The Epic of Epics
Hi. My name's Matt Cornwell. I live in a small, rat-infested apartment on Manhattan Island. I own four cats, (to keep the rats away), and two dogs, (to keep the muggers away). I work as a police officer in the 12th precinct and I love chicken and rice. But none of that is the focal point of my story.
I'm here to tell you what can happen when dreams come true. You ever watch a movie, or read a book, and wished that you could be part of the story? You ever wished you could be little orphan Oliver, asking for more soup? You ever wished that you could see the world through the eyes of Superman? Or have the knowledge and street smarts of Doctor Mark Sloan? Well, it can happen. It happened to me.
See, it all started the day I went to the corner store for some cat food. It cost $3.89. I remember things like that. While I was checking out my food (or, my cat's food), a very sharply dressed gentleman walked up behind me. He held a pack of Budlight and a bag of Runts. Like I said, I remember things like that. I have photographic memory. Well, you could actually call it more like videographic memory. I see memories like movies.
Anyways, as I checked out, the man behind me reached around to grab a lighter off the counter. As his hand pulled back, a piece of paper fell from it. He seemed not to notice, so, just after I finished paying, I reached down and picked up the paper. I was about to turn around to give it back to him, but then I noticed the writing on it. For Matt. Matt? This man knew me? I turned around and looked at the guy. His green eyes looked back at me. Then one of them slowly closed in a subtle wink. I grinned like an idiot and turned back around, accepted my cash, and walked out.
After reaching my house, and feeding the animals, I pulled the piece of folded up paper from my pocket and sat down on my waterbed. Rising and falling slowly with the tides, I opened the packet. It was typed out, on a computer it seemed, and was not signed. Here's what it said.
Dear Matt Cornwell.
Do not be alarmed at this message to you. We mean you no harm. We would like to offer you one of the greatest experiences of your life. If you are interested, meet our informer at the old warehouse on the corner of 6th and Grant. He will give you more instructions.
Strange. I flipped he paper over. Nothing on the other side. What was I to do with this information? And was I to go anytime? Did the man live there or something? I fell back on the bed, closing my eyes. Obi-Wan leaped on my chest and curled up. Obi-Wan's one of my cats. You see, I'm a huge movie fan, preferably science-fiction or fantasy. My other three cats were named Captain Kirk, Jabba, and Aragorn. My too dogs were Wolverine and Aslan. You see what I mean?
As I lay there, stroking the purring feline, I wondered at what I should do. From all initial observances, it seemed like a drug deal. But I had never heard of one going on with a stranger. They didn't know me. But if they did, did they know I was a cop? I thought the right thing to do was go down there, scout out the place. Take my gun of course, but in plainclothes. I nodded. Sitting up and pushing Obi-Wan off me (they weren't supposed to be on the bed!) I reached for the closet. I grabbed the shoe-box on the top shelf and opened it. I pulled my Luger out and made sure it was loaded. I put on a leather jacket and slicked back my hair. Then I headed off to my rendezvous.
Rounding the corner, I saw the meeting place in sight. I pulled up and parked. I was about a block away. I turned my Mazda off and pocketed the keys. I reached for my gun and placed it in my shoulder holster. I hoped I didn't have to use it. I hoped this was a just a small time hoodlum wanted to make a few hundred dollars with some sucker. Most of those types of guys were harmless. I reached over and picked up my Mickey D's coffee. They usually didn't sell coffee in the afternoon, but I convinced them to make me a cup. The place was about to go out of business anyway. The least they could do was satisfy a customer.
I took a sip and replaced the warm cup back in the holder. Perfect fit. You wait for me, I told it. I unlocked the doors and set the alarm. I got out and the door closed behind me. There weren't many cars in sight. This was one of the worst neighborhoods on the island. But I knew some of the gang lords and was pretty good friends with most of them. I really was not expecting anything dangerous.
But you know how things can always go wrong. Even though you have the highest hopes, or expectations, our cruel world can still slip you a few Mickey's. My first clue should have been the expensive limo with perfectly tinted windows. It drove by, a bit more slowly it should be, I remembered. Thinking back on this, I really can't believe that I didn't take off from there. Every dog has his day. This was not mine.
I walked the block and a quarter to the large warehouse. 6th and Grant. I was at the right place. There was only one door. I walked up to it, and opened the door. Nothing happened. I walked inside, my jacket flap opened slightly, giving my hand a clear path for my gun. I looked about. Totally deserted. No lights. Newspapers all about, the remains of blankets for the various homeless who had made this their home. No homeless now. I stepped toward the large staircase ahead of me. The entire floor was open, giving me line of sight for anything. Nothing behind the stairs. I headed up them, my curiosity getting the better of me. I heard a police siren sound outside. The Doppler effect told me it was headed toward the station. That's where I should be heading, I thought, not for the first time. But I was too curious.
I reached the top of the stairs and found an ornate door. Strange. It didn't look messed up or anything. I ran my hands over it, wondering why it was in such good condition. This door was my second clue to get out of there. But, being the stupid I am, I grabbed the handle and pushed. Nothing happened. I pulled. Bingo.
What I saw when I opened that door totally surprised me. People. Moving about, from desk to cubicle. Yeah, cubicles. It looked like an office building. Everyone wore suits. No one paid any attention to me. I was taken aback. I listened. Telephones, computers printing, bosses calling to subordinates. It all vied with the sights. I could smell coffee and ink. That concurred too. I reached over and touched an unoccupied desk. Felt solid. This place was real.
I looked back and the door was closed. I was about to reach out and leave, when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I spun around, probably startling the lady. She smiled at me.
"Can I help you?"
I didn't know what to say. Why is there on office building inside a warehouse? Who the heck are you? Can I speak to your manager? Do you deal drugs? None of those seemed appropriate, so I simply reached into my jeans pocket, and pulled out the note I had been given. The lady took it and read it. When she finished, she smiled, handed me the note back, and gestured.
I was too curious to ask where she was leading. What was going on? Why was I asked here? The oddity of the whole thing made me think. Was the note from an undercover cop, informing me of a covert operation? And who's operation? Gang? Too sophisticated. Con artists? Maybe. Intelligence? Why me?
I hoped all these questions would be answered when I met whoever it was I was supposed to meet. The lady led me past all the cubicles. I reached out and touched a partition. Still real. I really couldn't get my head around this. I was eventally led into a small room, with a coffee maker and accessories, one door with a sign that read, Office, and a single couch.
"He'll be right with you," the lady said.
She then turned to leave. The door closed. As soon as it did, I walked over to the office. It was locked. I went back to the door I had come in. It was locked too! I then started to panic. Not outwardly though. I had to keep cool. I checked around the room. No bugs that I could see. A more thorough search could have come up with some though. I decided to sit on the couch, not even touching the coffee. It was a nice couch. Comfy.
I sat there for what seemed like half an hour. I didn't know the actual time, because my watch had stopped at 4:35. That was roughly the time I had entered the building. Strange. I got up and paced. More time passed. Then, just as I was getting frustrated and was about to try kicking a door in, the office opened and a dapperly dressed man stepped out.
"Hello Mr. Cornwell. Could you come with me please?"
He went back into the office, leaving the door open. What could I do? I entered the office.
There was practically nothing in the room. A single desk, with a computer resting to one side. Two chairs, one behind the desk. No window, nothing on the walls. There was not even any clutter on the desk. The man was already sitting behind the desk, tapping at something on the keyboard. It was time to get tough.
"Excuse me? I would like to know who are, what I am doing here, and why. Who was the man in the store? How do you know my name?"
"Nice accent." I smiled condescendingly. I had been born in Wales and lived in England until I was twenty-one. I had a very clipped British accent.
"Thank you. But I hope to hear your voice explaining to me what's going on!"
"Mr. Cornwell, have you ever heard of the AIR?"
"AIR? No. What's that?"
The man waved his hands.
"This is. You are standing in the middle of our main operations building."
"What does AIR stand for?"
"Artificial Intelligence Research."
"Artificial Intelligence? You mean like, robots and stuff?"
"Oh not at all. I'm talking about human made brains. Did you know that the human brain is perhaps the most complex organism in the entire universe? That the memories of an entire lifetime can be stored in only one percent of the brain? Less even. The average human uses only a slight portion of his or her brain during their lifetime. Have you ever wondered why So much is never used? Why is the rest there?"
I couldn't think of anything to say. I had failed biology in high school and dropped a class of psychology in collage. The brain stuff never interested me. I just shook my head.
"No, of course not. Not many people do."
"What do you do here?"
"We come up with ways to use the rest of the brain. Have you ever wondered if it's possible to have multiple lifetimes of memories in your single brain?"
I shook my head. To be honest, I had always taken my brain for granted. Never really thought of it.
The man smiled.
"Mr. Cornwell. Have you ever seen Star Trek?"
I smiled at that. I get into hours of debate about a single show of Star Trek sometimes.
"I am an avid fan, yes."
"Then you will understand me when I mention mind-meld?"
"The process that Vulcan's use when they implant their memories onto another life-form."
"Precisely. Would it surprise you to know that we have come up with a way to do that?"
I grinned at the preposterousness of it.
"You mean if you placed your hand over my face, I could have your memories?"
"Oh, it's a little more complicated then that Mr. Cornwell. I would first have to download my memories onto a special computer, via wires and special implants. Then you would have to be hooked up to the same computer and have my memories downloaded to you. It's a long and rigorous process."
"Why are you telling me this?"
The man stood up from his desk. He walked over to the wall and pressed his hand on it. A window seemed to materialize in the wall, which was concrete. It just appeared, with no explanation how. I was about to ask how he had done that, but he answered my first question.
"We need someone to learn."
"Anything we teach him. Karate, Ju Jitsu, weapons handling and maintenance, strategy, street smarts. We need someone to prepare."
"Prepare for what?"
He turned around and the window disappeared. He smiled at me.
"Now that, I cannot tell you. But we know we need you. You are the one who will learn all this."
"As I said, I cannot tell you that at the moment. You will know in time."
I sat there for a second, thinking about this strange proposition. What he was talking about was foreign, strange. But it also made a bit of sense, in a weird sort of way. I shook my head.
"I'm sure if I can do what you're asking. I don't even know who you are. I don't know your name."
"Who we are is not important. As for my name…" He smiled again. "You can call me Agent Smith."
I grinned slightly.
"From the Matrix."
"You know your movies."
"Mainly sci-fi and fantasy."
"Which is one of the reasons we need you."
I stood up.
"I'm sorry. I'm a cop. Until I know more, I don't think I can help you." I turned toward the door. His voice stopped me.
"You would get paid. Ten thousand a week."
That made me think. I stood there, my back to him, contemplating this. At the moment, I was making just a little more than five hundred a week. A nine and a half thousand dollar raise would help tremendously. I could buy a house, a real house. A nicer car. Maybe another cat or two. I turned around.
"You would have to guarantee me that you are working above the law. Any law breaking and I'm out. I'd have to arrest you too."
"I doubt you would be able to find us Mr. Cornwell. But I assure you. We are working well within the bounds of the municipal law."
"And you would explain to me all that is going on…when?"
"In time. When you are ready."
"Ready for what?"
The man grinned and sat again at his desk.
"Ready for a war."
I felt that this was about the time where the music would start up in a movie. The time where the audience would smile with the anticipation. But I heard nothing.
"Then count me in," I said, smiling back.
The next day, I got another note. It had been slipped under my door. If I had woken up two minutes later, Wolverine would have finished demolishing it. It was half chewed up as it was. But thankfully still legible. I made myself a pot of coffee and sat in my little booth, carefully opening the soggy envelope. I took the letter out, spreading it on the table. Here's what it said.
Dear Mr. Cornwell.
Thank you again for your acceptance of our offer. Please meet a man at the Central Perk coffee house at noon today. You will know him by the red jacket he will have slung over his left arm. Do what he says.
It was unsigned. I was beginning to get very intrigued by all the secrecy. I sat back, sipping my coffee. Having a thought, I got up, grabbed my keys, and headed out the door.
I got in my car and headed downtown, for the local library. I grabbed my cell phone and called the precinct.
"Twelfth Precinct, Sergeant Yamana speaking."
"Yamana. Matt. Listen I'm not going to be able to come in today. I have things to do."
"O.K. Matt. Anything wrong?"
"No. I'll see ya tomorrow."
I hung up, putting my hand back on the wheel. The traffic wasn't too bad today actually, which was a surprise. I began to switch lanes, but a red car pulled into the spot and roared by. I cursed at the driver and jerked back into my own lane. A red car pulled up in front of my own and stopped at the light. I looked in my rearview mirror. Another red car was directly behind me. I saw a flash of color and glanced at another Red car to my left. The light turned green, but the car in front of me did not move. What's going on?! I saw a man to my right and gasped. There stood someone who looked exactly like me! Perfect features! He opened the passenger door and got inside.
"What do you think your doing?!" I yelled. "What's going on?!"
"Don't be alarmed. We don't mean to hurt you."
"What does that mean?" I didn't get a chance to ask anything else, because my mouth suddenly shut closed. My mind was still mobile, but I couldn't talk. I could hear, feel, see, but not talk. No matter what my brain told my mouth, I could not speak a word. Then my eyes closed shut! I could see nothing! I tried to yell but nothing came out! Nothing! I reached to grab the man, but my arms had suddenly stopped working as well! My body was not responding to anything my brain said. The last thing I heard before my ears suddenly stopped working, was the honking of angry drivers. Then I knew nothing.