by Jeff C. Carter
When Lancet opened his eyes the morgue was empty. He was completely alone. Even his constant companion, his smart sword, was gone.
A tall, older man in an archaic gray wool suit appeared. He was bald, with creases around his eyes and mouth but an upright posture that made his age hard to guess. He smiled reassuringly, yet Lancet saw something calculating and not quite human behind his eyes.
Lancet felt trapped and defenseless. He involuntarily groped for his missing weapon.
"Ah, one moment," the old man smiled.
There was a tingling in Lancet’s head and suddenly his sword was back, nuzzled against his body. He could feel every part of it, as if the sword had truly become an extension of him at last.
"Are you Beebe?" Lancet asked the stranger.
The old man put a hand on Lancet's shoulder and gave him a grandfatherly squeeze. "I am. It is so good to see you, lad."
"Are you... a Dreamer?"
Beebe smiled cryptically. "I've certainly dreamed of this moment. I've known your family for a very long time. I've watched you grow, seen you become the kind of man who could change the course of history, as your ancestors once did. I knew I could trust you to step forward now, to do what must be done."
Lancet had waited his entire life to hear those words. His heart filled with pride but his stomach clenched in uneasy anticipation. He could feel that he was no longer in control of his life. He was rapidly being swept away by the tide of fate.
One by one, Moab, Anansi, and the doctor blinked into visibility, looking shaken and confused. The wizard Pavlovon appeared in several places at once. Was this her ‘distributed intelligence’?
"Hello again, everyone. This is an encrypted simulation space. We are now in direct mental contact via your new implants. In case you haven't guessed, I am Beebe. I am pleased to report that no one was compromised by alien influence, and that each of you has my complete trust and undying gratitude.
"Here is what we know: the aliens have infiltrated society with their followers, dupes, and parasite infested thralls. They believe that Eclectia is doomed. They want to accelerate this apocalypse, and with access to our technology they might very well succeed.
"I did not choose you to root out the infestation or declare a pointless war. I gathered you for your talent, your leadership and your vision. You believe, as I do, that humanity is destined for more. This alien threat has the potential to rock our stagnated society to its foundation. We are the ones who shall decide which pieces remain and how they fit together,” Beebe said.
"So we're going to use these Rahab maniacs to light a fire under their butts?" Moab stroked his mustache approvingly.
Beebe gave him a knowing smile. "Never let a crisis go to waste."