Chapter 6, Part 1

5:14 PM, Internal Hardware Time

“Even if I don’t think a self-aware network of interacting matter and forces is something that could plausibly come about randomly, unlike you, I’m no slave to chance.”

James watched in horror as a fully functional neural network knitted itself together out of energy before his eyes. Briefly, he wondered what his order would be, if his receiver was still functioning. As things stood, the agent suspected that his visual feed was the only piece of internal hardware still functioning.

“Look upon the brain that is going to read your mind, miss Waller. I look forward to seeing what it will reveal to me.”

There was no need to confirm that Faye was once again frozen in place. That would have been an inefficient choice of head rotation. It was only James’ augmentations that allowed him to get messages to his muscles, and even then, they were only trickling through, like blips on a Geiger counter.

Currently his gaze was fixed upon the pathetic man in the corner, bound by the Shock Cord. To James, this unfortunate witness reminded him strongly of a fish. He seemed helpless, clumsy, and a little slimy in character. Something about the scientist offended the agent’s warrior sensibilities.

Despite this, James was slowly realizing that Dr. Eric Reeves was likely his only hope at containing the calamity that was Joshua Brooke’s unleashed metacognite powers. The veteran struggled against such a realization, delaying its onset with a mental barrier of desperate efforts to move just a little bit faster than his current near-frozen state. How could he place the success of the mission upon the prospect of communicating to the little man in the corner, whose competence James suspected was just as contrasting to his as the respective colors of their skin.

This feeling was familiar. The hopelessness of a situation that James’ indomitable will sought to reject with every iota of its essence was something he had felt once before.

If his superiors at the Peripheral Branch headquarters were monitoring his feed, they would be seeing what he was. A skinny teenager, closing his eyes in concentration, stretching out his hand in order to maintain an interconnected collection of transient matter and energy. A pale scientist, watching events unfold with fear in his eyes.

However, for James, a second scene was superimposing itself over what was in front of him. Fed by his growing despair, and perhaps by the ambient energy pouring out of Josh, his normally focused mind began feeding him a memory.

He took point, as usual. In each of his hands he carried a massive, unwieldy gatling plasma rifle. Each one had been designed to be mounted on a vehicle, and most men could not lift even one with their full strength.

 

Clearly, James was not most men.

 

He was the God of War, come to cut down terrorists the way his ancestors had reaped grain from their fields.

 

Even while handling his twin burdens, James had no problem shifting his weight onto one foot. With a grunt, he kicked in the double doors in front of him, and half a second later was charging through the opening.

 

The hideout his strike team was exterminating this time was a religious building of some sort. James and his team recognized it as being from the “Catholic” faith, something that had endured for thousands of years across many civilizations. However, it had no place within the new united society of humanity, and neither did its excess.

 

Each of the windows flanking the strike team as they spread out on the opposite end of a antique wooden pulpit was tinted, jagged sections tessellated together to form artistic depictions of the religion’s stories.

 

The insurgents were hiding among the pews. Almost immediately after James had barged in, and while the gas within his guns’ cylinders was being superheated into plasma, they roared out variations of their misguided values and unleashed their hodgepodge of weaponry on the government military forces.

 

“For our freedom of expression!”

 

“Art is eternal!”

 

Standing proud, James bellowed deeply in response. By now his gatling guns were spinning nearly at full speed. High-pitched piercing sounds reverberated through the arched space as fluorescent blue pulses streaked from his inhuman loadout, leaving charred matter in their wakes. Wood, stone, flesh – all of it vaporized under the intensity of James’ assault.

 

Unfortunately for the one known as the God of War, these rebels were well-informed. They knew that this particular strike force sacrificed tactical soundness in the hopes that the raw power of its leader would leave their opposition scrambling. Following from this, they knew that James was exposed without cover, if only they were willing to sacrifice themselves to face him head-on.

Back then, the now-agent had realized his own abilities were not enough too late. Looking again at Dr. Reeves, James realized he had no choice but to attempt to communicate with the man. However, even such a task seemed daunting and was bordering on the impossible. The memories continued to overlay themselves upon the scene in front of him.

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