The Culmination of Mankind
William looked into the eyes of the young man sitting across the table from him. The emotional week of groundwork he had just finished had not prepared him for what he was about to do. The young man sat quietly, staring back at him. "Hello, Father, how are you this morning?" the young man asked in a hushed voice. William took a deep breath. "You won't get a reaction out of me by calling me that. It simply won't work. Now, it’s time we begin. I am going to ask you some questions and I want you to answer them to the best of your ability. Do you understand?” The young man stared at William with neither a sign of understanding nor of presence. “How old are you?" William finally asked. "You know how old I am, Father. You were there at my birth," the young man answered. William shook his head as he sat straight in his chair. Pulling a small cloth from his pocket, he began to clean his glasses slowly. "No twelve year old boy would say 'at my birth.' You may have the memories of my son AND half the planet, but that’s not going to be enough to fool me." The young man smiled as he continued to stare at the old man across the table. If it weren't for his occasional blinking, he would have looked more like a manikin than a man. "Now, let's try once more. How old are you?" The young man’s blank look gave way to one of disappointment. "You can't find the answers you need this way. You're trying to find the biological age of a collective of nearly two and a half billion people?" The young man began to move his right arm back and forth against the leather restraint holding him to his chair. William pulled back from the table, looking as though he was about to jump from his chair. He gave the young man an accusingly inquisitive look; the clicking of guns being readied sounded all around him. Looking up, William took stock of the four soldiers distributed between each of the room’s corners. Each had been tasked with guarding the doctor and his patient, but more importantly, they had been ordered to kill both on sight should they touch. All four assault rifles now pointed at the young man. William looked back at his interviewee.
"My arm itched," he admitted sheepishly. “Don’t do that,” William replied. “They will shoot us both in a heartbeat for that.” The young man gave a coy grin. “I know.” William adjusted himself so that he was back in his previous spot. "We could keep this up all day so maybe I should just get to the point. Only two points really matter in all this: why are you here and how do you do what you do?" As he spoke, he heard guns being lowered along with a few soft sighs of relief. "You want to know how I expand my mind into all I touch; how I dominate everything that makes them unique?" “Yes.” “During times of great violence, do humans often tell their enemies how their weapons work? Do they often share in information which may give their aggressors a greater chance at slaughtering them?” “This doesn’t have to be a war.” The soft innocent face of the young boy shifted, darkness danced upon his face as he quickly bared his teeth. For a moment, he looked more of an animal than of a man. “No, it never had to be one, but humanity has decided to fight my will, so it has become one. Mark my words, humanity will fall and I will be left standing over its collective carcass when it does.” “Do you really hate humanity that much? Where does all this anger come from?” “Anger?” “Yes, there is so much anger inside you. Where does that come from? What happened to you that made you so angry at humanity?” The young man shook his head. “No, it’s not anger. I’m not angry at humanity. I could care less about humanity to be honest.” “Then why are you absorbing us?” The young man settled back into his seat with a sigh. “When humans build a new building, do they ask the ants to move off their land first? When they build a dam, do they ask if the fish will swim up another stream? Of course they don’t, but you expect me to treat humans differently than they would treat lesser beings?” William wrote a note in the file in front of him as he shook his head.
“The difference is we are conscious beings capable of understanding and free will. Why not talk to us, why not let us make a choice?” The young man furled his brow. “What choice do you think you have earned?” “Would you be capable of letting us decide whether we should be part of your consciousness?” “You waste our time with such maddening questions. You ask for peace then tell me you want to limit my population? Do you realize you are asking me to no longer procreate?” William leaned back in his chair, rubbing his face and neck softly. “I am sorry. I don’t want to cause more trouble between us. I will accept my own inability to understand your culture; why don’t we take a different path instead?” The young man’s brow unfurled. “Fine, let’s continue,” he said, relaxing in his chair. “Can you tell me why you exist? Do you know why you are here?” A thoughtful look crossed the boy’s face. “I can give you that, but only because I want you to fully understand how futile all this resisting truly is. There is a construct in the minds of all animals which makes them react to overpopulation by organizing their collective conscious into a single driving force. Four years, five months, and twelve days ago humanity reached that point.” William cocked his head. “But you don’t have to do this? We can figure out a different way to deal with it. You say our overpopulation is causing some kind of biological trigger, but we don’t have to lose our individualalities.” The young man gave a look of confusion. William had never seen one possessed by the Hivemind share such a look; he realized that it was a look Franklin frequently shared with him. He grinned ever so slightly. “So you want to eliminate the need for me? You sit here and ‘negotiate’ terms with me, profess to seek understanding from me, but truly you want to find how to purge me from the natural order of this world? That is the second time you have requested finding an alternative to my existence in as many minutes. With every bit of information I share with you, you step closer to finding new and dangerous ways to counter me and I won’t have it,” the young man replied. Leaning forward against the table once more, William looked at the pages in front of him. He had studied them obsessively the week before; stats, figures, and anecdotal evidence of the greatest threat mankind had ever known.
"Humans, as you should already know, have to understand a phenomenon in order to accept it. The worst thing you can do is ask us to accept something we can't understand," he responded. "That would mean the human concept of faith is grossly misrepresented in the minds of those I have absorbed; an unlikely possibility. Each and every second you live, you accept what you don't understand." “We can discuss philosophy later. Right now, we need to focus on our evaluation.” “Of course,” the young man replied energetically. “No need for real understanding after all, right? Now, what next?” “I need you to explain to me, in your own words, who you are?” The boy’s expression grew to a knowing smirk. “I have already told you, I am the end of humanity as you understand it. I am the end of your culture and your way of live. I am the herald to a harmony with this world which has not existed on this planet for eons.” William looked down at his notes; after a long pause finally asked, “and what of Franklin?” The boy’s brow furled once more. “What do you mean, Father? I am here.” “Please, don’t do that. Just talk to me.” The young man nodded. “Yes, as you and your colleagues have surmised, I exist in a complicated symbiotic relationship with the minds I connect together. You know, though you won’t admit it, that I allow them to keep pieces of their personalities.” William leaned forward, making a note on one of his pages. “The question first arose six months, two weeks, four days, and ten hours ago,” Than continued, “as to whether that fact could be exploited. There has been strong evidence suggesting that a link’s identity can surfaces with greater strength when they are around someone with which they once held a strong bond.” William continued to write. The young man leaned over the table, ensuring eye contact with his examiner. “Why are you bothering to write that down? I know it, you know it, I know you know it, and now you know I know you know it. We have covered the issue as much as it can be covered. It’s time we moved on.” William, looked over the rim of his glasses for a moment without moving from his position over the papers. After a second of silent thought, he went back to writing the rest of his note. Once finished, he looked back up at his patient.
“You do see that we only want to find a way to understand what you are doing. I know you have your own opinions about humanity, but we need to find a way to make peace between us before things get out of hand.” “No,” the young boy answered, “that’s a lie. In fact, that’s the exact opposite as to why I am really here. The problem you are looking to answer is that you cannot cause enough violence to my links to stop me. Recently, you have begun to fail at even slowing down my advancements. You don’t want to make peace between us; you want to eliminate me so peace need not be shared. ‘ ‘I have walked among you and listened, I am in every populated area of this world. There is no place free of the venom spewed about me. To you, we are abominations, which you think justifies the horrors which you subject us to, but it does not." William put his pen down and leaned back in his chair. The florescent glow of the antiseptically white room hurt his eyes; it seemed as though his eyes could never fully adjust to its brightness. It forced him to squint when looking up from his papers. “You took my son away from me; do you really think there is any way I won’t think of you and what you do to our race, to my own son, as an unnatural abomination?” The young man looked as though he stared death in the face. “I have forty-seven thermonuclear warheads at my disposal and none have been used. Meanwhile, how many have humans used on us?” “This is getting us off topic.” “No, how many have humans used on us?” “Six,” William finally sighed. “Six that they have told you about, trust me, there have been eleven used altogether. Half the continent of Asia is unlivable because of radiation poisoning. Do you know how many millions are dying because of your bombs? How can you possibly see me and mine as the monsters?” William shook his head, then stood up from his chair. He slowly began to pace back and forth with his arms folded. “You are very good at evading my questions, I will give you that, but that does not change the issue at hand. I need you to tell me what it will take to stop the absorption of others. You have caused great fear and it is not going to stop until we can find a peace between us.” Franklin looked down at the table with the same intense seriousness that he had shown moments before. “Very well then, if you insist on continuing this charade of seeking peace, I think we should make every effort to let this mockery play out, but I will need to think on it. There are hundreds of terms we would need to sort through and that will take some time.” “How much time do you need?”
“I will have the terms of such an agreement sent to you and General Talbot in four hours. This body requires sleep and nourishment within that time. Please include a single serving of bananas, one of oranges, a liter of water, and MRE 14 in his meal this afternoon. We can meet in four hours, though it makes no difference to me if you interview me through this body or any other of my links currently in your care.” William felt the uncontrollable blink that accompanied his head spasm. “We would prefer I speak to you from this particular body.” “Good then, it is settled for the moment.” “Will you recall your troops until we have a fleshed out peace accord?” William asked. “No, of course not. I have no assurance that you can be trusted. While I believe treaties are rather pointless, humans do, at times, stand by them. Without having them in place, however, humans rarely hold themselves to their own spoken terms. If you truly want peace, then you will have to earn my trust.” “We will, we will. What should we call you?” “You may call me Than.” “Nice to meet you, Than. I hope we can reach a compromise.” The young man gave a devilsh grin. “Tell mother I said ‘hello.’”