Power is a poor defence against someone with nothing to lose.

  • Lodestone


1 Second Later - Candy - The Sugar Lab

Every phone in the club chimes. They all have a friend request from Leviathan. It receives a mixed reaction. Some people freeze. Some run screaming.

I look at Leviathan’s coverage area. Even with no help from my club goers it’s growing exponentially. City blocks are lighting up every second. It’s snaking quickly down the highway. Good old Leviathan. World’s most welcome computer virus.

“Jesus Ass Christ! You’ve killed us all!” yells Zeta.

He’s drinking heavily. Actually, everyone who didn’t run is. I grab a drink for myself.


“Yeah Candy, what’s the plan?!” demands Gamma. “Is it to lazily commit treason and get us all executed?”

“Leviathan is just a privacy app. He just allows you to use the internet anonymously.” says Isaiah. “That’s not treason.”

“Dude! You just saw Captain Industry say he’d kill anybody who talked about teleportation.” says Zeta.

“Yeah, but we didn’t do that.” says Isaiah. “Well, you just did.”

“Fuck! He just banned free speech, and ten seconds later we released an internet he can’t spy on. Where people talk anonymously about whatever they want.” says Zeta. “Guess what They’re gonna use it for?” He holds up his phone. There’s already thousands of discussions about teleportation.

“Yeah, that doesn’t look great.” says Isaiah.

I look again at Leviathan’s coverage. He’s already got tendrils from coast to coast. They’re visibly thickening as I watch.

“Ya think? And how long do you think it will take them to find us? Sure they can’t track us over the internet - Thanks Leviathan - but maybe they’ll just, I dunno, remember where we are? On account of it’s the same app, released from the same place, by the same group of dumb fucks! And who’s gonna save us this time? Won’t be Megacles. Won’t be Deadman. Won’t be Lodestone. Cause they all died last time!” Zeta sighs. Drinks.

“It may not be that bad. Last time we were fighting The Darkness. It was The Darkness who found us.” says Brian. “Captain Industry is an Old Money pledge. He may never find us.”

I look over a Omicron. He’s eating a plain pizza and playing pinball. “Yeah. We may be fighting The Darkness too.”

“God dammit.” says Brian. “Well, how long do we have?”

The lights go out. I hear Brian sigh.

We step outside. The whole city is dark. Lit sporadically by traffic.

“Uh, guys…” says Isaiah. “It’s saying on Reddit that Captain Industry is dead. His rally got nuked.”

“What?” There’s a brilliant blast of light. It fades. I stare at a mushroom cloud hovering over the edge of town.

“Back in the club.” I say.

We hustle back into the club. Brian breaks out some flashlights. Why are they still working? I check my phone. It’s still working. Leviathan’s up too. He will work as long as phones do. I check the feeds. Nukes are going off everywhere. But they’re way small. Taking out a building or two at most. And there’s no EMP. Or, not much EMP anyway.

God Damn. It’s Danger’s Laser.

One of Doc-Danger’s obsessions was burning a hole in reality. To facilitate his insanity, he built super hot fucking lasers. Unfortunately, the hottest lasers are nuclear powered, and the feds crack down on random dudes who enrich uranium. So, he made a different kind of nuke.

Uranium is one of the most common metals on Earth. It’s not that hard to get some on the down low. It’s in the rocks in your backyard. There’s a good chunk of it in your granite countertop. The materials you need to enrich uranium - exotic metals and gigajoules of electricity - are much less common, and much easier to track.

So, Doc-Danger made a laser that was powered by normal, backyard grade uranium. He made dandruff sized capsules filled with uranium. He heated the capsules to 20,000 Celsius with a quick spark of electricity, and set them off with sonoluminescence - soundwaves that create bubbles in the uranium, which imploded with enough force for fission.

It was a nice little unit to run a tabletop laser at near infinite heat, but if you made the bulbs the size of peas, you’d blow the laser, the table, yourself, and your neighbors to lightly-radioactive hell.

Obviously, someone saw that as a feature, not a flaw.

I watch the reports of nuke-holes roll in. God Damn Doc-Danger. You could have been more careful with your secrets.

Omicron is looking out the window at the mushroom cloud. “Trippy. Are we gonna get leukemia, or melt, or something?”

“Doubtful. We’re getting a fairly low dose of radiation. We may be taking Fresh Start a few years earlier than normal, but we ain’t gonna melt.” I say.

Another nuke goes off outside. This one’s a lot closer.

“Mind you, we will melt if one of those hit us.” I say. “We may be safer running away from the club. I don’t know. It depends on who’s doing this.”

“Yeah, we should probably figure that out.” says Omicron.

He pops a blue pill. Pulls out his phone. Fiddles with it for a bit. Grunts. Grabs my laptop.

“Pardon me, I need to borrow Trouble.” he says.

He uploads Trouble onto the Optimal app. I watch them pick it apart and put it back together. Again. And again. Dozens of times. Hundreds. There must be thousands of Optimals working on it. Divvying up the work, making thousands of small changes, reassembling it, testing it, starting over. They’re looking for something. Not suicidal people. A different kind of desperate person.

I see them build a profile of this person. Faith in science. Mistrust of government. On their way to the work camps. Secretive. Risk takers. They marry this profile to Trouble’s distress algorithm. It searches for the crescendo of drastic action. Rage, insomnia, isolation.

A list is formed and divvied up. Omicron looks at his phone. “Of course.” he says. He goes behind the bar. Grabs the master key to the apartments above the club. A bottle of whiskey. Slips out of his shoes. Scampers up the stairs.

There are nukes going off around me. I feel like I have enough problems without following him up the stairs. I follow anyway.

I make it to the hall upstairs. The door to Delta’s apartment is open. I hear a sharp crack. I slowly edge my way in. Delta is lying on the floor. There is a large dent in the back of his head. The whiskey bottle is lying beside him. Omicron is sitting at Delt's computer. He’s remote flying a drone. He pulls it out of a dive, lets it hover. I see our city beneath it. He plugs his phone into the computer. Sits back. The drone hovers for another few seconds, then the video feed is blocked by the Optimal logo.

Omicron turns to me. Picks up the whiskey bottle. Walks towards me. I back up. Hit the wall. He stops 5 feet from me. Takes a yellow pill from his pocket. Takes it back with a shot of whiskey. Smiles.

“Oh, hey! What’d I miss?”


About the author

Doctor Zero


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