The Strand Prophecy
By J.B.B. Winner
Strand, a reluctant superhero delivers evidence of an ominous scientific discovery to the president and the world… The very nature of life on earth is about to change and humanities fate hangs in the balance.
Strand must protect the innocent and warn the world about the rapidly evolving predatory creatures, before its too late.
The hooded figure stood motionless on Pennsylvania Avenue facing the White House.
His dark cloak billowed in the evening wind as he waited.
“Soon they will be here,” he thought.
“And then it will start.
All I have wanted to keep secret will be exposed.”
Chapter 1: The Reluctant Harbinger
A throng of summer tourists streamed past the dark figure standing at the gates of the White House. Suddenly a large man in a Hawaiian shirt, his face buried in a map, collided with the cloaked figure. The map flew in the air as the man lost his balance and landed in the lap of an elderly woman resting on a nearby bench.
“Excuse me!” called out the tourist. But the cloaked figure did not respond. Indeed, he appeared unaffected, with any reaction covered by the shadow of the cloth. Just then a gust of wind exposed the figure’s face as the old woman glanced upward into
the bright glow of his electric blue luminous eyes. She held up her hands, looked away, and cried out, “El Diablo, El Diablo!” before fainting and crumpling slowly to the ground.
Inside a White House security building, dozens of surveillance cameras were now trained on the cloaked figure. A supervisor with a headset barked orders to Secret Service agents on the scene, then sank back into his chair and turned to the monitor as several agents approached to assess the situation.
What the White House security cameras couldn’t see was the man behind the hood, black chrome exoskeleton and luminous eyes. They could not know the pain, guilt, and torment of a man consumed by his work at the expense of all else. Nor could they realize that the man was performing an act of utter selflessness. Perhaps seeking repentance, or perhaps to prove to himself that his work has meaning and that the death of his brother, Jack, had not been in vain.
But soon the entire world would know “Strand.”
A host of Secret Service agents and White House security guards approached, wearing beige trench coats, wired earpieces, and dark sunglasses. They stopped a few feet behind Strand.
“Sir, you must move along, please,” the lead agent, Carlisle, said.
Strand remained motionless.
“Sir, can you hear me? Do you speak English? Sir, you have to move along. Hello! Can you hear me?” He was shouting now.
Quickly, the agents began evacuating tourists from the scene before setting up a perimeter around Strand.
“Sir, you must move along,” Carlisle repeated, obviously following the strict protocol for handling uncooperative tourists.
Without looking back at them, Strand suddenly spoke. “I have a message for the president.”
Carlisle nodded to his colleagues. As innocuous as Strand’s sentence was, it constituted a threat. The men lunged at Strand and tried to forcibly move him. They struggled valiantly but were unable to move Strand from his position. Soon, others ran in to collectively try to tackle Strand to the ground. But no matter how many joined the struggle, pushing and shoving with all their might, Strand remained motionless.
The situation had escalated, and Strand was now considered a hostile threat. A horde of agents surrounded him.
“There’s metal under the cloak!” someone called out. “It must be some kind of armor!”
Carlisle held his hand to his earpiece. “Yes, sir. I understand,” he replied.
He drew his pistol and pointed it at Strand. Other Secret Service men and White House guards followed suit, slowly backing away to avoid being caught in the crossfire.
Carlisle shouted, “Get on the ground and put your hands behind your head. DO IT NOW!”
Strand remained motionless. “I have a message for the president,” he repeated in a low monotone.
Several police vehicles skidded into position, officers jumping out and taking cover behind the open doors. Showing cracks in his by-the-book demeanor, Carlisle shouted, “THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE. GET ON THE GROUND AND PUT YOUR HANDS BEHIND YOUR HEAD OR WE WILL OPEN FIRE.”
A blast of wind unexpectedly blew Strand’s cloak to the side, momentarily exposing his black chrome exoskeleton. Bright blue light flashed briefly from the articulated joints.
Carlisle had seen enough. This was something more than just a man. “Fire at will.” It was a magnificent hailstorm of bullets, but with no effect on Strand. Officers exchanged nervous glances as they reloaded their weapons. Others dropped their guns to their sides and just stared at the spectacle.
News of a threat to the White House had traveled fast. On the rooftop of a nearby building on Jackson Place, news photographers witnessed it all. Within minutes, a CNN news crawl read: “Shootout at The White House.” The major networks interrupted programming to broadcast the fierce clash.
“HOLD YOUR FIRE!” Carlisle yelled. The air was hot with smoke as the last cartridge dropped to the asphalt littered with shells.
Strand remained motionless, his back turned away from the officers. He knew that the press had picked up the story since he could intercept satellite feeds through his helmet. Things had gone far enough. It was time to break the silence.
Strand turned around slowly, giving the photographers on the nearby rooftop plenty of time to capture his movement. Most focused on the glowing blue eyes under his hood. Then he spoke.
“I am a friend and I mean no harm. I have an important message for the president.”
Strand now activated equipment on his exoskeleton that broadcast his message to the media stationed nearby. Astonished television crews quickly broadcast the image of the hooded figure standing in front of the White House with a hundred officers pointing their weapons at him.
The president, sitting in his office on Air Force One five miles above Kansas, looked up as a young aide burst into the room.
“Mr. President, I think you should see this.” She turned on a monitor hanging in the corner.
A CNN news anchor announced, “You are watching live coverage of the shootout at the White House… .”
Strand knew it was time. The media was listening, the world was watching and he could deliver his message directly to the president. Events had unfolded just as he had calculated.
“My name is Strand. I am a reluctant harbinger, chosen because of an accident and a debt to which I am forever bound. Mr. President, the information I am about to tell you will be available on the World Wide Web within twenty-four hours. Everything that we know is about to change. The human race and every other living creature on this planet is about to enter into an accelerated evolutionary cycle.”
Strand stopped for a moment and pulled back his hood, exposing his helmet, visor, and faceplate. Traces of blue energy raced across his helmet and his gleaming blue eyes shined all the way to the photographers on the adjacent building.
“We have always believed that evolution was a slow process,” Strand continued, “but it is not. Evolution happens quickly and on a grand scale. We will experience a great burst of life in a very condensed period of time, where environmental diversity and adaptation are the catalysts for new species. Those who master their environments will thrive and those who do not will become fossils.”
Strand pulled a large envelope from inside his cloak and held it up.
“Here is the scientific evidence.” He placed the manila envelope on the sidewalk.
“I am the harbinger, and our world is about to change. I will leave this research here for you, Mr. President.”
Strand looked around slowly, taking in every detail of this moment. Then he suddenly crouched and leaped backwards high into the air, far from the cameras and the sharpshooters and over the White House lawn. He landed directly on the roof of the White House and continued to speak calmly, as if he had just taken a step backwards.
“The future is unknown, but the facts are not. I am the messenger, I am a man and something more. My name is Strand.”
He leaped from the White House roof across Pennsylvania Avenue to the middle of Lafayette Park, before a throng of satellite news trucks and reporters. Some reporters stared in shock, a few turned and ran down the street. The more seasoned reporters just keep on talking.
Reporters, Strand thought, they’re a different species already.
He vaulted over the Department of Commerce and then disappeared into the haze of the capital city.
Twelve hours later in the Oval Office, the president was meeting with his cabinet and experts with the highest levels of security clearance.
“Gentlemen, can anyone offer me an explanation as to how a man survives a thousand rounds of ammunition point blank, then hops from Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House roof in one effortless leap?”
The president knew his question was rhetorical, yet he looked around at the assembled team of experts to make his point. The whole world had just witnessed something that up to that point was never thought humanly possible. The silence of the room was stifling.
Dr. Ned Vitimani, a veteran intelligence officer with tufts of white hair spilling from his balding head, spoke slowly, without looking directly at anyone. “Mr. President?” He cleared his throat uncomfortably. “This man was using an exoskeleton. That much we can ascertain from the surveillance. And this exoskeleton must have been designed to propel him a great distance, and also absorb the impact of landing.
“Yet while we think we have identified the technology we saw so graphically demonstrated today, our military currently does not possess anything even remotely similar. The closest we have are conceptual exoskeleton designs to assist foot soldiers in carrying heavy backpacks and equipment. But even these are still very much in the conceptual stage of development.”
Vitimani let out a heavy sigh. Visibly shaken, face red and hands clenched, he slowly looked up at the president. Vitimani was an honored and respected scientist, but at that moment, he was just as confused as everyone else in the room. The only thing making him feel worse than letting the president down was his own ego. He was utterly disappointed in himself.
“Doctor,” the president asked, “if I had asked you yesterday if it was possible for a man to jump from Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House in one leap, what would you have said?”
Vitimani squirmed in his seat. “I would have said it was impossible,” he replied. He already knew what the next question was going to be.
“Doctor, is it possible that we are entering into an accelerated evolutionary cycle?”
Vitimani was trying to avoid answering directly. “I’ll need some time to analyze the data. It could take a while before we … .”
“Doctor, is it possible?” the president interrupted. He was losing his patience.
For a moment, there was silence, a silence that spoke volumes.
“I don’t know. I cannot prove it one way or the other right now, which means that … that it is possible.”
“Thank you, Doctor. I am glad you came to that conclusion, because the rest of the planet already believes it’s possible. And when someone demonstrates the impossible on national television, it tends to add a great deal of credibility to the claim. It is imperative that we, that you, find out.”
The president paused to gather his thoughts. Vitimani shifted uneasily in his chair.
“Doctor, I need you to calculate the probability of its reality in the immediate future. For now, I have to proceed with the perception that it’s already real.”
He then stood up, signaling to Secret Service agents stationed at the door of the Oval Office that he was ready to leave for the White House briefing room.
The president was greeted with flashes, clicks, and a flurry of questions from media as he walked into the briefing room. He would be careful in the words he chose, knowing full well that America, and the world, depended on it.
The White House spokesman walked to the podium. “The president has a statement to make. Please be seated.”
The loud murmur of reporters quickly subsided. Anyone still wandering around sat down or found a place to stand and listen.
“Today we have witnessed an incredible feat of technology …and heard an incredible claim. While we can be sure of what we saw, we cannot be sure of what we were told. Our top experts are evaluating the information as we speak. However, let me be clear, this review process will continue until the scientific community has come to a reasonable conclusion. Any conjecture before that time is simply irresponsible.
“We have all heard those who profess to know when the end of the world is coming, doomsayers forever predicting the imminent demise of the human race. While these types of claims may not have been delivered in such a dramatic fashion before, that does not mean the claim is credible or true.” The president paused for a moment.
“Let me assure the American people, we will determine the truth of this, and find out the identity of this man who refers to himself as Strand.”
Strand sat back in his giant desk chair in the dimly lit den and flicked off the television. He folded his hands in his lap and stared at the blank screen silently.
A voice behind him snapped him out of his reverie. “Uncle Steve, what are you doing?” It was Anna, standing in the doorway looking confused.
Anna was sixteen years old; a beautiful young woman with dark brown hair. She was the only child of his dead brother, Jack.
The man who Anna knew only as her uncle, Steve Cutter, was an anthropologist before he became a technologist. He studied Darwin and evolution of species before moving on to explore the evolution of the human brain, from the emergence of cognitive thinking to the beginning of self-awareness.
In his youth and for years into adulthood, until Jack’s death, Steve Cutter was a man consumed with his own objectives, his own agenda.
To Steve, nothing was more important than his research. He asked for nothing from anyone, and expected nothing in return. He rationalized that expecting nothing absolved him from any obligation. Only after the tragic accident did it become clear that no action is in and of itself an action … and this knowledge changed his life forever.
How ironic, Steve thought. I couldn’t love her any more if she were my own daughter. And if it wasn’t for her, I may never have even understood love … or felt responsibility for another … let alone the entire human race.
“You didn’t pick me up, Uncle Steve. I had to get a ride home with Carol.”
“I know, princess. I’m sorry … very sorry.”
“Hello? You know you’re not the only one in this house who has things to do and places to be.”
Anna turned and started to leave the room. As she was leaving she said, “I bet you didn’t even know some terrorist got into the White House and threatened the president today.”
“A terrorist? I really don’t think it was a terrorist, Anna.” Steve stood up, adjusted his baseball cap, and brushed by Anna on the way out of the den. Anna sighed and walked down the hall.
Two hours outside of Los Angeles in the Northern Mojave Desert, Steve’s house was nothing special, a single-floor ranch built in the late 1940s. It had clapboard siding and a faded wooden shingle roof. It wasn’t in particularly good shape, but it was by no means dilapidated. It looked pretty much as it should, an unassuming older Southern California home, the same that might be found in just about any suburban neighborhood in the United States.
Steve liked living there. It gave him enough isolation to work in anonymity, and enough civilization for Anna to have friends and things to do. Although if you asked Anna, she would wholeheartedly disagree.
Before her father’s death, Anna lived in Pasadena, California. Their home was just around the corner from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where Steve often consulted on projects. For the first ten years of her life, Steve only saw Anna at the occasional family function, with no idea that he would one day become her guardian.
Family wasn’t important to Steve then: his obsession was with the human brain, and why so much of it was left unused. He was fascinated by the idea that nature had wired together living tissue in such a manner as to create self-awareness, but never allowed it to reach its fullest potential.
In his research, Steve postulated that the human brain could be “rewired.” He studied savants who have incredible mental capabilities, from powers of recollection to powers of computation. These people demonstrated how the brain is capable of far more than it’s commonly used for over a lifetime.
Steve discovered that many of these savants had suffered a severe trauma to the head. Resulting X-rays proved that, as their brains healed, certain parts were connecting to different areas than where they were normally connected. In healing itself, the brain rewired itself, in a manner of speaking. Small pieces of brain tissue that grew to connect one part of the brain with another were now delivering electrical signals between living tissue. This resulted in an increase in capabilities regarding math and science.
In his scientific quest, Steve developed materials that were stronger than any that existed before, yet were still as thin as a strand of human hair. He built a delivery system for inserting these fiber strands through the skull. The strands would act like extension cords between parts of the brain.
Steve’s testing reached a point where he had to take it to the next level. He had found a way to pierce a human skull with minimum trauma, but he couldn’t complete the tests with cadavers. He needed to try it on living tissue if he was ever going to observe and improve the process.
If he was right, the strands would interconnect parts of the brain, in turn increasing cognitive ability exponentially.
The primary obstacle was that in order to test cognitive ability, there must be a modicum of cognitive ability already existing, at least enough at the beginning to judge the effects of the strands after their insertion.
Steve walked to the sliding door and stood staring out over the desert, illuminated only by moonlight. He escaped into his thoughts and obsessions, at least for a little while. There were some tough days ahead, but Steve knew there was no other way to proceed.
Thousands of miles east, Vitimani too stared out his window, an office window overlooking the Washington Monument, searching for something to inspire him or provide just a glimpse of insight. He prayed for divine intervention even though he was a man of science, but nothing of the sort appeared. He found no comfort in the moonlight or the birds in the trees. All Vitimani could feel was the urgency that a fuse had been lit.
Vitimani’s office was reminiscent of a high school lab class, a desk at one end, lab instruments burning and spinning and dripping on long desks at the other end. All was as perfect as could be, everything neat, organized, labeled and cataloged, each result meticulously recorded.
Vitimani watched the flames under the experiments flicker and the liquids boil. Everything in his world was cause and effect, empirical data supporting scientific conclusions, not conjecture and assumptions of truth from the court of public opinion.
The moonlight cast shadows across the diplomas and photos hanging on the wall behind Vitimani’s desk. He rubbed his unshaven chin, reminding himself why the president had chosen him to find the truth in these outlandish claims.
The doctor didn’t know what bothered him more, the information itself, the way it was delivered, his embarrassment in the Oval Office, or the fact that if it was true, he hadn’t discovered it first.
Vitimani’s ego made him want to refute the claims, even if the theory of increased levels of radiation were true and their effects on DNA were verifiable. But the scientist in him was excited and full of optimism at the possibilities.
Possibility. The president was right in thinking that the possibility of a catastrophic event as foretold by this man called Strand created doubt in the public, and the manner in which it was delivered created credibility. Even if every claim Strand made was refuted, it would have to be refuted on a solid scientific basis.
Vitimani had been staring out the window since the last sliver of sun disappeared over the horizon hours earlier. His time was almost up, and soon the information Strand spoke of would be released to the entire world over the Internet.
The phone rang. He walked over to the desk, stopped for a moment, and then picked up the receiver.
“Yes, Mr. President, this is Dr. Vitimani.”
To find out more about J.B.B. Winner’s new book, The Strand Prophecy, visit the book’s website here or follow their virtual book tour here. If you would like to pick up a copy of J.B.B. Winner’s book at Amazon, click here.