"Dad!" Phoenix whispered, staring at the image of his father in front of him. Every detail of his father's appearance was exactly how he remembered him, from his brown scruffy hair to his dark gray jumpsuit.
Looks like he's standing right here in the room! But that can't be right.
"Son, I'm not really here. This is a braingram."
(2)syl…she tried to explain it to me back on the boat…
"It's a sort of message that is transmitted directly into somebody's mind."
Phoenix sat down on the bed and pulled out a cloth to wipe the blood from his nose.
I can't believe this is happening!
"I'd explain more, but it's a bit over my head," he said with a smile.
The cloth was stained red. Phoenix hadn't gotten to clean it yet. Blood from the fight in the bar just now. Blood from the fight in the droid city. Blood from the struggle with the Leviathan. Blood from…where else? He had lost track.
His father paused a moment before continuing. "Well, I guess I'd better get to the point. There's a limit to how much data you can cram into these things, or so I'm told."
Phoenix dabbed his upper lip.
His father took a deep breath. "If you're seeing this, son, then it means I'm probably dead. I asked a good friend of mine to give this to you if I get killed."
"You see, I'm about to try something very risky, and my death is a real possibility."
If you knew that, then why did you do it?
“I don't have time to explain, so I'll make this short and to the point. If you get this, I'm probably dead. It means something went wrong with The Big One.”
Phoenix cringed. The Big One.
“For the past sixteen years, I've been trying to get us to a place where we could live a normal life. Being a con artist is not something I ever wanted for you. It's just the only choice we had. We had to run. We had to keep running—running from those who would do us harm—those who would do the world harm—people who would stop at nothing to jack into my mind—to know what I know. To know what I'm about to tell you. These people are known as the Circle of Silence, and what they are seeking is the Heart of Elijah.”
The Heart of Elijah. Where have I heard that before?
“The Heart of Elijah is a piece of lost technology. It's part of some sort of device. I don't know what it does or how it works. All I know is that if the Circle of Silence finds it, they will use it to destroy all life earth.”
“Yeah, that's right. I'm sorry if that's a bit heavy to just dump on you like that. I could hardly believe it myself, when I overheard their plan. Nevertheless, it's true, and I know exactly where it is. That is why we've been running all this time. We run from more than just the law and a few angry victims; we run to keep the Heart out of The Circle's hands. The only problem is that they will find it eventually, with or without our help. It's just a matter of time. Without our help it will just take them a lot longer—many years, perhaps. The Circle of Silence is nothing if not persistent. I was hoping that they'd leave us alone long enough for me to destroy the Heart. That never happened. I'm asking you to do it for me.”
“Go to Ellis Island. It's on the thirteenth sublevel of Genetech's BioTest Facility.”
Genetech! Nobody gets in or out of there alive!
“I hear it's a hellhole, but I've done a little research, and I think I know how to get in and out of there. Take the braingram with you. I'll use it to give you some additional details along the way.”
“Of course, you don't have to do it. The Circle has been looking for the Heart for many years. There's a good chance they won't find it in your lifetime, but one day they will find it, and until then, they'll keep looking for it...and looking for you. I'm sure they suspect I've passed this information on to my son. Today, they are right. This is why I'm going to tell you to run if things go bad—to keep you away from them.”
“As long as you keep running, you can ignore everything I just told you and probably live a somewhat normal life. However, if you do manage to make any friends along the way, just remember that you hold their lives in your hand.”
“There's one more thing you should know. Your mother was part of the Circle of Silence. So was I. World peace, purification of humanity, evolution of the human race. Their goals sounded so lofty and noble. When I found out the truth about those butchers, I left and took you with me. She's been looking for you. I pray that she never finds you.”
“In a few hours from the time I'm recording this, I will meet with her and try to work out a deal to keep her off our backs for good. I'm sure you know the outcome of that by now.”
Unfortunately, I do.
“If it goes bad, I've asked Lattis to intervene, as a precaution. There are fates worse than death. I'd rather be dead than captured. They can do...unspeakable things to your mind.”
“Son, I've failed at giving you a normal life, but at least you're alive. You need to keep on living. For me. For everyone. Good luck, and remember, never trust a woman.”
The image of his father flickered and disappeared. Phoenix hurled one of his sais across the room, sticking it into the wall.
“Never trust a woman,” he muttered to himself. “Glitch it, dad! If you had just taken your own advice, you'd still be alive!”
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