How are you making your choices, who is making your choices – is that even you making those choices? Important questions, especially if your finger is on the button…
R E A L L I F E F I C T I O N b y J o n C h r i s t o p h e r
Jimmy rolled the dice around in the fingers of his right hand. He stared at his list of options in his left hand. This was a big decision and Jimmy needed help, as usual. Sometimes Jimmy would use his lucky coin, an old fifty cent piece, but this decision had too many choices – five to be exact. Well, five plus a bonus option. And that required using his dice.
Jimmy always counted on his special dice or his lucky coin to guide him. Guide him? Actually, to make most of his choices for him. Not that he was obsessive/compulsive about it. He just trusted chance more then his own decision making processes.
“Life is a giant crap shoot,” his dad had told him endlessly while growing up. It was one of his dad’s favorite phrases, that and, “Don’t gamble with another man’s dice.” Those two phrases pretty much summed up his dad’s wisdom.
Jimmy held the dice and tried to compress as much of himself as he could into the dice. Not really, but that’s what it felt like to Jimmy, like he was making the dice a part of himself, as if the dice were a part of his own consciousness. That’s why he trusted the dice to make his decisions for him. It was a strange, half-ass theory that made sense to Jimmy and that’s about it.
Somewhere along the line Jimmy had gotten it into his head that the dice was an extension of himself because it was his dice and when he rolled it his dice would give the correct answers he needed. So far the system had worked out pretty good.
Jimmy rolled the dice around in the fingers of his right hand. He stared at his list of options in his left hand – and then the scene replayed itself again.
Peter watched as his Jimmy character looped through the short cycle. He hit the pause button and stared at Jimmy, frozen in motion on the screen. Who is this character? Why is he doing this? What is the point? Peter was wondering a lot of things. Once again he found himself deep in an assignment without any idea what he was going to do. Not that it was a problem.
Of course he’d come up with an answer, some clever idea to make his bosses happy – that’s why they had hired him in the first place. But that didn’t mean he had to like this part of the job. Somewhere – no one told him where – a real person named Jimmy was living his life and it was just about to be hijacked, once Peter had come up with a new storyline that fit the Company’s agenda. There was always the Company agenda.
Peter’s job was buried deep inside the intelligence network – almost no one knew him and he knew no one. His assignments showed up at his door in plain wrapped envelopes. All the information he needed to do his job except a reason why. There was no reason why when it came to the Company. No reason was offered when he was hired some twenty years earlier, and no reason had been offered since. The Company itself was it’s own reason why.
Peter was a specialist and no one ever told him how to do his job. The envelopes told him what needed to be done and the exact completion date – how he accomplished his job was never an issue. Just make a new life for this person, make it seamless and follow the guidelines, and that’s it.
Peter was a fiction writer of sorts, except he wrote real life fiction, personality replacement fiction. He created conspiracy theories, highjacked real peoples consciousnesses into his fiction and inserted them, rewritten, back into the reality matrix. Well, he didn’t do the inserting part, that was another department’s area, but he was part of the process.
Peter invented UFO sightings, Bigfoot sightings, Bermuda Triangle anomalies and more. If there was an sub-category of the paranormal you could think of, Peter had been involved in creating false stories to dis-inform the general public. Nothing like “almost the truth” to muddy the waters – at least that’s the best guess Peter had for why he did what he did. Until now, he had pretty much avoided the whole “moral conscience” part of the job equation, but more and more it was starting to rear it’s ugly head. The question why was popping up in his mind more and more.
The fact that several of his recent fictions had been mass shootings – hijacked personalities who were set on a violent trajectory with great success – had started to eat away at his dispassionate approach to his job. Making people believe they saw the Loch Ness Monster was one thing, sending people into a public place with mass murder on their mind was another.
This latest assignment, this “Jimmy” case, was even more troubling. Whoever this Jimmy guy was, he was a problem assignment. Just glancing at the personnel file which was included in the envelope Peter had received was enough to tell him this was a top level person – someone who had their finger on one of the many nuclear launch controls. It seemed the Company planned on giving Jimmy a list of five cities to choose from to target for nuclear attack: Moscow, Tokyo, Beijing, Tehran, Pyongyang – and the bonus choice – all of the above.
General James Hanover, or as he was known to his friends – Jimmy – was sitting in the back of the staff car as it arrived at headquarters. He rolled his lucky dice around in the fingers of his hand. Another day of long meetings ahead and all he could think about was the dizzy spells he had been having for the last few weeks.
He remembered reading a report the previous year about a top secret covert mission project that used directed low frequency beams on individuals and one of the side effects was dizzy spells or cold chills – or something like that. Jimmy just couldn’t remember was what the point of the project had been, or even what the name of the project was, but it seemed like something important. It was the only thought which occupied his mind as the dice rolled around in his fingers.
General Hanover had a long standing reputation for being a very decisive man. When he had made up his mind what he was going to do – whether right or wrong – nothing stopped him from pursuing his goal. The general led with the confidence of a true believer, and this was one of the reasons he had climbed so high in the army. No one realized this was because the general was a gambler – not a casino gambler, but the real deal, a high stakes player on the international stage, making crucial decisions based on the flip of a coin or the roll of a dice.
This decisive reputation had landed the general at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs the previous April. General Hanover was now one of the commanding generals of the United States Army Space and Missile Defense Command, a part of the United States Strategic Command. Jimmy was one of the people who literally had his finger “on the button.” Even though he was a ways down the chain of command, he still carried the responsibility with grave concern. He did not take this duty casually.
Jimmy was well aware that if the word got out he was having dizzy spells he would be relieved of command, at least temporarily. Jimmy’s ego couldn’t really take that kind of humiliation. He made a mental note as he got ready to get out of the staff car to find that report he had read last year.
It was late in President Clinton’s second term when the C.I.A. – the Company – had perfected one of their double top secret black ops projects – Operation CPR. CPR stood for Covert Personality Replacement. None of the other branches of the intelligence community found out about this project for over 15 years. Since 2015 the project had been operated jointly by the various alphabet groups within the intelligence community and the U.S. Army.
Large amounts of the project’s time was spent on disinformation campaigns. Some operators within the writers team specialized in straight forward assassinations, but most of the writers concentrated on simple personality replacements to affect limited situations. Making someone think they saw something they didn’t, so to make them not see something going on right in front of them. The process worked on about 90 percent of the population – all the ones that were not yet consciously awake.
The way things had first been explained to Peter was that most people paid very little attention to what was really going on around them. The world had been described as a massive soup of sensory information and the human brain as a filter to eliminate any sensory data that doesn’t affect a person’s immediate situation.
Then there was the growing minority of people who were very conscious, “awakened”, enlightened. They were describes as being “aware of being aware.” These awakened people watched their minds at work, they paid attention to what was going through their brains, and the standard filtering didn’t work the same as in the “sleeping” population. None of the writers or the research teams had figured out a way to pull off a covert personality replacement on a consciously awakened person. Since around late 2011, for some unknown reason, more and more people were “waking up” all the time. It was getting to be a real problem for the various project teams.
The biggest obstacle was the personality research process. This started several weeks before the writer began his work. Usually it took several sessions to locate the subject and target them for a low frequency personality scan. The teams had very precise equipment for their work but it did require them to get within visual range to get a quality scan. A good scan usually caused dizzy spells in some of the more intuitively sensitive subjects, and for an awakened person it felt like something was probing their brain with a sharp stick.
Standard procedure was for a research team to make three or four scans over a month long period to capture a diverse amount of background material for the writers to work with as they created the replacement fiction. By the first scan they could tell if someone was awakened because all their probes ran into mental brick walls. Nothing could get through and the scans came up empty. Without a scan a replacement construct was nearly impossible to built.
The assignment with Jimmy only had the problem with the dizzy spells. Like nearly everyone else, Jimmy would probably think this is just some health problem or physical ailment. He’d keep it to himself and after the personality replacement he’d forget about the dizzy spells entirely. Peter knew this happen all the time, but that’s not what troubled him about this particular assignment. It was Jimmy’s finger on the button, the list in Jimmy’s hand and the dice rolling around in the fingers of Jimmy’s other hand. Some city was going to have a nuclear warheads raining down on them very soon – or that was the scenario spelled out in his assignment paperwork. Peter wanted nothing to do with this apocalyptic situation, and there was no chance he was going to let this happen, not if he could write his way around it.
It was a routine notice on a bulletin board about C.P.R. training which caught Jimmy’s eye on the way to his second meeting of the day. Operation CPR – that was the name of the top secret project he had read about last year. General Neil Alexander had shown it to him in his office, but he hadn’t paid much attention. Now he wish he had paid more attention. He could remember it was a covert project, a disinformation project of some kind. And the dizzy spells, he remembered there was some side effects having to do with dizzy spells. But he couldn’t remember much else.
Jimmy caught himself, and realized this was crazy thinking, paranoid thinking. Even if there was this top secret covert project, it had nothing to do with him. He was a general, and no one was going to pull some covert operation on him. He rolled his dice around in his fingers as he walked down the hall to the Missile Operations Center.
The Missile Operation Center (M.O.C.) watched over launch operations for nuclear warheads across the mid-west landscape. Hundreds of intercontinental missiles able to reach nearly anywhere in the world could be launched from this site. When General Hanover was on base, he was in command of the M.O.C. – he was the man who (upon the President’s command) would launch a nuclear retaliation if the United States was ever attacked with nuclear weapons.
Inside the M.O.C. Jimmy sat down at his desk in his office. He logged onto his computer and checked all the operation status information. Outside his office, visible through the glass windows, a team of highly trained soldiers went about their various jobs in a semi-dark room filled with computers and giant monitor screens. Jimmy had complete operational override capabilities from his computer station. Nothing happened inside the M.O.C. without first being authorized by the commanding officer on duty.
At the moment everything was running smooth, all routine checks and maintenance reports showed the United States to be well protected against any kind of missile attack. This gave Jimmy a lot of satisfaction. He sat at his desk, looked out over his staff working on keeping the United States safe, and rolled his dice around in his fingers as he enjoyed thinking about his important place in the whole scheme of things. Finally the thoughts of the dizzy spells were being pushed out of his mind.
This was the most challenging assignment Peter had ever undertaken. It had reached a level of writing he had never achieved before. Layers upon layers of fiction were required for what he had in mind, and it had to be believable. He had to complete the assignment as the Company had required – that was without question – but he also needed to sabotage the whole thing in some way the Company would never figure out. Peter really didn’t even know if he was up for the challenge, but he had no choice. No one, no matter how high up the chain of command was going to rain down a nuclear holocaust on the earth, not on Peter’s watch. If he could figure out how to pull off the plan he had in mind…
Later that afternoon, while walking his dog around the neighborhood, Peter had a dizzy spell and needed to sit down on a curb for awhile until it went away. Part of him knew exactly what that meant as he looked around to see if there were any unmarked vans in the neighborhood, but his mind immediately tried to rationalize it away. He figured he was working too hard, maybe he was drinking too much coffee these days, or something like that. He took a longer than usual nap that afternoon before starting his writing work for the day.
Peter woke from his nap and wrote until sometime after three in the morning. For the next several days he did little more than write and walk his dog (with several dizzy spells which Peter dismissed as being due to the stress and not drinking enough water). All he thought about was Jimmy, his list of cities and the dice rolling around in his fingers – and keeping those fingers away from any buttons which launched nuclear missiles. It seemed to Peter that all he had to do was manipulate how Jimmy perceived what he saw when he looked at his dice and his list of options. In a way, it was not much different than writing a Bigfoot sighting really. But with this fiction the Company couldn’t find out what he had done, or that would be the end of Peter.
Early the next week Peter sent his completed assignment into the Company. He was exhausted, but if his writing worked out like he thought it would then everything was okay. Peter wanted to believe everything was okay. He wanted to sleep and wake up to find another assignment for a UFO sighting, a simple disinformation personality replacement story, at his door.
Ben opened his door to get his morning paper and saw an envelope which undoubtedly held his latest writing assignment inside. He picked up the envelope and then retrieved his newspaper from the front lawn. Once he was back inside he opened the envelope. He had been itching to write a story for several weeks, but the company used his talents sparingly. Ben specialized in suicide stories.
The company had come a long way since the days when they threw someone out a window and then placed a suicide story in the local paper. Covert suicide was a very exact science. It required professionals. It required specialists – it was a writing genre unto itself.
Ben’s heart sank when he read the personality profile page. He had never received an assignment to target another writer. It was unheard of, at least to Ben. It was against everything in his personal moral code, his writer ethics, as low as they already were, but there was some point where you had to draw the line.
He read through the basic information for his new assignment, and he didn’t like it any better the more he digested the situation. Internal monitoring had collected evidence that a writer was going, or had gone rouge.
“Internal monitoring (?!?)” he thought as he glanced over at his computer sitting on his desk. “We never talked to anyone, how could they be monitoring the writers? We worked as independent contractors, how could they (?!?)” Ben stepped out on his back balcony. After a few moments he felt a dizzy spell sweeping over him so he sat down on the back steps until he could recover his equilibrium. He knew exactly what that dizzy feeling meant.
Ben felt disoriented, betrayed and very conflicted. He was a Company man, through and through. He prided himself in his loyalty to the Company, and he was sure the ones higher up the chain of command understood his complete loyalty. Unfortunately, it was loyalty like that which landed an assignment like this at his front door. But that loyalty wasn’t keeping the Company from planning to do to him what they had assigned him to do to this writer.
Ben was a bit of an idealist, and some part of him wanted to believe there was a brotherhood among the writers that would force him to disobey this assignment. There wasn’t a brotherhood like that at all – writers didn’t even know each other, but it was a fiction Ben grabbed a hold of as he conflicted over the assignment. His mind went to work trying to solve his dilemma, try to find some way to save this fellow writer named Peter (and himself) – a stranger who was also his brother-in-arms. The Company hadn’t given him much time to sort this moral dilemma out – this was a rush job.
Ben turned to alcohol trying to work up his best gonzo writing, got stinking drunk, and wrote an ironic and completely unworkable storyline he knew would never work. As soon as he finished editing it he sent it off to the Company before his better (or sober) senses stopped him. Then he passed out until late the next afternoon. By then everything had gone to hell anyway so it really didn’t matter.
There was really no way to see it coming. If there is a future generation – and it’s seriously in doubt considering the radiation damage – they will never forget March 22, 2030 or Three Twenty Two, as it was memorialized by the survivors in the years to come.
No one had announced a war of any kind. 2030 had actually been a very peaceful year so far. Most authorities said the gun control measures of 2018 had eliminated a lot of the violence. Some researchers said that the elimination of extremely violent video games had a lot to do with the steep drop in violent crime since 2015. Many people credited to the rudimentary forms of pre-crime protocols which had been adopted by most police departments, and it’s acceptance as evidence by all the courts, with the large crime drop. Whatever the cause, peace seemed to be threatening to break out everywhere that spring.
In spite of the many protections which had been taken against such an all-out nuclear attack (including the extensive use of military precogs, and in-depth computer modeling) – hell rained down across the globe on March 22nd, 2030.
Regardless of the seemly surprising nature of the disaster, it had been planned in detail, every last excruciating moment of it – for many years. In one day eight billion out of the eight and a half billion people in the world died in a devastating nuclear conflagration of unimaginable proportions. Just as it had been planned.
It had started earlier that day. General Hanover was in command at the M.O.C. from early in the morning until 22:00. A cold chill had settled on Jimmy’s body, like a flu or a cold coming on, so he took a couple of shots of whiskey every few hours – for medicinal purposes only – and hunkered down in his chair in his office. He wanted to just close his eyes and sleep through the rest of his watch, but he wasn’t that kind of solider.
As Jimmy sat at his desk staring at the computer screen he felt a stream of thoughts cross his mind, thoughts that started to tug his mind onto another track of thinking. His vision got blurry and then cleared again. He wondered if this might be another one of those dizzy spells. He turned on the TV in his office to distract himself, not expecting the news he heard.
“Nuclear missiles have been launched by unknown foreign agents within the last five minutes – impacted expected within the hour in every major cities inside the United States. All citizens are asked to report to their nearest fallout shelter immediately. This is not a drill. I repeat, this is not a drill.” The message repeated itself over and over.
Jimmy felt panicked. No one else in the M.O.C. seemed to be aware of the situation. Outside his office windows everyone went about their routine jobs. He was feeling very sick from the cold chills… he was not feeling like himself at all. His thoughts were very fuzzy and he felt like someone else was doing his thinking for him. He felt a compulsion to make a list of cities to find out which one had attacked his country. He would write a list down and then throw the dice – that would tell him how to retaliate. All the standard protocol for a situation like this was forgotten as he tried to focus.
Jimmy felt like he was slipping in and out of reality. Something was definitely wrong now. He looked down at the dice he was rolling around in his fingers. That wasn’t my dice, he thought.
“Never gamble with another man dice.” His dad’s words echoed in his mind.
He looked again at the dice in his hand – oh, that was his dice after all. His eyes must be playing tricks of him, he thought, or something worse, he was going crazy.
Jimmy rolled the dice around in the fingers of his right hand. He stared at the list of options in his left hand.
6. None of the above
“Was this a gamble?” Jimmy thought for a moment. His mind was fogged over now – and reality was somehow shifting and changing from second to second. None of these feelings made sense to Jimmy. “No, this is my duty” he concluded as he rolled the dice on the desk in front of him. The dice spun around and landed on 6. Jimmy looked back at the list. It said, “6. All of the above.”
“Alright, hellfire,” said Jimmy. His trust in the dice was complete. He adjusted the target parameters on his computer, turned both the safety keys on the controls in front of him, and hit the launch button.
The rest is history.
Note: Dice image from Dice-Collection.com – http://www.dice-collection.com/dice/handmade-steel-dice-with-black-pips-15mm-d6/