DEAR LEADER | A bionic cyborg disco erupts, fantastically granting heuristic interdependence | Jun, Kneller, like Morozova, need outside perspective

"Jesus Howard Phillips Christ!"

The room falls silent, abashed eyes focused on the table, at holographic maps of Earth, currently sprinkled with angry little red spots, like the planet has hives or something. The General, sclerotic, ancient, chomping on a fat unlit Dominicuban, glares around the others on the Situation Council like he wants to kill all of them. So it seems to Morozova, anyway.

She looks up. "The level of chaos in the major metropolitan areas is on par with the Yellowstone Caldera slash Nanotech Gray Goo slash Technological Singularity slash End of Oil Availability slash Minor Nuclear War slash Global-Warming-Induced Jetstream Shift slash Particle-Collider-Induced Minor Black Hole slash Killer Bee Advancement above the Fortieth Parallel Crisis of '44."

Next to her, Dr. Jun exhales. "The Big Calamity. Yikes. My grandparents were on the moon on vacation for that. They stayed there for an extra twenty years just to be safe."

Morozova ignores him. "But those disasters canceled themselves out. This...I don't know. We've got forty million modified humans causing about six quads worth of damage, then disappearing. We think they're all gathering somewhere. Amassing."

The General, after temporizing for a minute, lights the cig with his lucky University of Pennsylvania: An Airbus-McDonald's Group University lighter, taking a second to gaze upon the emblazoned image of a red haired clown, clad in a mortarboard, welding a wing on a planetliner. He sighs, and looks at Morozova. "So you're saying that we're screwed royally. We got forty mil of those rogue MHs running around. And it's our old pal Dr. Alphabet behind it." He's referring to a certain Dr. Alastir Bailey Chandrasekhar-Dueworthy, who used to sit here, on the Situation Council, before they kicked him out and he went all bad and stuff.

"It's him all right," she affirms, and looks down at the globe. A red light disappears; a good sign. The 'bots cleaned up the damage in Jakarta nicely.

"Any offworld activity?"

She moves her hands over the table and the hologram in the center of the table of a big rotating Earth morphs into the Moon, Mars, Io, Titan, Phobos, Ceres. There are red dots there, too. Alpha Centauri 3 and Bernards' Star 5a: same story. "Looks like anywhere there are MHs, there's also the uprising."

The General shifts uncomfortably in his chair. "Jun? How'd he do it? I mean other than the fact that this was a catastrophe waiting to happen."

"Several subjects indicated that they took blue pills, mostly in their work mailboxes. Looks like about 4% of the total MH population took them. We got a sample here: it's a stream of pharmacobots ensconced in a capsule of gelatin and blue dye number 600." Jun waggles his hands and a holographic image of a brain appears, zooming in on a system of blood vessels in the center, where little cubic pixels vibrate around. "They're absorbed into the bloodstream, migrate through the blood-brain barrier, and take up residence in the corpus callosum. There they interact with the other bots in the brain, assuming there are any, by broadcasting an override signal. They only affect MHs with brain mods."

Morozova gazes at her left leg, the replacement for the one lost in the Rangoon Incident. It feels the same as it always does; so far, so good. She wonders if anyone else was looking at it, wondering when she too would go rogue.

"Anyway, the bots also receive a broadcast signal. From what we've seen from the footage, it looks like commands are locally deployed via a type of female MH with levitational abilities-we call each one a Queen. It looks like each of these ladies conveys commands through polyconsonantal utterances. Sounds like someone hacking up a lung. We are working on deciphering them."

"And where does she get her commands from? How is Dr. Alphabet doing this?" asks Kneller, the jumpy-looking rep from Intel, speaking up for the first time.

"We're working on it."

"Well," remarks the General. "If it's getting to AC 2 and B-Star, the bastard's got a tachyon emitter. We can trace him from that."

"Sir," Morozova takes a deep breath and leans forward. "If Dr. Alphabet's in space, he could be anywhere. He's not going to be near the star lanes. We're going to need some help to take care of this problem. I suggest-"

"No," says the General, firmly He grounds his cigar into the ashtray. "We are not calling...him." He makes a face; obviously, he can't bring himself to acknowledge that possibility.

"But sir we-"

The General waves a hand. "Kneller? Motivations?"

Kneller's doing a strange bobbing movement. From the far side of the table, Morozova can see that he's shaking his leg constantly. She wonders how the cigarette withdrawal is affecting him. Kneller finally reaches under the table and produces a long blue nicotube, lighting it, inhaling, and savoring the moment before exhalation. Looking at Morozova's glare-so much for willpower-he says, "Look, the universe clearly doesn't want me to quit. I was going to get addiction bot treatment. I'd be one of those zombies on the street now.

"So, to your question, sir, it's revenge. Revenge for us kicking him off the council."

"Refresh my memory, again," asks the General, removing the top of his ever-present helmet to scratch the back of his head. "Why did we kick him off?"

"Our background intel on him indicated that he may be a crypto-subversive. He spent several semesters abroad in Dear Leader's neck of the woods, studying the local culture. He became firmly convinced that modification was immoral and dangerous. When you nominated him to be on this council, we pointed this out to you, sir. Remember?"

The General is still scratching his head. "Well, he was a valuable asset. He had won five Nobel Prizes. I mean, everyone's got some skeletons in their closet.

"Not as many as skeleton as he did. As you may recall, sir, his behavior, once on the council, became increasingly erratic, especially after our superiors made the executive decision to take out Dear Leader to finally unify the planet. Using that guy's auricular bots against him-that flipped the good Doctor out of control. That and-" Kneller looks at Morozova significantly.

Morozova stiffens. "My ending our relationship has nothing to do with this. We had only been dating for three months. And he always wanted to bathe my feet, even the robot one, and rub them on his face. He also liked dressing up in a rabbit costume and-"

The General leans forward. "Enough. So he's a twisted freak with an agenda. Bad judgment call on my part. I own up to it. He got too pissy in these meetings about his precious Dear Leader and he couldn't lick Morozova's titanium toes. Great. And that's why he's turning a cyborg army against us?"

They nod in unison.

The General sits back. "I'll get the Navy looking for the bastard. In the meantime, let's call up the Army and sweep the planet looking for all of those MH bastards wondering around. They have to turn up somewhere."

A voice started talking frantically in Morozova's earpiece. "Sir," she says, standing up. "I've just received word that this facility is under attack."

"Impossible," spits the General. "We're in a bunker underneath-"

She clicks the table, and an image appears: a large electrified fence being torn down by a horde of people pushing blindly forward, blank expressions on their faces. They push on, through the desert. Morozova spreads her hands and the image zooms out, revealing a humongous crowd of modified humanity, forty million strong, encircling the mountain that sits above their bunker. They are slowly converging on the mountain; sometimes one will take odd shot from the guards, but the circle continues to close. Above the crowd float hundreds of women; one of them faces a recently arrived squadron of attack fighters and throws her hand in the air. The machines crash to the desert.

Jun whimpers. Morozova looks over at him and notices a wet patch has appeared in the front of his pants.

She locks eyes with the General. "Sir, I really think we should-"

The General shrugs. "I know, I know." He punches a button on the table. "Get me..." he pinches his nose and closes his eyes, as if a deep migraine has set in. "Get me Captain Righteously Awesome Bro."

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