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For all the popularity gains and swelling revenue streams helping to build TNAP into a global superstar brand, Rose fears the movement is facing diminishing returns. She sees an organized effort online starting to pull them back: trolls in the comments, dissent growing louder in the chat rooms, and frequent denial of service attacks on the servers.
It dawns on her that TNAP online community is the perfect vehicle for attracting, identifying and tracking evil forces. Finding and eradicating those forces must be their real mission. She shudders. Was all their talk about awakening and compassion just hate bait?
A pas de deux of spirit and matter entangle Gyre and Marie.
Marie is sensitive enough to feel the living entity inhabiting her. Who directed her steps across the path of an important new client? Why do brilliant business ideas occur to her spontaneously in strategy sessions? When incidents like that happen, she calls the presence her protector. On other days, when she finds herself acting in ways that she knows are not of her own free will, the undeniable presence scares her.
There is a point reached when a disembodied non-human entity resides for so long in a human mind that the entity buys into the mental story and begins believing that they are the person. Gyre has unknowingly passed this point. Human life experienced persistently through the five senses and memories becomes reality to the experiencer. Wrapped up in the intricacies of millions of synaptic firings, the coursing of biochemicals released in batches, the pleasures and pains of the body, Gyre no longer needs the feeding circle of many humans and instead gains sufficient sustenance from careful attention to the tiny details of a single body's functioning.
Her hair, skin, teeth, blouse, skirt, heels, rings, handbag, the whole package is put together now. Marie will no longer be a victim because her protector has taught her to walk the fibers. Even with the executive position and salary of a much more experienced professional, no one is jealous or gossips about her. They believe she can see into their thoughts and they always agree to do what she says.
When water mixes with dirt, does the water get dirty or does the dirt get wet? A third thing emerges called mud. Marie and Gyre, two distinct entities, have become mud (merged until demise). Gyre identifies as the human being named Marie and Marie believes the new powers she has discovered belong to her. They are both happy with the situation and mistaken about it.
Having lived powerlessly for so long, Marie now becomes aroused by controlling others, ultimately extracting their life force. A delicious feedback loop has formed, driven by psychological manipulation and hunger. Marie uses her corporate bureaucracy to inflame masses of people. Highly agitated resistors come forward, serving themselves up on a prana smorgasbord. Gyre feeds on a grand scale, enjoying the taste of inflamed psyches with the spice of Marie's sadism.
The emergent entity Marie and Gyre have become is ruthless, acquisitive, and ready to hunt Alpha.
The merged minds of Gyre and Marie plan obsessively about how to infiltrate Alpha but no plan is necessary. The key to getting inside turns out to be Marie's incorrect but unshakeable belief that she alone manifests the ability to see the connecting fibers, traverse the fibers, and enter the thoughts of other humans. Because she doesn't at all believe that her intuition is another intelligent entity (although it is), her eyes will show no doubt when she meets Alpha.
They find Alpha in a squat house filled with junkies and homeless. He is in the living room, resting in an armchair, the floor littered with mattresses and humans used for his meals. He is wearing a new body but is easily identified by the void of connecting fibers, and is so famished that when Marie appears he approaches and attaches to her immediately. No small talk this time. The moment Marie opens to Alpha, Gyre moves. Alpha suspects nothing as he begins to feed.
Gyre embodies Alpha with one quick glide along the feeding fiber, easily passing through Alpha's relaxed filters. Treating him like a scorpion, Gyre controls Alpha's attention, never letting him feel cornered or threatened, and always keeping mindful of the stinger. Alpha's behavior is closer to an animal than a human, his stinging is a defensive reaction based on fear and survival more than strategy or conniving. Gyre goes to work connecting one fiber after another to the feeding animal, leashing him to their will.
No need for fibers here.
Ethereal space is like VR.
Gyre is face to face with Alpha.
Alpha doesn't acknowledge.
Gyre tunes in.
"Just how smart is he?" wonders Gyre. Crickets from Alpha.
"How sensory aware?" Chirp.
"How awakened?" Dead silence.
Then the sting.
Ethereal space is delicate, lighter, thinner, weblike, with physics different from Earth.
Alpha's aggressive sting moves through the space, unfolding moment by moment. Each moment an eternity, each moment a complete world, each moment that the deadly needle moves closer to his heart, Gyre shakes with laughter, laughs until the space itself is laughing, laughing so hard even the sharp point of the stinger gets round.
Gyre folds the time back up and tucks it into Alpha.
Alpha, breathing in, then out slowly, then in again, paralyzed by attachment, stinger tamed, finds himself in complete surrender. Alpha doesn't have logical, intellect, or emotional responses but is aware of sensory input and has a strong survival instinct. Gyre soothes the savage beast, sending food through the fibers, adjusting poorly wired neural circuits, and amplifying self-control. Speech centers are stimulated, higher sensory awareness introduced, and Alpha realizes, after all the years of living an animalistic existence, he is about to wake up.
What disposition arises in a person who only knows want? Always living alone and hungry, sharing the minds of equally needy people, and giving as much pain as he receives, Alpha is schooled in hate and very little else.
Alpha hates out of habit, hates because it makes him feel better to despise those who are more comfortable, those more entertained with their lives, and those who are more peaceful inside because they are loved. His ability to move from human to human only amplifies his isolation. Alpha's greatest goal is to break apart the patterns in the fibers that connect living things.
When Marie meets Alpha she mistakes his ignorance for aloofness. She wants to find a way to revenge herself on him and all the other self-absorbed assholes who abused her in the past. Knowing her intuitive mind can control this human, she sends him to the shack she used to live in to make a collection.
The most probable outcome is Roy taking a beating. Marie wants revenge on her ex.
Mentally stimulated from his very recent awakening, Alpha listens and learns. Roy talks a lot when he's drinking. The droning of Roy's voice mixes with the constant hum of Fox news. Occasionally Roy and Tucker share a word: inability, warned, protection, accuse. Alpha feels like his thoughts are being articulated for him as he sits in a folding chair and nods. From the recliner by the TV, Roy rants. Alpha nibbles on the rage prana, then tasting something spicier beneath the rage decides to glide inside for a closer examination.
Alpha doesn't expect the noble pride he finds around Roy's heart. Seen through Roy's eyes, the yellowing wallpaper, dirty appliances, threadbare furniture, worn down knock-off oriental carpets, loose doorknobs, cracked window panes, and other accoutrements are signifiers of his impassioned austerity. His furnishings almost glow with self righteousness.
Roy's rants are delivered with ironic critical distance. Living poorly is his way to resist government control, avoid manipulation by lefty media, and stay connected to his body. Roy is a new age zealot, an OG patternist, hell bent on preserving the essence, breaking the constraints of corporate society, and exposing the controlling narratives.
The twists in Roy's mental pathways give Alpha a headache so he withdraws, shakes his head, gets up, gives Roy a beating, and goes home.
With Gyre acting as her network into the minds of humans, Alpha able to shield her from attack by stinging anyone who tries, and Roy being used as her tool to recruit OGP followers, Marie finds herself consolidating a position of absolute power.
Old Guard Patternists (OGP) are a splinter group of patternists who broke from the main cult but claim precedence and are hell bent on restoring Earth's original order. They point to the scientifically measurable difference in physical strength between men and women as the true natural design. OGP wants to change social values and community laws to reflect this basic fact: men are stronger than women. With lots of large families in small communities, supporters of OGP tend to be an inbred bunch, dangerous because they make decisions based on their beliefs and at the expense of critical thinking.
Roy gathers the OGP troops and spreads the doctrine. Alpha serves as the general, overseeing these tiny, local militias. Still unable to speak full sentences, Alpha is revered as a man who keeps his own council.
Alpha, in turn, is controlled through the fibers by Gyre and Marie. The entities control the people because parallel worlds share the same life force. Marie is building a movement.
The network expands. Influence starts small and locally: a municipal government, a sheriff's office, a social club, but nodes begin to form spontaneously in statehouses and courthouses. Marie watches her influence grow and money start to flow in from selling merchandise and influence. Gyre builds the OGP fibers into cycles to contain the network and make it easy to feed on the feedback. These connected pools of living resources start to function like well stocked fish ponds ready to harvest.
Another level up, three stories to be exact, overlooking the streets of NYC, in a tastefully decorated classic six on the upper west side, the headmaster stares down into an antique clawfoot bathtub filled with glowing water, hungrily observing the progress of Gyre's fish farm.
Control of the OGP is complex because the evil runs so deep. Beyond the leaders, handlers, strategists, lawyers, and bag men lies an emergent network born of suffering. Living things suffer when they "want what they don't have" or "have what they don't want." The headmaster smiles because this network of suffering generates his food and he doesn't believe it will ever be stopped.
"There is no end to suffering until all suffering is gone," he contentedly muses, "and where are the bodhisattvas?"
Downtown in Chelsea, just returning to his studio with a sesame bagel and black coffee, ready to give his online dharma talk, W's ears are burning.
Sitting in harmony, allowing angst, anxiety, worry, tightness, fear, melancholy, self-recrimination, lethargy, muscle relaxation, hope, optimism, contentedness, and joy move through his mind unimpeded and unexamined, noticing prolonged periods of silence without distraction, and emerging from equanimity, W seeks council with Her.
"Why is it that those who want to build things are always angsty and uncertain while those that want to destroy them seem so certain of their mission and carefree?" W wants to know.
Her reply is "Entropy"
W nods in agreement but fidgets while he waits for Her to elaborate, "The first principle is that new and different need lots of energy. From starting a fire to writing a computer operating system, creating a structure is expensive. The second principle is that once a structure is built, more energy is required to maintain it - fires go out, software rots. The third principle is that if we desire something, build something, or own something, we don't want to lose it so we spend even more energy to cling to it.
Angst and uncertainty are invited to arise at every step in the making process. How much will it cost, who will design it, will the design be award winning, what craftsmen will build it, how long will it take, how long will it last, will everyone adore it and therefore adore me...an endless list of ways to confuse your mind, create tightness around your heart and shorten your breath.
To destroy, on the other hand, is simple: pick something, break it, and walk away.
The irony is that, although these powerful paths seem irreconcilable, deep down construction and destruction are both creative."
W, bowing his head and thanking Her, returns to his studio full of ideas.
W sits quietly and makes notes on his meeting:
Benefits of the upside
Closer to beauty
Appreciation of truth
Dancing in freedom
Union with Her
What is life worth
if there aren't moments of
surrendered devotion, &
How reluctant are we
to give ourselves those moments,
to share those moments, &
to be in the moment right now?
Practice becomes real. Rose opens a connection to Her - time for some girl talk. The kind of energetic exchanges that happily take hours and too many drinks at a bar between two close friends, friends who can share the intimate details of their relationships, secrets about other people's lives, and moments of sangfroid for exes, can all be communicated with Her through momentary eye contact. One glance tells the story. Covering all the required pleasantries in about three seconds, the topic turns to Rose's real worries about the growing attacks on TNAP.
After rambling on to Her about the hateful trolls, Rose thinks about how shallow the complaints sound. In the next moment she gets a serious reply from Her, "I know TNAP began as a teaching project, and it still is, except that now we are going to teach the trolls a lesson. A threat is arising, one you are connected to by ancient ties, and I am asking you and W to turn your attention there."
Surprised, scared, and a little bit excited, Rose listens attentively, "An organization is growing quickly, able to feed itself, aggressive, with non-human leadership. The movement is known only to those directly involved but a much larger public presence is imminent. Memetic war, mind control, emotional manipulation, and prana harvesting are part of their weaponry."
On hearing the last weapon Rose freezes, her head snaps back, and her eyes shoot upward, as if she could see the Headmaster spying on them.
The divine invasion
When the other arrives it is not with guns blazing, the revolution is not televised, no one even notices. Bodies are spared in the new war because minds are the battlefield. There is no public outcry, no manifestos, no martyrs. Hell, no one even notices anything is changing. One friend shows another an app, a new site, turns them on to a podcast that they message to a few more in turn, you know how things spread when your friends like things. Pretty soon everyone you know is a rhinoceros.
Pools upon pools upon pools grow in the landscape. Marie is convinced all the power is hers.
Through the guidance of Marie and Gyre, the OGP internet memetic campaign begins, making initiates of those who will hear their message. City by city, town by town, their rhizomatic fascism spreads. There is no front line in a war like this, or maybe, more correctly, every screen is a front line. No beaches to storm, no cities to bomb, not a single way to confront an enemy whose ideology and power emerge from the popular opinion culture they feed.
The soldiers are wherever in the world they happen to be. Stop the organization in one place only to see it pop up in ten more. Worse than poison ivy, distributed war through the internet leverages universal hate, spreading it globally to small groups that activate locally.
Memes aren't stopped by critical thinking when the indoctrinated are entertained.
Governor Santos bows his head, gives a shallow cough, and begins to perspire. Alpha leans back in his chair and grins over at Roy.
"I'd sign the executive order myself but the signature will only look authentic if you operate your own muscles," Alpha says as he lessens the pressure on the governor's arms. Santos shakes free of the invisible bonds and picks up the pen.
No stranger to strong arm politics, Santos has never experienced this level of influence. How did they get in my head? Remote restraints? There is no technology like this! More sweat rolls down his neck and into his collar as the scope of what he is doing unfolds in his mind.
"I've never given away so much state land by executive order. You know this will be challenged immediately in court. Your operation will be exposed," Santos reasons with more hope than conviction.
"Not a problem with the courts, Governor Santos. You know Judge Wilshire?" Alpha pauses for Santos to reflect then reaches out to the fibers.
The phone on the desk buzzes.
"Judge Wilshire on the line, sir," says a voice on the intercom.
White as a sheet Santos picks up the phone.
Marie meets with a group of state senators extolling the virtues of the Old Guard Patternist movement and the importance of loyalty.
"When momentum swings, senators, you need to swing with it. The OGP has an unbreakable network of support that can keep you in office until you retire."
One by one the senators stand and speak their minds but Gyre is doing all the talking. The puppet show solidifies cooperation. If one senator is compromised, they rarely believe that a majority of the legislature is being similarly manipulated. They need a functioning government to keep public order. Gyre and Marie just make sure the laws benefit the OGP.
"Easy enough," Marie later tells Alpha and Roy while sharing some lunch with them on the OGP jet, "I think we can finish two more states today."
Individual cells are living freely in the forest, finding food, dividing, resting in the dirt, when they detect a signal. Maybe water is scarce and relocating is easier as a group, so they begin to bunch together. Soon they fuse to form a multi-celled organism called a slime mold. The question is: how did the signal that called them together originate?
Individual human beings are living freely in houses, eating food, having sex, watching videos in bed, buying things online, when they receive a signal. Maybe their consumer culture is threatened and they would feel safer if they kept others away, so they begin to hold meetings. Soon they form a multi-person organization called a political party. In our case we know that the signal to band together originates from the Headmaster.
Flowing with change.
Millions of fronts are opening on the networked battlefield. A war on truth has many casualties but none greater than collective dignity. How many will debase themselves for power? How many will defend the system by respecting the rules? And for how many cycles over how many centuries has humanity revived this play?
Built to teach and awaken others, TNAP will resist OGP like raindrops eroding rocks while gathering to form a mighty river. Sitting in meditation before logging in to lead Zoom classes, W understands the necessity of a calm, reasoned, and strategic intervention. Only kindness, unattached to immediate outcome, will move energy in dharma's direction.
Taking time for contemplation, believing that TNAP needs to directly and immediately engage the growing OGP network, planning specific actions (unlike W), Rose develops her own insights on strategy.
In an undistracted frame of mind, not caught up in a story, not attached to winning, focusing instead on combating mass manipulation, and by embracing and allowing the energy of her enemies to reverse itself, inner growth happens fast. Rose, while resting both inside and outside the frame, discovers a hidden talent.
Wikipedia says, "In the mathematical field of dynamical systems, an "attractor" is a set of numerical values toward which a system tends to evolve." An attractor that has a fractal structure is a "strange attractor". Rose finds that the movement of the fibers is a dynamical system and her center is one of the values toward which they tend to evolve; evolving as intricate interlinks and frequent bifurcations in all possible dimensions forming a "Rose attractor".
Why do they gather around Rose?
What is this attractive power?
Rose, like most empathetic humans, can sense connections between living things. Humans need to share energy to keep the fibers healthy. Who hasn't noticed the heightened state we get into when we exchange emotional dialog with someone we love?
This kind of human connection fascinates Rose, she wants to explore further, so she makes the fibers the object of her meditation. Lingering in the expanded state beyond inside and out, she imagines the connecting fibers as thin rays of light, a global set of psychic fiber optics. In deep concentration her visualization practice can last for hours. Without attachment or desire for outcome, sensitive to the tiny pulses she feels in her solar plexus, allowing those pulses to be sent and received as data, her visualizations move from imagination to reality.
After many months practicing she can read a person. She doesn't know the content of their thoughts but she can see where their energy is stuck, gaps in their self image, the feeling they most want, and what form of energy they are likely to receive. Any attempt at manipulation, distortion, or control instantly dissolves the vision. Her compassion or "metta" for the person engulfs them both.
TNAP followers begin to tune into her state, first online, but many start to show up to see Rose in person. Anyone near Rose when she meditates is likely to be read by her and everyone reports that this engulfment is blissful. A lasting feeling of loving kindness blooms in them. Rose is called on by TNAP to teach, and she does, but this is only the beginning of her mastery of the fibers.
They arrive first in groups of twos and threes, larger groups follow. The online masses flock to darshan with Rose. She sees everyone and they see her. Rose soon has to relocate these gatherings from small rooms to high school auditoriums to a full size theater with balconies. Hundreds of people sit in silence together as Rose's deep empathy merges with them. Everyone leaves peaceful and refreshed.
When a session starts, Rose is already meditating onstage. She used to wait and begin by connecting to each visitor individually but these crowds are too big. To accommodate the crowds, Rose places her attention on the fibers first. The image that grows in her mind changes at a certain point from random rays to a bright cylinder. The critical shift seems to happen when approximately 120 people, who are sitting quietly and meditating together, all reach access concentration. At that point the cylinder stabilizes in front of her and she can interact with it using her intentions.
When this luminous ground first opened to her during a performance one night, just after the crowds got large enough, she was frightened and her fear was instantly transmitted to her audience, this made her gasp, the cylinder shimmied in response, she giggled, and the audience glowed. Rose glowed. She discovered that the concentrated, interactive fiber bundle, arising from group interaction, is more efficient than solo readings.
Her expertise in fiber manipulation grows. Her reputation grows. Before long she is appearing in her own wardrobe and makeup in front of several thousand visitors. Because it takes longer to settle this many people into deep concentration she hires opening acts to lead breathing exercises and guided meditations. By the time the crowd is sufficiently concentrated and Rose reaches the stage, everyone is wide open and the glowing cylinder of fibers has expanded beyond the diameter of a hundred year old oak.
Rose facilitates, everyone participates.
No matter how many people gather in the theater, when everyone is deep in meditation they only know the same consciousness. This is where the play starts, in the merger, resting in awareness, everyone allowing Rose's intention to become theirs.
She spends the first passage of time collecting the audience's energy. Everyone is in a deeply restful state they will remember and long for later. Rose feeds on the prana to gain strength and focus her performance. She rests in the mind meld - intending to stay contained but knowing an undeniable impulse will soon arise to be shared.
Her first impulse is glee, pure joy, happy energy, and the audience erupts with laughter, everyone feels relief. This is followed immediately by peaceful contentment. Rose is happy because everyone is now in sync and they are ready to move forward.
There is no flavor better shared than genuine. Rose takes her time and does not follow a script. She will only go as far as the collective can handle. She strokes the cylinder of fibers and everyone feels the collective pulse. They are one being. Now she begins to feed energy back into the system, the cylinder functioning like a world tree. They feel the energy from their roots, see it running up through their bodies, leaving their heads, getting lost in the leaves of the cylinder, pulsing down the trunk of the cylinder to the roots again. A vast pool of energy belonging to no one and circulating through everyone.
After the cleansing, Rose slows down the flow of energy, refining the signal to be luminous, and lets the purity wash over and sanctify the crowd. Tears are common at this stage, as are faces of ecstasy and wide eyed stares. She checks pulses and brain signals. Sometimes she ends the show here - enough exposure for newbies, and brings them out of it, but tonight everyone is cool. There is a nice low vibe anchoring the room - an amused smile playing on the corners of the collective mouth. So she goes on.
To amplify the signal further, Rose asks for more from the audience; their resolve needs to be strengthened and egos diminished. A hard passage for some that requires giving and patience. Many peaceful moments pass; energy building, resting, building, resting, building. Reaching this blissful state should be the fulfillment of a lifelong meditative journey but tonight they are not stopping. The attitude in the room is calm anticipation, most of the audience are regulars and have been here before. The summit awaits.
After a timeless amount of time there is a presentiment of wonder, a tenfold upward jolt of energy, and off they go. Rose protects the audience, scanning bodies, making mental coherency checks, deep breaths with them on the high plateaus, bringing them so near that when the wave breaks she knows it is time, throws open the door, and reaches out for Her.
Having reached the peak of Rose's performance undistracted, mindful, and open to what arises, some audience members are able to connect and even have audiences with Her. Rose holds the space open. She finds satisfaction facilitating souls on their journey. No one ever regrets what happens but the experience is always unexpected - who could anticipate that they would see for a moment in their lives from a limitless perspective, that such a thing was possible.
W deliberately stays out of the theater when Rose performs. His own connection to Her can cause strange feedback when Rose is open. He meditates at a distance, watches the clock, and if things go past a certain time he enters the theater quietly through the stage door. After checking the progress of the performance and seeing the time is right, W puts on some soothing music, raises the lights to dim yellow, lowers the curtain, gently carries Rose to a bed in her dressing room, wakes up the ushers, and helps the audience get their stuff and shuffle out. TNAP vans are standing by when needed for rides. A few sleep over in the lobby.
The next day, those who know meet back in the theater to debrief and discuss. They can't wait to share. Rose's aftercare advice is always: hydration, relaxation, and a few weeks of integration.
W brings Rose back to the apartment and makes sure she is resting comfortably. When she wakes up late morning, he pours her a special tea to restore her balance, then serves polenta with a fresh tomato sauce, topped with grated parmigiano-reggiano.
"I can feel the cornmeal soaking up the bad vibes," she smiles, enjoying her meal in bed.
They sit together comfortably, no need to talk, while W works to clear and anchor her.
"You're still flighty," he says seriously after about ten minutes of introspection, "what's up?"
She's quiet for a while, finishes her tea, sets the earthenware mug on the wooden bed table, and frowns as if she'd been caught. "Nothing," she fakes, "just tired, I guess." but W isn't buying it. He has been auditing attendance at her shows and has noticed a demographic shift - more middle aged white men have been turning up.
When Rose started performing in person they assumed, maybe too naively, that the people attending were interested in self-improvement. Her methods seemed like a natural way to discover those sympathetic to the TNAP cause. But now W is asking if their ever-present internet troll problem could be growing. Are they attracting hate? Have the trolls started showing up in person?
"Something was off," confesses Rose, "but it wasn't in anyone's thoughts or attitudes - those seemed sincere. I felt dissonance at a level that would require much more talent. I haven't encountered a signal that invasive since my life in the monastery."
Entering the theater a few days later, still a little bit tender and on her guard, Rose decides to spend some time backstage during the warmup meditations to read the crowd and psychically vet individual audience members. She is on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary. Needless to say, this makes everyone happy. Any amount of time intertwined in Rose's fibers is blissful and worth the price of admission.
For the most part all she finds are a few sore spots that would have gone unnoticed before: a disgruntled but harmless atheist looking to debunk her, a tired husband tagging along to be supportive of his wife's interests but inwardly closed to anything new, a young screenwriter hoping to hit on a few ideas and maybe a few ladies.
Out of the hundreds she reads, the only suspicious person is a plainly dressed, single man with no glaring issues except for his unusually large number of connections. His fibers read on the surface as typically human but sieving more delicately she finds one or two very thin threads that look like they were intentionally hidden amongst all the others. They are different and she can't identify their type or source. Not having the time to trace them, Rose extra carefully dials down what those connections can send out of the room and attaches markers so she can follow up later.
Showtime! She feels better. The audience is stoked. Looks like she'll get them to the summit again tonight. She doesn't think any more about the plain man with the unusual fibers but he can't take his mind off Rose. Attending the show as an OGP spy, gathering intelligence that would help them undermine her act, and casing the security setup for future actions against her, he was perfectly groomed to slip in unnoticed and get away clean. Yet the consequence of receiving so much of Rose's attention and her touching his fibers so precisely is that, instead of completing his mission, Roy falls hopelessly in love with her.
When I wrote that Roy fell hopelessly in love with her, what I meant was that Roy fell hopelessly in love with Her. Rose guided him to Her at the peak of the performance, along with nine more, out of the hundreds in the audience that night, and he was smitten.
Roy fell in love with Rose, too - but mostly because she was his amour's Earthly manifestation.
Roy knows he's in deep shit. He can't go back to OGP and share what he's discovered without fatally exposing Rose. He can't stay either - without eventually confessing that he came to the performance planning to find ways to bring down the whole operation. He knows he won't betray Rose because he can't imagine helping to destroy his only way of touching Her again. He also knows he won't get back to Her if he keeps secrets from such a pure being even if revealing them could cost him what he wants the most.
Rose has her own dilemma. The day after the show she doesn't take her usual leisurely recovery because what she saw in Roy disturbed her. She wakes up early and starts tracing his hidden fibers. Rose's powers aren't great enough to travel the fibers and there she is lucky because she would likely not recover from one of Alpha's stings. What she is able to see scares her and makes her cautious - she can see that the energy behind Roy's fibers has the same pattern as the energy behind the internet trolls. Whatever controls the trolls is controlling Roy.
Rose knows that Roy has fallen in love with Her - everyone who encounters Her that closely does. So, she must ask herself, what is dharma in this situation? Is it within the cosmic balance to use Roy's love for Her as a tool for TNAP to root out and strike against the source of the trolls? What are the moral implications of controlling Roy through limiting his access to the deity he worships? Is there a moral use of pain? How does one fairly decide what is the greater good?
Rose's circle is open. Regulars at her performances know breakthroughs depend as much on them as Her. This inclusive culture of TNAP means Rose is a channel, individuals must be responsible for themselves, and every teaching can be questioned, practiced, revisited, and proven to oneself. Everyone is free to encounter and love Her if they choose to.
Marie's circle is closed. Humans trapped in her pattern are given orders and expected to fulfill them. This hierarchical culture of OGP means Marie believes she controls an empire, that she was chosen by higher beings, and negativity toward the cause is a conspiracy against her plotted by enemies. Power is really in the hands of a Headmaster that Marie doesn't even know exists.
After he doesn't check in for several days, Marie sends Alpha to retrieve Roy and find out what he has been up to. Alpha finds out Roy is staying in a cheap hotel, spots him going out that evening, and trails him to the theater.
Rose is already at the theater preparing for the show. Scanning the growing crowd, she is a gentle guide with a comforting touch, and easily locates Roy. She notes his presence with a glimmer because she feels his love and because she and W decided it is ethical to use Roy to gather information - spy vs spy. She has prepared some special inductions for implanting in Roy during meditation.
As Rose brings up the collective energy of the room, first feeding on, then feeding back the amplified prana, she notices something warping the room's energy that resembles a boulder parting the rapids in a river, leaving a blank space in the flow. Not knowing what to make of the irregular energy, she circles back to Roy, her known anomaly, and deepens her read. To her surprise one of his hidden fibers is now quite active and sending signals locally. She senses danger. Someone has hacked Roy and is present in the room.
The first skirmish goes down fast. Rose moves to trace the active fiber but just as soon as he senses her attempt Alpha stings her. Rose blacks out, incapacitated, and likely going to die while Alpha moves quickly to feed on her. Just as suddenly there is an audible crack as Alpha goes to the floor, flat on his back, knocked out. Rose gasps air. No one in the audience can move, most are passed out, except for Roy who bolts.
W senses trouble early, runs to the theater, arriving to see Roy in full flight. W rushes to Rose.
"There was an assassin - somehow associated with that man." Rose is still groggy.
"How are you alive?" W is grateful but scared.
"As I was fading I saw hundreds of rays of light rushing forward, tremendous energy, and I was their lens"
Looking out she sees the audience, slowly gathering themselves, looking toward her, then applauding loudly as Rose sits up and smiles at them through tears. It dawns on everyone that because they were connected through her they acted like one being, their collective energy spontaneously and instinctively fighting back to guard Rose and prevent disaster.
The ache in her solar plexus was the landmark Rose clung to for life and the threshold through which she re-emerged.
"I feel like I've been turned inside out," the audience members staying around to help are fussing all over Rose, trying to comfort the performer they love, as she speaks into the air.
Making sure Rose was out of danger, dealing with Alpha's body stretched out dead on the floor, and trying to piece together what happened took all their attention and most of the night.
"Who was he? Who does he work for? How did he attack me? Why did he attack me? Was anyone else hurt? Where is Roy?" More questions than answers.
As Rose gains strength the ache broadens and now feels like hundreds of little pushes and pulls all over her midsection. She drinks tea and feeds on the impromptu meditation circle offered by her closest followers. As a reward for their love and kindness Rose wants to treat them to individual readings.
She feels ready for it but when she reaches out toward the closest person, her usual visualization is fragmented. Rose discovers a new ability- reading many people at once. She tries it out on the whole circle and hears a collective moan. They all look over at her with big grins.
The next day W gets word from the police that the dead man worked on the same street as the theater and had no known political affiliations. There were so few leads or connections from him to Rose that the police joke, "it might as well have been some evil spirit randomly possessing his body just to get into the theater." W acknowledges the remark but his smile is flat.
In retrospect, Rose appearing alone onstage, in trance, while manipulating hundreds of people, was totally unsafe.
W is convinced that the violent forces attacking TNAP have superior psychic weapons. He estimates that TNAP is outnumbered by a significant margin. His assessments dishearten Rose.
"Why are the thinkers always outnumbered?" Rose expresses the burden of the underdog.
"Stupid is easy, crowds are safe. Thinkers debate a variety of ideas and appear splintered. Loyalists cling to one idea and look unified." W offers.
"Why are our good intentions seen as threatening?"
"Any group that questions everything will eventually question authority." W can't be more direct. "There is no doubt about it, they attacked us and they will be back. We need to prepare. Even if we never heard it directly from Her, this confrontation is what we incarnated here and now to settle."