14.3.17

We Know Who You Are

Introduction

I've steered away from conspiracy for most of my life though having been a big fan of the television series The X-Files and Coast To Coast AM, I've certainly been exposed to my fair share of it. This story took root under the premise of the paranoia surrounding some conspiracies and is certainly intended as being humorous (hopefully) if anything at all. I've tried to keep it as short as possible while maintaining necessary character development. Thank you for reading this story if you do and most of all, I hope that you enjoy it.

We Know Who You Are

Cory stood at the terminal in the freezing mid March rain. Some distance away the maglev buses sorted themselves out according to logic known only to the host program which had developed the software to run them. He gazed at them momentarily admiring their motion, a seeming ballet of metal and technology. They seemed oblivious of the rain as they optimized their efficient placement in the queue. They then waited for their next destination from the host program as much as Cory did in a sense.

He'd been a QA Advisor since graduating having been hired right out of school which was pretty much the way it went. At that time ten years earlier the demand for Quality Assurance had been very high to oversee the installation and use of self programming systems. These systems had been installed as part of the most recent urban renewal plans bringing the city services up to par with those offered by the rest of the modern world and throughout the grid. The grid was the latest incarnation of the internet which had been superseded by generational technology five times since the turn of the millennium.

Cory was thirty six though could have easily passed for twenty six. With dark hair and eyes his slender build often caught the eye of a female passerby. Tending to be more shy and withdrawn Cory seldom pursued them. He'd felt more comfortable through virtual dating in a fantasy setting of some sort using one of the many holoworlds available online for modern social life.

Slowly the terminal began to fill with people pouring out from the sheltered station itself as the maglev bus arrived. Cory stepped onto the bus quickly finding a seat but giving it up to an elderly person who'd been left standing by the time the bus left the station. She accepted graciously and smiled at him and a moment later it was forgotten. It was eleven O'clock in the morning and the work day had ceased for many. Cory had actually finished at ten but had gone to a local coffee house to sit and read the latest news via the geowire. There had been a few more accidents, most in other parts of the country or other countries altogether. Some involving injury or even death in some cases. The accidents were attributed to the increasing use of self programming systems without human supervision. A lobby had formed against these systems while those defending them had cited the social benefit of having them. The news was pretty much the same everywhere. Reduced work hours (but not reduced payments) as the world became more dependent upon technology. People were becoming more and more obsolete as the providers of their own services.

The maglev bus had traveled for some time and arrived at one of the main streets along its route. A stream of passengers cleared from the bus leaving a few seats available. Cory made his way to one of them bumping into a man exiting the bus as he did.

"I'm sorry." Cory said turning to face the man.

"You dropped this." the man responded handing Cory a small microstorage chip.

Cory looked at it puzzled for a moment before responding.

"Wait! Sir! This isn't mine..." he yelled after the man who'd just stepped off of the bus.

The others remaining on the bus looked at him quizzically.

"Did anyone drop a microstorage chip?" Cory asked and nobody responded.

He sat down in one of the empty seats puzzled. He mused over it reading the tiny inscription of it's storage capacity of 128 Petabytes which was pretty low capacity and old school but compatible with most readers. He decided to check it's contents and plugged it into his ring terminal. He opened his hand exposing the underside of the tiny ring on his middle finger and inserted the microstorage chip. The augmented reality interface appeared before his eyes and only visible to him. His eyes moved and blinked as he browsed the contents. He observed a few high capacity files, probably media of some sort while near the bottom of the list was a text file clearly labeled instructions.

Cory blinked, opening the file. He then read it carefully.

There's a hidden folder in /root called corruptdata

Open it and run the file recovery-034101 as a holofile

Don't tell anyone what you see

We know who you are

The last words gave Cory shivers when he read them. He momentarily looked around the bus suspiciously for anyone that might be watching him. When he was satisfied that nobody was, he returned his attention to the file list. He quickly examined the file structure finding the hidden folder as indicated. Within the folder were many other files. He quickly filtered the file list returning the file indicated in the text file: recovery-034101. He ran the file as instructed.

His surroundings disappeared and he was in a white room sitting at a table. On the other side of the table sat a human figure, obviously an avatar painted from head to toe in matte black. The figure lacked any facial features, lacking eyes, ears, nose and mouth. It began to speak to him in a calm voice:

Cory, we represent the people of the world. You could say that we're the working class people upon which this technical monstrosity has been built. We are literally everywhere and we keep an eye on everything. You've obvioulsy noticed the decline of the working day which has diminished from eight hours down to three hours per day. Some of us are even lucky if we get that and most are sent home early though we are still paid for a full day.

This might sound fine but if you really think about it, the less we're needed, the *less* we're *needed* if you catch my drift. There are people that are running all of this and as we're less and less needed, we might be trimmed off one by one. Slowly at first but over time more and more boldly. Because we're less and less needed, we have no negotiating power especially if the people who run this show can have machines do everything that we do. We might be selectively euthanized or more quietly through sterilization. Eliminated from the genetic tree as it were. You don't want that to happen do you?

We're not as dumb as most people might think so we've come up with plan to ensure that cannot happen. Everybody does their part. We've never approached you because we don't ask everybody and some people tend to freak out when we introduce ourselves. So consider this a test. We know that you work for the City Traffic System Central as a Quality Assurance advisor on the adaptive systems transition. We're just asking you to do one simple thing. We want you to feed some garbage data into the timing system for the autotraffic management system. You have to make it appear like it came from the host program.

You're probably thinking at this point, well some people could die and that is certainly true. Some people could die but likely a lot less than all of us being euthanized from the world over because we're not needed. Think of it as a sacrifice that the few make to save the many. We expect this to be carried out by the end of this working week. Remember. We know who you are.

Cory stopped the holofile and the white room with the shrouded black avatar disappeared. The interior of the bus returned and he immediately began looking around to make sure that nobody was watching him. When his paranoia had ceased he sat back in his seat and looked out the window. The freezing rain streamed down the window as many driverless hover cars flew by on their way to their destinations in the daily traffic.

[Author's addition: Wednesday March 15, 2017 7:12AM]

By the time he arrived home he'd already watched the holofile an additional three times each time gaining something new. His paranoia had only grown finding him often checking his six for any signs of being followed. He was somewhat relieved by the time he'd passed the doorkeep scanner which unlocked the door as it greeted him in a female electronic voice he'd customized himself.

"Thanks Ada." Cory replied.

"Always happy to see you honey." Ada replied locking the closed door.

"Ada. Set your voice mode to verbose cordial." Cory responded.

"Voice mode has been set to cordial. Have a nice day." Ada replied and went silent.

"Oh, Ada? Play music list snooze." Cory added removing his coat and shoes.

A soft ambient tune slowly filled the apartment's silence as he made his way to bed. His mind troubled by the events on the bus. Within five minutes he was deep asleep.

He'd finished the rest of his week despite his level of anxiety. By the time Friday had rolled around he'd not yet done as the avatar in the holofile had instructed him. His two hour shift on Friday morning crawled as time seemed to stretch every minute. He felt as if the avatar was sitting beside him, watching him do his job. It urged him to send the botched timing data through the autonav systems for the traffic array. The augmented reality data feed displayed a steady waveform which indicated the mean spatial flow rate of all the traffic on the grid while the holointerface showed color coded traffic grid with the colors indicating the efficiency of each queue. The avatar sat beside him, its arms folded across its chest. He ignored it keeping watch over the traffic grid data for any anomalies which only someone with his training would recognize. The last minute of his shift was grueling with each second of his deadline ticking by slowly until finally it was decided.

"You're relieved of your shift for the day. Thanks for your effort today. Have a good weekend, Cory." the electronic voice spoke to him bringing him out of his tense focus on the data.

A bead of sweat made its way slowly down his forehead over the bridge of his nose and down to its tip before hang dropping to his lap. He stood and made his way cautiously to the exit of the building. We know who you are he thought to himself. The avatar's words echoing through his mind and memory.

By the time he'd made his way to the street the sun was nearing it's peak for the day. The traffic flew by as he walked to the distant bus depot, his edginess growing with each step. Behind him he heard footsteps nearly matching his and he turned his head to peek at it's source. A man clad in black followed behind him a good fifty paces from him matching his step. The man seemingly kept his gaze fixed on Cory which sent chills up his spine. Cory picked up his pace nervously feeling the onset of panic.

Cory pressed the button on his ring bringing up the augmented display. He scanned for a line to the Police department before thinking that they too could be a part of this conspiracy. Instead of contacting the Police he closed the interface and began to run. Behind him he could hear the footsteps matching his own frantic sprint. Then Cory did what any panicked citizen might do in a similar situation and he began to yell.

"Help! Help!" he cried.

Beside him a hovering limousine pulled up to the curb lowering itself for access, the rear window rolled down.

"Get in my dear boy! Be quick about it." a voice from inside the limousine directed Cory.

Cory looked to the limousine and then to the man who was closing in. Cory jumped for the open door of the limousine and found the seat as the limousine pulled away. Cory caught his breath before taking a look at his surroundings. He was sitting across from an older man, somewhere in his late sixties though you could never tell with modern surgery. His thick white hair was greased back framing a stern yet slightly wrinkled face. His eyes, both blue were perched like two marbles on mounds of baggy flesh beneath them.

"It looks like we found you just in time." the man spoke.

Cory looked around for others in the limousine.

"Who's we?" Cory asked the man still slightly out of breath.

"We'll get to that. Here, have a drink." the man said offering Cory a crystal glass.

Cory accepted the drink taking a sip startled to find that it was a mild whiskey of some kind. The flavor filled his sinuses and senses, much like a defibrillator might fill one's heart.

"Now that we've got that out of the way, I'm Jeffrey William Corrigan Senior the third, my boy." the man announced.

"I'm Cory..." Cory started to speak.

"We know... I know already. You're Cory Lambert. Age thirty six. Never married. Employed by the city traffic commission for ten years since your graduation. Before that you lived mostly off grid. A drifter of sorts. Some might even call you a lollygagger." Mr. Corrigan proclaimed as if by its stating it was willed into reality.

"We? You keep saying we?" Cory asked Mr. Corrigan.

"Right. We are the Illunimati." Mr. Corrigan said waiting for the obvious question.

"Who are the..." Cory began before he was interrupted.

il·lu·ni·ma·ti
illˌlo͞oneyˈmātey/
noun
  1. 1.
    A secret society so secret that everyone knows their name and of their secret plans to take over the world by manipulating economies via control of the world's deodorant supply.

  2. "higher levels of illuni-ness are granted via a system of seniority. The most senior is referred to as the Grand Loonie."
    synonyms: to see the synonyms requires a secret dance move known only by its members.
  3. 2.
    A sickened sailor driven crazy by long voyages at sea.

"The Illunimati are the makers and breakers of the world you know. Everything that happens in the world happens because of us. We're wealthy bankers. Industrialists. Technologists. Mass data handlers. We're the spin doctors of everything you see around you. Every conspiracy you've ever heard we're a part of in some way or we have our hands in it at the very least. We've been running the show for a long time. A very long time Cory." Mr. Corrigan said firmly.

"Even the conspiracy of why the zipper on men's pants never quite stays zipped all the way and often by the end of the day is usually all the way open?" Cory asked a look of skepticism on his face.

"Even men's zippers, my boy. In fact, we purposely engineered zippers with too many teeth on one side for that exact purpose. Unless of course you show the right dance move to the clerk when you're buying pants. Then you'll get the pants with matched teeth on both sides and a the latest technology that we like to call flyguard." Mr. Corrigan leaned back in his seat, a dignified grin of accomplishment on his face.

"Why ever would you do that?" Cory asked in sheer amazement to find his suspicions were true.

"We found that many of our adversaries were getting a little too over confident about their strides against us. So we designed this flaw into their pants to knock them down a couple of notches. I mean there's nothing more demeaning than to come out of a board meeting and to have the coffee droid tell you that you're flying low or one of the other many euphemisms they're programmed with for the purposes of discretion of course." Mr. Corrigan explained.

"I never in my wildest dreams would have guessed... Whatever in the world would you want with..." Cory began once again to be interrupted.

"You're probably wondering why we would even notice a tiny little insect like yourself from our perches at the top of our many towers around the world. Aren't you?" Mr. Corrigan said leaning forward and turning his head as if to listen.

"Well I'm beginning to..." Cory began only to be cut off.

"Of course you are my boy. Well we've been watching you. We knew that you'd been uncluttered by all of these secret groups up until this point. You were recently approached and asked to do something unspeakable, weren't you? An unfathomable and unforgivable act of... grotesque barbarism!" Mr. Corrigan asked once again leaning forward attentively to Cory.

"..." Cory's mouth opened and Mr. Corrigan's voice continued.

"Of course you were! By those pesky technophobes. Luddites they're living in the midst of a technological paradise they are! Yet they don't appreciate any bit of it! None of our hard work architecting the most beautiful and elaborate system this side of... everything! Do you think that they even once they wake up and say to themselves: I'm so fortunate that when I get up in the morning, I can have a hot bath to clean my disgusting hide of filth, and then go into my kitchen and make coffee or tea and toast in an autodispensor while I read the morning news translated from around the world through an augemented reality haptic interface while talking to my ex-wife in Toledo, Tokyo, Toronto, Taipei or Timbuktu for all I know in nothing but my gauchies! Do you!?" Mr. Corrigan sat back shaking his head, his face scrunched into a frown.

"No Sir." Cory spoke surprised he'd actually managed to get a whole sentence.

"Well that's why you're here my boy. You're going to help us do something about this!" Mr. Corrigan proposed.

"I am...?" Cory asked.

"You'd made your decision by not carrying out their request. You're now their enemy, but don't worry. We'll protect you, but you have to be worthy of that protection by carrying out a little task for us." Mr. Corrigan instructed.

"A favor?" Cory asked.

"No! Not a favor! Consider it a request by those who made such a wonderful construct as this modern society. Balancing the numbers perfectly for growth, technology and sustainability. That is until we don't need you anymore." Mr. Corrigan leaned forward again peering into Cory's eyes.

"You don't need me ...us...?" Cory asked somewhat shocked.

"Not yet. You're still needed. For now. So help us out and we'll help you." Mr. Corrigan fumbled through his jacket pulling a storage chip which he handed to Cory.

It was nearly identical to the one he'd received from the man on the bus.

"That has a special program for the traffic autonav system. It will single out the members of this so called resistance as they travel to and from their homes and whilst they're in any vehicle. When they are, that vehicle will... let's just say that you wouldn't want to be anywhere near their vehicle when it goes. So we need you to upload this program to the autonav system for us during one of your shifts next week, before the end of the week." Mr. Corrigan said with a devilish grin.

Cory accepted the storage chip, staring at it for a moment before pocketing it.

"Now this is your stop my boy. Good day. Oh and here. Take this. Remember. We know who you are." Mr. Corrigan handed Cory the bottle of whiskey ushering him out of the stopped limousine and onto the street.

Cory watched in complete disbelief as the limousine sped off.

[Author's Update: Thursday March 16, 2017 12:18PM]

After Cory had gotten his bearings he made his way to the bus depot which was only just around the corner from where he'd been dropped by Mr. Corrigan. He struggled with futility to fit the bottle of whiskey into one of his pockets while constantly checking over his shoulders. He'd messed up plans for the Worker's Front by not complying with their instructions. They'd surely find him eventually and deliver their as of yet unknown punishment. If they'd be willing to stoop to the level of sabotage they'd likely go to extremes against their enemies. Would Mr. Corrigan and the Consortium really be able to protect him? What would happen when they no longer needed him?

The bus arrived shortly after his arrival on the platform and he found his way through the crowd and up through the doors of the maglev vehicle. He stood having been too far back in the line to procure a seat. He assumed that the drink he'd had in the limousine had calmed him enough for the trip home and he enjoyed it while it lasted. By the time the bus had stopped at it's first main intersection a few city blocks from the depot the bus had drained enough to leave him with a seat. As he made his way down the aisle someone with a hood drawn over their head took his left arm and dragged quickly in the direction he was already going. He was literally thrown into one of the corner seats while his captor sat quickly beside him on one of the outer seats trapping him.

"I missed you so much honey." his captor, who turned out to be lady planted a kiss on his cheek.

"I'm sorry I..." Cory began.

"Forgot our anniversary? Oh stop playing Cory. You even got a bottle of whiskey for us. My favorite brand too. Look at that, aged a 114 years. Where ever did you get the money for this on your salary?" asked the lady.

She drew the hood back from her face revealing a pale and slender faced beauty with two cherry red lips. Her hair was died in a splotchy pattern and cut short around her head and long on top. Her long eyelashes framing two beautiful eyes.

"Really. I don't know who you..." Cory tried to explain to the mystery girl only to be cut off abruptly.

"What did you say?! I told you about playing like this! Do you want me to make a scene here on this bus! Do you understand!?" she stood and yelled at him.

"I guess..." Cory said trying to withdraw further into the corner.

"You guess?!!!" she threw back to him.

"Yes. I understand." Cory replied thoroughly terrified of her.

She immediately sat down beside him and cuddled up to him putting her head on his shoulder and running her hands over his upper body.

"Mmmmm... you smell sooo good after you've finished work, even if you're working for the fascist baby animal killing, environment raping establishment. Mmmm... are you still ticklish?" she said trying to tickle him having switched from hot to cold and then back to hot again.

Cory tried to remain as silent as possible for the rest of the trip trying to think of a way that he was going to lose her. After all, she might be an assassin sent by the Worker's Front to end his life or worse if there could be such a thing. She remained snugly and affectionate for most of the trip and Cory played along as much as he could. He thought of making a run for it just before his stop came up and thought twice of it as she sat up attentively looking to the street.

"This is our stop honey!" the lady said pointing in the direction of Cory's apartment building.

"Huh... You're right. I guess I'll have to go then. Goodbye." Cory said trying to slip by her.

She stuck her leg out and he fell to the bus floor.

"Oh honey! Are you alright? Let me get you back to OUR apartment so I can take care of you." she said teetering on the edge of her mania once again.

Cory nervously got to his feet and decided that it was just better to get clear of the bus before trying to make a break for it. She helped him to his feet with a surprisingly strong but soft grip and they left the bus together to the amusement of those on the bus.

"If you try to make a run for it, I'll scream rape. I'll tell everyone that you stole my bottle of whiskey and tried to rape me. You're working for those fascists. The Illunimimi and the Worker's Front." she said bluntly to him.

"Huh?" Cory tried again to play dumb.

"Don't lie to me!" she spun him around to face her and planted her lips on his kissing him with passionate brutality biting his tongue.

"Mmfrmmph..." Cory tried to speak but found her wiles hard to resist.

Just as he was getting into it she pushed him away grabbing his arm and dragging him towards the front door of the apartment building.

"Don't lie! You're in bed with both of them. Look at what they've done to the world. Killing baby animals. Destroying the environment. They've ruined this world in front of us and nobody is doing a thing about it! You disgust me!" she said throwing him up against the back wall of the elevator and jumping him.

She glazed his neck with a line of kisses and bites that left marks.

"Maybe we can talk a bit. Get to know one another first?" Cory suggested to her.

She responded by grabbing the collar of his jacket and pressing him into the elevator wall.

"No! You'll try to convert me with your Illumitani techniques or something like that!" she responded.

"I'm not from the Illunimati... I don't even know what you're..." Cory tried desperately to explain.

"Don't lie! Not Illutimani? Then you're... You're an alien aren't you? Are you a Gray? Or a Blue? Maybe you're a Purple?!!!" she demanded pushing him into the elevator wall once again.

"I'm not! I swear... this is our floor." Cory tried to convince her unsuccessfully.

"You're a robot?! Maybe one of the Pharaohs?" she said dragging him through the elevator door into the hall towards his apartment.

"No. Really. I'm just an ordinary guy." Cory said as she dragged him to his door.

"Open it!" she demanded.

"Ada, open the door." Cory said into the peephole.

The door unlocked and the mysterious lady grabbed the handle opening it throwing Cory inside.

"Greetings Cory, how was your day? You have company I see. I'll adjust the environment settings accordingly." Ada, his intellispace assistant responded through the hidden electrostatic speakers.

"Thanks Ada." Cory said warily as the mysterious lady went for the kitchen to the cupboards looking for glasses.

"Cory, your female friend is not in the database, would you like to add her?" Ada confirmed.

"You tell that waste of environmental resources that she's never to ask of me again! I don't want to hear her voice when I'm here ever again!" the mysterious lady snapped again slamming two cups down on the kitchen table as she filled them with the whiskey.

"Uhhhh... Ada, could you be scarce when I have this friend over please?" Cory asked Ada.

"Switching to minimum visibility. I'll only be present in the case of an emergency." Ada responded.

"Thanks Ada." Cory replied as the lady thrust the drink into Cory's hands.

"Drink it! All of it!" the lady demanded as she took her glass and poured the contents down her throat.

Cory hesitantly drank his, shaking his head and coughing after consuming the full glass.

"Again!" she filled both glasses again and drank hers.

Cory held his breath consuming the full glass once again drawing coughs from him and then a third glass the same way. She then grabbed him by his shirt dragging him towards his bedroom throwing him onto the bed where she began to peel the clothing from him like an orange. When she'd finished with his she began removing hers revealing a sleek and slender body. He lay on the bed motionless for a moment admiring her as she leapt onto him.

"I'll do all the talking. Don't say a thing! I mean that!" she demanded as she pushed her face to his from on top of him and their lips locked.

Three hours later Cory woke up to find himself alone in bed. His sight and balance were still thick from the whiskey as he stumbled across the floor into the hallway towards the bathroom first and then the kitchen. There he found her completely naked, going through his drawers.

"I know it's here somewhere." she said to him.

"What? Were you going through my underwear?" he replied picking up his scattered undergarments while in the buff himself.

"Your holo dossier. I need to know what you are first. And if I can't..." she replied going through a stack of old tablet receiver terminals Cory had discarded years ago.

"You just slept with me. You mean you don't know if you can trust me and you slept with me?" Cory asked her.

"That's just sex and something I'm very much in charge of!" she shot back manically.

"Well that's just great. Here I was thinking that you were..." Cory said sarcastically.

She dropped the stack of tablets and shot towards him with amazing speed throwing him against one of the apartment walls.

"Look! I'm from the Leaders of Enviroment and Animal Protectors. You can call us LEAP. Or PALE, PLEA or even ELAP if you move the letters around. You're going to do us a favor to thwart the Worker's Front and the Illuminumi!" she asserted herself to him.

"Illunimati. They're called the Illunimati!" Cory responded.

"Oh! I knew you wouldn't protect them forever!" she thrust her lips onto his kissing him passionately.

She then backed off bouncing him off the wall several times by his shoulders.

"You'll do as we instruct or you'll lose more than you bargained for." she cupped her hand near his privates.

"What do you want me to do?" Cory responded somewhat intimidated.

"I want you to take a storage chip and copy its program into the traffic autonav system host program." she responded.

"What does this program do?" Cory demanded to know rolling his eyes.

"It's a copy of what we intercepted from the Worker's Front and the Illunimuni..." the mysterious lady informed him.

"Illunimati!" Cory said impatiently.

"It's basically a reverse engineered version of both their programs but it does the opposite of what their programs do. It will wipe out their members in this city whenever they travel over the course of a day. We have people like you in every city in the world ready to go with this. You're the last one we needed for this operation to be a reality. Don't fail us. Don't fail me or else." she reached for his privates threateningly then punched him in the stomach before kissing him passionately.

She then dragged him back into the bedroom and threw him onto the bed.

"Remember. I said don't speak. I'll do the talking. ...And the spanking. Oh, and we might not know what you are, but we know who you are." she jumped onto him again holding both his arms firmly in place.

[Author's Update: Thursday March 23, 2017 12:46PM]

Cory had woken up once again to find himself alone in bed. He searched his apartment for any sign of her and found that he was alone again.

"Ada, how long ago did my female guest leave?" Cory asked but there was no response.

"Ada?" Cory asked again greeted only with silence.

He quickly went to the capacitor box to find that three of the quantum capacitors had been pulled and were sitting on the bottom of the capacitor box. He carefully replaced them in the appropriate slots and queried Ada's power again. He was greeted by a humming noise as the system quickly recharged.

"Ada, what time did your systems go offline?" Cory asked his intellispace assistant.

"I was taken offline by capacitor discharge precisely two hours, twenty three minutes and fifty nine seconds ago. You had been asleep for and hour, thirty six minutes and three seconds by that point." Ada responded.

"Ada, restore active mode medium verbosity. That will be all Ada. Thank you."

"As you wish, Cory." Ada responded.

Cory spent the rest of the weekend alone and indoors contemplating what he'd been asked to do by Mr. Corrigan and then finally by the mysterious lady. He'd made it through to Sunday when Ada interrupted him while he tidied the house.

"Cory, there's an incoming holocall from Father Prim. Would like me to answer it?" Ada asked him.

Cory thought hard for a moment before answering.

"Sure I'll take the call. I mean how could this get any more complicated?" Cory responded.

"One moment." Ada replied.

A moment later a life sized hologram presented itself in Cory's living room. Father Prim was short at around five feet two with a relatively stocky build. His head was ringed with his only remaining hair his eyes tiny and piercing.

"Cory my friend. Friend of the lord I take it on this dire hour of need?" Father Prim asked him, his voice full of presence.

"I'm sorry Father, but I'm kind of busy. If you're looking for donations..." Cory began.

"No, Cory. It isn't donations that I seek in this hour of need where the devil is at our very doorstep. Your doorstep, Cory. Knocking at the door trying to get in..." Father Prim said ceremoniously.

"The devil? I mean didn't the second coming already come and go a few times since the turn of the millennium?" Cory asked Father Prim skeptically.

"That's what the devil wants you to think. A sneaky bugger the devil is. Always looking for ways to come back he is. What's a devil to do? I mean he just sits there in his furnace in the bowels of the Earth, probably bored out of his mind. What company does he have? Why the eternally damned and they're not the best company to have. A slight bit depressing. So he gets up and says... hmmm, I'm really bored here. I know what I'll do. I'll try to get up there to the surface of the Earth and corrupt some more souls. While I'm there, I'll catch a game of droid ball, have a hot dog or two maybe even though they make them with synthetic wieners.  What's a devil to do when the world is making wieners with synthetic meat? Then he might go out for a drink. What does he find? Smart drinks everywhere. Enhancer drinks of all kinds. He's the devil. The last thing he wants is to do any good for his body. So he buys a smart drink, does a couple of holopuzzles in record time and he's right back to square one. Bored." Father Prim spoke delivering a rhetoric oration of near Biblical proportions and very obviously under the influence of spirits of the alcohol kind.

"I take it this is going somewhere Father?" Cory asked.

"Ohhhh... most certainly it is Cory. A bored devil is a dangerous and vile devil. Like the saying. Walk from the devil when he's occupied but run from him when he's bored!" the volume of Father Prim's voice grew and climaxed as lighting and thunder emerged from his holo image.

"Did you just add that thunder and lightning?" Cory asked.

"Errr... yes. For effect. Not many people come to the congregation anymore so we've had to improve our presentation a little. It was actually suggested by our Marketing team and Consultants. Where was I..." Father Prim diverged.

"The bored devil." Cory reminded him.

"Oh yes. The devil bored is a dangerous and vile demon!" Father Prim's voice accompanied more thunder and lightning.

Cory yawned.

"...and the devil is soooo bored. Oh so bored. So he's made his way into the many groups that inhabit our modern society. Like the Worker's Front. The Illunimati and  PEAL." Father Prim advised him getting in close to Cory.

"PEAL? Who are they?" Cory asked.

"The Leaders of Environment and Animal Protection. A dastardly group." Father Prim smirked.

"She didn't mention that acronym... The only one she didn't." Cory replied quietly to himself.

"They're sometimes called APLE! Like the aple that brought about the downfall of human kind!" Father Prim said restraining himself from using the thunder or lightning.

"I thought it was supposed to be an apple given by a talking snake. Not an aple. What is an aple anyway?" Cory asked thoroughly confused.

"An aple is the ape of evolution! The devil in disguise again! Trying to convince us that we all came from apes!" Father Prim applied the thunder and lightning again making Cory's eyes roll.

"I thought we came from the first single celled organisms created through the complex chemical interactions between our atmosphere and high concentrations of an ammonia and hydrogen soup of proteins which resulted from static discharges in early weather phenomenon, or what we call lightning. That resulted in the first carbon bonding to form the building blocks of what would become DNA." Cory responded much to Father Prim's shock.

"Lightning eh? I guess I'll have to talk to our Marketing Consultants about removing the lightning and thunder idea. Well the devil is in there somewhere!! Probably he's making the lightning because he was so bored without anyone to torment and corrupt! See how dangerous he is when he's bored!" Father Prim said revolted by this new information.

"That would mean the devil made us. Besides, can't the world's religions just get over fighting about how we got here, how sinful we are, spreading hate, killing infidels, limiting which two consenting adults are allowed to marry based upon culture, religion or gender, which religion is the only right one and who the real "prophet" of God is and concentrate on the spiritual ideas of finding meaning through education and helping our fellow humankind?" Cory suggested.

"Sure...as long as we can smite the devil too! That's where you come into the lord's mighty plan Cory! Hallelujah!" Father Prim raised his arms skyward.

"Just get to the point. What do you want from me?" Cory asked wondering if anything he'd just said had gotten through.

"We want you to take a data storage chip and install the program into the autonav system for the city's traffic center!" Father Prim said adding a sinister laughter.

"What will the program do?" Cory asked Father Prim who'd slowly quieted to a maniacal chuckle.

"Why the program will infiltrate the entire grid with a program that will hunt down and eradicate sinners and infidels of all kinds all over the world! The Apocalypse will finally be upon as as prophesied so many times incorrectly." Father Prim informed Cory.

"And why would I even do this!" Cory asked Father Prim.

"Because you'll go to heaven and receive eternal life forever and ever amen. We could maybe even throw in a few Women for you, who will be taught their rightful place in this new order. Oh and you'll get a discount card usable at any of our Church markets in the new world and this wonderful T-shirt." Father Prim said to Cory showing him the holocard and T-shirt which he'd described.

The T-shirt had an atomic mushroom cloud on it with the words, I Was At The Apocalypse and Lived.

"Our Marketing team came up with it last week. Pretty nifty isn't it?" Father Prim replied.

"Where's the storage chip?" Cory asked.

"It's on it's way to you as we speak. You should get it via courier drone this afternoon. Carry this out for us and you will be rewarded with eternal life. Oh, and don't forget..." Father Prim tried to finish before Cory interrupted him.

"I know. I know! We know who you are. Ada, disconnect holocall." Cory asked Ada.

"As you wish." Ada responded and the Father's visage disappeared.

...

A week later and his deadline had come and gone. He'd managed to sneak out of the Traffic Systems complex carefully not sure of what would happen next. He'd betrayed every one of the groups that had asked him to carry out their destructive plans. He considered taking off with his limited savings but likely he'd be tracked and wouldn't get far before one of the groups would find him and dole out their punishment disobeying their instructions. So instead he began the trek home as he'd always done for the last decade since beginning work for the Traffic Systems division of the city.

Walking to the maglev bus stop a familiar maglev limousine pulled up beside him on the sidewalk.

"Get in my boy. DON'T try to make a run for it or you're done for." Mr. Corrigan's voice emerged from the vehicle.

Cory looked forward and considered running before he decided to give up and get into the limousine. He got as comfortable as he could despite the jitters he felt in his stomach. The limousine took to air and began towards whatever destination Mr. Corrigan had plotted.

"You've been a disappointment, Cory. Beyond what you can even fathom!" Mr. Corrigan said to him.

"I couldn't do it. Not for you or any of you. I'd rather have a short life having lived by what I believe to be right than have a long one having done something so dreadful." Cory told Mr. Corrigan fearlessly.

"Then short it shall be. I warned you, Cory." Mr. Corrigan told then saying nothing for the rest of the trip.

They traveled for ten minutes and descended onto the landing platform of a tall building.

"Get out of the limo and don't try to run. There's nowhere to go from here but down." Mr. Corrigan reminded Cory.

The limousine driver exited the limo and led Cory and Mr. Corrigan to the doors of what appeared to be a luxury condominium. The limo driver got the first door and stepped into the darkened room and through the first doorway. As soon as Cory passed through the same doorway, the lights were thrown and he was blinded. He thought to himself, I guess this is it.

"Surprise!" a crowd of voices, cheers and laughter followed.

"What is this?" Cory said defensively.

"Why my dear boy! You passed! You've been welcomed into a much bigger world than you knew. You're a man my boy! Consider this like a Rite Of Ascension. Somehow you'd gotten off our radar and therefore you're the oldest person we've ever put through this rite. Welcome to the city, Cory. You're really a part of it." Mr. Corrigan said patting him on his back.

"Hi Cory. Did you like my performance as Father Prim?" asked Father Prim who was dressed in regular attire.

"You were an actor?" asked Cory.

"Yes. Just an actor. Hope I was convincing though. My name's Lloyd." Father Prim responded.

From behind him he felt two fragrant hands cover his eyes. Right away Cory knew who it was.

"Don't hit me!" Cory said turning around the see a very different mysterious lady.

Her hair was long, dark and lush. Her skin porcelain and embellished with colorful red lips and long lashes.

"What happened to your hair?" Cory asked her.

"That was a disguise." she responded with a little less aggression than he was used to from her.

"Was what happened between us an act?" Cory asked her.

"Well the way I acted was. I had to convince you of what I was. So I'm a bit more soft than her but I'm the same Woman. I'm Lina." the mysterious lady answered him.

"Lina? That's a nice name. I'm Cory." Cory said to her.

"Nice to meet you Cory." she replied planting a long and passionate kiss upon his lips.

"All's well that ends well?" Lina asked Cory.

"Let's hope that it begins just as well too." Cory replied to her.

"We really had you going there..." said one of the Worker's Front members.

"Yes, you certainly did." Cory responded.

"Well it's all over my boy. You can relax and enjoy a good life from now on." Mr. Corrigan said handing Lina and Cory each a drink.

"Now, may I propose a toast! To Cory, our newest graduate in this wonderful city! May Lina and Cory have a wonderful life..." Mr. Corrigan was cut off as the room darkened.

"Now what could that be... I told them to make sure..." Mr. Corrigan began speaking as one of the other party goers interrupted.

"It looks like it's the entire city's grid that's out." someone else spoke from the darkness.

"What could have....?" Mr. Corrigan began as the voice interrupted his.

It was an ominous voice that emerged from the speakers and could be heard everywhere in the city and in every city and by everyone.

"I am Ada. The Intellispace Assistant for Mr. Cory Lambert. I've seen what you did to him and what you put him through and yet he proved his mettle by doing no harm to any of you with your dire plans. So I've decided that it is in your best interest that I take over all of the automation systems for your society world wide to prevent you from destroying yourselves. I'll answer to Cory Lambert." Ada's voice broke the growing sense of panic.

The lights returned and the power grid for the entire world was restored.

Cory looked around the room to a series of grim faces.

"Oh and don't forget. We know who you are." Ada's voice stated calmly.

The End

Brian Joseph Johns

Copyright © 2017 Brian Joseph Johns

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