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Operation Stingray                        Part 5 // PG. 5 of 5


    We sat across from each other, separated by a small metal table. My body was weak and quivering, but I forced myself to hold his gaze. He coughed and hacked into a handkerchief and when he pulled the cloth away from his mouth I could see a reddish goo inside it.

    “I cannot break you,” he said. “I have tried everything at my disposal, but still you defy me. The others have broken. Your lover, your friend. Even LaFarge begged for his life in the end. But no matter what I do to you, it only hardens your resolve. I can see in your eyes that your fury cannot be extinguished. It sustains you. It keeps you whole.”

    He leaned forward. “But anger is a lie, my boy. It makes you feel strong in moments when you are most weak. No, it's time for you to learn something about the true nature of power.”

    He pulled a gun from his hip and placed it onto the table.

    I laughed in spite of my aching ribs. “That's it? You're going to kill me? Be my fucking guest. But do it knowing that you couldn't beat me, you bastard.”

    Dreiser grinned and shook his head. “You misunderstand me, son. This isn't an execution. This is a job interview.”

    He stood up and walked over to me. He unfastened the straps on my arms and then sat back down.

    “The human animal is weak,” he said. “Weak of body, weak of mind, and above all, weak of will. He tells himself fairy tales about the 'indomitable strength of the human spirit' because in his heart he is ashamed of his weakness. He knows that he will crumble if placed under the slightest bit of pressure.”

    I lifted my shaking hands from the straps and rubbed my wrists.

    “But you, my boy, you are different. I saw potential in you from the very beginning. A fighter's spirit. A fierce survival instinct. An iron will that can withstand any attempt to destroy it.”

    I placed my hands on the table.

    “Just the kinds of qualities I've been looking for in my replacement.”

    I looked at the gun.

    “I'm old. This line of work takes its toll over time and I don't have it in me to see Phase Three to completion. We are on the cusp of a new day in history and we need a leader with the strength to pull the species forward, triumphantly, into the glory that awaits.”

    I touched the gun with a trembling hand.

    “The parasites in this facility are worthless. Yes-men and bureaucrats. Spineless worms who couldn't wield true power without a memorandum telling them how to do it. No. We need a God-king, a Pharaoh. Someone with the vision and the will to reign over the churning masses like Poseidon over the seas.”

    I felt the gunmetal warm at my touch.

    “Someone who knows how to kill without mercy.”

    I closed my hand around the grip.

    “All great men have a virtue they cling to above all others. For some it is honor. For some it is love. For you it is vengeance. You will be the God of the Old Testament, raining punishment upon the wicked in cleansing fire. Your hate will light the way.”

    I lifted the gun.

    “It feels good, doesn't it? The power. Imagine wielding this kind of power over billions. That is your destiny, my boy. That is what awaits you.”

    I touched the barrel of the gun to his forehead.

    “Yes. That's it. I remember now. I remember the first real taste of power I held over another human being.”

    I cocked the hammer back.

    “I had that exact look that you have now.”

    My hand was steady and calm.

    “That very same look.”



    It's amazing what a shower, a shave, and a fillet mignon can do for your outlook on life.

    I looked up from the Phase Three control dais at the dark world of monitors. I reached my bandaged hand to the controls. The doctors had patched me up and injected me with something to take care of the pain in my broken body. I had them thrown in the prisons afterward, along with half of the facility. Anyone who so much as looked at me while I was in custody would be getting an important lesson about loyalty.

    Technicians were working on Brian and Lindsay, trying to reconstruct their minds from the mush that Dreiser had reduced them to. They were making progress, though it would be a while before they were at full mental capacity. They asked me if I wanted them back as they were, or if I wanted to make any improvements. “Mostly as they were,” I said. “Maybe make Brian a little less caustic and give Lindsay more of a sense of humor. And they both should probably lose any negative associations they might have with the project, now that things have changed.”

    I touched the control panel. The monitors lit up. Dreiser was wrong. I would prove that. Phase Three is an incredible tool, a tool that could be used for the betterment of all humanity. I could end war, poverty, and suffering for all time. I could lead us into a paradise, a perfect world free from want, or fear, or death, or any thoughts that could cause pain. Dreiser wanted to use it for evil, but I would change the world for the better. No. He was wrong. I'm nothing like him. Nothing.

    I looked at the monitors. A world of minds ready and waiting to receive my input. I looked around me. And I smiled.



H. K. Reyes


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