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Instant Recap: Gavin & Eric traded stories of amazing psychic events during the Indo-European eclipse of August 1999. They agreed to convene the War Council.

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6. The Command Center

     There were many clusters of social activity indoors and out through the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. As dusk fell, a few small groups of people strolled off unobtrusively along a number of routes that converged on a trail in a wooded area of the property. Kamran was a neophyte on the path, accompanied by four who knew it well: Flash, Spike, Vance, and a Cascadian named Hector. They entered a dilapidated outbuilding that looked like it had once been a barn or a stable. Spike laid hold of a metal protrusion on a rusting hay-baler, and swung the huge machine aside with surprising ease. To Kamran he said with a grin: “I don’t really have Überhuman strength ~ it pivots on that rod going into the floor, see? If you didn’t know where to grab it, it would take at least three guys to make it budge.”

     Vance reached down and pulled up a metal ring attached to the floor. “A trap door!” said Kamran as Vance hoisted it open. Flash tapped on his mobile device, and light flooded out from below.

     At that moment another party of pilgrims entered the building. “Looks like we’re just in time,” said Diana. With her was Albrecht and some other men from Cascadia.

     Under the trap door was a rectangular shaft with rungs on two sides. Everyone climbed down two at a time, and at the bottom was a vault-like steel door in the wall. Flash slid aside a small panel on it, revealing a screen with a faint green glow; he put his palm against it, and the door swung inward. The people filed into a space resembling a big-box warehouse store, except that the shelves were all filled with sacks, crates, and drums of non-perishable food. “This is our survival depot,” said Flash to Kamran. “All those lockers along the walls are stocked with the tools we’ll need in case the grid shuts down.”

     “Including weapons?” asked Kamran.

     “That’s the next level down,” said Spike. “The heavy hardware fills the whole chamber.”

     “Wow, enough for an army!”

     “Unfortunately no, because the missile-launchers and tanks take up too much space.” Kamran whistled in amazement.

     They walked the length of the storage chamber to a door that opened with an ordinary combination lock. On the other side was a well-stocked wine cellar. “We have a lot of fine vintages,” said Vance, “all locally produced.”

     “Well, I heard that this whole region is wine country,” said Kamran.

     “Do you indulge?” asked Flash.

     “No, I was raised Muslim. But maybe some day I’ll give it a sip.”

     The barrels lay on their sides in the usual way, with spigots in the tops for sampling. At the end of an aisle Flash invited Kamran to knock on the lids of the last few barrels. He did, and said, “They all sound full.”

     “Acoustic camouflage,” said Vance. He took a small crowbar from the wall and pried the lid off the next-to-last barrel on the bottom shelf. No wine gushed out, for it was empty.

     “Now comes a slightly cumbersome part of our journey,” said Flash. He crawled into the barrel and could be heard doing something to the bottom; then his feet disappeared inside.

     “It’s a tunnel,” said Spike to Kamran ~ “very short, as you’ll see.”

     Kamran followed him into the false wine barrel, and emerged onto the landing of a stairwell going down. They descended swiftly, followed by the others as they emerged one by one from the round crawlspace. About thirty feet down was another landing with a steel door. “The armaments cache,” said Spike. They didn’t stop, and reached the bottom of the stairs another thirty feet lower. There was still another steel door, which suddenly swung open, and out stepped Mindy. “Hi, guys!” she said waving a hand. “We saw you coming.”

     “Hey, gal!” said Spike. “Who else sneaked in ahead of us?”

     “Gavin and I have been here for hours. He’s busy setting up his presentation for us.”

     The troupe walked through the door into a huge circular room lit up with towering screens running along the walls, fronted by a bank of control panels. At one of them sat Gavin, obviously intent on his task. He glanced over his shoulder and said, “Hi, everybody. Pardon my back, but I’m almost finished.” The screen above his seat was filled with a shifting phantasmagoria of tech displays interspersed with clips of buildings, landscapes, and interiors. Occasionally there were scenes with explosions and military action.

     At the center of the space was a round table which could seat thirty to forty. The people who were filing in assembled around it; some sat down and chatted, and some watched Gavin’s video display, trying to guess what he was up to. The images on the other screens were more stable; some were maps highlighted with glowing networks and grids.

     Looking around at the screens, Kamran said to his friends, “What an incredible set-up! It looks like you can monitor the world.”

     “Everything that’s of strategic importance in the world,” said Flash. “At least that’s the intent.”

     “And it’s for military purposes?”

     “Yes, this is our Command Center. When you were on the front in Afghanistan and Syria, we were giving you a bit of an assist right here.”

     “But it serves other purposes,” said Vance. “The world-front is lots bigger than the action on the ground at any given moment.”

     “Right,” said Spike, “and so our network is equipped with top-of-the-line espionage software.”

     “You mean,” said Kamran, “you’ve hacked into government computer networks?”

     “Yes,” said Flash, “but that’s mostly bottom-line ~ a grade-schooler can do it. The tricky part is getting into the convoluted crypts of our fellow top-line players in the enemy camp. We’re there, but it’s a never-ending cat-and-mouse game.”

     “We go over the top too,” said Vance ~ “the real action is in the metasphere.”

     Kamran drew a blank. Spike said to him, “Have you ever heard of psychotronic warfare?”

     “Vaguely ~ I thought it was science fiction or conspiracy fantasies.”

     “It’s devastatingly real,” said Flash. “Human life has always been controlled by those with the most powerful presence in the metasphere, but today the global matrix of physical tech has made it a lot more complex. The edge goes to those who are best able to forge links between the cybersphere and metasphere. The most skillful operatives can turn it into a seamless mesh, and erase the line between virtual and numenal reality. Then the material world becomes their plaything, until they get challenged by a player with equal or superior skills.”

     “It’s hard to wrap my head around that,” said Kamran. “Could you give any examples?”

     “Aha!” said Spike, “you may be about to get a demonstration.” He pointed to Gavin, who had donned what looked like virtual reality goggles. “It’s not the Google version. The device plugs his personal psy-field into the network.”

     The screen was suddenly filled with an aerial view of a body of water and a coastline. “Looks like the eastern Mediterranean,” said Kamran. The point of view on the screen plummeted toward the sea and then leveled off, moving swiftly toward the shore. “Is he using a drone?” wondered Kamran. “If so, it must be a jet.”

     “Or a small flying saucer,” said Spike. Flash looked at him askance, and he said no more.

     Something black flittered across the top of the screen, and the viewpoint began swooping around until a pair of hideous batlike entities were caught on the screen momentarily, then vanished as the view spiraled hither and tither. “What the hell were those things?” said an astonished Kamran.

     “Zionbots,” said Vance. “Those critters are insidious ~ they’re trying to zap him.”

     “What, is Gavin in danger?”

     “Yes,” said Vance; “it’s not simply a videocast ~ he’s actually projecting his presence there.”

 

     “Why doesn’t he just take the goggles off?”

     “Poor form,” said Spike, “plus some tech complications. Anyway, he’s a fighter.”

     The next moment one of the creatures filled the screen in a blood-curdling close-up. It was hellishly preternatural, yet also mechanoid, a malevolent robo-demon whose red-eyed glare called forth the deepest personal fear from the viewer’s own gut. Gavin evaded its attempt to grab him, then after another swoop the two bots could be seen flapping around in confusion and circling farther and farther away. “Awright!” said Spike, “they lost him.”

     Flash added: “In the short time he’s been at this, Gavin has developed an excellent cloaking device. He just had to gather his wits enough in the midst of that frantic action.”

     The last contingent of kindred had just come into the chamber and closed the vault door behind them. One of them was Eric, who could be heard saying, “What the devil is he doing?”

     With him was a tall woman with striking Nordic features and waist-length blonde braids. She stroked his arm and said, “I imagine we’ll find out soon. Don’t forget, it’s his show.” This unruffled Eric’s feathers, and they sat down at the round table to watch the rest of the spectacle.

 

7. The Inner Circle