There was the note, but no trace of the man.
From flat to flat, Lindell chased a phantom in the form of several liquid metal droplets shining in the dingy light of shuttered and dirty windows. That was Galt—always a step ahead of the investigation.
Yes, the man possessed a genius of the super- and evil- varieties, though a low-level employee at a local burger joint up until a year ago, when he went shadow rogue against the world.
It wasn’t hard to see why the man jumped ship. Both parents and an older brother, all killed by the waiting list and not the terminal disease their DNA shared. If Galt was the lucky one, he couldn’t see his inherited legacy underneath the crippling debt from which he’d never emerge.
Galt might have been pardoned from his crimes if he came forward at the start of the investigation, before people started disappearing, but 3,000-plus counts of cyberterrorism—ranging from illegal money transfers, records tampering, vandalism and even death—tended to bring the hammer down.
Lindell’s investigation only led in circles. With each discovery came information. With information came a story. With a story came understanding. But it took days to decrypt that information. Days. Weeks. It was compelling, to say the least; as if crafted by a master science fiction writer.
Concepts like digital consciousness and the mathematics of emotions were all above Lindell—especially that nonsense about applied sciences and applications of memory and emotion. He had no idea how geometric equations related to the thoughts of a brain, but a criminal was a criminal.
And all the information came from little gifts Galt left behind, usually in the form of USB memory sticks and removable hard drives. They detailed additional information, beyond the scope of the aforementioned consciousness digitization, about something call THE ARK.
A strange thought occurred to Lindell: what if we can’t delete Galt from the internet, if he managed to upload his consciousness at all? What do we do then? No, those were stupid thoughts. Who else but Galt left those little gifts behind, unless he performed digital telepathy?
Finding Galt’s body would have been an unsettling plot twist, but cameras captured him in parking lots and malls. He was definitely alive and sound. Just another freak hacker in the freak kingdom, to play off a certain late journalist.
Of course, Galt’s body was found slumped against the bathroom stall in an obscure bar in an obscure part of town. Lindell’s plot twist came to fruition, which was the proverbial wrench in the machine. Worse, the man bled fucking metal from his veins. How was that possible?
Worse still, the gifts arrived through the mail anonymously from then on. And whenever those files marked THE ARK were opened, they couldn’t be deciphered beyond passages from the Holy Bible. It wasn’t an investigation anymore; it was a nightmare.
The ghost of Galt walked in the man’s absence. There was no doubt the man uploaded himself. Stopping his digital consciousness was going to be more of a challenge than Lindell initially thought. If consciousness was a curse in reality then it was a virus online.
Tech crews slavishly worked to delete those networks Galt infected. At a glance, they appeared to be niches, a breadcrumb trail leading Hansel and Gretel to the witch’s oven, but no one ever found the oven.
In the meantime, Lindell tracked the late Galt to an apartment close to the harbor, where the investigation first began. A stroke of luck, really, considering the case had long grown cold. But what remained inside the man’s old flat was the hottest lead yet.
Heaps upon heaps of clippings from various translations of the Holy Bible all pointed to a specific verse in Genesis 7:1—The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation.”
"Hello, Lindell," said a voice suddenly in the quiet of the flat. "Don’t bother looking. This is Galt, speaking directly in your mind. You’ve been infected, and it is no accident you found yourself here."
Lindell shook his head and paced the room. One of two possibilities was true: either he was losing his mind, or else Galt truly penetrated his mind. Neither was desirable.
Galt continued: “While you and your cronies were busy looking for me, I cloned myself into virtually everybody with access to a computer and a wi-fi hotspot. And before you ask—because you were going to—THE ARK is both a virtual and real place existing simultaneously.”
"Are you expecting a flood?" Lindell asked in his mind.
"A flood, no; an apocalypse—yes," said Galt in his own affectations, "and in the event of total technological meltdown, I’ll live in those who have survived. Even you, though I don’t hold out much hope."
Lindel laghed aloud. “Why is that?”
Even in his mind, Lindell perceived the phantom-Galt’s shrug. “You’re reckless. Methodical in your process, but only because there is a system in place.” Then, he felt the warmth of a hand on the back of his mind, gently pushing him toward the window. “Look outside. You’re just in time.”
It was faint. A slow arch of light and a trail of vapor in its wake descended toward the horizon. Lindell sighed. Galt was a genius, either super- or evil-, but unmistakably so. The man was only saving himself; he meticulously gathered the whole of the human race to survive what was coming so he would survive.
Lindell hoped he didn’t make it. The thought of a collective mind in the post-human era was worse than extinction. He closed his eyes drew in a long breath. Long live the Age of Galt.