CHAPTER 1 - PROLOGUE
"The one who cannot see that on Earth a big endeavor is taking place, an important plan, on which realization we are allowed to collaborate as faithful servants, certainly has to be blind." – Winston Churchill
OCTOBER 26, 2051
Area 51, Groom Lake, Nevada
Robert Page stifled a grimace as he emerged from the massive subterranean facility. The complex below was kept at a comfortable sixty eight degrees at all times. On the surface, however, temperatures were already well on their way past the century mark with no signs of slowing. A hot wind did little to ease the heat, instead stinging his face with bits of sand and grit.
Page wondered if prolonged exposure to these conditions could damage the delicate nanotechnological augmentations spread across his face. It certainly seemed strange that the United States government had decided this was a perfect place to test new technology. This facility had been established in the 1950s to test stealth aircraft for use in the impending war with the Soviet Union – a war which his predecessors had skillfully avoided while still taking advantage of the fear created by the threat of inescapable destruction.
Fear was something Bob Page understood almost implicitly. It was the most powerful tool mankind had ever wielded. In the hands of one as ambitious as himself it could be used to turn the world about its axis – as he had and would continue to do.
Publicly, Page was a trillionaire playboy and philanthropist, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Page Industries. Page Industries led the world in developing and manufacturing robotics, pharmaceuticals, computer hardware, and defense technology. On this basis alone, Bob Page was one of the most powerful men on the planet. But his power ran deeper than what was apparent to the public. In truth, his real power came from his association with a cabal of powerful scientists and world leaders known as The Majestic Council of Twelve. Majestic-12 had been created with the ambitious goal of controlling the entire world's technological and communications infrastructure. Bob Page had accomplished that goal without firing a shot by building Page Industries into the global power it was today, destroying any competition that dared stand in his way.
Page Industries had facilities and subsidiaries around the globe, all of which performed the legitimate work which gave Page and in turn Majestic-12 the influence it needed to accomplish its mission. Very few knew that the real headquarters of Page Industries lay deep below the surface of the Nevada desert at a facility once known colloquially as Area 51.
This place had once been the nexus of countless conspiracy theories, as the purported resting place of numerous alien bodies and their spacecraft which had crashed in Roswell, New Mexico. These stories were publicly denied by the government, which only lent credence to their validity. What better way to stop potential spies and leaks than to hang a lantern over the facility with a false story of an alien cover-up, marginalizing anyone who would speak out about what really went on beneath the surface of the very real and very secret facility.
The mystique surrounding this place was why Bob Page had chosen it for his personal playground. He kept his best people here under lock and key, working around the clock to bring his plans to fruition. Most were certifiable geniuses in their fields, but none of them were capable of comprehending the true nature of his plans. Efficient worker ants, they performed their assigned tasks with alacrity, ignorant of how the pieces fit together in the end. Compartmentalization was key to ensuring the security of their operations. Had the worker ants realized the true nature of their work, most would have been too horrified to continue.
Take, for example, their stunning breakthroughs in nanotechnology. For decades, human augmentation had been a hot button issue around the globe. People were more than willing to sacrifice bits of the flesh that made them human in favor of the superior abilities provided through modern technology. They replaced limbs and organs with mechanical equivalents in order to enhance their abilities and performance. However, the public had never grown comfortable with the walking monstrosities these augmented soldiers became. Social acceptance of these individuals would never become a reality.
Page and his team had worked diligently to discover the next breakthrough in human augmentation technology. Physiopharmaceutical augmentation had been a stepping stone along the way. Through pharmaceutical augmentation and psychological conditioning, the team of scientists had created a new series of augmented soldiers. These soldiers were superior to natural human beings, able to withstand incredible amounts of damage without any degradation in performance. They were absolutely loyal and fearless. Without the mechanical limbs of their predecessors, they were capable of blending in better with the public, although their augmentation resulted in a genetic predisposition that caused their skin to appear albino.
That had not been enough for Bob Page. He wanted technology that would enable him to obtain absolute power and eternal life. A life of maintaining metal augmentations or suffering through painful pharmaceutical treatments did not justify the slight increase in physical strength or abilities. Thus far none of these augmentations had been able to improve upon the most important organ of the human body – the human mind.
Page had understood what would be necessary to accomplish this goal long before he had discovered the means to make it possible. In the 2020s, while mechanical augmentation was just becoming widespread, he had already begun working towards his ultimate goal – nanotechnological augmentation.
The task was a daunting one to be sure. The Majestic-12 scientists had to discover a way to create a self-replicating nanite that was capable of interacting symbiotically with biological material. These nanites had to be able to receive messages directly from the mind and reply with information the mind was capable of comprehending. Bob Page himself had made the breakthrough discovery that made this possible. Instead of developing technology to interface with a grown human, they had to study a young human still in the early years of development to understand the most likely areas to target.
A study of the secret census performed during the small pox vaccinations of the mid 20th century allowed Majestic-12 to build a genetic database of potential candidates for nanotechnological augmentation. Agents of Majestic-12 were installed around the world, posing as doctors and nurses in order to keep track of the most likely candidates. They waited for an inevitable series of events statistically guaranteed to happen, preferably with little outside interference.
This series of events occurred when two potential candidates were introduced by their doctor, a grandfatherly figure who seemed strangely intent on playing matchmaker for two of his young, single patients. The two candidates met, fell in love, and married in order to produce the results the Majestic-12 team surrounding them had hoped for. Little did the new family realize that most of their friends, neighbors, and even their family doctor studied their every move, protecting them from any who would do them harm in order to ensure the successful results of their biological experiment. After their son was born, the family doctor performed all of the usual tests and a few unusual tests in order to verify that they had succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. The boy was genetically perfect for nanotechnological augmentation. His immune system would tolerate the nanotech infusions without destroying them, and he suffered from no allergic reactions. He was not predisposed towards any genetic diseases or cancers and he showed signs of becoming highly intelligent.
The team waited five years after the child was born, continuing to study his every move in secret. The household was bugged and wired of course, but beyond this their friends, neighbors, daycare workers, and school nurses continued to monitor their test subject. After the boy turned five the Majestic-12 scientists took several genetic samples during a checkup with the family doctor and created a number of clones. These clones were brought to term by women employed by Majestic-12 with no understanding of the true purpose behind their pregnancies. The women only knew that once they gave birth they would never see the child again, although they were handsomely rewarded for their nine months of service. The clones were experimented upon in ways they could not have done so with the real child without causing permanent damage. Most of these experiments left the clones brain-dead and comatose. Eventually the team learned from their mistakes and made nano-augmentation a reality.
However, their success was not yet complete. It was not enough to simply bring a cloned embryo to term and expect a successful augmentation. Even a cloned embryo was affected slightly by the genetic differences in the surrogate mothers. There were too many random variables to take into account to create truly replicable results. The brains of the clones developed subtle differences as unique as the structure of snowflakes. For the moment, they had to return to a control group – the original mother of the primary unit.
The family doctor had seen to it that the original mother was unable to have more children without the consent of Majestic-12. A simple nanite pill disguised as medication for post partum depression had done the job nicely, eating away at her ovaries until they were as useless as a second appendix. Her inability to give her husband a second child bothered her to no end, and she feared it might eventually erode their marriage. When the family doctor offered her a chance to be a paid participant in a study of a revolutionary new procedure that would allow her to become pregnant again, she eagerly accepted the proposition.
Instead of performing a revolutionary surgery on the mother, however, they merely implanted her with a cloned embryo of the primary unit. Nine months later, the secondary unit was born, with signs of showing even more promise than his older brother.
Not long after this the Majestic-12 scientists developed technology that would allow them to bring a clone to term through incubation, removing the random variables that had plagued them to this point. The team of scientists hidden in plain sight around the experimental family continued to study them and report their findings. The success or failure of the project as a whole depended on their data.
As the children continued to grow, the primary unit reached maturity and left home to join UNATCO. The United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition, a branch of the U.N., had been created to combat terrorism around the world. The primary unit's performance at the UNATCO Academy provided useful benchmarks for his potential as a nano-augmented agent should he later be recruited by Majestic-12. Physically, he was in a class of his own. Intellectually, he was untouchable as well. However, his instructors reported him to be unpredictable and difficult to control. He even went so far as to disobey orders that were morally questionable. This independence was no doubt a result of the upbringing he had received from his parents, and would render him useless as an agent for the more objectionable missions Majestic-12 required of their operatives. Bob Page considered eliminating the unit in a training accident in order to control a potentially free variable in the equation, but decided against it. He would be a good test subject for the nano-augmentation procedure they would use on the secondary unit when he was old enough.
Majestic-12 agents disguised as UNATCO instructors approached the primary unit and revealed that he was a rare candidate for a new experimental procedure that would make him the strongest and fastest soldier in UNATCO. The boy underwent the nanotechnological augmentation shortly before his final performance examination at the UNATCO Academy. The procedure was successful, as expected, and the augmentations enabled him to deliver a record breaking performance on the exam. The primary unit's parents could not have been more proud of their son, who graduated at the top of his class. He was recognized at his graduation ceremony as the first nano-augmented agent of UNATCO. Top diplomats from the United Nations were in attendance, as was Bob Page himself, albeit with more discretion than his boisterous colleagues who toasted the success of their new super soldier. Page was not convinced that he would be the soldier they needed. The last thing they needed was a super soldier who questioned orders.
The psychological counselors on the team argued that the random variables in the upbringing of a child in an American household were too numerous to ensure the reliability of an agent. Bob Page agreed, and removed the two greatest variables from the equation – the parents. It was done professionally by a team of trained Majestic-12 assassins posing as agents of a terrorist faction. The results could hardly have been more ideal. The primary unit vowed to avenge their deaths through his work at UNATCO. To protect his younger brother from the truth, as he was not even ten years old at the time, he let him believe their parents had died in a car accident.
With the family of their most promising agent in ruins, UNATCO generously financed the secondary unit's education at a private school in Switzerland. All of this played perfectly into the plans of Majestic-12, who were now able to directly influence the upbringing of the secondary unit while the primary unit underwent field testing. If there were any problems with the nano-augmentation process they would be fixed before he underwent the same procedure.
In the secondary unit they had a blank slate – a perfect candidate for nano-augmentation still young enough for psychological molding into the perfect agent. For a time, the primary was almost forgotten as he continued his work at UNATCO. The secondary unit thrived in the controlled environment of the Swiss school. He received stellar marks in every subject and showed great physical prowess as well. The school instilled in him the value of unquestioning loyalty. The boy would be trained to follow orders without question, a skill reportedly lacking in the primary unit according to the reports from UNATCO.
When the time came, the secondary unit eagerly agreed to follow in his older brother's footsteps and joined UNATCO. He too received nanotechnological augmentation without incident and went on to match his brother's successes in training. He never suspected that every event of his entire life had been scripted to mold him into the perfect soldier, un-matched in abilities and loyalties. He had been so successfully indoctrinated that he might not have objected if he learned the truth of his upbringing. They would not take the chances of revealing that truth, of course.
Now Bob Page found himself standing at the crossroads of a major decision. The secondary unit appeared to be everything they needed and more in a star agent. His successes had only shown more light on the failures of their original candidate. The primary unit's moral inflexibilities were affecting his work, and he had several times snatched failure from the jaws of victory due to his unwillingness to take the life of another when so ordered. However, he was being given yet another chance to prove his worth to his benefactors. If he continued to fail, they would have no choice but to prepare to remove him from the equation and focus their efforts on the secondary unit. It would be no great loss, since he was nothing more than a proof of concept after all. Both brothers had been conceived as an experiment to verify the validity of nano-augmentation, and the results of that experiment had already been used to begin rolling out the technology on a larger scale. Bob Page and several of his most trusted associates were proof of that, having successfully received the nano-augmentation procedure.
All of these thoughts passed imperceptibly through Bob Page's mind as he walked from the cavernous bunker entrance of the Area 51 complex. From looking at Page's face one would think he did not have a care in the world. This skill was crucial to his success in the worlds of business and engineering.
Page approached the helipad outside the bunker and the waiting stealth helicopter. The pilot had already spun up the rotors and performed the preflight checks so there would be no delay. It was good to have such professionals working for him.
"Good morning, Mr. Page," the pilot greeted him over the intercom. "Name's Brian Flanagan, but my friends call me Jock."
Bob Page sighed inwardly. Perhaps he had been presumptuous in assuming this pilot was a professional. However, he seemed to handle the aircraft with skill. With barely a perceptible shift in momentum the helicopter was away and racing west across the desert. As the aircraft passed over what remained of California, Bob Page could not help but reminisce. He was driven by ego as much as any other powerful man. He had changed the shape of the nation quite literally by instigating a massive earthquake that had caused most of Southern California to fall into the sea. The truly beautiful part was that no one had thought to make a connection between the quake and the fact that several of the direct competitors of Page Industries had been headquartered there. The resulting governmental intervention had allowed Majestic-12 to further consolidate its power throughout the United States.
Bob Page's destination was the headquarters of VersaLife, the world leader in nanotechnology and the flagship subsidiary of Page Industries. The meeting taking place would be a secret affair. With the advent of modern technology, such a meeting could have easily been established using holographic communication devices mass produced by none other than Page Industries. However, some information was too secret even for the heavily controlled wireless and fiber optic networks which made up the global communication systems.
Bob Page allowed his mind to continue to wander as they raced across the Pacific Ocean. In the past, this trip would have been impossible without several dangerous mid-air refuelings. The advent of the Page Industries Ethanol Fuel Cell had enabled such aircraft to travel well over nine thousand miles without refueling. Its thermoptic camouflage rendered it virtually invisible to everything but the most discerning naked eye. It was the perfect aircraft for discreet trips such as this.
If there was one flaw the trillionaire technocrat found in himself it was his inability to stop his mind from turning over the possibilities. Sleep was a rare occurance, although the necessity for it had been eliminated by his nanotechnological implants. The implants had the same regenerative effects on his body as natural sleep. Page used his hyperactive mind to its fullest potential, always scheming and planning and plotting his moves ten and sometimes twenty or more moves in advance. Trips such as this provided a few hours of uninterrupted time to do his best thinking.
Dry land appeared beneath the helicopter, announcing their arrival over the People's Republic of China. China was and had been for several years the world's largest superpower, having replaced the United States and Europe as the global center for education and industry. As such, it was only natural that the brightest stars in international business and technology should get their start there. The fact that the government of China was the first genuinely successful experiment in centralized government, largely due to the involvement of Majestic-12, certainly didn't hurt in Page's mind.
VersaLife was headquartered in downtown Hong Kong, the last remaining vestige for economic freedom in the PRC. The thriving black market beneath the towers of the city played right into the plans of Majestic-12. The organization had not yet completely subjugated the local gangs, known as Triads, to their will, although that objective was close at hand.
The helicopter circled the rooftop helipad of VersaLife once before easing down towards the surface. The pilot expertly flared the aircraft before gently rocking it down to the rooftop. Without a word of gratitude, Bob Page extricated from the helicopter and approached the rooftop elevator, which opened as he approached. Waiting in the elevator was a ubiquitous underling, always eager to welcome the executive. The employee's name and role appeared through Page's optical implants, overlaying over his visible spectrum: Richard Hundley, Shift Supervisor. Bob Page silenced him with a gesture before he could begin the routine platitudes. The elevator took Page down to the main floor, where he dutifully signed in at the main desk. Even a powerful individual such as himself felt the need to keep up appearances, after all.
The executive passed through the offices that made up the legitimate front end of VersaLife. He caught the furtive glances from workers over the tops of cubicles, all of whom quickly averted their eyes when they realized who was walking among them. Page smiled inwardly, enjoying the respect and fear he wielded. Justifiably so, he mused. Hundley followed in tow, like a loyal dog following his master.
Page and Hundley approached the controlled-access elevator which led deep below the surface to the bowels of the building. It was down there that the real work behind VersaLife happened, well away from the prying eyes of the public. Upon arriving at the bottom of the elevator shaft, Page emerged into the impressive atrium of the laboratory levels. The atrium was an expansive hallway carved from red marble. Prominently featured in the center of the atrium was a large globe which seemed to hover in mid air as a large black marble hand reached around as if to grasp the Earth. The statue represented the global domination toward which Majestic-12 continually strived.
Page noticed that Hundley had not followed him out of the elevator. Instead, he waited patiently for the doors to close so he could resume his duties supervising the menial office work up on the surface. Without being told, he had understood that he was not wanted or needed after arriving at the laboratories. Such insight was why he had been granted supervisorial rank.
Page noticed the increased security almost immediately. Upstairs, the security guards were mostly for show. Most weren't even armed with heavy weapons. However, one couldn't simply stumble into the lower levels of VersaLife. Security at these levels was trusted to the most elite of the Majestic-12 commandos. These troops were equipped with powerful weapons and armor. They were supervised, in turn, by physiopharmaceutically augmented agents, dressed in black suits with heavy sunglasses to disguise their unnaturally albino skin. These men and women in black were conditioned to be trustworthy enough to watch over the watchers of this most secret of Majestic-12 facilities.
As Page walked towards the statue he noticed that his protégé was already waiting for him beneath the grasping hand. Page had never once known Walton Simons to be late for a meeting. Simons was ever punctual, dependable, and above all else loyal. He had been a natural choice to receive the nanotechnological augmentation after the success of the procedure on the experimental units. Simons was one of the most dangerous men on the planet, even without his nano-augmented abilities. Aside from his legendary skills in hand-to-hand combat and gunfighting, Simons was the most ruthless bureaucrat Page had ever known. He always spoke with a monotone, never allowing himself to show an ounce of excitement, even while his words coerced and commanded those around him.
Bob Page spoke first, setting the tone for the meeting. "Your appointment to FEMA should be finalized within the week. I've already discussed the matter with the Senator."
"I take it he was agreeable?" asked Simons.
"He didn't really have a choice." Page allowed himself a smirk.
"Has he been infected?"
"Oh yes, most certainly. When I mentioned that we could put him on the priority list for the Ambrosia vaccine, he was so willing it was almost pathetic."
"This plague," Simons spoke, showing a rare ounce of concern, "The rioting is intensifying to the point where we may not be able to contain it."
Simons referred to the plague known on the street as the Gray Death, a global pandemic which had seemingly arrived overnight. It was a horrific disease that attacked its victims at the cellular level, breaking down the bonds that held the body together. The body's response was to attack the afflicted organs, quite literally destroying itself one cell at a time. The mortality rate of the disease hovered near one hundred percent, and the death was a slow painful affair that horrified those not yet infected. Already almost ten percent of the global population was afflicted, and there was no known cure - at least none that had been allowed to be created. Like most pandemics, immunologists had been unable to identify a patient zero, although they had theorized that the outbreak could have started anywhere from an African monkey to a New York sewer rat. The World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention worked tirelessly to isolate the vectors the disease used to spread.
VersaLife had developed a nanite capsule, known as Ambrosia, which was able to protect a healthy individual from becoming infected by the Gray Death. Unlike most vaccines, Ambrosia could also control the symptoms of the infected, prolonging their lives so long as they continued taking regular doses. The exact mechanism of how it accomplished this miraculous feat was a carefully guarded secret. Occasionally a brilliant mind not under the influence of Page Industries would make a breakthrough and have to be subjugated. Most of them willingly abandoned their research, being paid massive sums of money and left with the impression that VersaLife was merely trying to protect their domination of the marketplace with their Ambrosia vaccine. Anyone who was afflicted with the Gray Death would have to pay the exorbitant fees charged by VersaLife for their doses if they wished to avoid the painful death that awaited them. Their control of the Ambrosia vaccine allowed Majestic-12 to coerce anyone on the planet to do their bidding. Presidents and Premiers feared the disease as much as anyone else.
"Why contain it?" Page asked rhetorically. "Let it spill over into the schools and churches, let the bodies pile up in the streets. In the end, they'll beg us to save them."
"I've received reports of armed attacks on shipments. There's not enough vaccine to go around, and the underclasses are starting to get desperate."
"Of course they're desperate. They can smell their death, and the sound they'll make rattling their cage will serve as a warning to the rest."
"I hope you're not underestimating the problem." Was that a hint of reproach Page detected in his subordinate's voice? "The others may not go as quietly as you think - intelligence indicates they're behind the problems in Paris."
Simons referred to the French terrorist group, Silhouette. They had allied themselves with freedom fighters around the world in a quest to expose the existence of Majestic-12 and their control of the Ambrosia vaccine. Unlike most terrorist groups, they fought their war with words and ideas instead of bombs and bullets. Silhouette routinely subverted media outlets through computer hacking, getting their message out to millions of individuals before their signal could be shut down. Most of their attacks were nothing more than intellectual pranks, but they were still a persistent thorn in Majestic-12's side. They had attempted to link Silhouette with the murder of several European politicians and journalists who had opposed Majestic-12, but this had done little to stop Silhouette directly.
"A bunch of pretentious old men playing at running the world. But the world left them behind long ago. We are the future." Page replied confidently.
"We have other problems," Simons continued.
"UNATCO?" asked Page.
"Brought to the U.S. by executive order after the terrorist strike on the Statue."
Page remembered that day as a great victory for Majestic-12. By detonating a bomb within the Statue of Liberty and framing Silhouette for the bombing they had struck several key blows for their cause. They had given the President all the justification he needed to bring the U.N.'s anti-terrorism force onto American soil, further tightening the grip which the United Nations had on the world. They had also seriously damaged the reputation of Silhouette as a peaceful resistance movement. Majestic-12 had convinced the world that Silhouette had blown up the statue because they felt France had been wrong to give the statue to the United States. Their fingerprints had been invisible.
"I have someone in place, though," Simons continued, referring to their mole in UNATCO. "I'm more concerned about Savage - he's relocated to Vandenberg."
Gary Savage represented one of the few errors in judgment Bob Page had made in his life. He should have had him killed years ago. Instead, he had brought him to Area 51 and put him to work on the early nanoaugmentation project. When Savage had realized the full scope of the project, he had rebelled, destroying several key pieces of technology and escaping with several members of his team. Savage had set up shop at Vandenberg Air Force Base where he was attempting to work to undermine the efforts of Majestic-12. They even had the gall to name their band of scientists "X-51" in order to proclaim their opposition to their former masters. They were an annoyance, to be sure, but not a serious theat. If they told the public what they knew no one would take them seriously. Some things were simply too unbelievable to be true.
"Our biochem corpus is far in advance of theirs, as is our electronic sentience," Page replied, trying to reassure himself. "And their... ethical inflexibility has allowed us to make progress in areas they refuse to consider."
"The augmentation project?"
"Among other things – but I must admit that I have been somewhat disappointed in the performance of the primary unit."
"The secondary unit should be online soon. It's currently undergoing preparation and will be operational within six months. My people will continue to report on his progress. If necessary, the primary will be terminated."
"We've had to endure much, you and I, but soon there will be order again, a new age. Aquinas spoke of the mythical City on the Hill. Soon that city will be a reality, and we will be crowned its kings." Page's augmented red eyes managed to convey a gleam of mirth which bordered on madness. "Or better than kings. Gods."