Copyright ｩ 2015 by Quentin Eddington
All rights reserved. Published by Quentin Eddington
No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher. For information regarding permission, write to Quentin Eddington, 7413 Llano Avenue, Texas, TX 76116
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Cover illustration by Quentin Eddington
To everyone who supports me.
Thinking has become a chore. I tapped my foot on the ground, making to make as little sound as possible.
This job interview was much more than an interview. It was a training simulation, and failure would mean I’d be unemployed. I wished I could un-quit my old job. It would have been a decent cushion.
“Jacob Blair,” The speakers called.
I got up, with my legs shaking under the pressure. Hopefully, nobody would notice.
I walked into a small room, with a table covered in paper and posters of the human brain on the white walls. It reminded me of a doctor’s office.
“Hello,” A woman wearing a lab coat gave me a warm smile, “Don’t worry, everything’s going to be fine.”
“Oh, okay” I forced a smile, and tried to look more confident.
“Listen, you’re applying to be an infiltrator, right?” The doctor said.
“The tests aren’t dangerous. The job can be at times, but not the tests.” That was probably where the doctor was giving me a way out. I couldn’t really take it.
“So what’s first?” I asked.
“We’re going to do a simulation.” The woman said, “Take a seat and we’ll begin.”
I complied as the doctor got a few things ready,
“Okay, don’t be shy.” The doctor moved a needle over my head. A tingling came from my forehead. After a few more needles, she seemed satisfied with her work.
“What do those needles do?” I asked.
“They are wirelessly connected to a computer that will connect you to a program that simulates an infiltration.” That was a mouthful for her.
“Okay, whenever you’re ready.” I said.
The room seemed to be saturated with a rainbow. I blinked at a snail’s pace, and when I opened my eyes, the colors had just gotten more intense.
I was about to say something when something yanked me by my head. The place shifted until I was standing in a deserted road.
I stayed calm, and didn’t move a centimeter.
“This is the first simulation.” A blond woman appeared in front of me.
“So what do I do?” This was confusing.
“Navigate the environment to reach the destination.” The woman said.
I looked around for any sort of indicators, but the area was just as plain as real life.
“And where do I go?” I asked.
“The mark of corruption.”
I sighed, and rolled my eyes. My guide was useless.
I thought about staying, then started taking steps to the city. By the time I got there, my feet felt like they had blisters. I had to remind myself that all of it wasn’t real.
I continued to walk, and ended up at the tallest skyscraper with ominous spots all over it. My legs felt like jelly. I let myself take a seat on the concrete.
“You have reached the destination.” The voice nearly made me jump out of my skin.
“Oh, awesome.” I said.
“The second test will be combat.”
As soon as the words fell out of her mouth, something threw me backwards. Nice warning.
I picked myself up and balled my hands into fists. A faceless person stood in front of me.
It leaped at me without warning. I grabbed it, and slammed it into the ground. It got up like there was a spring in it.
I threw a few more punches at it, and it exploded into glass. Part of me wanted to quit right there, but I knew I had no where else to go.
“Completed,” The woman was still there.
“Yeah, thanks for the help.” I said sarcastically.
“You’re welcome. That is the end of your training.” The woman said.
I felt like something yanked me again. The colors became vivid, hyper real, then quickly faded to walls with posters on them.
“And that should be it.” The doctor smiled at me.
“So I can go?” I asked.
“Yes,” She said.
I left the ETB office, and walked to the bar. Alexander was already there.
“Hey, has an evil corporation gotten their hands on you?” He was a conspiracy theorist at heart, and the ETB was the latest debate.
“I hope so.” I said, “That training was really weird.”
Alexander furrowed his brow a few times.
“Define ‘weird’ for me.”
“Like a crazy simulator.” I said, “You trying to prove your theories?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Alexander said, “You’re on the inside now, you get to see what they do.”
“Just because they can get into your head doesn’t mean they’re doing it for evil. I’m not too concerned.”
“Liar,” Alexander stood up quickly, drawing all eyes on us.
“Sit down,” I chuckled.
“But you’re concerned about it.” Alexander sat back down.
“I’m not gonna get an infiltration, though. Human therapists still exist. Not that I would go to one of those, either.”
“Good, you don’t trust the ETB.” Alexander said.
“Not good. I might work for them now.” I chuckled.
“Well be curious when you get the job.” Alexander said.
“Can’t promise that.” I got up, “Talk to you later.”
I went back home, anxiety building up inside me. I didn’t get any sleep.
The next morning, my phone chimed at me. It was the ETB. After the phone call, I was an infiltrator.
My stomach was still doing backflips. I walked into the ETB building again, taking my steps slowly, robotically.
I was led to a room full of infiltrators. I felt like a kid at the White House.
“Hey, Jacob!” A huge guy with a mohawk yelled.
“Me?” I asked.
“No, stupid, the stray cat.” He wasn’t leaving a good first impression.
“Okay, what do you need from me?” I said.
“You’re gonna to do an infiltration with me.” The man said.
“Oh,” There wasn’t much else I could say about it.
“I’m Frank Marshall.” He said.
“I already knew that.” Frank was going to be hard to work with.
We went to a sterile, white room with a window looking out to another room.
“We’re not in the room with the customer.” Frank said.
“That doesn’t make sense. I don’t want someone I’ve never seen poking around in my mind.” I said.
“Some customers complained about it, too, but our services are too good for them to even care.”
“You’re sure there’s been no accidents?” A woman wearing street clothes walked in with a doctor.
“Yes, our the ETB’s technique is perfected.” The doctor said, “Please, take a seat Mrs. Larsson.”
The woman sat in the chair.
“I’m – it’s my first time, see.” She said.
“I understand your concerns.” The doctor said, “You don’t have anything to worry about, though.”
The woman was still shaking like a leaf.
“Get ready,” Frank took a seat. I took the other chair, with my hands shaking. Luckily, Frank didn’t seem to notice.
“What about this head thing?” I pulled at a sci-fi headpiece above me.
“Just like that.” Frank followed his own orders. I decided to do the same. Something in the headpiece poked at the base of my skull.
“Okay, when do we go in?” I asked.
“Soon,” Not helpful, Frank.
I waited for a few minutes, then the room got to be intense colors.
When it all stopped, I was standing on a sponge.
“Okay, why?” I asked to nobody in particular.
“Don’t be a wuss. There’s worse.” Frank seemed to have materialized next to me.
“I wasn’t thinking ‘it’s bad’ or – oh, forget it.” I said.
“Let’s just help this lady out and go.” Frank started walking off. I didn’t have anything better to do but follow.
We continued, and I discovered that the place looked like someone ate Earth, then threw it up. There were stone pyramids next to the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty lying down on what could only be the Great Wall of China.
“The training is nothing like this.” I said.
“You not the brightest, are you? Every person is individual, so they end up with their own landscapes.” Frank said. I guess that made sense.
“So do you know where to go?” I never got that part.
“Follow the most dangerous trail.” Frank pointed to a section of the sponge world where bits of it were ripped up. Being an infiltrator wasn’t what it was cracked up to be.
“Yeah, ripped sponge is danger. Why didn’t I think of that?” I rolled my eyes, and followed Frank toward it.
We went past the ripped sponge and other little places where the world had been torn up by something,
“How will we know when we reach what we’re looking for?” I asked.
“You’ll know when you the corruption.” Frank didn’t sound pleased with answering the question.
We reached the pseudo Eiffel Tower, and my skin started to buzz.
“This is it,” Frank said.
“So your skin tickles? That’s how you find what you’re looking for?” I made sure to sound unimpressed.
“Yes, and if you don’t want to be fired, you’ll sound more enthusiastic about it.”
When Frank wasn’t looking, I rolled my eyes again.
At the base of the tower, there were several giant, black spiders.
“Yay for us, I hate spiders.” I said.
“Shoot them,” Frank raised his arm up, and fired off a gun.
I pulled out my gun, and shot with him. The spiders didn’t stand a chance.
We went up to the top of the tower. I could feel wind dragging me to the edge.
“Great, now what?” I asked.
“There,” Frank pointed to a spider bigger than the ones we’d already shot.
It was huge, hairy, and darker than night. I felt like walking the other way.
“I guess we have to shoot this guy, too?” I said.
“Yes.” Frank said, “The woman wanted her fear of spiders removed.”
I sighed, and shot at the thing. This spider was tougher than the others, but still went down without a big hassle.
“So we’re done?” I holstered my gun.
“No, one last thing.” Frank bent down and pulled out a circular device. It dissolved, and turned into an ETB logo.
“What’s that for?” I asked.
“It’ll make her come back for more infiltrations.” Frank said.
“What?” That wasn’t in the job description.
“You moron. She’ll come back in a month or so with a new problem!” Frank said.
My mind went blank for a second. It couldn’t comprehend what was going on.
“Get that stupid look off your face and get ready for extraction.” Frank pressed a few buttons on his suit, and we were kicked out of the woman’s mind.
When I opened my eyes in real life, I still couldn’t believe what happened: corrupting someone’s mind.
The woman left, smiling, happy, oblivious that she would come back later with a new problem.
It made me sick.
I was in a daze the rest of the day. The same thing happened in the rest of the infiltrations I went into, and when I asked about it, the question was dodged. It was wearing down my
When I finally left the ETB, my brain was fried.
I went to the park by my apartment, and took a seat there. I watched people going around, wondering how many had been already brainwashed by the ETB.
“Hey, Jacob!” It was Alexander.
“Hey,” I sounded like a deflated balloon.
“Fired already?” He asked.
“No, but . . .” I wished I’d never applied to be an infiltrator. Then again, I would have never known what the ETB did . . .
“You found something.” A smile spread across Alexander’s face, “Tell me,”
“No, it’s nothing.” I said.
“Really?” He wasn’t gonna buy it, but I knew he wouldn’t press the issue.
There was an awkward silence,
“I guess I’ll go then.” Alexander went away. After a few seconds, I walked off in the other direction.
“Konichiwa,” An unknown voice said.
My gaze focused on a small, Asian girl with large, dark eyes. Her lips were pulled into a small smile.
“Me?” There wasn’t anybody else around.
“Yep, I’ve got some super important stuff to say.” She walked up to me.
“First, who are you?” I asked.
“Name’s Koneko Mayimoto.” She said, “And I don’t like what the ETB does.”
That sounded like a threat.
“Who are you? Who do you work for?” I prepared to have to take Koneko down.
“Lighten up, I’m on your side, Jacob.” Why did she know my name?
“Okay, this is creepy.” I said, “And I’m going to go.”
“No, wait!” Koneko stepped in front of me, “You seemed really upset at the ETB office.”
“You work there or something?”
“Infiltrator, just like you. I don’t think it’s right though, and I don’t think you do, either.” She left with the words hanging in the air.
“Wait,” I said, but she didn’t stop. What she said followed me home.
I tried to play some games and forget what happened, but my mind wouldn’t let me.
The next day, I walked into the office angry. I saw a customer come in.
“No! Stop!” A wave of anger washed over me, “The ETB is brainwashing you!”
Everybody in the lobby was staring at me,
“It’s true! I saw! They give you happy memories of this place, and a new problem to boot!”
Something smacked me in the back. My legs turned into jelly. I crumpled onto the cold ground.
Before I had time to react, my arms were thrust behind my back and I was dragged off,
“It’s true!” I caught sight of Koneko. She didn’t show too much emotion. I tried to watch her for a bit longer, but I was dragged out of view.
I was shoved into an elevator with two guards. I let the anger swirling inside of me stay silent.
When the doors opened again, I was staring into a lavish office, with marble statues and a view of the orange sky.
“Hello, friend!” A pudgy old man smiled at me.
“Oh, know you wanna play nice.” I wasn’t in the mood for pleasantries.
“Do you know who I am?” The man looked amused.
“I bet you’re going to tell me.” I said.
“True,” He chuckled, “I’m Robert Gates, CEO of the ETB.”
“Good. There are questions I need answered.”
“And what are they?”
“Brainwashing,” I said. When Robert didn’t lose his amused expression, I was startled.
“Ah, yes ‘brainwashing’.” Robert chuckled, “Far from it.”
“Then what did I see, huh? A giant prank?”
“No, no, our infiltrators don’t do that. What you saw was part of the process.”
“What process exactly?”
“Making sure that evil pays. More accurately, pays us.” Robert said.
“Evil?” I wasn’t just going to take this answer.
“Yes, infiltrators are meant to judge a person to see if they’re sinister beings, and tag the ones who are. ”
“But it happened at every single infiltration.” I said.
“Then what does that say about everyone there?” Robert’s amusement was getting on my nerves.
“Okay, what’s going on here?” I asked.
“We’re helping the world, weather you believe it or not, my friend.” Robert said, “Don’t worry, you’re at a good cause.”
I was put back into the elevator, and was sent back to work. My mouth remained motionless.
I watched several more “evil” people pay before being released back to my apartment.
By the end of the day, I was exhausted with the ETB.
I had tried to squeeze the truth out of anybody, but they all gave the same story Robert did. Did they truly believe what they were told? Were they just pretending not to be disturbed?
I went back home, wanting to punch a wall or something.
The brainwashing couldn’t go on. I racked my head for a few minutes thinking about how something like this could be exposed.
There had to be computers with what I wanted on them. An idea smacked me in the face. I called Alexander.
“Got troubles?” He answered.
“Sort of. Do you have anything for, say, breaking into a company’s computer?”
“I’ve got some programs that might work.”
“I’m gonna need them.” I said.
“Aha, smelling something fishy?”
“I’ll send you the programs right now.”
I checked my email to see a message with several attachments.
“Thanks,” I ended the call.
The next day, I walked into the ETB building with everybody watching me. Maybe that tantrum wasn’t the best idea.
I carried on my day like everything was normal. By the time my break came, I seemed to be getting less stares. It was a narrow opening, but I’d have to squeeze through it.
I went back to the lobby, and looked at the doors I’ve never been in. I pulled at them without luck.
“Sir,” A guard woke me from my investigation.
“Is there a problem?” He asked.
“No, none,” I said.
“Then stay away from this room.” He watched my go off with my tail between my legs.
I went back to the break room in silence.
“Konichiwa,” A familiar voice said.
“You again,” I was starting to get annoyed with Koneko.
“Yes, come, take a walk with me.” She said. We went to the little garden the ETB trapped inside the building.
“What do you want?” I asked.
“To help you,”
“Then why disappear like your part ninja or something?”
“I have my reasons. That doesn’t matter, what matters is that I want to help, right?” She did have a point.
“Okay, make yourself useful.”
“I might be able to get you some keys.” Koneko said, “But I’ll need your help.”
“Keep the guard distracted while I take the keys.” She said. I didn’t know what to think about that,
“Come on, it’s the best we’ve got.” Koneko said.
“How do you know I’m not here to help the ETB.” I whispered.
“Because you know what they do.” She said.
Silence took the air.
“Okay,” I said.
“See that guy?” Koneko pointed to a guard.
“He has the key?”
“All the keys, actually. Be sure to make a copy and put it back, if I were you.”
“Ready?” I focused on the guard like a hungry lion.
“I’m always ready.” Koneko walked off.
I walked up to the guard, and started chatting with him. I can’t even remember what. I watched Koneko walk by, her hand moving like lightning, and the keys disappeared.
When I finished, Koneko slipped the keys into my hand.
I went to the server room, and unlocked the door. The room was filled with computer towers and wires darting around. Hopefully I wouldn’t have to deal with any of it.
My gaze landed on a desktop. Awesome. I went to it, and hooked my phone up to it. It was almost too easy to put Alexander’s program onto the computer, and watching it go to work.
I quickly got out. I got a few dirty looks, but nobody did anything about it. I went through the rest of my day, itching to get back to my computer and check everything. When I finally clocked out, my skin was crawling with anticipation. The ETB was going down.
I got home, and quickly looked at the ETB databases. It was an information overload. I started digging through the records, but it was looking for a needle in a haystack.
I tried my best to narrow the search down, but an message popped up. “Unauthorized programs found in server”. There goes my luck.
“No, no, don’t do anything.” I tried to coax the computer, but my laptop gave me an error screen.
I stared at the computer trying to mentally demand it to work. I tried to get back into the ETB systems, but it was like chasing a ghost. I gave up, and let out a sigh.
The next day I went back to work, a guard stopped me at the door.
“What’s going on?” My heart picked up its pace.
“We’ve had a security breach. Have to find out who did it.” The guard said, “We figured that the person who did it has the keys stolen from here.”
Those stolen keys were in my pocket.
“This sounds horrible.” I tried my best to act, “Is there anything I could do?”
“We’re doing a security check on people, today.” The guard said, “And if you see someone suspicious, or with the keys, go report it.”
“I’ll do that.” Before I could walk off, the guard grabbed my arm.
“Sorry, have to check everyone.” The guard said. My spirits started burying themselves.
I was forced to go through a metal detector, which loved to beep at me. I put everything metal on a table, and made sure to hide the keys under my phone.
I had to get through the rest as quickly as possible, and managed to get away with it. My thoughts were a mess when I finally escaped.
“Those thieves, huh?” It was Frank, with a stone face.
“Yeah, it’s insane.” I said.
“Really, truly awful.” Koneko came up behind me, “But I need to talk with my boyfriend here.”
We walked out of earshot of the ETB employees,
“Remember when I said give the keys back?” Koneko said.
“Yes, and –”
“Now we’re on lockdown.” She crossed her arms.
“Things are gonna get tough for me, too.” I reminded her.
“Yes, but I’m sure I could cause a distraction if you ask nicely.” Koneko said.
“What do you have in mind?” I sighed.
“Don’t worry, it won’t crash and burn.” Koneko looked amused with herself, “Just be ready to get back in the server room.”
I watched her disappear behind a corner, and contemplated what I was going to do next.
Alarms started to blare. No contemplation today. I bolted to the exit with everybody else.
“Jacob!” Koneko sounded frustrated, “Server room!”
“Oh,” I realized Koneko had set off the fire alarm.
I ran back to the server room, and got inside. Fortunately, fire drills didn’t involve shutting down all the computers.
I typed as fast as my fingers would let me, and got back to where I wanted to be.
How long would it take them to figure out it was a false alarm? Sweat started forming on my head.
I started opening up folders, and checking to see what was hiding inside. It was worse than I thought.
There were records talking about how brainwashing was a way to fight the unjust, however, quickly started talking about profits.
“‘This is a legal heroin.’” I read off the screen. I had trouble believing it.
My eyes quickly rolled over the information, taking in more and more evidence.
“False alarm!” The blaring suddenly stopped.
I instinctively looked back at the door. The knob was turning.
I quickly closed out of everything I was doing.
“What are you doing in here!?” Someone yelled at me.
“I was . . .” Come on, think up a good story, “really scared. I didn’t know what to do.”
“Really?” The guard didn’t seem to like the bait.
“Yes, I just didn’t know. What happened?”
“Someone pulled the fire alarm. They’re gonna find themselves unemployed.” The guard said, “Now out, you’re not supposed to be in there.”
Before going out, I made sure to leave the keys inside.
“I wonder who was so bad they set off that alarm.” Koneko was coming back into the building. She was almost smiling.
“Yeah, I got confused and ended up in the server room.” I said.
“Awesome, now I think it’s time for your break.” Koneko walked off.
I went back to my apartment as fast as I could. The information I had needed to get to someone else’s ears.
I went to the police station, and gave them my story.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Blair, do you have any real information to back this up with?” The officer gave me a quizzical look.
“I got into the ETB’s servers.” I could tell they weren’t going to believe me, though.
“Sir, we’re sure that the ETB has no suspicious activity.”
“They’re brainwashing people! I’m an infiltrator, and that’s what we do!”
“Listen, if you have any concerns with the company, take it up with them.” The officer said, “We’ve got huge problems, here.”
“This is a giant problem. Everybody who goes to the ETB is brainwashed.” I walked off.
There was no hope with talking to the cops.
I went back to my house with fury bouncing around inside me.
My thoughts started occupying themselves with ways to tell the world. I quickly posted my findings on social media, and waited for the uproar. There wasn’t even a squeak.
“Come on, believe me.” I whispered to the Internet. Everybody was dismissing my message, though.
I tried to contacts newsrooms, but I would have better luck falling out of a plane.
I called Alex.
“Hey, and nice work.” He said.
“It’s not exactly popular work.” I said.
“Yeah, because it’s all covered up.”
“Your theories might actually be right this time.” I said.
“Awesome,” Alex said, “What can I do?”
“Get the word out, this is huge.” I said.
“No kidding, you exposed the ETB.” He said, “They’re gonna be shut down.”
After a day, we learned that nobody was willing to believe us. It made my stomach turn, knowing the ETB was getting way with it all.
I used every ounce of my strength to give the ETB a bad name, but nothing was working.
Someone knocked on my door, and woke me up from my bubble.
I opened the door to Frank.
“Hey,” I kept the door opened only a little bit. I had a feeling it wouldn’t be good if he saw what I was up to.
“What have you been up to?” It sounded like he already knew.
“Nothing, just, losing myself in the internet.” I said.
“Yes, Mr. Gates has noticed. He wants to talk with you.” Frank said.
“Well the thing is, I’m a bit busy right now.” I dreaded to know what would happen if I went.
“Busy enough to lose your life?” Frank said. I looked down at his hand, which had a handgun pointed at me.
I thought about how I’d get away, but I was a fish in a barrel.
“Sure, not too busy.” I hated the words falling out of my mouth.
I got into a car with Frank, and was riding back to the ETB offices. My heart was going faster than the car.
I was lead back up to Gates’ office, where he smiled as soon as he saw me.
“Ah, you’re back I see. I hope I’m wasn’t intruding on something extremely important.” He said.
“Not really,” I wasn’t going to tell him.
“I hear you’re spreading rumors around the Internet.” Gates said.
“No,” I said.
“Really, then? What’s all the nonsense you’re trying to spread, then?” Gates asked.
“It’s the truth. I was in the server room during the fire alarm.” I could hear my voice wavering.
“Why didn’t you just get out?” Gates asked, “Did you know something about this alarm?”
“Only that is was annoying. Convenient at the same time, though.”
“Back to the rumors then, I want you to know that that’s what you need to think of them as.”
“You’re brainwashing every person who comes in here, every day.” I said.
“Do you watch the news? How many murders, and needless fighting? This could end it.” Gates said.
“Do you really think that?” I knew what the records said, “Or are you just greedy for money?”
“Goodness, no. I want the world to be a better place.” Gates sounded so sincere. I knew better, though.
“I saw the files.” I admitted, “I know this is all for the money, Gates.”
“Ah, I see what’s happening.” Gates suddenly chuckled.
“What’s so . . .” I looked around the room for anything that could be dangerous to me.
“You must have dug through some old joke files.” Gates said.
“We have joke files?” Frank’s eyebrows furrowed together.
“Yes, of course, infiltrators wouldn’t know this.” Gates let out a laugh, “Oh, you’re hilarious. I thought I was gonna have to fire you.”
“Just no more snooping around.” Frank seemed more tense than before.
“Don’t worry, no more troubles.” I lied.
“Okay, don’t work too hard at home.” Gates chuckled.
I was chauffeured out. Everything in my head had been dumped out.
Maybe I should just give up, since nobody seemed to pay me any attention.
“Hey, Jacob,” Koneko came up from behind me.
“So nobody’s gonna listen to anything we can say?”
“We need to steal the information in the server room.” Koneko said.
“Yes, but they’ve probably locked it down.” I said.
“I don’t know what other distractions I can cause without getting hurt.” Koneko said.
“Maybe this fight’s something we can’t win.” I said.
“Wrong answer!” Koneko brought out a paper and pencil, and wrote something on it.
“Are you taking notes about me?” I asked.
“No, my number.” She handed me the paper, “If you ever come up with a brilliant idea, tell me about it.”
“Okay,” I doubted that anything would come to mind, though. I walked back to my apartment, wondering what we were going to have to do.
I sat down in front of my TV, exhausted with being useless.
What could I possibly do to harm something as big as the ETB? I didn’t want to lay down, and watch people suffer. There had to be a way to hurt them.
“In other news, Robert Adam has decided to undergo an infiltration.” The TV said. I felt my senses heighten,
“We don’t know what sort of problems Adam has gotten himself into, but it’s enough to bring the powerful politician to the ETB.”
“This can’t be happening.” I told the TV.
Robert Adams was the mayor. If the ETB could brainwash him . . . I couldn’t even imagine about what sort of problems it could cause.
I quickly started to research the politician, and tried to figure out how to contact them before it was too late.
There was only one way, and it wasn’t guaranteed: stop Adams when he got to the ETB offices.
I called Koneko
“Hey,” I said.
“So you want to go on a date I see.” She answered.
“No games, Robert Adam plans to go to the ETB.” I said.
“No,” She gasped.
“We know have little wiggle room to warn him.”
“Do you know where in the ETB office we can talk to him without getting arrested?”
“Maybe, I’m not sure.” Koneko said.
“But it just happens to be our only chance, right?” I said.
“Probably. We have to talk to him while he’s in the lobby, but that place’ll be swarmed by the media.” Koneko said.
“Bodyguards, too.” I said.
“And we have to get past all of it.” Things were sounding more and more impossible.
“Wait: there’s a narrow, but quiet opening.” Koneko said, “The media won’t be invited to go into the corridor with Adam.”
“Narrow indeed,” A chill ran up my spine, “I’ll do it.”
“I’ll try to get past the media.”
“We’ll have a better chance to stop him if he’s warned twice.”
“Oh, good plan.”
“So when’s his infiltration?”
“Be ready. See you there.” She said.
The rest of the day was a slow, excruciating wait. The next day, I dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, and went to the ETB offices. My keycard was in my pocket, and ready to get into the lobby when the media came in.
Koneko, wearing a short dress, and tall boots.
“Fancy meeting you here.” She said.
“You look . . . interesting today.” I said.
“Ouch,” She playfully elbowed me, “You think I look bad.”
“No,” I said.
“Yeah, yeah, liar.” She said.
We sat in silence, and watched the media fill up the room. There was probably more people than oxygen by now.
“There,” Koneko pointed to Adam, a tall man with graying hair.
“See you later.” I got up, and waded through the crowd. They were all moving towards the mayor.
I made it into the corridor without a problem. From there, I watched Koneko make her way through the crowd, and next to the cameras. It didn’t look like she’d get a chance.
I stood watch, waiting for Adam to come down the corridor. He got up, with a hundred flashes going off. Koneko tried to push her way through, but it was fruitless. I was the only shot the mayor had.
“Mr. Adam!” I watched him completely ignore me,
“Hey!” I ran to him.
“Oh, hello,” Adam smiled, “I didn’t realize the media was coming with us.”
“I’m not. I’m here to tell you that they want to brainwash you.” I said.
“Goodness,” Adam didn’t look too convinced, “I would hope not.”
“I’m an infiltrator, I know.” I said.
“What do you expect them to do with me?” Adam asked.
“Your infiltrator will put a little device in your head to give you more problems, and to make you like the ETB.”
“The ETB has a perfect track record.” Adam said, “There hasn’t been any reports of an incident before.”
I wanted to yell at him for being so stupid. Maybe tackle him? No, that’d shatter the plan.
I watched Adam go further down the hallway.
“What’s going on?” Koneko ran down to me.
“He won’t listen.” I said.
“We can’t give up.” Koneko said.
“What else can we really do?” I said.
“Hmm . . .” Koneko stared at the mayor, “Who said that we can’t be the infiltrators?”
“Koneko, we can’t do that.” I knew they already had someone picked out for the job.
“Who said that? The ETB? Because I don’t like following them much.” She started following Adam. I didn’t see any better idea than to follow her example.
We make it to the room Adam is put into, and waited outside it.
“Okay, I think I know where the infiltration room’s at.” Koneko said, “Follow me,”
We made it to the room, and saw Frank in there, already in the chair, and probably sabotaging the mayor’s mind.
“Crap,” Koneko whispered.
“Can’t we just pull the helmet off him?” I asked.
“No, the shock could kill him and the mayor.” Koneko said, “We’re going to have to go in with him.”
“I hear he’s the best, too.” My spirits started to sink.
“Not unless we can stop it. Get into a chair.” Koneko said.
We put the helmets over our heads, and the world started to get brighter and brighter, until I was standing in a wasteland.
There was dead grass, and an abandoned looking city. The run down carnival was what sent a chill up my spine, though.
“Well, welcome to Robert Adams.” Koneko said, “Population: three.”
“That’s great,” My eyes took in more of the huge, barren space.
“Remind me not to vote for this guy ever again.” Koneko said, “Also, that carnival looks like the place Frank would go.”
“So that’s where we’re headed.”
We ran to the carnival, and watched it’s ugly details come closer into view.
Several figures, all wearing tattered suits came out.
“No time to play with these guys.” I ran by them as fast as I could.
“I must look stupid.” Koneko followed me past them.
When we made it to the carnival, Frank was standing in the middle fending off several of the monsters.
“What are you –” Frank’s was panting like a dog, “I thought I was doing this alone.”
“You are,” Koneko said, “This infiltration’s over. Get out.”
“You’re here illegally.” Frank ducked under a creature’s swing.
“Says the one actually breaking the law.” I watched some monsters advance to me.
“Outta here!” Frank barked.
Koneko moved like water. Frank moved a little better than water.
Frank grabbed Koneko, and threw her into a tent.
“Ah!” She disappeared.
I ran into the tent, and found Koneko on the ground, and surrounded by the figures.
“Now stay outta this!” Frank was probably running off.
I helped Koneko off the ground, and looked around at the monsters surrounding us.
“Well, we’re screwed.” Koneko readied herself to fight.
“Break through and go after Frank.” I said.
“Best chance we’ve got.” Koneko knocked a monster on the ground.
We broke through the line, and got some bruises in the process.
Frank was still running around the carnival, with monsters chasing after him.
“He looks busy.” I said,
“Best not to disturb him. Let’s get to the problem.” Koneko said.
We found the problem in the center of the carnival, a field of spikes.
Frank was already there.
“Stop!” I launched myself at him, but Frank rolled out of the way.
Koneko came next, but got herself tossed out of the way again.
“Don’t you understand this is for your paychecks?” Frank asked.
“Yep,” Koneko tried to kick Frank, but he snagged her leg.
I grabbed Frank, but a sharp pain in my abdomen made me let go. Before I could process anything else, I was back on the ground.
Frank pulled out a circular device. The same one used for the mind control.
Koneko swung her fist. Then dissolved into the wind.
“No!” I didn’t know what happened.
“It seems your time is up.” Frank said.
The wasteland disappeared, and I was back at the ETB.
“Tampering with an infiltration, I see.” Someone behind me said.
“LET ME GO!” Koneko was struggling against her captors.
Two people pulled me out of the chair, and slapped handcuffs on me.
Then Frank got up, not being helped by guards. My breathing slowed. The mayor had been brainwashed.
“I think these two need will be put into some cells.” Frank said.
“Does anyone care that Adam is brainwashed now!” I hoped there were more people with a conscious than just me and Koneko. There didn’t seem to be any.
Before I was hauled out, I watched the mayor lifting himself up. My spirits dropped.
“NO!” Koneko squirmed against her captors. I did the same, but we both got dragged further and further away.
I forced myself to drop like a lead balloon. The guards, sticking to me like glue, smacked the ground with me. Now what?
I scrambled to pick myself back up before the guards did. I slammed on of Koneko’s captors into a wall, and watched him slide to the ground.
Koneko wrapped herself around the other guard, and slammed him into the ground.
“We’ve gotta get to Adam.” I said.
“No kidding,” Koneko said.
We went off through the ETB offices.
“So where would a brainwashed mayor go?” I thought aloud.
“To make the ETB look like saints.” Koneko was leading us back down the corridor.
Adam was there, walking like a robot.
“Stop!” I charged at him.
Someone decided to trap me in a hug.
“Got him!” The guard screamed into my ear. I rolled him over my back, and put his back on the ground.
“Adam, go!” Someone said. Several guard stepped in my path to the mayor.
“Not that way,” Koneko dragged me down another hallway.
I could hear the feet of our pursuers.
“Now what?” I didn’t see any good escape options for us.
“We’re gonna seal the lobby.” Koneko rounded a corner.
“You sure the ETB’s gonna let us do that?” I knew the plan wasn’t going to work.
“Let’s try not to think about that.” Koneko said.
We ended up in the lobby, where there was still a surprising amount of reporters,
“Great, the crowds.” Koneko tried pushing her way past some people. My attempts were just as fruitless.
“There’s a bomb!” I screamed.
At first, there was confusion. Then panic set in with the mob.
“To the front.” Koneko started making her way to the doors.
We went to the sides of the doors, and I carefully watched for Adam.
“Would there happen to be anywhere else to get outta here?” I asked.
“Emergency exits are sealed most of the time.” Koneko said, “Though maybe . . .”
I watched people funneling out, trying not to go insane by all the noise. Eventually, somehow, I caught a glimpse of Adam.
“Excuse me,” I snagged his arm.
“Let’s go, haven’t you heard about the bomb?” Adam looked normal. No glowing eyes or anything else to let me know he was brainwashed. It was more unnerving that any physical change.
“Yes, but there’s a special bomb-proof shelter here for you.” I said.
Adam looked skeptical.
“No, I’m not staying here.” He walked out of the doors.
“Sir, I insist.” Koneko got in front of his way.
“You need to get outta here, too.” Adam said. She didn’t seem very impressed.
“I know what is sounds like you should do, but you’re not supposed to.” Koneko said.
“That makes no sense.” Adam pushed Koneko out of the way like she was a flower.
“Adam, you don’t understand that you’re brainwashed.” I said.
“Hey,” His eyes seemed to remember something, “You warned me about that earlier. I feel good though, now.”
I was really tempted to shake him until he understood what was going on.
“Yes, and I warned you because I knew this is exactly what was going to happen.” I said.
“Really now, we must leave before the bomb kills us all.” Adam said.
That was it. I grabbed Adam’s arm and drug him into the building,
“No, please!” He said.
A guard came came up to me carrying a baton. He swung, and pain shot through my arm.
My grip on Adam disintegrated.
“Hey, back here!” Koneko went after Adam. I was hit with the baton again.
I picked myself up, and followed Koneko. The more I ran, however, the more I knew it was hopeless.
Adam leaped into a black SUV, and it raced away,
“Please tell me you’ve got a fast car.” Koneko said
“Good, my car’s crap.”
We waded through the confusion, and to my car.
“They’re gonna have too big of a head start.” I realized as I got in.
“Which is why we’re escaping, not hunting.” Koneko said.
“What?” I pulled out of the parking lot at record speed.
“You said it yourself, they’re too far ahead of us.” Koneko turned her head to some flashing lights.
“We don’t need this.” I took a sharp turn, “Should we turn ourselves in?”
Koneko sighed, “We won’t be able to escape. Might as well save ourselves time and just . . .”
“Let the cops get us?” I said.
“It’s our best option right now.” Koneko said.
“No. We’re getting out.” I wasn’t going to spend my time in a cell while Adam was running around.
I pushed the car to go faster. The cops were still on our tail. I took as many confusing turns as I could, but our followers were heat-seeking missiles.
“There!” Koneko pointed to a sharp turn. I mindlessly took it. My car scraped against the wall. I cringed at the thought of the repairs,
“Keep going, the cops can’t fit through here!” Koneko said.
“We can barely fit.” I listened to the car scraping against the walls.
“Just keep going.” Koneko said.
I pushed further into the alley, and listened to the alarms fading away. I kept going until I couldn’t hear the sirens anymore.
“Okay, we’re going to figure this out.” I parked my car.
“Easy. Now we get out.” Koneko said.
“You want to leave Adam running the city?” I said.
“No, but we can’t fix this.” She said.
“If you think like that, we can’t.” I felt stupid letting the words fall out.
“Fine, I’ll help you with your crazy plans.” Koneko said, “But first, we need to figure out what’s going to happen.”
We made our way to Alex’s apartment.
“Jacob? What the hell’s going on?” He asked.
“We already make it on the news?” I said.
“Yeah, it says you attacked the mayor.”
“So can we come in anyways?”
“Yeah,” Alex swung the door open. I introduced Koneko and Alex to each other, then we got straight to business.
“Okay, so can you tell me exactly what’s going on?” Alex’s eyes were glittering.
“The ETB has brainwashed Adam.” Koneko said.
“And we need to get to him. Maybe un-brainwash him?” I looked at Koneko for ideas.
“That’d be difficult.” She said.
“He’s supposed to be going to the courthouse to give a speech tomorrow.” Alex said.
“That sounds like the place we’ll be.” I said.
“Well, I’ll do whatever I can to help.” Alex said, “These bastards need to go down.”
We stayed at Alex’s apartment until the sun set, then came back to greet us.
We walked until we found a taxi that would take us to the courthouse. There was already a sea of people.
“Just perfect for getting us close.” Koneko had her eyes hooked to the crowd.
“We’ll need to get in close to Adam, too.” We had no way to get in close.
“So we’re screwed.” Koneko said, “Let’s get up close anyways.”
We shoved our way through the crowd, and squeezed in behind the reporters.
“See the cop over there?” Koneko pointed to someone who looked bored with everything.
“He does have a nice gun.” I noted.
“Why don’t we talk to him?” Koneko said, “Before Adam comes.”
We pushed through the crowd, and got ourselves to the cop.
“What?” His eyes were empty. He didn’t want to be there.
“There’s a bunch of pot-heads in an alley.” Koneko said, “We saw them, and we don’t know what to do.”
The cop let out a long sigh.
“Fine, I’ll deal with it.”
Koneko lead us to an alley out of sight of all the people.
“There’s nothing here.” The officer noted.
Koneko jumped on top of him, and knocked him onto the ground.
“And the gun’s yours.” Koneko swiped the Taser.
“Remind me to never get in your way.” I picked up the gun, and made sure there was actually stuff to shoot in it.
“Don’t get in my way.” Koneko joked.
There was a cacophony from the street.
“They’re clapping for him,” I said.
“Not even realizing he’s not the same man.” Koneko shook her head, “Let’s go,”
We made our way back to the courthouse, but the people weren’t as nice letting us get through. Everybody wanted a better view of Adam.
“Just don’t shoot in the air.” Koneko whispered.
“I must look like a moron.” I tried pushing some people out of the way.
“Welcome, citizens!” Adam’s voice boomed.
“As you all know, two ETB employees attempted to murder me yesterday. As some of you know, they’re still free on the streets.”
The crowd started murmuring among themselves,
“But this injustice will not continue!” Adam said, “We are going to put more money and time into making this city a better place!”
I shoved through some people, and got some dirty look.
“Sorry, my boyfriend really wants to see the mayor.” Koneko squeezed in after me.
We managed to get up close again.
Adam looked at me right in the eye.
“Him,” Adam’s voice boomed, “He is the one who tried to kill me! Arrest him!”
I pulled out my gun. Koneko leveled her Taser. The crowd ran like we were poisonous.
A guard stepped in front of Adam, just in time to catch the shocking end of Koneko’s Taser.
“Jacob!” She yelled. Several guards brought out their own guns.
“Weapons down!” One yelled. The rest whisked Adam out of view.
Koneko let her Taser clatter to the ground. I kept my gun up,
“I said weapons down!” The guard looked ready to pull the trigger.
I did the dumbest thing ever. My finger squeezed around the trigger, and caught the guard in the leg.
I grabbed Koneko and pulled us to the ground. Bullets whistled over our heads.
“Terrible idea,” I aimed my gun at some other guards, making sure not to hit them anywhere important. When all the guards were writhing in pain, I checked my clip. Empty.
“Do you know where Adam went?” I dropped the gun.
“Courthouse,” Koneko climbed onto the stage, and grabbed a handful of Tasers, “We’re gonna want these.”
I climbed up with her, and snagged another handgun. Adam had to die. A shiver went up my spine as soon as I thought that.
“We won’t be able to save him.” I said.
“No kidding,” Koneko whispered, “Now come on, we have to.”
I ran up the courthouse steps, Taser in hand. Koneko and I busted through the doors. Adams was right in front of us.
“Up those stairs!” A cop ordered. I ran closer, and fired the Taser. The guard shook, and fell to the ground.
“Get Adam, I’ll cover you!” Koneko came up beside me.
“You sure?” I knew guard would swarm the place.
“Just be fast.”
I climbed up the stairs, and pulled out my gun. Adam’s heavy footsteps were only a little bit above. I had him.
I caught a glimpse of his dark blue suit.
“Freeze!” I aimed the gun at him.
Adam turned around, with hate burning in his eyes.
“Are you sure about that? I’m the mayor.” Adam looked ready to pounce on me.
I aimed my gun, and thought about the consequences of taking his life. His family would be forever broken. A life will be erased from existence,
“You can’t do it.” Adam said.
I squeezed the trigger. Adam fell to the ground, with dark liquid following.
“I’m sorry.” I told the world.
I went back down the stairs, to find Koneko pressed against a wall.
“Tell me you’re ready to go” Koneko asked.
“Great. The cops aren’t, though. They’ve surrounded the place.” Koneko said.
“Great,” I pulled out a Taser, “How do we get out?”
“That’s a good question.” Koneko peeked down a hallway. A bullet lodged into the wall beside her.
“Damn!” I pulled Koneko back. Her Taser hit the ground.
“Drop everything you’ve got.” She ordered.
“Are you insane?” That was the worst idea I’d heard all day.
“Yes, now drop the guns, we’re getting out of here.” Koneko said.
I let everything I had clatter to the ground.
“How is this supposed to help?” I said.
“I think the cops are shooting at us because we have weapons.” Koneko said, “I think we’ll be okay if we make a mad dash away from them.”
I looked at the nearby exit.
“This is why you come up with the plans.” I said.
We charged through the exit door, and found ourselves on the side of the courthouse. Several police cars were there, with the keys still in,
“Time for a bad idea.” I got into the driver’s side of one of the cars. Koneko got in, and we sped off.
Several bullets lodged into the car.
“Okay, get us out of the city.” Koneko said.
“Not now,” I said.
“Another crazy plan, we go back to the ETB.” I swerved to avoid smashing into a car.
“You’re right about the ‘crazy’ part, just get us out!” Koneko looked at the flashing lights behind us.
“We can’t just leave.”
“We’ve done enough. We need to go before we’re caught.” Koneko said. I was really tempted to shake her.
“This is our best chance to get the information to prove the ETB’s up to no good.” I said.
“Because we’ve got every cop chasing us?” Koneko said, “You’re plan’s gonna get us killed.”
“Hopefully not,” I pulled into the ETB parking lot.
Several cop cars came in after.
We got out, and sprinted to the building.
“Stop!” The cops were right behind us.
“I’ll get the door open.” Koneko made a bee-line to the server room. I guess that meant I’d stall the cops.
I turned around, and made sure the Taser I’d stolen was visible in my hand.
“Weapon down!” A cop had his gun trained on me. My stomach did a backflip.
“Not now,” I said.
“Drop you weapon or we will open fire.” The cop said.
“Where should I drop it?” I asked.
“On the ground,” The officer said.
“Are you sure?” I felt like a moron with these questions.
“Door’s open!” Koneko yelled.
“Gotta go,” I threw the Taser down, and sprinted to the server room.
As soon as I was inside, Koneko slammed the door closed.
“They’re gonna break through the lock in a while.” Koneko said.
“We’ll work fast.” I started typing on the computer. I found some of the more damaging files, and started uploading them on the web.
“Not much time.” I looked behind me. The police had a battering ram. Bang!
“What do we do?” Koneko’s eyes were watery. I looked at her, and felt a weight lifted off my back.
“Unless this computer’s fast enough.” I said.
“Not an option.” Koneko said, “Save the files where you can get to them.”
Bang! The door was dented, and ready to let the cops in.
I quickly worked on the computer, and started uploading files to cloud storage. It was taking its sweet time.
“Jacob!” Koneko backed up next to me.
Bang! The door was busted off its hinges.
“Wait, look at these files first.” I watched the cops coming with batons in hand.
“Take a look at these files, please.” Koneko pointed to the computer.
I ducked under a baton, but it still found its way on my head.
“Look, the files.” I said, “The ETB brainwashes people.”
“You killed Mayor Adam!” Someone yelled.
“Please, look a the files.” Koneko said.
We were dragged out of the server room in handcuffs.
“Take a look at the files. Investigate! Do your job!” I didn’t bother struggling against the cold metal around my wrists. They would either see the files, or they wouldn’t.
“The ETB isn’t what they seem.” Koneko had tears rolling down her cheeks.
“Really, now?” The cop said.
“Check. They brainwashed Adams. They’ve brainwashed many before him. If you’ve ever been, you’ve been brainwashed, too.” I said.
“It’s true,” Koneko said.
The cop took in a deep breath.
“I guess we have to look.” He shoved us into a police cruiser.
It was too quiet. I could hear blood racing through my ears.
“This is it.” Koneko’s voice was almost lost in the emptiness.
“No,” I shook my head, “They’ll know what the ETB’s been doing.”
The cop came back, with a shocked expression. He got into the car.
“You guys are . . . are right.” The cop said.
That doesn’t mean instant freedom. I found myself in a courtroom with Robert Gates. He kept his cheery demeanor until the very end.
The ETB was proven to have created the documents. At that moment, Gates’ eyes widened, and his jaw went to the floor. He was whisked away in handcuffs.
About the author:
Quentin Eddington is a young author based in Fort Worth, Texas. He writes both fantasy realism and sci-fi.
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The ETB has created a process of solving people's problems by going inside their patients minds. They have evolved therapy to be the greatest it has ever been. Jacob Blair, a new recruit to the ETB, discovers a dark secret that could shake the world to its core . . .