The Gravity Of Love
He was somehow carried outside and dumped inside a car.
He collapsed, barely able to move. They were driving through some unknown
terrain. He did not know the driver, who was going swiftly through the fields
of the inter-city road. He was lying on the back seat of the car. He pulled
himself up and sat in the middle. It felt awkward. His atrophied muscles
barely let him move, but he struggled upwards, against the pain. He was a
little kid in the backseat of a car, on a long road trip. He was curiously
observing their facial expressions, trying to understand why they were not
willing to speak. The cold air was saturated with silence. He felt odd and
alienated. It took him two seconds of looking into Chloe’s eyes to tell that
something had changed. He was an intruder. He wanted to leave them alone.
They drove. He perceived the nearing of the city, the
familiar wall formed by gigantic buildings and other structures. They drove to
his building. He opened the door and leaned on Chloe’s shoulder as she helped
him walk to the elevator and up into his apartment into his room. They smiled
at each other as he cuddled a pillow and drifted into a deep slumber.
He woke up in the middle of the night. He’s had his
eight-hour share of Adventures in Dreamland; he’d had, by his approximation,
three more weeks of traveling done in his head. He was tired. He wanted to
stick to reality for a while.
He turned on his computer. It was 5 am. He entered his
password and logged in.
The icons were different. He checked the system logs.
Someone had turned it on while he was gone. He searched for files that were
modified on that day. A list came up. The list consisted of most of his
personal files, including his encrypted directory. Also in the list was the
program used to encrypt and decrypt this directory. But they didn’t know his
password. They read his poems and his stories and his essays. They read the
source code to all of his programs, except the encryption software. (The
source code was encrypted as well.)
But what were they looking for?
He did not have any valuable information. Of course, he
had the disk he stole from the training mission, but they certainly weren’t
after it. Maybe they hoped to find his location? Or whether he’d been working
for Majestic after all? He suddenly remembered the results of his own
research. In his spare time he tried to hack some Majestic servers, but the
information he uncovered—production of resources in underdeveloped
countries—has never made any sense. So they didn’t find anything—he never told
anyone—but he wondered if they left any clues. He didn’t find any.
Except for one. The logs indicated that the computer was
turned on. Once. The person who turned it on knew the startup password.
It was Chloe.
He did not know what he was up against, but he knew that
his body was in no shape to do anything. He wanted exercise. He put on his
running shoes, grabbed his keys, and went outside.
Harsh freezing wind was chilling all of Sam’s insides. He
was wearing only a t-shirt and a pair of shorts, and he quickly realized that
this outfit was inadequate for such cold weather. He was disappointed to
discover that he had lost his tolerance for cold weather, but he knew that he
would quickly regain it by enjoying a filling breakfast.
He ran. It was too cold to walk; he was too weak to
sprint. He ran, slowly at first, regaining confidence with every successful
step. He was passing the few pedestrians who were awake at this early hour; he
spotted a familiar tunnel and headed inside, expecting to see a familiar face.
However, he saw no one, partly because it was a very narrow tunnel, too narrow
for two people to pass each other comfortably. He ran outside with a slight
feeling of regret, stopped, and started stretching, remembering the familiar
pain of sore muscles. It didn’t take him long to realize that the effects of
the muscle enhancer had completely disappeared: although he could still run, he
was nowhere as strong or as fast as he was a month ago. However, he was still
happy that he could run at all. He was happy to be alive.
His workout did not last very long. After about forty
minutes of jogging and stretching, he returned to his apartment to find his
family waking up. He took a shower and breakfasted with them. He felt strange
being welcomed back by them. For them, he had been away and missing; however, in
his mind, he did not even remember their existence. He was glad to be back, to
be cared about (a feeling he hadn’t felt for too long of a time), to be
interrogated about his absence; but the feeling was a bit too overwhelming.
Furthermore, he knew it would pass.
As usual, it was Saturday, the beginning of the weekend.
He had two days to get back into shape before he could present himself to the
outside world. He did not care for his impressions, it was more of an
individual battle. So many battles to win, so little time... He was tired of
it all, too tired. Why did he always have to deal with other things, and why
was there never anyone at his side?
Well, she was there before. He turned on his favourite
music (which he had missed) and sat on his bed, thinking. He thought about
Chloe. He did not know how, but he knew that something was different. He could
not feel her as well as before. He thought about himself. Something had changed.
Of course, a part of it was that the past three weeks he spent on a hospital
bed in a remote location, hooked up to an IV and a brain scanner, but the sheer
fact that he had overpowered all the images presented to him...
He knew perfectly well the plans of Majestic. Through a
religious conversion, using this unreal voice
, they made everyone decide
that in the perpetual battle between self and outside world, one cannot survive
alone. Looking back at it, he saw every trick that they tried to play on him,
in his mind, trying to make him believe that it would be his own decision to
succumb to the easy way out and to be Majestic’s servant.
But what about everything else? He felt like he was woken
up from a dream by a telephone ring: after he’s woken up, in the brief two
seconds that his audio memory stored the sound, he could review it to conclude
that he was awake before it rung, even though he wasn’t. However, he had seen
Chloe before she entered his room; and he knew that he wasn’t making it up
because... Maybe he was. He wasn’t sure. He had a list of things to do. He
sighed. He felt incredibly alone. He could turn to no one until he accepted
himself. He needed a plan. He grabbed a piece of paper and started writing.
What bothered him most? He had to talk to Chloe. He had to catch up on his
school work. (They made sure to reverse the effects of the brain-enhancer, but
fortunately, he managed to copy all the necessary information into his
long-term memory. He was already practicing remembering and noticing, for he
knew it would be of a great importance later.) He also had to redefine
himself. No, not redefine, but figure out what to do with what had happened in
his mind. There were a lot of things to sort out. He was getting himself
She wasn’t home. But that didn’t surprise him either.
Nothing did, anymore. What was he anyway, a veteran of the Hundred Years War?
He wanted to be a normal human being. Well, there we go again, with who I
want to be, or more importantly, what I want to do. I already know that; the
question is, where am I going to get enough energy to do it all and remain
That he could not answer, but it was not important. Majestic...
What does Majestic do? Mr. Stanley didn’t know either... Mr. Stanley, how
come he isn’t listed in the all-encompassing directory? All the recruits are.
Come on, think.
“No. I don’t want to think. I’m
tired.” He hopped on his bike and rode off to the library.
He walked around the library with two search objects in
mind. Of course Chloe, the first one, wasn’t there; but he was willing to bet
on that beforehand. He walked to the reference section and sat at the
computer, examining the catalogues and scribbling down the numbers of different
books he found. There were more than the last time—but he knew that most of
them would not give him the information that he needed. He needed maps,
charts, and tables. He headed over to fetch his first book, out of list of
20. Luckily, he brought a pen and enough disposable scratch paper—that was all
that he needed. That, and a lot of time.
He was accountant. Sulfuric acid was used for
everything—it was the most produced chemical on the planet. However, according
to his calculations, after spending hours writing out his own charts, and
allowing for up to 50% error, more of it was produced than consumed. It would
make sense only if every person in every country agreed to store a pint of acid
in their medicine cabinets, but he knew that it was not true. (Or had he been
gone for that long?) Something was being done to it.
He knew, of course, that as a chemical weapon, not many
things would top souring all of a country’s rivers, but he doubted that the
consumers were interested in pouring their purchases in the sink. Who were the
purchasers, anyway? He grabbed more chemical books. He wrote down a list of
most major production plants (and their locations), and tried to investigate
who needed this 18-molar substance. Fertilizers. More than 60% claimed to go
to fertilizers. But by the amount of fertilizers produced, and the amount of
acid required, there were leftovers. They had mysteriously disappeared. So
who collected these leftovers, a million tons a year? And why would Majestic
need all of it?
He was standing outside of the library, having taken the
same exit that he and Chloe used, when it all began. Strong wind was blowing
in his face. It was cool, not cold, and dry, but friendly. It penetrated
through Sam’s shirt and made him shiver slightly, but as he closed his eyes and
took a deep break, millions of thoughts ran in his head. He was free, filled
with even more freedom than in Tibet—where his imagination created most of his
surroundings. He was happy, truly happy, to be alive, to have survived, to
have lived to see this beautiful orange sunset, to see the soft and fuzzy pink
clouds cluster above the setting sun, to breathe fresh, untainted air. He
closed his eyes and stood, in place, slowly becoming aware of his real
surroundings (knowing that everything was real has never felt any better),
trying to restrain himself from laughing and screaming from the bottom of his
lungs and running in circles and dancing like a maniac. Luckily, no was around
to see him anyway, so with a happy smile, he got on his bike towards the city.
“All right, everyone. Let’s start.” The noise quickly
diminished. “We have some very good news. As most of you know, Sam is back.”
Loud murmur traveled across the room. “Yes. Shawn and Chloe recovered him
yesterday, and now he’s back home, resting up. For the past God knows how
long, he’s been under the influence of an apparatus that has been controlling
his mind. Of course, only he can tell us what they have been doing to him, but
that’s for after he recovers. However, the fact that he was there tells us
which list of locations is which. Obviously, acid wasn’t produced there; so it
must be produced everywhere else. That doesn’t give us much, but at least we
know what we would possibly have to monitor to identify what they do with it.
Anyone have any ideas?”
General conversations pursued. The raucous overpowered
the silent opening and closing of the back door. Sam sat in the shade and
listened to everyone’s conversation. Many ideas and theories arose, as this was
a place to discuss. There were no rules, but everyone knew to cooperate and
“Since we don’t know the extent of their technology,” said
the guy with black hair and glasses, “we don’t know if they are able to
manufacture sulfur on their planet. They probably need it to stabilize their
climate, or make weapons, or something.”
“So you suggest that they transport it to where they
live?” asked a girl with blond hair.
“They have to, because where would the acid go otherwise?”
“Maybe that’s their way of making water, to mix acid with
“I don’t think speculations will help much,” said the man
with the beard. “So far, everyone would agree with me that it’s more plausible
for them to export it and use it. Now I don’t know what they use it for, nor
do I care; but I must say that to export that much liquid would require a load
of cargo ships and launch pads. I think we should concentrate on finding
“I think that’s a good idea, too,” said the guy with blond
“I don’t think you’ll find much.” Everyone turned
around. “Since they don’t actually export any of it.” Confusion, surprise,
and disbelief ran over everyone’s face. Almost immediately, everyone stoop up,
started screaming, and ran towards Sam, offering him a hug or a handshake.
Statements like “It’s you! You’re back!” and questions like “Is that really you?”
were reverberating across the room. “Yes, it’s me, I’m real,” he smiled. More
noisy questions followed. After ten minutes of interrogation, someone finally
asked, “Why did you say that they don’t export it?”
“Their atmosphere is acidic. They need the acid to make
their home more hospitable.”
“They live underground. There are, as you know, two sorts
of places. The first produces acid, and the second is their home.”
“How… How long have they been living there?”
“Not very long, only one or two centuries.”
“How do you know all this?”
“I just do.”
Having been silent before, Shawn suddenly said, “Out of
curiosity, how would we be sure that you’re on our side?”
“You won’t be. I could be free from their grasp, or I could
still be controlled by them and just pretend to work with you against them. It
would be a clever strategy for them to implement, wouldn’t it?” He grinned. “For
myself, I don’t like to take sides.”
“However, they have no interest in you, as long as you
don’t pose any threat to them, which you seldom do. As you already know, they
control a large chunk of this society. They have branches, one of them
recruits new forces, another supplies them with a subterranean home. They
mostly seek control, because if they were a peaceful race, well, then they
wouldn’t mess with Earth. It’s hard to tell whether what they are doing is
good or bad: they have stimulated the economy and increased the welfare of many
counties, but they are using up Earth’s resources. Good? Bad? Remember, I
don’t take sides.”
More conversations followed. As soon as he stopped being
the center of attention, Sam turned around and silently walked towards the
door. Realizing that no one was watching him, he slipped out and proceeded
towards his bike. A minute later, Chloe ran out and approached him.
“You didn’t even say bye to me.”
“You were busy, and I’m tired.”
“Are you okay?”
“I’m getting there. I still have a lot to do, a lot to
catch up on… Are you okay?”
“Sam… Things have been very hard, and while every day I
believed that you would make it and did everything I that could to find you…
It’s hard for me to finally accept you. I mean, you’re here, but… You know
what I mean. You’re not any less important, but you have to give me time to
get used to you again.”
“Thank you. I appreciate what you did for me.” She
smiled. He approached her and they hugged.
“Don’t you dare do anything like that to me ever again!”
“I won’t, I promise. Now go, he’s waiting. Never mind
how I know.”
She smiled, “Thank you, Sam.”
“I’ll see you.”
“Bye.” He hopped on his bike and swiftly rode home,
covered by the shadows of the night.
“Of course, I haven’t been entirely honest with them. But
I’d never tell them that they’re here to take over. They almost have enough
resources for a covert war, and that’s what they need.”
“Yes. Since they are controlling pretty much everything,
humanity really doesn’t stand a chance against them.”
“How do you know all this, may I ask?”
“I need to tell you something. You’re my best friend, and
I can tell you everything. After being in that place, I am somehow better at
everything. Remember the brain and muscle machines?”
“The effect of those wore off because I didn’t move for
three weeks. But now, there’s something new. I can’t really explain it, but I
can do things, and I know things… Everything just makes sense to me.”
“Well, that’s great, no matter how it happened.”
“I’ve been doubting it, but it’s true. I’m weak, I tried
running and it’s hard.”
“But… You know that I like to punch through newspapers,
“Yes, you weirdo.”
“I can do it with the whole newspaper, all at once.”
“And I know that I can’t physically do it… But yet,
somehow, I do. It’s the same with everything. I can do the things that I
seemingly can’t. I guess that’s how I was able to survive that 3-week
“I think it’s pretty cool. You’ll need to show me these
tricks, though. We should hang out and do something.”
“Yes, we should. When are you free?”
He rubbed his eyes and sighed. He was tired. He was
working hard to catch up with all the work that he missed, and he was almost
finished. At the same time, he was trying to find out more about what Majestic
was trying to do, leaving it up to himself to fill in the gaps between the
facts. It was working surprisingly well, the fact that he did not quite
understand, but as long as it worked, he was happy.
Actually, that wasn’t true. He understood it, but at the
same time he didn’t. When he tried to understand it, he would very quickly get
overwhelmed; and it was only his drive to know that made him want to meditate
and overwhelm himself even more. He was scared. He didn’t know what was
happening; he didn’t know whom to trust. He stuck to what he knew best: daily
routines. He was diligent in school and paid attention in class and did
homework and his chores; but outside of class, he was but a lost soul. Lost
His efforts were paying off. It was now much easier for
him to meditate and to feel his own energy; he was even beginning to believe
that he could somehow control it. But when he was trying to, he failed; he
quickly remembered that the trick to succeeding was to skip the trying step,
and he did. He would randomly predict what was about to happen and act
accordingly. The most, he liked his strength. The first thing he noticed was
that he could punch through a newspaper. He started lifting weights and noticed
that when he relaxed, he could lift 25, then 30, 35, 40, 50 pounds with each
hand. When he tried doing it without relaxing, he would nearly fall. He was
confused, and scared, and excited every time he discovered that he could do
He quickly realized that he could only share with one
person. Having weights and unused newspapers in the privacy of his own home,
no one else needed to know. He was aware of all surveillance; he patched his
computer to disallow any port scanning; he browsed the internet through a
series or proxies, and overall, he made the access to his computer virtually
impossible. Only one person knew of these changes; and for now, things were
not going to change.
It took him some time to make that decision. He was debating
whether to tell Chloe or not. He wanted to let her know because she was
important to him, but he was afraid that either she would misunderstand him, or
not care enough. From the moment he woke up, he realized that things have
changed: they have become strangers, friends of the past but not of the
present. She was also dating Shawn, the guy he did not trust one bit. There
was something wrong with her; but was having a hard time telling her that. Besides,
“Hey Chloe, what’s changed?” was not the question he wanted to ask. And still,
before he could do anything, he needed to take care of himself.
He had a strange dream one night. Chloe drove to another
house, and he rode his bike to there. All the time, he was under the
impression that she was at her grandparents’; but it turned out that Shawn was
there but her grandparents weren’t. He was getting confused, but then Chloe
told him that she would call him in the evening. He rode his bike home and
ended up in another city looking for a job. He couldn’t speak the language,
but he could understand what was said to him. He got a job and headed home,
but suddenly he remembered that Chloe was going to call him. He waited by the
phone, and then he woke up. In the morning, he was amused by the dream, and he
told Chloe about it, but she wasn’t as amused as confused.
But then he realized that she hadn’t been returning his
phone calls. He’d even forgotten that he called, because he no longer expected
to talk to her; that number has turned into a pure message box. That is why he
didn’t expect her to pick up the phone when he called later in the evening.
“Oh, hi, Sam.”
“I’m surprised that you picked up, you’re out so much.”
“Yea, I know, I’ve been busy lately.”
“Are you busy now?”
“No, not really. How are you?”
“Still recuperating. Doing better now. How about you?”
“I’m all right. I went to my grandparents’ house today.”
Chills ran all over Sam’s body. “Oh? How was it?” he
said, hiding his disbelief.
“It was… Nice…” Her voice trailed off.
“Would you like to hang out tonight?”
“I don’t know, I want to, because I haven’t spent much
time with you recently and I feel like I should, but I also have some homework
to do that I don’t really want to do.”
“Hey, did I tell you about my dream this morning?”
“No, what was it about?”
“How about I tell you on the way to the theater? How
about watching a movie?”
“Okay, I guess I’ll go, but I can’t stay out too late.”
“Great, I’ll see you soon.”
Chills were still running all over his body. His mouth
had only begun to close, so difficult it was for him to believe what he just
heard. But he instantly knew what was going on, and what he needed to do. He
could only imagine what would happen next, but he wasn’t worried about the future
too much. He was prepared.
His readiness was derived from countless hours that he
dedicated to research. He was back for three weeks now. It only took him a
week to gather all the information about sulfuric acid and the spots on the
map. It only took him a week to also catch up with all of his classes. The
other two weeks were dedicated almost entirely to training and hacking. It
wasn’t even training for strength; it came naturally to him as long as he could
control his mind. He was training his concentration and his calmness and his
relaxation. It also helped him hack. And it was hacking that let him know
what was about to happen.
He came over to her apartment shortly before seven. She
took her time to get ready, and they left, pacing themselves in order to get to
the theater on time. They didn’t talk much the whole way, he tried to start a
conversation but she was mostly inside her world. He suddenly interrupted her
“Isn’t it such a coincidence that this underground Majestic
lab is right on the way to the theater?”
“Remember the first time we climbed down that sewer?”
“It’s funny how much things change, isn’t it?”
“Yea, it is.”
“Why are you not like yourself?”
“You’ve changed a lot, Chloe. You’re a different person
from two months ago. People don’t change so quickly.”
“Maybe some do, I don’t know. Why do you ask?” Sam was
standing on the right of her.
“It’s okay, but don’t act so weird.” He had his hands in
the pockets of his jacked. He knew she wouldn’t find it suspicious that he
wore a jacket, even though he never wore jackets.
“I would still like to apologize.”
“For what?” He took out his hand from his pocket and put a
cloth drenched in chloroform to her mouth. Surprised, she inhaled, and fell
unconscious into his arms. He had made sure that they were well-concealed by
the shadows, so now he effortlessly picked her up and placed her on his
shoulders. He then proceeded to the back of the building next to them.
Picking the lock took no time, as he’d practiced it dozens of times by now. He
opened the rusty door (he’d memorized the access code long ago) and headed down
the stairs. He turned left and placed Chloe into a chair, strapping the helmet
onto her head. Next, he turned on the brain scanner and tweaked various
settings. Everything worked just as he expected it to. It was too easy.
Something was about to happen.
“Wh… Where am I?” he turn around and saw Chloe wake up
from her uneasy dream.
“How did I get here?”
“I had to render you unconscious and carry you here.”
“What? How could you? And I thought—”
“Do you remember what happened three weeks ago?” he
“Yea, I… Wait a minute… Oh my God!”
Sam was still happily tapping away on the laptop that was attached
to the scanner. “Aha!” he finally exclaimed.
“Well, this laptop stores a history of the machine’s usage.
Does the number 84571722 ring a bell?”
At the sound of his words, Chloe winced and clenched her
head. “What is happening?”
“Put the helmet on.” She looked at him with mistrust.
“Chloe, please. I’m not the one who’s changed.” Reluctantly, she complied.
He tapped a few keys and pressed a button on the panel. After a minute of
buzzing, all the noise ceased. Sam turned the machine off.
“So here’s the deal,” he began. “As you very well realize
by now, you’ve been brainwashed. Whenever you saw or heard the number 84571722,
you would forget all that’s happened and only remember what they want you to
remember. I removed it.”
“But who did that?”
“Whoever was closest to you. Shawn.”
“But Shawn is my friend; he wouldn’t’ve done something
“Chloe, I did what I had to do. I’m not going to make you
hate him. If you’re happy with him, go ahead. However, your decision must
come from you, and not the electrodes sending electric shocks into your brain.”
“Why do you say that he did it?” she yelled. “What do you
have against him?”
“That’s a different matter.”
“No it’s not. I don’t know what you’re trying to do, but
you’re the one who’s changed.”
“You want to know what I have against him?”
I have against you, Shawn? Oh come on, I
know you’ve been listening to us.” Shawn stepped out from behind the door.
“Chloe, are you all right?” asked Shawn.
“Someone please explain what’s happening?” complained
Chloe, standing up from the chair.
“I must say,” said Sam in a respectful tone, “that this
was a brilliant plan. I would tell her everything, and she would relay the
information to you.”
“You think too highly of yourself, Samuel. Don’t listen
to him, Chloe.”
“I’m sorry, Shawn, I’d rather not get into the drama of
this.” He turned to Chloe. “Shawn is a spy, he works for Majestic, he is
“What?” said Chloe in disbelief. “Are you really?” she asked
as she turned to Shawn.
“No, he’s making it up!” replied Shawn.
“I don’t care if you listen to me or not,” said Sam
coldly. “While asleep, I realized that I wasn’t doing any of this for you.
And I’m not. But as for you,” he turned to Shawn, “we’re not finished.”
“And what are you going to do, Mr. Freeman,” said Mr.
Stanley as he slowly walked into the room. “What can you do? You can hack.
You’re too weak to fight, and Shawn over here has had a double doze of the
muscle trainer, just like you.”
“How impressive,” replied Sam in contempt.
“Well, even if you do manage to get out of here alive,
which is already debatable, what are
you going to do?”
“I have my plans.”
“You have nothing. You could’ve had everything, but you
let your pride stand in your way. You made the same mistake now that you did
before. Don’t think it won’t cost you this time.”
“Only this time, I’m ready.”
“Ready for what?” taunted Shawn. “To be beaten?”
“I’d love to see you try.” Shawn took a swing with his
right arm. Sam grabbed his arm, twisted 360 degrees clockwise, kicked Shawn in
the knees and pushed him down on the ground. Surprised, Shawn quickly jumped
up and somersaulted on top of Sam’s chest. Sam fell backwards on the ground, kicked
Shawn’s legs apart, pushed his feet upward and kicked Shawn in the back of his
neck. Shawn tipped over, and Sam quickly got up. “You’re finished!” yelled Shawn
and lunged himself at Sam. Sam was anticipating this move. He knew it, he knew
he himself would use it in this situation. He thought of the newspapers. He
relaxed. Even before he got up, he was readying himself for the counterattack.
He relaxed and focused on his fist, on the tips of his knuckles. At the same
time, he held his left hand in front of him and pushed Shawn’s elbow inwards.
Everything took place in a split second. Their fists collided perfectly.
Shawn’s elbow by now was locked in, and Sam’s punch pushed the energy though
his arm into the shoulder. His body twisted, he lost his balance, and fell on
the floor, grasping his elbow. Sam walked up to him and grabbed his wrist and
his shoulder and pulled them forward.
“Impressive,” applauded Mr. Stanley.
“What did you do to him?” demanded Chloe.
“Dislocated his shoulder. And relocated it. Don’t worry,
Shawny, it’ll only be sore for about a week.”
“Mr. Freeman. It is obvious that you have somehow
regained your strength. But it will not save you now, not from me.”
Chloe looked at both of them, obviously confused.
“Let’s chat,” suggested Sam.
“Stalling for inspiration? Very well. What would you
like to know?”
“You don’t know yet?”
“You said you found nothing inside her head.”
“Of course I told you that. But why would I tell you
“You knew about her abilities; why did you block them?”
“She could contact you. In fact, that was part of the
reason that you recovered so quickly, and a part of the reason why she was able
to find you so quickly. When we saw this connection, we immediately decided to
cut it; and the only way to do so—”
“Was by brainwashing her. Great. Now I’m recovered; why
do you still need her?”
“Ooh, but I can’t tell you.”
“What is it? Computer knowledge? Can’t be. Fighting?
Nope. So it’s her abilities, no?”
“You’re getting ahead of yourself.”
“So you’re training her, but you’re not letting anyone
know about it.”
“Running out of patience? It’s well-emulated.”
“What did you say?”
“O come one. You don’t think I would not have found out,
“And this is exactly why you must be eliminated.
“So how does it feel
to know that you failed to
“Shawn, leave. Make your last minute requests, Mr.
“No!” screamed Chloe.
“I have one,” said Sam calmly, glaring at Shawn who quickly
limped out of the room. “You discern every detail, and you remember
everything. But how do you put it together? How do you deal with abstract
“You must’ve overlooked that part of the code.”
“How abstract of an idea can you handle?”
“Much more complex than anything that can fit into your
“Well, then I suppose that since you can conceptualize
your own self, you are much more aware of everything than I—and I am in a way
fortunate to have realized it. Therefore, my last request is for you to
answer my question.”
“What is it?”
“Since you’re so self-aware, in how many different ways
can your function terminate?”
“One. No, none. No, wait…” Mr. Stanley froze.
“What’s happening,” inquired Chloe?
“Turing’s Halting Problem.” Chloe said nothing. “The
question that I ask him would take a computer an infinite time to answer. Mr.
is not human; he’s been manufactured five years ago. His program
requires an incredibly amount of code. However, the more code, the more bugs.
I found a bug. You must be about to fall asleep,” he said as he walked towards
her and offered her his hand. She took it and got up, nearly falling from
“I’m so confused, Sam, I don’t understand anything that’s
happened. I remember fragments…”
“Don’t worry about it. You weren’t yourself; and you
couldn’t do anything.”
“I shouldn’t’ve been so naïve about Shawn.”
“Stop blaming yourself. You helped me get out of my
prison; I helped you get out of yours. We’re even; now, let’s get out of here
and forget about it.”
“So you don’t hate me?”
“I will if you don’t stop with the insecurities.”
She smiled. “All right, let’s go.” She leaned on him and
they headed out of the building. Fresh air helped her regain some consciousness:
she was no longer tripping on her every other step. As soon as they got to her
room, she collapsed onto her bed.
“Turn to your side,” he commanded. She complied, too
tired to object. He spent the next half hour massaging her neck and her shoulders.
Making sure that she was hopelessly asleep, he sat at her computer and
continued to hack.
She woke up and looked at her clock. It said “5:00.” It
was dim; Sam was sitting at her computer, reading something and occasionally typing
or clicking. “Hi Sam,” she said quietly.
“Hey, you’re awake. Did you sleep well?”
“You’ll be okay after a couple of restful nights.”
“What are you still doing up?”
“All the same. Hacking.”
“Aren’t you tired?’
“A little. I plan to go to sleep soon.”
“What are you trying to find out?”
“I want to know why they wanted you.”
“Yes. I have two theories. The first is that they were
being careless. The second is that they didn’t care about us because we’re
only here as a backup.”
“What do you mean?”
“You do know that you could contact me when I was in my
“Yeah… I didn’t believe it at first, but it felt too real
to be false.”
“And you do know that the reason that I could take the
mind and muscle machines was that my mind was ready to accept them, right?”
“Well, it wasn’t because of my muscles. And so Majestic
is interested in our minds. But not interested enough, because they didn’t
“So you mean that either they didn’t know about us, or
they have someone better?”
“Yes, and the latter is what worries me.”
“Come here.” He sat at her bed. “Thank you, and I’m sorry,”
she said as she pulled him into a hug. He smiled in return. “What’s going to
happen?” she whispered.
“I don’t know.”
“Yes. I had to.”
“I miss the old you.”
“Excuse me?” he said inquisitively.
”I didn’t mean it like that…”
“Yes you did.”
“You’re not really sorry, but afraid.”
“You’re afraid that you’ve lost a friend because I no
longer seem to be interested in your friendship. That is not true; I am.”
“Then why does it seem like you aren’t?”
“Because you’re expecting something from me.”
“No I’m not.”
“You sure about that? Anyway, you should sleep.”
“So should you.”
“I have a few more things to try.”
“What are you doing anyways? What were you reading?”
“The manual. A new bug was recently discovered about
their OS. I’m trying to exploit it.”
“The manual? It’s huge… Isn’t it? Also, don’t they have
their own operating system? Isn’t that’s why it took us so long to hack to
“Yea, about a hundred megs of it. I’ve been working on it
for a while. I scan. And they didn’t make it, they borrowed the source code
and modified it heavily.”
“How do you know?”
“Because of the common GUI bug of refreshing windows.”
“It has a GUI?”
“Yes. It’s mentioned in the manual. Anyway, the bug might
let me make their GUI run my commands, so that I can give myself administrative
“You have an account?”
“Yea, I created it right before I was knocked unconscious
two months ago. That way they would forget to delete it.”
“And it worked, spectacularly. It could not have happened
any other way.”
“You… Planned for all of it to happen? You knew?”
“Why? If you…” Her face turned pale. “Damn it, do you
have any idea how much I suffered, how much I’ve cried, not knowing where you
“Yes; I have seen everything you have seen, felt
everything you have felt.”
“I know what you’ve been through; and I wish you didn’t
have to go through so much pain. But I need you to understand me.”
“Understand you? Please do explain, why someone who had
so much would risk his life in hope… What were you hoping for, anyway?”
“Do you really want to know?”
He sat closer to her and took her hands. “I’ve thought
about that decision for almost a month. And every day, I realized more and
more why I had to do it. It wasn’t right. The more I used the abilities that
they had given me, the more I was indebted to Majestic. I considered
everything. I thought about the pain I would cause you. I was hoping that you
would understand me; but we are not always able to do that. Do you remember
the last e-mail that I sent you?”
“Every word of it.”
“Those were the chains binding me. Chloe, look at me. What
do I have? What did I have?”
“You had friends, you had love.”
“You were one of my two only friends. And if it was true
love that I had, then it would not disappear in two months.”
“But why didn’t you talk to me about it first?”
“The only thing you could’ve done is to try to prevent me
from going. You are important to me, and you always have been. I would
inquire your advice about everything else. This, however, was different. It
was my fight.”
“My whole life I’ve been afraid. The riskiest thing I’ve
ever done was going down the sewer with you; I would not even consider doing
anything worse. But I was still surrounded by fear. Even when I learned to
fight, and when I kicked the guy trying to rob us, I was still afraid; this
fear was quite deep inside, too deep for me to have perceived, but it was
there. Something didn’t feel right. I wasn’t afraid of losing, but I was
afraid of something else… And then I realized that until I wasn’t on my own,
until I couldn’t claim anything, I was worth nothing.”
“That’s not true. You’re worth so much, no matter what
“Not to me. I was a pawn in Majestic’s hands. But I
“But look at what cost!”
He cuddled next to her. “I missed you. I am deeply sorry
for having caused you grief. I wish there could’ve been another way. But
“So what now? Am I supposed to forgive you and act like
nothing had happened?”
“I have one thing to add. The first thing that I learned
about both Majestic and your group was that they were lying. For that reason,
I didn’t want to choose a side before I learned the true nature of both. Now I
have; and now I know what to do. My fight isn’t over. I can’t tell you what
to do or whether to support me or not; but I can promise you that for once,
I’ll stand up to what I believe is right and fight for it.”
“What do you believe?”