“I have a mother? I have a mother! Wow. What about One and Kal? Do they have mothers too? AJ looked anxiously at One. “I sure hope they have a mother too. And a father? Do I have one of those too? Do we all have fathers?”
“Yes,” said Hector. “You all have mothers and fathers. They are up there. They know you have been taken here, but they simply don’t know where here is. But they know. Well technically your fathers didn’t know this was happening. We kept the fathers out of this. Your fathers would not understand any of this. But moms. They understand. You do realize that women are smarter then men yes?”
“Well since I met One I have figured that out,” said AJ. “But then again I have no idea if I am speaking to her or the others.”
“On the topic of women I have someone you must meet. The other brain of the operation. On screen please.”
A thin white drape and the outline of a person behind it appeared on the screen. The woman was obviously hiding her identity.
“I don’t want to leak memory so I am staying behind this curtain. If you saw me it may leak a memory of your past. So I will just stay back here. Hello AJ. Kal. One. The other C/Os. Welcome.
Now that you’ve met Hector we can now start our journey together. Let’s try an experiment. Think of a number between one and 1 million. Yell out your number on three. One. Two Three. “Six thousand two hundred and nine” they yelled out together. Yes. Yes. Together. Yes. It worked. Hector, you have outdone yourself.”
“Now watch the screen. I will show one hundred images of random items in 10 seconds. Can you identify each item from one to one hundred? Here goes.” Pen. Ice cream. Fish. Cup. Blanket. Window. Doorbell…” On the group went in unison, rhyming off 100 items.
Yes indeed. Hector. Open the door. Show them their new home. Say goodbye to the C/Os One. They are not needed here. We will send them back to the children. They have a lot of work to do. And you three. Well the time has come for you to save your parents. And save yourselves. Except you AJ. Hector will kill you. But rest assured it will be an accident. He will not do it on purpose. My husband would never do that.”
“Yes so many questions. One big one. Who do you think you are that you can a) steal kids and reprogram them, and b) think that whatever you want the world to look like needs to be pushed on us to accomplish for you? I suspect there is c) and d) and other letters.
To me you are a mad scientist and not a god. You’ve gooped us and reprogrammed us. And now we have to drink another type of Kool-Aid and just take what you say as fact? Sorry but no. And for the record I don’t like the idea that in the end you will kill me. Thought I’d share that as well.”
Hector thought out loud. “Hmm…I wonder what colour I gave Ajax that made him so insightful? That one I need to look at again. Interesting.”
Now he addressed the three. “I was expecting this kind of discussion. Especially since you are the brightest of the brightest kids. Let me make something very clear. I am not creating a new world in my image. No. I am trying to stop something from happening so that you, especially you three can help us imagine a world that is in our people’s image, and not in the image of the seven that will rule. You think I have a god complex? Just imagine their world…”
“Let me show you something.” Hector pointed to the floor and a large screen filled the back wall of the space. “Here’s what they can control. Space. Weapons. Water. Air. Everything. Do you understand that those who have the information can use it against us? And that is where all of this is leading. And it has already started.
The eight are working together now. They are disrupting elections, taking down governments, and starting wars. And eventually they will be down to seven, who together will become the government. The machine they have created. But us… we have something that those seven are missing. Hope. Hope for the world. Where, like your visit to the chamber, we can start fresh, where we can, like a machine, get unplugged and plugged back in. So I ask you. And yes One you can reconnect with the other C/Os. Do you want to see a better world or get crushed by the machine, by a new government that none of us elected? Led by a tyrant. A very rich and powerful tyrant, who will not accept everyone as equal. He will cleanse the world and his other six will carry it out using their enormous powers. Now my dear Ajax, is that enough for you yet?
“Not yet no, but I am getting the picture.”
“Then to cement the deal open your mouth, take out your ball of paper, flatten it out on this table and look at the screen. One and Kal looked dumbfounded as they watched AJ unravel the wet paper ball and place it on the table.
“A heart doodle. And a personal note to you AJ. Goodbye. Any idea who wrote this?” asked Hector.
“No but I have wondered. It was you, wasn’t it.”
“No Ajax. Sorry, AJ. It was written by your mother. Your mother who is still up there. Your mother who accepted the fact you were being taken because you had important work to do down here. Now I ask you AJ. Is your mother worth saving, yes or no?”
He was not a kid—he was an adult. In fact he was an old man by their standards—maybe in his 50’s. Silver hair, wearing a black t-shirt and jeans, a big happy smile and very straight and very white teeth. He jumped to his feet.
“Ajax. One. Kalihai. You have arrived. Perfect. Just so you know One, your team cannot enter this space. It is only for Ajax and the pair of opposites. I would appreciate it if you can block them from your mind while we have this discussion.”
“Done,” said One. “Disconnected. Please continue. Oh and before you do that, who are you? And is all of this of your creation? Like, oh I don’t know…me?”
“Of course One. I am indeed the architect of all of this. The others. The chamber. I left the sources for you. I created the feeding system of the source. How about that rainbow Ajax! You needed something extra. I loved creating that! You are a monster! In a good way. You are serious stuff. And One. You may think you are only a conduit. But you are not. You are One. The number One and the One that will make things happen. And Kalihai. You are the voice of the rest of the others. The connection point. Gosh it is so good to meet you three.”
“Do you have a name?” the three said in unison. “Oh sorry yes, I do. I am Hector. I’m sorry to say it Ajax but in time I will kill you. But really there is nothing I can do about it. It is how it all goes down. But now that you know that little tidbit you can keep your eye on me. It could happen at the oddest time. But it will happen. Let me apologize ahead of time for killing you.”
“Apology accepted. Until you do kill me Hector what is it that you want us to do? I know there are more of us that us three and the six C/Os outside this room. There are hundreds of kids. How come? What do we need to do? And what have you done with our memories?” AJ was searching for answers.”
“Good Ajax. Good. Well it was foretold that in the year 2020 the world would end. And I wanted to fight that prophecy. How will the world end? When the world is being run by the group of seven. The seven most powerful people who control one thing. Information. And those seven people would wage a war where no people actually participate. And it will lead to the end of the world. Literally. So combing the world for the brightest, most special kids who were not jaded by politics and society, who could use their talents to stop it all. To take back the earth. To save us all. That my friends is where we are right now.
The world is at eight. And in time it will drop to the group of seven. And then we are doomed.
So in conclusion you must figure out how to save the world and I will kill Ajax. Any other questions?”
“Wait!,” yelled One. They stopped. “This isn’t One speaking FYI. It is me. Over here.” AJ and Kal looked over at the C/Os. Each of them were staring straight ahead, expressionless. No way of identifying who was talking through One.
“OK, what’s up?” asked AJ. Said One, “What are we supposed to do. You know, if something catastrophic happens. Like the world ends or something?”
“Well,” said AJ. “If the world ends I suspect you won’t have to do much. And if it doesn’t just be there for us three. We are about to do something and we may need your help after whatever happens, happens. So just relax.”
One stepped back into her spot. “It’s me this time. One. I’m ready. Kal? You ready? AJ?”
“Yes,” said Kal who had found more confidence with the purple source. “I am too,” said AJ. But just before we do this I want to tell you something that may be important. My name. it is not AJ. It is Ajax. Somehow I felt like I was breaking confidence with everyone if I didn’t tell the truth on that front.”
“Yes, we know you are Ajax. Not to worry. It is written on your source,” said One. “Any other last thoughts before we do this?”
“No. But I do like AJ more than Ajax. So if it is ok with you I’d still like to be called AJ.”
“Indeed. Here we go. It is time.” One took her spot.
Kal smiled. “I just realized something. What is our source made from?” He was looking at One. “Wood?” said One. “Oak,” said Kal. “Oak. Do you get it? OAK! Isn’t that amazing? Does it mean something?”
“Sorry Kal but I don’t think I…oh wait... One of the C/Os gets what you are talking about. Our initials. One. Ajax. Kal. OAK. Very clever. Which of you made the jump?” The C/Os were expressionless as usual. “Of course it was you. Why did I ask! You are always the problem solver! The OAK thing might just be important. I guess time will tell.
“Here goes. One two three…” The three hit their sources on the ground, a slight vibration, a humming sound, and then the ground lit in dotted lines down the tunnel to a location only a few feet away, then pointed toward the wall.
They followed the dotted line, turned to face the wall, then raised their sources and each touched the solid rock wall. The rock wall fell over like it was paper. And in the room they could see lights and machines, an odd platform with three spots colour coded, and what appeared to be someone sitting in a chair with their backs to them.
“Welcome. I have been waiting a very long time for your arrival.” He turned his chair to face them.
“Pair of opposites. Good and evil. Black and white. Male and female. Human and God. Angel and devil. That is why they are on either side.
To get to the next level in the world you need to bring with you the pair of opposites for balance.” AJ looked at One. If you are the female since…well…you are the only female leader, and I am the one with the red source, it leaves one position missing. Your opposite. The male.
Shall we line up in our spots and each of the other C/Os can take turns in the male spot until, well, something happens?”
“Yes,” said One. “That does sound like a plan. What if nothing happens? Or what if something happens? I guess there is no way to be ready for this. But this is what we had hoped for. This moment. Some day. And today is the day.
Kal fell to both knees and started to sob. “It’s ok Kal. Things will be fine. Don’t worry,” said AJ. “I’ll protect you. Nothing will happen to you. We’ll be as safe as we can.”
“OK, thanks AJ, I’ll just need a minute. Catch my breath. My teeth are chattering. That’s a new one.” Kal, started to come to his feet and the game began.
“One, take your place with your source. I’ll take mine. Can you…um…tell…um… the other C/Os to line up and take turns to be your opposite? Hopefully something happens!”
One by one the C/O took turns standing in the male spot on the pair of opposites, sources in hand. Nothing. Silence. AJ stepped out of his area. “Well that is everyone.”
“Well there is one thing,” said One. “It’s the oddest thing. There is one more source. It was found here as well. We left it here in the tunnel. It is purple.” She looked at one of the C/Os and he walked down the tunnel and came back with it.
“Yes. Purple. Of course,” said AJ. “Purple is the opposite of gold. Yes. That is the source. But if all of the C/Os have connected to their gold source canes then who does the purple one connect to?”
Everyone looked at Kal. “Oh no. Not me. I am just a flawed one of them. No no no. Not me. I’m not a C/O. I’m just a kid.” Down he went again on both knees. “Oh come on! Not now. Oh jeez. Can one of you C/Os help me with this falling on my knees thing?”
AJ walked over to Kal, helped him to his feet and handed him the purple source. “Yikes. That really smarts. Did you feel that?”
“No,” said AJ. “But I’m not suppose to. Only the owner feels the source. Now we know for sure. You are a C/O after all. Flaws and all.”
“Now…” He walked Kal to the male side of opposites, One took her spot, and AJ stepped into his spot. “On three we hit our sources on the ground. Ready?”
AJ, Kal, and the group of C/Os who still were not introduced began a very long downward descent deeper into the underground until they hit bottom.
“You must trust us on this. We’ll be walking this tunnel for a long while. In darkness. But it will be worth it. What you will see today had not been seen by other human eyes for over 10,000 years. We’ve seen it, but truthfully we don’t understand it. But you might. In fact we are hoping you can shed some light on it for us.
Oh that is funny. Shed some light. You won’t actually be shedding light. We have that handled. Handled! That is funny too. We will light the area with the handles of our sources. How did I become so funny? I’m usually so serious.”
Ajax whispered into the darkness to the British girl. “Who are you? What is your name?” “A fine question. Sad to say I didn’t get a name like others here. I got a number. So if a number can be a name then I am One. They call me The One. But I am not in fact The One. That AJ is you. But I am One. That is funny. I am One and you are One. Except you are THE ONE.
I should tell you that these others do not speak. They are connected to me. So they are speaking to you right now though me. I was not a C/O originally but they discovered I had the unique ability to receive input and then output. Now it might be fun for you to figure out who of us is presently talking to you right now. In some cases it is me, and other times it may be any of us. Obviously there is a comic amongst us.”
“It is nice to meet you One. I sense we are getting close. Am I right?”
You are indeed. We are. In that exact moment the C/Os banged their gold canes on the ground and the tunnel lit up like a carnival. And in front of them was almost impossible to comprehend. It was a tunnel carving spanning hundreds of feet in each direction, and they were in the middle of it all.
In the centre was a boy, facing out, red cane, on either side was the outline of a human, woman of the left, male on the right.
“I may know something about this—the pair of opposites. And the guy in the middle... Interesting.”
“And it is where we found these,” said One. She held up her source. “And yours. What is the pair of opposites?”
“You and me to start,” said AJ. “But it is more. Much more.”
He was alone. Kal had dragged himself out of the room to get the others. And while he was flipping between his left eye and his right eye to see what he could see, he was most curious about his teeth. Something was wrong. He reached into his mouth and pulled out a ball of wet paper. He carefully opened it until he could see the message. A heart doodle. And “Goodbye.”
“Well I guess it was in there for a reason. Better put it back.” Back it went, in a mushy paper ball, back toward the back of his mouth for safe keeping.
Ajax. That was an odd name. Ajax. Maybe AJ for short? Eh-Jax. Sounded Canadian. Where did it come from? Did it come from the multicoloured goop that went up his nose? Or from the reboot?
He could hear them padding along the hall, lined up as they entered and crossed his room. The British teen smiled, showing her teeth, the others watched her and followed suit.
“And here he is. Kal you are right. Perfection. Only one missing piece to the puzzle. Please stand. I have something for you. Your new best friend. Your other half. Your connection. It is the red cane. Your source. It was formed for you a long time ago. And it is yours forever. And trust us, forever is a very long time around here.”
He stood and received his red cane. He looked at the red jeweled handle, and the moment his hand covered it an impossibly powerful shockwave ran though him like he was being electrocuted.
“Do you feel it?” She asked. “Because I could not feel a thing when I carried it here.”
“Oh yes, I feel it. I may have to shout. That is if it is ok to shout here.”
“Please…” said the British teen. “Go right ahead.”
He opened his mouth and a high pitched sound came out that caused the wallet goop machine to explode from the ceiling. The sound also cracked Kal’s glasses as he fell to one knee. “I’m ok I’m ok. I just need a minute. I have more pairs, and someone here is smart enough to craft me more pairs if you break all of them.”
“Yes. Yes yes yes. This is really happening,” said the British teen. The others nodded. “It is true. The tunnel. The tunnel spoke the truth. We really must show him the tunnel right away. It may explain a few things. And in fact it may put things in motion. But where are my manners... I haven’t asked your name.”
“It is AJ. You can call me AJ.”
Each of the C/Os held their gold canes above their head and dropped their heads in a bow. “AJ. You are now our spirit guide. From the dead and now reborn into the spirit guide. The tunnel was right. Wow.”
“Here we go people,” said the British teen. “This has officially become real.”
His eyes flickered open, then hard closed, then wide open, eyes focused on what looked like a plastic hose that entered his nose, containing a strange multicoloured liquid that almost looked like a rainbow, move up the tube. He sat very still, only moving his eyes around the room at what he could see. A chart, hanging to his left on a wall. A bleeping machine the size of a wallet suspended from the ceiling, that plastic hose beginning at the wallet and ending somewhere up his nose. The rest was white ceiling and white walls.
“How are you feeling? Can you speak yet? Hello there. My name is Kalihai. They all call me Kal. It is nice to meet you. Can you hear me?”
“Yes. I hear you and see you. It is nice to meet you as well Kal.”
“Do you have a name I can call you,” asked Kal.
“I do, but I am not sure if I should say it out loud. Is it safe here?”
“Oh yes, very safe. In fact you are presently in the source room. The safest place here. The place where the source is inserted in you. Your source colours are like nothing I’ve seen before. It’s like they gave you every colour. I had grey. The C/Os get yellow. But you. That is something else.”
“Who are the C/Os?”
“Oh sorry, the chosen ones. They are in charge. For now. All of that is about to change, and something very big is about to happen. I’m so happy to be chosen to take care of you. It is an honour. And now that I see your source. Wow.”
Kal dropped to one knee. “I have to do this when I get too worked up. Take a knee… It’s why I’m in grey. I have a flaw. But I am still very useful. And they trust me. So much so that they sent me here to take care of you. Oh boy…” Kal dropped to both knees. “I’ll just need a second. I’ll be fine.”
Moments later Kal was standing again, staring at the source and watching the last bits of the colour spectrum move through the plastic tube.
“And…done! You are complete. Done. Ready. Holy! This is real. This is really happening. Oh no, here we go again.” Kal dropped to both knees again. “They really have to figure out how to fix this. Oh well.”
Kal removed the tube, pulling it from the nose, feet after feet, more and more tube until the end plopped out of his nose with a red ball on the end.
“OK, ah…stay here. Um, don’t move. I need to go and get them. Oh boy. Seriously. Wow. I’ll be back.”
Kal fell to one knee again and dragged his foot along, right out of the room.
“This is your walk. This is your path. You take it alone. We will leave you now. I look forward to meeting you. Goodbye.” The British teen and her chosen ones hit their gold canes on the ground, the floor around Hank resurfaced, and as he was watching the floor reappearing the teens disappeared.
Hank sat back down alone, opened his mouth, pulled out the card from his mother, carefully unfolding the wet paper, and stared at the word “Goodbye.” “Mom. My mom. Agnes. I’ll never forget you mom. They may make me into something else. They will. That I know. And they want me to forget you. But I won’t. You will be with me on the other side. Always.”
Hank took the wet card, crumpled it up into a ball and put it back in his mouth. “My bread crumb. My way back. If I don’t choke on it while I’m being…well…reprogrammed. What does that even mean? A chamber? Bow to me? Am I dreaming? Have I really been taken? A chosen one?” He was talking to himself again. Out loud. To no one.
Hank took a deep breath, walked toward the hall that led to a room inside a room. There was a door in the room inside a room that led to an even smaller room. And in the smaller room was a wall made of very long pins, floor to ceiling. He pushed on a pin and it moved the distance he pushed it. He figured it out. The chamber was in fact a wall of pins. He was to walk into the pins and pins would move to form fit his body.
Putting his arms to his sides he walked forward into the pins, eyes closed, until he could no longer move. Like he was submerged in pins yet standing up. An odd sound, like the flapping of a bird’s wings, and suddenly everything got warm. More flapping sounds. His eyes, now open, were staring right into a series of pins, more flapping, getting louder, eyes getting wider, more flapping, getting closer, then a hum as the pins around his eyes shot into his eyeballs. Then nothing. No sound.
“Your mother was told just after you were born that the day would come when you will be taken. She knew all along. In fact I told your mom myself. She understood once we told her what important work we would be doing.
“Now you may look on me and say how could I have told your mother. We may look on the surface that we are a similar age. But we are not. I entered the chamber and was reprogrammed. Like you will soon be. The chamber visit has long term benefits. One is you stop aging physically. You are…well…in a way immortal. That’s funny! I’ve never said it like that before but I guess it is accurate. You live forever! Wow. That does sound good when I say it that way.”
There was a pause. Hank had his mouth open ready to speak. But couldn’t.
“But. There is one thing you should know. You will be stripped, cleaned and restarted. In fact you will die for a period of time. This new rebirth will give you a clean slate to begin your important work without the distress of your family history. You will be pleased. Everyone who has been through it has been pleased.
“But…” Hank fell silent again.
“And you... You will be especially pleased. You will be programmed with the red cane as your source. The first time in my lifetime. The red cane. We are so glad you are here. Real progress is just about to happen. An explosion of epic proportions. And you will cause this explosion. You.
I know I am doing all the talking but it is because I want you to know that everything will be fine.
So now you know. It is time. The chamber is just around the corner. Normally we wait for a month before you enter. But not you.
We will meet again for the first time. And when we meet again I will bow to you. We all will.”