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Chapter 41 – Mad Bromance

May 8, 2012

Chapter 41 – “Mad Bromance”

Now – Grenada

The screen was lit. That was currently the only source of light in the room. Eli looked around. His eyes adjusted to the dark a bit. He gazed and calculated the size of the room.

Correction, the cell. He couldn’t even tell where the door was. All of the walls looked the same: featureless except for the screen.

There was a speaker built into the area to the right of the screen. Both of those features were behind a metal mesh. By the looks of it, the mesh was razor sharp. Try to pull it off and your fingers would be sushi.

“Awake? Excellent!”

“Hello, Harold.”

The face was older, of course. The head was shaven, which was new. Of course so was the stainless steel plate over the part that Eli’s handgun had removed all those years ago.

“Excellent. I have to say, I was mildly disappointed that you fell for blaming Braden so easily. I guess I underestimated you.”

“Well, it settled some old scores. Anyway, what can I do for you?”

“Oh, not so fast. I’m in the driver’s seat this time, Schneider. I’m going to enjoy this. Savor it. Like you did when you killed me.”

“Speaking of that…”

“Ah. Well, I spent most of those first years in a coma. They managed to keep me alive. See, Schneider you’re even bad at killing people. Don’t you know? One in the throat and one in the heart. Makes it difficult to plug both of the leaks, and the target bleeds to death.”

“I’ll try to keep that in mind.”

“Heh. Hmm. You won’t get the chance. After that, it was stem-cell therapy. My friends are on the cutting edge, Eli. We’re even close to extending lifespans a long, long way. Maybe indefinitely.”

“So. An android, I assume?”

“Maya? Oh, you’re thinking is two dimensional. Android sometimes. Other times it was image overlays planted into your head. You didn’t think that SchneiderCorp was the only one working on a brain-projected gaming system, did you? You didn’t see the military application much less the power that represents, being able to make the herds experience whatever you like.”

“Well, you did knock me off balance with all of that coming at me at once, Harold. The film. Fake, correct?”

“Of course. It’s easy to fool the majority people with phony film footage.”

“And Braden?”

“Didn’t want him interfering with what happens next. Besides, that was my original plan. Your weakness was always your friends. I know you blame yourself for Maya. Now, you have Nelson’s death on your head as well.”

Roarke smiled. There was something different about him. He may have survived, but some part of him was gone. He had been inhuman before, but now he was downright alien.

“You’re wrong, Harold. They were my strength.”

“So, by removing them from the board, I did you a favor, Schneider. You have to stand on your own now.”

“Wrong again, Roarke! You never did anything that wasn’t for ‘number one,’ that wasn’t to inflict pain because it’s fun for you. But you can’t see that because you aren’t human. Not superhuman, no. Subhuman. You are only part of a person, and that was true before you got the ‘Intel Inside’ stamped on your ugly skull, before I blew your brains out.”

“Ah. The expected attempt to provoke. Won’t work.”

“So. What do you want?”

“The same thing you took from me: money. I know you scrambled accounts all over the place. I even know where it came from. And I know there’s no way you would have hidden it away all over the planet unless you had a way to gather it again once your personal problems disappeared.”

“Since I know I’m going to die in some horrible way, how precisely do you plan to make me give it to you?”

The screen in the cell flashed and in place of Roarke’s head was a cell not unlike the one Eli was in. The occupant of this one was the Maya android.

“Want to watch her die?”

“She’s not real, Roarke, we’ve already established that.”

“True. But she’s an effigy, Eli. And even though you know it’s not really her, there’s that part of you that still empathizes. That’s the part that’s hurting. The part that’s going to keep hurting.”

Schneider stared stonefaced at the image. She—goddamit, it!—was sitting there running some subroutine to make her seem more real.

Just like a human being does. Neurochemically, we were machines as well, as much at the mercy of programming and wires as that machine is. We did all sorts of behaviors, not understanding why on a conscious level.

Roarke seemed to be reading his mind.

“Not real, but are any of us?”

The screen erupted in flame. He heard the screams. Roarke increased the volume so Schneider’s cell was echoing with the terrible sound.


“F*** you, Harold. F*** you and your entire kind. You are a cancer on the human condition. You serve no purpose. You are antithetical to human survival and evolution. A vestigial tail that needs docking until it’s bred out of us. An anomalous lizard brain throwback. Nothing more.”

“How poetic…”

The screen flashed again, but not before some hidden mechanism sucked the smoke out and he could see the android’s charred remains. They were not, Schneider knew from reading, what would have been left of a human under such circumstances. It was theater and film, magic tricks and subterfuge.

The view changed again, this settling on a child’s bedroom, a young girl’s in this case. She was playing with a tea service and having a tea party with a large doll and a Teddy bear. Her resemblance to Maya was striking.

“Bulls***. It’s another trick, Roarke.”

“She’s eight, Eli. Did you really think all that talk about banning human clones was real? No. That was for the masses. For the elite with friends in Defense, well, anything is possible.

“Just so you know, I’ve tried to an extent to emulate what her life was like up to now. It takes a terrible turn when her father passes away. She is eventually forced to work as a prostitute to pay the bills. It’s an ugly change.

“But that was when she left Miami and met you.”

Eli had known there was something like that in her past. He never asked and she never spoken of it, but he knew. She had been attracted to him precisely because he wasn’t like the johns she had known.

“And? Still not her, Harold. What else you got?”

“Not so fast, Eli. Let’s think this through a moment, shall we?

“if she dies of, say, a poison gas pumped into her room, it may take an hour to die. I’ll be sure to pump up the volume for you again so you can hear the moment life is extinguished.”

Schneider said nothing. He watched and listened to her discussing the latest antics of some cartoon characters she apparently saw earlier on her TV. Whatever they did caused quite a stir on some ship they were on. Additionally, there was a copy of Bunnicula on the table and there was to be a discussion of that later. She had quite the agenda going.

God damn you for making me love you so much…

“Alright, Harold. You win.”

Roarke smiled and Eli explained the means of getting access to the money, the secure IP6 locations to visit and what to do once there. Roarke was surprised once he was done just how much it was that was coming in. He was now, as Eli had been moments before, the richest man in the world. The money was still flowing into his accounts when he began to gloat.

“That must have hurt, Eli. Prince to pauper in seconds.”

Eli didn’t reply. His mind was already thinking ahead to what was to come. The odds, despite his best efforts to suppress them, came to mind. They were not good.


©2011, 2012 Christopher C. Knall

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