by William A. La Fleur
“Where’s my sister?” Tim roared and crashed his shoulder into her dorm room door. Tim was a huge, thick man and the door broke open. The room was empty. He glanced around then charged back out into the hall.
“Who knows where Vicki Reust is?”
A woman in a sleep-shirt opened her door and glared at him, “You do know that it’s two in the morning. Shut the hell up.”
“You do know that she’s twelve. Where is she?”
The girl blinked. She thought for a moment. “That little girl in six?”
Her jaw dropped and she ducked back into her room. Tim heard the door lock click. He took a deep breath to yell again, but felt a hand on his shoulder. He spun.
A tall blond woman with a deep tan held her finger up to her lips. “I know where your sister is.”
Tim grabbed her by both shoulders, “Where?”
“Where?” He tried to shake her and felt the power in her shoulders.
“It’s too late already.” She gripped his forearms.
He remembered seeing this woman around and admiring the athletic way she moved. Her name was Pauwau something. She was always in the background of the little group Vicki hung with, always watching Vicki.
“Too late? Too late for what? How do you know it’s too late?”
“You just had a three-way with Ping and Dottie.”
Tim’s eyes bugged out, “How did you know that?”
“They distracted you as long as they needed to. You were keeping too close an eye on Vicki. They wanted you out of the way and knew you couldn’t resist that.”
“I was keeping a close eye on her because I have to. What the hell is going on?” He did manage to shake her. He got nose to nose with her and through clenched teeth he said, “Tell me everything now.”
Pauwau looked around the hall, “Not here. In my room.”
“No.” He moved his grip to her arm and spun her around. “You talk while you take me to her.”
“I’ll carry you if I have too.”
“We’ll need a car.”
“Mine’s in the garage across the street. Let’s go.”
“Reve is the leader. She arranged it so your sister would room with Ping because she knew Vicki is a super genius.”
“They’re in a kind of... group.”
“What kind of group? Tell me.”
They walked out of the building into a black, rainy night punctuated by lightning and thunder.
“It’s a kind of religious group.”
“A cult? Look, my parents sent us to school together so I could keep an eye on Vicki. I promised. Vicki jumped ahead so many grades she never got a chance to develop socially. She may be a super genius, but she is still a little girl.”
“That’s exactly why they wanted her.” She sighed and leaned toward Tim as they walked, “ They call them ‘The Extrinsic Ones.’”
“What, the cultists?”
“No, the Faithful worship the Extrinsic Ones. The Ones are beyond anything we know or imagine. They’re so intelligent that we can’t even communicate with them, that’s why the phratria only want the top geniuses. I’m not sure but I think there are a half dozen phratria. They include most of the people in Mensa, but Reve’s is one of the most powerful.”
They walked into the three-story parking garage and started up the ramp.
“So you have to be a genius just to worship them?” Tim asked.
“Not ‘worship,’ I said ‘communicate.’ Not even geniuses can comprehend them. Geniuses may be intelligent enough to realize the presence of the Extrinsic Ones, but-”
“You have to be a genius just to know the... the Ones are there?”
“They’re not ‘there,’ they’re here, or they come here sometimes. There’s something else.” She stopped short and turned to face him. “The phratria gather the top geniuses to be indoctrinated by the Ones.”
“Indoctrinated? What do they do?”
“They literally mold your mind. That’s why this phratry is so powerful; the brains are so young. They rewire your brain, make you smart and powerful enough to communicate with the Ones and to-”
“Rewire your brain?”
“Yes, and tonight is Vicki’s indoctrination.”
He grabbed her arm and started running toward the car.
Pauwau yelled as they ran, “That’s why the phratry needed you out of the way.”
When they got to the car he let go of her to fish out the keys and unlock the door.
“I tried to influence her away from the phratry, but I’m not very powerful.”
He spun and grabbed her throat, “What do you have to do with this?”
“I’m a heretic, fallen from the Faith. They keep me around to keep an eye on me, but I can’t participate in the Services. I’ve been partially indoctrinated. I know things, I can do things.”
She pointed up at the streetlight. When he looked up it blinked out.
“Even with my influence it would have been too alluring for your sister to refuse. It’s very enticing to someone to be offered the possibility to communicate with something so powerful and become a genius beyond human capability with psychic powers.”
Tim realized that his hands were at his side. He didn’t remember letting go of Pauwau. “Get in the car,” he growled. “Now, where are we going?”
* * *
In an abandoned top floor electronics lab across campus five benches were arranged in a pentagon. The participants of the Service, the Faithful, all dressed in black robes. Ten sat on stools outside the benches while the petite figure of Reve stood in the center with her arms outstretched and her head thrown back.
“Obnas, great and powerful Extrinsic friend of the Faithful, we have demonstrated our love for you by practicing the powers you have so gratefully bestowed upon us. We now entreat you to communicate with us, to grant us your wisdom and to welcome and nurture a new member of your Faithful this night.”
While she spoke a twelfth member, the Enabler, was moving about the center of the pentagon. Electronic boxes with two sharp, steel probes sat before each of the Faithful. Each member placed their hand on the devices and let the Enabler force their thumb and forefinger to be pierced by the probes.
Vicki’s hand trembled slightly and she gave a small whimper, but she did not hesitate. Immediately she felt the slight tingle of a small electric current passing through her hand.
Reve waited until the process was complete and again threw back her head as lightning flashed through the skylights.
“Obnas, your senses surpass ours. In addition to the feeble senses of humans you perceive electromagnetic currents in all their manifestations, magnetic, electricity, and all the spectrum of radio waves. To you also are known all the holy and magnificent waves of the Metacosmos. Grant unto us, through these simple devices, a taste of your most glorified perception.”
Through the air in the center of the pentagon a hologram of the screen of an oscilloscope pulsed to the amplified throbbing of electronic tones. To the same beat the current running through the hands of the Faithful began to increase in intensity. The air became acrid with the taste-able smell of ozone. Even the lightning seemed to follow the pattern, concurrent with the thunder.
* * *
“Loud tones, bright lights and electricity are used to sync all the members into a single biorhythm,” Pauwau explained as they drove through the rain. “That makes them all receptive to Obnas’ power.”
“Who the hell is Obnas?” Tim asked.
“The Extrinsic One who is the patron of Reve’s phratry. Obnas made them all; rewired them. For all I know, Obnas is the only One who communicates with all the phratria. Obnas reveals only a tiny fraction of reality.”
“Reveals reality? This is reality.”
Pauwau laughed sadly. “Everything humans imagine, everything they can imagine is only the smallest part of reality.”
“What do you mean ‘humans’? You’re human.”
“Not any more. Reve would say that Obnas Uplifted me, but I know better.”
She leaned in close to him and growled in his ear, “I know that it’s a curse. The Extrinsic Ones are in my head. I can’t get them out. The Ones are in there, always pushing. They want something from us, but what could they want, what could they need from us?” She slumped back in her seat.
“We have to get to Vicki.”
“I told you it’s too late. She’s gone from you already.”
“We have to try.”
Pauwau laughed again. She laughed and the tears ran down her face like the rain on the windows.
* * *
The rain on the skylights shot rainbows around the lab each time the lightning flashed. Vicki realized that Reve was no longer talking. Vicki could hear her, but she wasn’t talking.
“Obnas, come to us now. We, your humble and obedient servants are ready to receive your wisdom.”
No, she couldn’t hear her. She knew what Reve was thinking. The patterns of the shocks, the lights, even the smells began to take on a “shape.” It was an intricate and complex purpose, brutally imposed on them, yet gossamer and ethereal. It cut into their minds like electrified monofilament lace.
Vicki’s mind screamed, but her mouth said nothing. She was being forced to witness. She knew whom, what it was. It was the Extrinsic One, Obnas. As soon as she realized that she was struck with a power that washed over and through her. Her mind was torn apart.
Lightning flashed staccato.
* * *
The car had stopped at the building and the tears had stopped coming from Pauwau’s eyes, but she only stared ahead.
“Hey!” Tim struck her shoulder. “You gotta think of something to help me right now.” He made to strike her again, but his hand never connected.
“The lightning,” she said. Tim looked up at the lab building. He saw the lightning. It was strange the way it struck so close and so fast, but he couldn’t think what else it could mean.
“Obnas is controlling the electricity in the lab to affect the Faithful, but he’s so powerful that even the weather is affected.”
“You can read it?”
She stepped out into the pouring rain. She raised her arms and closed her eyes. Tim followed.
“Can you read the lightning?” he yelled over the wind.
“Not ‘read’.” She made him understand. “Come.”
She ran into the building. The doors flew open as she approached. She was almost too fast for Tim to follow: up the stairs, through doors.
* * *
“You know us now. You know how to find us. Follow. Follow.”
There was more, so much more that Vicki and all the rest of the Faithful experienced, that Obnas made them experience. No human words could capture it.
* * *
“Obnas is receding!”
“That’s good right?” Tim panted.
* * *
“We must follow, dear brethren. Turn your minds to the task Obnas assigns. We must go amongst the stars. We must follow.” Reve urged her phratry.
* * *
“The Faithful will open a hole in space-time and reach out.”
Pauwau and Tim burst through the doors of the lab. The room was swimming with power. In the center was a black emptiness.
Pauwau stopped suddenly and Tim ran into her back.
“Vicki!” He screamed silently.
“NO!” Pauwau screamed. “We, Earth’s a decoy! Close the portal! Close it!”
It was too late. Pauwau had ‘seen’ it because she was outside. She knew what the Extrinsic Ones wanted. She stumbled back. She pushed against Tim. She pushed him back in horror. They were not gods; they were aliens, aliens billions of years more advanced than any life on earth.
A tentacle of power shot through the portal, then twelve more. Electrified razors of acid bristled from the writhing masses. The portal was torn at a trillion places, ripping, tearing it like a birth canal, but humanity had never seen such a birth.
Spores flew out like flechettes. Lava of pure energy blasted up. Billions of tendrils of pain and fear shot out to the earth.
In the middle of it all, being thrown about like children in the jaws of a pit-bull the Faithful tried to fight back. Slashed, burned, blasted, and blinded, the Faithful used every ounce of strength they had. Some fell in horrible, writhing death while the rest fought on.
Pauwau and Tim were knocked back out the door. As they fell Tim understood from her, “They’re the Enemies of the Ones. The Extrinsic Ones have tricked us into drawing down Their Enemies on us. We’re meant to be fodder in their war.”
“Warring aliens? Can’t we just nuke them?”
“We’re powerless against them. We’re just a sacrifice, something to buy Them time.” Pauwau sat on the floor staring at the scene revealed strobe-like by the flapping door.
“We’ve got to do something!” Tim jumped up and held the door open.
Inside the Faithful still fought, but with diminishing results. Some were lying motionless, some dead, some barely able to stand. Those who still could threw power from their hands and minds, the fabric of time and space undulated and rippled, but they were losing.
Behind Tim Pauwau sat laughing, “Why prolong it, why help them? Let it end, let it end!”
Reve stood in the middle of the maelstrom with the portal and death all around her. Only her will and fight kept her from being atomized.
Vicki was running for Tim and the door.
Suddenly a shockwave swept the building and all of campus from the earth, erased it, killing everyone.
As the shockwave of power blasted through buildings and people Vicki shielded Tim and herself. They rode the shockwave onto an off-campus apartment building.
She landed in a heap, in a daze.
Tim looked back and saw the portal still hanging in the sky where it had been, spouting energy and pain, growing larger, throbbing, and glowing.
“We’re alive,” he muttered.
“For now,” Vicki said behind him.
There were other portals in the sky, far off, growing.
“We’d have been damn poor fodder if we’d only lasted seconds. This is going to be long and painful.”
An acid spiked tendril of energy shot right into Tim’s heart as they were peppered with darts of pain and fear. He howled and wished there were a god.
Copyright © 2007 by William A. La Fleur