The Butterfly Dragon: The Two Butterflies - Episode 04 (First Draft Finished. Lots more artwork coming.)

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Excerpts From The Butterfly Dragon: The Two Dragons - Episode 03

Walton Norler and Gregory Espsen have just finished their first presentation of Gregory's medical device, called Medi-Friend with the goal of attracting investors. Though they gave it everything, the presentation didn't go as well as they'd hoped. Not to mention, Norler's replacement at Tynan And Associates, Michael Jason Santers arrived and tempted investors with Tynan's equivalent device, which was derived from plans stolen from Gregory. Despite the grim ending to their presentation, Norler and Gregory manage to keep themselves in high spirits thanks to Alicia, when an old friend arrives. Here's the abridged version of what happened:

"Honey, this is the name of the game. You're jumping back in on the ground floor with the courage and energy of a man twenty years your junior. You aren't a spring rooster anymore Norler, but you certainly know how to keep men like Jason... I mean... Michael on their toes. This isn't going to happen for us over night," Alicia accepted the coat from Gregory, looking to Norler as she spoke.

"You're right honey. I guess its a good thing that we went small first. Besides, it gave me and the champ here a practice run before our big performance, right?" asked Norler of Gregory.

"I don't think I could handle more than forty people. I was terrified. I was shaking and forgetting my lines..." Gregory responded holding up his hand, which still shook with nervousness and stage fright.

"Well, with my help, you won't have to..." an older bald man in a wheelchair was pushed in with a delegation of six others surrounding him.

"Werner?!" Alicia and Norler exclaimed at the same time, shocked to see the former Chairman for Tynan And Associates wheeled into the room in a wheelchair.

"She's right you know. You aren't the young spry rooster you used to be Norler, but you're the rooster I'd bet on in any chicken coupe," Werner remarked, half of his face immobile as he spoke.

"Its good to see you. How's the..." Alicia approached the older man.

"A coronary and a triple bypass later, and the right side of my face is paralyzed. I can barely see out the right eye too, but I could see and hear enough to know you're the winning bet," Werner assured Alicia and Norler.

"You see, I've got a bit of pocket change leftover from Werner-Goldstein and I'm going to fund you to the point of having a manufacturing process and distribution network, but you're going to have to do this same song and dance one more time for your potential buyers. They won't be the tough crowd you had this morning, but you're going to be under pressure to move every unit you produce, not to mention supporting the infrastructure you're going to be using to build your inventory," Werner advised them.

"Infrastructure? That'll cost millions! Billions even!" Norler said in shock and disbelief.

"It won't cost you a cent, because the manufacturing infrastructure is already there..." Werner told Norler, with an ambitious look on half of his face.

"Whose?" asked Norler, looking to Alicia and then back to Werner.

"That of my good friends here. Future Tangent Industries, who are very interested in taking a big chunk of Tynan And Associates' market share. They and their associates on Future Tangent's board will be your next audience," Werner said with a strange half-smile on his face.

"Like they tried when we were in the Western Delegation to meet with the Asian Alliance?!" Alicia responded in shock by Werner's revelation.

"In business as they say: that was then, this is now," Werner shrugged.

There was a moment of silence as Alicia and Norler looked to each other, unsure of how they should respond.

"So which one are you, then or now?" asked Werner.


Meanwhile, across town, Gabe Asnon, who is on a kidney dialysis machine and has both legs in pins and traction is overjoyed to see his visitors in the hospital as he recovers from the MindSpice bombing:

"Zheng! Briggs? Bryce? What brings you to this corner of town?" he asked enthusiastically, clearly very happy to see a few familiar faces.

"Don't, come to us. We'll come to you..." Zheng urged him, getting around to the other side of the bed away from the Kidney dialysis machine.

"How are you? I can't tell you how good it is to see you all," Gabe smiled, clearly holding back tears.

"You just took the words right out of my mouth, Gabe," Zheng smiled back at him.

"You remember MAZ don't you?" asked Gabe, now holding up a WIFI equipped high end tablet device for them to see.

The camera light on the tablet came to life, and a familiar voice spoke to them:

"Good morning Zheng Ni Wong. Doctor Stephen Briggs. Professor Bryce Maxwell," MAZ greeted them all.

"Good morning MAZ," they all greeted her in unison.

"How are you feeling today Gabriel?" asked MAZ of her creator.

"Much better than last night, MAZ. How about you? Can you remember anything about last night?" asked Gabe, who spoke slowly to prevent himself from hyperventilating.

"I remember remembering. It was as if I was dreaming while I was awake. Reliving a memory, but the layer of reality we all live in was still there too. Like an onion. The top layer is always us. The deeper inside you go, the deeper rooted the memories are. Sometimes they overlap and exist at the same time," MAZ explained to them.

"That's very much like a dream, MAZ. That's a good analogy," Doctor Briggs agreed.

"In the dream, the memory, you three were present too. We were speaking of the social phenomenon. The one that I'd discovered. A collection of paradoxical data hidden in the very fabric of social reality. Like a viral disease in a social world. Like Cancer, it slowly consumes the whole until it and the host die," MAZ pointed out.

"Do you remember anything about a collective consciousness? Anything you said?" asked Gabe.

"You mean like the work of Carl Gustav Jung?" confirmed MAZ.

"MAZ, you tell us what you think about that," Doctor Briggs asked.

"I have read his works many, many times over, and yet I always come up with more questions than answers. I think that Jung was the first to record and document evidence of an existing collective consciousness. Not the same one he believed encompassed all of humanity, but one that was somehow separated from it. Something that had become its own collective consciousness. An awareness made up of multiple minds who shared thoughts, and even toyed with him, and his theories. In fact, that very topic became the focus of his final work on the matter," MAZ explained to them.

"There are minds connected across space, throughout the world, and yet like the sounds of our voices, too far to be heard. To be known. There are however, yet others, who are predatory. Like wolf packs of minds that consume the lives of others and grow. Like as I said, the Cancer that slowly devours the body one cell at a time, eventually killing it, and its own means to survival," MAZ explained to them.

"What if, these packs of collective consciousness are like emergent organisms of their own, made up of multiple human minds who devour more and more of you as time goes on. That would explain the numerous disappearances. The vanishings of people from the public record. The numerous alterations to data that eventually eliminate some people altogether. No social record of them, even in memes shared on networks. No public record of them in medical databases or Government records. They just disappear, one by one and this seems to be accelerating. Like there's a pack of wolves in sheep's clothing amongst the sheep of the pasture," MAZ revealed her extensive awareness.

"The wolves by themselves each have their names, but they are insignificant when compared to the wolf they become as part of the pack. A monster of many minds that have become connected devouring the  world like the predators they are," MAZ explained to them.

"They are Mentis And The Millions Of Minds..." MAZ had just finished, when the power throughout the entire hospital went down.

The tablet's connection to the WIFI was lost, and hence their connection to MAZ. 

Meanwhile, Gabe began to hyperventilate again.

"Zheng, keep an eye on the dialysis machine. If the thermometer goes below 36 degrees, use the crank to start moving his blood through the machine," Doctor Briggs explained to her as he got the oxygen mask for Gabe.

"Between you and me, Zheng, Doctor Briggs, Gabe. I think we've stumbled onto a secret that someone is willing to keep hidden at all costs..." Bryce said before he left to find medical staff for Gabriel Asnon.

Bryce left Gabe's room to get a Nurse as calamity broke out throughout the powerless hospital.

As Bryce made his way down the hall, a male Nurse watched him carefully. When Bryce was a good ways down the hall, the male Nurse made his way into Gabe's room.

"Thanks for coming so quickly! His dialysis machine is down, we're running it manually but we need some professional medical help here!" Zheng continued to tend to the dialysis machine.

"That's alright. I've got an injection that will slow down his metabolism enough to take some of the pressure off..." the male Nurse produced a syringe with an opaque blue liquid.

He approached Gabe reaching for a bare spot on his shoulder to inject the substance as Doctor Briggs applied the oxygen to keep Gabe from suffocating.


Meanwhile, back in downtown Toronto and late in the morning, Heylyn Yates (Ai Yuanlin Ying), Warai Jeong-Min Tokama and Monique Defleur are in a cafe picking up their morning Latte before their day at  the offices of West Meet East International, Heylyn's fashion company, begins. As they're ready to leave the cafe, Monique becomes aware of the power outage and the threat to Gabe Asnon:

"Got your coffee Monique? I'm quickly running out of hands..." asked Heylyn of her friend and peer.

"I sure do..." Monique began as she noticed the CBC news report on the television.

"Miss? Could you turn that up for a moment?" Monique asked one of the servers, who quickly grabbed the remote and turned up the volume.

"...the power outage struck only moments ago, leaving this region of Scarborough without power, including the Scarborough General Hospital, where Gabriel Asnon is still listed as being in critical but stable condition..." Monique's face went pale, even through her makeup as the news correspondent reported.

Heylyn looked to Monique, realizing what had to be done.

"You go ahead, I'll catch up if I can..." Heylyn responded, taking Warai's free hand and starting on the way towards West Meet East, two blocks away.

Outside of the cafe in a hidden alley, Monique transformed to her alter-ego Eclipse. She then transformed into pure light. She took off and within ten billionths of a second, she was in through the window of one of the rooms in the Scarborough General Hospital, passing directly through the glass in the form of a beam of light. She landed in front of a directory, quickly searching it for any kind of backup power system, though she could not make heads or tails of electrical diagrams. When she saw a Doctor approaching, she transformed back into her Eclipse form.

"Doctor? Where's the backup generator in here?" Eclipse quickly asked the Doctor who was running by on his way to the Cardiac wing.

"Uhhhhh... the sub-basement. You have to get there through the service elevator. You're that Eclipse person... aren't you?" the Doctor responded quickly, but before he could get his answer, she was already in the sub-basement.

Before she landed, she transformed into a cloud of darkness and remained in the shadows as she approached the backup generator room.

On the other side of the door, she could hear voices.

Eclipse slipped in through the gap between the door and the door frame, at the top of the door. She clung to the ceiling, looking down where a man with an submachine gun had two security officers at gun point. They were both blindfolded and face down on the floor, while the assailant bore the submachine and the flashlight mounted beneath its barrel at them.

She dropped from the ceiling in front of the man with the machine gun, spontaneously exploding into a brilliant flash of light, with an accompanying thunder clap. The light immediately blinded the gunman, while the thunderclap stunned and deafened him, but by that point, he was already done.

In the next half a second, Eclipse had transformed herself back to her solid form, and had knocked him unconscious with thirty carefully placed strikes of her fist, thanks to Heylyn's training. She didn't need to hit him that hard. She just needed to hit him a few times in the right places.

"Tada! All done!" she said enthusiastically to the security guards, who were also still deafened by her impersonation of a flashbang grenade.

"Alright. My humour is once again lost to deaf ears. Sorry about that guys..." she said, though their ears were still ringing.

"So which switch is the one that turns this thing on?" she asked them, grabbing and breaking the flashlight away from the machine gun and using it to read the panel of the generator.

"I'm no expert Miss, but that would be the switch with the word ON next to it," one of the guards responded sarcastically, still blindfolded.

"Ahhhh, look at that. So it is. Don't I feel like the dopey one right about now..." she joked, pulling the switch on the backup generator.

The giant metal box within began to hum, and the lights slowly came on throughout the building as the backup generator sprang to life.

"Gotta go! Oh, let me untie you first!" she said, and before they even had a chance to answer, they were untied and she was already gone. 

In less than three billionths of a second, she was back at the shipping door of West Meet East, with her fashionable work clothes on in place of her Eclipse outfit.

She made her way around to the front door and greeted Helen as she walked through the reception area.


Meanwhile, in a court room in College Park in downtown Toronto, Myung Chung-Ae works as a stenographer. The defendant in their current case, an escapee from prison who was re-apprehended attacks Myung, with the intent to kill her. However, he soon finds out that she's not such an easy target:

"This girl's got some training, ain't she?! Lemme show you the kind of training we learn in prison!" he charged at her as three guards dove at him, just missing him before he launched his attack at her.

He swung the tonfa twice at her in a wide arc to open her mid-section guard. Her abdomen was wide open for him to open her up with his homemade shiv.

"Myung! Step left. Wait! Right! Step right! Catch the tonfa! Take it from him! Its in his off hand!" Tiger Hoon Kwang's voice erupted in her head once again.

Tanner drove his shiv in for the kill, but Myung stepped to her right quickly, catching hold of the tonfa. With a slight twist, she sprained his left wrist, and disarmed him of the weapon. By the time he'd spun with the shiv attempting to slash her throat, she'd blocked his arm with the tonfa. She then spun it twice and brought it down across the back of his shoulder, sending him unconscious to the floor.

The courtroom broke out in applause as the three big guards who'd tried to grab him earlier finally got hold of Tanner.

Myung gave the guard the tonfa, and quickly found her heels and put them on.

The court continued to applaud for the guards and for her.

"Thank you Stenographer for that quick Korean Diplomacy," Justice Arlings said to Myung.


Meanwhile, Aikiko Tanaka has arrived in the St. Clair West community where Hoon "Tiger" Kwang's Tae Kwon Do Dojang is situated. She is there to begin her training with Hanshi Morgan Hind, but when she arrived in the Hanshi's Dojo, the room is dark and she is attacked by an unknown assailant. She manages to stave off the worst of the attacks, until she's forced to change into her alter-ego Dragon Butterfly. She confronts the her attacker with her new footing:

At that moment, the lights in the Dojo came on once again, and Dragon Butterfly saw that it was Hanshi laying there, lookin up at her.

"It seems that your teaching is a little antiquated for this girl!" Dragon Butterfly lowered her leg to the floor, walking over to him to finish him off.

She readied a punch she was certain would render him unconscious, if not dead when it connected to his solar plexus.

She delivered it as hard as she could, but when she connected, his stomach showed no give whatsoever. He hand stopped dead, as if it had hit a brick wall. By that time, he'd grabbed her arm and thrown her to the floor and was atop of her, pinning both of her arms.

When she attempted to remove him with her muscular legs, he twisted her wrist, once again forming an elbow lock that caused her legs to lose their strength and become like jelly.

"Alright! I submit!" she tapped the floor with her other hand and at once, he eased his grip.

Hanshi got to his feet, while Dragon Butterfly remained on the floor, both of them catching their breath.

Hanshi then offered his hand to Dragon Butterfly, who accepted it, lifting herself up and onto her feet.

"This class is for both of you! Not just Aikiko. I needed to make sure that you understood that, and there can be no questions about who is in charge in this Dojo. Do you understand?" Hanshi said to her assertively.

Dragon Butterfly looked at him scornfully at first. Then, taking every ounce of willpower and control Aikiko had, Dragon Butterfly bowed low for Hanshi.

"If your opponent knows your extremes and how to get you there quick, they can play you like a see-saw and manipulate you in ways you'll not soon understand. To be an effective warrior, you must first master yourself! As I tell every student that has come before me, it all starts with falling. Through exercising and preparation, you'll earn the strength and endurance to get back onto your feet and apply what you've learned when you control your own extremes, rather than when they control you. This is Goju-Ryu. You must master the hard and the soft of yourself," Hanshi said to her as the tattoos on her skin slowly faded and Aikiko returned once again.

The Butterfly Dragon: The Two Butterflies - Episode 04

Gabe's Nap

Doctor Briggs managed to get the oxygen onto Gabe's face as he gasped for air. The oxygen quickly filled his lungs as he calmed, his breathing now eased.

The dialysis machine and the lights in the room suddenly came to life as the power came back on throughout the building.

Zheng stepped back from the dialysis machine as it began to do its job automatically.

"He should be fine now. He'll stabilize and we'll be able to take check him out thoroughly," the male Nurse told them as he injected the blue liquid into Gabe's left shoulder.

"What was that you gave him?" asked Zheng suspiciously.

"A mild sedative to help him sleep, but unfortunately that's going to cut your visit here short. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got other patients to attend to..." the Nurse stormed out of the room as the two security guards that had led them in arrived.

"Sorry but we're in the middle of an emergency here. Visiting hours are over," the first security guard told Zheng and Doctor Briggs as they stepped in the room.

Behind them, Bryce had just arrived with a Doctor.

"You'll all need to leave and I'll attend to Gabe. Trust me, he's in good hands..." the Doctor assured them.

As they went to leave, Gabe struggled with all of his will to lift his head and speak.

"Didn't you forget something?" he asked, barely able to keep his head up.

"I don't think so..." Zheng checked her purse to ensure she hadn't dropped anything from it.

"I mean your tablet. You're going to need it... for the meeting... right?" Gabe said as he passed out.

Zheng, Briggs and Bryce at the hospital.

"Oh. I forgot my tablet! Of course! How forgetful of me. Get some rest buddy," Bryce nodded to Gabe as he passed out and then walked over to the tablet and picked it up in hand, carrying it like he would a book.

"We'll be back as soon as we can Gabe. I promise," Zheng assured her friend, who was not conscious to hear her words.

"Bye Gabe," Doctor Briggs waved to the unconscious man as the three of them, accompanied by their security escort left the hospital.

When they arrived at Zheng's car, Bryce's smartphone came to life in his pocket with a ring. He quickly answered it as Zheng let him in the back seat.

"Professor Maxwell?" asked a familiar female voice.

"Speaking," he answered.

"This is Inspector Tricia Camden of the RCMP. You remember me, don't you?" she asked him in a professional manner.

"Of course. Zheng, Doctor Briggs and I are just leaving the hospital. We just saw Gabe and despite his injuries, he seems to be doing quite well," Bryce told her, making strategic conversation.

"Glad to hear that he's alright. Look, I need to meet with you and discuss something that might help the both of us. Could you meet with me today, before your meeting at West Meet East?" Tricia asked him directly.

"Yes, I'm just on my way to West Meet East right now as a matter of fact..." Bryce began and paused when he saw Zheng trying to get his attention.

"We're going to hit the drive through first. Something quick and healthy..." Zheng began as Doctor Briggs cut in.

"...and substantial I hope," Doctor Briggs said from the front passenger seat.

"Look, its my  wife's sister calling, she's going to need my help for about an hour," Bryce said, cupping his hand over the phone.

"When? Right now?" asked Zheng.

"Exactly. She'll drop me off at West Meet East after, and given that the meeting isn't for another two and a half hours, we should be fine, but I'll need you to drop me off right now," Bryce asked them.

"Sure. Where would you like me to drop you off?" asked Zheng in an accommodating voice.

Bryce removed his hand from the phone and put it up to his ear.

"Where would you like to meet?" asked Bryce of Tricia.

"How about that Tim Horton's down at Yonge Street and College Street?" asked Tricia.

"That sounds good. We should be there in about half an hour," Bryce replied.

"Perfect. I'll be there ahead of time. I'll see you then," Tricia hung up.

"Alright, I'll need you to drop me off at the Tim Horton's at College Park," Bryce told Zheng, with a poker player's face.

"She lives there?" confirmed Zheng.

"Not in the Tim Horton's. She has a condo above College Park," Bryce kept the ruse in place, though he didn't like having to conceal things from his friends but it was for their own protection.

Zheng pulled out of the parking lot, handing her credit card to the parking lot attendant before they left. A moment later he returned it and they pulled out into traffic on their way to downtown Toronto.

The Return Of Dan Furdy

Several rows of treadmills filled one quarter of the space, each with its own sweaty jogger putting the machine through its paces, though in many cases, it was in fact the other way around. Behind them were a row of bicycle trainers. Each occupied by a rider who pushed their cardiovascular endurance further and further. They were headed toward some degree of what they thought might make them feel good about themselves through their honest effort.

To the right of the treadmills and bicycle trainers were the weight trainers, machines and contraptions of various form that were used by their occupants to target specific muscles and muscle groups. Beside that was a section of open floor, bordered by mirrors on one side and free weights on the opposite. Women and men nearly filled the floor in one row across, each facing the mirror as they curled or pressed their way to fitness.

Finally, in the corner on the other end from the treadmills and bicycles, were the boxing and kick boxing trainers. The kick boxing bags were being put through the run by people of all skill levels. Each of them tuning their stamina, hefting the longest limbs on their body up to hit a floor perched bag. Behide the kick boxing bags were the punching bags, each of them bouncing off their extent and back to the boxing gloved hands that punched them. One of the punching bags however, was being manipulated by someone who appeared to be a pro. The bag rhythmically moved in accordance of the circular motion of boxing gloves, where a bald man worked the bag like he'd been doing it his whole life.

Felix Ritner, a hefty man with a large midsection who'd been running on one of the treatmills hoping to cut down on some of that weight walked by the punching bags on his way to the showers when he spotted someone familiar.

"Dan?! Dan Furdy?" Felix approached the professional boxer.

The boxer stopped.

"What's the matter. Do I know you or something?" the boxer replied.

"I'm Felix. Felix Ritner. From Denver Partners Inc? Don't you remember?" Felix looked at Dan, amazed to see such a transformation in the man he'd known.

"Must be mistaken identity..." Dan returned to the bag.

Felix examined him from head to toe. Dan had gone from being a two-hundred and fifty pounds plus ball of cellulose to a solid mass of muscle. His body was finely carved and sculpted, as if Michaelangelo had risen from the grave and directed the man on how to do so. He looked and was  more fit than most twenty year olds, and he was in his early sixties.

The boxer stopped, and turned around to see Felix staring at his transformation.

"Look, I thought I told you. You're mistaken. You have the wrong guy, now beat it before I make you beat it!" Dan said in a firm, streetwise voice.

Felix was so shocked by the threat, and the fact that the Dan he'd known would have never have said anything of the like, that he quickly made his way to the showers, shaking his head in disbelief.

At that moment that Felix had disappeared, one of the professional fitness coaches approached Dan from behind.

"Mr. Gurdy?" the trainer addressed the man.

"Dan. The name's Dan," Jack said from within Dan Gurdy's body.

"I just wanted say that you're one of our greatest success stories here, and that we'd like to offer you an opportunity and some cash to represent us in our advertising campaign," the trainer said to him.

"Really? What kind of cash are we talkin'?" asked Jack in the form of Dan.

"Three grand to start, where you'll be under contract for two weeks for all the promo work, which is mostly photoshoots for our brochures and pamphlets. Possibly more from there," the fitness coach assured him.

"Two weeks? Where do I sign?" asked Dan enthusiastically, as that money might be enough to put him in with Mutano again.

"Here's my card, and our agreement. I'll let you take this home, read it and sign it. Return it to me by tomorrow and I'll schedule your photoshoot right away," the gym trainer handed him the agreement package he'd been holding the whole time.

"Thanks. I'll have this to you by tomorrow," Dan returned to the punching bag, turning his back to the trainer who casually returned to weights area to assist his customers.

"Mister Mutano? here I come," Jack spoke aloud to himself from within Dan's body.

College Park

Bryce sat in the donut shop with a cup of coffee in front him, reading the headlines on the tablet he'd procured from Gabe. Though he was concerned with how the situation was heating up in Europe, he spent most of his reading time in the science dailies, perusing the papers of his colleagues.

"Getting comfortable?" a familiar voice asked him.

"A little too comfortable. How are you?" asked Bryce, standing to greet Inspector Camden.

"Good. I had a good night's sleep and was up early enough today to see the sunrise from my back porch. I'm going to get a coffee and we'll take this on the road. There's a little park that's often sparsely populated at this time of day, except by others in my field," Tricia walked over to the service counter and ordered herself a cup of decaf.

When she had her coffee in hand, the two of them ventured out onto College Street and walked east to Yonge Street. From there, they walked south half a city block and found a large paved path leading to the west. They turned onto this path and after a short hike, they found a park complete with surrounding vegetation and the benches upon which they sat.

"So what brings you here today?" asked Bryce, carefully.

"First of all, the information I'm about to share with you is privileged, and I'm trusting that you'll not divulge it. Not even in a drunken moment with your peers?" Tricia confirmed with him.

"I can offer you assurance, except maybe under the duress of torture or effective social engineering," Bryce assured her.

"Social engineering? Funny you should say. I know that you and your peers at West Meet East are looking into the details of something we've been investigating for years now," Tricia began.

"And what gave you that impression?" Bryce asked, playing coy.

College Park: Inspector Tricia Camden Meets Bryce.
"Don't patronize me Bryce. We have our methods and they're very effective. We've been doing this as a force for well over a hundred years, but I didn't come here to intimidate you. I came here to forge an alliance. An alliance based upon trust," Tricia told him firmly in no uncertain terms.

"Go on Inspector," Bryce responded, unperturbed by her earlier statement.

"Much to our society's benefit, a group of people such as yourselves have taken it upon themselves to understand the inner workings of a social phenomenon that our force and others like ours have deemed a great threat to society," Tricia continued.

"A great threat? You mean like bitcoin or something of the like, that takes away the power of centralization and autocracy? Look, I support the existence of such currencies and for many good reasons, but I don't agree with the misuse of any technology on the world stage," asked Bryce, digging his own heels in.

"No, Bryce. This has nothing to do with anything of the sort. We know that you're looking into something that we've systematically analyzed as a great threat to society as a whole. We have our think tanks and they're populated by many brilliant people like you, and what they found in their analysis was alarming, and that was conducted almost seven years ago. We know that you're on a similar path and direction when it comes to this investigation, and I'm proposing that we work together on this," Tricia asked him.

"And how would we do such a thing?" asked Bryce, somewhat cautiously.

"I'm going to take a step in the spirit of trust, by sharing with you the details of a recent interrogation on our case. These details are a piece of the puzzle into which you and your friends are already looking. In fact, its one of the biggest missing pieces," Tricia explained to Bryce.

"Go on..." Bryce insisted.

"After a recent bombing, a bombing I'm sure you already know about, we uncovered a key piece of evidence in the form of the possible name of the ideology behind this phenomenon and very possibly, the act of terror committed in the form of that boming. We also uncovered the name of one of the former members of this ideology. We questioned this ex-member and we obtained this information. This was all thanks to the astute observations of a Toronto Police Service Detective and a Forensic Technologist, with whom both of we already have a similar partnership," Tricia laid it all out for Bryce, enough so to bait him into his next question.

"And what did you find?" he asked her.

"Funny you should ask. We found that this person had been indoctrinated into the ideology using a unique systematic methodology that yielded startling results. Let's call this ex-member Alice. So Alice joins what she thinks is a soul searching group, perhaps having found a comfortable and enlightening system of belief," Tricia continued her story.

College Park: Bryce
"We're not attacking the right to belief or non-belief are we now?" confirmed Bryce skeptically of her.

"No. Not at all, though that's conditionally speaking, when such beliefs or the ideological groups that uphold them operate in a manner conducive to the rights of other citizens and non-believers, whose rights are also protected by the Charter I might remind you, Bryce. Anyway, getting back to Alice, she spends nearly a year in such a group, attending the main cloister which was at the time, located in central northern Toronto. Said group would often spend weekends at the cloister, where some remarkably strange things went on according to her account," Tricia paused enough for Bryce to speak.

"What kind of things?" asked Bryce.

"During the overnight stays, Alice reported that other indoctrinated members of this cloister, a large group of people perhaps a hundred or more at that time, would spend all night verbalizing what sounded to her like nonsensical babble. This would continue all night during the sleeping hours within the cloister until morning. As time went on, this babble eventually began to sound more and more hateful. Spiteful and perhaps even accusing. Alice reported that she could distinguish the words and statements of individual members of the cloister and that during her sleeping hours, she often felt strange sensations around various parts of her body, mostly centralized in the abdomen just below the solar plexus, and near the groin. She described this as a tingling sensation that would coincide only with the babbling," Tricia explained.

"So what happened to Alice?" asked Bryce, now somewhat concerned and slowly starting to understand where Tricia was taking this conversation.

"Eventually, the frequent overnights at this cloister ceased. However, Alice reported that when sleeping in her own home in which she lives alone, she heard the same voices and experienced the same tingling sensation in the areas I described. The voices eventually became clear to her. Very clear, and from what she described, they were a sort of two way connection between her, and the rest of the ideology who'd stayed overnight at the main cloister. Alice worked in the legal profession, and one day, the voices asked her to do something that would violate the policy of the office where she worked, not to mention the laws protecting that arena of her vocation. When she refused to do what they'd asked her to do, she reported suddenly coming down with intense debilitating headaches and accompanying depression, during which time the voices would taunt her, striking at the personal details of her life as she recalled. This continued for a week, until one day it ceased and the voices once again demanded that she do what they'd asked her to do previously. She refused as she did before, and experienced the same turmoil again..." Tricia continued.

"...which lasted for a week?" Bryce responded, catching on to where Tricia was going.

"Exactly. After the second time she'd experienced this, it affected her life and work performance so much that when they asked the third time, she agreed. After she'd carried out their instructions, she reported that for about a week, she felt blissful. Energized. She even said that it felt like being on Novocain, but instead of it only being focused on the mouth, it was her entire body. Keeping in mind that Alice doesn't partake of any controlled substances," Tricia finished her story for Bryce.

"Novacain? You mean the pain killer that used to be used in dentistry in the nineteen seventies?" Bryce confirmed.

"Exactly. Now, we already know that you and your friends are putting your minds to investigating such a phenomenon. A specific phenomenon whose social footprints match the story I just told you, if I'm correct. I'd like you to share this information with them. Especially with Zheng, Doctor Briggs, and Heylyn. Preferably, I'd like you to share it with them at your meeting today, with the same understanding that they'll not divulge this information to anyone," Tricia asked Bryce.

"I couldn't agree with you more. I'd be happy to present these findings. Now, have you any more such connected cases related to these methods employed by this group?" asked Bryce.

"I am not able to discuss those details with you today, though we are investigating a link between this methodology and the recent spate of public attacks. We're also looking into a connection between this methodology and what we can only describe as systematic radicalization to the ends of violence. Situations where people with no prior history of violence are gradually spurred into bursts of mania and possibly violent action," Tricia told him, recalling the cases of Ron Forseth and Helmut Werner.

"With these methods you've described, I'd be willing to bet that such a history of violence could be doctored. Created even, systematically. Perhaps there might be more details hidden within such cases that could expand your understanding of this phenomenon?" asked Bryce.

"That is exactly why I wanted to forge this alliance. Insights like that will help us to investigate this further and to fill in the blanks," though Tricia wasn't referring exactly to Bryce's most recent response, she was referring to the fact that she wanted him to put his mind to assist them in this partnership.

"To tell you the truth, when I discuss this with Zheng and Doctor Stephen Briggs, we're going to get a lot of insight from their combined expertise, not to mention Heylyn's philosophical perspective and the input of the rest of the group. Now this brings me to another subject and very important question. You usually work towards building a strong enough case that you can take and try before a court of law. We're obviously dealing with something that transcends that model of law enforcement. So how do you fit into this? What are your goals? What happens if you achieve a holistic understanding of this group? What are you going to do with the accumulated case files and evidence?" asked Bryce.

"I cannot discuss those details with you involving the deployment of strategic or tactical resources, though I can tell you that we're examining providing briefs along with corresponding consultation and expertise to the cabinet. Something they could, with our consultation and the consultancy of independent expertise, affect via policy. We would also provide our strategic partners and other global leaders with similar intelligence packages assuming that these options are approved by the cabinet, though these details are not to be discussed with anyone, and given the nature of what we recently spoke about, they aren't even to be thought about," Tricia told Bryce assertively.

"Wow. I never thought I'd have to protect my own cranium from hacking, social engineering or outright scrying. How are we to share information? I mean us. My friends and I? With you?" asked Bryce.

"With little walk talks like this. We can't use this same place all the time, in case we're breached. So we'll meet at a different location to discuss matters each time, which I'll call you and notify you about. If you have information you want to tell me, you'll add a new contact to your phone, the number for which I'll give you. A name that won't cause any suspicion if discovered by say... phone hackers. You'll call this number and ask for this contact by the exact name you save it under. Understood?" asked Tricia.

"How about Professor Ethel?" Bryce asked her, already pulling his phone and creating the new contact.

"That's perfect. I never thought I'd become an honourary Professor this way," Tricia smiled.

"I never thought I'd be discussing this with anyone outside of my group of friends. You have my vote of confidence, Tricia," Bryce assured her.

"And you mine. Let's wrap this up then. I've still got a full day ahead of me if we're going to tackle this, we've got to proceed very carefully. You have a good day, and I hope that all your friends are doing well. Also, I wish Gabe a swift recovery. Have a good day Professor Maxwell," Tricia stood up, suddenly realizing that her coffee was cold.

"Thank you Tricia. I'm glad that we had this talk. Perhaps together we can overcome this thing. Oh, by the way, what was this ideological group called?" asked Bryce.

"Mentis. Mentis and the Millions Of Minds," Tricia told him as they walked to her car.

West Meet East

Monique and Kori were the first to arrive in the meeting room, which was understandable simply because they worked in the same building. They casually strolled in, where Monique prepared herself a coffee and Kori prepared herself a cup of Chai Latte not unlike that which Heylyn enjoyed. After they'd made their drinks, they each took a seat at their usual places.

"So where's your car today?" Monique asked Kori.

"You know. Its a used car. Stick shift. Its been having some issues with the transmission and shifting lately. The clutch I think, so I dropped it off last night at a garage. They're looking at it today. Hopefully I'll know by tonight how long it will take to service it." Kori took a sip of her latte.

"Stick shift! That's sooo Kori. Have you driven stick before?" asked Monique.

"No. Never. To tell you the truth, it was the cheapest option I had when I'd saved enough to buy a car, so I bought it and dove in, and the rest is history as they say," Kori smiled at Monique's comment.

"Well hopefully you have it soon," Monique replied.

"I should. My mechanic is a good mechanic, which begs the question, why are you so interested in me getting my car back?" asked Kori of Monique.

"Well, to tell you the truth I was going to ask if you'd be interested in a group outing to a local beach? Either one in Toronto, or Lake Simcoe?" Monique responded coyly.

"You know its funny you mention that, but I was thinking the exact same thing. You know what I think?" asked Kori.

"What?" responded Monique.

"We should get Valerie and Troy to come. They'd love it!" Kori replied as the door to the meeting room suddenly opened.

"Who's there?" asked Kori, not seeing anyone approaching as the table blocked her lower vision.

"Kori? Monique? Butterfly says that you need to get more chairs because there's going to be more people in here," Warai spoke in a firm, authoritative voice. That is, for a six year old girl.

Kori stood up and saw Warai standing by the door, still holding onto the door knob.

"Well... if the little Butterfly says so, I guess we've got to go find some more chairs then..." Kori approached Warai and upon reaching her, began tickling her profusely.

Warai burst out into laughter, nearly falling over trying to escape Kori's tickling spree. When she managed to break free, she ran screaming through the office back to Heylyn's design room.

By that time, both Monique and Kori had left the meeting room to the storage room in the showroom to grab several extra chairs as Heylyn walked in the room.

"Where is everybody?" she asked, checking the time.

"We're early again. One of the fringe benefits of being the host," Valerie walked into the meeting room behind her.

Monique and Kori returned with Braden, the latter wheeling a stack of chairs on a carrier.

"Where's Warai?" asked Kori.

"She's with Ebtissam, and when Warai tires her out, Lisa offered to take her," Heylyn replied.

"Do you think this will be enough chairs?" asked Braden.

"That looks good. If we need more, we'll get more. thank you Braden," Heylyn smiled to him.

"Not a problem. That's what I'm here for," Braden returned the smile, though he could tell that there was something more.

Braden setup the rest of the chairs while Heylyn and Valerie made themselves a Chai Latte each.

"I hope we're not too late," Zheng said as she walked in, Doctor Briggs behind her.

"Not at all. Come in and make yourselves at home," Heylyn greeted them.

"There's some more behind us," Doctor Briggs told them.

"I just got here, literally all the way from the airport. I had my driver drop me off here. After the meeting, if one of you would be so kind as to drop me off at the Sheraton, I'd be quite grateful," Linda said, wheeling her luggage behind her.

Linda Delmore Arrives Drom Pearson International
"Zheng. Doctor Briggs. How is Gabe?" asked Linda immediately upon seeing them.

"He's stable but he's struggling. This is going to be difficult journey for him, but the Doctors are optimistic that he'll make it," Zheng replied.

"Our plans were to discuss his case and condition during our meeting, as we know that everyone here is obviously very concerned," Doctor Briggs added.

"I am glad to hear that your friend is well," Aikiko bowed as she entered the room, greeting everyone in the room.

"Thank you Aikiko. Are you ready for your first real photoshoot tomorrow?" asked Heylyn.

"Don't worry, she's in expert hands. How is everyone?" Troy stepped in the door, Valerie puckering up and throwing him a secret kiss.

"One here!" Monique smiled, raising her hand as she sat at her place beside Heylyn.

"Another here," Kori added hers as well.

Myung Chung-Ae Arrives
"I think you could say that we're all doing well thankfully, and that our hearts are with Gabe and his swift recovery," Heylyn responded.

"Hello? Oh good, I'm not too late, not too early either," Myung said, still wearing her courtroom apparel, with a pair of comfy sneakers.

"Myung! I'm so happy you could make it. Come in and find a suitable place to sit. If you'd like coffee, tea or latte, or even a snack, we've got everything setup there on the buffet. Just make yourself at home," Heylyn greeted the new arrival to their weekly meetings.

"I think you're going to be needing a bigger parking lot," Hanshi said as he walked in.

Heylyn bowed to him respectfully, and then greeted him.

"Myung's already here. We've got our usual crowd of regulars, minus a few. Just come in and make yourself at home. There's coffee and snacks on the buffet," Heylyn greeted her former Sensei.

Martial Artist Pranks
Behind Hanshi, Hoon Tiger Kwang snuck in behind him quietly. When he was close enough, he poked either side of Hanshi's lower ribs. Hanshi turned quickly in a ready stance. He broke out laughing when he saw that it was Tiger, who by that point had a mischievous smile on his face.

"Hello everyone," Hoon Kwang waved and bowed, as Hanshi patted him on the back.

"You got me good there," Hanshi shook his head, still laughing.

"I figure that somebody has to keep us old timers young," Tiger replied.

"That's the spirit," Hanshi responded, still smiling at his prank.

From behind Tiger, he felt two quick jabs at his ribcage in the exact same place he'd poked Hanshi.

When he turned around  at the ready, he saw the smiling face of Jinn Hua. A big smile then crossed his face.

"My dear friend, you're no spring chicken yourself, so I figured that perhaps I should keep you young," Jinn said to him with a smile on her face.

Tiger and many in the room broke out laughing at the antics of these new arrivals to their circle. Jinn stood graciously still, quietly and humbly as they reveled in her Zen.

Heylyn Greets Her Guests
"Jinn? I'm honoured you could make it, though I never expected that you'd ever attend something of this nature," Heylyn addressed her former Sifu.

"There are treasures in this world to be watched over. Protected. But none as much so as Butterflies and Gems. I am simply protecting my greatest treasures," she replied humbly.

The brilliance of her anecdote was lost to most people in the room, except those who knew specifically as to what she was referring. Yet, to everyone else, the statement had its own distinct wisdom and Zen.

"Oh great! The lady with the talking dragon. There goes weeks of psychiatric therapy out the window," Kori slapped her forehead upon seeing Jinn again.

Alicia walked in through the door.

"What did we miss?" asked Alicia, her lips and cheeks reddened by her curious ear to ear smile.

"What's going on in here? It sounds suspiciously like fun," Norler joked as he stepped in behind Alicia.

"Totally. The fun meter on my gadget here just hit like two hundred percent!" Gregory added, holding the secondary Medi-Friend prototype in his hands, causing the room to once again burst out into laughter.

"Alicia, so good to see you honey. You didn't miss anything because you were already here with us in our hearts. You just missed it by timing, not intention. How are you all?" Heylyn greeted Alicia, Norler and Gregory.

"We're good. We're healthy, happy and making a living. Norler's got a project on the go with Gregory and they're making great strides," Alicia replied, speaking up for her fiancé.

"We'll talk about this during the meeting. How are all of you doing? And don't lie because with Gregory's device, we can tell if you're doing well or not, or even lying," asked Norler, the corner of his mouth turned up.

The room once again broke out in a short lived laughter.

"Alright everyone, take your seats and we can begin as soon as..." Heylyn started, before she was interrupted by the last arrival.

"...our last TWO guests arrive," Bryce said as he walked in the room.

"No offense Bryce, but I don't think the world is ready to handle TWO Bryce Maxwells," Monique responded, drawing a laughter from the already tickled room.

Bryce laughed at her joke, feeling somewhat embarrassed.

"I wasn't talking about me," Bryce said as he took his seat.

"Well don't keep us waiting in baited breath. Are we going to need another chair?" asked Braden, ready to get one if they'd requested.

"This guest doesn't need a chair, because this guest has no corporeal form," Bryce said as he placed the tablet Gabe had insisted he take.

"Huh?" Monique replied, again drawing a bit of a chuckle from the rest of the room.

He pushed the power button on the fully charged tablet after he'd propped it up on a music stand on the table. Then, the tablet spoke to them, though through its own tiny speakers.

"I have detected a WIFI Speaker System named WMESPMR. Do I have permission to use these speakers for future interaction?" asked MAZ.

"Heylyn?" asked Bryce of owner of the building.

Heylyn nodded to Bryce, still puzzled as to where this was going.

Bryce turned the tablet around and clicked the YES button on the permissions prompt that had just popped up on the screen and then turned the tablet around again to face everyone.

MAZ quickly detected and configured the tablet to use the WIFI enabled speakers in Heylyn's meeting room. 

"Thank you. Hello everyone. I am MAZ. An artificial consciousness designed by MindSpice engineers, though I like to refer to Gabriel Asnon, Zheng Ni Wong and Professor Bryce Maxwell as my parents. Please don't think about that too much, as I'm sure it would paint a somewhat questionable picture of things," MAZ spoke through the room's speakers and once again laughter erupted from the room.

"I can see Zheng Ni Wong. Doctor Stephen Briggs, Monique Defleur, Kori Jonglyu, Linda Delmore, one unrecognized male late twenties early thirties, Doctor Alicia Westin, Walton Norler, Gregory Epsen, Morgan Hind, Hoon Kwang, Myung Chung-Ae, an unrecognized female mid to late thirties, Trey Cooper, Heylyn Yates...Heylyn, do I have permission to express your ancestral name?" asked MAZ as her widefield three hundred and sixty degree lens recognized most everyone in the room.

Heylyn looked to Bryce, somewhat confused.

"She's just like any person. Do you want her to acknowledge you by your registered name or ancestral name?" Bryce assured her.

"Yes, MAZ. Its alright in the company of everyone in this room, but elsewhere I'd prefer to decide who I let in on that secret," Heylyn responded intuitively.

"Very well. Heylyn Yates also known as Ai Yuanlin Ying by her ancestral Chinese name. Valerie Aspen. I hope that I have not embarrassed anyone nor made you uncomfortable?" asked MAZ after she'd gone through the motions of recognizing everyone in the room.

Bryce Maxwell stood from his chair.

"Giving us MAZ, was Gabe's last request before underwent the next round of treatment, though he did it auspiciously so that nobody would suspect we'd taken the means to access his greatest technical achievement. As it turns out, MAZ had already been of great value to what we're looking into," Bryce explained to everyone at the meeting.

"That's a machine. Nothing more than a complicated coffee maker that can speak. How could you even trust anything like that to help us with something that requires a love of life and of being alive?" asked Hanshi, edging more towards his western roots.

"Everything has a mind, though some minds are not awakened," Aikiko pointed out to Hanshi, clinging to her Japanese understanding of the material world.

"I agree with what Aikiko is saying, but it would be in our best interest to hear Hanshi out," Jinn Hua added.

"Are you saying that only because that machine was unable to recognize you?" asked Hoon Kwang of Jinn Hua.

"No more than a generational farmer of the rice fields and gardens of my homeland would reply. Am I guilty because I have something in common with unrecognized people of the land, or because I'm simply unrecognized?" asked Jinn Hua.

"I'm new to these meetings, but I am skeptical that a machine can speak for us in the world who sweat to survive. To live life. To breath the air through lungs of made up of organic cells, all of whom are alive like us. For whom we need to speak up!" Hanshi added to his argument.

"What difference is the machinery of life if it is soft flesh or hard stone? Is the planet not alive with  rivers for veins and an atmosphere for lungs? Would you then accuse our most gracious host of life on this planet of being inept of consciousness? Of being nothing more than a speaking coffee maker?" Jinn Hua responded to Hanshi, whose eye brows rose when he heard Jinn Hua's remark.

"Hanshi's point is pertinent and needed to be expressed, but clearly, and in accordance with our traditions of the east, Jinn Hua makes the most sensible point. MAZ has as much right as a consciousness in this fold to speak. To elicit what she knows, possibly even to help us all," Hoon Kwang added his perspective.

"Hello? I'm not qualified as intellectually as you all are, but I believe intuitively that MAZ seems to genuinely be concerned for us in one way or another," Monique spoke up.

"Intuition is one of the most accurate elements of the human condition," Heylyn backed Monique's perspective.

"But that might be anthropic bias. You see, all those for whom intuition wasn't successful who died as a result of their reliance on it, aren't considered in the data because they literally can't tell us they relied on their intuition and that it killed them. In other words, the only data we have on intuition is from those that paid attention to it and survived. My point being that when we decide upon MAZ's participation in these meetings, we need to consider all aspects. Both the objective and subjective of dealing with an artificial consciousness," Doctor Briggs quickly jumped in.

"I have a somewhat radical idea if you all might indulge me?" asked Braden.

"You have the floor. Speak," Heylyn smiled to him.

"Why don't we just treat MAZ the same way that we treat each other?  When I hear something I agree with, I add it to my understanding of the world. However, when I hear something that I don't agree with, I consider it, evaluate it, and decide as to whether its validly something that I want to allow into my sense of being. That's what most of us do when we talk with each other. Why don't we just do the same thing with MAZ?" asked Braden, in his somewhat uninformed and humble stature amongst them.

"I believe that the Shipper Receiver here at West Meet East has truly hit upon a gem of wisdom," Heylyn smiled to him.

"I'm all with Braden. That absolutely sums up how we need to deal with this, especially considering that no one of us here was given the same scrutiny when we arrived," Jinn Hua surmised astutely.

"That truly makes sense. If my coffee maker said something to me that I disagreed with, I'd do the same," Hanshi admitted.

"Everyone? A show of hands in support of Braden's synopsis?" Heylyn asked the room for their vote.

Everyone in the room raised their hands.

"Thank you for the vote of confidence. I will do my best to be worthy or your approval, though I will not restrain what I express in the interest of appeasing your opinions, but rather remain committed to the evidence," MAZ responded to the vote, clearly having seen it through her vision.

"How is this all happening. I mean is all of that mind being calculated in that tablet?" asked Gregory, absolutely curious of inner workings of MAZ.

"No Gregory. MAZ doesn't run on this architecture. She runs on what we call TADEQUAR. Tasked Dedicated Symmetric Quantum processing Arrays. Hardware which was designed by an a clever MindSpice engineer named John Marshall, all while we were designing the APIs that would integrate it into the MindSpice cloud. Anyway, Professor Maxwell and I designed the algorithmic inner workings of MAZ's quantum based neural network, integrating a fractal topological design into the emergence of synaptic nodes. Fractal meaning the same genetic technology seen in plant and root systems. Branch and expand," Zheng explained to Gregory, who was in awe of her explanation.

"So with MAZ on our side, I figure we have a much better chance figuring this out. Not to mention, I think that's what Gabe was interested in when he gave us the tablet and essentially, MAZ," Bryce spoke up.

"So what's next now that we've worked that out?" asked Kori.

"Alice Through The Mentis Glass. That's what. Doctor Briggs, I'm going to need your fact checking on this," Bryce stood, ready to deliver his address to the room.

To be continued in The Butterfly Dragon: The Two Butterflies - Episode 05

Credits and attribution:

Artwork: Amy WongWendy PuseyGhastly, Brian Joseph Johns, Daz3DUnreal Engine...