“Remember, Ronnie. Don’t blink. If you blink, it’s all over.”
Those words pounded through my brain right before I took a seat in front of the webcam, preparing to look into the eyes of the most evil scientific mind on the planet. But I knew I had to cleanse those words from my brain. My expertise in the field of mind control and the organic manipulation that can emanate from it kept me from allowing those words to have power in my psyche. What I had to do instead was forget about the suggestion of blinking all together and focus on my opponent instead.
Liam Sigurdsson was well-known for his advanced studies and experimentation in mind control. But he hadn’t been heard from for three years. News media speculated about him, but the only thing anyone knew for sure was that he was holed up in a home he’d built for himself and his staff in Iceland.
Four days ago, all of that secrecy came to an end — a dramatic and terrorizing end. Sigurdsson suddenly came out of hibernation with the news that he had managed to plant powerful bombs in the capitals of six major western nations. He further stated that they were set to go off at exactly the same time unless he got complete cooperation from the UN, and each of those individual nations in making him supreme dictator over their entire geographic areas.
The President of the United States, as well as the leaders of the other five nations — Canada, England, France, Germany, and Italy — had all tried to reason with him. But to no avail. That’s when the President called me in.
I’m Ronald Bridgeport, American scientist and mind control expert. I’ve made some amazing discoveries concerning mind control and using the mind to manipulate the body. Those subjects used to be considered part of the paranormal fringes of science, but my work has proven that they may have some very genuine, solid scientific foundations. I’ve won my share of awards for my research and for being able to prove a good many of my theories over the years. I’m well known internationally, of course, but not held in the kind of scientific esteem that Sigurdsson has acquired over the past couple decades.
Two days after Sigurdsson’s brutal announcement, I found myself sitting at a conference table across from several leading congressmen and two of the most celebrated scientists of our day, with the President just to my right at the end of the table. The heaviness in the atmosphere of the room when I’d entered had caused me to take a seat without saying a word. There was a bottle of water in front of me, and I reached for it because my nerves were so stressed that my mouth was already dry. As I swallowed a couple mouthfuls of water, the President cleared his throat and spoke.
“Ronnie, I’ve known you for years now, and I can say without reservation that you’re one of the coolest men in a crisis that I’ve ever met. We need that cool head today.”
I looked at him as he spoke, and I could see the tension in every fiber of his body. “What can I do for you, Mr. President,” I asked.
“You’re aware of the world-wide threat coming from Liam Sigurdsson,” he said in a half question.
“Yes, sir. I’ve been following the news coverage of the whole thing. Is there more to it?”
“Well, for the most part, the news media have let it all out of the bag, but the one thing we know that the news boys don’t seem to is that you and Liam Sigurdsson have a long history.”
I nodded. I wasn’t sure how much the President knew, but I was willing to bet he had all the data at his fingertips. Such was the nature of our government surveillance and investigative forces.
He continued: “I understand that the two of you competed in a number of scientific projects during graduate school and then competed for two prestigious international awards in later years.” He looked at me with a question in his eyes.
“That’s correct. He won exactly half of those competitions in our school years, and he won one of the awards after we were both in our professional careers.”
“But you won the other award, which he coveted very badly, and you went on to be selected for the position as head of the Bon Homme Mind Manipulation Project that got world-wide acclaim.”
“Yes, sir, but I don’t see what that has to do with this situation,” I said, honestly confused.
“We know from dealing with the man that Sigurdsson — although a genius in his field — is also mentally deranged. And he has the largest ego the world has ever known. He doesn’t believe he can be defeated — well — let’s say he’s evidently convinced himself that he cannot be defeated — ever again. The only competition he’s ever had that brought him defeat has been with you.”
The President looked me in the eye, and I did the same to him, but I didn’t speak. He continued: “So, playing on that theme, we’ve managed to infiltrate Sigurdsson’s privacy enough to suggest to him that if he wants the whole word to believe that he’s worthy to rule the six major nations in the world that have been the bastions of freedom and democracy until now, he needs to be able to defeat his greatest peer once and for all.”
My mouth fell open slightly, and I’m sure my eyes must have bugged out, because the congressmen and scientists across from me — who had remained totally silent up to that point — began to shift in their seats. I could literally feel them holding their breaths.
Finally, I found my voice. “I still don’t understand. You want me to do some kind of combat with Sigurdsson? Something physical or scientific or what?”
“We’ve offered him a challenge in his field of expertise,” the President answered. “We’ve challenged him to pit his mind-control and biokinetic abilities that he’s so proud of against yours. And whoever wins that battle will determine what happens with the bombs.”
I just looked at him. Looked him in the eye. I couldn’t look away. Inside my head, I could hear myself screaming “What! Are you crazy!” But I couldn’t speak a word out loud. I just looked at him. And the other people in the room held themselves so rigid waiting for my answer that I could feel the tension from the other side of the table.
I finally spoke — in a surprisingly quiet voice: “And what did he say to your challenge?”
Again, I could hear shocked questions pounding through my head, but I didn’t speak them out. As I sat there silent for a few moments, I realized that I wasn’t really surprised at all. Liam Sigurdsson was deranged. It’s true he was a genius. So was I for that matter. In fact, we had exactly the same IQ. But the man could not live with a challenge to his ego. He felt compelled to rise to such a challenge, and he wouldn’t even think beyond that feat to what the possible repercussions might me. Of course, he was not even entertaining the idea of failure on his part.
“And you think you can actually believe a man who is so deranged, Mr. President?”
He nodded his head. “We’ve secured a mediator that is acceptable to both Sigurdsson and to us. Sigurdsson will give him the details concerning the bombs, and the mediator will be locked away in a secure place until the contest is over. When he’s notified of the winner, he’ll either turn the information over to us … or … in the event … ” He stopped and took a deep breath. “In the event that Sigurdsson wins, the mediator will simply hand the information back to him.”
I took a deep breath as well. And the men and women on the other side of the table finally took one too. A few of them leaned back in their chairs, obviously glad the worst of the story had been related. I glanced at them and then back to the President.
“And when is this challenge supposed to take place?”
“Tomorrow at noon.”
“And how long does it last?”
“Until one of you blinks.”
“What?” I shook my head to clear it, certain I’d heard wrong. I glanced at the people across the table, saw shock on their faces as well, and realized they hadn’t been told the details yet either. So I looked back at the President. “What did you say?”
“The contest will last until one of you blinks. That’s the challenge. Both you and Sigurdsson have developed a large following for your research and proven theories in the areas of mind control and organic manipulation. That’s the arena he wants to defeat you in. To prove that he has developed in those areas to a much higher degree than you have. So that’s the challenge he has chosen to accept. You’ll sit and stare at each other via webcam, and whoever blinks first … loses.”
As wild and off-the-wall as the whole strategy sounded, I couldn’t refuse my commander-in-chief. Besides, what other option did we have? We could send in military power and annihilate Sigurdsson, but we couldn’t shut off the bombs. So I went home to “get some rest” — the President’s words — not mine. That was about 7:00 last night.
As I prepared for bed, I found myself going over in my mind the Bible story I’d known from childhood about David and Goliath. I picked up my Bible and began reading the story again. It was inspiring, to say the least: a young, apparently defenseless, youth standing up to the biggest bully of his day — and winning. To be sure, there had to have been some supernatural help involved.
So as I lay my head on my pillow, I whispered, with all the vulnerability of a child, “Lord, it seems the fate of the whole free world is resting on my shoulders — or rather on my eyelids — tomorrow. Sir … I’d just like to say … I could sure use some of the same kind of help that You gave that shepherd boy.”
That brings us to this morning, 11:50 eastern time, when I took a seat in front of the webcam set up at the White House. I had requested that I be left in the room alone once the camera came on. So everyone else began filing out, and that’s when the President leaned over to me, gripped me by the shoulder and whispered, “Remember, Ronnie. Don’t blink. If you blink, it’s all over.”