***

Radigan prodded at another loose tooth in his mouth with his tongue. He tried to prepare some sentences in his mind before he said them out loud. Each time he came to explanations that, to him, missed crucial details. The agent still waited with pen in hand, but he could not gleam what she thought from her face. The guards behind her were resolute. They didn’t look any different to the previous guards who had stayed in the room in the previous two days of his incarceration. All in the same uniform, same weapons, faces covered. He wondered if they were the same guards from the first shift that brought him in. He hoped they weren’t. He’d shouted and thrashed at the guards that had taken them in. He guessed it was the vague familiarity of the constant uniform presence that brought out elements of Stockholm syndrome, and then wondered if the same would happen with the agent. He thought about if he liked her in any way. Then he tried to remove that part of his mind away from his conscious thoughts. He hadn’t seen another human face in a while, but he’d only seen her for a very brief time. The interview had taken half an hour to get this far, including the breaks where the recorder was switched off. His mind nagged at seeing the woman across the table from him as something more than a part of the corporate hegemony of his corrupt nation. Meanwhile in her mind she saw him as a violently insane criminal, but with curious elements of intrigue about him. He partly reminded her of the science teachers that scorned the students who couldn’t keep pace with others.

“Remember the demonstration to which I referred earlier?” He finally found a way to begin his explanation.

“What of it?”

“Well,” he started, “the machine concerns what was being investigated in that demonstration.” He waited for her to connect the parts, or perhaps for a signal to explain deeper.

“The near-instantaneous atom substrate-”

“Near-instantaneous atomic substance conveyance across meso-distances.” He interrupted as soon as he heard the mistake. Though the mistake was only in her speech. She understood perfectly that the subject was ‘teleportation of atoms’. She begrudgingly nodded at him to continue. “Yes, yes, after a couple months of research I had managed to acquire a mass of gold particles weighing several tonnes for my experiment.”

“And this would be why you have many recent transactions for buying antique jewellery.” She added. When the agency brought anyone in for questioning there was an all-encompassing background check going back months into any traceable activity.

“Indeed. I learned how to track each of the particles and separate them into a singular block, having reworked Gorran-Trawley’s and Hobbes’ theories. Those, in addition to my own personal extra research upon the drones of Sinoa’s law enforcement-”

“What did the drones have to do with this?” She immediately pressed the point before another tangent could be made.

“The drones you all built are able to track people down to the exact millimetre, no matter the distance. Each drone may track every individual within a certain radius, even through walls thanks to their infra-red and ultra-violet scanners. The mass surveillance was rolled out slowly and gradually if I recall, and any major opponents seemed to disappear from the public eye after too long. I expect that was your agency playing a part.” They glared at each other. She had known about the mass surveillance, even used it from time to time, but the accuracy he knew of them worried her. “By the sheer number of drones placed around the city of Kiyomatsunai I was able to accurately track the location of at least two million individuals if I accessed the full network. However, my personal computing power struggled to relay all that information.”

“How did you manage to hack the drones?” She began to write on the notes separate from her checklist. This was not a part of listed investigation.

“I simply used my rudimentary knowledge of modern robotics and took one of the many de-activated drones from the streets of nearby slums in the southern district. With this I was able to take the networking component and visual projectors of the de-activated unit and re-connect with the rest of the city’s drones.”

“Those drones are meant to burn through their own circuitry upon de-activation.” She eyed him carefully, looking for signs of a lie.

“Oh, the circuitry was burnt through, but the data was still on parts of the computer chips, enough of it for my task at least.” He said with a certain satisfaction, though seconds after it dropped from his attitude.

“But what about the security programs?”

“Bah!” He exclaimed as he shook the shackles on his feet. “Any security program can easily be bypassed when you are hacking the hardware of such robotics. Common robotics laws force you to have an accessible back door ever since the cases of malfunctioning autonomous drones in the forties. I simply used this and was introduced to the software that I needed.”

“So, we either have dangerously malfunctioning robots, or hackers like you?” she said with more than a hint of disdain.

“There is no way around hackers unless you stop yourselves from complete control.” He stated to her.

“I would much rather have the deaths and injuries of a mistaken few over the mass murder that you initiated through them. Every other criminal I’ve seen through this agency had at least an ounce of remorse for their actions once they’d realised them. Yet you seem contently aware of the fact.”

“I was not the cause of those deaths.” He leaned over the table with a grimace.

“I digress, tell me more about the involvement of these drones.” She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of an argument over these points.

“This network of robots allowed me to get a streaming list of tens of thousands of ready test subjects who I could transport my tonnes of gold particles across. Simply by building a larger version of the machine used in my demonstration and then taking the co-ordinates from the drone network I would have my experiment. The drones could even compartmentalise the task, so I wouldn’t have to engage a vast power source in the computing tasks. Even if the electrical grid was shut down I would be able to continue unimpeded. My machine was almost ready for use.”

Her mind was throwing itself into conflict again. While on the outside she was stern and stoic, her thoughts now raced by; ‘how can he talk about computing when he’s committing genocide?’, ‘the robots are more important to him than families…’, and ‘the slums already had it bad enough’ were all sentences that swirled around her. Then she clicked back into her professional training; “Almost?”

“This is where what the Ascended told me comes into play. You see, they chose me because of my willingness to become a part of them, so I had to make the rest of humanity accepting as well. What easier way than transmitting the gold particles in a calculated manner so that they would re-arrange a subject’s brain to form similar patterns to my own?”

“You’re saying you intended to perform a mass brain-washing?” She felt her stomach tense up.

“I intended to perform a mass revelation. To make the people realise what kind of a world they could be living in if they accepted the offer proposed to me by the Ascended. A world devoid of fear. Devoid of sloth and avarice. A world where everyone would be engaged in the same mind and know what actions to take forward.” He had lost himself in the fantasy, she thought, in all of his grandiose gestures. He might not believe in any human religion, but he acted as the would-be prophet of this fanatical mega-being.

“Are you saying that you yourself were the final part of the machine?”

“That, and a simple medical brain scanner.” He stopped gesturing and seemed to calm down. “I would have a visual of my own brain and transmit the gold atoms across the city into their subjects so that it would interact with their malleable brain matter in many super-positions and tug their nerves closer to matching my own, if not completely.”

“And you switched it on? Without second thought?”

“My dear, I’d been thinking about this for months. All of my hard work in my own self-made lab would be the start of an uplifting transformation!” He began to gesture again. The guards grew uneasy at the flailing of his hands. He even knocked the mostly-empty glass of water off the table which shattered but he took not notice of it. “With these people of a like-mind I would be able to build larger machines. I would have the manpower to suppress any would-be attackers and then I would be able to uplift the nation, then the world… Finally, I would have been able to bask with those great beautiful Ascended again. I would have the whole world stand hand-in-hand of cumulative knowledge as we progressed to a higher state of being!” Though he was shackled to the chair he was now standing up. He splayed his arms out wide. The agent had her hand up to stop the guards from coming forward, at least for now.

“But things did not progress how you thought they would?” She added a ‘thankfully’ in her mind, but neither spoke nor wrote it.

“No…” His arms drooped down. “I had made some mistakes.” He took notice of the shattered glass. Instinctively, he counted the pieces that had scattered: eight sizeable shards among a debris of dust-like particles.

“Did you make miscalculations?” She asked, with half a mind to let the guards beat him to a pulp.

“Miscalculations!?” He looked at her in bewilderment. “Of course not!” He slammed his hands on the table. “All of my calculations were perfect and accurate. No, I had made the mistake of an incorrect assumption.”

“Which assumption was that? Part of your theory?” Her hand wavered slightly, still holding the guards back. Radigan took note of the slight motion and moved back into his chair.

“Not my theory. I had assumed that no-one would interfere with the drones while I had control.” She jotted down more lines and promptly flicked through some of her checklists, marking Xs across whole pages. “When I transmitted the particles out and saw the visuals coming back from the drones I could see the people’s bodies writhing in pain as their brains were being re-arranged. It was working at long last!” He said through a whimper, acutely aware of the next step in his story.

“You admit to experimenting unrelentingly on over tens of thousands of individuals?” She hovered over another box towards the end of her checklists.

“Proudly so. The ends would have far outweighed the means! These tens of thousands’ temporary pain was on the way to introducing ten billion people to an eternal life of pleasure in the pursuit of scientific perfection!”

“Then I think it must have been the best for not just Sinoa, but all of humanity that we took control of the drones.”

“The best!?” He screamed at her. “How would you know what is best for you!? What is your singular opinion, or perhaps the opinions of a thousand in your organisation built on fear and secrecy, against the wisdom of an infinite transparent and transcendental consciousness? Your taking control of the drones and shooting down all those men, women, and children who were my subjects didn’t end just their lives but the paradise that awaited us all! That was the truly horrendous act! I should not be blamed!” His eyes were tearful. So were hers. The guards were uneasy. She pointed her hand towards him and the guards came forward at last.

“Beat him.” Her voice strained through her throat. They took turns as they punched him in the stomach and ribs, and occasionally the side of his legs or arms. In between each attack the agent spoke. “My organisation saw the horror you were putting them through.” Smack. “We saw the pain in their eyes.” Smack. “You gave us no choice in the matter.” Smack. “You subjected thousands upon thousands-” Smack “-to seizures and cancers whilst ripping apart their heads-” Smack “-and you think that death wasn’t the better option for them?” Smack.

He began to cough harshly. He dry-heaved when he couldn’t get air through to his lungs. Through a sprained voice he replied “For the betterment… of humanity…” He could feel all the swells and bruises.

“Guards.” She said. One stopped mid-punch to his ribs. They both turned around. “I want you to take him away. Upload a scan of his brain into the archive and take him to cell seven.”

“Cell seven?” questioned the guard who had been about to punch Radigan. He regretted it immediately as the agent turned to him about to speak. Behind the mask he winced.

“You’re right.” She said. A sense of relief flooding his body. “Light is too good for him. Put him in cell six instead.” She turned back to the table and looked at the notes. She had all the information she came to collect. She turned the recorder off. Radigan spat more blood into the puddle mixed with tears that had built up. The puddle reached the legs of both the table and the chair.

“What is this?” he said whilst he wheezed. His voice had turned gravelly. “Am I to be imprisoned for the remainder of my life for attempting these good deeds?” The agent turned back around to him and grabbed him herself. She threw him against the back of the chair and put pressure on his ribcage.

“No, Doctor Radigan Erh-Lang. Your actions are to be kept as a national secret so that nobody ever, ever, repeats what you have done. You-” Radigan tried to interrupt her but she shook him and continued as he winced with pain. “You will be kept in isolation and darkness with the minimum food and water which will be force fed to you so that you stay alive to live out your sentence. Whenever you feel well enough to stand your body will be beaten, electrified, and tortured in any way I see fit, and then revived back to functioning.” The guards backed away from the table and chair slowly. They glanced between each other. “Then, and only then, when I feel like I have gotten justice for not only the tens of thousands, but my own family, will I let you die. Your body will be burned and buried in an undisclosed location, and nobody will mourn your death. If anyone does find out and thinks that you had the moral high-ground, then we will make sure they change their minds.” The guards had backed all the way into the walls of the cell. Radigan spat in her face.

“You’re a monster.” He muttered.

She wiped it from her face, clutched the collar of his shirt tighter, and then let go. “You’ll have plenty of time to reflect on how wrong you are, in the brief moments when you aren’t overwhelmed by pain.”

“For the betterment of-”

“Of humanity, yes I heard.” She collected her files and the recorder and opened the door to let herself out of the room but stopped for a brief moment. “Guards?” They answered. “Take him away.” They began to take his shackles off. “And if he ever tries to talk again, stop him. Permanently.” She left the room and let the door swing to a close on its own.

***

THE ASCENDED | THE OBJECTIONABLE INVENTION | EPILOGUE

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