DEAR LEADER | A bionic cyborg disco erupts, fantastically granting heuristic interdependence | Jun, Kneller, like Morozova, need outside perspective

Shining shanks of gristle mark a gastronomic shibboleth of a childhood in a barn as they dribble down Mancuso's beard, mixed with something vaguely balsamicky. I can't help watching how his incisors bisect a cherry tomato with the wanton zeal of a whirling dervish on PCP.

He looks up, prodding the corner of his mouth with a fork inlaid with serpents. "What?"

I say nothing, do nothing, make no motion whatsoever. A glass of wine, red, rests slightly in front of my left hand. A thought comes, and goes, and then I pick up the glass and throw it at him. As the cabarnet completes its journey from Mexican-tended vines in Napa in 1967 to his overlarge head, combining with blood and glass shards in a singular admixture that courses between jowls and cheek, he gapes at me and mumbles, "Why? Why?"

But the time for explanations has passed. Fact: The angels have kissed me, via the blue pills sent to me, wrapped in crenelated foil - reused Reynolds Wrap, no doubt - two days ago, dropped into my office mailbox in an office envelope, the kind that's shit brown and has red spools around which anemic thread is tied to secure any corporate secrets such as patent applications or escort bills for that trip to Thailand with the lady with the four measurements - 36 24 36 8. You do the fucking math, kid.

I upend the table and draw a gun out of my pocket. The diners of Nagapura, already backing away from me after the whole Mancuso incident that is ancient history right now, gasp and scream and make other sounds indicating unhappiness. The staff takes it in stride: the Nepalese waiter even smiles beneath his henna-tinted mustache. God it feels good to be alive.

"All right, fuckos!" I yell in a voice roughly akin to a palsied Bill Cosby. "Money in the bag. Now!"

"Sir," points out the waiter. "You are not holding a bag."

"What are you doing?! Are you all right?" gasps Mancuso, who is being attended to by a comely young lady of 19ish. Her parents are nearby, frantically signaling her to move away from the prostrate bleeding manchild on the ground.

"Fuck," I say, thinking to myself that I should have brought a bag, but why? It's time to leave. I make my way to the exit, kicking Mancuso in the crotch. "Stop asking questions." I think, and then wish someone could have told that to Nietzche. Yeah, Nietzche.

Sirens are blaring, adding to the tangled skein of sound in Midtown, the hubbub of ten million lives pushing past each other in canyons of nanomanufactured concrete, bathed in the neon hologlow of kanji, Latin letters, ones and zeros. Devanagari. Cyrillo-Arabic. Are the five-times-ten coming here? Not on my account. No, they are in the area for some other reason: firelight dealers stabbing each other in broad nightlight, rings of prostitute-gladiators exposed, GMO-labs busted, mutant alligators finally emerging from chthonic depths, reclaiming the island for the Lenape. Tourists from Cleveland who have been pickpocketed. At any rate, it's time to split the hells out of here, yo, so I give Mancuso a sharp kick in the ribs as I pass. To the 19-year-old: "Sweet thing. Call me sometime. My digits." I flick my temple and the holobeam comes out of my eyes and onto Mancuso's sweaty side, broadcasting in 14-point Frutiger: +1 001 212 4043 3076.

More sirens as the outside air grabs my face and gives both cheeks a pull, like I'm a cute kid at someone's lifetime-amenorrhea-suffering aunt's, staring at spheres of artificially flavored lemon and lime in a glass dish, just a cheek-pinch away from partially hydrogenated yellow dye number five goodness, near but eternally far. I look up and down and it's so odd that I don't even notice it first. The street. The whole street is covered in people going apeshit. We are talking a full-on riot of the cars being flipped over variety. All up and down the avenue - I can't remember, where are we, Seventh, maybe? - there are hordes of fellow MHs shooting holobeams out of their eyes, nostrils, or other orifices. Like mating fireflies, the beams cross each other here and there, displaying streams of numbers. The gum-encrusted pavement below me is glowing with ones and zeros, and I put a hand over to my eyes. It disappears. What the hell?

A fellow MH brother comes up to me. "What's up, guy?" he asks, pausing to karate chop the windshield of an ancient, double parked Volkswagen Westfalia. Then his expression changes and with a stone face, he remarks, "KSSSSXLXXXAAXXXXXLLLZ."

Now, on an ordinary day, you would tell me, and you would be right, that that is an unlikely combination of letters and how in God's Green I would know that he said that, except that those letters appear also at the bottom of my range of vision. One of my modifications, the teleretina, showing me all kinds of data on the periphery if I so desire, which is next to never. Hey, it was a dumb choice, I thought it would be more useful. On an instinct, and not really knowing why, I reply "SSLXXXXKXLLAGGGGALH." I don't know how I am forming the letters, I do know that I shake some phlegm loose as I did so.

At any rate, he nods. Pausing, he jerks a hand across his face as if trying to break his own neck. "Did you take any pills? Like bluish ones?"

"Perhaps," I reply mysteriously. What, am I going to reveal my inmost secrets, unsent billets-doux, and all that crap to a guy with a woven titanium hand, obviously, since it's unbroken and he has now bisected the Westfalia's engine block?

Another MH strolls up maybe-Seventh. Well she more like kind of glides, she has some levitational ability that I hear is very experimental and very expensive and only available in Shenzhen backalleys or Johor Bahru frontalleys. "Guys, guys," she says, looking at me with eyes the color of ambergris, at least in the neon light pollution. "SSLKXXXXXXZ."

Karate-Chop guy nods, and so do I, not knowing why. "Blue pills?"

"Yeah, what of it?" A holobeam flickers out of her eyes and I look right into it. Suddenly everything stops. I feel myself being pulled, jerkily, to the center of the intersection, ignoring the "DO NOT BLOCK THE BOX" admonitions put up by the Powers That Be. There's a big crowd of us now, all clustered in the crosshatched square, all of MHs imbued with neon and blue pills. Someone starts blasting music from their fingertips, a weird place for speakers but anyway, it's some kind of xenohouse with a loud thumping four to the floor beat and we all start just jamming the fuck out, hopping up and down like badly manipulated puppets. "GO GIRL, IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY!" we all yell; I'm not really sure who the "GIRL" is until I see the levitatrix again, but more than the ambergris irises I see she's wearing a day-glo catsuit and has like fiberoptic hair, why didn't I see that before, with little beams of light coming out the end like a Medusa or something, without the snakity snakes.

The music dies down and someone titters. "SHUT UP!" yells a heavily tattooed gentleman who is roughly 300 kilograms and maybe 2.5 meters tall. Maybe.

GIRL hovers in the middle of the intersection. Cars are beeping now, in all directions, but we don't care. "LLKKKKKXXX," she intones, filling my insides with warmth and incurring strange memories of unmodified childhood, of eating cookies in the rain. "Brothers, sisters, boths, and in-betweens, all my fellow MHs. We have been activated. You who had the bravery to take the blue pills, it's time to kick off the revolution!"

"Um, how? What? Why?" enquires Karate-Chop guy.

"We party!" she shouts, and all of the fiber optic hairs on her head stand out in a technological afro, 'beams shooting in all directions, hitting each of us in the eyes. A red light burns from her head to my retina, and I find myself hovering lifting off the ground, leaving the music and the street and the sirens and the horns and the smells of the sewer and roasted peanuts and various kinds of lavash cooking on stands far below. Through the light I can still see, kinda, and there's Mancuso, looking up at me, an unfathomable expression on his fat face.


"Doctor, they have become activated. New York, Jakarta, B.A., to start. Now getting reports from Moscow and Tianjin. Yes, all activated there as well."

Sitting in his neo-Aeron chair, staring at holovision screens revealing chaos across the globe, Doctor Alastair Bailey Chandrasekhar-Dueworthy, PhD, MBA, ex-FRS, clasps his hands together, feeling a mixture of celebration, wonder, and tumescence. Phase One is just beginning, and boy oh boy are they going to get it now.

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