.  They smiled and hugged.
“So where is the disk?”
“In my pocket.  Here it is.”  He walked over to her computer and inserted it into the drive.  She moved a chair close to his, and watched as he quickly opened the files.  They were pictures and diagrams of high-power weapons and laser guidance systems.  Sample computer code showed algorithms for computing an intercept path for a parabolic trajectory.  Text files derived solutions to astrophysical equations about concentration of charge and its dispersions.  Blueprints illustrated dimensions of sample rocket-projected missiles, and the launching pads.  It was a big bunch of stuff.
“Wow.  What do you think of it all?”
“It’s a lot of weapons.”
“I am glad that I did not give this to anyone…  But…  Why?”
“Why what?”
“What is going on, anyway?  You can pretty much guess that they don’t tell us.”  She smiled.
“It’s a long story that I’ll have to tell you later; but basically, there are two organizations.  One wants to take control over everything.  That’s your group.”  They both smiled.  “I am in the second one, and we want to stop your group and protect the everything they want to control…  But without actually saying anything to anyone.  It’s kind of like being the unknown advisors, as opposed to incremental tyranny.”
“Yea.”  They smiled.
“How do your parents feel about my being here with you at 3 in the morning?”
“They trust me.”
“I like your parents.  They seem nice.”
“Well…  You know parents.”
“Of course.  Are you tired?”
“Yea…  Are you?”
“Yes.  I guess I should go now.”
“I guess so.”
“What do you mean you guess so?”
“Well, I am not kicking you out…”  He noticed a shade of red appear on her cheeks.
“Then, I’m staying.  If it’s okay with you.”
“It is, but I didn’t know you wanted to stay.”
“I’d feel so lonely at home…”
“Like I’d feel if you left right now.”  They both smiled.  Night was descending into their minds, and, too tired and sleepy to think, they only wanted to lie down and sleep.  She lay on the edge of her bed.  He lay on another edge, and took her hand in his.  They moved a little closer, hugged, and fell asleep, under a warm calming blanket.  Both of them were smiling in their peaceful slumber.
It was a sunny Sunday afternoon.  The air was calm and cool; the wind was gently rustling the curtains.  The eager sun, playing with the curtains, left dancing sunspots on the white and blue cover of the bed.  The weather was perfect, and the lightness of the day lifted the spirits.  Sam and Chloe, having had a delicious breakfast, were sitting together, examining in details the contents of the disk.  They already saw most of the secretive materials, weapon designs, human augmentation canisters, and nanoprobes; yesterday’s designs were nothing compared to those they uncovered today.  This overabundance of information was extremely valuable, and extremely dangerous, if it fell into the wrong hands.
“Can you please explain to me the whole ordeal?”
“What do you mean?”
“You must know more about these organizations than I do.”
“I do, but there isn’t that much known about yours.”
“Tell me all that you know.”
“Okay.  Your organization has been around for quite a while.  It’s called Majestic.  It had quite a few names, but Majestic seems to fit it the best now.  They feel superior to others: they are the elite, those who know and control the most covert aspects of governments and corporations.”
“Whoa.  Sounds crazy.”
“Yea, it was hard for me to believe as well…  But actually, if you think of it, it makes sense.”
“Wait…  I think I remember…  Let me think.  Majestic 12?”
“Yes, you heard of it?”
“No way!  I know they were here since the initial UFO landings.  I thought they would be gone by now, after all that’s happened…”
“So did everyone else, but they became even more secretive.  They are like the tip of the iceberg: people know they might exist, but no one knows exactly how prevalent they are in our everyday lives.”
“What are they trying to accomplish?”
“No one knows that.  Your branch, as we know, is used for recruiting purposes.  After that, the recruits run simple and advanced errands.  Our prediction is that they are trained to be servants of Majestic, advancing in ranks and nearing the top.  However, little is known of this.”
“It sounds cheesy.  Maybe I should explore a little more.  They certainly do have some secretive elements, however, why do they need it?”
“No one knows that either.”
“You know what?  Tuesday, what are you doing?”
“I know I’ll have homework.”
“I know I’ll be free, and I’ll try to go into the lab and find out more stuff about it.”
“Be careful!”
“Don’t worry, I will.”  They smiled and hugged cheerily.
Later in the day, they went strolling in the park.  Their careless chatter was tying the threads that waved through their souls.  Never was either of them nearly as happy with someone else.  They stopped in shops and stores, drank tasty refreshing beverages and slurped rich and sweet ice cream.  They were finally together, and they were not about to give each other up.  They walked foot in foot, their arms around each other’s waists.  The destination did not matter to them; what mattered was the overarching happiness and joy.
The sun was sinking into the horizon, and it was time for them to part.  They didn’t want to; but on the other hand, they lived so close that they could see each other any time they wanted.  They hugged, and kissed, and went their separate ways.  He jogged up to his apartment and lay down on the bed, smiling, as the warmth of his room filled his body.  He has finally discovered true happiness; and he wanted nothing more.  A familiar chime woke him up from his dreams.  His computer informed him of a message he received.  He walked closer and sat down, quickly reaching the text of the message.  As he glanced over it, a shiver ran down his back and his shoulder blades.  It was a warning, a threat.  It was written in a cold and an unwelcoming tone that he, once again, should desist of all further activities that involved the organizations.  He called Chloe and told her about it.  She was also confused about it, but suggested him to dismiss it.  He tried to check the IP address of the message, but realized that the way it was sent, it had no return address.  He only knew that someone continued to watch him.
The next day was quite uneventful.  He sat through his classes, understanding everything but barely learning anything new.  He went home and relaxed, took a nap, did homework, watched TV (which he has not done for a long time), and went to sleep after reading an interesting fairy tale.  As he was reading it, he remembered the warm days of his childhood, and smiled.  Fe felt nostalgic for the times when everything was simple, where he did not have to sacrifice his effort to accomplish something.  Then life became harder, and more challenging, and he welcomed that change as well.  Finally, as his mind settled in this world, he picked the things he liked and did not like; but the things he liked were too easy, and the things he disliked were too tedious.  And now, he was without direction, without a goal for the future.  He was lost, lost expecting a change to wake him up from his slumber.  In truth, he was simply enjoying his easy conditions of living.
First part of the following day was just as uneventful.  He went through classes and did his work early.  After getting home, he rested until the darkness descended upon the windy city, and called Chloe.  Since she was not home, he sat at his computer and typed a message.  He felt a bit displaced, and also excited.  The warmth of the weather cheered him up; the red sunset gave him hope.  He started typing.
“Dear Chloe,
“I am going ‘researching’ (as you always are) to the facility.  I will remember to be careful, as you asked me earlier.  And I also want you to know, in a more general sense, that no matter what happens, I will always come back to you.  It has to do with a thought that I had lately, and it’s been there quite frequently.  I feel in control over certain aspects of life.  For example, I can sometimes predict how events will put themselves in a sequence, how people will act, what options I will have.  And I know that I will always be able to return, or to break loose, from all the chains that might surround me at the moment.  I don’t know whether you feel the same, but it is a good and light feeling.
“Also, please know that I enjoyg being with you and that it makes me happy, and also that I want to see you after I find everything out.  So be ready tomorrow.
He pressed the send button, and the message was decoded into binary ones and zeroes and delivered almost instantly, using a few packets over TCP/IP, over the high-speed network.  There it was received by Chloe’s computer, which immediately responded to its server (she did not wish to run her own), asking it that the blob of binary trues and falses be erased from it, for it was delivered safely and verified using the 128-bit checksum.  A small icon in the corner of the screen flashed three times, not having anyone in the room to notice it.  He looked around and searched for things he might have forgotten, and headed outside.
He was briskly walking to the base.  The plan was fresh is his mind.  To avoid any encounters, he would enter through the sewers.  The passcodes were stored in his memory.  He would hack into the system and retrieve as much information as possible, and leave, possibly copying some files.  He remembered the floor plan, and even the possible hiding places.  He approached the drainage, opened the grating, and descended downwards.  He reached the familiar pad and entered two sequences, which still worked.  Frankly, he was a bit surprised, because he expected the codes to change by then, but the door opened and he crawled through the air duct.  He reached the door and unlatched in, and quietly jumped down on the floor.  He was inside.
He went towards the doors and turned left, and approached the room where Chloe was the last time they were down there.  There was no one in the room.  He sat at a computer and started typing.  The terminal was very easy to get into; and soon, he was accessing all the hidden files and documents.  To his disappointment, most of the documents described the actions of this office.  It recruited the potential “agents,” and trained them to work for Majestic.  Only references revealed some information about the higher level.  He learned that higher-ranked agents control the activities of certain small organizations.  Only by extrapolation, could he see how, by adding the effort, did they manufacture anything they wanted to.  The network of connections allowed all imported parts to be combined locally.
“So they needed the disk to distribute the production and merge it all together later.”
“That’s right!” announced a familiar voice.  Sam quickly turned around.  “You figured it all out, on the lowest level, of course.  I presume that you did manage to sneak the disk out after all.  Don’t worry, the information on it is almost worthless to us.
“To make an analogy,” Mr. Stanley continued, “think of an internship.  It is doubtable that any student alone can make a discovery; however, their assignments are necessary for training, and minimal beneficial effects.  They usually research a small, almost disposable, part of the problem.  The professor, instead of hiring lab assistants, gets the same results, and a trained student, who will contribute to the field later.  It is a well thought-out plan.”
“But you’re not researching anything.  You are controlling the society.”
“I am not, and neither are you; nor does this facility.  To tell you the truth, you know much more than all those who work here.  They know about a branch, their branch, that executes.”
“Then what do higher branches do?”
“It is not up to us to know.  The more you know, the more powerful, and therefore dangerous, you become.  Tell me, Sam, how much do you want to know?  Join us, for good, and you’ll have it all.  You have the potential.  No one here has been able to experience three doses of mental and physical enhancements, and have results as high as yours.  When those machines were created, the highest setting was half of what it is now.  As you might have guessed already, I was monitoring your progress ever since you discovered the discrepancy in PI.  When you were about to visit us for the first time, I intentionally amplified the machine.  Of course, I was not expecting your friend Chloe to use it, but, as you can tell, it barely had any effect on her.”
“Was there any damage?”
“Damage?  Of course not, it only refreshes memory and implants a new one, while scanning the old.”
“So you know all my thoughts?”
“Your mind, Sam, is unique.  The simple thoughts are usually conversations and words, sometimes pictures.  Yours consists of movies and concepts.  While movies are easy and boring to review, trying to understand a concept is like reading a binary file-you’ve tried that before.”
“What about her mind?”
“Her mind accepted only what she wanted to know.  Yours accepted almost all that there was.  And because you are wondering about her thoughts, there is nothing valuable that we sought in her.
“I know you still do not understand.  Be one of us, Sam, and you will.”
“What if I won’t be?”
“It’s a chance of a lifetime.  Why will you give it away?”
“Why would I want to resort to terrorism and warfare as the solution to world’s problems?”
“Terrorism?  Hardly!  We threaten certain corporations into giving us supplies and other resources, but that’s about it.”
“But to what end?  Suppose you have it all…”
“We do have it all.  Remember the site you visited that…”  He chuckled.  “That erased your records from every legal authority in the world?  You say control, you say power, no, that’s not what we are after.”
“Then…  What?”
“Societies.  Modern societies are crumbling to pieces.  With the influx of technology, humans are eliminated from the picture.  Life as we know it is crumbling to pieces; there needs to be someone to set things straight.”
“And Majestic is doing that, with the help of technology, in exchange for what?”
“Occasional services, but mostly the feeling of power.  They think they control us—and to an extent, they will.  But we’re nothing to them; that’s why they are ‘taking care’ of us.  Join us, share with us this power.”
“I can never be at peace with myself knowing that I promote tyranny over the whole world.”
“Are you rejecting us?”
“It is quite unfortunate, and ironic in some way.  To follow the examples of great classics of literature, to gain instantaneous conscience, to spend your life rightly, and to wait for a single moment!…  ‘Readiness is all!’ claims Hamlet.  But is he right?  Can one live for a single moment of enlightenment?”
“No, and that is where the Eastern beliefs come into play.”
“Exactly!  You are a brilliant fellow!  There is a life after enlightenment, here on earth, when you apply your knowledge and bring change to the world.  That is what we do, and, unfortunately, that is not what you will be able to do.”
“I will tell you what you want to know.  But since you already know too much, you pose a threat.  We can’t allow that.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Nothing at all.  Remember, you already exist only in memories of those who love you.  You saved us the trouble of erasing your identity, digging your own grave.  We don’t kill, it’s too brutal, too inelegant.  We believe in letting you control your own future.”
“So you’ll let me go?”
“Yes.  But before you do, here is the explanation you’ve been waiting for.
“As you know, Majestic 12 was established as a government organization to protect all the evidence of alien activity.  It later became an independent organization, but its secrecy remained.  We began experimenting, first with alien life forms, then trying to communicate with them.  After a long time of deciphering their brain waves, and they—ours, we understood that they would make us their trade partners.  They would provide us with technology, and we would manufacture it for them.  We were once exposed, but luckily, stories were so twisted that people started thinking that we do bioengineering modifications.  People are stupid; people are sheep who want to be controlled!  If we inspire them with fear, they will do what we tell them to do.  We tried that, once, but later realized that it is much easier to make them do things for us, without their knowing it.  And so, they live their everyday life, and work for us.”
“Doesn’t anyone know?”
“Barely.  Your friend’s organization does, but it poses no thread to us.  We can shut them up in a matter of days.”
“But to what end?”
“We control to illuminate this society.  When we point them in the right way, they will understand what it is all about.  There will be no murders, no disobediences—everyone will know what to do, and how to do it.  It’s a simple idea, but it can only work on a global level.”
Sam was sitting on the chair and pondering all that he’s just learned.  “It all makes sense.”
“I am glad I was informative.  Now, it’s time for you to leave.  Follow me.”  Sam stood up and walked towards the door.  Mr. Stanley walked into a small room that reminded Sam of a sterilization chamber.  However, as Mr. Stanley proceeded to the next room, all the doors suddenly closed, leaving Sam trapped inside.
“Hey!” he yelled loudly.
“Don’t worry, this is necessary,” replied Mr. Stanley, and pressed a few buttons.  The scanning machines turned on, and blue light covered Sam’s body.  As he squinted, he felt that he didn’t want to open his eyes any more.  He was fast asleep, as his body dropped to the floor.  He could barely hear the voices of those carrying him.  The workers strapped him to the chair, and set the correct helmet mode.  He could no longer hear someone’s voice, saying, “Make sure he stays here for a while.”

Part III: The Screen Behind The Mirror

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