‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book IV, Chapter Two

Peter and Michelle were dropped off by the front doors of MedicinaTech in the Toronto District.

“OK, you two,” the driver said with what was by now an all-too-familiar lack of emotion. “Here’s where you wanted me to drop you off.”

“Yeah, OK, thanks,” Peter told him. He and Michelle got out of the car and walked over to the front doors of his parents’ business and government. It was the early afternoon, so all the staff, informed of his imminent arrival, were in the lobby waiting to welcome him back.

He and Michelle went in. The acting CEO walked up to greet him. She also had that look on her face that seemed to indicate a lack of human personality.

“Good afternoon and welcome back, Mr. Cobb-Hopkin,” she said as if having memorized a speech, putting out her hand to shake his. “I’m Marsha Tenenbaum, acting CEO–“

“Oh, uh, hi,” he said, not shaking her hand. “Look, I’m sorry, but we’ve had a long, crazy trip here, and we need to go rest for a bit, OK? We’ll talk later.” He and Michelle went off into a small meeting room to be alone. They closed the door behind them.

All the staff outside, instead of being shocked at how uncouth Peter was, just stood there like robots, with what seemed to be meaningless smiles on their faces.

“OK, Michelle,” he said after heaving a big sigh. “What the fuck is going on around here?”

“Around here?” she said. “Around everywhere.”

“Exactly,” he said. “All of that–getting out of Leavenworth, going on the bus ride all the way to the Canadian border, getting from there in another bus to Toronto, then that guy…that automaton!…driving us here. That was all much…too…easy!

“We’re escaped convicts,” she said. “We’re wanted…aren’t we?”

“Was there any kind of a manhunt…at all?

“I know. It doesn’t make any sense.”

“All Bolshivarian carriers getting us through everything, everywhere, with no difficulties?”

“I thought they were all killed with the bug spray drones,” she said. “I can understand if a few of them survived, and are in hiding, but…”

“And the testing was supposed to have wiped out all the remaining carriers, or at least almost all of them,” he said. “But they’re everywhere now.”

“Far too many, it seems. I never thought I’d be feeling uncomfortable about that.”

“With no recognizable human personalities, either. I thought the emotional numbing of the vaccines was bad. This emotional numbing we see now is much more extreme. I learned from my year in Leavenworth that the army grunts don’t get the vaccine…because they’re already brainwashed into obeying the dictates of the ruling class; that’s why they show more emotion than the general population, though only hate and anger.”

“Yeah, I learned that, too,” she said. “But this robot-like behaviour of the new carriers–it’s disturbing. They don’t seem to have a will of their own. I’ll bet Valerie and Pat, Wendy and Sid have been taken to their homes with the same ease. We should contact them on social media.”

“Yeah, I’ll do that right now,” Peter said, getting out his smartphone. “I’ll tell you another thing: no only are there all these new carriers, including guards who were nasty to us and hated the Bolshivarians right up ’til the switcheroo, but you never see these anti-Bolshivarian types splitting up into pieces.” He began typing up a message on Facebook, then tagged Valerie, Pat, Wendy, and Sid.

“This is really weird,” Michelle said.

“OK, I just tagged all four of them with this question: ‘Did you all get back home with disturbingly unbelievable ease, your drivers all acting like robots with seemingly no will of their own?'”

Within a few minutes, Valerie, Pat, Wendy, and Sid all ‘liked’ Peter’s post, and commented ‘Yes.’

Pat added to his comment by saying, “I’ve experienced exactly what you’re talking about here in Milwaukee. All human automatons, these new carriers. No difficulty at all getting home. Just as you said, Peter: ‘disturbingly unbelievable ease.’ This is too good to be true, let alone to be good.”

Valerie, Wendy, and Sid all ‘liked’ Pat’s comment.

Both Peter and Michelle looked at his phone with fearful faces.

“Michelle, are the Bolshivarians controlling people’s minds? What do you think?”

Wide-eyed, she couldn’t answer.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book IV, Chapter One

2033, Fort Leavenworth, ExxonMobil Correctional Facility

Peter sat on his bed in his cell with a permanent frown, his smartphone in his hands, searching for another video to watch.

Apart from trying to keep abreast of what had been going on in the world since his, Michelle’s, and the other sympathizers’ arrests, he was using the videos as distractions from everything he had to be miserable about. As distractions, though, the videos weren’t of much use, of course.

He tried to forget his and Michelle’s treason trials and convictions. Their protestations, as well as those of their defence attorneys, that the Bolshivarians were trying to help the world, fell on deaf ears. Their counter-accusation–that it was the armies of the world that were the real war criminals, having killed hundreds of thousands of people with the nuclear bombs dropped on Santiago, Lagos, and Jakarta, all to draw out the Bolshivarians so they could be sprayed with bug toxins, killing not only the aliens but millions of human carriers as well–also fell on deaf ears.

He heard the clanking of metal on the bars of his cell. He looked up from his phone to see Culig, one of the prison guards, giving him a tray of food.

“Here’s your breakfast, traitor,” Culig said as he put the tray through a horizontal rectangular hole in the bars. “I hope you choke to death on your bacon and eggs,” he added, a typical comment from him.

Neither Peter, nor Michelle, Wendy, Pat, Valerie, nor Sid were allowed even to eat in the prison cafeteria, for fear they’d sit together at a table and reminisce about old times in Venezuela or Angola. Part of their punishment was to be deprived of friendly company for the rest of their lives.

He took his tray from Culig, thanking him with a scowl. He took it back to the bed and sat back down.

I miss Michelle, he thought. I miss her touch.

He found a video of a crowd of people on the streets of Paris protesting the nuclear bombings of the previous year. His grasp of French was good enough to know that they were also sympathizing with the slain aliens, for he saw placards that had such messages as, Tuer les Bolsivariens, c’est aussi un crime de guerre! and Pas de guerre nucléaire!

He was struck by the huge range of emotions he saw in the protestors…he was struck by the fact that there even were protestors!

Didn’t all those vaccines dope all the spirit of resistance out of everybody? he wondered. I thought all the sympathizers were arrested. This protest is commemorating the first anniversary of the bombings. This video was taken only last week! Surely it’s going to be deleted any time now; I’m surprised it’s still up. How is all of this possible? We lost!

Then he Googled more information, that of independent bloggers. He found one, published just a few days before, titled, “How the Vax Got Vanquished.” The writer said, “I went about every day like a zombie, just doing my job without any feeling or interest. Then one day, someone touched my arm, a carrier of the aliens. I saw the little lights go out of his fingers and into my body. I was so numb from the effects of the vaccines I’d been made to take that I didn’t feel scared; if my body was to be torn to pieces, I just thought, ‘Oh, well…’ But instead, I felt that emotional numbness fading out of me. I started to feel something I hadn’t felt in years…emotions. Energy. Drive. Passion. And most importantly, joy! A touch of the aliens cured me! I’ve heard stories from many other people who’ve had the same experience.”

They’re still alive, Peter thought. They’re not all dead, after all. And the article is still online.

He searched for more information to explain all these odd developments. He found a YouTube video, again recently published, of a woman standing before the camera and saying the following:

“We all know of how governments around the world have been testing people to see if they’re carriers of the Bolshivarians. It has been assumed that, by now, they have all been found and, on exposure, been killed–that is, the human carriers are shot, and the Bolshivarians are exterminated with the bug spray toxins.

“This, however, is far from the truth, as I’ve been tested and allowed to pass, alongside many other carriers.” To prove her assertion, she let the tiny dots of light flow out of her fingers and towards the camera screen.

They’re alive, he thought with a smile. They’ve been hiding, but they’re coming back.

“You sympathizers out there in the world,” she went on, “I say this hoping you’ll hear my words before this video is removed from the internet: don’t lose hope. We have non-carrier sympathizers conducting the tests and allowing carriers to pass them undetected. We’ll all be free sooner than you think.”

He was so excited, he’d forgot about his breakfast, which was getting cold. He started shovelling it down.

After eating, his newfound happiness caused him to let go of the tension he’d been feeling up until this morning. His initial excitement thus gave way to a sense of peaceful contentment, making him want to lie on his bed and meditate on his new hopes. Within an hour, he fell asleep.

He’d been napping until lunchtime when that clanking metallic noise woke him up. “Here’s your lunch, traitor!” Culig snapped at him. Peter didn’t scowl at him this time when he took his tray, surprising and annoying Culig.

About two hours later, Culig returned.

“Peter, get up,” he said. “We’re transferring you.”

“What?” Peter said, rising to his feet. He never calls me by my name. No look of hate in his eyes, either. Not much emotion of any kind.

“Please hurry,” Culig said. “We don’t have much time.”

Peter put his smartphone in his pocket and approached the bars. Culig never says ‘please,’ either, he thought. This is truly weird.

Culig opened the cell door. “C’mon, we gotta go.”

“Nobody said anything about a transfer,” Peter said as he came out of his cell. “What’s going on?”

“Everything will be explained later,” Culig said as they walked through the hall and out of the cellblock area. “For now, let’s just focus on getting you out of here, and fast.”

Culig is never this…nice, Peter thought. He also seems a little robot-like. Just two hours ago, he was his usual mean self. And now…?

Peter was even further amazed at how smoothly he got through the whole prison complex, all the documentation and requisition forms reviewed and accepted without a hitch. And this was all for a transfer he’d never been told about until just now. He thought to look carefully at the faces of all the people cooperating to make this transfer so effortless.

They all had Culig’s newly-acquired automaton-like body language. Had they all acquired these same traits, just this afternoon? And who gave them these traits, all of a sudden?

Could it be? Peter wondered, remembering all he’d looked at on his smartphone that morning. Nah, don’t get your hopes up too high.

He was taken outside, to where a dark green truck was parked by the outer entrance gate.

“Get in,” Culig told him. “Good luck, where you’re going.”

“What?” Peter said, looking back at the guard and seeing no trace of sarcasm (or any other emotion, for that matter) on his face. He got in the truck.

Now he felt an even greater shock…but a pleasant one.

“Peter?” a familiar, female voice called out to him. The driver closed the back door of the truck, leaving everyone in there in almost total darkness.

“What?…Michelle?” he shouted, straining his eyes to find her face in the dark of the truck. When he spotted her, he ran over to where she was sitting. They hugged and kissed.

“What’s going on?” she asked. “You don’t think they’re taking us out to be killed or anything, do you?”

“I don’t know,” he said, sitting down beside her. “My guard, who’s never nice to me, seemed nicer just now.”

The truck started moving.

“I know,” she said. “My guard seemed nicer today, too.”

“Did their mannerisms seem a little…mechanical to you, and I mean ‘mechanical’ in a familiar way?” he asked.

She recalled her mother’s initial mannerisms when she’d just been made a carrier, then made a mental comparison to those of her guards. “Yeah, now that you mention it, they were,” she said.

“I noticed the same thing, Peter,” another familiar female voice said in the darkness, to which his eyes were only now adjusting. “But I don’t wanna get my hopes up.”

“Wendy Callaghan?” he asked. “Is that you?”

“Yes, it’s me,” she said in a cheerful voice.

“Wow!” he said, then went over to hug her. “So good to see you…well, sort of, in the dark…again! Any other familiar faces in here? My eyes are still just adjusting to the dark.” He squinted and looked around.

“Over here, Peter,” Pat called out. Peter could barely make out his and Valerie’s faces, then their waving hands.

“Oh, hi!” Peter said, waving back. “Is Sid here?”

“Oh?” Sid grunted, waking up from a nap. “Did someone call me?”

“Yeah, there’s Sid,” Peter said. “Hi!”

Sid strained his eyes to recognize Peter. “Oh, hi, Peter.”

“So, where are we being transferred to?” Michelle asked. “Anybody know?”

Every voice in the back of the truck said, “No.”

“You’d think they’d have told us,” Valerie said. “Why didn’t any of them say where we’re going?”

“That’s what’s kind of scary about all of this,” Pat said. “Were they all nice to us because today is our last…Oh, I don’t wanna say it.”

Suddenly, the truck stopped.

There was an uncomfortable silence of several seconds.

“We’re about to find out, I guess,” Wendy said.

The driver opened up the back of the truck. Blinding sunlight shone outside. “Everybody out,” he said.

They all came out slowly, with shaking legs. When their feet touched the gravelly ground, they looked around, with a hand over each pair of eyes to block the sun. Now they had to adjust their eyes to the light…but they were afraid of what they would see.

No wall to line up against.

No firing squad.

Just the local bus station.

“What the…?” Peter asked.

“There are people in the bus station, our contacts, who will take you where you want to go,” the driver said, in as monotone a voice as Culig and the other guards. “Go in there, and you’ll find them.”

“Where we want to go?” Sid asked.

“Yes,” the driver said. “You’re all free now. We arranged it. But beware of the manhunt that’s coming soon; we might not be able to stop that soon enough, though we plan to. The people in there will help you, and we’ll do what we can to slow the manhunt down, as I said. Anyway, goodbye, and good luck.” A few little dots of light flew out of his waving hand. He went back to the truck, got in, and drove away.

Peter and the others just stood there, stunned.

After a few seconds, Michelle said, “I guess we’ll go into the bus station, then.”

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book III, Chapter Twelve

“OK, they’re clear,” said the corporal of the ExxonMobil military division, who’d just finished testing Peter and Michelle. “Neither of them are carriers. Get ’em in the van.”

Peter and Michelle, frowning the whole time, got in a van to take them to an airfield just a few miles outside of Puerto Ayacucho, where they understood they’d be flown back to the city-states of Toronto and Mississauga. A private sat near them, sneering at them.

“Can we watch videos on our phones of what’s going on?” Peter asked.

“Sure,” the private said. “You’re harmless now, traitors to the human race that you are.”

“Fuck you, ya mindless army grunt,” Peter growled.

“You wanna go, fuck-head?” the private said, looking Peter hard in the eyes with his fists ready to swing.

Peter stood up, staring down the private. “C’mon!”

“Peter, stop,” she said. “You don’t have to prove anything to this asshole.”

Peter sat back down.

“That’s it, pussy-boy,” the private said. “Obey your girlfriend.”

“Suck my dick!” Peter shouted.

“Well, c’mon then!” the private said, standing up.

“Will both of you sit down and shut up!” a corporal, the driver, shouted from the front of the van.

Peter and Michelle got out their cellphones and found video of the fighting between the armies and the Bolshivarians. It took little more than a minute for them to find something that widened their eyes. Peter’s video showed a nuke dropped on Santiago. It was noted that there was no evacuation of the population. Michelle’s video showed the same atrocity happening in Lagos. Again, the maker of the video emphasized that there was no evacuation of the city. Furthermore, neither video showed there to be any Bolshivarians floating and glowing anywhere in either area. The only deaths had been human ones…and many of them.

“I think we know who the real traitors to the human race are,” Peter said, scowling at the private.

“You murdering bastards,” Michelle hissed.

“What?” the private said.

“Your militaries aren’t targeting Bolshivarians,” Peter said. “There are no concentrations of Bolshivarians in Santiago. We know from what they told us.”

“There are no large Bolshivarian populations in Lagos, either,” Michelle said.

“Stop calling them ‘Bullshit-varians’,” the private said. “Call them alien cockroaches, like everybody else.”

“Your armies are targeting civilian populations!” she shouted. “You’re killing millions of innocent people, you bastards!”

“They’re a necessary sacrifice,” said a captain sitting in the passenger seat at the front. “We’re drawing the glowing cockroaches out into the open with the nukes. We’ve tested radiation on them; it doesn’t kill them. Bug spray toxins kill them, but not radiation–the weirdest thing. That’s why we call ’em cockroaches.”

“Should we be telling them that, sir?” the driver asked.

“Don’t worry, corporal,” the captain said. “There’s no way they could use this information to stop us.”

“The Bolshivarians naturally will come out in maximum numbers, to use their technology to undo the effects of the fallout,” Peter said. “Their natural empathy for all life will compel them to.”

“Exactly,” the captain said, looking back at Peter and Michelle with a cruel smirk.

“Oh, my God!” she gasped.

“Their compassion will be their undoing,” the captain said. “All of them will come out of their hiding spots in Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia in an effort to reverse the effects of the fallout. We’ll let them do that, of course. Then…”

“When the reversing is all more of less completed, you’ll send out bug spray drones in the thousands,” Peter said.

“Yep,” the captain said. “Drones, like Raid. They kill Bolshivarian bugs dead.”

“You bastards,” Peter hissed. “With all they’ve done to help the world, and you…”

“They killed our soldiers!” the captain shouted.

“Exactly!” Peter shouted back with a smile imitating the captain’s.

“I oughta punch you out,” the private said.

“I’d like to see you try it,” Peter said.

Peter and the private got up, balling their fists.

“Stop it, both of you!” Michelle shouted.

“Oh, shut up, bitch,” the private said. “I’ll put my cock in your mouth. That’ll quieten ya.”

Peter punched him in the jaw, making him fly into the wall of the van.

“Knock it off, you two!” the captain yelled. “Jones, cool it!” he told the private. “The traitors are gonna get theirs, don’t you worry about that.”

“What are you talking about?” Michelle asked. “We’re going back to Canada to head our parents’ companies.”

“Yeah, that’s the bullshit we promised your alien cockroach leaders we’d let you do,” the captain said. “They’re either really gullible, or they don’t care about you at all. Why would we let you two traitors walk the streets freely? You’re in jail, for the rest of your sorry-ass lives.”

“You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me,” Peter said.

Michelle’s head dropped into her hands.

“Watch your cellphone videos,” the captain said. “That’s all you’ll ever get to do…in your cells.”

The private rubbed his jaw with his left hand, gave Peter the finger with his right, and grinned at him.

END OF BOOK III

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book III, Chapter Eleven

“Why are we all meeting here, in Tory’s and Karen’s house, of all places?” Michelle asked Karol Sargent the morning of the next day.

“Because their loyalty to the UCSA and NATO makes their home one of the safer places,” he told her. “The last place they’d think we’d be hiding in is the home of traitors to us.”

A mob of carriers, including Karol and George, and non-carrier sympathizers, including Peter, Michelle, Wendy Callaghan, Pat, Valerie, and Sid, were crowding Tory’s and Karen’s living room. Others, just arriving at the time, were flooding the house by coming in through the front door and filling up all the space in the front hall and the kitchen.

“Come on in,” Karol said, gesturing to have people move towards the back of the house. “Let everyone in. We don’t want a lineup of people outside. The invading soldiers will see them and suspect us.”

“What happened last night?” Wendy asked.

“George and I were in the gym basement with a few dozen carriers, making plans to repel the invaders, when a drone flew by with some American soldiers. They broke a basement window, and the drone sprayed bug spray into our meeting area.”

“Oh, no!” Wendy and Michelle said together.

“Many Bolshivarians died in the basement,” George said with a frown. “Since humans who have been carriers of Bolshivarians for a long time feel their life force inextricably connected with ours, those human carriers exposed to the bug spray toxins also died. Fortunately, Karol, myself, and several other carriers managed to escape.”

“So, what are we going to do?” Peter asked.

“All non-carrying sympathizers must leave South America immediately,” George said.

“Why?” Peter asked. “We wanna help you.”

“No,” Karol said. “You’re far too valuable to risk being killed. We need to have as many non-carrier sympathizers as we can, to counter all the propaganda against us in the northern continents. All carriers must stay here to help us fight off the invaders. Many of us will die. The surviving carriers will have to confront a new testing process that reliably determines if a human is a carrier or not.”

“But what about the vaccines that MedicinaTech has made under their CEO, Wayne Grey?” Peter asked. “He’s a carrier, as you all should know. His vaccines are supposed to be a kind of ‘cloaking device,’ hiding the carrier status of people.”

“No,” George said. “This new test has rendered his vaccines ineffective. New reports have come out to confirm the new tests. Grey has been discovered to be a carrier, and they have killed him.”

Peter’s and Michelle’s jaws dropped.

“Holy shit,” he said. “Does that mean…?”

“Yes,” George said. “You, Peter, are to be the new CEO of MedicinaTech; and you, Michelle, are to head your parents’ newspaper, The Mississauga Exposé.”

“You mean, the CEO of the newspaper…?” Michelle began.

“Yes,” George said. “He was discovered to be a carrier, and he was killed.”

“Oh, my God,” she said with agape eyes.

“Those of us carriers who survive this onslaught will have to go underground,” George said. “You and Peter are to return to southern Ontario immediately. In public, pretend to comply with the ruling classes. In secret, do as we wish until we can change the situation. For now, things have become too dangerous for us to carry on as we have.”

“How did you and Karol manage to escape the ambush in the basement?” Pat asked.

“Bolshivarian lights hid in the bushes and trees outside,” George said. “They came at the soldiers and drone from behind, causing the men–who as you know would never accept the new way–to split into pieces.”

“Other Bolshivarians flew into the drone from behind, took control of it, and flew it into a corner wall of the gym, blowing it up,” Karol said. “George and I got into our cars and drove away. When the coast was clear, we drove here, then called all of you to meet us here.”

“We’ve heard reports of the UCSA and NATO armies warring tirelessly all over the continent,” George said. “Many of us have fallen, inevitably, but the reports say we have so far defeated most of them.”

“Still, there are the nuclear strikes planned,” Karol said. “And they will come any time now, so we must get you sympathizers to safety. Especially you, Peter and Michelle, who have proven your loyalty so fully.”

“Well, speaking of loyalty, I’d like to stay and help,” Peter said.

“Me, too,” Michelle said.

“Me, three,” Wendy said.

“My wife and I, too,” Pat said of himself and Valerie.

“And me,” Sid said.

“That’s commendable of all of you,” George said. “But you cannot help us here. You’re far more helpful back in your home countries in the north. Air travel has been arranged for you, and it is with the governments on the other side. They’ll test you, find no Bolshivarians in your bodies, and you’ll be taken home safely. Now, hurry. We have cars to take you to the airfield.”

“No!” Michelle said. “We don’t wanna leave you!”

“You must,” Karol said. “The cars are waiting outside.”

“No!” Peter said. “We won’t g–!”

Suddenly, a rock was thrown through the living room window, smashing it and startling everyone inside. The hissing sound of bug spray, coming from a drone floating over the front lawn, brought screams and yelling from all inside.

“Quick!” Karol said. “Evacuate the house!”

Coughing, they scrambled to get the non-carriers out of the house by the back door. A number of carriers fell and died from exposure to the toxins, making it harder for the rest to move through the crowd and get to the back.

Bolshivarian lights flew out of the bodies of some of the carriers in an attempt to confront the drone and troops, but bug spray shot right at them, killing them and making the lightless balls fall to the floor like marbles. Some trying to get to the back of the house slipped on the little balls and fell; some of the fallen got trampled on in the panic to get out, killing more.

Other Bolshivarian lights flew at the drone and troops from behind. Screams from the soldiers being torn up could then be heard; some of those trying to get out of the house looked back to see the dying soldiers and smiled at the sight of the carnage.

As for the drone, a few Bolshivarian lights entered it from behind. They took control of it and smashed it into a jeep of soldiers, killing them all.

Peter and Michelle were taken outside and over to a car on the side of the road.

“Please, both of you, get in,” Karol said.

“No!” Peter said. “We want to stay with you.”

“There’s no time to argue,” Karol said.

“But we don’t wanna–” Michelle began. Then she heard a familiar voice in her head.

Michelle, you must go, Siobhan’s voice said.

You, too, Peter, the voice of his mother said in his mind’s ear.

“But, Mom,…” Michelle said.

We’ll be with you in Canada, Siobhan’s voice said in Michelle’s mind. We’ll never leave you.

Peter and Michelle got in the back of the car. It drove away.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book III, Chapter Ten

The afternoon of the next day, Peter and Michelle were in the living room of their apartment watching the news on TV.

President Price was giving another press conference.

“It causes me great pain to say this,” she said, “but all our efforts to eliminate the alien menace in Africa, through the use of airstrikes and drones, have failed. What’s worse, it is clear that the aliens have taken control of the vast majority of not only Africa, but also most of Latin America and Southeast Asia. Even our covert attempts at rooting out the aliens and their human carriers have been nothing less than frustrating.”

“So, what are we going to do, Madame President?” a reporter asked.

She let out a sigh, then said, “The time has finally come for more radical and sweeping measures to wipe out this menace.”

Gasps were heard among the reporters.

Peter and Michelle almost jumped off their sofa.

“Will these measures include…the use of…nuclear weapons?” the same reporter asked, with the deepest dread.

Price let out another sigh. “I’m…afraid so,” she said.

More gasps were heard…including in the living room.

“We’ll have to hit specified targets…in all three continents…to maximize the annihilation of the aliens while minimizing loss of human, animal, or plant life,” the president said, with more sighs.

More gasping, with indistinct chatter among the reporters.

“For fuck’s sake!” Peter said, shaking.

“Please, somebody, wake me up from this nightmare, now,” Michelle whispered.

“Where will the targets be?” another reporter asked.

“If I were to answer that question, Ted, the aliens would know, too,” Price said. “They’re following these news reports even more attentively than the average viewer is, for obvious reasons. But suffice it to say, our intelligence will know where the aliens are most concentrated.”

“In the Amazonian rainforest?” Peter shouted. “As if climate change wasn’t bad enough already. Apart from the fallout, think of the destroying of all those trees! There’ll be carbon dioxide everywhere!”

“The UCSA governments have gone insane,” Michelle said.

“I assure you, ” Price said. “We will use newly-made, miniaturized nuclear warheads, of roughly the size and power of the W54, which will do a minimal amount of damage, leaving a minimal area of fallout while effectively hitting their targets.”

“Somehow, I don’t find that very reassuring, Madame President,” Michelle said.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book III, Chapter Nine

The week after, George chaired another meeting in the gym basement. The energy pervading the room was tense. Still, George smiled and tried to keep things positive.

“Our efforts in improving life here in South America have gone on uninterrupted, as you know,” he said. “The ruling classes of Earth are content to let us repair the damage they’ve done to the planet, as long as they don’t give us credit for these improvements. In fact, as we’ve seen on the news on TV over the past week, their media has tried to blame us for worsening the wildfires, flooding, and rising sea levels, while they take credit for any improvements. Videos that have been tampered with, manipulated to make us seem guilty of worsening things, have been sent to their media for propagandistic purposes. Some of these videos were recorded among us!

There was no shocked reaction among the audience, as all of them, over the past week, had seen these videos on the news, as Michelle and Peter had seen.

Michelle sat among a few non-carriers, trying not to let anyone see her nervousness, and hoping neither the carriers nor the floating dots of light above would sense her tension. Burying feelings was hard for her, though she managed it.

“Hey, Michelle,” Wendy Callaghan asked. “Where’s Peter?”

“Oh, uh,…” she began, trying not to stammer. “H-he hasn’t b-been feeling well today.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” Wendy said. “I hope he gets better soon.”

“Thanks.”

“Have you heard from Tory?”

“Well, he’s still recovering from the loss of Karen,” Michelle said. “That was quite a shock, a few weeks ago.”

“Yeah, he’s gonna need time,” Wendy said. “He was here last week, though. He seemed better. But I guess the grieving process has its ups and downs.”

‘Yeah,” Michelle said, hoping her smile didn’t look as forced as it felt. She and Wendy resumed listening to George.

“They have already begun the war here in South America, but they are being more covert about it this time, as opposed to their clumsy attempts in Africa,” he said. “There is an even greater troop presence in all of the military bases than the increase of the past few weeks, and they’re trying to root us all out quietly. They stake out the bases and wait for us to feel safe and let out our Bolshivarian lights. They’ve had some success with this tactic, but…”

Michelle raised her head to look behind George, in the shadows of that corner where the chairs and tables were stacked. A few drops of sweat went down her forehead.

She strained her eyes to see what was in the darkness. Then she saw it. A hand holding a pistol.

It was pointing straight at George’s head.

Though she was too far away to see in detail, she felt she could see the finger beginning to pull back on the trigger. Trying not to shake, she licked her lips.

“Ungh!” was heard from that corner. The assassin’s arm swung down to the floor, into which he fired a bullet just by George’s left foot. Screams pierced the ears of everyone in the room.

The assassin fell forward, the light revealing an axe blade in his head. A pool of blood grew around the body. The balls of light flew out of George and into the dark corner, lighting it up to reveal Peter.

Amid the screams and pandemonium, Michelle got up, waved her arms around to get everyone’s attention, and yelled, “Don’t hurt Peter! He saved George’s life! Tory was a traitor!”

A swarm of lights flew over to her. She felt their warmth. A mental message was sent to her.

Have no fear, Michelle, they told her in her mind. You and Peter told us of Tory’s treasonous intent last week. We all agreed to allow Tory to think he’d be safe hiding in the shadows with Peter, since Peter convinced Tory that he agreed to help assassinate George. Since there’s been so much burying of human feeling beyond Bolshivarian detection, we decided to let Tory and Peter hide in the corner, to test not only if Tory really was a traitor, but also if Peter was truly loyal. Your boyfriend has proven himself honourable.

“Everything is OK,” George said to the audience. “You can all sit down now. Our suspicions have been confirmed tonight. Though Tory Lee cleverly hid his true feelings beyond our probing’s ability to detect them, he has proven himself no less a traitor than his wife, Karen Finley. Both of them, out of a repressed wish to avenge the death of their son–a death caused by the boy’s rejection of our way, not a death caused by us–plotted against us Bolshivarians, revealing our hideouts to the UCSA and NATO armies, informing them of the identities of carriers hiding among their armies, and sending propaganda videos of our meetings to the ruling classes’ media.”

Peter then took the microphone to explain himself. “I’ll admit I’ve had my doubts about the Bolshivarians,” he said, “but I’ve never doubted the evil of the ruling classes of the Earth. Anyone who helps them is my enemy. That’s why I killed Tory. I pretended to sympathize with him to gain his trust, just as he and Karen had pretended to sympathize with us to spy on us. Look down at his body: this is what will happen to anybody…anybody…who endangers our lives and our hopes to save the Earth!”

The entire room exploded with cheers and the clapping of hands.

I just hope George will not disappoint me in the future, Peter thought amidst the noise.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book III, Chapter Eight

The next day, Peter and Michelle were in their apartment watching the news on TV. President Price was in the Oval Office, at her desk, frowning as she spoke.

“New video has been sent to us from the City-States of Venezuela,” she said. “This video was taken by a member of the underground resistance there who, as a spy, has put himself at great risk to give us this information.”

“Translation: this propaganda,” Peter said with a sneer.

“Shh!” Michelle said.

“The video we’re about to show you will be disturbing to watch,” Price said, “but it’s proof that must be given the widest circulation, proof of the danger that the aliens present to our freedom. Proof that they must be stopped.”

“Get ready for state-of-the-art production values,” Peter said.

“Peter, we all know it’s lies,” Michelle said. “But we’ve gotta listen to know what they’re planning.”

“Apologists of the aliens, preferring to call them ‘Bolshivarians,’ to make us want to sympathize with beings that shouldn’t be sympathized with, claim they’re trying to improve life on our Earth,” Price said. “But does this look like an improvement?”

The video switched from Price to a group of people, about fifty in number, seen from a bird’s-eye-view in a forest…a forest in which a wildfire could be seen blazing. The flames were surrounding the group of people, closing in on them, though they didn’t seem at all concerned.

The video cut to a closeup of the people. They looked as if they were in a trancelike state. The flames could be seen in the background, though the zombie-like people were showing no awareness of the burning trees, or the smoke in the evening sky. The entranced people seemed to be chanting something.

“As you can see,” Price said in a voiceover, “the aliens aren’t keeping their promise to reverse climate change.”

“Wait a minute,” Michelle said, leaning closer to the TV. “One or two of those faces look familiar.”

“Yeah,” Peter said, also leaning closer. “This is supposed to be in Venezuela, right? Hey! That’s Wendy! Recognize her, Michelle?”

“Oh, my God!” Michelle said. “Yes, that’s her! Wendy Callaghan!”

“And there’s Pat! And Valerie! And Sid!”

“They’re all people from our group in the gym basement. We never meet in the woods, let alone in a wildfire.”

“This is obviously faked,” Peter said. “Yet faked well. The editing is seamless. It really looks as if we’re in the w–“

We are in it!” Michelle said. “Look!”

Indeed, they saw themselves among the mesmerized–far off in the background, yet close enough to be recognized.

“Whoever got this video obviously got it when we were meditating with the Bolshivarians,” Michelle said. “That’s why we all look so spaced out, mumbling.”

“And there’s Lenny and George,” Peter said. “This is an older video, taken before the assassination, and visually manipulated since.”

“Before the Bolshivarians got suspicious of everyone. While their guard was still down, and they trusted us.”

“Hey, there’s Karen’s face…but where’s Tory?

“This video was taken while Lenny Van der Meer was still alive, as you can see,” Price said in the voiceover. “Note the man with the moustache, next to Lenny. George Villiers-Joseph, their new leader. He’s a man much more ruthless than Lenny ever was. Beware of George. He’s very dangerous. He’s why we must go to war in South America.”

Peter ruminated on these words.

“Well, I don’t really like George all that much either, but still…,” he said.

“Peter?” Michelle said.

“I have an idea,” he said, then went over to the bedroom to get his cellphone.

“What are you gonna do?” she asked.

“I can’t explain right now, but trust me,” he said, dialling Tory’s number. “Hi, Tory? It’s Peter. How are you doing?…Yeah? Good. Look, I’ve been thinking about your criticisms of George Villiers-Joseph, and I must say that I agree with you. He’s messing everything up. If we let him continue leading everything, he’s going to get us all into a nasty war with the UCSA…Yeah, I was thinking that, too. I don’t have a weapon–well, there’s an axe in our closet, but I don’t have a gun…You have a gun? Good. I’ll come over to your place and we can work out a plan…Good. See you in ten minutes. Bye.” He hung up.

“My God, Peter!” she said, having listened to his end of the conversation. “Don’t tell me you’re thinking of…”

“Don’t worry, Michelle,” he said, then kissed her on the cheek. “I know what I’m doing. I’ll explain everything later. For now, just trust me.” He went out the door.

She just stood by the door, stunned.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book III, Chapter Seven

The following week, the carriers and sympathizers had their next meeting in the basement of the gym, chaired by their new leader, George Villiers-Joseph. His close friend and associate, Karol Sargent, sat by him as he stood at the podium.

George’s bodyguards were double the number that Lenny Van der Meer had had, for obvious reasons. Though George tried to keep everyone’s spirits as raised as possible, there was an undeniable energy of paranoia spread throughout the room.

“Comrades, brothers, and sisters,” he began with a big smile under that moustache. “Now that we have mourned our fallen from last week, and have determined that, beyond a reasonable doubt, Karen Finley acted alone in perpetrating the tragedy last week…”

Peter and Michelle took a quick glance at Tory, who sat to their left, to see his reaction to George’s words. He seemed unaffected, paying close attention to every syllable that came out of George’s mouth.

“…we can finally turn the page of that sad chapter in our community’s history, and look ahead with cautious optimism to our future,” George went on. “First, I’ll discuss our progress, then, our challenges. Not only have we made significant reversals in rising sea levels and flooding here in South America, but also in the City-States of Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia. Wildfires around the world have been fewer, too, thanks to Bolshivarian efforts. The ruling classes of the Earth have actually stopped interfering with us in these areas: not out of a spirit of goodwill or compassion, but because they plan that, once the whole Earth has been rejuvenated, their big business/governments can resume raping the Earth and profiting from such ravaging to the maximum.”

Tory leaned over to Peter’s ear. “This is part of where I must criticize George,” he said. “As soon as the healing of the Earth is finished, the capitalists will start destroying it again. I believe we should crush the capitalists first, all of them, then repair the Earth, when there won’t be anyone else to harm her again.”

“What was that?” Michelle asked.

“He was just saying he doesn’t like how George is managing things,” Peter told her.

“Why?” she asked. “Don’t all Bolshivarians have the same agenda, no matter who the leader is, Tory?”

“The Bolshivarian consciousness merges with the human brain of the carrier,” Tory said. “Just as the limitations of the human mind affect the Bolshivarians’ judgement, so do the biases of the human personality affect it. I think George’s personality might not be suited to lead our cause.”

Frowning, the three of them resumed listening to George.

“So we have done a good job of cooling the planet and eliminating pollution, too,” George said. “We’ve also made considerable progress in teaching South Americans about our advances in medical technology, healing the sick here, educating the people in general, providing housing and employment, and replacing fossil fuels with solar and wind energy.”

“All wastes of time and energy,” Tory whispered. “Revolution first.”

Peter turned his head slightly towards Tory when he heard that.

“So, that was the good news,” George said. “Now for the challenges we face. We have begun training and preparing the people, carrier and non-carrier alike, for the imminent invasion by UCSA and NATO forces, all the military divisions of their multinational corporations.”

“Now, that’s more like it, George,” Tory said. “Keep the revolution unending ’til we win.”

Peter and Michelle smiled at those words.

“We have plans to protect ourselves and survive a nuclear attack if it comes to that,” George went on. “We have been largely successful in the war in Africa, despite heavy Bolshivarian losses, repelling the fighter jets and bug spray attacks from drones, so we should have similar successes here in South America if they try attacking us that way.”

The energy of the room was improving.

“Finally, as you can see here, I have doubled my security in case of another treasonous attack,” George said. “The Bolshivarian lights you all see floating over your heads are monitoring the thoughts of everyone in the audience, as I speak. Have no fear: if your intentions are good, you’ll be perfectly safe.”

I don’t like the sou– Peter began to think, then, looking up, thought, Shut up, brain.

“And in the event of my death,” George went on, “my good friend, Comrade Karol Sargent, will take my place as leader.”

Tory’s eyes lit up at the sound of those words.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book III, Chapter Six

Peter and Michelle went with Tory Lee to his home right after the meeting in the gym that night. His home was across the road from the gym, but on the side opposite to that of Peter’s and Michelle’s apartment. That he needed human company was obvious after what had happened to Karen only an hour before.

“Thank you for taking me home and being here with me,” Tory said, in a state of emotional exhaustion. “It’s gonna be rough, being all alone now. It’s good to have friends.”

“It’s also good no longer to be probed by Bolshivarians,” Peter said, with more than a hint of annoyance, as the three of them went through the front door. “Oh, those little lights passing into our brains like that, monitoring our every thought and feeling, searching for signs of treasonous ideas in our heads! It felt like being strip-searched, standing naked before the Bolshivarians, only it was our minds instead of our bodies. That was awful! They have no respect for our privacy.” They passed through the kitchen.

“I had only grief in my thoughts,” Tory said. “I couldn’t think of anything else if I tried. The Bolshivarians wouldn’t have found any treasonous thoughts in my mind, even if I’d actually had them hiding in the deepest shadows of my unconscious. They’d never have found them even if they’d tried their damnedest, and if they were actually there. Still, that was a horrible ordeal, especially after…Karen’s…” He began to sob.

“I’ll admit that that was the worst thirty minutes I’ve been through since my mom was killed,” Michelle said as they came into the living room. “I’m so sorry you had to go through that, Tory, especially after…what happened to Karen. Still, as hard as it was, I can understand why the Bolshivarians wanted to test our loyalty. They’re grieving over their losses just as we’re grieving over Karen. The pain of losing Cameron must have been too much for her.”

“It drove her mad, I hate to say,” Tory said as all three of them stood before shelves on a wall with a number of photos of him, Karen, and Cameron at various ages on them. “I knew she found Cameron’s loss overwhelmingly painful, but I’d never have guessed she’d had revenge on her mind. It wasn’t in her nature–isn’t in mine.”

As they walked through his living room, Peter noticed Tory’s desktop computer. Peter bumped his hip against the desk, and the monitor lit up, showing video editing software.

Next to the computer desk was a bookshelf. Peter gave it a quick scan, seeing these titles: The Revolution Betrayed, Animal Farm, Brave New World, The New Class, Nineteen Eighty-Four, In Defence of Marxism, Conversations With Stalin, The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, Down and Out in Paris and London, and Island.

“It was tough losing Cameron those two years ago,” Tory said. “But I always understood that getting rid of the corrupt, capitalist governments of the world was necessary. Nobody, and I mean nobody in the Western world has any revolutionary potential, and that’s where the revolution has to come from. Nobody here in the Third World has the wherewithal to make revolution happen. It has to come from the richer parts of the world…and the people in our parts of the world–New York City for Karen and me–are too damn comfortable, too complacent, with our computers and cellphones, to rise up.”

“I agree,” Peter said. “Michelle and I are from the Toronto and Mississauga Districts, and we’re far too comfortable, too smug and self-satisfied, to do anything about the corruption in the world.”

“Though I lost my son, I’m still grateful that the Bolshivarians came. They are providing the revolutions we need to keep happening, to save the world. They merge with the minds of the people, and when the people accept the new way, the Bolshivarians can give them the impetus to become revolutionaries. Cameron should have seen the light–he wouldn’t, so the lights sawed him…to pieces.” He broke down and cried again.

Now they’ve sawn Karen to pieces, Michelle thought. Still, that’s what you get for turning traitor, not that I’d ever say that to poor Tory. “Again, I’m so sorry, Tory.” She hugged him and kissed him on the cheek.

Tory regained control and said, “Now, I’m not without my criticisms of the Bolshivarians. I’d watch what George is about to do, if I were you, now that he’s the new leader. I wish he’d focus on causing more and more uprisings around the world, which he seems less inclined to do, as I’ve learned from conversations with him over the months. I disagree with his direction for us. We can rebuild the world after tearing down the old system. We don’t have time for rebuilding right now.”

“I have my share of criticisms of the Bolshivarians, too,” Peter said. “But they won’t kill us for that.”

“They never kill us,” Michelle said. “We let ourselves die for not accepting the new way.”

Peter sighed in annoyance at these words.

“It’s true,” Tory said. “Karen wouldn’t accept the new way. If only she’d been able to control her grief.”

“I know,” Michelle said with a sigh. “It was hard for Peter and me to accept the new way, too, after the deaths of his parents and my dad, and my mom killed by a government agent in Canada; but there are greater issues to deal with than just our personal problems and our families.”

“That’s right,” Tory said. “We mustn’t lose sight of that. We must all pull together, or else man is going to destroy the planet with war, global warming, and the kind of poverty we see all around us in this city, with its beggars on the streets and its slums and barrios. We can’t afford to be selfish, the way the oligarchs are, caring only about their families and not about the families of the rest of the world. If only Karen…could have understood better…” He broke down again and wept.

“And the Bolshivarians psychically grilled him, as if he were a Nazi war criminal or something,” Peter said.

“They had to, Peter!” Michelle said.

“Right at the height of Tory’s trauma and grief?”

“They’re grieving for their own, too!” she said.

“She’s right,” Tory sobbed. “As hard as it was, they were justified in their suspicions. She was my wife; they had to make sure I’m not a traitor, too. For all they knew, I could have been plotting assassinations with her. I wasn’t, of course, but they didn’t know.”

Peter sighed. “Well, I guess so.”

“Anyway, I’m pretty exhausted,” Tory said. “The only thing I can do now is sleep off this sadness. You both can go home now. I’ll bet you’re really tired, too.”

“Yeah, we are, but will you be OK?” Peter asked.

“Oh, yes, I’ll be fine. I just need some time.”

“Are you sure?” she asked.

“Yeah, I’m sure. Don’t worry about me. You’ve already done a lot for me by coming here. Good night, and thanks again.”

“OK, Tory, good night,” she said as she and Peter left the living room and approached the front door. “If you need anything, just call us.”

“OK,” Tory said. “Good night.”

“Bye,” Peter said, and he and Michelle left.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book III, Chapter Five

The night of the next day, Lenny Van der Meer chaired another meeting in the gym basement. George Villiers-Joseph sat by him while he stood at the podium.

Peter and Michelle sat with Tory, who came alone.

“Where’s Karen?” Michelle asked.

“Oh, she decided to stay home tonight,” Tory said with a frown. “She told me she wasn’t feeling well.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” Michelle said. “I hope she gets better soon.”

“Thanks,” he said. “She’s been acting funny the last couple of days. Moping, depressed, angry.”

“Why’s that?” Michelle asked. “Is it frustration with the growing military threat here?”

“She wouldn’t say,” he said with a sigh. “I asked her, and she remained all quiet and morose. I imagine it’s the fear of another war, like in Africa, but if so, she surely would have just told me. She seems to be burying her feelings so deep down, even I can’t figure out what’s bothering her. She still grieves over our boy Cameron, but so do I, and I’m carrying on OK, as you can see.”

“Doesn’t she get any comfort from communing with his psychic energy?” Michelle asked. “I get that every night from the spirits of my mom and dad.”

“You’d think she’d get such comfort, but I suspect she doubts that the apparitions of Cameron, his energy, is real,” Tory said. “I don’t doubt its reality; she’s never said she doubts it, but I suspect she does. In any case, I really don’t know.”

“Lenny’s about to start,” Peter whispered.

“Friends, brothers, and sisters,” Van der Meer began, “recently, there has been an alarming set of developments. The United City-States of America and their NATO allies are growing more and more aware of our activities here. Not only do they know of our attempts to reverse the flooding in the Rio de Janeiro area–you may have seen the video of the Bolshivarian confrontation with Lloyd’s army division yesterday, which the UCSA doctored to make it look as if we were worsening the flooding.”

“Oh, yes, that,” Tory said. “That was despicable propaganda.”

“Yes,” Peter said, “I saw the original video online.”

“Me, too,” Tory said.

“Guys, let’s listen,” Michelle said.

“Also, our enemies learned that we’ve infiltrated the Exxon-Mobile army base here in Puerto Ayacucho. They discovered the mutilated remains of Sergeant Dan Miller, who refused to join us as Captain Finch and Sergeant West had. Both Finch and West were discovered…and killed. All the Bolshivarians housed in their bodies were slain with the toxins in the bug spray.”

A mournful energy permeated the basement during the next several seconds. Lenny and George appeared on the verge of tears.

“But none of this, as regretful as it is, is the worst,” Lenny went on. “Just as we’ve had to endure a year of war in Africa, so will we have to prepare for it here. Recall also the thinly-veiled nuclear threat. We must be steeled and ready.”

In a corner of the basement, about two o’clock from where Lenny was standing, were stacks of chairs and tables piled high enough to create a shadow large enough to hide someone. From that shadow, a hand holding a pistol emerged.

No one was paying attention to it.

Least of all, Lenny’s bodyguards.

All eyes were on him.

“We must continue watching out for any danger,” Lenny said. “The UCSA and NATO have spies everywhere. Someone informed them of our hideout in Angola, recall–that warehouse.”

And our hotel in Luanda, Peter and Michelle remembered.

“Now, we assume that the spies in Angola weren’t among us during our meetings,” Lenny cautioned. “But however unlikely it may be, it isn’t impossible for one of our people here, a non-carrier who pretends to be a sympathizer, even consciously thinks like one, to evade Bolshivarian detection, by burying their feelings deep down–“

Just as the shooter of that pistol was burying her feelings.

The bullet shot through Lenny’s left side diagonally from the back and into his heart. He fell to the floor to the right of the podium. The balls of light left his body as quickly as his blood began to flow.

A sea of screams flooded the basement. Everyone stood up to get a look where the shot had come from. The lights leaving Lenny’s body flew right over to that corner to get their revenge.

“You killed my son!” the assassin screamed as she emerged from the shadows spraying bug spray at the lights.

“Oh, my God!” Tory screamed as he looked over to that shady corner. “Karen…NOOO!!!

Michelle put her arms around him, saying, “Tory, don’t look.”

Indeed, he wouldn’t be able to bear seeing his wife’s body torn to pieces, so he closed his eyes tight and let the tears roll down his cheeks.

Karen resisted the Bolshivarians as best she could at first, aiming her shaking pistol arm at George, but firing two bullets into the ceiling before dropping it. The hand holding the bug spray was more successful, hitting the first dozen of Lenny’s dots of light and dropping them to bounce lifeless on the stage.

Other Bolshivarians managed to evade the toxins and enter her. Michelle and Peter watched in horror as Karen’s body ripped through her dress and explode in a huge splash of blood. Michelle held Tory’s shaking body tight as he wept.

Was she the one who told the UCSA army where our hotel in Luanda was? Peter wondered. We told her about it.

George stepped up to the podium as Lenny’s bodyguards picked up his body and carried it away.

“We must have order!” George said, his eyes wet with tears. It was difficult for him to keep from sobbing. “We will bury…our comrades, Lenny and the Bolshivarians…who inhabited his body, and we will honour them all. But this act of treason…instead of distracting us from our cause, must keep us focused on it. We must prepare for war, and immediately.”

“What of our other projects?” a carrier standing at the front of the audience asked. “The quenching of wildfires, the reversing of flooding, the providing of healthcare to the poor?”

“Fear not, Karol,” George said. “Our preparations for war will not retard our progress in those areas by the slightest bit.”

“And who are the friends or family of the traitor?” Karol asked, looking back at the audience. “She was one of the non-carrier ‘sympathizers,’ was she not?”

“Yes,” George said, also looking out at the audience and frowning. “We will investigate the matter immediately.”

A swarm of dots of light flew right at Peter, Michelle, and Tory.