Fallen Masters

John Edward

Tor Books

CHAPTER
1
 
 
New York
Dave Hampton had the looks of a star. With a full head of dark hair always perfectly coiffed, blue eyes, and well-chiseled features, he could have been the lead in a dramatic television show. He was, in fact, a television star, but not in a drama series. He had his own news, commentary, and talk show airing at six o’clock eastern time, Monday through Friday. From Maine to California, millions of Americans adjusted their schedules so they could watch the show live, and those who couldn’t watch it live recorded it.
Hampton specialized in controversy and conspiracy theories. There were few who were ambivalent about him—the public either loved him or hated him. “Innovative, brave, probing,” his supporters said. “A wacko, conspiracy nut-job,” his detractors said.
Today his guests had discussed such subjects as whether or not the United States was purposely not drilling for domestic oil in order to exhaust all the oil reserves of the rest of the world, to whether or not Errol Flynn was actually a Nazi spy.
The guests were gone now and the show was on a commercial break before the final segment, which Hampton called “Critical Update.”
“Back in one minute thirty seconds, Dave,” the director said, his voice audible in Dave’s ear plug.
“I don’t see my CU queued on the teleprompter,” Dave said.
“Sure it is,” the director said. “Untapped Oil Reserves.”
“That’s not the one I want. I changed it, remember? I want Sinister Shadow.”
“You mean you were serious about that?”
“If you don’t put it on the teleprompter, I’m going to try and wing it, and that will make it worse.”
“All right, all right,” the studio floor manager said. “Just a minute.”
Dave stared into the three teleprompters, which were just below the camera lenses. “I’m waiting.”
“Coming up—now,” the director said.
The story on the teleprompter changed, and Dave acknowledged, “Thanks.”
“We’re going to hear about this one, Dave. This is the kookiest of them all.”
“I wish you were right,” the studio floor manager said.
“Come on, you mean you actually believe this?”
“I’m afraid I do,” she said.
“Ten seconds, stand by.”
Dave nodded and looked at the camera. When the red light came on, he began to speak.
“Have you ever had one of those feelings that nag at you? You know what I’m talking about, a smell that is familiar but you just can’t place it, a voice, face, or event that is just on the other side of memory, or a tune that haunts you from your past?
“I’m having just such a sensation now. There is something up, something going on—and though I don’t know what it is, I know that it is mon-u-ment-al! It is of earth-shaking proportions, and when I say earth shaking, I’m not just engaging in hyperbole.
“Whatever this is—and for lack of a better word, I am going to call it a sinister shadow—it is hanging over our heads now like the fabled Sword of Damocles. Is this merely another one of Crazy Dave’s conspiracy theories?
“No, I’m not saying that there is a Nazi settlement on the moon, or there are aliens among us in high-ranking positions. I’m not saying that the Illuminati control all the governments of the world.
“I can’t be weaving a conspiracy out of this, because I don’t have enough of a grasp on this to formulate a hypothesis, or even to ask a question.
“Let me keep this very simple: Responsible and believable people, speaking off the record and with the assurance of anonymity, have told me of a disturbing paradigm, great and troubling movements that are taking place in religious, scientific, and political circles. I don’t know what it is—but I do know that it is making strange bedfellows, bringing about cooperation between the most disparate sectors of all human society. And while this cooperation would normally be considered a good thing, I am told these meetings are not the result of some universal brotherhood of man. This coming together is not anything born of altruism but rather a desperate seeking of the deliverance of humankind from this—sinister shadow.
“I feel as if all humanity is in a car, driving toward the edge of a cliff, headed toward one final catastrophic car accident. And the biggest problem is that while some of us can see the accident coming at us in slow motion, we can’t figure out how to put on the brakes. I don’t have the answers, but I can promise you that I am going to do my level best to find the truth and bring it to you. The one thing that I know in my heart is true is that something of epic proportions is coming toward us, and we soon might be faced with making some pretty important choices.
“Choices, ladies and gentlemen. Choices that might change the world.”
Hampton, in his signature sign-off, held his hand up, palm facing the camera. “From New York, this is Dave Hampton. Good night, America.”
As soon as he had delivered the sign-off, the telephones in the cable network studio began to ring off the hook, and within the hour, emails and tweets flooded into Dave’s own phone and swamped his website. Dave looked at the response and was both relieved and afraid. He had taken a gamble tonight and knew that the network would be breathing down his neck for what it would probably consider a bold stunt just for ratings.
But people were interested in—no, deeply concerned about—his report and felt they had to reach out to him to express their emotional responses to the news. He just wished he knew what he was going to tell them, for if his sources were correct, the truth was far worse than anything they could imagine.


 
Copyright © 2012 by John Edward