“Christian my boy, check this out,” said Peter, double-clicking a video file on his laptop. Christian watched the clip over his boss’ shoulder, recognising the sultry pop star but, naturally, not the song it belonged to.
“The inverted cross, numerous references to the single eye, the pyramid…. we’ve certainly dropped a bollock,” said Christian.
“One of us has,” corrected Peter. “She even gave an interview that mentioned dreams of a ritual that sounded a lot like one of ours. Would you believe it?” He finished off the last of his donuts, sugar powder falling on his gut. “I can imagine Sebastian’s not going to be best pleased.”
“Isn’t he ever? Still. It might not be anyone’s fault. Her programming’s just gone a little haywire. It’s rare, but it does happen.”
Peter rubbed his hands together, showering himself with more sugar. “That twat Cain complained that his herd wasn’t responding to the subliminals. I reckon he might have dialled it up to eleven. Y’know, unleashed the supraliminal weapons.” He waved his fingers in the air.
Christian checked the emails on his phone; if a whole shit-storm was coming down, the 33rds would be sending out meeting invites to the department heads. Nothing so far, but the day was still young. Each department had an amount of autonomy in their particular area, but potentially-damaging changes needed authorisation from someone up the chain. Sebastian Krul, as a 33rder, would have had to personally authorise the use of any powerful mental weapons. If someone was responsible for the pop star’s sudden knowledge of them, heads would roll.
“Anyway,” said Peter, “how’s your policy changes coming along? Are your flocks responding?”
“Better than expected, if I was honest,” replied Christian. “I’m using bad things as the driver behind an initiative to snoop all Internet communication in sectors 1 and 2. We released a couple of TV dramas about terrorism just to desensitise the herd, then prepped a couple of journalists to write a piece in the newpapers stating that these fictional attacks are possible.”
“Loving your style,” said Peter with a wink, “and I can always arrange another false flag attack if there’s too much public resistance. Y’know, man with a rucksack, somewhere public.”
Christian willed his imagination to be still; it didn’t help to dwell on the details. “I’m also trying to use the recent riots to pressurise mobile phone providers to release information on instant messages. If we were to stage another incident, we could use the same false flag for both purposes. A terrorist attack that was co-ordinated using instant messaging and emails.” Again, he stopped the pictures in his mind from happening, concentrating on the words only. There was a time, long ago, when Christian would lay awake at night worrying about killing innocent lives just to further the agenda – it wasn’t right. Except it was, in a strange way. During Christian’s first orientation session, he was told that the population was a dumb herd, and, just like every other kind of livestock, they would die swimming in their own filth and ignorance if left on their own. Without rules and justice – and, yes, oppression – they would continue to rob and kill and fornicate, but on a grand scale that would eventually devolve the race. Control was necessary and essential in order to grow, even if it meant the sacrifice of a few alcohol-dependent, immoral proles once in a while.
Christian returned to his office and called a meeting with his team. In the plush conference room, they performed a quick greeting ritual, muttering “my right hand resting thereon”, and then sat. Out of Christian’s eight team members, Lamech was the only one who displayed any kind of humanity. The rest were snakes, hailing from greedy families who were only interested in money, making money, and boasting about money. They were also power-mad, constantly trying to out-do each other – and usurp Christian too. They were kings in their own kingdom, but Christian was their king, and then Peter, and then Sebastian. Heaven-knows who the 33rds served. Ever-increasing circles of influence, power, and responsibility.
Christian gave his team a quick summary, with Lamech the only one making notes. “Gentlemen, we have a task from the 33rds.” The team picked up interest at this. “We need to introduce a positive mind worm into the cattle, and so need to work out which of our available weapons will be best suited to the task.”
“Cool!” said Archie, a thin wiry nerd of a man with a large nose and watery eyes. “What is it this time? Nuclear power? Arms deal?”
“No,” replied Christian, feeling sure that this was a test of his team’s abilities, nothing more. “Bees.”
“Bees?” Lamech’s young scarred face stared, as did they all. “The flying black-and-yellow insect? Why?”
“I do not know.”
“I smell a test,” said Patrick Ford, not looking up from his phone.
“Regardless, we need to accomplish this subliminally, with little chance of anyone picking up the delivery, but saturating as many people as possible.”
“What kind of penetration percentage are we trying to achieve?” asked Lamech.
“As close to total as possible, within the western areas, for a period of a few weeks.” The team muttered incredulously to themselves. Total saturation was usually reserved for preparation events, such as going to war or amendments to a law. But a saturation event lasting only a few weeks – about an insect – and in a positive light?
‘What about warning the herd about a new and deadly virus transmitted by bees?” said McDonald, an arrogant bear of a man. “The media would jump all over it, bees would become the top searchable term, everyone would be talking about it.” He spread his arms theatrically. “Mission accomplished. Ensure that I’m given full credit on your report, Christian.”
“No,” said Christian, “that method is not subtle nor positive. Just saying the word bee repeatedly is not the mission profile. We need to implant bee without the herd knowing it.” He smiled. “Listen next time, McDonald. Or maybe you need the mission delivered to you subliminally?”
“What I meant was,” said McDonald, clearly embarrassed, “is that we release a drug called bee. Make it super addictive and super deadly.”
Christian sighed. “Nothing with lasting effects, for God’s sake! It has to be subtle and very temporary.”
“Temporary, but with huge saturation…” Lamech said quietly, “…it has all the hallmarks of a musical delivery system.”
“A song about a bee?” said Ford, blowing into a hanky.
“Not quite,” said Christian slowly, picking up the idea. “We do a bit of word substitution, something like ‘Be mine’, have someone really trendy and popular sing it, should be in and out of the music charts over the course of the required time period.” He turned to Simon, unofficially known as the pop guru. “What do you think?”
“No problem whatsoever.” The dark-haired army vet turned his laptop around and gestured to a list of artists. Christian recognised a few, but he didn’t know how their songs went; the Orientation team warned against listening to music from pop bands because they frequently contained mind worms and subliminals. It was music for the masses only. “These three artists are very popular right now, but if you wanted immediate and unquestioning popularity, then this group,” he brought up an image, “is the one which will fulfil our requirements. Their music is completely computer-generated, so priming it with a weaponised worm is simple.”
“Splendid!” Christian nodded to Simon. “I’m assigning this task to you. Can you get it done in a week?”
“Sure thing,” he replied. The group finished up and left Christian alone in the meeting room. Why a bee? He looked at his phone, but there were no messages. There was no-one from the external world to message him anyway, which in his profession was an advantage as far as the department was concerned. How did the others cope? How could they carry on forging friendships and romantic entanglements, knowing what they knew – or did they? Christian dealt with it the only way he could; complete disconnection with everyone. Still, there were some nights, sitting in his fantastic mansion surrounded by priceless paintings and rare artefacts, when he could feel the loneliness.
It was a dingy bar, created to let the herd relax after a hard day’s work, to let them smoke or play pool, to chat about whatever was currently interesting to them, which was whatever the agency told them to be interested in. When Christian had become an initiate, he expected to be denied all access to the normal world as a security precaution. Yet, surprisingly, there were no restrictions, other than disclosure. He could drink in bars, or go on holiday, or screw anyone if he wanted. Anyway, it was surprisingly easy for the agency to trace an information breach back to the source, and it wasn’t uncommon for a work colleague to suddenly disappear. Christian ignored the looks from the locals and found Peter sitting alone at a booth, drinking a tall beer. Christian ordered a drink, sat opposite Peter and exchanged the handshake – completely unnecessary but borne out of habit. “What’s up, boss?”
“Not much,” replied Peter. His eyes were half-lidded and his shirt creased and grubby. He’d been drinking for most of the day. Peter had suffered three near-breakdowns since Christian has known him, and they had all started like this; the invite for a beer, a smattering of small-talk, then a leading question about the validity of controlling the world, followed by a rant about doing full disclosure. Each time, Christian had always talked Peter off the ledge so to speak, but Christian had felt compelled to report the last incident to Sebastian. In response, Sebastian had given Christian some extremely clear instructions if it ever happened again, which was the reason Christian had gone home briefly after receiving Peter’s invitation.
Christian took a long draw of his drink, wanting to cut to the chase as quick as possible. “Having a crisis of faith again, dear brother?”
Peter sighed. “Do you know what the maximum capacity of the Earth is? Y’know, living without harming the Earth?”
“Well, I’ve heard thirteen billion, but I doubt that’s true.” Christian supped his beer again. “The Georgia Stones state a total population of five hundred million in order to live in harmony with nature. I agree with that figure.”
“Which means that six billion people would need to be killed for mankind to be at harmony with the Earth.” They sat in silence, a tune tinkling merrily from the TV. “You hear that? More shit from us no doubt.” said Peter.
“Of course it is,” smiled Christian. “It’s called ‘Emma B Mine’. It’s the tune my team released last week. Number one in all the charts. God knows why the 33rds wanted that particular worm out there.”
“And we’ll never know. Sometimes, I think these ignorants are better off than us.” Peter waved an arm in the general direction of the drunks. “At least they don’t know that something’s going on.” Christian watched a couple arguing at the bar, clearly full of drink. “Are we any better off? We know that something’s going on, but we don’t know what! Are we in a better position than these proles?” He downed a shot of whiskey that was hiding behind the numerous empty beer glasses around him. “Ignorance is bliss.”
“Would you be happier not knowing?” said Christian, checking to make sure their conversation wasn’t being overheard. “Would you be happier not knowing about the false flags, and wars, and pandemics, and what news is true and what’s bullshit? Do you really want to live in ignorance, wondering whether the latest headline has been made up by dumb shits like McDonald?”
“That’s just my point,” said Peter. “What gives McDonald the right to tell these people false information anyway? He couldn’t find his own ass with both hands, and yet his stories are spread throughout the world as gospel truths. That ain’t right.”
“It’s just the way shit has to be,” replied Christian. “We all have a job to do in this life. This is our job.” Christian tried to inject some venom into his voice, hoping that Peter was sober enough to pick up on it. “You shouldn’t question your job. Bad things happen to people who do.”
“Like Cain,” replied Peter sadly. “Christian, something huge is about to happen. Sebs is giving out some odd orders lately. Procurement purchased two million airtight containers last week, each big enough to hold a man. I saw an order for two billion hollow-tips and ten thousand assault rifles, destined for a base in Alaska.”
“So? It’s probably business as usual stuff, or gearing up for a large training exercise.” It would have to be a huge training drive – two billion bullets?
“We don’t have a base in Alaska, Christian.” He took a long drink of his beer, his gaze never leaving Christian’s neutral face. “But the most frightening thing I’ve seen lately is Sebastian requesting a report on epidemics and viruses. Infection rates, cures, collateral damage to the environment, and so on.”
“So?” It was time to see where Peter was going with this.
“I can’t order the deaths of millions of people, Christian.”
“You already have, Peter. Me and you both. People we haven’t met, innocent people, if such a thing exists. However, remember that these are people that will kill us for the paper in our wallets. Don’t think of them as people, Peter. We are people. Not them. They are too numerous to be classed as people. They are not unique. We are.”
“Do you really believe that, or is that the departmental training talking?”
“Of course I believe that.” There was a time when Christian didn’t believe, but in the absence of God, The Mother or any religion, logic became a salvation. It gave him belief, with the added comfort of proof. Christian liked logic. “Take pigeons for example. Simply because there’s far too many of them, they’re classed as a pest and exterminated as such. What about rats, and weeds? Once something becomes too numerous, it is classed as a pest and needs to be controlled and culled to prevent it killing itself and everything around it. Mankind is too numerous, is now a pest, and we do what is necessary.”
“I don’t believe that,” replied Peter.
“You only feel empathy because you recognize the similarities between us and them. It’s a trick. They sound like humans – pure humans – therefore you’re fooled into assuming that they’re human. Cats meow to sound like a human baby crying, sparking the maternal instinct and therefore tricking humans into looking after them.” Peter grasped his friend’s hand on the table. He wasn’t trying to persuade Peter for the sake of his life, but for Christian’s too; if Peter did persist in becoming a whistleblower, then Christian would have to kill him, because if he didn’t then Sebastian would kill Christian – or worse. All the Agents knew about the black projects in Dulce.
“You cannot be serious,” muttered Peter. “You’re a monster. I need to disclose the agency to the herd. Maybe they can solve their own issues without us killing them. Maybe.” And that was that; the tipping point, the last signal that Peter was serious about coming out. It couldn’t happen. Christian felt his heart pounding, a remnant of the man he used to be complaining that he couldn’t go ahead with this, but his conditioning won over.
“Well, we’ll agree to disagree for now, eh?” said Peter as breezily as possible, and pushed his beer aside. He stood and patted his pockets theatrically. “Dammit. I’m going to the store for some smokes. You coming?”
“You smoke?” Peter narrowed his eyes briefly. “I thought you were aware about smoking?”
“Old habits die hard. Anyway, we can go to another bar. This place has a biker-about-to-rape-me vibe to it,” replied Christian. Peter processed this, and then shrugged and downed his drink. He staggered to his feet and followed Christian through the pool area. “So how’s Sandra and the kids?” asked Christian, holding the back door open for Peter, allowing him to go outside in front of him.
“Not too bad. Kids grow up so fast these days,” said Peter. Christian let the door slam shut, plunging the alley into complete darkness, and pulled his Glock out of his jacket. He’d killed before, but not a friend, and not so close-up. Peter wasn’t a friend anymore though. He was a threat. He was one of the herd. Christian raised the gun, forgot about his friend, and thought about his enemy.
“Goodbye Peter,” said Christian softly.
“What for? No, wait!” Peter realised at last that he had been setup and tried to back away from him, but Christian’s aim was true, even in the blackness of the alley. Three shots and Peter was dead, gone from the world, removed from the privilege of the ruling class in the only way that ensured secrets stayed secret. Privileged power was a double-edged sword that could cut both ways, mercilessly, all in the name of limitless power. Christian quickly retrieved Peter’s wallet from his pocket before sprinting away from the crime scene and back to the real world, just as the bar door opened. Emma B Mine could be heard droning through the midnight air, a tribute to Peter and the work he had done.
Hundreds of miles away, Sebastian leaned back on the plush chair and laughed at Chan’s shitty joke. It was a false laugh, expertly timed to convey camaraderie and friendship. Personally, Sebastian wanted to kill the little Japanese pervert, but the man was vital at this moment in time. Music tinkled in the background, cheap popular music. Even though Sebastian didn’t know the tune, he recognised the mindworm almost immediately and knew it was the one crafted for this exact moment. He hoped it would work.
They were in one of Chan’s many penthouse suites, all panoramic windows and backlit red drapes. Water features and small pools were dotted throughout the place. On Chan’s lap, a young prostitute wriggled and giggled. Her silken body had been hired by Sebastian to make sure Chan remained in a receptive state. She was very good, if the small bump in the businessman’s trousers was anything to go by. Sebastian casually looked behind his shoulder at one of Chan’s armed bodyguards, who raised his gun slightly to remind Sebastian who was in charge here. Sebastian nodded in response; it never paid to antagonise hired goons, although the serpent within him writhed in fury at being oppressed. Sebastian would exact a terrible revenge upon Chan and everyone connected to him once the businessman had fulfilled his use. Hell, Sebastian would probably do it in person.
He calmed his passions and concentrated on the task at hand. “I see you appreciate the finer things in life, my friend,” said Sebastian, “for example, my gift that is currently entertaining you. Her name is Emma.”
“Emma, Emma, Emma,” replied the man dreamily, looking into the whore’s pretty face. “She is truly special!”
“If I may trouble you for a moment,” said Sebastian, “my client requires you to sign one of these forms in order to authorise a course of action.” He pointed to the seven contracts on the table. All but the second one would mean disaster for many of the secret department’s current machinations. They needed Chan to not only go ahead with their plan, but to see it through to the very end. They had analysed the usual courses of actions; assassination, financial attack on Chan’s company – until they discovered his huge criminal network – and even replacing him with a clone, but they all involved some degree of risk and possible compromise. A mass mindworm ensured that Chan would at some point hear the song, and be subverted.
The man glanced over at the contracts, speed-reading the summary of each whilst keeping a hand on each of Emma’s breasts. The prostitute wiggled some more on Sebastian’s unseen command.
“Emma be mine.” The businessman focused on the second contract suddenly. “The second one is my choice.” He scrawled his signature on the bottom, and a lawyer appeared from behind him to witness it. “Now make it so, Mr Krul, and leave me to enjoy this fantastic girl.”
“Absolutely, Mr Chan. I wish you good health.” Sebastian rose and allowed himself to be escorted out of the complex, again reminding himself to obliterate this building and everyone in it. In his limousine, he fired instructions to his subordinates via email and waited for their responses. His phone rang; it was Christian Player, one of Peter’s more able acolytes.
“Peter has resigned.”
Sebastian couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow. “You accepted his resignation yourself?”
“I was instructed to, if he ever called in sick again.”
Sebastian nodded to himself. “I am impressed. See me tomorrow in my office. You are to take Peter’s place.” Sebastian cut the call and mulled this over; Christian was one to watch.