Chapter 20: When the Night Bumps Back [Unedited]


The Dyoogie incident, eh? I'll be sure to read that eBook, but in the interim, Nelissa does me a favor by continuing this dialogue. #gio

"Nicolasa," she fingers her Ear-To-Mouth Com to say, "Lazaro told me almost everything about RefCo. What was Ref's angle?" #gio

"What are you talking about?" Nicolasa responds back, instinctively deflecting the blame. Now, they've known her too long.... #gio


"In five seconds, Lazaro dies. Five seconds later, my troops kill your families. At the end of ten, I'm coming for you personally." #gio

And by Nelissa's count, they only have one second left because her hand laser is right back in front of Lazaro's wide eyes. #gio

Nicolasa says simply, "Credibility," to an exaggerated exhale from a relieved Lazaro. Who needs a polygraph anymore? #gio


"I'm listening," Nelissa urges with a tinge of foreshadowy promise to accompany the lowering of her weapon - no threats at this level. #gio

"Ref caused the incident so that he could net the momentum which would've come with it by handling the situation," Nicolasa states. #gio

He follows up to say, "To date, it's still the best plan ever devised for the purposes of toppling the seven superpowers." #gio


"Ref used the weapon to create the conditions that spawned the rise of the terrorist called Pang," Nicolasa admits. #gio

Quickly, I try to search any available files on Pang in the milliseconds between words, but my access is blocked at every turn. #gio

In an attempt to be cordial, he adds, "And I don't need to remind you of how spooked Pang had you government types." #gio


This next part is interesting when Nelissa replies, "I'm aware. Dyoogie was sent in to deal with Pang upon my orders." #gio

Now, I do have some files on Dyoogie, and that is one tough dude. I'm finding it hard to believe that he'd follow anybody's orders. #gio

Heck, I'm an Ethereal, and she's playing me like a viola. I wonder what her leverage was over the vigilante. #gio


"If Ref had put down Pang's unprecedented threat with NSFm-1 Alpha," Nicolasa states, "the superpowers would've been invalidated." #gio

"Yes, a threat that he was probably financing," I can hear in Nelissa's voice that she is considering her options for taking on Ref. #gio

It's worth the chemist's mentioning, "The arms race would have ended, and the corporation of RefCo might have held Earth hostage." #gio


Nice irony. This sounds like the second coming of the Space Force with the whole 'corporations usurping the government' thing. #gio

I'm also thinking that I'll take off here in order to do some snooping around at a potential source, so I get up to take my leave. #gio

"Wait," Mahagony grabs my arm and asks, "what - who are you?" An honest shrug is the only answer that I can give, having no idea. #gio


"I don't know," is what I can verbalize. I wonder if Mahagony's concern is for my well-being or the appeasement of her curiosity. #gio

Anyway - no hard feelings, so I leave her with this pearl of wisdom, "When the feds ask questions, don't play games; just play dumb." #gio

To save me the effort of having to yank my arm free from her grasp, she gets a chance to watch me dematerialize and dissipate. #gio


There's no reason for me to stick around and watch the US government try to pump the self-serving Mahagony for information. #gio

If she plays as oblivious as the couple up front that has absolutely no idea of what just transpired, things will be fine. #gio

Being an Ethereal, I can't help everybody, but even I have to admit that my attempt when I can barely help myself is admirable. #gio


I'm not sure what I'd be looking for in return - if anything. But that's just the way I am, and the universe isn't like that. #gio

As I materialize within a small and colorful yet darkened (because of the evening hours) bedroom, I know what I seek here. #gio

You keep playing games with people enough, and they're liable to break into your house. Nelissa's is nice. #gio


Certificates, plaques, and other adornments tell me that I'm in the room of Tevan Rally - Nelissa's teenage son. #gio

Her husband, Bedser Rally, begins to drift off as he attempts to wait up with the stale company of late night television downstairs. #gio

Quietly, I make myself at home in a desk chair so that I can better access Tevan's personal computer. #gio


Most people have their home networks secured, but I can even get through a teenager's savvy handiwork. #gio

My tendrils will fit into any of the many ports on Tevan's system, so I pick one, interface, and begin to hack away. #gio

No backdoor proxy is needed since his authenticated log-in can be my culprit. This IP trail shows that he's actually tried it before! #gio


If my mom was a high-ranking general, I'd probably try to hack her computer system too. The government offers jobs for that! #gio

Not planning on being here too long, I install a hook of doomsday code. It's called 'Ultra Virus' and only needs one use. #gio

That one use happens to be unbeatable unless there's an Ethereal on the other side who can outcompute me. #gio


Things look different from the inside of a computer, and a person's folder arrangement takes on a whole new meaning in this world. #gio

Disorganization only makes the residual of a security breach that much more difficult to pinpoint. Nelissa's files are immaculate. #gio

My presence is only viewed in terms of 'yes' and 'no'. A 'yes' moves me further along, and a 'no' sets off the alarms. #gio


I'm only in for as long as it takes to net each 'yes' and not long enough to receive any semblance of a 'no'. #gio

Computers are simple machines in that respect, and assembling their basic building blocks allows them to do complex things. #gio

The perception is of code as energy patterns. The interpretation is completely stripped away to this spectrum of data I traverse. #gio


Until I find my destination, I've found a requisite inner peace. To sleep in one's own bed... - but who made this bed for me? #gio

I'm not sure that I want to lie in this one. Its comfort is too inviting, and this sleep mirrors death. #gio

So I awaken to a dream only to wish that I'd fallen back asleep and gotten out of the bed. #gio


I have a nightmare that one day a peaceful Mexican pueblo came under attack by a drug cartel and NSF skirmish that trampled onto it. #gio

I have a nightmare that the NSF fled to the glee of the cartel, but the satellite weapon fired down upon this pueblo to their dismay. #gio

I have a nightmare that I'm the one responsible for the charred yet frozen remains of the villagers - unmoved by the radius attack. #gio


So vivid is the scene that I want to apologize and throw up at the same time. Although, I'm not sure that I cared at the time. #gio

It was just 1's and 0's! Yes and no! The program of a simple code with Humanly imperceptible existentialism which did...THIS?! #gio

How can a computer be so blind to not be able to see the Humane reality? How can a computer be so powerful to not be able to cry? #gio


It was me. This is not me! I did this. I did not do this! I slaughtered these people. I refuse to accept the blame! #gio

"But it is you. It was you," Otto's avatar plays off of my schizophrenia. "This is what you were created to do and be: The Button." #gio

His voice is smug - Nelissa's trap sprung, "How is this different than when Ethereals indiscriminately pass judgment on lower beings?" #gio


Otto has a point there. On the outside of the computer, I'm paralyzed - staring a hole through the screen like I'm screaming at it. #gio

"In fact, you should be grateful that the decision is no longer yours and you're no longer in control of your actions," he counsels. #gio

Actually, I'm not. And I can see why Nelissa hates him - always levying these corny assertions, "Welcome back to where you belong." #gio


I shout, "NEVER," without my lips moving or any breath escaping my lips. How does that work? But I flip out as I try to disengage. #gio

My body is rigid - pressing up against the desktop, but my tendril is taut in its tethering me to the computer, and I kinda need that. #gio

In a commotion, I begin to rake items off of the desktop. A scanner and a cup of writing utensils go flying, and now, Tevan's awake. #gio


Nelissa, the NSF, and the government are all psychopaths. How can they do something this dangerous in front of her son? #gio

I pull away from the desk - tripping over the chair and yanking the computer along with me. He sits up, watching me fall to my knees. #gio

I'm supposed to be the big, bad Ethereal who's impervious to worms, but they didn't infect me. They infected the computer. #gio


I can fight this back, but what am I fighting it back into? The pain of choice is excruciating whereas the absence of choice wasn't? #gio

Tevan's eyes adjust to the intense albeit soft hue of my blue energy signature as it flares up to match my anguish. #gio

I can't even tell him to stay back. iiii gnineppah s'tahw wonk t'nod ! #gio


"You can try to fight against it all that you want," Otto pisses me off again, "but you have no idea what you're fighting against." #gio

From within the computer, I lunge at his avatar but strike at the reinforced hull of a satellite weapon manifestation. #gio

It's like punching a brick wall with spikes, but the aligned array of seven sucks my essence in while I crumple outside the computer. #gio


Quick and tiny gasps for breath make me think that I'm having an anxiety attack and an asthma attack at the same time. #gio

I'm lashing around violently, trying to retrieve the remnants of the sharpest utensil that I can find from the fallen cup. #gio

"Oh wow," Tevan says as, by this time, he's hopped off of the bed and made his way - the long way around to safely look at me. #gio


I've corralled a pair scissors, but I don't want to do this in front of Tevan. It's self-mutilation; I don't want to do it at all. #gio

Inside the computer, I'm all but absorbed into the satellite weapon manifestation - a status bar-like way of saying that I'm losing. #gio

With the scissors held incorrectly, I position them for a brutal plunge into the center of my very own tendril. #gio


None of my enhanced senses are working. That's all been shut down and put on suspension, similar to how I now try to play time. #gio

To pause the effectuation of pain is a sadistic delight that only the fervently masochistic can truly appreciate. #gio

But you can't hate on for me for reverting to the Fourth Dimension in order to think through the cutting off of my own appendage. #gio


Otto's mouth invites being punched in it, but he may've just posed my answer in the form of his question to help avert this jeopardy. #gio

What am I fighting against? Or is it who? But it's not Nelissa or the NSF or any of the seven superpowers - in this instance. #gio

True, she overly enjoyed smacking Lazaro around in that scene, but it was probably as fabricated as Ref not working for the feds. #gio


Who I really need to talk to is Dyoogie, but how can I be sure that he's trustworthy and not a part of this massive, deadly gambit? #gio

This ruse for my soul - these lower beings try to play in the Ethereal. I'm alone but aware of it, and that makes me paranoid. #gio

My immediate adversary is myself. I should embrace the satellite weapon, and trust who I am to competently wield it. #gio


Fighting against that extension of me is like trying to tear off my own arm...or tendril in this specific situation. Right? #gio

But had Tevan not seen it, he would not have done the logical thing and moved to pull the computer's power cord out of its socket. #gio

Electrocuting himself as a result of my otherworldly hack and the malicious NSF code, I see a glimmer of the pain I caused in Mexico. #gio


With my absorption into the satellite weapon manifestation inside the computer nearly complete, I need to contemplate some trickery. #gio

I'd call this picture of my dilemma 'NSFm-1 Alpha During Twin Paradox'. If I give in, Tevan dies. If I resist, I'll perish instead. #gio

However the bits line up, the boy must be saved. He's the corporeal representation of that pueblo and the start of my making amends. #gio

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