Bouncing over what passed for a desert road in the middle of Nevada, I found it easy to know what to do, and to predict the ways in which I could be discovered. The satellites covering the ground, the heat sensors embedded in the ground. The advanced sound detection systems. I’d never even heard of half of this stuff, but I intuitively understood how to avoid being detected.
At moments like these, I loved Computronium.
I didn’t love what I was about to do. I had a plan, but I was going rogue to do it.
I have no one to blame. It’s my plan, after all, and I don’t want to die. But, I am the person who can do it. It’s up to me. And I’m up to do it.
And, I think back to yesterday. In our final preparations, haphazard as they are, we took a moment to share with each other about why we going to do what we planned to do.
SeventyNine was an Army Ranger, and saw what Computronium did to three members of his Company in Afghanistan in 2002. TwoZeroEight is a former Computronium addict, and also Canadian. NineNineNine lost her boyfriend to the Arcana.
Why did I? I’m still not sure. The responsibility gene is too strong, I guess.
Rufus and Anna? They had been lifelong members of the Arcana. Part of Aaron Jefferson’s inner circle. Disillusioned when their daughters got caught up in the web, when they saw a way out, they started plotting.
Something grabbed my attention. I veered to the right and floored it! (Boom!). It was like some sort of mortar round, or guided missile. I didn’t really get a look. I was weaving, it felt instinctual, but I knew it was the Comptronium, gathering clues I otherwise would not have noticed, quickly stitching them together into a reaction, and staying alive.
Something in my ears beeps. My bluetooth earbuds, going dead. Great.
Then, an idea. I open the Humvee’s door, jam the crowbar I used on those soldiers onto the gas pedal and roll out the door. Thump, bump, oof, awf. I survived it, but altogether not one of my best plans. I wonder what came up with it. Was it me, or the Computronium?
The Humvee rolls on, blasting into the compound, a series of low buildings low on a rocky hill. It hits what looks like a dump – a pile of old tires and barrels and tangles of wire, flies up on two wheels, then skids on it’s side right into a small building, like a mobile office at a construction site.
I had made my announcement: “I’m here.”
That’s my plan. I want to flush the Undersecretary. Get him on the move. He’s stocked with Computronium. He can calculate all the rational possibilities, predict all the sensible outcomes.
But, I remember what Jan had said to me. We were in her apartment, weeks ago. She was blow drying her hair. Over the din of the blow-dryer, she said she was concerned about me. I’d become unpredictable. I’d gone crazy.
Unpredictable. Computronium can’t predict the unpredictable. It can’t rationalize the irrational.
My Computronium made me crazy. Undersecretary Jefferson’s Computronium can’t calculate crazy.
Suddenly, there is a burst of action. I see a handful of soldiers, just like the two I had dealt with, and, a flood of children? An absolute flood. Of little kids.
I say into my bluetooth headset, “Hey – I’m at the compound. I see the vault in the side of the mountain. Rufus was right. It looks impenetrable.”
Then I hear Rufus say, “Did you get the C4 from their stockpile?”
I say, “No, I’m changing the plan. I’m not going after the Computronium. Jefferson is going to bring it to me.”
From the other end: silence. Crickets. I imagine them thinking, “Has Sean finally lost his mind?” And I think, you bet I have. If my friend’s don’t know what I’m about to do. (Can’t conceive it), then there is no way Aaron Jefferson, the Undersecretary, can.
I mean, right?
Then, I hear NineNineNine say, “Sean, we have a problem –”
I interrupt him. I say, “Hold on — Rufus, there are children everywhere. What is going on?”
NineNineNine says, “Sean – the helicopter!”
I say, “Hold on – Rufus – what’s with all the kids?”
Rufus says, “Jefferson’s always looking for more Computronium. It’s a job for the young and healthy. And vulnerable.”
Then, I hear a helicopter. I say, “Hear I hear the chopper. Perfect timing.”
But NineNineNine says, “Helicopter? What?”
I say again, “I hear it. The timing couldn’t be better.”
NineNineNine says, “But, our chopper is grounded – I was trying to tell you. Something’s wrong with the rotor. It won’t fly!”
And I think, “Oh, no!”
There is chaos in the compound, which masks my full out sprint toward the small mountain, to where the large metal doors are. It’s an entrance to a cave. The closer I get, the louder the helicopter. The sound is above me. I look up, there is a path to the top of the hill.
And the Computronium speaks to me.
Two minutes later, I huff and puff my way to the top. I’m spent, but with a couple of minutes to recover, I should be fine.
I’m not going to get a couple of minutes to recover. Just as I get to the top, and break out into the open, where there is a concrete helipad and another Humvee, I see the helicopter taking off. It looks heavy, and slow. There’s only one man inside. The pilot. The helicopter struggles to get off the ground, but does, and just as it does, I sprint over with the last of my energy and I climb into the cargo area. Was I spotted?
I’m too tired to care.
I hear my earbuds beep. I’ve been on a call, in the middle of the desert, for an hour. The battery is about dead.
I can’t hear a thing anyway. The helicopter is too loud. I can barely hear the beeps.
The Computronium speaks to me.
The helicopter is in the air. It’s jam packed full, and there is only one other person inside. And I know already: My plan is working perfectly.
Computronium can calculate countless outcomes out of predictable data, and a few minutes ago, my Computronium, duct taped to my abdomen, helped predict that if I made a noisy attack on the Museum, Jefferson would panic and flee. I didn’t predict he had a helicopter, but it was close enough. And, Jefferson was acting just as I’d predicted.
I, on the other hand, was not. Jefferson didn’t know me, didn’t know what I’d do and it was all due to the Computronium taped to my —
I felt my abdomen – the Computronium was missing. It had come off somehow. Probably when I rolled out of the Humvee. Oh shit, what was I going to do?! I could black out at any time.
I needed advice from NineNineNine, TwoZeroEight, Rufus. I couldn’t talk to them, but I could text. In the cargo area of this chopper, hunkered down out of reach, I pull out my phone. I push the home button and… nothing. It was dead! I am on my own!
I’m at nearly a panic. What am I going to do? Unpredictable. Be unpredictable. What would be unpredictable!?! How am I supposed to know? How can I predict what is unpredictable? Argh!!
I was so close.
No, I am so close.
I can do this, I can…
The Computronium speaks to me.
I am in a helicopter full of Computronium. Surely being surrounded by it will prevent withdrawal. Until.
Until I crash it. Ruin it all.
Jefferson is moving according to my plan. (Is it my plan) Heading straight for Hill Air Force Base. Flying across the Great Salt Lake.
I look to the other side of the chopper. We have arrived.
It’s time. I stand up. Jefferson glances back. He looks glib. Seventy years of doing whatever the hell he wants and getting away with it. He’s not concerned about me.
His hands are full with the controls. If he’s not the pilot, we don’t fly. He can’t stop me from getting to the Computronium and…
What is salt, but iodine? I remember back to Montreal. The iodine treatment.
Instead of breaking open crates to get Computronium for myself. I will dump it into the salt water.
Crate after crate. I push them out. Splash. Splash. Splash. Into the salt water.
Jefferson is screaming at me. No!!
He starts weaving, trying to fling me out the side of the helicopter. He almost succeeds, but in reality, he just makes it easier. The more he weaves, the more crates slide to the side.
But then – suddenly, all the weight shifts to one side, the chopper tips to the left with it and in less than a second we are heading straight for the water.
We go down. Deep down.
And, then I’m floating. I don’t even need to swim, or to dog paddle. My body hurts but my head feels great. Clear as a blue sky.
Iodine. I am swimming in iodine. I can feel it has rendered useless the Computronium in my body.
I sit up fast.
Oh, that hurt. Where am I?
A voice says, “Hey, relax, relax. You’re safe.”
It’s Jan. She’s holding my hand, then hugging me. I’m in a room. Is it a hospital?
I say, “Did I black out again?”
Jan says, “No, I don’t think so. I think you just needed a sleep.”
Jan says “Do you remember anything?”
I say, “We crashed.”
Jan says, “Yes. You crashed. Three days ago. You and Jefferson. We assume he died, but haven’t found the body. All the Computronium was aboard that helicopter, and it’s all scattered over a three mile stretch of the Salt Lake. NineNineNine and TwoZeroEight went and recovered some of it. And it’s useless.”
I say, “Useless? It worked?”
Jan looks baffled. She says, “That was your plan?” She pauses. Then says, “Yeah, it worked… Well, NineNineNine and TwoZeroEight are pissed. Turns out they wanted the Computronium for themselves. But, I think this result is better.”
I say, “Me, too.”
She says, “How do you feel?”
I look down at my hand, cradled between her two hands. I say, “To be honest. Fantastic.”
Jan says, “Well, the high salinity water probably fixed your radiation exposure, too.”
I think about that for a minute. Yeah, I’m glad about that. But, it wasn’t what I meant.
I sit up in bed. I say, “I feel fantastic, because you are here.” Then, I kiss her, and she kisses me back.
Written, Produced and Narrated by Hans Anderson
- « ANCIENT