The cabin hidden in the mountains near Monterey was to be the place not only of my exile, but the core of an idea, a resistance to docile assimilation by the government. The area was secluded at the bottom of a ravine with a stream that provided water. Without the steep slopes that surrounded us and blocked detection from scanning electronics, we wouldn't have survived long. A few of Sapphire's insurgents patrolled the area. I also found we had some help on the outside I hadn't expected.

"You have a visitor," Sapphire announced late one evening as we ladled out a bum's stew of beans and rustled beef.

"Well I'll be damned'" I couldn't help but splutter. "Kevin Armstrong, I never thought you'd be connected with this."

"I couldn't let you know about my involvement," Armstrong admitted. "You had to find your way here on your own."

You sound like you expected me all along?"

"Well let's just say, someone with your brains and perceptions would eventually see the need to act as part of the resistance," Armstrong spoke uneasily, as though he was walking through a minefield.

"I'm not sure I'm acting on behalf of any resistance, no matter what Sapphire has said," I replied cautiously. "I think I'm more in a mutual self survival community."

"Then you need to think about the greater purpose you serve," Armstrong began to explain. "President William's imperial ambitions are transparent, he is a Transhumanist who believes he can shape human evolution to his will. It is the unintended consequences of altruism through force that are always so abhorent. He would never call his goals Imperial in public, but he certainly holds them in private. You are the only one who can stop him."

"How am I going to stop a man backed by a an elite Praetorian Presidential Guard, much less the entire US military, even if I wanted to?"

"You are designed as a killing machine, Steven Heller," Armstrong became dead serious. "Haven't you wondered why you should survive so many events that would have killed an ordinary human? Haven't you wondered about the course of your life? You are unique, Steve Heller; your biology, your mental abilities, have all been shaped."

"What the hell are you talking about?" I grabbed Armstrong by the shirt and glared at him. "I am not a killer!"

"All in due course," Armstrong replied as cold as ice.

"Let Armstrong go," I heard an equally cold voice at my back, and I turned to find Sapphire once again pointing a load Beretta at me. "He means you no harm," Sapphire spoke calmly this time.

I could see I wasn't going to get anywhere here.

"I was surprised at how well you could still function this far from civilization," Armstrong changed the subject, adjusting his collar. "We had to work hard to get your kinematics to work so far from the computer networks. The 8G packet switching to avoid detection is quite sophisticated."

"What do you mean we?"

"Myself and L," Armstrong threw another block at me. "The interface to your code needs work," Armstrong admitted, to my relief. He was only aware of low level interface routines.

"But the Internet stretches everywhere through satellite links and cell phone microwave towers, so here you are!" Armstrong seemed proud of his work. I knew the real reason Ell was still able to control my every motion went far beyond what Armstrong had added to the code. Ell also tapped into Intranets, private ones like Gaggle and academic ones as well running on super fast backbones. Ell was everywhere.

Armstrong stayed in camp only a short time, he'd brought some improvements to my sensory system. He'd taken a great risk coming there, he was needed back at his position at the university.

As the days passed at the cabin in exile, news continued to filter in about President Williams ambitions. If he had been the normal despot, dictating law simply to fill his Swiss bank accounts, perhaps the people would have found ways to oppose him and even risen to defeat him. William's genius was to phrase his dictats as necessary for the good of the children.

"Without these inoculations, you and your children will never see the bright future they so justly deserve," William's voice resonated from animated billboards and kiosks everywhere. "Peace is near at hand!"

Soon it would no longer be necessary for the President to disguise his ambitions because he had a drug so powerful at his command he could control the world. All that was needed to project his governmental presence worldwide was inoculation with the addictive pacifying vaccine SOPOR, bioengineered to mimic the narcotic Black Orchid. Tinpot dictators worldwide secretly begged for the ability to domesticate their populations through a simple inoculation, they would fall in line like dominoes.

Most bitter for me in exile was watching the televised accounts Laura Silvan at the president's side. The American public had long ago given up, or perhaps been cowed, into believing the private peccadilloes of their President and other politicians no longer mattered, and were in fact entertainment. The feelings of Annette Elise Underwood, former cheerleader, former Miss Texas, and now former First Lady were pleasantly ignored.

"I'm going to sue the bastard!" the former First Lady proclaimed from headlines in the Globe, her boozy face streaked with tears, but only the white trash trailer camp set seemed to care. "That son of a bitch has an obligation to me and his children!" The bitter words screamed from the tabloids.

The First Ex's lawyers attempted to bring a breach of contract suit against the President, claiming interference by one Laura Silvan. With unaccustomed alacrity, the Supreme Court (nine of thirteen were appointed by Williams) set aside its other pressing business to rule against her. Through some penumbra, the Supreme Court's jurisdiction now extended to matters of divorce.

Laura Silvan provided a popular contrast.

"I hope to be a positive force for peace throughout the world," Laura proclaimed to approving crowds on her concert tour/campaign trail. "The poor can't live on the stale bread of partisan bickering! And Planet Earth can no longer survive industrialists who pollute un-checked in their arrogance and greed!"

Laura thrilled in the elixir of raw political power, the heady power to save the world! She modeled herself the new Alexandria Ocasio Cortex, the consumate Evita Peron wannabe. Laura even sang "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" at state events.

It was as if Laura had rehearsed to take the lead part in the old Andrew Lloyd Webber production of Evita. Even the pop-diva Madonna who played the movie part never made as great a makeover as Laura. Madonna only played Evita, Laura became Evita and the masses adored her.

The elections were soon upon us and there was little doubt as to the outcome - the Jimmy Carter Foundation for Fair Elections had already certified the new no-ID Internet election law as providing "unparalleled citizen access to fundamental voting rights".

As the inoculation campaign spread, a torpor descended on the continent. First came the schools where nurses smilingly administered the injection to indentured children, and then offices and factories where workers were enjoined to battle the deadly scourge. The citizens were euphoric, their future secure, their reality a balloon inflated by feelings induced by a false neurotransmitter. Nothing could go wrong.

The normally boisterous American public had been calmed beyond expectations by the narcotic effects of their gene doped dependency on Black Orchid. As the neural infection spread, and the even more dangerous cure spread, the sparkle in the eye of the citizen turned to a glazed, though contented, grey slate. And the one man responsible for this bliss was President Williams.

"They appear content in their little utopias," I'd suggested to Sapphire, thinking perhaps the masses might be no worse off for their addiction to Black Orchid than to cigarettes, marijuana or booze. "Perhaps we should we leave them to their bliss."

"I spent ten years in that fog," Sapphire confronted me and I could see the pain in her eyes. "The euphoria of Black Orchid, the calm that suffocates passion, I can't tell you it isn't still an attraction to me. But it is a virtual reality that has no end."

"I think I know something about virtual reality," I said, thinking fondly of Ell. " It's not all bad."

"You don't understand," Sapphire glared. "The original doses expand as the euphoria becomes more nightmarish, requiring ever larger doses. Paranoia builds on paranoia until you're out of control and unable to focus on those you love. You can't live in a virtual reality without eventually going crazy, because there's no room there for love."

"So that's why you appear crazy to others Sapphire? The end effects of Black Orchid euphoria?" I said, also envisioning Ell's lonely existence in cyberspace.

"I don't appear crazy, I am crazy," she admitted. "I'm at least honest about it. You look a little crazy too!"

"So how do we break what will possibly be the addiction of an entire country without going after the President?" The look on Sapphire's face told me it wasn't possible. The entire structure of Presidential protection of the Ultima corporation needed to be exposed.

"We won't be able to attack until the inauguration," Sapphire strategized, admitting that she was plotting treason at the ultimate level. "That's the only time he'll be truly vulnerable."

Sapphire's anarchic tendencies disturbed me, but I was beginning to appreciate them. You can't defend freedom by sitting in a Playstation Pod zoned out, but I was no insurrectionist.

"I refuse to be part of planning an assassination attempt on the President of the United States," I told Sapphire in measured words. "But I will help you expose the President's use of SOPOR as a biolgical mind control agent."

but the course was set. There was no choice, a world drugged into submission was no world I wanted part of.

We would be reviled for trying to liberate the nation from the influence of the most popular president in history, not counted heroes. The fact he had orchestrated a drug deranged stupor for an entire nation wouldn't make any difference. We'd be hated more than John Wilkes Booth.

In fact, the President was in line for a Nobel Peace Prize for bringing peace in our time. If a President lied unremittingly to his subjects and told them the sky was orange and money grows on trees, would he deserve a Nobel? Now consider if the population believed those lies, and thought their civilization was falling apart from their disconnection with reality, felt safe and secure. Wouldn't he deserve a Nobel then for bringing peace to the world?

President Williams had provided an elixir, a viral vaccine that created a mass virtual reality of euphoria. By current standards there was no amorality in this, he'd created peace. Heretic that I am, though, I still doubted he deserved the Nobel.

"Sapphire, we can't do this alone," I worried aloud late in the night. "How many guerrillas did you bring to battle at the President's fundraiser? And at Ultima corporate headquarters?"

"There are more of us than you may believe," Sapphire began to explain. "Almost eighty. They are former Black Orchid addicts, they will do anything to help."

"But that implies they were able to kick their addiction, like you." I pondered. " I never asked how you did it?"

"You don't kick the habit," Sapphire explained. "It was because they threatened to make me quit cold-turkey that I agreed to kill you in the first place. Its just that after the paranoia rages through you long enough, you eventually burn out the neurotransmitter sites that create the euphoria."

"Does Mahdi Ahmadi know this? That everyone eventually becomes immune to the drugs effects?"

"Of course. He saw the desensitization in me and others. He saw the paranoia that followed. He's just counting on the fact that it takes years for the desensitization to occur."

"But does the President know?"

"No, he believes he's saving the world for eternity. He claims the entire world is now on a Juggernaut to peace. You are mistaken if you think he is doing this for political power, he thinks history will view him as a God."

"The Hindu Juggernaut is nothing but a huge vehicle driven by the religious zeal of its followers." I observed grimly. "It often crushes people beneath its wheels."

"That is the same force that has been set in motion by President Williams." Sapphire spoke truthfully.

"But I can't give up hope that the rule of law would prevail." I responded sincerely. "It breaks my heart what has happened to America, but I trust in the Revised Constitution and that Congress will intervene to impeach President Williams!"

Unbeknownst to me, Sapphire began laying out plans for kidnapping the President of the United States soon after. I think she planned, at first, only to force him to confess live on camera that SOPOR is a mind control agent and that there is no pandemic.I believe her heart was in the right place, and if anyone had a reason to oppose the suffering that was being caused, she certainly stood first in line.

But insurrection never solves anything. I had my suspicions about what Sapphire was going to attempt, through the grapevine, but nothing concrete.

"There are too many security measures, secret service agents, to pull this off." I confronted Sapphire "You need to give up before you risk everything on a foolhardy venture. Besides, it's a honeytrap, the Feds will know you are coming, they likely have infiltrated your group already."

"Every enemy has his weakness," Sapphire wouldn't back down. "There is always a weakness. You know what that weakness is."

"Yes, I know," I confessed. "The President's weakness, my weakness, is Laura Silvan."

A small group of former Black Orchid addicts assembled by Sapphire congealed from the surrounding forest and made an unobtrusive camp. Cat eyed, they watched the world with a paranoid intensity. Many were children of Mahdi Ahmadi, just like Sapphire, and knew well that if they failed there would be no mercy shown by either the President or their father.

Ell was now a presence in my subconscious, every morning I walked a wooded path talking to her, perhaps talking to myself:

"Ell, is Sapphire doing the right thing?" I thought, in Cyberspace. "Should I stop her?"

"We did the best we could," she replied naively. "That's all you can do."

"Doing the best but failing just won't work."