11 September 2009

"World Trader"

By Curtis C. Chen

I was in the North Tower on September 11, 2001. I saw the first plane turning toward us, and I heard it when it hit, shattering glass and steel and concrete. That was the last sound I heard with my own ears.

There were fifty-six passengers on that flight, five of them hijackers. I couldn't control my power then—didn't even know I had it—and I traded through every single one of them, in a split second, before my brutish survival instinct deposited me in Leonard Spitzer, riding a subway train headed uptown.

Leonard didn't make it to work that day. Leonard wailed like a banshee until the transit cops pulled him off the train. NYPD threw Leonard in a cell and forgot to process him for two days, which was just as well, because I needed that long to get my shit together.

I still have some guilt. I wonder if I could have pulled myself together faster, if I could have separated those hijackers' memories from the tangle of sixty different people's thoughts crowding my head, if I could have warned someone and maybe stopped the second or third plane. I suspect no one would have believed me anyway.

It's taken me the better part of eight years to figure out how to control my ability. This is how it works: when I trade with someone, our minds swap bodies. But there's a residue, an echo, left behind by each original mind. If the new mind isn't strong enough, it can be overpowered by the original reasserting itself. Obviously that hasn't ever happened to me, but I've had to fight pretty hard in some cases.

At this point, I'm strong enough that I don't ever have to fully vacate any of the bodies I trade out of. My own echo can assimilate any new mind it encounters. The person I'm trading with doesn't die; no, no, that would be cruel. They just get merged into my existing personality, and I maintain control. Well, a copy of me, but we are, literally, of one mind.

I used to manage salespeople for a living. It is so much easier to work with others when you know they share your beliefs and goals. We all have slightly different perspectives, naturally, based on our unique experiences and acquired expertise, but we all want the same thing in the end. I don't have to make speeches or try to motivate anyone. I know my echoes will follow orders without question.

The only downside is that they don't inherit the ability to trade themselves into other minds. It would be so much easier if I didn't have to keep flying back and forth across the oceans, re-seeding cells in key locations as they get destroyed or compromised. But we're getting close, I'm sure of it. Bin Laden can't hide forever.

This latest message from Istanbul was cryptic, but their insistence on seeing me in person means it must be important. I can't wait for them to show me what they've found.


Audio: "World Trader"

This week's unusual reading voice is partly for dramatic effect, but mostly because I caught some kind of virus at PAX and have been sick for the past few days.

Music: instrumental stems from "Creepy Doll" by Jonathan Coulton, licensed under Creative Commons.


Source Materials