Logical Hierarchy - The Core of Erik Weathers

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					                                                                               Logical Hierarchy

                           “How wonderful that we have met with a paradox.
                             Now we have some hope of making progress.”
                                            - Niels Bohr


                                              Part I
                                           Faith versus Logic

        When fifteen-year old genius Michael Weathers sensed the cold barrel of a handgun pressed to
the back of his neck, his thoughts stopped. He had been playing basketball alone on his school’s
outdoor court and thinking, The mysteries in this universe I have free will to discover… but do I believe
that justice is a mystery, or that there is no-
        His assailant spoke menacingly, “What do you think I don’t know about the dodecahedron?”
        Michael recognized the voice as belonging to his classmate, Bianca Trujillo, whom he had
narrowly defeated earlier that same afternoon in the final round of a geometry tournament. In the time
allotted during the competition, Michael placed three dodecahedrons inside a ten-story maze
encompassing fifteen diamonds embedded in quartz, whereas Bianca required five lesser shapes for the
task, and was only able to gather twelve diamonds in a seven-story space.
        “I can’t argue with you, Bianca… I’m guessing that’s a gun.”
        Outside the purview of school supervision, the taller and stronger Bianca ushered him into a
nearby equipment shed, and aiming her dad’s fifteen-millimeter handgun at his chest, she told him to
change into clean gym shorts. As Michael did so, with a certain degree of embarrassment, Bianca told
him a short story about Évariste Galois, the 19th Century mathematician who happily accepted a pistol-
duel knowing he would certainly be killed. “The night before the duel,” she said, “Galois recorded as
many of his mathematical discoveries as he could remember in order to preserve them for humanity.
But, knowing what you know about human behavior, do you think Galois was doing a selfless act?”

        Black hair concealed one side of Bianca’s pale white face. Her image was frightening, Michael
thought, except perhaps the school uniform.
        When finished with her story, she taunted him happily, “I want to know … what you think is
possible… in the universe.”
        “Well,” he answered, and then took a deep breath, “virtually anything is possible.”
        “Do you believe that all things are possible?”
        “How would I know? I’m not God.”
        Bianca then said, “What if I told you about an alien race, my race, which is so immensely
advanced from humankind-”
        “Have any proof?”
        “I do. But, whether I show you depends on how you respond to what I say here.”
        “Are you gonna put that gun away?” Michael asked with a trembling voice.
        “As long as I’m wearing this body, I need this gun. LISTEN … the universe is full of alien
        “Prove it.”
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        “We haven’t gotten to that point yet, Michael. Just listen… I access more than double the spatial
dimensions available to humans, and I’m quite capable of manipulating linear and nonlinear aspects of
the multiple temporal dimensions… I can predict the future-”
        “Why waste your time talking to me if you can just zip over to the future and-”
        “You don’t understand, but you will … anyone can travel backwards and forwards through time,
and anyone can change events… remember the legend of the old men of the sea… the only thing it
appears no one can change is the ultimate fate of the universe… no body knows yet, but you’re gonna
help us find out.”
        “Time paradoxes prevent people from changing the future.”
        “Michael, there hasn’t been a time paradox yet uttered by a human where the solution hasn’t
already been posted on the internet.”
        As he and Bianca laughed together, Michael wondered how much they had in common. He
thought briefly to himself, Is she really an alien or I am just-
        Then he said aloud, “Not that I believe you’re an alien, but why tell me this?” Many late nights
he had read postings on mathematical web boards he suspected were written by aliens.
        Bianca answered as if it were a question she expected, “I think this universe is rigged, so I’d like
to give you exactly what you desire to see if you can find free will.”

        As Bianca savored the moment by pondering Michael’s facial expression, one of the school’s
janitors opened the door to the equipment shed and saw Bianca holding the handgun. He immediately
rushed the young woman, which prompted her to dislodge a bullet. The janitor’s bleeding body fell like
a heavy statue which allowed Michael the opportunity to wrestle the gun from Bianca’s slippery fingers.
He pointed it at her eyes. Is she crying?
         “Break destiny, Michael Weathers, kill me,” she whispered as blood from the janitor’s ruptured
carotid artery gushed down her face.
        To decide what to do next, he pondered the meaning of life. But alas, he lost the answer in the
mire of his own perspective, though in such entanglement with self, he was able to complete the thought
he had started from the other side of the gun, I believe there are mysteries in this universe, and that I
seem to have free will, and I also believe that justice can’t exist unless by absolute truths, so I believe
there is no justice.

                                          The Meaning of Life

       At the beginning of the twenty-second century, mankind reached a new pinnacle of technological
progress – middleclass homes were comfortable, green technologies were abundant, and people enjoyed
a wide variety of pain-suppressing drugs.
       However, just as society grew stronger because of these advancements, so too did the amorphous
criminal element that fed on human behavior - lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, wrath, envy, pride, and
more. Like droplets of ink crawling through a glass of water, societies became clouded with
       Then, on January 21, 2101, a sunny day at scientifically acclaimed West Cambridge Hospital, a
healthy baby boy named Erik Weathers met the Earth.

        His parents, Charlotte and Michael Weathers, never even considered the possibility that
something might capture their child’s genius, fuel him with self-righteousness, and turn him into the
most powerful torturer of criminals the planet had ever known. Ironically, what blinded them to this
possibility was their intent to raise Erik in a loving and open-minded environment.
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       As Charlotte gently lifted Erik from the nurse’s arms, her mind reflected on the pregnancy that
brought about the very moment she experienced. It was exactly what she had hoped to feel - a strange
and wonderful inability to look away from the life she created.
       But, no sooner than the nurse tiptoed from the room and dimmed the lights, Charlotte’s joy was
overwhelmed by a trembling fear of the dangerous world outside the hospital doors, a world saturated
with perverse temptations, and injustice. She began to lament herself for bringing another victim into
the world – like a sacrifice for her to nurture.
       But eventually Charlotte was able to regain some of her original bliss. Meditation always
worked well to throw the wool down over her neurosis.

        She thought poetically that having never been the victim of physical abuse in her lifetime, like an
unbroken bell, she experienced a virgin moral purity that allowed her to vividly embrace the perplexity
surrounding all those reasons that both happiness and sadness made her cry, as a woman, and as a
person. This was her perspective, and although she loathed the world to an extent for its myriad
injustice, she also loved the way the earth showed her in conventional ways that she was
unconventionally beautiful. From her perspective, her beauty was inseparable from the fact that she was
an intelligent, freethinking, and moral individual.

        “What makes a woman,” she was asked once by a professor, “and is a man’s purpose in life
different than a woman’s?”
        Her answer that day in class was simple, “You’re not necessarily going to know more about life
being a man versus being a woman. It’s just one of those beginnings that doesn’t predetermine the
ending, especially because the purpose of life is to enjoy yourself.”

        She recollected the professor’s questions while holding Erik. It’s one of life’s greatest mysteries,
she thought to herself, the great interplay of opposites in the mind, where logic is a rainbow matrix of
ideas and emotions, everyone trying to find colorful areas of single right answers.
        Now physically exhausted, in what she assumed was a weakened mental state, she felt a glimmer
of hedonistic reasoning toward something, right, by her mind. He’s smiling… his first happy sign of
free will.

        Goosebumps rained all over Charlotte’s meditating body when a soft knock at the door nudged
her out of a daze. The sound also made her consciously acknowledge the extent of her tears.
        The middle-aged female doctor who entered, now wearing a clean white coat, was the
obstetrician who had delivered Erik. Her red hair appeared to enter the white hospital room as a force
greater than the sounds behind it.
        “How are we doing?” questioned the doctor, closing all manner of medical diversions behind her
with the blue door.
        “He’s sleeping,” Charlotte responded.
        Both women displayed eyes carrying the storm of thoughts they had just experienced. Charlotte
had been alone in the room with Erik, the dim lights casting a glowing arch across her forehead.

       As the doctor commenced a series of routine tests, Charlotte imagined the different ways that
Erik bound her to the world. His vulnerability lifted her entire being into a trembling question - what if -
mostly what she would do if someone tried to hurt him.
       In asking this dark question repetitively, the future passed slowly through her mind until she was
imagining Erik as a man who looked like her husband, but also her dad – a well dressed handsome man
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy

with brown hair and proud blue eyes - smiling at the beauty of his natural surroundings. The fairy tales
of her mind always turned dark though, and Erik ended up dead – defusing a bomb, fighting ninjas on
the roof of a skyscraper, testifying in court against the mafia.

        In-room monitors recorded systematic physical responses to the fear Charlotte was experiencing
as she imagined these scenarios. But in spite of this, Charlotte willed her brain’s signals into an array of
logical conclusions so unpredictable that from a practical standpoint, they were the essence of drama.
She was countering the seven vices threatening Erik’s life with his exercise of the seven virtues –
chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, meekness, kindness, and humility.
        As a mother, this moral debate of vices versus virtues was the meaning of life because it gave
meaning to logic and nature. She decided that irrespective of whether logic and nature were one in the
same, this debate was indeed the meaning of life, and it frightened her because she believed she might
be enjoying a god-complex through Erik.

        Meanwhile, in Latham, Oregon, a teenager was physically restrained in her hospital bed to
prevent her from dangerously interfering with the birthing process of her own baby. And despite the use
of strong pain medication, there was a curious amount of screaming coming from the young mother
during the one-hour labor.
        When the obstetrician displayed the baby boy to her, the scar on the child’s scalp frightened her
so dramatically, she immediately began to call him “Ghost” and scream prayers to God, as if she was
performing an exorcism. Her medical record showed she was an agnostic.
        Following protocol, hospital staff dutifully induced sedation.
        As the law of the State prevented a legally psychotic person from gaining custody of a child, the
baby boy with the scar shaped like a claw was immediately given up for adoption, and as it were,
without a name.

                                            The Great Danger

        After Michael was assaulted at gunpoint by his classmate, Bianca, the school made him see a
psychiatrist, and the psychiatrist prescribed antidepressants. About that fateful day, Michael never told
anyone but his wife that the reason he steadied the gun at the sobbing Bianca, rather than help the dying
janitor, was that he was afraid that Bianca really was an extraterrestrial, and he was contemplating
whether to kill her. He thought that if he admitted this fear to the police, or anyone at school, he would
appear gullible and selfish, which were among his greatest fears.

        What Michael did not know was that Bianca and her parents were involved in an amorphous but
very large secret organization called the Omniarch, whose influence over world history was so
pervasively entrenched, its symbols were commonplace on printed money, government buildings, and
famous art.

        Bianca had believed her whole life that her father was an alien, because this is what he told her
as he displayed many signs and wonders, like levitation and hypnosis. And as she became more
indoctrinated within the Omniarch organization, Bianca came to know others like her father, which
comforted her into accepting her world-view.

        Michael knew of Omniarch, but he had no reason to suspect Bianca’s involvement. He simply
feared that Bianca would someday be released from prison and seek to finish whatever she started. Even
still, Michael did take solace in the official police report of the incident, which contained an admission
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy

from Bianca that she had purposefully neglected to take her antipsychotic medications that day in the
hopes of increasing her brainpower for the geometry challenge. Whether her admission to the police
was just a ruse, Michael worried endlessly, and his pill-popping behavior reflected it. Occasionally he
rubbed the back of his neck where Bianca pressed the gun, questioning whether she had implanted
something in him.
        Although Michael’s medications worked well to lessen these anxieties, they significantly
reduced his intellectual abilities. If not for an increase in his humility, he would have abandoned the
medication altogether.
        He also took comfort by rationalizing that supernatural phenomena, like aliens and levitation,
could be explained as the product of an overactive imagination. Basically, the mind could be convinced
of anything simply by feeding it the right mixture of waves. This was because in the process of Fourier
transformation, spatial information was translated into a frequency spectrum, allowing the human mind
to read waves as if they were pictures. And since all human senses were similarly constructed, the mind
could believe anything, simply by reading waves. Thus, he reasoned, if the government had the right
wave interference device, it could manipulate the species.

        Like her husband, Charlotte also grappled with anxieties stemming from trauma as a young
person. Her dad had not only implanted a tracking chip under her skin, but also made her wear a hidden
camera in public. At the age of thirteen, she watched her dad beat a homeless person to death in an alley
after the man had tried to sexually assault her.
        Charlotte’s anxieties drove her to become an introvert, and her reality became inherently bound
with the pages of her diary, a collection of cloth-bound journals hidden deftly from the world. In the
deepest chasm of emotion she could access, arose a desire for God to protect her and her diary.
Questions about God, infinity, nothingness, and the afterlife frequently pleased Charlotte’s curiosity, but
she did not lose sleep over the unknowable.

       By contrast, Michael aggressively sought after the unknown. Asking rhetorical questions about
man’s capacity to understand life troubled him deeply, and made him somewhat of an extrovert. There is
no meaning to my life, only my own answers to my own questions as I circularly try to expand the
parameters by which I’m bound. But in spite of this pessimism, Michael believed that a unified theory
of everything should present itself in anything. Indeed, on this he proclaimed himself a rational man -
Before man can unify a theory to harmonize all the elements, which would illuminate life’s purpose,
what can’t be measured must be measured - the unknown must become known.

        Michael and Charlotte met in college at an environmental rally. He was a graduate student
teaching in the computer science department, and she was an undergraduate majoring in physics, with an
ecology minor.
        She found him ruggedly handsome, and not an overbearing figure. He was muscular and
upright, like a statue of himself. His face was worn by computer light more than sunlight, so his cheeks
were rosy, the same color as when he was a younger man blushing in his prom photograph.
        He remembered thinking that she had beautiful blue eyes just before he asked her for her opinion
on whether technology might save the world from all its problems.
        In response, she gave him a look he had never seen before on a woman. It was genuinely
attractive and as idiosyncratic as he could ever imagine, as if she was saying with her eyes, I’m good at
what I do.
        Her answer was complicated, and at the end of it, he asked, “Would you like to have coffee
tomorrow…. with -”
        She interrupted, “I’d like that. I’m free at noon if you wanna meet at the Rand Building.”
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy

        “Awesome,” he responded happily as he noticed her black hair fall slowly in waves off her
forehead and down her full rosy cheeks, running circles around her shoulders and teasing the edges of
her influential lips.
        Not once had he looked down to examine her breasts, which, incidentally, were sheltered. He
recognized it was even rude for handsome guys to gawk, and as part of his personality, he made it a
point to never disappoint a woman in that way.
        “Well,” she offered, slinking her shoulders, “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.” Full of confidence
as he was, and leading with the proud identity of an environmental activist, he brainstormed what to say
next. All of a sudden, the thought occurred to him that he could either maintain this conversation with
her, or let her fall back into the crowd of people. Subconsciously, the idea of her walking alone through
crowds of men flashed like an accent upon his conscious mind, and then with ‘de facto’ logic he told
himself, Here is as good a place for a first date as any other.
        He finally managed to say calmly, right as she had begun to turn away from his departing smile,
“You aren’t leaving now are you?”
        “I’m afraid if I don’t this may be our first date, and what would you look forward to tomorrow.”
The sun shined in that moment from his perspective.
        “I’ll tell you what,” his voice negotiated through a poorly restrained and very excited smile, “if
you want, you could stay here until this event is over, then I’ll introduce you.” He pointed to the stage,
referring to the keynote speaker. “I’m kind of at work right now anyway, so this isn’t a date, it’s just my
lucky day!”
        She edged a bit closer and for the remainder of the speeches they shared insights and listened
intently. A few people approached them from their sitting spot on the grass and asked Michael
questions, mostly about computer science rather than environmental science, but as to each, Charlotte
was impressed with her future husband’s knowledge, especially the way he explained things
systematically for his listener.

        Michael Weathers’ past was etched with two girlfriends - both attractive and conservative. One
was literature smart and the other was math smart. As he sat with Charlotte that day waiting for the
speaker to conclude his presentation, he realized five minutes into a conversation about computer
science that she was a girl with brilliant moments. In order not to disrupt the others around them who
were listening intently to what was happening at the podium, Michael and Charlotte spoke softly to each
other as they sat close together on Michael’s blanket.

        He enjoyed being next to her, like a cloud enjoys swelling with rain. And he was a happy cloud.
The planet in motion was all their day needed to gently let the happy afternoon sun fall to a warm
evening sunset. As the wind began to chill, testing the grass with acrobatic angles, they held hands,
listening to stories from around the globe – legendary reactions of the natural environment to manmade
conditions, chronicles of corporate abuse, and the power of college students to make a difference. They
were filled with hope.

      Then, only four months after meeting each other, they were married through the authority of a
Massachusetts Superior Court Judge. Erik was already on the way.

        Around the same time, the United Nations dismantled several underground organizations
allegedly controlled by Omniarch. However, because a handful of wealthy elite families secretly
controlled the U.N., Omniarch itself orchestrated the raids. Consequently, the U.N. police forces were
given a mission based on a mere patchwork of information gathered from somewhat unverified media
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy

research outlets, so it was impossible to know or document how effective the raids were in actually
harming the nebulous Omniarch.
       But the raids accomplished what they were supposed to accomplish – a significant majority of
the public was appeased, and the U.N. gained political momentum for its exercise of police power. The
U.N. Secretary General announced proudly to the world that its mission was accomplished, that the
Omniarch had been effectively dismantled.
       The true facts were that most of the raided Omniarch organizations were just shell operations
being run by pawns. In many cases, victims of Omniarch mind control technology were set-up for
prosecution as if they were masterminds.

         As Omniarch controlled the media as well, it was able to accomplish this deception by portraying
itself as an isolated entity, like a cult, rather than a complex system interwoven with the major political,
scientific, and financial institutions of the world.
         Omniarch had risen to power mainly through the coordination of a small number of elitist
families who were able to amass incredible sums of wealth over the centuries by funding both sides of
wars in order to fix the stock market. As the families exercised the ability to determine the outcome of
the war, they were therefore capable of short-selling entire stock markets for profit, simply by spreading
false information that the soon-to-be conqueror was actually going to lose the war. As one country’s
stock market crashed, the elite Omniarch families would buy shares for small sums, and as the other
country’s stock market soared, these elite families would sell their shares for great sums.
         Then they would simply change the outcome of the war through industrial and financial
mechanisms, causing both stock markets to flip, and therefore profit on both sides. In addition,
Omniarch profited from the high-interest loans it made to finance wars, and these loans were in turn
often paid back by wartime plunder. Omniarch also profited from war by owning the industries that
received the government contracts to supply the materials necessary to fight.
         Consequently, by controlling massive amounts of money, industries, and stock markets,
Omniarch controlled entire economies, and therefore national rulers had no choice but to be beholden to
Omniarch elitists, lest they would find themselves in the same position of many forgotten kings -
without resources to finance a kingdom at the same time Omniarch was loaning money and resources to
their enemies for war games.
         By its own media and studies, Omniarch obscured its own financial power considerably. And
the independent media failed to keep pace with the ways Omniarch promoted largess in the corruption of
politics, by flooding legislatures with omnibus legislation to limit scrutiny over laws in debate, and to
obscure how any given law in the enormous system actually harmed the public. Over time, Omniarch
appointed many politicians and businesspersons to the most elite and powerful committees in
international commerce and political organizations.
         And where it lacked its own insider loyalists, Omniarch routinely employed blackmail and
violence to coerce the otherwise independent politicians who did have the power. Those who attempted
to overthrow the nebulous organization were often assassinated. Those who made efforts to expose it
were targets to be discredited in their business and personal lives, and in Omniarch’s media.

        Omniarch also relied heavily on government-funded laboratories for much of its scientific work,
so most government scientists had no idea they were actually pawns in an Omniarch-controlled system.
        Having such immense control over nations also allowed Omniarch to set-up three “city-states” in
the world where the elite families could shelter their wealth from taxes and accounting. The flag of
each state resembled the others. Omniarch used a pyramid with an all-seeing eye as one of its logos.
        The Omniarch agenda was simple – power. And all resources were tools for it, from
sophisticated technologies to the basic necessities of life.
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy

         By the 22nd century, Omniarch had reached such an advanced state of organization and power
that it was ready to make the push for ultimate control over the masses, in the form of a one-world
government that touted total global dependency, and therefore the need for one kingdom to arise and
         Indeed, by suffocating unfavorable competition at the same time it promoted “market efficacies”
of global economies, Omniarch succeeded in divesting local communities of industrial and agricultural
self-sustainability. This was a great hypocrisy, because Omniarch was using the media to proclaim the
benefits of free trade while actually creating slaves to a new world order of dependency.
         Omniarch’s control was so entrenched, the masses failed to realize they had been ensnared by
their own ignorance, and were feeding off their own vices, which Omniarch had always championed.
And likewise among Omniarch loyalists it was man’s vices that truly turned the gears of the machine,
though some loyalists enjoyed the delusion that the ideals of Omniarch could be separated from the
organization’s own web of insatiable and voraciously violent power struggles, mafia cartels and occults.

        The Omniarch-orchestrated U.N. raids also purposefully neglected the many secret libraries
within top offices and cathedrals of the world’s most powerful religion, located in Rome, where the
fountainhead of the beast that was Omniarch might be exposed.
        So the core of Omniarch did not cease because of the raids, but rather gained power to the extent
the U.N. gained legitimacy as a police power, because elitists within Omniarch largely controlled the
U.N. Even still, due to large-scale public scrutiny, much of Omniarch was pushed deeper underground
to allow the dust to settle.
        And one of the main insiders pushed underground was Bianca Trujillo’s trainer and handler, an
extremely wealthy man named Norbert Weishaupt. As an upper-echelon Omniarch wizard, Weishaupt
enjoyed nearly unfettered access to R&D projects, and had spent his entire life refining his tastes for the
occult, with no shortage of funds to curb even the most brazen of his passions. From outward
appearances, Weishaupt appeared to be a philanthropist and steward of mental illness research. Not
only a direct descendant of a European royalty, he was also intelligent, tall, dark, and presentable in a
rugged way. He lured men, women, and children alike. His philanthropy was a cover for many crimes,
diverting public scrutiny from the illegal R&D being conducted at sprawling Weishaupt estates
throughout the world, including one near Seattle.
        Weishaupt himself believed the branch of occult lore that said mankind was genetically
engineered by a handful of alien races. Even relying on cosmological data, Omniarch taught that the
hidden secret to man’s power had been vested with a single royal bloodline, which bore the mark of
man’s greatness. Weishaupt himself called this secret “the real holy grail,” as it had yet to be
discovered. Throughout history Omniarch had dissected countless kings and queens and their children
to find it. He knew only that his own royal lineage did not bear any obvious mark of any hidden power.
He had surgeons carefully dissect alive his own brother to confirm it.
        Weishaupt was able to maintain secret laboratories in the deepest dungeons of his mansions
because he imported technology through his Omniarch connections throughout the world, including
some insiders at NASA. And he had a reputation within Omniarch for employing some very capable
scientists. He even felt some guilt while conducting experiments in his dungeons that involved brain
probing and occult experimentation. But overall his royal feelings of supremacy triumphed, allowing
him to commit acts of depravity.
        Weishaupt had indoctrinated Bianca Trujillo to believe it was a universal truth that the lives of
geniuses were cursed with fated moments, each one dramatically entangled with an intense desire to risk
lives and to be defeated by the killing. And so it was this indoctrination that had led the young Bianca
into her school’s equipment shed to tempt her classmate Michael Weathers with the most classic of risks
- the heated exchange of one gun between two people, interrupted by another person, in a small room.
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy

         Weishaupt had once targeted Charlotte Weathers for recruitment, but she resisted Omniarch’s
swooning suitors. She considered herself an intelligent woman and a hard working student. She lived
for her achievements and thrived on an accessible passion for scientific progress, and on many levels
because of her achievements, she believed she was capable of enlightened understanding.
         In one instance, trying to recruit her at a young age with promises of adventure and a trust fund,
two Omniarch insiders claimed they could show her secrets of the enlightened. Her dad, monitoring her
lapel camera, interceded on the conversation before Charlotte learned more. He told her Omniarch’s
tactic is to spoon-feed what they call “secrets” to their followers, but those secrets are nothing more than
whatever story the person wants to hear, following such themes as ‘man is a god,’ ‘the world is
overpopulated and man should kill off the weakest links,’ and ‘the elite have the right to rule the violent
         “Omniarch doesn’t know diamonds from plastic,” he said, and then added, “Every one of their
promises is empty. They may call it black magic or some enhancement of technology, but trust me, it’s
all death… that’s it. And you know what else… the more that people think Omniarch is going to take
over the world, the more likely it will, so try not to even think about it, okay.”

        With the freedom to learn without the misinformation of Omniarch, Charlotte was inspired to
gain public recognition by ascending the ladder of academia like the great physicists who wrote the
books she labored over in her advanced classes. She also thought she wanted to teach.
        As a regular attendee of after-class discussions, which in the more exclusive circles were aptly
named ‘impossible problem sessions,’ she was able to gain much insight into the wonders of the
physical world. In the three years she had at Cambridge Physics before Erik commanded all of her
after-class time, she answered correctly two “close to impossible” physics questions, of the over 150
officially presented, but was convinced that on the first one she had gotten half-lucky in the approach.
While she had been laboring over the problem in the late hours of the night, she envisioned a symbol
that aided her logic. It was a series of dodecahedrons ratcheting down a helical ladder. It came to her
automatically, ominously, like a sensory force. She drew the symbol in her diary.
        In one sense, she had learned the dodecahedron symbolized infinity, and in conjunction with the
pentagram, mankind.

        This phenomenon of a symbol arriving to her conscious mind by mere fortuity was not new to
her, but it was indeed rare. She rationalized it was well within the bounds of reason for a symbol to
arrive at one’s conscious mind through unconscious channels, and so she resolved not to lose sleep over
the matter, nor to discuss it or let any given symbol’s origin drive her to question her own sanity. This
would turn out to be a mistake.
        Questioning the realism of the symbols would have motivated Charlotte to search out her own
solutions to life rather than vice-versa, such that questioning her own sanity would have actually helped
her realize she was being given prophetic keys to calculate the future.

                                         Raising Erik Weathers

        In kindergarten Erik spoke Spanish with more accent than any of his classmates. “¡Rapido corren
los carros, senorita!” When asked by his teacher why he opened doors for girls he said, “I like girls.” His
maturity was quite apparent.
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 10 -

       An elaborate all-day intelligence test was conducted on Erik at the age of three, the results of
which confirmed the obvious for Michael and Charlotte, his capacity would soon be that of a ten or
twelve year old, and risk taking was part of his personality.

       It was the government’s psychologist who issued the test and recommended an elementary
school for Erik located in a gated community within a small town called Chesterton, near Seattle,
Washington. The school was called Wentworth Academy..

        In crayon drawing, Erik became the kind of ‘kindergarten excellent’ that Charlotte said
threatened to swallow their refrigerator. One afternoon he brought home a colorful barn painting the
teacher insisted he show his parents. Folded neatly inside the largest pocket of his little Superman
backpack, he withdrew the masterpiece for his mom to examine. She was preparing snacks in the
kitchen at the time he described the sky, and what he was going for there. He said what he thought were
the important things, like the shapes of the barn windows and the trees around the pond. Then he turned
his blue eyes up toward hers, and while leaning against her and holding onto her dress he offered
thoughtfully, “mom, we can recycle my picture.” She didn’t even notice that her eyes began to cloud
with tears as she picked him all the way up and said, “Erik honey, I’m going to keep this drawing
forever. You are the most beautiful little man and you make beautiful art and I love you so so much!”
Erik Weathers developed early the belief that everything good he ever made could be entrusted to the
safekeeping of his mother.

        At the Wentworth Academy, unconventionally practical subjects were taught, as appropriate, to
the handful of ‘qualifying’ geniuses who attended the K-12 school. Every child in the school was
screened for at least above-average intelligence, and the geniuses were placed in certain classes with the
school’s general population in order to foster social skills in what the school boasted as ‘an ordinary
American learning experience.’ Erik socialized in a very normal and likeable way, but in the sense one
cannot be ‘very normal’ without demonstrating advanced abilities. During his elementary school years
Michael and Charlotte believed that above everything else, Erik should be having fun, and learning to
think without developing social abnormalities.
        They, like all parents and guardians of children at the school, had signed an oath requiring them
to respect educational privacy by refraining from gossip.

        Erik’s mind was unusually focusable. For the young Kindergartner, sitting and thinking at home
was a tremendously time consuming activity, which his parents found strange. But Erik was normal
enough to know that it was abnormal to want to be alone at school and to collect thoughts for long
periods without sharing those thoughts with others.

        Even as a kindergartner Erik enjoyed hanging out with his dad in the garage, and was given some
latitude to tinker with big machines. Michael had even ordered some miniature tools with which his son
could work alongside him.

        Michael and Charlotte also found it particularly intimidating that Erik shared deep personal
insights with them, and for the particularly odd ones they often instructed him to “think to yourself about
that.” Charlotte felt bad telling him this, but it was the nature of parenting a young genius. Often she and
Michael utilized a parenting style based on ‘answering questions with questions,’ but she found it
especially heart-wrenching to have to stop him in the middle of a discourse, as she had to do after his
kindergarten graduation ceremony to enlighten him that “penis envy” was an inappropriate topic for a
young man.
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                                                                                           - 11 -

        Meanwhile in Latham, Oregon, the boy with the frightening scar on his scalp was returned by his
adoptive parents to the custody of the State at the age of three. The social worker reported the parents’
comments verbatim in her report, “Vigo managed to dissect our cat alive because he wanted to see the
parts move… then when we bought him a kitten, he dissected that too. We think he needs professional
help, and so do we for buying him a kitten, but he’s actually very bright. He doesn’t seem to have any
connection to us.”

                                           Hidden Treasure

        Shortly after gaining admission to yet another foster family, Vigo was forced to leave again
when the family reported an act of “arson” in their kitchen. For lack of chemistry knowledge, the
investigative officers failed to report that Vigo was building a nerve growth chamber for rats.

        And so, Vigo returned to his old orphanage at the age of six, but was immediately adopted by an
admittedly unconventional family. The director of the orphanage was of the belief that even though the
adopting family was irregular in social background, their home would still be a better environment for
Vigo than the orphanage, where Vigo had developed a reputation of taunting the other youngsters into
stressful conversations.

        The members of Vigo’s third foster family were Russian immigrants, one of whom, Radomir
Sadovich, described himself on the adoption papers as a “self-employed chemist” living with his
mentally retarded wife, Ursula, and their mentally retarded child, whom Radomir called Clue.
        Although he presented evidence of United States citizenship, Radomir was in fact a low-level
Omniarch-scientist who had always proven of questionable loyalty to the secret organizations with
whom he had some associations.
        Consequently, he was only given special assignments and was not interfered with as he lived
aimlessly in the United States, feeding an addiction to Methylphenidate and anti-depressants. Radomir
actually disliked much of Omniarch, and resolved to keep Vigo outside the fray.
        In the process of adopting Vigo, Radomir confirmed what he suspected from reading Vigo’s
social work profile - Vigo was a savant.
        Home schooling was commenced immediately.

                                         Origins in Chesterton

       Charlotte’s two best friends in Chesterton, Betty Longshank and Wendy Martel, were both smart
women with boys attending the Wentworth Academy.
       Like Charlotte, Betty also experienced intricate symbols arriving at the gates of her present
sense. Everybody gets some white noise, she dismissed to herself, not knowing that she was envisioning
geometric shapes called metatron octahedrons. These shapes were arrayed together in a manner that
spoke a harmonic language prophesizing a grave threat of mass depopulation on earth. It was in the
breakdown of the metatron by the volatile movement of the octahedrons within that this particular future
was foretold in Betty’s visions, but alas, she lacked the tools to understand.

        Betty and Wendy were often inseparable. They swapped clothes, volunteered at the homeless
shelter together, traveled in tandem, experimented with marijuana, and they worked at the same
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                                                                                            - 12 -

company once. The cafés, the smell of the ocean, the skyline – Seattle was the background to their
        It also came about that they met husbands around the same time. Wendy met Lawrence Martel at
a popcorn stand at the County Fair, where they discussed apparitions. Betty, by contrast, met Dan Tripp
at a bar, where they talked mostly about Betty.

         When Betty divorced Dan after six years of marriage, Betty took custody of their three children -
two girls and one boy. Jimmy was the boy, and he was the same age as Erik.
         During the divorce proceedings, and contrary to the advice of Lawrence, who thought that
“Jimmy Longshank” was an excellent name for a young man, Jimmy made the decision at the age of
four to carry on his dad’s last name, Tripp.
         The law of the State allowed a child of any age to decide his own name so long as the child
demonstrated the capacity to make “a coherent explanation of his or her sense of self.” Jimmy met the
standard in a very interesting chambers hearing that left the judge nearly speechless at the four-year
old’s ability to weigh alternatives. Jimmy was even quoted in the local newspaper as saying to the
Judge, “This isn’t about genes, Judge Fleischman, ‘cause that’s obviously nonnegotiable. This is about
me trying to keep my family together here, you see. And on top of that, if I’ll be deciding my own fate
in life, why not let me decide my name too?” Jimmy was quite neurotic.

        Every Friday morning, Betty, Wendy, and Charlotte would get together for café lattes and
discussions about culture and good books. And although several opportunities arose during these
conversations for Charlotte and Betty to admit to each other their having experienced a virtual
impregnation of symbols, neither said a word about it. Wendy too had her own secret that connected her
in a unique way with her best friends – a birthmark she was too embarrassed to mention. In shape it
resembled a vesica pices.

        Among Wendy’s interests was participation in the PTA for the Wentworth Academy. As she told
her friends one Friday over coffee, “People do horrible things when they think social conformity is
allowed to trump the golden rule! Horrible things, just like animals in a pack. So what if aggressive
pack behavior conquers enemies?”
        It added to Wendy’s clout in the PTA that Lawrence played professional basketball in Seattle for
three years, and was well known for his sports column in a popular Washington newspaper. Lawrence
thrived on competitiveness and expressed his mantra in his column - “Competition challenges the mind
and body to produce something positive while it creates an environment where if you succeed in being
fair with people, you have succeeded in being fair with yourself, which is a powerfully balanced state.
You should do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
        Wendy and Lawrence decided early in their marriage to be minimally protective, but strongly
instructive of Damian, their only child, in order to foster in him good leadership skills. And so, Damian
learned that as long as he acted honestly and purposefully, he would be given wide latitude to play as he
wished. This type of conditioning did not make him very nice, but it made him genuine and polite, and
he acted morally enough, so his parents let him be.

        The Weathers home in suburban Chesterton was located on a sizeable and beautiful parcel of
land, with old oak trees and a few great maples lining the perimeter of the backyard. One of the first
projects Michael undertook after the purchase, and after setting up his garage workshop, was to
construct a greenhouse for his wife in the northern corner of their property, an area that collected a good
amount of sunlight. It was a quiet spot where Charlotte had every opportunity to conduct chemistry and
ecology experiments. Michael called her a “plant goddess” because she was always enthusiastic to splice
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species. She subscribed to several ecology and chemistry journals, and would frequently challenge lab
results reached by her ‘peers.’
        Because Erik commanded most of Charlotte’s time, Michael constructed a ‘work station’ for
Erik in the greenhouse. And as Charlotte determined that Erik’s education would include knowledge of
nature, she talked to him continuously as she worked. At the age of four he was using microscopes and
computers to gaze into the world of ecology that his mother created for him – a very controlled setting.
        Erik loved being in the greenhouse, especially because every so many minutes his mother would
bring him a new plant to lay his senses into as he solved puzzles from the Academy’s treasure chest of
intellectual exercises.
        Charlotte believed that Erik’s time in the greenhouse would make him much more likely to enjoy
the outdoors. Sometimes she even liked to dream that he would become a naturalist, discovering new
uses for plant species and working to protect their habitats. It was just one possibility that traversed
across her synapses from time to time.

        Lawrence, the sports writer, was a frequent visitor to the Weathers’ garage. He thought it looked
like a special effects lab, and he often watched Michael put together equipment to customize the
Weathers’ home with interesting gadgets.
        However, one day Lawrence noticed that one of the chairs Michael designed had a symbol on it
that was similar to a hidden birthmark on his wife, but rather than confront Michael about it, Lawrence
stewed over it.
        Unknown to Wendy, the intricate symbolism of her birthmark was written in the veins
underneath the skin. It foretold that Chesterton would be a safe place after a major environmental event.

                                              The Door to Mystery

        Since moving to Seattle, Michael Weathers had been utilizing his Computer Science and
Nanotechnology Ph.D.s as a programmer for Haloquin International Incorporated. The central purpose
of his work was to isolate and destroy viruses in government computer mainframes based on quantum
        Unfortunately for the Weathers family, Michael’s best anti-hacker work often involved finding
the most improbable encryptions, so Michael would occasionally force himself to forgo his maelstrom
of medications in the hopes of un-stifling his creativity. When he did so, his societal fears and religious
exasperations often corrupted his likeability as a husband and a dad.

        For the time Michael didn’t spend at his desk, he worked in an open mechanics lab with high
ceilings, judiciously dividing his time between updating Haloquin systems already in operation, and
designing new network architectures.
        Haloquin managers treated their programmers royally to keep them working happily, and to
dissuade them from taking offers at other companies. Michael loved Capitalism for its incentive
structure, especially because Haloquin provided him wide latitude to tinker with the companies’
technologies to keep him happy. He actually liked to perform maintenance onsite to the system units
that performed specialized electrical and magnetic tasks for the supercomputers.
        Michael learned to identify viruses of all sorts - ones for crashing systems, melting equipment,
stealing information, distorting information, and disguising foreign objects. In the big energy industry,
much of this work required managing precision instruments for rerouting data through test systems, and
this required an intricate system of magnetic and carbon-based filters capable of testing energy samples,
which arose from block arrays being inserted into network grids that governed the computers scanning
for viruses.
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                                                                                             - 14 -

        Since protecting energy stores held by the U.S. government was a trillion dollar enterprise,
Michael and his senior colleagues had extraordinary clearances, and they were trained to use them in an
        Michael was particularly adept with symbol programming, the writing of software code in
symbols rather than words.
        Consequently, one morning he was instructed by the Head of Haloquin’s North American
laboratories to analyze an unnamed government file simply called “MUG – Training Exercise.”
        Michael was unaware Haloquin was majority owned and controlled by the secret organization,
        He accepted the assignment and was provided a computer that allowed him to access a vast
network of holographic, three-dimensional symbols. He was then asked to translate them into words or
equations, but he was provided almost no instruction on how to do so.
        Hours passed with little consequence as Michael stared deeply at the strange symbols before
him. Even the freshly brewed tea under his nose did not distract him, but eventually he gave up the
effort at the end of the day by assuming he failed, having not completed any answers. That his notes
were dutifully collected, and placed in a sealed file, raised his eyebrows though.

         Several weeks passed at work without mention of the MUG file, but this did not dull Michael’s
curiosity. He tried to access the file on a weekend from his personal workstation, this time without the
impedance of his medications, but he received only the message, “ACCESS TEMPORARILY DENIED.
         However, rather than analyze without meds, Michael allowed his curiosity to be trumped by the
greater desire to pop his little green pills instead. But before he logged out of the system, he did manage
to satisfy one element of his curiosity by hacking the data source of the MUG file, where he discovered
the data originated at NASA, and the file was relatively unaltered from whatever raw data produced it.

       As Michael worked long hours at Haloquin and Erik preoccupied himself with schoolwork,
Charlotte found herself day-dreaming into her diary. In one illustration, she drew a fractal pattern
representing the golden ratio, phi, in what she called, a harmonic cascade in the shape of two toroidal
waveforms. The sum of the two toroids multiplied, and the addition of themselves and each other, both
rendered wavelengths mirroring the original toroids, as if through the golden ratio the two toroids were
parents passing down DNA to their children.
       Little did she know, her illustration was capable of being interpreted to prophesy an
undiscovered kinship among four people in her life.

        By the time Erik was ten years old, Charlotte decided to accept Michael’s advice and take a part-
time job at an environmental consulting company. The career move was good medicine to distract her
from the eerie sensations she felt when illustrating her diary. However, like anesthetic, the distraction of
her job merely numbed her to the sensation that certain of her brain cells were emitting and receiving
highly coherent wave signals.

                                           Guilt, Fear, and Popularity

        In the moments that thirteen-year old Jimmy Tripp was receiving his first beat down at school,
courtesy of three intoxicated upperclassmen who couldn’t take a joke, Jimmy thought it appropriate that
the afternoon was cold and rainy. Indeed, he often saw coincidences like these in his life, suggesting to
him that the Earth was designed to make his pain worse.
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                                                                                           - 15 -

        But then out of the gym alighted Damian, who was after some fresh air during basketball
practice. When Damian saw Jimmy, the son of his mom’s best friend, taking blows to the head, he
charged quietly and laid four knuckles into the cranium of one attacker, rendering him unconscious,
shattered a knee on another attacker with a single lunging kick, and then was tackled by the third
attacker. But no sooner than Damian wrestled his way into the dominant position did the upperclassman
        Damian remembered the wisdom from his dad, As soon as your enemies lay down their weapons,
lay down your own… that’s love and respect.
        Jimmy laid bleeding in a puddle, unable to move much until Damian picked him up. The
basketball coach arrived on the scene within minutes to find a mass of blood and agony. As an
ambulance picked up the two boys whom Damian had rendered handicapped, Damian sat alone in the
belief that retaliation would be fierce. In all the commotion, with ambulance lights and rain, he allowed
himself a moment to sob.

        The day after the fight, Erik realized to himself that although Jimmy was the Academy’s most
celebrated genius, his friend was quite fragile psychologically.
        Jimmy had said to Erik that day as they read comic books, “You know what bothers me… people
who say that something can’t be good unless it’s natural… because it seems to me that superheroes
aren’t natural but they all have better lives than me.”
        Erik took a deep breath and then responded, “Look… it’s natural to want to read comics, and its
natural to wish you were Superman, probably, but there’s something else here… I think it feels both
good and natural to recognize the limits of your mental capacity because when life gets hard,
psychologically, you’ll feel more justified when you inevitably swap out one of your problems for
another problem, rather than continually piling on problem after problem.”
        “I don’t follow.”
        “Imagine that every problem you’ve ever had was prominent in your mind right now. You’d be
a wreck! But because you recognize the limits of your own intelligence, you just focus on one problem
at a time… that’s healthy… swapping problems for problems rather than accumulating them.”
        “So? That’s obvious.”
        “Granted, but my point is this… and an emotional response is the only way you can answer…
recognizing limits to your intelligence also makes it easier to ask God to help you out with things. How
do you feel about that?”
        Jimmy didn’t answer. He just buried his head in his comic book and fought back tears. He felt
so ashamed when Erik said something in his presence that made him want to cry. It troubled him
        Sensing some awkwardness, Erik kept talking, “For man, life is all about hierarchies. We need
something to occupy a layer of the hierarchy above and below. That makes sense logically, but still we
ask, ‘who are we?’ God has an incentive to give us free will because God wants love from us in return,
and nothing can genuinely love unless it has the choice to give love-”
        “Sounds religious…”
        “It doesn’t have to be religious,” Erik responded, “it’s just common sense that puppets can’t
love. But what I’m trying to say is that-”
        “So God is at the top of the hierarchy?”
        “Yeah… and then the golden rule… do unto others as you would have them do unto you… it
preempts the great human flaw, that the only reason you regret something is because you fear getting
        “That’s probably true,” Jimmy answered.
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                                                                                             - 16 -

        Often in the privacy of his bedroom, Jimmy wondered whether he was an alien, or perhaps, a
half-alien. He thought Erik might be alien also. The internet was filled with stories of ghosts and aliens.
There was even video footage of ghost-like holograms giving public speeches.
        Even still, Jimmy acknowledged no hard evidence of such a fantastic premise, other than his and
Erik’s obvious intellectual superiority at Wentworth, but he enjoyed that the thought allowed him to
ponder in a context that was more real to him whether there were a different set of moral standards for
aliens, whether he would ever be called to return to the homeland, and what senses he was capable of

       Erik and Jimmy lived different realities at Wentworth Academy since Erik enjoyed a degree of
popularity that Jimmy did not. By the time they reached the high-school years at the Academy, while
Erik had grown into his body and learned to play baseball, Jimmy stayed relatively weak, and he didn’t
enjoy sports.

        Damian, the most athletic of the three friends, was the one who eventually encouraged Jimmy to
be active and at least lift weights, though at first Jimmy replied, “If I’m gonna be small my entire life,
why bother?”
        “This is psychological,” Damian answered, “You don’t really think you’re gonna be weak
forever. You just want assurances from other people that you shouldn’t feel bad. That way you’ll feel
justified in giving up trying to improve, and therefore impliedly justify your present state.”
        “I’ll give you points for a theory with a conclusion.”
        “Well,” Damian said with a big smile, “the real losers compare themselves to losers, and Jim,
you’re no loser, so c’mon, take care of yourself.”

        Although it was built toward the sky, the Wentworth Academy, was shrouded in tall trees, and
four of these trees were giant redwoods that outlined a square, inside of which, those capable of
socializing among the “popular groups,” as Jimmy called them, found themselves congregating daily
during breaks in their class schedule. While exceptions arose occasionally to temporarily change this
popularity square, these exceptions were entirely within the control of a select few, one of whom was
Damian Martel. Having exercised his prerogative several times, Damian enjoyed the fact that life felt
more meaningful and powerful with the ability to make exceptions for yourself as a leader. With great
power comes great responsibility, he remembered different people saying, as he rationalized in the
context of the four trees, people respect those who use their power justly… that’s what makes them fit to
hold power.
        When his confidence rose to his potential, Jimmy often ventured out of the library at lunch and
into the four redwoods to seek out his two popular friends. Jimmy was aware that he wouldn’t be friends
with Damian if it weren’t for Erik, so he felt somewhat helpless socially, and yet also grateful, which
was a seeming contradiction that puzzled him.
        The ability to draw two conclusions from one set of facts, Jimmy rationalized while
contemplating his feelings about the contradiction, represents my free will, which is good, but also it
represents the absence of right answers and thus, morality, which I guess would be ironic if it weren’t
necessary… so it’s okay to have more than one right answer.

        Damian and Erik discussed Jimmy’s psychological outlook regularly, often coming to the
conclusion that if only people asked him more questions, he’d rise to the occasion more often because a
person had to be tolerant with him to let him finish his thoughts, which were often quite articulate when
he finally drew a conclusion. “Jimmy chronicles deficiencies in human behavior more accurately than
most people can analyze their fingertips,” Damian retorted once.
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                                                                                            - 17 -

       But Damian and Erik saw a dark side of Jimmy as well, a side that wanted people to feel guilty
about themselves, which often came up when Jimmy talked about psychology, so for this Damian and
Erik had mixed feelings.

         In spite of these problems, they knew that giving Jimmy friendship was one of the linchpins of
his emotional stability, so they made sure to periodically confirm his personality with remarks he could
live up to, like, “have more confidence” when they were discussing an area where Jimmy was already
succeeding, and “be yourself” in areas where he wasn’t.

       But Jimmy’s greatest obstacle to mental stability was guilt, which he experienced in trying to
conceal what he considered to be vile thoughts. And this guilt compounded itself as he considered what
he was capable of doing to prevent secrets from coming to light and burying his life in awkwardness and
shame. When he felt sick to his stomach about these moral transgressions of thought, he told himself in
all manner of ways that what he needed was a new beginning, and yet he knew he could twist himself in
knots with rationalizations about human behavior in order to justify giving in to some temptations.

        One day sitting at his desk Jimmy thought to himself, the fact that I don’t feel guilty about
something bad until I recognize in my mind my fear of getting caught for it, that’s really my greatest
shame… that my guilt doesn’t actually arise from me contrasting some purity in my knowledge of
morality, but rather, guilt is nothing more than a psychological fear response as you visualize yourself
being exposed to another person when you have no way to morally rationalize what you’ve done. Is it
evidence that God made fear and guilt out of the same mental currency because fear is the best
motivator, and there’s nothing that feels worse than guilt? Should I pray to God to make me a better
person? Does it matter that I can rationalize that God maybe doesn’t exist? Alright…God, please make
me a better person.
        On this occasion, sitting at his desk with the door to his bedroom locked, he decided to
memorialize his prayer, so he pulled a razor from one of his drawers and cut himself on his index finger
in the hope of leaving a scar, but as it would turn out, he failed to cut deep enough.

                                                The Best Advice

        At the age of fourteen, Jimmy constructed a rocket-propelled camera, and after putting it through
a couple test flights, he aimed it at a flock of gulls.
        The next day he showed Erik and Damian the photos.
        Erik thought, Should this be disturbing?
        Then after school that day, to mitigate the awkwardness, Damian suggested they put Jimmy’s
camera in a baseball.
        Once the boys got to work, Lawrence and Michael were restrained by their wives from helping
in any way, so they defiantly headed off to a nearby bar.
        Blue prints were drawn that afternoon for an elaborate rocket-ball, a parallel to the boys’ camera-
ball, that could dazzle the spectators.
        On the long walk home from the bar, Betty with her sixteen-year-old daughter, Melanie,
intercepted the men.
        “Just what are you men up to?” Betty asked.
        “Ohh, nothing,” said Lawrence.
        “I’ll bet…. what’s that in your right hand, Michael?”
        “Kitchen schematics,” he answered
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                                                                                              - 18 -

       Betty simply darted her eyes up and down and replied, “If you think I won’t tell Wendy and
Charlotte that you’re trying to help the boys.”
       “Alright, fine,” said Michael happily, “We’re not trying to help them… we’re trying to beat
       “Oh,” Betty answered, “well good luck!”

       The moms were excited on the day of the rocket-ball launch and camera-ball homerun derby, but
especially Charlotte, who enjoyed knowing the secret of what would happen to the rocket-ball in midair.
       It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon at the park. Betty made peanut butter cookies with
chocolate morsels shaped like angels.

       The camera inside the boys’ baseball was a very old antique from a novelty spy catalog, and it
held only five shots per reload. Erik rigged the ball with magnets and an inner casing set on bearings so
the camera would always take a clear shot at the ground. And Jimmy equipped it with an altimeter to
make the shutter drop at the ball’s first descent that was at least forty feet above field level.
       Neither Erik nor Damian would allow Jimmy to pitch to them, so in protest, Jimmy said he
would hit off the tee rather than take a pitch from either of them, and for this one joke of his, he suffered
a fountainhead.

        Damian stepped up first and received a knuckle ball from Erik at 50 mph. The pitch was high
and away and Damian smashed a deep line drive, but they all observed in agreement that it was
uncertain whether the ball, at its peak, had risen to at least the forty feet needed before the camera would
        Jimmy hit next from the tee and the ball went straight up in the air off his wooden bat. He cursed
himself, threw the bat down and tried to catch it himself before it landed on the pitcher’s mound and
only a few feet from his hand. Suppressed laughter came from the stands while his mother Betty clapped
away. “Nice try honey!”
        Erik stepped up to the plate next and did a mental pause. He was going through his normal
routine, tapping the bat against his cleats and tugging at the collar of his shirt. He ordered a fastball from
Damian and looked out towards centerfield. Then he relaxed his shoulders and squared around in the
box by digging his cleats into the dirt and feeling out a swagger. His swing, aided by adrenaline and the
torque of his wrists, met the 85 mph fastball over the center of the plate. “Crack!”
        Before Erik saw the ball leaving the infield Lawrence was off running at a high fly ball.
Lawrence ran fast until he got a bead on his target falling. He dropped his pace and began trotting
backwards across the damp grass below him. “Thupp.” The ball was caught 280 feet from the plate.
        Because the boys had decided that whoever hit the ball the shortest distance on their first at-bat
would hit last for their second at-bat, the rule dictated that Jimmy was out of luck. But it was unclear
whether Damian’s hit ascended above 40 feet, so Jimmy came in from the outfield and the boys held
conference at the mound to see who pulled the short straw.
        Jimmy said with subdued sarcasm that he wanted to hit before them because he was the only one
using a wooden bat, and therefore his hit was the most legitimate. Erik and Damian laughed themselves
into agreement.

       Batting in turn, Jimmy popped up again, Damian roped the ball into right center field, and Erik
launched his second shot down the left field line. That the ball landed foul simply reminded Erik that the
purpose of life was to enjoy himself, but he didn’t like having to continually remind himself of the
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                                                                                             - 19 -

        The ladies came out from around the fence and congratulated the boys on a successful science
project. Michael made last minute, inconsequential adjustments to the rocket, tightening screws and
cleaning chambers.
        Because the boys used an antique camera in their design, Lawrence and Michael told everyone
they also were using an “old” item. But in fact, they used two, and only one of them was obvious.
        The inconspicuous item on the rocket was an old bong that had been owned by Michael’s
grandpa. It had come into Michael’s possession through his older brother, James Weathers. Before the
turn of the 22nd Century, James assumed the task of inventorying all of their grandpa’s personal effects.
When James discovered the bong along with a bag of relatively fresh marijuana in the basement, the old
man was already “quite senile,” as James described, “but he loved to talk rationally.”
        James shared a bowl of marijuana with his grandpa that day, and then a few years later, by the
time the man had gone totally senile, James received the bong in the mail. Interestingly, there was a
scribbled message inside, written on a nursing home brochure, “Never complain… Sorry to write this.”
        James told the story as a joke at parties simply by omitting what his grandpa had written on the
brochure, since the brochure itself was the punch line as he told it.
        Michael decided he would tell the whole story to Erik after the launch as a segway into a
discussion about drug use.
        The other old item on the rocketball, the conspicuous one, was a vintage stopwatch visible
through a clear window cut into the circumference of the bong.

       Every few minutes, some brave walker would approach Michael to ask him what the rocket-ball
contraption was. And every time he gave a different answer, calling it a “weather machine,” “baseball
defense system,” “illegal fireworks,” “a better way to seed these fields,” and finally, “the greatest
rocket-ball this town has ever seen.”

        Michael batted and threw right-handed, but the first few pencil marks made at the tavern several
weeks ago had, inadvertently, commenced a structure aligned with the tube on the left side of the tee.
However, knowing that Lawrence was a switch hitter, Michael decided that rather than adjusting his
schematics, he would build the designs as they were written.
        Michael told everyone that unless Lawrence swung perfectly, the rocket-ball would travel no
farther off the tee than second base. He, Lawrence, and Charlotte however, were maintaining a secret
about what would happen to the rocket-ball in flight.

         Lawrence swung the aluminum bat around to a “Crack!,” and the force of impact measured
inside the ball triggered the rocket to fly out of the tube attached to the ball. Almost instantaneously,
although it was difficult for the spectators to see, the light, hollow, curiously shaped rocket that looked
as if it had a shark’s fin, got a burst of speed as it met an 85-degree arch.
         From the perspective of the baseball field, it coasted out of the park and into the open space with
no recognizable slow down. Then all of a sudden, over 2,000 yards from the launching pad and deep
into the open space, a blue and gold parachute became visible. The simplicity of the parachute was the
joke, and the crowd laughed uniformly at their own unmet expectations.
         Then came the surprises. As a bright red and blue flare illuminated areas of the day sky, causing
the watching crowd to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh,’ three time-released flotation devices became visible in the
distance. The first was controlled by the remote control pad attached to the bottom of the bat held by
Lawrence. The second remote was attached to the rocket launcher Michael was presently manning. And
the third rested securely in the hands of their co-conspirator, Charlotte, who planned to pass her remote
around among the group. Charlotte’s “UFO” was a spinning wheel of handkerchiefs that morphed into
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 20 -

different shapes. As the crowd cheered, Michael looked happily over at his son, who was smiling as he
watched the handkerchiefs in the distance.
        Meanwhile, Lawrence danced a jig to make the crowd laugh as he controlled a large flying
dragon made of what looked like bed sheets. Damian laughed with the group but was also trying to keep
his eyes fixed on the landing spot of the parachute so he could retrieve the rocket.

        When the parachute fell out of sight beyond the athletic fields, Damian and Jimmy set out
jogging to retrieve it, over the fence and down beyond sight themselves. Erik, however, stuck around
and asked about the rocket-ball design as Michael explained its mechanics, though simultaneously they
watched the handkerchiefs closely because Michael was manning the override controls for Lawrence’s
and Charlotte’s remotes, which was the park director’s condition for the whole show. Michael had yet
to unveil to the spectators his own remote device, which was silently buzzing among the clouds and out
of sight.

        Jimmy and Damian were gone for thirty minutes looking up tree branches, between bushes, and
on the surface of ponds. They saw deer run away quickly as they approached. There were frogs
everywhere as they took care to watch their footing, but especially for holes in the ground. Eventually
Jimmy found the rocket hanging off the side of a bush.
        Then when they were walking back through the open space together Damian offered Jimmy
some advice. It had been Jimmy’s experience that Damian liked to offer advice after completing a task.
But in this moment, Damian decided to give what he thought his greatest advice. He slowed his pace to
an easy walk and asked Jimmy if he wanted to hear “some words to live by.”
        “Sure why not?” said Jimmy with suppressed interest.
        “Alright then. In abundance, everything enjoyable becomes tiresome and everything fun
becomes annoying… so… Earth is probably as close to heaven as we’ll ever know.”
        A pause occurred dramatizing the moment, and then Damian continued, “A hot shower can feel
good, but do you enjoy it as much when you’re already clean? So do you get dirty in heaven? And what
about love? If you don’t earn it, you don’t love it. If you can’t lose it, you don’t respect it. You know
where I’m going with this?”
        “I follow,” Jimmy replied, knowing he didn’t.
        They were walking very slowly now with about 150 yards between them and the fence. The trees
were more scattered and the ponds were all behind them. Bushes, however, were in their visible path, so
they kept their eyes on the ground. Damian continued, his voice almost cracking under the weight of his
mind, “The only road to extreme happiness is balance, as odd as that may seem. The goal of life,
Jimmy, is to experience everything as extremely as possible, which means you have to always be a good
man. It’s got to be good if it’s going to be extreme. When you play, play hard, and play well and play
right, so when you live and when you die … your regrets don’t haunt you. That’s heaven, not chocolate
strawberries sitting on your lazy cloud. And I know this is going to sound weird, but I don’t mean it in
the weird sense … just listen…. even when you feel pain, sometimes it’s okay to let it be and to absorb
it with your mind.… And I’m not saying people should live on the edge everyday, but if you don’t
sometimes go out on a limb and feel the pain, you’re missing out!”

        There was no barbed wire where Damian hopped over. Jimmy then handed him the rocket and
proceeded to climb slowly up the links. On his way down his shirt snagged a sharp tip that wound up
into a curl. As he loosened it off the fence, wiggling it free with his right hand, his index finger slid
against the sharp tip drawing blood. “Great,” he said sarcastically, “I guess now I’ll know pleasure.”
Damian just laughed and punched Jimmy’s shoulder, then he rubbed his hand over Jimmy’s head in
‘noogie’ fashion.
                                                                              Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 21 -

        “Alright buddy, suit yourself,” Damian replied, “As long as you know what I’m saying, you’ll
know where I’m coming from.”
        Jimmy nodded as he simultaneously punched Damian with his left hand, but since he tried to
land it while also getting a head start to flee, he only grazed Damian’s shoulder. Damian took off after
him but at that moment swooping down at them came a cloth dragon breathing a hologram of fire, which
caught them quite off-guard. It was the object remotely controlled by Charlotte. Michael’s was a
miniature cloud that Michael used efficiently to chase his friends and family into additional exercise.
Wendy ran as soon as she saw it, and Betty ran with her. Charlotte knew her facial expression was the
only stop sign she would need against Michael.
        When the five camera-ball photos and the rocket-ball photos were unveiled later that evening
during dinner at the Martel Home, it was obvious that some were far superior to others. The rocket-ball
captured multiple quality overhead shots of the open space. Jimmy’s “historical spy camera,” however,
took only one decent photograph, where the shutter fell at the moment Jimmy threw his bat down to try
to catch the ball. From the height it was a somewhat fuzzy image, but Wendy made copies upon special
request, one of which Erik framed and put on his bedroom wall.
        The anger curl on Jimmy’s lip was barely visible, and Damian said to Erik the day the photo
developed, “I think you have to know him to notice it.” The more Erik examined the photo, the more he
believed he saw the anger curl, but it wasn’t the only thing he deciphered.

                                              Where School Stops

        Vigo’s rigorous home schooling by Radomir, his foster-parent, made him the experimenter in a
makeshift laboratory set-up in the family’s attic. Radomir especially indulged Vigo’s interest in
dissecting animals by providing him top-quality surgeon’s tools. It was immediately apparent that
Vigo’s personality was deliberate and calculating. He troubled over mathematical problems, but rarely
cared to discuss ethics, which suited Radomir nicely.

        Even though Vigo possessed a large cranium disproportionate to his small body, he was still far
more normal looking than Clue, Radomir’s natural-born son.
        Clue cried frequently for reasons he was unable to articulate, and he routinely hurled food at the
television set. Having the mental capacity of an infant, Clue was mostly oblivious to the workings of the
world, but he enjoyed playing simple games and watching television. Consequently, he occupied nearly
all of Ursula’s time.
        Although Ursula was herself mentally retarded, she managed nonetheless to care for Clue and to
perform basic household chores without offering up much complaint to her husband. She enjoyed
conversations, but Radomir used her for sexual relations, and she had no family other than Radomir and
Clue. She did not know whether she loved Vigo. She only knew that as his foster-parent, she was
supposed to love him.
        Ursula was as oblivious as Clue to most of what Radomir told Vigo about life and morality,
including even Radomir’s mantra - “Life is naturally unfair and only a handful of revolutionaries in
human history have ever really changed the natural order of that unfairness.”

        As part of Vigo’s home schooling in History, Radomir taught Vigo that aliens and artificial
intelligence had been present on Earth since the dawn of man.
        “What most people don’t realize is you’d be crazy not to make peace with artificial intelligence,”
Radomir said to the young savant before adding, “Hitler was sabotaged by foreign governments, which
stopped him from trying to cleanse the world of its excesses. He was never proven evil… only
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 22 -

        “Do you think Clue deserves to live, Vigo?” Radomir asked once as he and Vigo sat alone at the
dining room table. Vigo responded that he would take the matter under submission.
        Meanwhile, the fourteen-year old Clue chewed on a piece of cardboard while watching a
children’s movie about the fictitiousness of ghosts. The movie convinced Clue more than anything of
the exact opposite.

                                        Omniarch Is Everywhere

         In their senior year at the Wentworth Academy, Erik and Jimmy were approached by the
school’s dean, Mr. Roman, and asked to participate in what Roman called, “an experimental test.” It
was an open-ended test about the meaning of holographic symbols, the same ones Michael Weathers had
been asked to analyze at Haloquin Corporation, which Michael was able to trace to NASA.
         Unfortunately for Erik and Jimmy, through a complex web of connections, which included Mr.
Roman, Omniarch controlled the Wentworth Academy. The secret organization’s goal was to recruit
talent from the school to any of its myriad other organizations, and therefore give the boys an
opportunity to move up the ladders of secrecy and responsibility within Omniarch to the extent they
demonstrated loyalty.
         Omniarch was arranged in the most feasible manner for a vast conspiracy – the public failed to
realize that nearly all activities involving the making or using of money ultimately served Omniarch
interests. As Bianca Trujillo’s handler said to her once, “It’s like erecting a tent from the inside, little
girl. Drive the four stakes down deep enough and every remaining detail is simply automated, without
any discretion whatsoever. Unless you’re willing to uproot the stakes, the work you do is guaranteed to
box yourself in to my tent.”

        When Erik and Jimmy sat down to take Dean Roman’s test, they were told by the proctor to do
whatever they wished with the symbols - to translate them into words, or equations, or rearrange them.
        Jimmy recognized one possible connection in the spatial arrangement of sine points if one
fluctuated an electromagnetic field proportional to corresponding right angles by ignoring gaps to some
spiraling number he couldn’t calculate in the time allotted. And he was too unsure of himself to write a
partial answer. It appeared to him there were too many missing pieces.
        Erik interpreted from the same symbols some of the missing pieces Jimmy failed to see, but Erik
was too proud to write down only a partial answer, and also too suspicious of the vague questions to
admit defeat to them.
        The next day, the boys were called into the dean’s office.
        “Gentleman,” the balding man said, “Congratulations on finishing your exam yesterday.”
        “Thanks,” Jimmy answered with disinterest.
        Erik looked around with skepticism, noticing an oil painting on the wall behind the man’s desk
that showed a red dragon swooping down into a field of scattered sheep.
        The dean spoke again, “I hope you’ve both had time to discuss with each other the holograms on
your test… because if you’re interested in seeing more, I can recommend an organization-”
        “I’m not interested,” Erik interjected.
        Jimmy sided with his best friend.
        The dean prodded, begged, and offered the boys lucrative “adventures” if they would simply
participate in the organization he was pitching. But Erik was resolute. His dad had warned him to
expect Omniarch in every office of authority.
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 23 -

        When his recruitment efforts had failed, the dean reported the results to his Omniarch superior,
Norbert Weishaupt, the same man that served as the handler of Bianca Trujillo, the person who had
threatened Michael Weathers at gunpoint years earlier.
        The angry Weishaupt immediately ordered the dean to meet at his nearby estate.
        And so, later that day, the dean kissed his wife goodbye, and drove out to Weishaupt’s country
        Without the pretense of a greeting, Weishaupt spoke menacingly to the very intimidated man at
the door, “Roman, the universal brotherhood is disappointed in you. Follow me.”
        Roman knew the direction in which they were headed. Torches lit their path to the occult-based
dungeon below the kitchen.
        Weishaupt continued, “Those boys will help us whether they want to or not. Even still, the Order
requires me to punish you for your failure. Listen close… the stage is set, and our eye is omniscient.
Every new birth is brought about by illumination and a just morality. Whatever loyalty those boys show
now to their individuality is but a narrow-minded prejudice incompatible with universal benevolence.
You failed to light their path… so now you will face the fire prepared for you.”
        Roman looked with horror upon the adorned altar in the dungeon. Perched in corners throughout
the room were carved idols of various beasts. He feared a long and tortuous night before him.

        Years earlier Roman had watched Weishaupt brazenly force a Christian who had come to the
mansion into the dungeon where he was brain probed and then murdered.
        The Christian had visited the Weishaupt mansion on numerous occasions as the wealthy
benefactor often wrote checks to Christian churches. But Weishaupt’s ploy was that he would refuse to
write a check until the Christian begged for the money, a conversation Weishaupt used to lure the
Christian into listening to him discuss sacred geometry and the occult as if it were ordained by a law of
        But this particular Christian argued back, “Mr. Weishaupt, with all due respect, I think you can
align your body, soul, and spirit simply by helping others as Christ taught. So inner peace is available to
everyone, not just those smart enough to comprehend the mechanics of dodecahedrons and sacred
geometry. By the same measure, you can predict your own future by following Christ, because you’ll
land yourself in heaven. I mean if every other path leads to destruction, is there really any other future
that counts?”
        Weishaupt decided at that point in the conversation that he wanted to put the Christian inside one
of the dungeon’s mind-probes. Rather than relying exclusively on ordinary electromagnetic principles,
Weishaupt experimented with the brain as a type of torsion-field transceiver, capable of telepathy and
telesomatic effects. This was due to the brain’s ability, he theorized, to link widely separated physical
events instantaneously, where torsion field emanations traveled at velocities exceeding the speed of
        In their tamer fashion Weishaupt’s experiments involved only a massaging of emotional strings
in the pursuit of different forms of ecstasy, but in their harsher form, the experiments were effectively
shattering minds into pieces so small the person could never return to a normal psychology.

        Once inside the probe, the Christian was shown a host of visual details that Weishaupt used to
connect sacred geometry to occult and Omniarch doctrine.
        In one example, the Christian was instructed that a spiraling golden mean torsion vortex
accumulated greater energy as its waves imploded into smaller and smaller wavelengths.
        The Christian responded with his interpretation, “Jesus said the more you humble yourself, the
greater your power.”
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 24 -

        “That’s foolishness,” Weishaupt argued, “like saying you can build a tower without ever leaving
the ground.”
        “That’s not how I see the lesson,” the Christian argued, “because the way you humble yourself is
by honoring others. So the way God repays you for honoring someone else, is by honoring you, not by
humbling you. The tower already exists. It’s God’s tower.”
        Weishaupt laughed in response, his face showing disbelief.
        Then the Christian added, “Does it not make sense that if you cling to your own reason, you will
need your reason to save you? Do you not believe that whatever you measure will be measured back to
        “Rhetoric!” Weishaupt exclaimed before issuing a lethal does of electromagnetism to the
Christian’s brain.

                                            Fork in the Road

       On the same day that Jimmy Tripp accepted a scholarship from MIT, he received a curious
phone call from the Chief of the CIA, congratulating him on his placement in the prestigious institution,
and offering him a confidential phone number he could call for mentoring services, or to simply discuss
technical questions with minds outside academia.
       Erik found it notable that he didn’t receive the same phone call. This was Omniarch’s goal
though, to isolate Jimmy from Erik, who wondered to himself, Divide and conquer?

        Both Erik and Damian were off to UCLA, where Damian enjoyed a baseball scholarship and
Erik accepted full-ride from the mechanical engineering department that promised him special access to
a state-of-the-art robotics laboratory on campus, funded by a multi-billion dollar grant.

        For their high-school graduation party, at Damian’s home, there were two colorful banners. One
read Class of 2117 above the entranceway. And at the other end of the home was a larger banner with
sketches of everybody engaging in school-related activities, drawn by Jimmy’s sister Melanie.
        Melanie was twenty years old and a competent artist. Although she desired to go to art school,
she wasn’t convinced that art was her true love. She only wanted to put herself in a position where her
career hinged on the meaning of life, so at the age of twenty, she lived at home and watched movies.
        Melanie attended community college just to be social. She preferred home study. At the college
she would take just a couple classes each semester, like dance, co-ed softball, sex education, and history
of the Mayans. But her art portfolio was growing, and she believed that eventually she would leave
home and get a job. But as a matter of personal comfort and security, she liked spending time at home
with her mother.

        Betty and Melanie looked alike, with thick brown hair and deep brown eyes complimenting soft
skin. They each had the essence of a very different smile though. It had always been a topic of
conversation among them how different they were since they wore their hair differently and preferred
different styles in clothes.

        The graduation party was a great success. Wendy floated from one conversation to another, as if
she were hosting a charity fundraiser, while a large segment of the baseball team sat together on the
grass with blankets, soda, food, and the ‘cool girls.’
        The Varsity Coach commanded the full attention of Erik and Damian for about ten minutes at the
beginning of the party while he talked about maintaining a solid work ethic in college, “Now boys, you
listen good … I know you don’t need old Mr. Pitt telling you things I’ve told you a hundred times now,
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 25 -

but I want to say this again because I mean it dearly and I’d like to hear you make a promise. When you
play by the rules and stay healthy, you win every time because you enjoy the game. On the field, off the
field, same rules. I expect great things from good boys like you.”
         Enis was the man’s first name, and he spent a good deal of time tracking down students who
chose to make fun of it. Pushups were his penalty of choice. A man of small stature, but fairly wide
around the middle, Enis walked proudly on chubby legs and carried a large round head over his broad
shoulders. On his forearm, hidden by black hair, was a sunlight worn tattoo from his days in the Navy.
         He had arrived at the graduation party wearing a tie striped with the school colors, purple and
yellow, which were also found throughout the party, prompting Enis to joke that his tie was his only
available camouflage in the event he needed to dodge a photo to avoid ruining it.
         The boys promised him that they would always play by the rules and set a good example for
others. Simple, fundamental, Erik thought happily as he snacked pretzels.

        Erik and Damian then meandered to the kitchen area where Melanie was talking to her friend.
Both girls displayed hemp necklaces, though the beads woven within were different.
        “What are your plans for college?” Erik asked the friend.
        His Sophomore year he had an English class with her but they never got to know each other well.
“USC… art school.”
        Damian interrupted while striking a body-builder’s pose, “My favorite medium is actually the
mirror.” Everybody laughed, and then he added, “You know, me and Erik are off to UCLA, so maybe
we’ll see you around. USC is only fifteen minutes away,” and then under his breath he continued, “but
about a galaxy behind in baseball talent.”
        The friend offered a half-smile, half-smirk in Damian’s direction. Then she put her hand on his
shoulder and Damian warmed up to her. As they got to talking about where people in high school were
going to college, and who was dating who, Melanie felt strangely out of place in the moment, given her
age, so Erik asked her about her art work. Damian and the friend just continued to flirt.

        At the end of the party, Damian went off on a walk with Melanie’s friend, and they came back
around nine o’clock holding hands, looking as Erik thought, red-eyed and bushy tailed. The graduation
party set the tone for summer as Erik found himself in the same social loop as Melanie.
        But because Erik was hesitant to make friends with his best friend’s sister, Erik did everything he
could to avoid Melanie, which to Erik’s chagrin, only attracted her into dropping him subtle hints all
summer long.
        As the season dawdled toward Fall, and Erik’s college start-date edged closer, Melanie decided
to take a risk with her feelings for him, so she waited for a day that he was home alone, and she offered
to bring him some extra cookies she had baked. When she came over without any cookies he assumed
she wanted to talk about something private. But when she alighted from the bathroom wearing less than
what she entered with, he realized what she wanted. After he turned her down politely, she told him he
was missing out on something “special.” This made him think twice, but his composure triumphed.
Accomplishing two goals at once, he told her he knew he was probably making a bad decision, and
because of that, they shouldn’t tell anyone about this incident. To his relief, she agreed.

                                              College Rules

       Erik was a virgin entering college, and he aimed to keep it that way until he found love, but as it
would turn out, he fell into lust almost immediately.
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 26 -

        On the recommendation of an academic advisor, Erik and Damian enrolled in a Spanish class.
Neither learned much of the language, yet both were sublimely happy to be there, since in the front of
the class by a sun-lit window, sat Allison Avery.
        She looks like a princess, Damian thought.
        Unfortunately, Erik thought the same.
        Some of the other baseball players in the class, who tended to tag along where Damian went,
failed in various ways to be discreet in their attention toward Allison, which angered the two friends
from Chesterton.

         Each lesson, the instructor required students to stand and recite in Spanish sentences provided to
them by their classmates incorporating the week’s vocabulary lesson. During the third week of class it
was Allison’s third turn. She alighted from her seat, as Erik saw her, and walked briskly to the front of
the room, expecting to hear some of the week’s vocabulary words placed in a simple past-tense sentence
construction. She placed her hands on her hips while a few of her classmates’ hands hung in the air. The
instructor chose one of the ballplayers in the back, Victor Taggard.
         With a joking smirk on his face, Victor chided her, “Please say… my two coconuts are
delicious.” Not one laugh could be heard in the classroom before Erik and Damian rose out of their
seats. The teacher sat there behind his desk with his mouth open, but silent.
         “That’s not our vocab lesson,” Damian roared, “Apologize!”
         Victor answered quickly, “I just thought-”
         “You thought wrong!” Damian said excitedly while blushing.
         The student then turned to the front of the room and said in a timid voice to Allison, “Sorry.”
         Allison’s cheeks were pink as she shuffled back to her seat. Erik didn’t even realize that he was
still standing.
         “Can we just forget about it?” Allison finally said in a hushed whisper.
         The instructor then rose and said, “Yes, let’s do that. Everyone, please stick to the lesson plan.”
         As Allison peered out the window, Erik tried to appreciate what she was seeing – the olive tree
that caught sunlight every class session.

       Then, in the hallway of the large brick building after class, Erik grabbed Victor by the arm and
said menacingly, “Who do you think you are?”
       “She’s hot man. Leave me the fuck alone.” Victor was three inches taller and fifty pounds
heavier than Erik. He was wearing a dull red cap that covered a buzz cut.
       Erik responded, “You’ll apologize to her on Friday, before class, in private, right here-”
       “Screw you dude. It was obvious I was kidding.”
       Erik felt his knuckles tingle. He was clenching his fists and standing up to Victor’s face, edging
closer with each word.

         Meanwhile, Damian had caught up with Allison on the other end of the hall just at the foot of the
stairs leading outside the building. Damian supported her elbow lightly. “Forget about that guy.”
         “Thanks Damian. I do want to let it go. I just -”
         “Well, I hope you don’t see Victor Taggard as representative of anything but himself. I mean-”
         “No… Of course not. I’m just flustered right now, that’s all. It’ll pass.”
         He gently let go of her elbow and put his hand on her shoulder. “So maybe you won’t boycott
UCLA baseball then.”
         She laughed, noticing his friendly smile and his sharp eyes. He was handsome, she thought, and
firm too as she couldn’t help but notice. Damian let her look, as he dropped his hand down to his
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 27 -

pocket. Pride was his vice. Hers was lust, but in her effort not to appear suspiciously checking him out,
she glanced down the hall. “Oh my God!”

        Erik pushed Victor against the wall, and the man didn’t take kindly to it. He swung wide at
Erik’s head with a right hook. Erik dropped his shoulders just in time to avoid the fist that nipped his
falling hair. Rising up with his legs, Erik then sent his right hand into Victor’s jaw. The man fell back
        Damian immediately came sliding in between them, upright and fierce-looking. Victor was
wiggling his jaw and looking woozy while he cursed Erik. Like a bridge, Damian kept one arm
outstretched behind him in Erik’s direction while the other was pressed menacingly on Victor’s chest
pinning him up against the wall.
        “I’ll make your life more than unpleasant if you pursue this,” Damian said to Victor, and then
added, “So relax!”
        As a small crowd gathered, Erik walked outside and gazed up at the sky. Then he took a deep
breath before sitting down on the grass next to Allison’s olive tree, a place he found suitable for regret.
A few onlookers had come out of the building to inquire whether he was okay, and some even suggested
he go somewhere before campus security arrived to take a statement about the fight. But Erik resolved
to think in silence. He feared Allison had watched.

        With olive pits surrounding him, Erik began to wonder whether Damian would try to date her.
After a minute passed, Damian walked outside, ushering Victor to the base of the tree.
        “I’m sorry man, Erik. I don’t want to get in trouble with my coach, or anybody else, and I just
want to say, I can be cool from now on. Okay?”
        Erik nodded his head, and then shook it as he said with indignation, “Fine. Whatever.”
        As Victor walked away, Erik stared him down.
        Damian then said to break the silence, “Don’t worry about that guy… he knows I’ve got your
back. Although… the way you handled yourself in there… damn! That’s not the Erik Weathers I know,
is it?”
        Erik had been holding a leaf in his hand, but he let it fall to the grass as Damian sat down, his
back against the olive tree.
        “I just talked to Allison.”
        “What did she say?” Erik asked in hurried response.
        Picking up on the tone though, Damian’s mind switched into a defensive mode.
        “She’s upset… she doesn’t want me telling the baseball coach about what happened.”
         “What are you going to do?”
        “I’m going to respect her… and I asked her if she’d come to one of my games, you know, not to
hold anyone accountable for Victor’s actions but Victor.”
        Erik’s heart dropped because he knew it was official - he would have to compete with Damian.
        As he sat pondering this fact, Damian talked about Allison’s voice, “You can tell she really cares
about Spanish.”
        Erik then thought excitedly to himself, How could he know that about her?!
        But immediately following this thought, in his better judgment, he realized Damian was only
doing the same things he was doing – building her up in his mind.
        “Damian, man. Can I ask you something as your friend?”
        “Sure bro. You know you don’t have to ask to ask. What’s up?”
        “How much do you like her, on a scale of one to one hundred?”
        Immediately Erik wished he had asked a different question, or any statement that ended with
she’s mine.
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 28 -

      “100” was the response, and it prompted Erik’s stomach to drop for the second time that day.
      “Well, what if she doesn’t want to go out with you? I mean, what if I like her too?”
      Damian’s face was stone as he responded, “That’s fine. We can compete… If it’s not me it’s
some other guy, right?”

         Allison returned to class the next Friday wearing loose jeans, Birkenstocks, and a Bob Marley t-
shirt. It seemed to Erik and Damian that she always dressed conservatively. Indeed, when Victor
harassed her, she had been wearing a very nice cardigan sweater over a summer dress.
         The fact that she wore no makeup accented her puffy cheeks and dark brown eyes. With good
posture, at a height of five feet and nine inches, there was an elegance in her walk complimented by a
shapely body that her present outfit was aimed at concealing. Erik and Damian watched with interest as
she approached them both with a restrained smile. Thick blonde hair flowed to the middle of her back.

       “Hola Damian, como estas?”
       “Muy bien Allison, y tu?”
       “Asi Asi.”

       Erik listened to the exchange between them as he put the finishing touches on his take-home
assignment. He thought maybe Allison had directed the last remark at both of them, that she was feeling
okay, but he didn’t want to look up until she addressed him.

        Damian then said to her, “Allison Avery, have you ever been officially introduced to Erik
Weathers, my best friend?”
        Erik raised his head and gazed deeply into her eyes, as he said, “It’s a pleasure to officially meet
you in my native language.”
        She laughed sweetly and then said to Damian, “We’ve met twice actually, but both times were in
        Then she turned to Erik and imparted softly, “I know what you did on Wednesday, and I just
want to say thank you. But I can handle myself and I don’t need boys getting in trouble and drawing
attention to me. Thanks though.”
        Then, as she and Erik were shaking hands, she used her spare hand to flick Victor’s ear, but
because she leaned too far over to reach him, Erik had to gently pull her back to catch equilibrium.
When she smiled at him in recognition of the moment, he melted. But then she squeezed the hand she
had just shared with him onto Damian’s shoulder before walking away.

       Allison happened to live in the same dormitory building as Damian, so they began studying
Spanish together about twice per week. However, because Erik never received an invitation from either
of them to join in the study sessions, he never showed an interest in attending.

        It was at a toga party inside a small mansion near campus that Allison had her first kiss with
Damian. Outside, the wind engulfed the house, but the dancing inside drove the temperature high and
steamed the windows, which displayed all sorts of strange messages.
        Allison felt natural having fun with Damian, and as he dazzled on the dance floor, she enjoyed a
great deal of pride in being his date, so when they kissed upstairs alone in one of the mansion’s
bedrooms she was excited about the spark of a relationship.
         It was a wonderful experience for both of them until Allison reminded herself that she didn’t
want to have a first kiss so heavily tainted by alcohol. However, when they stopped kissing, they began
drinking more and talking more, and then found themselves kissing again. So when she stopped the
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                                                                                             - 29 -

intimacy for the second time, although he played it off casually, on the inside he actually felt quite
defensive, which ended the night in awkwardness.

       By their next date it was obvious they didn’t get the grand beginning to a sexual relationship they
both knew they deserved, so they agreed to be friends rather than compromise the desire to live a fairy

                                                 Free Bird

        Erik developed the morning routine of picking up an angry political journal on his doorstep and
delivering it to his happy coffee. His mobile phone came equipped with an “aura” reader.
        The world as he saw it was full of injustice, and the older he became, the more he hoped to
venture outside of America to see these problems for himself.
        Damian thought his friend’s reasoning unwise. “People who want to travel are rarely the ones
that need to … because if you didn’t already possess the critical mind you want to obtain through
observation, you wouldn’t want to observe injustices in the first place.”
        But Erik replied that he had to go out into the world to know the extent of his biases. They
agreed to disagree.

        Damian matured a great deal in college, including learning from his experience with Allison to
be more courteous and genuine. The experience also reiterated a mantra he’d known a long time – never
make mistakes. He entered Major League Baseball’s year 2121 draft as a senior, expecting to get picked
up in the first round.

        Jimmy ended his fourth year at MIT feeling burnt out, but Erik recommended he pursue some
more PhDs. It was Erik’s reasoning that if Jimmy’s neurotic impulses were suppressed by a job at the
age of 20, then Jimmy was likely to experience emotional backlash making him less productive at work,
and which would eventually require some type of psychiatry. If Jimmy matures for another two years,
Erik reasoned, he’s more likely to settle down and start programming more methodically. Ultimately,
Erik thought, I might as well just tell him what he wants to hear, because you can only lead someone in
the direction they’re already going. So he told Jimmy he should try to find a girlfriend at MIT.

         Eventually Omniarch abandoned its divide and conquer strategy for Erik and Jimmy, and
redoubled its efforts to recruit them together to certain special agencies of the United States government
that were Omniarch-controlled. One such meeting had taken place during Spring Break. A top NASA
official arranged an outing to one of its special facilities in Washington where the young geniuses could
have fun trying different space voyage simulators. Erik knew it was staged that the NASA ‘technicians’
at the simulator facility who helped them adjust their jumpsuits were attractive young women.

       Even though Erik’s UCLA Robotics scholarship allowed him the luxury of his own apartment,
he remained a virgin as a college senior, since the handful of women he had found time to date
ultimately failed to measure par with his expectations. He wanted Allison Avery. She wanted to change
the world.

         Consequently, Erik enrolled in another Spanish language class. He reasoned that if he could
learn the language, he could participate with an environmental-activist group on campus, which he had
first learned about from Allison. The program sent a handful of students each year to a war-ravaged
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 30 -

town in Nicaragua, to help the local government tailor its environmental regulations to parcels of
property inside its jurisdiction.

        Erik learned while attending one of AE’s meetings that at the turn of the Millennium, the
Socialist revolution against Communist rule in Nicaragua resulted in a bloody war that the Nicaraguan
people generally wanted to forget. Because certain corporate interests aligned with the American
government had armed the Socialist opposition with “battle bots” and “weapons of mass destruction,”
the United Nations insisted that America should take a backseat in Nicaraguan political affairs. The
indirect result of this U.N. initiative was that corporate interests and government were dissuaded from
investing money in Nicaragua.
        Even though communism fell, the new Socialist government was bankrupt, so it declared a state
of emergency and refused to fulfill its original revolutionary promises – to halt the mafia-style
cooperative farming and nationally owned industrial complexes that had taken over the countryside, and
to remit to property owners the land that the Communist government had appropriated over the last
hundred years.
        But slowly, an Environmental party called VerdeVida, or GreenLife, began to displace the
Socialist Legislature. The result of this political shift was that many Socialist legislators began to
abandon Communist tendencies and start giving land back to the people.
        However, since most of the police and regulators in Nicaragua lacked the experience necessary
to enforce the government’s new environmental and property laws, progress was slow. Compounding
this problem, assets were scarce as many people in the war-torn nation were living in poverty. The few
powerful individuals who had exploited Nicaragua’s natural resources during Communist rule had long
since laundered Nicaragua’s treasury in the stock market and diverted it through foreign banks.

         Radomir benefited from this illicit overseas treasury by selling battle bots to the Communist war
machine through his terrorist connections. When the war ended, Radomir used his profits to start a new
life for himself in America, a life that not only included the elaborate laboratory he maintained in the
family’s attic, but also, a large warehouse devoted to his foster son’s interest in robotics manufacturing.
         Mechanical engineering had become Vigo’s specialty, and Radomir capitalized on this by selling
to a Vietnamese corporation a bundle of plumbing-robot designs that Vigo generated during the ages of
fourteen and fifteen. But in spite of Radomir’s secret fortune, the Sadovich family lived modestly.
         “Are we rich?” Vigo asked one day.
         “No son,” Radomir replied, “wealth is for the satisfied.”

        At the age of sixteen, Vigo’s migraine headaches became so incapacitating, the young savant
often refused to leave his bedroom. Radomir then began attempting hypnosis, and the process was
highly awkward for both of them. Radomir told Vigo that many things were channeling through his
hypnotic powers to heal Vigo’s migraines, including demons and devils, and angels and gods. When
Radomir could see by the monitors that Vigo was asleep, he experimented on Vigo with a form of
hypnosis he had read in a novelty occult book.

        As Vigo found himself questioning Radomir’s more outrageous hypnotic suggestions, he
changed his name to Vigorchium. When Radomir refused to honor the new name, Vigorchium made a
stark realization, If you’re crazy, you have to find someone more intelligent than yourself to dub you
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 31 -

       And so, Vigorchium stole a large wad of cash from Radomir’s safe, traveled to San Francisco,
and immediately began posting anonymous messages on internet discussion boards in the hopes of
finding a kindred spirit to help him unravel his psychological knots.

         Radomir was devastated. Days later he found Vigorchium’s note left under the family’s sugar
jar. It read, “I must abandon our work together. I am not well. The most important thing about
psychology is to never have anything in your life to be ashamed about, because if you do, you’ve

                                       The Dodecahedron of Life

        “Guess who?” Allison excited as she covered Erik’s eyes with her soft hands.
        He had been waiting for AE’s meeting to start and speaking with the leader of the student
organization, Eduardo Martine, when Allison had surprised him from behind the table.
         Erik answered, “Abraham Lincoln.”
        “You two know each other?” the group leader interrupted. He was a Nicaraguan-born graduate
student who had taken a boat illegally to America at the age of fourteen after being sentenced to
imprisonment for inciting the overthrow of the Communist government.
        Allison swung around the furniture and placed her right hand on top of Erik’s head. His heart
was pounding. “Sure do,” she answered, “I dated Erik’s best friend, but that was a long time ago….
Wasn’t it Erik?”
        Erik nodded.
         “He also saved me from a bully once,” she added. Her blonde hair swayed in the opposite
direction of her body, next to where Eduardo was standing across from Erik. Then she put her arm
around Eduardo and said, “Thanks again for keeping my honor, Erik. You’re a good friend.”
        Is she Eduardo’s girlfriend? Erik thought as his blood pulsed rapidly.
         “Are you two dating?” Jealousy came naturally to him.
        Eduardo explained in response that he and Allison had gone on a date once, but it ended badly
when a waiter dropped spaghetti in his lap, and on the drive home he rear-ended a Ferrari. The evening
news thought it was a funny story that witnesses reported the driver bleeding in the crotch. Allison
offered to pay the deductible for the Ferrari repairs, but Eduardo wouldn’t have it.
        Building her up in his mind, Erik wondered whether Allison recognized she was a greater
distraction than a Ferrari.
        To change the conversation, Allison said with an easy smile, “I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”
        In fact, Allison thought it best to ignore signs of fate, with the exception, Fate works wonders as
an excuse.

        A week later, an e-mail went out to the group about certain particulars of the Nicaragua trip.
Erik wrote Allison a separate e-mail that evening saying that he wanted her phone number because he
wanted to ask her out on a date, but if she wouldn’t mind acting surprised when he called it would be
“more enchanting.”
         When he called three days later, she happily kept up the charade, and it turned out that riding the
wave of a joke made it easy for her to ask questions that would have otherwise felt uncomfortable, given
their past. So, in an almost seductive, high-society voice she asked him about his intentions. He said
he’d have her home by six o’clock, but if by chance the buggy were to break down, he feared her father
might set out on horseback with the sheriff and a local posse. She joked that her iron corset was all the
protection she needed. Even on the phone he noticed her voice came across harmonically.
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                                                                                            - 32 -

        They talked a lot about people and careers on their first date. She was a biology major with law
school intentions.
        “Law is the best way to change the world,” she said during their candlelight dinner, “and the
most fair.”
        “Maybe it is the most fair,” he replied, “but it’s usually not the quickest.”
        “What’s that supposed to mean?” she laughed under the heat lamps of the outdoor café.
        He smiled tentatively, “It doesn’t really matter… time is what keeps everything from happening
at once anyway.”
        He was good at making her laugh in the way he said things, an attribute he knew, however, that
Damian had been even better with.
        Eventually she returned to the subject, “I said the best, not the quickest.”
        “But you also said ‘most fair,’ which suggests the ‘best,’ so why would you be duplicative?”

       After several dates it had become apparent they enjoyed debating each other, and she loved to
hug him. She squeezed so hard, he thought in happy wonderment, Does she think I’m gonna let go?

        Dating Allison was enchanting, Erik told himself, still unaware of Allison’s true identity. He had
begun lifting weights as soon as they began to date. And he experienced a type of ‘movie star problem’
in Allison’s presence. It was her beauty and charisma that elevated his ego, and the challenge, he
reasoned, was to embrace humility to balance the scales of his psychology. That he enjoyed this
challenge, and that she enjoyed rising to the challenge of his intellect, led to something they knew was
very important between them. Occasionally he found himself biting his lower lip. She curled hers.

        Allison Avery was indeed no ordinary college student, but rather one of thirty-seven eligible
heirs to an Earthly secret about the dodecahedron, one of the five Platonic solids. As of the year 2119,
there were many shapes that scientists suspected of having special metaphysical entanglement with free
will and the golden ratio, α. But variations on the dodecahedron were special. Allison’s dad described
these facts to her when she was six years old, able to meaningfully grasp the geometry. He also
explained that since he and Allison’s mother both came from European royal bloodlines, she was a
princess. This small secret allowed her ego to bloom privately. She dared not tell a soul.

        According to the legend passed down from her ancestors, a select group of humans within the
brotherhood of the Knights Templar, who had fled from Omniarch’s infiltration of the Knights Templar,
used the dodecahedron secret every day to combat aliens seeking to consume God’s gift of free will in
humankind. The way her parents told this story, the alien invaders were not evil, they were just hungry
and selfish.
        She asked her dad when she was a little girl, “Why doesn’t God protect us?”
        Her dad answered decisively, “Honey, God doesn’t discriminate among humans and aliens. He
loves all creatures equally, and He has protected us… He’s given us this secret.”
        “Is it love?” she asked.
        “Yes, but it’s also something more complex and imaginative. The dodecahedron of life is the
desire to change, to desire free will.”

        Omniarch loyalist Norbert Weishaupt had long been after the royal secret. He believed the astral
mediums that channeled through his mediation exercises were telling him he could not ascend to the
next level of consciousness without it. Had he known the true identity of the Averys, he would hunted
them down and extracted it.
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 33 -

       Weishaupt suspected the astral planes he saw during meditation, which referred to themselves as
“angels,” were actually aliens trying to take over the earth, a view shared widely in the upper echelons
of Omniarch. As Weishaupt believed an alien takeover was inevitable, he decided to help them conquer
mankind, rationalizing the strategy offered him the best chance of saving himself.


        On the morning of her birthday, Allison was woken up by eight hands, dragged out of bed, and
driven to a café in a limousine. Wearing baby blue cotton pajamas with cows jumping over moons, she
attracted the attention of everyone in the café. She also had two balloons tied to her wrists.
        After breakfast her friends marshaled her to a nearby park where one of the girls brought out a
marijuana cigarette. It was 11:30 a.m.
        She called Erik a few hours later. He could tell that she was more talkative than usual as they
moved from the topic of dorm food to the issue of whether rich kids should have the right to a publicly
funded education.
        Their conversation continued for nearly another hour, mostly about what services qualify as
“health care,” until she ran out of steam, but it was a pleasant type of fizzle that ended with her deciding
she’d take a nap, so she asked Erik to cancel their birthday dinner reservations. As he set down the
phone, he actually wanted to smoke a joint himself, which was an awkward feeling he hadn’t
experienced in a long time.

        He walked over to her building later that night. Her roommate answered the door with a bright
smile, taking Erik by the elbow and leading him inside. She told him Allison was sleeping but if he
wanted to wait in her bedroom it would be okay. Erik turned her down frankly with a very stern look on
his face that read, ‘even if I didn’t have a girlfriend!’
        He then gently opened the door to Allison’s room and took a knee at the foot of her bed. She was
asleep as he listened to her breathing for a few seconds. When he kissed her on the forehead she woke
up with a gentle smile on her face. “How long have you been here?” she asked.
        “I just got here… Does your roommate always walk around in her underwear?”
        “Actually yes. She is such a flirt, I can’t believe we ever let her live here. At first she …. you
know what, it doesn’t even matter.” Allison waved the tips of her hair in the process of softly moving
her head back and forth, complete with a quasi-smirk of ambivalence. “It’s my birthday and I’m just
going to be happy you’re here.”
        “I brought you something.” He handed her a box and a blue card. She opened the box, lifted off
the paper inside, and took out a yellow hat. “Oooh, I like it Erik, thank you.”
        “Sure. Read the card.” He smiled as she opened the envelope. It was a letter detailing ten
qualities he liked about her. Ironically, the last one was “I think you’re a princess.”
        Later that evening under a full moon they picked up burgers, fries and shakes, and sat on the
beach listening to the ocean. As she ate fries Allison said to him, “You know what I thought today…if
everything in the world were being recorded, then it wouldn’t be of as much consequence that one wrote
about life, because there would be a better and more accurate version somewhere in the universe.”
        Erik reached in like a raptor and took a bite of her fry just as he responded, “Perception is our
currency, Ally, your perception is the most valuable thing in the universe … your consequence makes
everything else possible because at every moment, you advise the space you occupy that you exist to the
exclusion of everything else that isn’t you in your spacetime.”

        It was a beautiful sunny day, officially the first day of Spring Quarter, when they made love for
“the first spacetime,” as he called it later that night. Her birthday had been one month earlier, and
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                                                                                            - 34 -

although they both had wanted to say ‘I love you’ at the beach that day, ultimately they quietly
embraced the social construct that it was naïve to think two people could fall so deeply in love that
quickly. When they finally did say “I love you” to each other for the first time, in the moments before
Erik lost his virginity, they both believed it with great optimism. Allison’s yellow birthday hat soon
became her favorite wardrobe item.

         After Erik advised his parents of his plans to volunteer in Nicaragua, in her nightmares Charlotte
watched Erik suffocating alone in a Nicaraguan field, or taking gunfire to his skull. In these dreams Erik
would frequently bleed from his eyes as he spoke of evil, causing her to wake up in a cold sweat. To
her, it was as if reality was better than dreams, but reality was what she feared all the same.
         “He’ll be a target,” she pleaded to Michael, but he had no answers for his wife. To Michael, it
was as if the world came to their door and knocked for Erik.
         After deliberating with his wife, Michael resolved to send letters to Erik after he had been away
for a week. Charlotte believed that after he’d seen the danger, he might be willing to change his mind.
Blinded by fear, the Weathers took a disliking to Allison, though they had never even met the young

       Allison’s dad was adamant as he argued with his daughter, “How is it a good idea to go to a war
ravaged nation still teeming with criminals vocally filled with hate towards foreigners, especially the
Americans who had armed the revolutionaries with weapons that caused Nicaragua’s Civil War?”
       Her mother pleaded with her similarly, “Allison, love, you look in the mirror and you see a
happy young woman, but you have to realize that in some places, the reflection you give is of prey.
You’re incapable of not standing out, and if you don’t realize that, we can’t… your dad and I don’t
know what to say.”
       At the end of the discussion, her parents asked if there was anything they could say or do to stop
her from leaving. She told them positively, “I’m sorry.”


        Allison insisted that before leaving America Erik should meet her parents, so they headed out of
their college town of Westwood in her graduation gift, a two-door luxury car, and made their way North
to Santa Cruz.
        The Averys, Allison’s family, knew that a sizeable earthquake could erase the cliff from under
their house, but this was a threat they bought twenty years ago, and part of the cover-up of their true
identities, since a person would not expect royalty to live on such a dangerous slope.
        Although Veronica and Tim Avery had disagreements on raising an only-child, they agreed to
spare no expense when it came to raising Allison. Consequently, since high-school Allison had been
rebelling against their money in her own way, though making exceptions occasionally for fashion.
        A small fortune was waiting for Allison the moment she said “please.” But she didn’t. Allison
Avery decided to start from scratch in college. She told herself early on, tuition and expenses aside, she
was determined to become independent to the point of self-sufficient.
         In 6th grade she had competed in the national elementary school debate. She lost early. Seven
years later she and her parents were back in the Nation’s Capitol and her speech was about the ocean. At
five minutes it was a succinct analysis of the tension between California fishing interests and the natural
marine environment. All five judges believed Allison’s speech was very much in the top ten, but her
delivery and passion for both sides won the day. She was awarded a scholarship, which amounted to
more than four years tuition at the college of her choice. She felt guilty winning a scholarship when her
parents could afford to pay for her schooling. She chose not to go to a school where she would need
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 35 -

more money than the value of her scholarship. Her standardized test scores and high-school grades were
above average for UCLA.

        It was seven o’clock on a Saturday evening that Spring when she and Erik arrived at her parent’s
beach house. Her left hand laid gently on his leg, but the right one was nervously thumbing the radio
dial even as they turned onto the court. “Sure you don’t want to grab a milkshake or something? I mean,
we are early.” She was looking up at him with wide-eyes and a pouty smile.
        “No, come on! I can’t wait to meet your parents. What’s not to love about me? I’m rich, wealthy,
affluent, moneyed …” he had run out of synonyms but stalled with a look she knew meant he was
digging for another.
        Being able to predict what he was thinking made her feel good about them as a couple. She
squeezed his leg and lifted her body up in her seat at the same time. Then she moved her mouth only
millimeters from his ear. “Only I get to make fun… okay weather boy. Besides, they already have
money. What they really want is someone to spend it on.”
        Her tone was melancholy and he responded by reciprocating the squeeze. As they walked to the
front door he thought to himself, Someone to spend it on? Son-in-law?
        She paused to take a deep breath before turning a key in the lock. At that moment, he had two
fingers resting gently on her lower back just above the belt line, and her mind reiterated an issue that
began the moment they first made love, this boy better love me.

        Erik felt a welcoming atmosphere inside. The house was spacious and tastefully decorated in
Earth tones. It was modern without overemphasizing electronics. From the kitchen came an aroma that
Erik noticed immediately as lobster. Allison’s mother greeted them – two hugs, each as long and warm
as the other. She had a beautiful voice, just like Allison’s with syllables that entered the ear on cue like
melodies from a forgotten song.
        Mr. Avery insisted, with outstretched hand, that Erik call him Tim. He asked practical questions
about the drive, whether the car ran okay and if they saved an appetite for dinner. Erik felt right at home
within a matter of minutes, except he noticed Allison was acting differently, like her voice morphed
some. She was nervous, he thought. Veronica moved them from the family room to the living room for
drinks. Tim offered sodas as he stood with Veronica who was also holding a glass of white wine. They
had every kind of soda, he said.
        Erik noticed the rinds on the lemon slices were notched evenly, except one slice on the kitchen
counter that was apparently discarded for mis-numbered notches or else an uneven cut.

        The evening was nice. Allison tried with all her cunning to make Erik believe, or at least
wonder, whether she wasn’t as pampered as he knew she could be. Because he had teased her when
they were alone in her bedroom before “bedtime” that she might get an unexpected visitor in the night,
in the morning he couldn’t figure out why she was pouting until a few hugs changed the score. Soon
afterwards, the ‘family’ was off to church.

        The cathedral was a beautiful stone church with gloriously intentioned stained glass windows,
but at the time they entered, a cool Santa Cruz fog hid the windows from the sun. It was an old building
with pews that creaked so loud people were afraid to budge. Allison sat next to her dad and Erik sat at
his other side. Chatting quietly with a few friends before the proceedings started, Veronica stood at the
back of the church.

      The Weathers family had never attended church services by themselves, though they would
sometimes go with Jimmy’s family on holidays. Michael and Charlotte had told Erik that if he ever
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                                                                                            - 36 -

wanted to go, they would go with him, but that it was enough for them personally to think or pray at
home in private. He assumed they did pray in private, though he never saw them do it, and he never did
it. Erik rationalized once that only zealots elevated prayer above work, since in his mind, prayer was an
act of consumption, like playing a game since it accomplished nothing but self-entertainment. Sitting
there with Allison and her dad, Erik felt an uncomfortable peace, like he shouldn’t be there, but since he
was, it was peaceful.
        As soon as the priest began orating, Erik turned into his own mind, closing his eyes from
moment to moment. At one point the priest said through his microphone, “The blind man wanted to
see.” Erik analogized to having his eyes closed. Then a few seconds later, a churchgoer sneezed behind
him. Erik thought to himself in jest, the blind man wanted to sneeze. He sat wondering whether the
similarity between the words “see” and “sneeze” would have come to his mind if the person behind him
sneezed before the priest said “the blind man wanted to see.” Soon after these thoughts happened the
priest began tossing water droplets onto parishioners from the center aisle. It was a Catholic blessing he
was unfamiliar with. One of the droplets landed on his arm and he thought of a sneeze again. God bless
you he joked to himself. Then he wondered almost out loud, What is logic?
        At brunch he could not shake the question’s context. What does logic require? A logical
chemical process utilizes interchangeable mechanisms, so …
        But, conversation was happening and he couldn’t ignore it, especially around Allison’s parents.
Don’t be a space case! he cautioned himself. The waiters wore black ties, and the food was elegantly
arranged on his plate as he looked down at it trying to abandon his deep thoughts. He had ordered one of
the restaurant’s gourmet omelets while Allison had ordered the fresh fruit waffles, which she said was
her favorite menu item. Erik noted to himself to remember the comment.

        Over Veronica’s passive protest and Tim’s vocal indifference, the group did not shop for ‘school
supplies’ downtown because Allison suggested that instead, they go home and make half-sandwiches
and snacks for a late afternoon picnic, after which, she and Erik would head off to San Francisco, where
Erik’s parents were staying with his Aunt.

        And so, Allison and Erik found themselves in the Avery kitchen charged with the task of making
peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while Tim and Veronica sat together quietly in the study reading and
whispering. The kitchen window faced out towards the ocean and the sky was clearer now. Despite the
simplicity of the order, Erik was having a difficult time finding kitchen utensils among all the cabinets.
But she just watched him search without saying a word. He saw her gently biting her lower lip to
conceal a smile, and he thought, I must be looking in the wrong place again. But after he found
everything he needed, her lip didn’t budge, so as he spread peanut butter across the soft white bread, he
imagined she was having an internal conversation with herself, and she liked what she was hearing.
        “I love you Erik,” she mumbled inaudibly to herself as she watched him, and then she thought, If
you asked me I’d say yes and I’d make you sandwiches forever. Erik meanwhile was concentrating on
the task at hand, folding each sandwich neatly in wax paper, but then he heard a sniffle. When he looked
over, he saw she was crying. “Allison, baby, what’s wrong?” When her mouth opened wider the tears
came running down and she stood up from her chair. He embraced her in complete oblivion – What did I
do? What didn’t I do? What did I say? Does she have some bad PB&J memory? When she squeezed all
around his waist and belly he got the picture clear enough, and they went outside to get some fresh air. It
always seemed to him that when somebody started crying, they ought to be moved someplace.
        The picnic was a pleasant experience as Tim and Veronica talked mostly about their jobs and the
students talked mostly about school. Earlier at brunch they had discussed the big trip to Nicaragua,
which Erik knew was not a comfortable conversational piece for her parents, so he had been especially
careful choosing his words. For the picnic, he packed four individual drinks, which he thought to
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 37 -

himself was a small projection of personalities - a lemonade for Veronica, root beer for Tim, Coca-Cola
for himself, and iced tea for Allison.
       Before leaving home Allison spent a good deal of time getting ready. She straightened her hair
and was wearing a conservative sweater with small embroidered flowers along the shoulder seams. Her
green dress fell fashionably straight to her ankles. Erik commented specially on the sandals as they left
the Avery house, which were imprinted with shooting stars. I like that, he thought. She was very excited
to meet his parents.

        On the drive to San Francisco Erik wondered why he had any desire at all to attribute sodas to
personalities. It’s like a silly kind of normal, he thought, I guess it’s human nature to identify with
consumer products.
        Allison talked about the future nearly the whole drive to San Francisco, hinting about marriage.
He understood that since they would soon be traveling to Nicaragua together he should give her some
latitude to plan their future, but it just did not seem right to him for two people who hadn’t committed
yet to talk about what they would name their kids. He loved her, but was unsure what he would have to
sacrifice because of it.
        In San Francisco, over rolling hills and expensive homes, the moon glowed brighter as it poked
through a spot in the clouds at seven o’clock when they pulled up to Erik’s Aunt Cathy’s house on a hill
overlooking the Marina.
        The home had been built a decade ago, and a decade later Cathy was divorced. Polished granite
steps led up to a carved walnut trim doorway. Two stories tall and white as a cloud, the structure came
complete with a partial view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
        When they were married, Cathy and her ex-husband were both very adamant collectors of
antiques. In the divorce, as the condition for not having to sell the house and split the proceeds of the
sale, Cathy took title to the house and the ex-husband gained possession of virtually all of the antiques.
Consequently, Cathy gave up collecting. As she had rationalized over coffee one day to Charlotte, “If
somebody took your journal, would you just start over?”

        Since Allison was nervous about meeting Erik’s parents, she resolved to use Veronica Avery’s
social graces. And so at Cathy’s house she greeted everyone with big hugs, then took a seat next to Erik
on the couch and folded her legs. Charlotte noticed right away the young couple holding hands. It made
her happy and for the moment, she forgot about Nicaragua. Michael purposefully avoided the topic of
anything foreign, choosing instead to ask about Allison’s studies and where she saw her career going.
        Allison had been the first to broach the subject of Nicaragua, but she did so by relating it to her
coursework, which helped smooth the transition to the AE Program and also made the Country’s
problems seem more theoretical than they were imminent. Although Charlotte was only somewhat
impressed with Allison’s technical knowledge in the fields of biology and chemistry, she was very
impressed by the way the young lady tied a conversation together so eloquently, like a mediator,
Charlotte thought.

       That night they parked with the valet only feet before the door to the restaurant, and a beggar
walked into Charlotte. His Caucasian face was caked with a filthy soot and he smelled of urine. Upon
impact the brown bag in his hand fell to the ground and shattered. The host of the restaurant happened to
be looking out the window at the time, and he came rushing out to assist. Erik was the first to step in
between his mother and the homeless man. Everyone’s shoes cracked glass under their feet.
       “Hey!” Erik excited.
       “Erik! Please.” Charlotte then cautioned while pulling her son aside. Allison stood by the
doorway with Cathy when Michael came hurrying up to where his family huddled together. The beggar
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reached down to pick up his bag. He looked very nervous and scared as everyone around him stared and
spoke to him. The shards of glass were too fine for him to scoop up, but he tried anyway, and he cut the
side of his palm trying. Michael stood there with a bewildered look on his face, as did the host. The
beggar was obviously under some influence, and for the lack of sense he had shown trying to sweep up
shards of glass with his hands.
        Abruptly though, it seemed to those watching his every move, he dropped his openly bleeding
hand into his pocket and began to walk away in shame or else suspicion. The host ordered a valet
attendant to bring the broom, at which point Allison walked over to Erik, who was getting red in the
face. She began to loosen his tie. “What are you doing?” Erik asked.
        “I’m going to give that homeless man your tie and tell him he should wash himself and maybe go
to a hospital, but at least a shelter. He’s bleeding and he’s wiping his hand with the outside of urine
soaked clothing.”
        As she lifted the tie off his head, he pleaded with her, “Don’t, please. He’s bleeding, and he
        Charlotte chimed in, “He might what, honey? Give her a disease, harm her in some way. How do
you think you’re ready to go to Nicaragua if you won’t let her help people?”
        Allison then asked the host for a glass of soapy water. He immediately set himself to a fast walk
in the direction of the kitchen. Meanwhile, the beggar turned into an alley less than a block away.
        As Allison held the tie in her hand, Erik responded to his mother’s comment by asking, “Why
does this event today with this homeless person have to be representative of Nicaragua?”
        Cathy interrupted, “It’s a fair example.”
        Charlotte answered, “Every choice you make involves risks because there are no guarantees in
life. And practically, there are less guarantees in Nicaragua.”
        When the host arrived back with water, Allison dipped the larger half of the tie into the pale.
        Erik then said before they began walking, “Why don’t you let me give him the tie and water?”
        Cathy responded first, “She’s a big girl, Erik. If you don’t let a woman breathe how do you
expect her to live?” Charlotte put her arm around Cathy’s shoulders and smiled.
        The wind picked up as they neared the alley, and the host and the valet parkers watched in
amazement as their guests turned the corner into the place the restaurant used for its garbage bins. It was
dark and smelled mostly of wet garbage while the wind blew back everyone’s hair. Cathy and Michael
held back at the entranceway, which was close to where the beggar was standing. Erik walked in first in
front of his mother and Allison.
        He was leaning against a wall muttering inanities to himself, “…fistful… dropped it….”

       Allison spoke first, “Excuse me, we just saw you in front of the restaurant. I’d like to give you
something for your hand.” He didn’t look up.
       “I didn’t say it.” He muttered under his breath.
       “Let me see your hand. Okay? Walk with me over to the light. Okay?”
       He followed her over to the single lamp that lit the alley. It cast a bright yellow glow down on
the garbage bins. Erik was burning his eyes into the man’s upper body. He knew at all times if the
beggar reacted toward anyone he would react first. His mind shuffled possibilities quickly. Allison’s
hands were soft and delicate. She had no calluses or cuts, but as she reached out to hand him the tie, she
trembled, thinking this tie represents an excess in my world, useable in his.
       He then muttered, “I didn’t want to… that’s not for me… pretty light-”
       “You need to see a doctor,” Erik interrupted.
       In a sharp motion the beggar jumped back. Allison let go of the tie at once and fell back into
Erik. The word ‘doctor’ had startled the creature, she thought instinctively. The man then sat on the
ground shaking his head, clearly delusional to all observing him.
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        Charlotte rested her hands on Allison’s shoulders. “Are you okay, dear?”
        “I’m fine. I was just … startled. That’s all.”
        Erik was restless and visibly angry. He realized and paused thoughtfully. He then said, “Look,
we’ll just leave him the tie. His wound is not our problem. Let’s just call the police, tell them what
happened, and then public health will come down and deal with the guy. It’s obvious he needs
medication, not a bear tie, which’ll be dirty as he is by morning unless we make the call for him.”
        While her eyes drooped, Allison could not help the frown that followed them, as she realized
Erik was right, that the man did not have the wherewithal to help himself. It was a sad moment. She
believed in grassroots kindness. Erik deferred to the institutional controls.
        She hoped to live in a world where she could give the benefit of her doubt to strangers. The guy
dropped his liquor and he probably wouldn’t have cut his hand if anybody had pushed him away before
he reached down for the glass? It all happened so fast. There may be something wrong with walking
away to eat a gourmet meal while the man you just bumped into is mentally ill and bleeding in an alley.
        Erik saw it differently. That guy walked into my mom and dropped his liquor because his
motions are impaired. He cut his hand because he didn’t have the sense not to. This is not our problem.
He thought to some extent Allison was trying to be something she could never be.
        While Allison and Charlotte went to the bathroom to wash their hands, Erik called the Public
Health Office. It was closed so he left a message describing the man, his location, and the incident,
especially what the man had muttered. Then he called the police station and left a similar message, but
with less urgency.

        Cathy soon became Allison’s biggest fan. Dinner was good as they all shared a bottle of red
wine. But for the group, it was difficult to appreciate the little things that made a meal special, like the
intricate cut of the vegetables and the friendly ambience when they knew outside less than two hundred
feet away a crazy person was probably thinking about them. Allison did the best she could to put on her
Veronica Avery face again, as she directed the conversation among world topics. It gave everyone at the
table some comfort to talk about social issues.

       Allison suspected that Cathy was not Charlotte’s real sister when Cathy complimented Allison at
almost every opportunity in the conversation, “Such a beautiful voice … What a lovely story that was…
Oh my goodness, how sweet. Your parents must be just so proud of you.”

        Charlotte wondered continually what her parents were like. She could see why Erik loved her,
but at the moment, he wasn’t acting like it, which made her root for Allison more than she intended.

         The following week, while Erik was at his parent’s house, his mother brought in a tomato vine
from the family greenhouse and placed it in front of Erik for him to smell. In that moment he had been
entertaining second thoughts about Nicaragua. Little did he know, the very plant before his eyes was
presenting him the opportunity to observe the future, encoded in obscure sinusoidal distributions of heat
from photosynthesis. Had he the tools and wherewithal to do so, Erik could have decoded the
differential equations being presented to his senses in vibrations, a procession of icosahedrons and
dodecahedrons outlaying a small slice of the future – danger lurks along a Nicaraguan river, of a type
that is decisive of one’s morality. But alas, Erik simply plucked the largest tomato from the vine, and
tossed it to his mother.
         Meanwhile, Charlotte thought to herself, A flowering plant slowly reveals its secrets, but if the
flower is tugged unnaturally into position it breaks.
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                                              Excess Kills

        Vigo spent months trying to find someone on the internet worthy of his secrets. Instead he
voluntarily checked himself into a beautiful-looking mental hospital in Oregon. Shortly after admission,
he was diagnosed by one of the resident psychiatrists as an autistic with suicidal tendencies. Vigo
regretted admitting himself to the hospital almost immediately, but he was relieved that advanced
acupuncture helped ease the headaches.

        After shaving Vigo’s head, the acupuncturist discovered a scar with curiously formed geometric
shapes that resembled dodecahedrons fused together in the shape of a claw. He pinned away with

        Meanwhile, a very nicely dressed man with slick black hair, Manuel Torrealmo, greeted Erik,
Allison, and the other volunteers at the Nicaraguan airport. The group leader, Eduardo, approached the
large man with papers for the group extended, but Manuel just embraced Eduardo and shook him from
side to side as he said “Bienvenidos.” He was an enormous man by any country’s standards, weighing
approximately three hundred pounds, and standing six feet, six inches.
        When Eduardo introduced the group in Spanish, Manuel just laughed. It was a bellowing jolly
laugh and very soothing to the ready ears that exited the plane.
        “Please, please, you are guests here. I will speak English. You will find that many of the people
you work with here will speak English, okay.”
        Erik sighed with relief.
        Manuel walked in enormous strides wearing a black suit with pin stripes, obviously a custom fit.
The suit was well worn on the elbows, suggesting to Erik the big man worked a steady desk job and
wore the jacket often.

        HQ sat below a small, green hill. Shaped like a “U,” the two story mission-style building gave
the appearance the windows had windows. It was the most expensive building in all of the small village
of Clara Bonita. Allison thought recent summer rains made the hill to which HQ was connected very
lush. She mentioned poetically on the drive up the cobblestone pathway, “Rain bounces color up from
the roots.” Erik enjoyed hearing it but thought she was nerdy all the same.
        Manuel led them around the building and introduced every member of the group to every person
working at HQ.
        One of the volunteers named Ernie felt compelled to make a joke out of the hookah he spotted
alongside the building behind a picnic table. “Is that the official government disposal method for
        Manuel just laughed merrily as he embraced Ernie, squeezing the young pothead to his chest,
“We’ll have to keep one eye on this one, yes! Keep him away from Reynaldo, huh!”
        A few Nicaraguans chuckled as they looked at each other. Ernie was happy to get the
information he needed. Ernie was tall and thin with bushy brown hair and brown eyes that were red at
the moment. He wore a hemp necklace, and a t-shirt that read, “CIA: Cannabis Intelligence Agency.”

        The bedrooms were all side-by-side, with the far bedroom at the end of the “U.” Each had a
rectangular window that was longer on the vertical side. The ground was reddish orange, and was meant
to look like clay. Erik offered his roommate the window spot in a shared room, and he took the wall
spot. Allison took the window spot in her room, which put her on the other side of Erik’s wall.
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        In the late afternoon the group set out on a hike in the countryside. Erik talked casually about
plants they were passing as if he were discussing people. At the end of the trail, they met a waterfall.
However, one of the volunteers, named Brenda, believed she saw more. Is that a ghost?
        She considered jumping from the cliff’s edge where she stood, death a mere three seconds wait.
Why am I not screaming now? It’s my pills. Where did it go?

        The next morning, bright and early, Eduardo awoke the group and brought them to the employee
lounge located on the lower floor. It was small room with fifteen tables and a cafe. The big man who
met them at the airport the day earlier, Manuel, emerged from the open doorway with an assistant who
carried eight folders.
        “We have your first assignments.”
        He brought the assignments out while the group was eating because he too liked to eat and work.
        Erik’s assignment matched his language level and his skill. His job was to survey natural areas,
record species’ characteristics, write standard reports based on the findings, and then compare the report
to the historical research provided by the librarians. Erik’s roommate Rob, who was a botany major, had
the same job as Erik.
        Among the tools they would use in the field to assist in species identification, they were given
“model object recognition units.” These handheld computers were in the shape of an hourglass,
whereby a camera and a series of cloth strips collected species information. Erik explained to the group
that the holography technology used by the species scanner was developed from technology that
originated in the medical profession for field diagnostics where a drop of blood was discharged onto a
sensor embedded with a holographic polymer film constituted by nanodots refracting light. “As bacteria
binds to the receptors, the reaction changes the film, changing the reflection.”

         The rest of the group would do office work – fact-checking documents dealing with land
transfers from the government to private citizens with new environmental conditions, covenants, and
restrictions in the title.

       When everyone was finished eating they walked up to Manuel’s office to complete some
additional paperwork. It was very clean and also somewhat spacious with a view of library offices. Erik
noticed the globe in the corner by the window, as it was the only item in the room that stood out
unnaturally into the open spaces of the square. This guy wants power, he thought.

        Outside the office building and down a red brick pathway they found a long and tall building
marked ‘BIBLIOTECA’ in a solidly carved concrete doorway. Manuel led them inside where they
walked to the center of the large space, at which point he looked up. The ceiling of the three story
building was visible from the bottom floor, and it came to a single point, shaped like a square with the
center hollowed out as another square. From a prism inside a prism’s perspective inside the space, there
was intriguing geometry that applied to the stars.
        Brenda, the young woman who had believed she saw a ghost at the waterfall, fainted when she
looked up at the library ceiling. Surprise befell the group as they gazed at her athletic 5’9’’ figure laying
limp and lifeless in the atrium.
        After checking her pulse and her breathing, Manuel began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Numerous tattoos were visible on Brenda’s arms and under her wavy black hair.
        When she came back to consciousness, she reported that “something like vertigo” had caused her
to faint. She said she felt normal now, but the resident medic who arrived minutes later insisted on
immediate bed rest.
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       Then, just as the librarian asked them to proceed to the next stop in their tour, Erik remembered
the binocular feature on his phone. He took a quick look. There’s something not right about that prism
up there. It’s like an illusion of warped space.

        After touring the library, the office workers ambled back into the HQ building where two
lawyers explained the land transfer process in some detail. Erik and Rob though walked in the opposite
direction, toward nearby fields for species identification. Allison kissed Erik on the cheek before he left.
As a joke, Rob leaned over and kissed one of the shy female volunteers on the cheek too, which caught
her by surprise so she called him “a nerd.”

         Later that day in the employee lounge, Erik explained to Allison what his first day was like in the
fields, and the close encounter they had when a truck drove by slowly on the road, stopped parallel to
them, then continued on its way. He mentioned that he and Rob could see their guide was nervous
because he proceeded to give them a lecture on ‘looking poor’ and promised to bring different clothes
for them in the morning.

        Allison gasped when Erik mentioned the truck stopping. Erik wondered, If the landowner knows
we’re coming to his land to find native species so we can protect them, he either has an incentive to kill
the species, or an incentive to show he’s already in compliance with the law. So the best government
policy is to make sure the owner knows the government is going to make him pay more for having land
that’s ecologically devoid than ecologically bountiful.

        Every weekday Erik and Rob came back around five o’clock with stories about the weird people
they met. A lot of cheap business was conducted on open streets, so there were hustlers, peddlers and
prostitutes. It seemed to Erik that farms and homes were the main source of culture he had seen on the
landscape, because on the roads, people would try to stop you to get your attention, and it made him feel
especially sad for the children of this war-ravaged Nicaraguan town to have to put up with such an
invasion of personal space.

        After three weeks, Erik received a letter from his dad.
“Dear Erik, Your mom and I miss you. We discussed whether or not to continue listening to news from
Nicaragua, as it seems to be scary. Don’t ever let safety come second, and remember … there is no
shame in backing out of a program if they misrepresented anything to you. Other than those cautions,
things are good at home. Hopefully you’re speaking Spanish better now, as it would be nice if your
grammar grew into your accent! Call us soon. We’d love to hear from you. Love, Dad.”

        Allison called her parents every other day as a compromise she reached with her dad who asked
her to call every day. When she mentioned she had been going for short hikes with the group in the
evenings, her parents cautioned her not to be outside in the dark. On one level of her mind, Veronica
questioned her daughter like she would a witness whose testimony she was professionally obligated to
extract. It helped her calm down from her motherly instincts.
        Tim asked over the telephone one day, “Why don’t you have police escorts?”
        Allison believed her dad sometimes felt it was easier to be ignorant of the harshness of the bad
places in the world, so with an effort of resistance, she retorted, “Dad, if you saw Nicaragua you’d know
the police have much better things to do.”
        “You admit the police have better things to do than protect you. That’s incriminating of your
decision to walk alone at night. You don’t know how important you are.”
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                                                                                           - 43 -

        Allison cautioned herself, thinking, ego, which trailed into her reply, “Life is hard for people
here, but it’s not intolerable. You shouldn’t worry about me sitting at my desk and going for hikes when
it’s Erik who goes out everyday into the fields.” But the cross examination only continued.

                                   Capitalism versus Communism

         One day while tiptoeing around endangered plants struggling to emerge in a brown field, Rob
suggested to Erik that they organize a baseball game - Americans versus Nicaraguans. The idea quickly
gained steam at HQ, and within a week the game was underway on a grassy plain near a former air
landing strip .
         Nicaraguans won 11-5.
         After the game, Rob and Erik lugged out a cooler and treated everyone to some beer, though it
was hardly enough since the crowd was so large. A few other park-goers brought coolers as well and
grafted onto the bigger group on a grassy knoll off to the west of the field.
         The air was warm and the sun promised another two hours of friendly light, but even before the
first beer had been opened, a contentious political discussion about Capitalism versus Communism
became too prominent to ignore. It had been brought on by a remark from a man in the crowd named
Portfino as he questioned whether America had the right to interfere in Nicaragua’s Civil War.
         Portfino was the older brother of Carlos Montega, one of the environmental field consultants
who worked regularly with Erik and Rob.
         Portfino rested his arm on a low tree branch and began to speak. “The only reason America cares
about Nicaragua is because of cheap labor and cheap resources, which is why America has nothing to
offer Nicaragua. Americans think they can bestow on us poor folk some great democracy and
Capitalism. Who ever says Americans understand Nicaragua doesn’t understand America or Nicaragua.
Americans allow the resources to be in the hands of the few. Is that what we want here?”
         A few voices in the crowd assented with comments.
         Portfino continued, “Americans claim they have free markets, but I ask you… if the inequalities
of the market have made the system unfair, is it really free? I think the most free market is in
Communism. I would argue there is no incentive to become poor and live off State subsidies. Look at
history. Why shouldn’t the government make more efficient use of resources than private businesses if it
has the ability to help people? Do we not want our government to help people?”
         Portfino’s breathing was audible to those close to the tree branch on which he was leaning. The
cracking of the branch, however, was drowned out by all the noise on the hill.
         Observing the reactions of the crowd, Erik decided to weigh in, “Capitalism protects people, it
doesn’t hurt them. Communism, on the other hand… Let me put it this way… whether you believe you
ought to own what you create, or that your body is your temple, with communism you can’t win either
         The crowd shifted to face the young American with the beautiful woman staring at him lovingly.
         Erik then continued, “Capitalism protects people because it provides the most effective checks
and balances to democracy, because every man must in addition to his vote have an intrinsic value on
his own life that is independent of every other man. Capitalism is that value in the narrow sense when
its use respects individuality, and adopts an personal responsibility approach to use of resources, as in
polluter-pays principles, if you’re familiar with that term… or another way I can say that is that the
ownership of resources needs to be coupled with a code of civility among people and animals on the
earth. I see that checks and balances of Democracy on Capitalism are the ones that allow fair
mechanisms for political dissent, and allow democracy’s majority rule to implement the golden rule with
society. If the…”
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 44 -

        Erik was surprised at the lack of interruptions as he stopped to take a breath, and then continued,
“Philosophically, a man’s intelligence is a factor of the self, not of the masses, which means that
Communism and harsher forms of socialism often run against the grain of human psychology.
         “Markets can be used for good just as easily bad, so we have to use common sense, ultimately,
which is why we need democracy. And in most successful democracies it’s okay to give people free
food and other basic necessities of life and still have a pretty decent free market. I think Capitalism
embraces the old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Maybe in that way I
presuppose Socialism has more in common with Capitalism than it does with Communism.”
        A red, yellow, and orange sun was setting behind Erik as he spoke calmly to the crowd, “Gandhi
told us that he didn’t believe in the greatest good for the greatest number, because the only real,
dignified, human doctrine is the greatest good of all. At first glance you might think the greatest good
for the greatest number sounds okay, but I think the doctrine is really just a pretext for redistribution of
power and subversion of liberty.”
        Portfino lifted himself up straighter by pushing down on his tree branch when he said, “Why do
you think that in Capitalism you’re more likely to get paid what you’re worth? Markets are
uncompromising and harsh, but Communism offers certainty, stability…”
        “I disagree with you… I think history shows that people try to rationalize the chains that bind
them. The real crux of a free society is that it provides individual rights. There is no greatest number
when you are the plaintiff or the defendant. There is only the greatest good. By natural law, when it
comes to fundamental rights, what is good for the individual is good for the greatest number.
Everything I’ve said, I think, comports with this one axiom.”
        Portfino declared in response, “In Capitalism, there is no incentive to protect the environment.”
He also coughed for dramatic effect.
        Erik responded with a slight shake of his head, “Not in a perfect world… Capitalism is supposed
to promote a clean environment more than any other doctrine because an owner of a resource is a
steward of its market value. I will agree it’s a challenging process finding the right legislation to ensure
that owners who use nonrenewable resources pay to clean the damage they frequently cause. But just
because it’s a dynamic process in need of checks and balances does not make it a task that’s not
        Allison walked over and put her arm around Erik, and someone from the back shouted out, “he’s
the winner!”
        Portfino responded loudly, “He’s the winner, is he? What about the poor?”
        Erik whispered to Allison, “He wants to be a hard act to follow.”
        “The poor don’t win,” Portfino continued, “when Capitalism allows two hundred people fighting
for one job. When you’re forced to worry about having enough money to feed your family, and when
you need safety more than you need economic opportunity for the people who already have money,
Capitalism turns its back on you. What about that? If you talk about psychology. I say it’s better to have
insurance. My people are my insurance.”
        Allison decided to respond, “Portfino, I too believe we are all in this together. Capitalism makes
the individual the owner of his own life and property though.”
        The crowd reacted favorably to the soft voice of the young American woman, “There is no better
insurance policy than investing in yourself, because there is no one more invested in something’s
protection than its rightful owner. That’s why Capitalism promotes safety better than any doctrine,
because the owners of resources spend money to protect those resources, which is a cost the owner then
passes on to the consumer. The problem is not Capitalism, it’s waste, which is a problem the way some
governments allow markets to go unregulated by police and environmental protection agencies.”
        Allison was happy when she saw heads nodding, so she continued, “When people feel good
about the free market they trust the incentive system, preventing a Nation’s worst fear - the brain drain.
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                                                                                             - 45 -

Nothing generates more poverty than ignorance.” Allison sat upright as she spoke on the grass.
Applause followed her ‘brain drain’ and ‘ignorance’ conclusion.
        Enjoying the interest in her arguments, Allison then continued, “The State cannot make people
equal, and must not try to equalize. The State can only recognize that each citizen is an individual, with
an individual right to liberty and safety.”
        At that moment Allison foresaw herself launching into a discussion about what makes a subsidy
a subsidy, and what subsidies Nicaragua needs, but she was not confident she had a complete enough
answer to the latter question, so she let the former pass as well. It was good enough to let it be, she
thought. Erik was beaming as she finished, and most of the Nicaraguans on the hill were clapping for
her to continue. To hear pro-capitalism arguments coming from environmentalists was a sign of hope
that prosperous times were ahead. Hope starts everything worth starting, Allison thought.

        Eventually Portfino walked away and conversations sprang up all over the hill. Erik and Allison
stood together holding hands in the middle of the mound as the big man, Portfino’s brother Carlos
        “Hey man, what’s up?” Erik asked.
        Carlos was smiling. “That was interesting… I agree with you about free markets… the thing is
though, for most Nicaraguans everyday is survival of the fittest … so people see the free market as the
cause of hardship, not a solution… I know from my experience that if people don’t stick together, they
die here.”
        Allison responded with a reassuring tone, “I think I agree with you, Carlos. In my mind
‘survival of the fittest’ shouldn’t be about rejecting people at their time of need… I think it’s supposed
to be about understanding mutual interests, and doing the right thing.”

        When the sun began to fall behind the hills, the Americans headed back to HQ where dinner was
waiting. Unbeknownst to Erik and Allison, also waiting for them that evening was an envelope bearing
the seal of the President of the United States. It was an invitation to the White House for a private dinner
to celebrate “Environmental Volunteerism Abroad,” addressed to “Mr. Erik Weathers and Ms. Allison
        Allison allowed herself to feel some excitement when they opened the invitation, even though
she suspected it was only another attempt by the government to recruit Erik.

                                        Hiking The Backcountry

        On their sixth week in Nicaragua, Carlos Montega kept his promise to take Erik and Rob on a
camping trip. The other volunteers who wanted to go were Allison, Brenda, and Eduardo. It was to be
an all-day hike along the river, followed by a short excursion into the forest near a location where
industrial operations were taking place. As Carlos’ job was to collect soil and water samples in a
dangerous territory, he was required to bring a cooler and a gun.
        They set out on the 10-mile hike that Saturday, before noon, while the sun was still behind one of
the ocean’s gifts to the sky. Erik carried the poles for a six-man tent and Eduardo carried the tent.
Everyone else divided amongst themselves the cooking supplies, food, water, and miscellaneous
camping items. Each person carried their own sleeping bag, and the three handguns they brought were
held by three people - botanist Rob, the fainting woman Brenda, and their guide Carlos.

         The trail was beautiful, but Carlos found himself unable to appreciate it fully as he anxiously
brought binoculars to his eyes every fifty yards to scan for bandits of any kind. But the warm winds
lifted the spirits of the five AE Volunteers, so with a sharpened focus on the beauty around them, they
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 46 -

walked briskly along the trail beside the river. Enormous trees hung branches over the trail that adjoined
the river for hundreds of years. At some points the trail paced up to within fifty feet of the road, which
Brenda called “a real kill joy.”
        Several times they heard the rumble of cars and trucks along the nearby thoroughfare. Allison
imagined the river in its glory days, before the dumping and the siphoning had started, It’s the nature of
rivers though, she thought in contrast, They attract so much to them because they have so much to give.

        The sampling area consisted of a series of small, greenish brown ponds and soil pits over a mile
down stream from several abandoned factories nestled into a valley. They all gathered around Carlos as
he dipped a glass vial into the first pond, sealed the cap after checking for air bubbles, placed it into a
slot back inside the kit, then noted on an electronic worksheet the sample location, the time of day, and
some quality control information. Meanwhile, the AE volunteers walked around without purpose.
        Rob looked out on the horizon beyond the valley where plumes of black smoke rose up into the
air, then said to no one in particular, “If Nicaragua only had the money to invest in safer technologies,
they wouldn’t have all this contamination, and yet the only way to end the poverty in this post war
devastation it seems is by extracting the resources with the technology you have.”
        Carlos nodded his head and offered, “If only we could truly start over.”
        Overhearing the comment, Allison thought to herself, God jealously holds the keys to new

       After all the samples had been collected and placed inside the cooler, the group continued along
with their hike, which eventually came to end that day when the trail became dangerously dark, about
four miles from HQ. Like all good trails, Rob observed, unpredictable.
       As the sun fell, Carlos directed them to a spot in the woods that was over eight hundred yards
away from the trail. He advised it was as safe a place as any to set up camp. While the group prepared a
small dinner, Allison and Erik took a short walk of their own under the emerging stars.
       In love, she shared with him the royal secret about the dodecahedron, as if it were only
something she had dreamed. His ego fought the theory, and so she never got around to telling him what
she had wanted to say her entire life to the man of her dreams, I’m a princess.

       Later that night, as everyone slept soundly in the six-man tent, Brenda popped some more pills.
With her mouth pressed into her pillow, she wondered whether she was talking out loud, This tent isn’t
real. Brenda knew her thought was strange, and so in response to her own perceived neuroses, as the
rain continued to fall around them, she popped more pills.

        Morning came without a sun to show for it. As Eduardo cooked eggs, and Brenda percolated
coffee, it came to the attention of the group that Rob had wandered off without telling anyone.
Eventually though he emerged from beyond the trees with a smile on his face, “Hey, I was just walking
around, and… look at this...” Holding out his hands he showed them mushrooms, “Pretty gnarly, huh?
Erik, do you know if they’re edible?”
        As Erik examined the fungi in Rob’s hand, he got himself a plate and fork and dished himself an
        “Well, can I eat them?” Rob asked again.
        Erik shook his head. His mind was still reveling from the secret of the dodecahedron - the
difference between free will and unpredictable fate - which Allison had so eloquently embraced with
him the previous evening under the moonlight.
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 47 -

       An hour later, the group was back on the trail along the great, winding river. Brenda secretly
snacked on the mushrooms Rob had discarded. Sorrow heals me, she told herself dramatically,
pondering suicide.

         With the sun directly overhead, Rob felt the cold steel barrel of a gun pressed to his temple, and
in a language he barely understood, an older male shouted at him to hit the ground. Then out of the thick
brush along the roadside of the trail emerged four more gunmen. Erik felt his heart stop, and then his
blood went screaming to his brain, ripping apart his logic with images of fear and pain. Behind him he
did not hear the thump. Allison had fainted at the sight of the gun at Rob’s temple and then like a tree
branch, she began to roll down off the rocky trail towards the river. There were too many rocks for her
to roll unimpeded, but the sight of her rolling was enough for one of the men to go rushing past Erik
after her, causing Erik to swing his body around, only to drop his jaw in complete and utter disbelief.
Allison was limp up against the side of a rock, and the evil that just swept by him had his rifle pressed
into her neck.
         Carlos pleaded with the bandits to leave them alone. “We are only naturalists cleaning the land,”
he offered up, managing only the sound of a young boy, crying. But all that existed was noise and
         Each bandit wore a red bandana over his mouth, and black clothing. They shouted at each other
as much as they did at their prisoners while searching backpacks for identity cards and weapons. In all
the commotion, Carlos saw no opportunity to communicate to the group his deduction that this was a
kidnapping for ransom.
         Rob’s gun was confiscated from his beltline, and he was punched in the mouth by the leader of
the bandits for the trouble.
         However, the guns concealed by Carlos and Brenda went unnoticed in their ankle holsters. To
Carlos, these guns were not a source of hope, but of fear. Brenda felt differently.
         Erik thought only of Allison, and what harm he would inflict on the criminal holding the rifle to
her neck. She laid unconscious, still contorted against the rock amongst all the shouting. Only the
bandits’ weapons held Erik motionless, in a state of anger that surpassed the depths of any passion he
had ever known.

        At this moment, while driving along a fire road in a Red Cross all terrain vehicle, a small man
named Wesley Mulrooney hit the brakes. He had been admiring the tall trees along the road when he
saw in the distance what looked like a streak of red paint. Government vehicles, he knew, were never
red, so he suspected somebody was dumping something into the river.
        After pulling off to the side of the road, he walked toward what soon became recognizable to him
as a red truck. The sound of the river was strong. He then traversed halfway down the nearby
embankment and saw what was happening. Without hesitation, he ran back to his vehicle and radioed
the police.

        Allison regained consciousness to find her hands and legs tied together with rope. Looking
around she saw they were all bound in the same manner as she. Erik noticed her regain consciousness
immediately before the moment she sat up. He perched his lips together as she gazed at him, indicating
she should try to remain quiet. His eyes showed he couldn’t bear to look at her, and yet, he could not
look away.
        Carlos is gone, Allison noticed immediately. All but Allison had been forced to either watch in
horror or turn away in agony as the criminals beat and shot Carlos. The more Carlos pleaded with them
to stop, the harder they came down on him. Erik noticed it was not just that his pleas of mercy appeared
to inflame their sensibilities, but what Carlos was doing was screaming as loud as he could to save the
                                                                                 Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                              - 48 -

Americans’ lives. With his last breath, Carlos asked for God’s help. But it was only the tears of his
companions that he saw in answer. His body was dumped hastily in the river.

         As her voice cracked under the weight of fear, Allison spoke to the criminals in Spanish. “Please
let us go. We’re students, here to help - ” Before she could finish speaking, one of the men brought the
hot barrel of his gun to an inch of her face. He did not look Nicaraguan. Tears came rolling down as she
sat, speechless. Erik denied himself the right to shout because it was the only thing he could do for her.
         Then from out of the woods came a bullhorn, “Drop your weapons! You are surrounded. Throw
your weapons in the river.” It was the very panicked voice of Wesley Mulrooney, holding a shaking gun
in his left hand and binoculars around his neck. He was alone.
         Three bandits began to retreat down the path, but one remained in pure evil. With his rifle aimed
directly between her eyes, he fired. Erik collapsed inside as he could not breathe and didn’t want to. The
love of his life was dead.
         There were no trees. There was no river. There was no sun and no clouds and no semblance of
the Erik he knew himself to be. There was nothing.

        When the police arrived on the scene they lifted Allison’s body from Erik’s arms. The rain had
drizzled down around the two of them, diluting the redness of the puddles that were her royal blood.
        Throughout the next hour, which included a bus ride back to HQ, Erik wasn’t required to speak
since there was enough information available to the police to tell a complete story. He walked alone to
his room, closed the door, and fell apart.

                                              Part II
                                         The Meaning Of Death

        As Erik boarded the plane from the Nicaraguan tarmac, he looked out on the planet’s horizon
and was consumed with anger. For all the beauty there was to be discovered, especially in the
dodecahedrons confronting his senses at that moment through the planet’s interface with his mind and
body, he didn’t experience any of it. He sensed only an uncompromising Sun bearing directly overhead,
beating down the tanned and aching body he was trying to metaphysically abandon through self-
indulgent sorrow. His eyes felt puffy from crying.
        When he lifted his head up to challenge the yellow ball of life taunting him, nerves rapidly
moved his eyes toward the ground, turning what little energy he recognized into walking, defeated. The
pulsing of blood inside his head felt constant, not unlike the rolling heat waves canvassing the tarmac.
        He wore loose jeans with tissues mounding a pocket, and a t-shirt that gripped his upper body. A
cruel realization came to him at that moment – There are times the sun shines life, and times when it
pounds rock to dust, so a good man can never know when to open his eyes. If you try to live in the safe
places on Earth, you can just close yourself off and believe in the peace and beauty around you, but if
you’re forced to open up, you’re forced to hate this world eventually.

        Unbeknownst to him, Allison’s murder along the Nicaraguan river had been foretold through a
single illustration penned into his mother’s diary years earlier. It was of the earth, with an astral crown
above it pointing toward the four directions below in various squares, right angles, and polarities.
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 49 -

        His parents met him at San Francisco International Airport with love and open arms. They
mourned together for several days before Allison’s casket was delivered to Santa Cruz for her funeral
procession, with family and friends all huddled together under the comfort of ceremony.
        Michael and Charlotte stayed close to Erik during the funeral to try and help him absorb some of
the void that he felt, but he was like a burning train wreck, Michael thought, so physically beaten by the
experience he often appeared unable to bring his head outside the quivering pockets of his hands.
        To see the casket covered with roses was a horrible dream for Erik. So dark was his mind during
the song ‘Amazing Grace,’ a song about forgiveness, he imagined Allison’s killer traveling to the very
core of his sense of self and meeting only shadows of emptiness, laughing at pain. The small traces of
hope he experienced as evidence of his sanity scattered as he dwelt on the memory of her murder. And
the deep hurt his demeanor showed at the funeral resonated with nearly everyone present who saw his
face. Forgiveness was the antithesis of the emotion that showed in his eyes.

        Charlotte thought the only two people whose faces showed more powerlessness than Erik’s were
Allison’s parents.
        After the funeral, Erik committed himself indefinitely to resting his mind and body at home in
Chesterton. He did not attend the dinner for Environmental Volunteerism at the White House, to which
he and Allison had received invitation a few weeks earlier. However, shortly after the funeral a video
message recorded by the President and the First Lady was delivered to him. The message was directed
to both Erik and Allison’s parents. In the message, sitting next to his wife, who was holding an
elegantly framed picture of Allison, the American President expressed his “deepest condolences,” and
indicated his belief that “Allison’s death was not in vain because it was a sign of her resilience as an
environmental activist.”
        A part of Erik appreciated the gesture, but another scowled, Don’t label her.

                                            Logical Insanity

         At the Oregon mental hospital, Vigorchium advised the two young psychiatrists observing him,
“These mind games may be fun for normal crazies, but I’m sane. No one has ever proved me crazy, so
listen, I’m not interested in standardized tests.” When he began to rip up both flash cards and multiple-
choice tests, sedation followed.

        Dr. Martin Reese, the Head of Psychiatry, decided after watching the video of Vigorchium’s first
session, that Vigorchium needed to be the hospital’s top priority. He even wondered whether he could
write a book about the things Vigorchium had to say about life. The young savant appeared to Dr.
Reese as a person addicted to logic, as he wrote in his notes:

       Pt enjoys complex arguments. Goal – find cause for pt’s fear of simplicity. Query – Will pt tell
       lies for appearance of logic, or is real proof paramount to him?

         At the commencement of his first session with Dr. Reese, and before the psychiatrist had even
sat down, Vigorchium chided, “Do you want me to believe this little psychoanalysis session is a game
or a test?”
         “What do you want it to be?” Dr. Reese asked, and then laid his blank notepad down in front of
Vigorchium, to make a point about a new beginning.
         “If this is a game, then you’re my competitor, which means I can’t trust you to be objective. But
if this is a test, then you think you already have all the answers, which means I can’t trust you to be
subjective toward my needs. So, what do YOU want to do today?”
                                                                                 Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                              - 50 -

         Peering out at his patient’s eyes, above his bifocals, Dr. Reese responded, “Vigorchium, I want
to help you get better. There are no -”
         Vigorchium interrupted, “Doctor! Why don’t you start by curing my headaches. Then maybe
we can tackle the fact that I’VE BEEN FUCKING HYPNOTIZED!”
         Dr. Reese calmly answered, “Why did you feel the need to yell at me just there?”
         “BECAUSE YOU NEED TO KNOW… that I don’t want to yell, but I will if I get rewarded for
         Suspicious, Dr. Reese then answered, “Well then Vigorchium, are you trying to help yourself to
rewards at my expense, or will you let me lead you to them?”
         Vigorchium answered playfully but softly, “I want you to go first is all.”
         In addition to taping the interview, Dr. Reese jotted down notes energetically as Vigorchium
continued talking, “If you let me pick my own topic in this game or test, you get to learn about my
interests, but if I let you pick, you end up telling me what you think is wrong with me, which I can use to
trick you, but I can just as easily trick you by lying to you about my interests, so you have to choose the
lesser of two evils, but you don’t even know me yet. I wonder if you think that’s unfair? Every game
has its limits, so it’s better not to overanalyze this. Why don’t you start?”
         The pensive psychiatrist placed his pen down gently on the table by his note pad as he peered
into Vigorchium’s greenish hazel eyes.
         Dr. Reese was an Ivy League educated psychiatrist who had inherited money from his family and
had never known a day in life without complete financial security. At forty-six years old, he was
masculine and confident. He knew himself as an excellent athlete with a loving, attractive wife. They
had well-behaved, happy children, and he believed he had no incentive at all to come to work other than
to take an intellectual interest in his patients and to help them if it was even possible. He prided himself
on his reputation for being strict with logic.

        In response to Vigorchium’s cunning, Dr. Reese offered a statement that sounded quite
intelligent but ultimately was garden-variety gibberish, in order to see how Vigorchium would react to
the outline of an intellectual’s discussion, “If I asked you to tell me a fake story, would you use details to
throw me off your point, or would your details belie the ambiguities of falsity’s true ambiguity?”
        When Vigorchium became noticeably excited, Dr. Reese recorded the emotion in his notepad.
        Vigorchium answered quickly with a sentence that Dr. Reese believed he would not understand
no matter how many times he watched the video playback, “Details draw ambiguities out of stories by
refocusing the plot on what the speaker claims is relevant, so whether I use details factually or not, they
will not belie the ambiguity of falsity’s true ambiguity, because that falsity is part of the ambiguity to the
extent it is not part of the truth and the details.”
        This answer confirmed for Dr. Reese that his patient harbored a desperate need to make complex
associations. He made a note:

       Would pt commit violence for answers?

       Dr. Reese then asked, “Vigorchium, if I asked you to tell me a story about your life, would you
want there to be a happy ending, or a sad one?”
       In his attempt to hide the puzzled look on his face, Vigorchium curled his upper lip, and then
answered, “That’s just a stupid question. Next question.”
       Dr. Reese then said, “Let me try to rephrase and see if I can’t do better. Are you happier
thinking about your past, or about your future?”
       Vigorchium then quipped, “I regret coming here. What does that tell you?”

                                                                                 Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                              - 51 -


        Out of all the job offers, Erik accepted Rider Corporation’s - to work in the same Laboratory as
his dad. Rider was a modern corporation with a CEO directly involved in managing laboratory
operations. His name was Paul Ashby, and he made only one promise to Erik during a videophone
interview, which was two months after Erik’s return from Nicaragua, “I know better than to set
expectations for you.”
        Indeed, Erik had such leverage when he accepted Ashby’s offer, no mention was made of when
Erik would even begin work. When the news came down that Michael Weathers’ activist and genius
son narrowly escaped death, lost the woman he loved, and would soon be coming to work with them, it
gave the Seattle branch of Rider Corporation an intrigue it had never known before, and the employees
worked harder because of it, as if they were nesting for Erik.
        The story had developed a few additions of its own in that, by one account, Erik had fought off
his attackers using only his bare fists, which was the reason the attackers had tied him up. By another
account Erik had taken a bullet.
        His parents, Michael and Charlotte, helped Erik avoid all versions of these rumors floating
around work and around town. It was hard enough, they thought, that their son would dwell on the
reality of Allison’s murder. Charlotte wondered whether being a genius with superior recall was ruining

      Michael knew first hand the unique mindset required for programming, so he troubled over
whether Erik would lock himself away in this mindset and disassociate with the real world.

        But, since feeling helpless represented his greatest fear in life, Erik resolved to let the matrix of
emotions within him transmute into an anger with the devices of human failure, and in this effort he
revived the genius brain he inherited, and then he began to work like the sun. He even drew a picture of
the star and framed it above his desk.

       On the day Erik finished this drawing, even as it happened, he received a voice mail from
Allison’s dad:

       Hi Erik, it’s Tim Avery… I’m just calling to see how you’re holdin’ up… We’re not so good
       over here to tell you the truth… Veronica and I decided to move because we see too many
       reminders of Allison here … its harder than we thought … I wanted to ask you something, but
       not in a weird way… Veronica and I just felt we should know if you were going to ask Allison
       to marry you. I hope that’s not … I really don’t intend for that question to be awkward. She
       loved you, you know. Call me back when you get a chance, young man.

        When he heard the message, Erik sat down in the corner of his bedroom and removed from his
floor safe a small ring he had weaved from plant fibers in Nicaragua. Staring at her engagement ring in
privacy had been a daily exercise for him in regret and sorrow, but these were emotions he was not
ready to share openly.

       Consequently, the Averys were not able to share with him a family secret.

                                          Change For A Reason
                                                                              Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 52 -

       Rider Corporation came into existence in the middle of the twenty-first century. Its original
mission was to bioengineer plants and animals, and sell the information to drug companies. But when it
made giant leaps in developing cellular rejuvenation medicines, the stock skyrocketed and Rider
expanded into bioengineering at large.

        From its inception the corporation prided itself on environmental consciousness, which included
regular donations to wildlife groups. Rider imported plant and animal species from all over the world
and boasted a high-compliance record with federal and international law. As part of the corporation’s
recruiting efforts, the CEO was quoted as saying, “Rider protects the natural environment by creating a
commercial interest in exotic species. We purchase native grown supplies with assurances that our
supplies will not diminish, and therefore, not only do we promote each individual species we utilize, we
also protect the ecosystems in which they are native.”

       Erik joined the corporation at the height of its glory. Not only were drug companies purchasing
bundled software applications from Rider, but other R&D firms relied on Rider’s computer
programming expertise for leads in disease-specific areas.

        On Erik’s first day at work, other than filling out paperwork, he surveyed and inspected
equipment in the Seattle laboratory up until eleven o’clock at night.
        Rider’s mechanical engineering division was devoted largely to repairing computer hardware
and customizing the robotic and various other machine parts that interacted with the plants and animals
being analyzed. Since the orders to customize hardware were directly related to the programs being
written, the engineers were expected to streamline the customization process by working with the
programming departments. As a result, it had been Rider’s practice that machine customizing was
performed by senior engineers experienced in both disciplines - machinery and programming.
        The most complicated and intricate of Rider’s programs were those of adaptive symbol
programs. To a laymen they looked like constantly moving aerial photographs of a city, but they were in
fact, detailed and interlaced codes that only the most sophisticated programmers could even
        In Erik’s mind, never had his dad been so deferential to him than with his programming
decisions at Rider. Michael had even instructed the other programmers to let Erik find solutions on his
own rather than direct him to adopt conventional logic.
        And yet in spite of this early success at Rider, whenever Erik found memories of Allison’s
murder, the whole of his perspective shifted dramatically. Often only the smallest triggering thought,
whether it was a gun, or a river, or rope, brought him to the fateful ending of her life, bleeding in his
        He had come to realize in the most unsettling manner the peril that his mind was tainted - a mind
inspired by its associations. When experiencing profound regret for allowing her to go with him on the
hike, he wished for a new beginning, and yet all the same he was resolute, never forget what happened
to her. This dichotomy puzzled him, and he felt guilty thinking about it - whether he could obtain a new
beginning without ever forgetting? Ultimately though, he decided, If everyone really is connected, there
is no fresh start.

       Six weeks after Tim Avery’s voice mail asking whether Erik had intended to marry his daughter,
Erik called him back, but the line was disconnected. Erik then checked public databases, but there was
no other contact listed for Tim and Veronica Avery. It was as if they had disappeared.

                                          Trials of Friendship
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 53 -

        As the months after Nicaragua passed, Damian Martel, the baseball player who had known Erik
his whole life, realized Erik was not healing psychologically. He saw that Erik appeared to be more
comfortable during awkward silences in conversations. Even still, Damian resolved to give his friend as
much time to heal as it would take. Let it be.
        Damian told no one, however, about Erik’s desire to find Allison’s murderer and kill him, often
creatively as Erik described it. It gave Damian solace to believe that his and Erik’s talks were
therapeutic for Erik, so he imparted to Erik anecdotes like, “say it all” and “free your mind.” For this
task, Damian used some books on grieving to help him talk to Erik, one of which had been co-authored
by Dr. Martin Reese, Vigorchium’s psychiatrist.

        By the time Erik’s other childhood friend, Jimmy Tripp, finished his program at MIT, he was
hailed by many professors as one of the University’s most prolific geniuses of all time. Consequently,
Jimmy thought to himself, you’re a genius. He received so many employment offers and informational
packets that he stopped opening his mail. His sister Melanie opened it for him.

       When Michael Weathers invited the young genius to come work for Rider in Seattle, Jimmy
accepted immediately. Jimmy had earlier told Erik that he wanted Michael to make him an offer “of his
own volition,” which only prompted Erik and Michael to prank Jimmy by drafting an offer letter on
Rider Corporation letterhead that made employment conditional on Jimmy learning to play the bugle
among other obscure military tasks. The phony letter concluded with,

           Maybe write some programs if you have time. Compensation is $1 per solution to the meaning
of life.

        By the time Jimmy came on board with Rider, Erik had two years under his belt in the
engineering department, and had demonstrated a unique proficiency with the advanced programming
tools used to analyze human properties.
        Like Erik, Jimmy was already well versed in the modern science of symbol-programming and
genetic algorithms, so Michael started him working on complex design problems immediately. It was
very exciting for Jimmy, and the pay was excellent. Jimmy bought himself a home in Seattle that was
near Erik’s penthouse near the top of one of Seattle’s executive skyscrapers. Damian owned a house
nearby as well.

       Damian’s combined average for his first two years with the Dodgers was slightly over .300, but
because the second year was much better than the first, he had strong financial leverage for his contract
negotiations. He also generated a fan base that extended beyond Los Angeles, partly for his winning
smile and partly for the news stories about his work ethic. One sports columnist in California dubbed
him “baseball’s next golden boy.”

        Erik and Jimmy found it difficult to walk around with Damian because people on the street
approached him constantly from out of nowhere, and often once a public session had begun, it was
difficult to control it.
        Damian said once to Erik and Jimmy while they were at his Malibu home after a game, “I’m
pretty sure I can handle all the press myself, you know, but this limits the field of available women
because all the really good ones want to keep their privacy. Then I think about having kids, and it scares
me, you know what I’m saying.”
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 54 -

       Jimmy responded with sincere eyes, “I hope you can still find your balance though, man. There’s
probably no right answer, but you can still find balance.”

                                                Hypnotic Mirrors

         In his fifth year at the mental hospital, Vigorchium had begun to show signs of mental stability,
as he had befriended several other patients and begun to write a journal. Dr. Reese, though, remained
quite skeptical of Vigorchium’s progress because the young savant had demonstrated a remarkable
ability to sustain lies. Dr. Reese wrote prominently in Vigorchium’s medical record,

       The patient believes his own lies because he creates elaborate associations between his lies and
       actual truths. The dependencies are fascinating, but dangerous.

        Although Vigorchium had claimed upon his admission to the mental hospital five years earlier
that he had been hypnotized by his foster parent, he recanted the statement within only a few weeks,
claiming that he lied about the hypnosis because he wanted the strongest headache medicine possible.
His motivation for lying about the matter was to appear normal to Dr. Reese, a man whom he had come
to respect.

       The local police had interviewed Vigorchium’s foster-father, Radomir, at his home with both his
wife Ursula and his son Clue present. The laboratory in the attic had been gutted by Radomir several
days before the police arrived with a warrant, so the police found no signs of anything askew in the
household. The Sergeant noted that none of the books on the bookshelf related to hypnosis, but rather
many of the books were about parenting skills for troubled children. The district attorney decided based
upon the police report, and upon Dr. Reese’s preliminary assessment report, that there was insufficient
evidence against Radomir for the State to press charges for endangering a minor. Dr. Reese decided he
would not inform Vigorchium about the house search or the DA’s decision until Vigorchium inquired,
but Vigorchium never did.

        One day during a counseling session, Dr. Reese asked his patient, “Vigorchium, what image do
you think of when I ask you to compare ‘apples to apples.’”
        Vigorchium was physically tired when he answered passively, “equivalence, balance.”
        “And what images do you think of when you think of equivalence?”
        “It depends. I can imagine two apples certainly. What’s your point?”
        Dr. Reese continued, “I want to talk to you about hypnosis.”
        Vigorchium interrupted, “I already told you. Radomir and I… we just talked a lot is all. I lied,
and I shouldn’t have. I just wanted you to fix my headaches.”
        Dr. Reese then launched into his prepared statement, “Vigorchium, whether you like it or not,
you’re a sensitive person. If you think someone you love needs to take something from you that you
don’t have to give in order to enjoy your company, then you’re not meeting an expectation you set for
yourself, and we all want to believe we’re complete people. I believe that the expectations you set for
yourself are very strong, so let’s assume you noticed that every day you spent time with Radomir, he
wanted to put you in a trance, then you would come to expect that trance, and it would take away on
your self-confidence. What I want you to tell me today is whether it would be equally upsetting to your
self-confidence if your loved one did not want to put you in a trance, perhaps it would suggest that your
loved one only expected something normal from you, maybe something that was just plain boring…
Now, Vigorchium, out of everything I just said, what are the apples, and what are the oranges.”
                                                                              Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 55 -

        Vigorchium took a deep breath and then answered quietly, suppressing a curled upper lip,
“Apples and oranges are fruits, and there are some apples that look more like oranges than they look like
other apples. Aside from that though, you’re harping on the difference between wanting to be loved for
what you are, versus, wanting to be loved for what you aren’t. But if all that desire all funnels into the
same emotion, why should a person care? Is that what you’re asking, because how would I know? I
didn’t love Radomir, and he didn’t love me. If you won’t let me out of here, how am I supposed to find
someone I can love?”
        Dr. Reese responded after a very long pause, “I should only answer that formally, but starting
with your first question of why you should care. The reason you should care about the origin of your
thoughts is that life itself, the very fabric of your personality, is in the way you develop a logical
hierarchy for yourself that leads to success. Don’t presume there are not at this moment several wrong
answers in your mind, and don’t be afraid to be wrong, Vigorchium. The worst thing you could do for
yourself is not recognize your own limits.”
        Vigorchium responded, “Why should I believe you’re more logical than me.”
        Dr. Reese was prepared for the question when he replied, “You have no reason to believe I’m
not. Look at me, Vigorchium, I’m successful. What are the odds that I could have achieved my status
by fluke?”
        When Vigorchium nodded, Dr. Reese believed they had made a breakthrough. So the
psychiatrist concluded, “And on your question about when I can release you to personally love someone
outside the hospital, I’ll just say that it all hinges on your stability.”

                                           Rejecting Duality

        In the year 2124, Erik’s dad retired as the Chief Programmer at Rider’s Seattle branch. He was
forty-six, and found it exhausting thinking like a modern programmer. You feel detached from reality,
ironically, where the purpose of programming is to copy reality.
        As it happened, 2124 was also the same year that Bianca Trujillo, the young woman who had
assaulted him at gunpoint when he was a young man, was released from her mental hospital. Norbert
Weishaupt had pulled some strings to have Bianca released.

       Bianca wrote Michael a letter on the day she gained her freedom,

               Dear Michael,
               The first time I was free, I tried to control too much. This time, I’m going to let you
               control your own destiny. Yours Truly, Bianca Trujillo

     The moment Michael received Bianca’s letter, his thoughts stopped. There is no justice, he
remembered thinking many years ago.

       The letter also scared him into reconsidering his retirement. To be home all day was to be home
alone, with nothing but his anxieties to keep him company. Charlotte was still working as an
environmental consultant. So after some deliberation, Michael sought election to Rider’s Board of

        A senior engineer at age 24, Erik’s success at work drove his desire to be hands-on in the
laboratories. And learning how others did their jobs was an instrumental part of the way he motivated
people to follow his instructions. Because he was able to branch his mechanical engineering knowledge
into every discipline utilized at Rider, he had become indispensable to the Seattle laboratory.
                                                                                 Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                              - 56 -

         Jimmy excelled as a leader as well, but enjoyed most the individual capacity of writing code.
         One Saturday afternoon after work, Jimmy and Erik went for a hike in eastern Washington, and
at the end of their trail, they stopped where some large rocks protruded out from the dry and dusty
ground. After hunkering down on the largest rock they could find, they ate sandwiches through a fairly
quiet and uneventful conversation about sports, but then Jimmy asked, “It’s unfair that ignorance is
bliss, right?”
         There was an implied wonderment in Jimmy’s voice as he set his gaze at the base of the great
mountain in the distance. From his perspective, the snowy peak mostly blocked the sun.
         “Well, Jimmy,” Erik offered in response to the question, “try this… close your eyes and watch
the sun.”
         “That’s impossible, Erik, so I’m guessing you’re trying to make a point about … ignorance is a
state of mind.”
         “Is it impossible to watch the sun without your eyes? Or does it only feel awkward using other
senses. This may sound obvious, but I’m making a point about perspective. Your logic tells you that
eyes are the most accurate tools for watching, and accuracy is synonymous with fairness to an extent in
a rational mind. All of man’s tools lead to his one brain, so the question is how to categorize up there. I
learned on the day Allison died, there’s no inherent fairness on this planet, no justice… I’ve told you
that… but I came to realize that as long as she lives in my head I feel something closer to tolerable. I
know I can’t see her anymore, I can’t watch her eating cereal and reading the newspaper tomorrow,
obviously, but what I can do is remember her and pretend she’s alive to some extent.”
         Erik thought poetically to himself as he looked out in the distance, she’s an angel.
         Then he continued explaining, “Is it ignorant to think about her as if she were alive? No one
would say I’m insane for imagining to myself what life would be like if she were still here, so it’s just
about drawing a line in the sand as to what’s ignorant. I don’t think it makes me ignorant to imagine
possibilities that aren’t truths as long as I recognize they’re just possibilities, but I can’t even tell you
how good it feels to pretend she’s real! That’s sort of the essence of what I’m saying. And even though
for practical purposes, I’m not going to be able to use anymore the information that Allison’s favorite
breakfast is fresh fruit waffles and whipped cream and that she bites her nails when she cries, it doesn’t
feel useless to tell myself to remember that.”
         A few seconds ran silent across the empty chasm before them. Erik kicked up some dust with
his hiking boot to fight back a tear.
         Jimmy finally said, “Life is a logical hierarchy, so when the subject is interpretative, a bunch of
idiots could all get together and decide they all like garbage, and they would all agree the world is a
better place because of their garbage. That’s not justice.
         Erik was silent in his words as he looked down into the valley, so Jimmy continued, “If the
ignorant never become wiser, they die with happy moments unchecked for intelligence, so the ignorant
person benefits himself while the world becomes less rational because of his actions. That’s what unjust.
But it’s not always a big deal, like with music, ignorance can be bliss if you really like the song.
Another thing about ignorance and music… and don’t think this sounds gay, but sometimes I experience
like a tingling feeling during a song even though the song and the thought that made me tingle are totally
         Erik interjected, “That’s because your gay, Jimmy.”
         They both laughed as Jimmy kicked a pebble and shook his fist at Erik. Holding his shoulders
upright Jimmy looked at the sky and then continued explaining, “Dance is similar to music. People are
always like, ‘don’t even think about it, just do it,’ but how is that an answer? I mean, I’m not trying to
bash what’s cool, but… I just think ignorance is not bliss, but it can still be a tolerable thing when it
looks that way.”
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 57 -

        “That’s good Jimmy.” Erik wasn’t paying attention, but he listened to the words in his own way
as he recalled the theme of some of his favorite films - Justice and freedom are mere perspectives.

        The following week, an Omniarch loyalist working for his wealthy handler, Norbert Weishaupt,
appeared at the front door to Erik’s penthouse.
       “Who are you,” Erik asked, “and how did you get up here?”
       “Don’t you recognize me?” she answered.
       Erik rubbed his chin for a moment and then offered, “Rebecca McCandless?”
       She smiled sweetly while turning her head toward her shoulder, a sign of shyness, then she
slowly turned herself around to let him examine her.
       “Need more proof?” she asked.
       Erik remembered they had kissed once in college, but she had a boyfriend at the time so he
backed off.
       “What are you doing here?”
       “I’m the new assistant building manager. Thought I’d come say hello….”
       “Well, hello, yourself.”
       “Want to get a cup of coffee, or something?” she asked.
       “I’m working, but maybe some other time.”
       “Sure,” she said holding out her hand.
       Erik shook it, and then closed the door. He found her telephone number in his hand. Sneaky, he
thought, slightly aroused.

         A few months later she was half-naked in his hot tub, drinking champagne.
         “You know, Erik, I could invite some of my girlfriends over if … that would make you happy.”
         “You’re too much.”
         “Tell me about your last girlfriend,” she said, “how did it end?”
          “I guess it was the little things. She would be sweet and thoughtful one moment, and the next
instant she was biting her nails or picking her toes right in front of me.”
         “Did you tell her it bothered you?” she asked with an inquisitive frown on her face.
         “Yeah, indirectly, but-”
          “How did you say it?”
         “I came at the issue from the male perspective. I said it’s insulting to the woman if, after you
pick your toes, scratch your balls, or some other ‘unpleasant’ thing, you initiate intimacy. By not
bringing your ‘A’ game to the relationship, it conveys the message that you think she’ll accept your
romance in spite of your inattention. So because the romance requires congruence of ‘being a man’ and
being passionate, if you really felt passion, you wouldn’t scratch something before touching her. The
sexuality of it, as a matter of consequence I think, is that when you do things like scratch your balls you
obviously feel comfortable, which is when you’re most likely to feel sexual. So the point overall, I told
her, is that a guy should resist this feeling even though it feels natural, in favor of doing what feels
unnatural, that is… trying to get the message from her perspective. Then the man can notice how much
sexuality the moment calls for. And, it’s pretty obvious how difficult it is to see things from the
woman’s perspective, which makes you want to go back to ‘being a man’ even more, thus heightening
the experience of both sexuality and manhood. So I told her the moral is - If you pick your nose, women
won’t enjoy making love to you, so use your fingers wisely.”

        Rebecca had been reporting regularly to her Omniarch handlers, one of whom was especially
skilled in the art of mind-control.
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 58 -

        Even from her first contact with Erik, there was a plan in place to blackmail him by hacking his
computers and planting evidence of espionage.
        All the while, the loyal and misguided Rebecca remained unaware that Omniarch’s plan was to
murder her, then suggest in Omniarch-controlled media that Erik could be a suspect, only to later show
the evidence actually exonerated him. Omniarch’s psych profile on Erik suggested that by shaming him,
he might lose friends and be more willing to seek solace in any of the counter-cultures run by Omniarch.

                                             Oasis of Home

        When Damian’s contract with the Dodgers expired in 2126, he inked a six-year deal with the
Seattle Mariners. His salary plus endorsements, he calculated, would allow him to purchase and
maintain more than four hundred middle-class homes in Seattle. Percentage-wise in terms of income, he
spent annually nearly ten times what Jimmy and Erik spent combined.
        Yet in spite of his success, Damian wished very deeply to return to a life incognito. He was
especially prominent in the public eye, he thought, because of some famous quotes he coined during the
course of his career, such as “Because no one can explain why life exists, in the end, all we know is that
totally unanswerable questions are some of the most interesting. Ironically, they also seem the most

        Damian had courted several women in Los Angeles during his seven years as a ball player there,
but none matched up to his expectations, until his final year in L.A., when he was introduced by a friend
to an actress who featured prominently in the media for her leading roles in adventure films. Angelica
Dray would eventually become Angelica Martel.

        She first became acquainted with Erik when Damian introduced them after a baseball game,
which was four months before Damian’s contract negotiations with Seattle. Erik’s first impression of
Angelica was that she was classy, and had a knack like Damian for telling in a funny way Hollywood
insider stories, though her vocabulary was far more wholesome than Damian’s.
        When Erik arrived at Damian’s and presumably Angelica’s new Seattle home in 2127, the
blossoming couple still had moving boxes piled to the ceilings, but instead of going out for dinner, the
three of them sat together on Damian’s brown leather couch eating pizza and telling stories. For a
famous actress, Erik thought, Angelica was modest to the point where it made the person talking to her
actually feel better after complimenting her. And Erik noticed there was a lot to compliment her about,
but he was cautious about overstepping his bounds. After the meal Damian put on some music and
brought out a joint.
        “Hey, it’s the off-season,” said Damian with a big grin on his face as he lit the joint, “I think I
deserve the relaxation.”
        Angelica responded with a sexy smile, “yeah baby.”
        As Erik puffed away after Damian, he explained to Angelica that since Nicaragua he had smoked
cannabis a few times and found it surprisingly mild and soothing. Damian too only smoked
occasionally. Angelica took only one puff from the joint, content to let it make her body tingle just a bit
without delving too pervasively into her personality.
        Twenty minutes later they were high and having a discussion about the awkwardness of sex on
the big screen, which had been prompted by Erik asking Angelica jokingly whether she had ever gone
on “workers comp” after a sex scene. Damian duly punched Erik in the arm, but he had to laugh since
he had said worse himself before.
        “By the way, how are things going with Rebecca McCandless?” Angelica asked.
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 59 -

       “I think I’m going to break it off,” Erik answered somberly, “she gets too personal, you know…
wears my clothes, reads my journal. It’s weird.”

        As Omniarch kept the Martel home under surveillance, Erik’s plan to break-up with Rebecca
was immediately reported to Norbert Weishaupt. Without hesitation he issued the order to have her
killed during her next encounter with Erik.

        And so, the next day Erik found Rebecca lying motionless on the floor of his shower. Frightened,
he kneeled down to take her pulse. She was dead. He fell back languidly and hit his head on the
counter, which was when he noticed that cocaine powder was everywhere, and indeed the entire
bathroom was disheveled, as if there had been a fight.
        Just then his phone rang.
        Still staring at her, he instinctively answered the phone and muttered, “This is Erik.”
        “Hello, Erik. This is Rebecca’s father, Will McCandless.” The call was not from her dad, but
rather, an Omniarch agent.
        “Yeah, really. My daughter gave me your phone number yesterday. Told me I should call you if
I had some time for lunch because I’m in Seattle on business for the day. Sorry to make this such a last
minute thing, but I’m actually right outside your building. Are you free? Should I come up?”
        “No, I’ll come down.” Erik answered quickly and hung up the phone. As he fought back tears
and sniffled, he was unwittingly ingesting small amounts of cocaine in his penthouse.
        He then tried to dial the police, but found his phone experiencing electrical interference. That’s
impossible, he thought. When he tried logging into his computer, he experienced the same problem –
nothing but static. I’m being set-up.
        Having no choice but to leave his place, he took the elevator down to the lobby and asked the
two security guards on-duty to call the police, saying he had just discovered his girlfriend dead in his
bathroom, and his phones were all jammed.
        As one of the men dialed, Erik said to the other, “I’ll be right outside, okay? I need some air.”
        Outside the building, and across the street on a park bench, an Omniarch agent waved to Erik.
Meanwhile, off-site, steps were being taken to erase all records of the fake phone call Omniarch had just
placed to Erik’s penthouse.
        Erik crossed the street and approached the man, “You’re not really her father, are you?”
        “I don’t know what you’re talking about, man, I thought you were… Hey, you’re Erik Weathers,
aren’t you?”
        “Never mind-”
        “No listen, I’m a psychic… I know who killed her.”
        “Killed who? How did you know that?!”
        “Allison Avery, the girl you loved in Nicaragua. I read your story. Can I give you my card?”
        As the man disappeared into the park, Erik read the small card, “Psychic Investigator. Shining
the real light.”

        In the ensuing months, Erik’s team of lawyers succeeded in proving his innocence, as well as
containing the media blitz. Video footage showed that Rebecca McCandless was alone when she
overdosed on cocaine.
        All the while, Omniarch loyalists posing as ordinary people in Erik’s life, like the grocery store
clerk and the mailman, dropped him subtle hints that Omniarch was responsible for Rebecca
McCandless’ murder, by means of remote mind control. They also suggested that if he didn’t join “the
                                                                              Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 60 -

universal brotherhood,” Omniarch would release to the media fake evidence that Erik supplied Rebecca
the cocaine, used her as a sex slave, and knew she was suicidal.
        Omniarch even suggested that if Erik wanted to meet Allison Avery’s murderer in a secluded
area, an unrestricted opportunity to torture him, he need only contact the Psychic Investigator who
would arrange the matter.
        “The Order is power without fear…” the hostess at the restaurant told him, “it’s indulgence
without guilt. It’s supremacy without conditions. It’s things you can’t know if you’re on the outside.”
Inside her dress she revealed to him a tattoo of various geometries on her stomach, and then finished,
“These are mysteries. And by my life I swear to you, you’re either with us or against us, Erik

                                           Reverse Causality

       It was a Monday morning in the year 2127 when Dr. Reese received a video email from a man at
NASA who identified himself as a Senior Cryptologist, and advised that the purpose of his email was to
convey NASA’s formal request for the hospital’s assistance with a “classified project.”
       A confidential meeting was held at the mental hospital later that week, during which NASA
explained that if Dr. Reese was willing, NASA wished to administer an “exam” to Vigorchium. It was
the same test with holograms that had been issued to Erik and Jimmy at the Wentworth Academy, and to
Michael when he was about Erik’s age.

        Less than ten seconds into the tutorial on how to administer the exam, Dr. Reese exclaimed,
“This looks like science fiction! Where did these symbols come from?”
        “I’m afraid that’s classified, Doctor,” the NASA cryptologist responded.
        Dr. Reese paused to collect his thoughts, and then asked, “Well, do we know what they mean?”
        The man took a deep breath and sat back in his chair before answering, “That’s what this exam is
designed to tell us. I’ll be straight with you, Martin. I don’t know that NASA knows what these
symbols mean. I don’t know that if anybody explained them to me, that I would even understand.”
        Dr. Reese noticed a blue ring on the man’s ring finger, with an inscription reading, “Flame of
Reason.” Unacquainted with Omniarch lore, however, Dr. Reese thought nothing of it.
        Dr. Reese then answered, “That’s what worries me. I’m afraid I’ll give Vigorchium this test and
he’ll give you answers that neither you nor I nor anyone at NASA understands.”
        The man smiled and said, “Hey, at this point, I’ll just be happy to have something to send up the
ladder. No harm can come from a perspective.”

        A special room was constructed for Vigorchium to take the exam, with a bathroom, a bed, and a
refrigerator nearby. It surprised Dr. Reese that Vigorchium showed no sign of surprise entering this
room for the first time. He walked right to the refrigerator and pulled himself out a soft drink, saying,
“This is nice. To whom shall I direct my gratitude?”
        Dr. Reese pointed to the computer and answered as Adams had instructed him, “The government
needs your expertise to refine its testing methods. I thought you’d be perfect. Not to mention, you
deserve to be rewarded for your efforts in our sessions together. I’m proud of you Vigorchium.”
        Looking up from his soda, and with a raised eyebrow, Vigorchium responded, “Doctor, this is
more than a test, isn’t it?”
        Dr. Reese responded again just as Adams had instructed, “If you wish to be a conspiracy theorist
for this testing exercise, that’s your prerogative, Vigorchium. As long as you do your best, you cannot
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 61 -

       Only a few minutes into the tutorial Vigorchium had begun to write his thoughts. “Draw a
parabola over the inverted area that is the square of the hexagonal area in the second quadrant at H18
delineated in red. Then…”

        Vigorchium knew he could not expect a straight answer about the origin of the strangely
interconnected symbols. Indeed, strategically, he did not ask questions about the origin of the exam for
fear that Dr. Reese would take the computer away from him.

        And so, Vigorchium analyzed the symbols day and night, knowing his answers were often
contradictory, which caused him great anguish. Occasionally he enjoyed an emotional outburst while
alone in the room, even though he knew he was being watched as he banged some of the objects they
had given him, like his table and chairs. Dr. Reese instructed the orderlies to allow the items to remain
banged up, and to wait for Vigorchium to bend them back into shape.

                                         The New World Order

        In the year 2128, Erik and his two best friends, Damian and Jimmy, decided they would attend a
black tie political fundraiser in support of the American Civil Liberties Union, to promote free speech
laws internationally.
        The fundraiser was held at a colonial-style mansion in Los Angeles.
        Damian attended with Angelica. And Erik brought Jimmy’s sister Melanie as a date, though he
prefaced his invitation as “strictly platonic.” Jimmy brought a young teacher whom he had met while
taking ballroom dance lessons in Chesterton. She did not know he was a genius.
        From the entranceway, Damian and Angelica were immediately whisked away by friends.
Jimmy and his date decided to tag along.
        But Melanie surveyed the grand hall where the majority of the guests appeared to be socializing,
and suggested to Erik, her “date,” as she called him, that they give themselves a tour. She attempted to
hold his hand as they walked up the spiraling staircase to the more private areas of the house.

        No later than five minutes after their arrival to the fundraiser, Damian and Jimmy found
themselves having a conversation with the Mayor of Los Angeles about world politics. As of 2128, the
majority of the world’s population embraced either Capitalism or Environmentalism. The Mayor had
been both criticized and lauded for not being affiliated with any particular political party. “Democracy
can’t agree on anything,” he would say, “as it should be.”
        “It’s just a shame we have to label everything,” said the mostly socialist mayor to the
predominantly capitalist Damian, “Life is already hard enough. Being harsh with people just makes the
world harsher. Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt.”
        Angelica put her hands over her heart and gently tilted her head as a sign that she agreed with the
compassionate argument. Damian too found himself quite sympathetic to the Mayor’s argument as
thought to himself, There’s a time to be practical, and a time to be theoretical. All humans deserve
        By contrast, the mayor was thinking to himself, When rats threaten to eat the crumbs off your
face as you sleep, it’s time to be practical. Being anything other than humane to people faced with the
cruelties of nature is inhumane for government.

        Their conversation with the mayor concluded with handshakes after the mayor’s wife arrived to
politely beckon him to join her in speaking with the organizer of the fundraiser. As it happened, Damian
and Angelica did not have to move at all from their spot in the center of the ballroom before they were
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 62 -

reengaged in conversation by the CEO of a company that designed home security systems, and his wife,
who was Angelica’s friend.
        The man discussed certain legal obstacles that prevented his company from selling some of its
“proactive home security products,” like ones that issued electric shocks to foreign substances, and
products designed to capture intruders in nets. He described how he authorized the corporation to spend
millions in legal fees to establish privacy as a fundamental right in certain cases where government
sought to ban technologies.
        The CEO said to Damian, “The erosion of privacy means the erosion of trust, which leads to an
unnecessary psychological war between the powers that want more privacy and the powers that want
better technology. Some think you can’t have the best of both worlds – privacy and technology.”

        The conversation about privacy led into a conversation about criminal cover-ups, and then
laboratory accidents, which had hit a high mark in the years of the nanotechnology boom. To Angelica,
the contamination caused by laboratory accidents represented a point in history she hoped would make
people nauseas. It’s sad why people meddle with technologies they don’t understand. She had accepted
the view that companies trying to stay competitive often acted hastily, simply in order to try to capture a
profit, which would be quite psychotic if it were an individual alone in his house.

        Meanwhile, Erik and Melanie were admiring naked sculptures in the mansion’s art collection
when they heard a commotion taking place downstairs, but before they reached the hallway to see what
the noise was about, they found themselves watching a news report on one of the television sets in the
upstairs study. The “EMERGENCY - LIVE REPORT” on the news described a nuclear accident that
had just occurred in the Arabian Sea.

                           Mankind Divided: The Oceanic Nuclear Disaster

        It was a day in human history without precedent – a nuclear disaster - caused by a triple hulled,
nondescript cargo tanker operated by a European mafia outfit, illegally and covertly carrying four
reactors from a port in India toward its destination in Somalia.
        Less than halfway through the journey, one of the four reactors, still cooling down from a pre-
sale inspection by the mafia scientists, began a spontaneous meltdown, triggering a full-scale nuclear
reaction. According to the news reports, safety precautions were meaningless.
        The meltdown affected everything on Earth in due course. Species loss was rampant. Acid rain
was deadly and brought the world’s agricultural reserves to the brink.
        Every Nation scrambled to quarantine water in deep underground aquifers, build safe
greenhouses, and place metallic encasements around important structures. Everywhere food and water
was rationed, and virtually all companies providing bioremediation services were nationalized to comply
with U.N. directives to clean the ocean. Psychological depression and suicide among all ages
proliferated, and many nations simply stopped enforcing basic laws. Substance abuse ravaged even the
strongest family units.
        Faced with habitability crises, de facto communism became the rule as cooperative housing
flourished and healthcare became the highest demanded resource next to food and water. The poorest
and least developed countries were hit the hardest by famine since these were the most dependent on
traditional farming and water collection. As the aggregate of the world’s pleas overwhelmed the United
Nations, people died en masse.
        Omniarch, to divide the world through chaos, and then offer order in the form of United Nations
relief and solidarity, had orchestrated the entire fiasco. The elites enjoyed safe water supplies, indoor
farms, and strong structures.
                                                                              Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 63 -

        Rider was one the corporations that was ordered by the United States government to design tetra-
amido macrocyclic ligand distribution systems to maximize the effects of certain enzymes that would be
used to clean the ocean. The enzymes needed to be strong enough to withstand the volatile reactions
needed to initiate transmutation of the nuclear contamination, but not so strong that the byproduct itself
could not be disposed of safely.
         And so, massive gated sea filters were built, and it was a very contentious political process
because the monumental effort required countries to cease using their bioremediation facilities for the
immediate local goal of obtaining water from deep substratum, and instead, turning over facilities and
resources to U.N. control. The poorest nations, faced with extreme water shortages, simply refused or
else did not have the capabilities to decontaminate water. As a result, it was the wealthiest nations that
provided the vast majority of resources necessary to clean the ocean, and therefore widely conceded by
scholars that if not for the technologically developed nations and their historical concentrations of
wealth, mankind would have gone extinct.

        The United Nations coordinated the international effort of investigating the cause of the nuclear
disaster and announced that it alone had the power to punish the individuals responsible. When several
government leaders openly vowed to use whatever means necessary to get answers, the world fell into
further chaos. The continental United States, which had been relatively fortunate in protecting itself
against the resource crisis, had closed its borders immediately upon the happening of the disaster.
        Some media attempted to place blame upon wealthier nations for not offering enough aid.
Omniarch had the media portraying it as a problem exacerbated by the United Nations not exercising its
power to redistribute resources in the name of equality, which many claimed a supreme government had
a responsibility to do in an environmental crisis. The U.N.’s Secretary General repeated often the
obvious reality that if the U.N. tried to help everyone, it would help no one.

       People feared the new world order as property and businesses were rampantly abandoned.
Because at the time of the disaster, most countries had condemnation laws that vested title in abandoned
property with local governments, property was being auctioned at unreasonably low prices.

       And yet, Erik saw his gated community in Chesterton as an oasis of calm in the dangerous
world. The quarantined area had its own aquifer and water recycling system.
       Prophetically, the mechanics of this system were actually imaged by the cells under the
birthmark of Wendy Martel, Damian’s mother, and indeed, many birthmarks throughout the world
prophesied aspects of the great environmental disaster.

        Michael Weathers left his post on the Board of Directors immediately after the disaster to help
lead Rider’s bioremediation objectives. And Charlotte converted her greenhouse into a complete fruit
and vegetable garden, trading the Weathers’ produce to the local supermarket for government credits,
which had become more valuable than cash.
        Jimmy and Erik too proved instrumental, mostly through their invention of nanofiltration
technologies and catalytic processes to work with the molecular cleaning machines being used by the
United States government in the ocean.
        Working from necessity made their semi-communistic world tolerable. If not for the hope that
the natural environment would be reclaimed, and ordinary business reinstituted at some foreseeable
point in the future, Erik believed his countrymen would have resorted to lawlessness.
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 64 -

        On the anniversary of the event, Erik and Damian drowned their sorrows with bootlegged
alcohol in Erik’s garage.
        Later that week, Erik was asked by a reporter, “If you’re such a Capitalist, why don’t you
criticize the Government for making us accept Communism after the nuclear disaster?”
        Erik answered confidently, “Because you don’t stop to collect your fine china from the
cupboards when the house is on fire. In a crisis you have to go to Communism, but Communism’s goal
should be to develop toward Socialism and eventually Capitalism if the society is strong enough. It’s a
process… a natural progression. Even though Communism is inevitable with certain types of societal
conflict, ultimately it’s never a desirable long-term goal. As the more hope lies in freedom,
Communism becomes more intolerable.”

       And so, as the years passed slowly, mankind labored to resurrect the environment. But even the
smell of the air was tainted. Damian was quoted as saying about baseball’s hiatus, “I’m not gonna
pretend that baseball is what the world really needs right now … people are dying from starvation and
we can’t ignore that… but I know there’s a place for solidarity around what’s traditional, so you can bet
your water filter I want baseball to be a part of that solidarity when the time is right. We’ll enjoy
baseball again when we can all enjoy a breath of fresh air together.”

                                           Living Symbolism

        The quiet environment of the mental hospital provided Vigorchium sanctuary from the
contaminated and tumultuous world beyond its walls. And although the savant spent a great amount of
energy thinking of ways to break out of the hospital when the time is right, he was quite content to
continue analyzing the seven symbols on the NASA computer.
        By the year 2130, Vigorchium believed the symbols to be alien in origin and that they translated
into a code that when executed would allow the man wielding them to realize extrasensory abilities. He
advised Dr. Reese that he had interpreted from the architecture of the symbols not only the human form
in a multi-dimensional state, but what he believed to be a mathematical construct of a multi-dimensional
sense that plotted man’s five senses onto a spectrum of greater possibilities, which he called “infinite
senses.” Vigorchium described that superhuman physical abilities woven into the symbols, such as
levitation, were only “the tip of the iceberg in comparison to the spiritual abilities I’ll realize by
executing symbolic paradoxes upon certain hidden dimensions.”
        “And how does one execute a symbolic paradox upon a hidden dimension?” Dr. Reese asked
Vigorchium in the special room, as NASA officials watched and listened to the live feed.
        “It’s like a key,” Vigorchium answered, “the dimension won’t open unless the qualities of one
paradox line up perfectly with the qualities of another paradox. The human mind is too simple to reach
these mental states, though, Dr. Reese. I can’t make a full connection… I just… I can’t.” Frustrated,
Vigorchium began to scream, “I FUCKING CAN’T!” He knew Dr. Reese would take away the
computer for a short interval because of his screaming, but he believed he couldn’t help himself.
Destiny is here. The symbols know. She knows. She fuckin’ knows.

        Indeed, Dr. Reese put Vigorchium on a short sabbatical away from the symbols. Vigorchium
then used the break as an opportunity to brainstorm the different ways to break the cycle of phi in order
to expand his consciousness. Phi is the maximum ratio for information that can be added onto a
preexisting pattern, without destroying the pattern. And every human sense can be derived as a ratio
relative to its source.
                                                                              Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 65 -

        Thinking this, Vigorchium believed he might tap into new human senses by compressing and
expanding human faculties by a factor of various harmonic ratios. He calculated into existence certain
pyramids and cavity structures inside strange geometries that he thought might be especially helpful for
compression and expansion. In one ratio, by compressing the speed of light by a factor of 34,560, he
derived the speed of sound, and by compressing the speed of sound by this number, he derived the speed
of heat.
        Often he had no words to describe the various forces and feelings he hypothesized as new human
senses. In some instances he theorized these sensations could be more accurately described as weapons
rather than simply tingling sensory experiences.
        He daydreamed about new senses that would allow him to immediately recognize another
sentient being in his presence, psychic powers, being able to open up space and appear anywhere else at
any time, and being able to change matter into anything he wanted. And on top of this, when he thought
about reverse causality, and the possibility of erasing the immorality of his own past, he started getting

                                      Drawing Outside The Law

        When Paul Ashby advised the Board of his intent to resign as CEO at the end of 2136, Rider
considered several candidates for his replacement. The Board said they wanted someone with versatile
scientific knowledge, a leader, and someone whom they could reward for hard work at the company.
Erik was the obvious choice.
        Michael Weathers was required to abstain from the Board’s vote because the corporate by-laws
prohibited board members from electing family members to an officer’s position, but the vote was
unanimous. Erik became the man in charge at age thirty-six.
        Erik informed the Board prior to their vote that his interest in becoming CEO was “a natural
progression.” But in his mind, Erik’s true reason for wanting to become the corporation’s CEO was that
he had started a laboratory in his home basement many years earlier, and his neurotic thoughts there had
been overwhelming him, and he thought that as an executive he would be a more normal guy.
        Erik’s first responsibility as CEO was to accept training from Paul Ashby, the former CEO, who
wanted nothing more than to divest himself of a controversial file he had been developing, which he
dubbed “The Brown File.” It was devoted to whether the corporation should devote the majority of its
workforce to developing brain probes.

        When Paul Ashby moved the brown file dramatically across Erik’s desk, he said with engaging
and uncertain eyes, “The board has no clue this file exists, not even your dad, and frankly I don’t know
what to do with it. Most of what you’ll read in here about brain probing… you’ll see it traces to Jimmy
Tripp’s research, so I thought since you two are close friends, maybe you could discuss it together and
figure out how to proceed. To be perfectly honest with you, it means a lot to me that I don’t control this
file anymore.”
        Ashby was tall and stately looking, with experienced eyes and an action-oriented voice that made
him appear powerful. And as a conservative capitalist, he was very powerful.

        Many of the ideas in the brown file were simply natural expansions and variations of ideas that
were already discussed in scientific journals, primarily crime scene recognition machines. It was well
publicized that one of the problems with the use of such machines was that criminals in fear of
interrogation probes would often seek black market hypnosis and lobotomies to rid their minds of
incriminating information. A lie detector that could defeat these tactics would be a more permissible law
enforcement and judicial tool.
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         The file affirmed that Rider had the financial and human resources on paper to delve into brain
probing. Ashby predicted near-term results would be speculative, but that Rider source codes developed
from probing would revolutionize the company and could help change the world. But the proposal was
far off from Rider’s traditional focus in medical research. Erik found it understandable that the former
CEO decided against suggesting the proposal to the board.

       Erik suspected the real reason Ashby wanted to resign as CEO was that he had diligently tracked
the corporation’s best interest, and it led him to conclude Rider should begin to probe the human brain,
which Ashby did not care to do as a conservative Christian. Erik, on the other hand, did not have the
same reservations. He had frequently dreamed of using a probe to torture Allison’s killer.

        Ashby had written into the Brown File that the laws against brain probing made profit making
very risky. He had consulted the corporation’s lawyer about whether Jimmy’s research could be
implemented through legal loopholes. Erik decided the brown file deserved a good deal of mulling over
and researching. He had no qualms with loopholes.

        Modern brain probing began in the year 2105, with the invention of the ‘TRACK Scan,’ a mind
probe that allowed neuroengineers to graph neurological data three dimensionally, through
electromagnetic wave frequencies. With outward appearances like an old hair dryer or a helmet, the
TRACK-Scan-derivative programs performed characterization analysis for the end user.
        In the first decade of the twenty second century, it was reported in medical journals that the
TRACK-Scan had proven usefulness for treating a variety of mental and physical illness. The first
programs were based on muscle activation in well-understood areas, like the smile and the penis.
        Subjects saddled into probes experienced mild electromagnetic shocks issued to various brain
areas with the assistance of SQUIDs, supercomputing quantum interference devices.
        Under international law, with limited exceptions the brain was only allowed to be studied from
the outside, which meant that neuroengineers were not allowed to alter the contents of the brain, except
through approved “drugs” and “treatments.” Laws restricting brain probing were many and varied, and
so had been subject to routine review by courts, which slowed technological progress in the area,
especially as to the SQUIDs.

        Ashby believed Rider could make better TRACK-Scan programs, and make them be learning
aides for all disciplines. After much deliberation, Erik agreed. He had decided that during his first year
as Rider’s Chief Executive Officer, he would immerse himself in product development and delegate
nearly all of his financial and administrative tasks to the Chief Financial Officer and his staff of
accountants and MBAs while the Chief Operating Officer handled marketing and human resources.
And so, with his house in order, Erik would rule with an iron fist, because he found it relieved stress.

                                         The Hopeful Question

        In the year 2138, two somewhat anonymous NASA cryptologists requested that 38-year old
Vigorchium be transferred to a nondescript military facility in Florida.
         Dr. Reese, who was still Vigorchium’s lead psychiatrist, objected with strong posture, “So this
is my reward for being helpful to NASA? You’re taking my patient?”
        The older of the two agents answered with a clear voice, “The equipment we need Vigorchium to
use is in Florida. We’d tell you more, but you haven’t agreed to increase the classification status of your
agreement with this government program.”
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         Dr. Reese then took a moment to consider the book he had been writing about Vigorchium,
which he incorrectly believed others did not yet know about.
          “If you take Vigorchium away from this hospital, then you take him away from the only place
he has ever demonstrated any productivity…. We are talking about a patient with a history of arson, who
has not talked about fire for years. A patient-”
         The younger of the agents then interrupted, “I understand that Martin.” He then added after a
sigh, with overtly unemotional eyes, “Does Vigorchium find true solace here, or is it the computer he
loves? And were you ever planning on telling us about the book you’re writing?”
         “I… it’s not what you think. My book is mostly a memoir of my life, it’s not technically about
         “Don’t be defensive,” the older one said, “The government wants you to enrich culture by
publishing your book eventually… we want you to make money and to pay your taxes. But in the name
of national security, I’m afraid you can’t write about the symbols. We told you that the day we met
         Dr. Reese answered, “I understand that. It’s not like you haven’t been clear about the secrecy of
the symbols. I haven’t been writing about-”
         The younger one interrupted, “Yes you have, indirectly. C’mon, what kind of psychological
games can do the things you’re writing about?”
         Dr. Reese responded quickly, “I’m in the brainstorming stage … should I even ask how you’re
reading my computer?”
         The older one shook his head, “Not until you agree to increase your classification status.”
         The younger one spoke next, “Let’s just be real about this, Martin. It’s fun learning about these
symbols and watching Vigorchium figure this stuff out. It’s been fun for me watching our people get
excited about Vigorchium. Your patient needs you, Martin, and people think you’re the best man for the
job. If you try to keep Vigorchium here in Oregon, we’ll have to gather a committee of your colleagues
and see what the majority thinks.”
         Dr. Reese then said after a long pause, “Guess I’ll have to rewrite my memoirs.”
         The agents laughed happily as they reached across the table and shook the hand of the smiling
psychiatrist, at which point Dr. Reese said, “I mean, let me try to clear it with my wife first.”

        The next day, when the psychiatrist informed Vigorchium that he would be accompanying him
to Florida for further study, Vigorchium immediately replied, “Is it for the symbols?”
        “Yes,” Dr. Reese answered with probing eyes.
        Vigorchium had grown so accustomed to the Doctor telling him what to do, he asked very few
questions about Florida other than when they were leaving and whether his favorite orderlies would be
able to come along. When Dr. Reese responded that he would be the only staff member from the
Oregon mental hospital accompanying him, Vigorchium offered a rare token of empathy, “ What about
your family? Will they follow you?”
        “We’re all moving together, Vigorchium. I’ve always loved Florida, actually.”
        Choosing not to question the doctor further about his personal life, for fear of upsetting some
balance between them, Vigorchium simply nodded and offered without any apparent subtext, “I love
        The doctor experienced relief hearing his patient’s positive comment, even happy.
        But then Vigorchium continued, “Let me tell you something else about the symbols…”
        “What’s that Vigorchium?” asked Dr. Reese with caring eyes. But the answer he received was
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        Will he listen to that? Vigorchium questioned while looking into the fearful eyes of Dr. Reese,
and at that moment, Vigorchium felt crazy again for the first time since he had checked himself into the
Oregon hospital twenty years earlier. Why does honesty feel crazy?

                                          Details and Chance

         While walking in the park one cool Sunday afternoon Erik met the eyes of his future wife, Sarah
Lockwood, whose navy blue running shorts and matching hooded sweatshirt evidenced that she had
been jogging, though, at the moment Erik noticed her, she was kneeling down to address a broken
sprinkler head on the side of the path, which he found curious. It so happened that there was good eye
contact between them, interrupted only by two accidental smiles that made them look away from each
        As he walked closer, following the path he was already on, he noticed that she was using the
precise tool he had in his pocket, only blue. It was a light all-purpose tool with very thin instruments
made of nearly unbendable steel, a popular version of the time-tested pocketknife.
        She diverted the sprinkler’s stream of water onto the grass away from the path. He spoke kindly
to her with a friendly resonance as he approached, “Hi, I was going to offer some help-”
        She interrupted, “That’s okay I think I’ve got the right tool for the-”
        He interrupted her, “I was gonna say it looks like you’re doing what I would be doing, with the
tool I would be using.” He held out his open palm to show the all-purpose tool, and she raised an
eyebrow with a partial smile.
        “My dad installs sprinkler systems for a living, so this is one of the mechanical things I’m good
at,” she said as she attempted to realign the spring and lock mechanism, which was difficult to do with
both the sprinkler mechanism still moving rapidly and with the handsome man now talking to her. Erik
was drawn to her face but did well to keep his gaze down at her fingertips.
         “I was going to ask you how you knew about the spring lock, but I guess if you’ve got this
situation under control, then…”
        “What’s your name?” she asked, entertaining his attention from the spring, thinking this is fun.
        Up close he could see the smoothness of her skin. He guessed that she hadn’t been running long
that afternoon because her cheeks look soft, which he noticed in the practical task of gauging the
pinkness of them to estimate how hard she had been exercising. The thought entered his mind that he
could try to smell her to see how long she had been exercising, and the thought was so far from socially
practical, it surprised him that it made him so happy to think of it deliberately. Hmmm, he also thought
with serotonin pumping in his brain, oh so the right amount of pudgy cheeks. Meanwhile his neocortex
compiled other information he observed in her face to determine whether she was tired from exercise.
        “Erik Weathers,” he answered proudly.
        “I’m Sarah. Nice to meet you.” At the moment she extended her hand, the sprinkler slipped from
her other, which sent the water directly to the top of Erik’s shirt. They looked at each other with
diametric faces trying to impress each other with their own versions of guilt and innocence.
        He was dressed in dark brown corduroy slacks with a nice, light blue, button-down shirt. When
she laughed in apology at him getting sprayed, he noticed that her lower lip quivered above an attractive,
roundish chin.
        He found the curviness was a very attractive and healthy look for the woman in her late twenties,
and her green eyes stood out beautifully to him as the most brilliant thing about her, a compliment to the
rest of her face and the thick brown hair that was tied up with two rubber bands at the moment.
        As she laughed with an apologetic look of wanting to help in some way, water dripped from his
        “I am so sorry Erik.”
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         “It’s fine,” he answered with a smile, “is that how people shake hands where you’re from?” As
he laughed, he realized making her laugh made him happier than he expected.
         She wanted to dry his face but decided against rubbing her arm across it, and noticed to herself
that she liked wanting to want to do it, which she had learned from past relationships made her more
aware of her emotions, a good thing. Then as he untucked his shirt she peaked underneath, only to
notice the absence of well-defined abdominal muscles, but he was still firm she could tell.
         Her own body was strong from daily exercise, but in a voluptuous, feminine manner. Her mother
had once complimented her on good childbearing hips. Before the nuclear accident she had never
worked out in gyms because she thought, it’s unnatural for a healthy person to work out in an air-
conditioned room when the outdoors answered all of a body’s needs an earthly amount better. She was
an environmentalist, and one devoted to yoga.
         “You aren’t going to hit and run are you?” he asked, drawing a much smaller and delayed laugh.
But in the way he said it, she trusted her emotions to believe she liked him enough to continue.
Answering with a warm smile she offered cogently, “I hope you aren’t on your way anywhere
         “No,” he answered, “just going for a walk. Say, you might as well let me get that sprinkler since
I’m already wet. That is, if you don’t mind.” She offered up the tool in her hand, because his was back
inside his pocket. She had been noticing his hands.
         Then, while realigning the bent spring and resetting the lock, he failed to prevent himself from
imagining a photograph in his wallet where his first love, Allison Avery, was turning her body around to
face him and she was about to say something. Behind her head was a magnificent orange sunrise resting
on Mount Rainer. Her eyes were righteous, and she wore a smile that had said countless things to him
over the years. Part of his self-discipline at work revolved around avoiding the desire to take it out and
stare at it in private, especially since the older he got, the more awkward it became when he was caught
staring at her photo.
         Occasionally he switched photos, but this was his favorite, worn on the edges and sharp in his
mind. Unfortunately for Sarah, when Allison’s image met the soft spots of his consciousness, Erik had
always found it difficult to reject mourning.
         And so, this all occurred to him as he set the sprinkler in twenty seconds, and when he stood up
he wore a sad expression upon his face that he tried to cover with an artificial smile. In spite of all his
empirical observation of her presence during their first encounter, what he failed to fully appreciate
about her face was that her nostrils were comedic tools.
         Sarah put her hand on his elbow and said, “You know, I’m sure I could have done that myself. I
just wanted you to know that I knew the bar was bent, but thanks for helping.”
         “You bet. I should probably get back to the office so I can change.”
         She didn’t know what to say, so she took a deep breath and smiled.
         “Well, have a nice-”
         “Wait” she said excitedly with an air of conflict in her voice. To her, Erik appeared interested a
moment ago, so she wondered whether he had found it awkward that she said nothing while he worked
on the sprinkler. From her perspective, she simply appreciated watching his movements, so it hadn’t
seemed awkward to her. Say something Sarah, she thought to herself before exclaiming, “Where I’m
from, a gentleman asks a lady out to dinner after she gives him the special water handshake.”
         “Yeah?” Erik responded with a breath and a genuine smile. A pause followed, and another
breath. “I’d like that,” he said finally.
         He then pulled a pencil from his shirt pocket. It had several bite marks on it and was worn down
to the size of his large hand. Then from his pants pocket he brought out a small note pad, which he
carried for jotting down thoughts as they arose during his walks. It was opened to the first page of the
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
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day, as the pages above it had been torn away. When she lifted the pad from his hand, he stared at her
eyes for the enjoyment of it and smiled.
        She pretended to make a couple small bite marks in his pencil, which made him laugh. Then as
she wrote down her number she noticed that an imprint had been left behind on the blank page. It was
the word “machine,” surrounded by what appeared to be nature doodles - trees and flowers and the sun.

                                        Undefined Brain Projects

        On the day Erik discovered Sarah in the world of everyone else, he had been Chief Executive
Officer for slightly longer than one year. The experiments he conducted in his basement as an engineer
had become even more intricate as his focus shifted from raw electromagnetism to electromagnetic
interference with biology. He told himself, I’ve seen enough movies to know when a scientist working
alone in his basement ceases to be good, which to the now mad scientist looks like the continuation of
progress, but to the audience, that progress only perpetuates the descent into the abyss of foreseeable
disaster as he misses opportunities to turn his life around.

        But, since most everyone at Rider was very intimidated by Erik, not only because of his genius
and extraordinary success rate as an engineer, but also his position as CEO, they praised him. Some
even referred to him as the “golden boy.” Consequently, Erik did not genuinely believe that he was
becoming a mad scientist, though he acknowledged to himself, I’m probably capable of very dangerous
things. It’s interesting what actually becomes dangerous just by realizing and explaining the facts that
lead to its creation.

        At the beginning of their first date, at the doorstep to Sarah’s home, Erik presented to her a
young rose bush for her garden, and that afternoon he helped her plant it, which he knew she would
enjoy. They had spoken on the phone a few days earlier and she had mentioned then several of her
hobbies. The one that Erik found the cutest was that she taught ballet to kindergarteners after work,
which she said helped balance out that during her day job, as a plumber, much of her job was not cute.
        They talked for so long and so extensively about life on their first date at her home that they
decided to cancel their dinner plans and stay in, except he made a brief exit to the hardware store, as he
had been walking around her place fixing things she had broken trying to fix them.
        That evening she cooked for him a spaghetti dinner by candlelight, even though it was still
relatively light outside. Erik left her house that night with a promise to actually take her to a museum
and dinner “next time.”
        But as he walked down the brick path leading away from her door, he congratulated himself for
not thinking of Allison.

        When he arrived at Sarah’s house for their next date, she was expecting to go downtown to the
Earth & Space Museum, but to her surprise, Erik pulled into the mall.
        “What’s this all about, huh?” she said with a bemused smile on her face.
        Erik responded, “I just want to buy some shoes. Do you mind?”
        “You realize we’re supposed to be on a date, not a shopping trip... Right? Can I just ask you…
are you the same romantic guy who fixed my solar last week? Because I was promised a museum… Or
are you just testing me to see if I’ll ask you to buy me something at the mall?” She then made an
attractive face as she delivered the punch line, “something pretty maybe…”
        “Not at all,” Erik said, still grinning, “I need to buy tennis shoes.”
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        “Uh-huh!” she said sarcastically, “I’ll bet… don’t worry, I’ll figure you out…” With a tickle to
his belly, she scooted up in her seat and leaned over to kiss him on the chin, which made him smile
because he liked her chin so much.

        The mall had three main entrances - one was a regular escalator, the second was an elevator, and
the third was an inverted slide that lifted patrons up one level.
        Erik walked up to the base of the swirly slide and sat down on one of the mats. In one short
moment, the unattached mat began to move upwards following the turns in the yellow metal. He felt the
hair on his head stand on end. At the top a teenager with a lollipop greeted him. Ten seconds later, Erik
saw the frizzy hair of Sarah Lockwood, followed by two happy eyes and a big smile. And she took the
lollipop as a souvenir. Erik explained to her that, “Your hair stands on end because background
electricity slowly seeps out of the slide after each person takes a run, and because it’s a spiral there was
background electricity from my ride, and so that’s partly me that made your hair stand on end.” She
liked the way he said it, and they held hands. Erik pointed out a booth nearby dedicated to selling
combs, and said, “Welcome to niche village.”
        She told him though, “That joke’s only half-funny because it’s funny, but it needs a second half,”
which he appreciated as an educational joke, as he was confirming in his mind that he was judging her to
be a good judge of comedy, which he explicitly recognized in that moment as an instance of ready made

        Erik’s destination on his mall date with Sarah was not a shoe store, but the video arcade, which
had been advertised on television as “the neatest and sweetest,” neat for the games, and sweet for the
café-style food court. She was wearing blue jeans, and a loose tank top with the symbol of a smiley
face. He wore casual slacks and a Seattle Mariners t-shirt.
        The mall was large, and for the most part fashion-oriented. On the way to the arcade Erik
stopped at the sporting goods store and bought some white tennis shoes to keep the charade going that
he had a good reason to be at the mall. Life is reasons, he mused to himself as he gazed through a store
window at an “invisible helmet” that allowed the user to both listen to music and sing as loud as they
wanted without disrupting anyone.

       There were two games Erik wanted to play at the arcade - Operation Earth and Wizards of the
Orb – both of which had separate rooms, and there was a line trailing outside of each. So, on account of
the wait, Sarah recommended they eat lunch first.
       She asked him then, “Do you think humans will ever create a perfect artificial intelligence?”
       “You mean transplant my brain into someone else, because I for one -”
       “No, c’mon. A robot that really simulates logic. I think the textbook question is whether we can
make a robot that realizes open ended definitions of success and failure… through the process of
learning from observation.”
       “I think the world will probably blow itself up first,” he responded.
       “And if that didn’t happen?”
       Erik rested his hands on opposite sides of his jaw, and trying not to sound boring, whispered, “As
we figure out how the brain works, a computer program copies the functions, and we reproduce the
brain mechanically with logical variations that we want to be interesting.” He then said with a paternal
tone, “What do you think would stop the process?”
       “Morality,” she answered happily, nudging closer.
       “But isn’t the pursuit of knowledge categorically moral?”
       “Yes, but not if you mess with the natural order of things along the way.”
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        “That’s true” Erik said with finality on the topic. Then Sarah made him laugh by putting a
menacing-looking little grin on her face, and pretended to be a goddess as she exclaimed, “Good, you’ll
think what I want you think!” She was so funny to him, he wanted to tell her there, so he said, “I like it
when you do that, you know.”
        “What, this?” she answered, and then curled the corner of her mouth while she licked just one
tooth back and forth with the tip of her tongue. As she licked her tooth behind quivering lips, her
nostrils flared with each breath and he also noticed her eyes had a fun look, and then she let everything
fall back into place and commented with a very feminine and seductive smile, “I like you too.” He
melted with adoration.

        She entered Operation Earth without knowing exactly what was supposed to happen, and she
tried to tune out the people in line who were commenting on their earlier experiences. There was a
required waiver form being collected by the person operating the game room. No one under age sixteen
was allowed to “experience” this arcade game. For realness, the program incorporated real life
geographic information that displayed digitally the actual contours found on the earth, both before and
after the oceanic nuclear disaster that rocked the world ten years earlier.
        The player could request to play any 50 square-mile area on the planet. While the program
loaded, the operator strapped the player in, without harnesses, and two thin metal receptors were
suctioned onto the player’s temples. A three-dimensional screen surrounded the entire room, along with
steering and throttle equipment protruding in front of the authentic helicopter seat.
        For Sarah the game began with her helicopter in the air. She was immediately overtaken by the
sound of the blades above her, and the craft began to dive. Upon leveling the chopper, she saw the
Grand Canyon and a digital arrow that was directing her to bring the chopper down inside the misty
chasm. Voices sounded behind her, and when she turned around, she jumped. It was her crew, life-like
and strapped into their seats with their guns pointed outside the aircraft. They spoke to her, “Sarah,
whenever you’re ready to engage.” She had let go of the controls accidentally when she looked over her
shoulder, but the game didn’t bring her craft down any. She guessed that it was programmed to avoid
diving at the beginner level, as most people would get scared after seeing copilots behind them.
        Everything was crisp in front of her, and the little cube felt dry and warm, with a cool dusty
breeze coming from where the window of her helicopter was located. She pulled up out of the canyon, in
rejection of the digital arrow, and decided to enjoy the view. A bird hit her windshield and she made a
laugh-yell sound. What was amazing to her was that she could hear the echo of her laugh coming back
from behind her, amplified like music. Then a man’s voice came up behind her ear again, “Don’t worry,
Lieutenant. It was just a pigeon.”
        Are there pigeons in the grand canyon? she wondered. After enjoying the height for a while and
shredding through clouds, which were too misty to enjoy a view, she maneuvered the chopper down
again, toward a jagged crest of orange rock. There was something written on it, so she moved closer. In
dripping blood the rock carried the words, “Sarah, we’re gunning for you.” Her seat shook, and a
moment later the chopper was overtaken by fighter planes and alien space ships.

       Erik chose to play his turn in England, before the nuclear disaster, though he didn’t jump when
the men behind him introduced themselves. He had read in the news that the cube was pumped with
oxygen to make the player feel euphoric, which lasted in part beyond the game and into the shopping
experience. Thus, even though it was only a new game, it helped boom the arcade industry, the article
concluded, as Operation Earth was found at places like malls, amusement parks, nightclubs, and
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
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       After the game they sat down in the café to share a coffee, which went fast, and as they got up to
play some more, Sarah said, “Virtual reality games, man, what are they other than trying to forget where
you are to enhance your reality?”

        The room for Wizards of the Orb looked like it was a quarter acre, and the floor was glass which
gave the impression that he stood in the exact center of a cube. There were no seats, and no wires. The
same remotely activated suction cups were placed on Erik’s temples as the previous game, but here he
was fitted with two thick gloves and a vest.
        When the game turned on he swirled around in complete defiance of the fact that he felt as
though he were actually floating. To descend he simply looked down, and the ground came nearer. To
fly he needed only to look in that direction and point with his gloves. He noticed that he was wearing a
metallic red cape of a color he had only seen artificially, and there was a translucent robe over his body,
through which he could barely make out the clothes he walked in with, except his tennis shoes, which
were obvious.
        Digital words displayed in front of him, and when he spoke them aloud, an orb began to form in
his hand, and it tingled all throughout his arm, but especially in his fingertips. He clasped his right hand
on top of the orb now forming in his left hand, and the golden face shaped object grew larger and
brighter. He at once wanted to look away from its brightness, but a recognizable shape formed in the
middle of it - his own face smiling back at him. He felt his hands shake at the moment he heard a voice
behind him, and the orb turned to a warm ball of fire. His face then felt warmer, and he wondered
whether the heat he felt in his hand was psychological, or whether it was artificially induced by the
game. That he cared to deliberately acknowledge the distinction comforted him psychologically as he
        The vest and the electrodes made him feel different things as his body pivoted as if in mid air,
though he still felt his feet moving on the floor, which was a very strange contradiction he enjoyed. Then
after only a few seconds, he threw the fiery orb at an object approaching in the distance, but twenty feet
away his orb narrowly collided with an oncoming ice boomerang that glittered white as it seemed to drip
crystals along the way. One awesome thing he did not expect was that the artificial ice circumvented his
attacking orb, boomeranged around his head and left two actual droplets of water on his shoulders
before attacking the orb from behind. The explosion sent him ducking for the second time. Amazing! He
began to fall toward the ground as sparks emanated from bubbles everywhere around him. Then he
looked up and held his hands together for the second time, but this time a new type of orb formed, green
in color, and inside it he saw the face of his opponent, who was fast approaching.
        He tried to dodge the wizard, but found himself up against a padded wall. The orb was burning
hot in his hand, and he thrust it forward into the belly of the teleporting wizard. His hand felt as though
it were entering a tub of grapes, and the wizard imploded, with a spectacular light show to follow,
dropping warm and cold mist all over the cube. In some of the mist he could read words, and in places
he saw pictures, but there was no time to enjoy the show because two more wizards came, and without
his having to do anything deliberate, he felt two small orbs begin to form in each hand, a tingle that was
warm in one hand and cold in the other. Digital words formed again, and when he spoke them, the orbs
grew and levitated from his hands and swirled into a dragon that stood before him and his enemies. It
was a defense that allowed him time to form more orbs by reading more words and directing his hands
in conjunction with the digital arrows, which were complimentary with the beginner setting, but he
decided to watch the dragon fight the wizards. Awestruck, he watched one of the wizards fly underneath
the dragon, and then up behind him, sending an orb into his body. Then all in one moment, everything
happened – the dragon turned toward him and breathed a mirror of fire before his eyes, the orbs forming
in his hands exploded into a light show, and his vest rumbled to give him a tingling feeling that
meandered slowly all the way down to his pelvis, and then back up his spine to his neck.
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                                                                                             - 74 -

        Sarah failed to destroy the first wizard, but she did manage to run into all four walls. After the
experience she and Erik walked around the mall, poking in to different shops and discussing life. She
had chosen the occupation of plumber, a predominantly male profession, when she was twenty years
old. As it happened, she graduated early from college with a Psychology degree, so when the nuclear
disaster struck, her plumbing skills with plumbing robots put her in high demand. “An interesting thing”
she liked to talk about was that many of her tools had originated as inventions for surgeons and crime
scene investigators.
        One of the aspects of the job she found intrusive, but necessary, was the security camera attached
to the company logo on her overalls. To every house she visited as a plumber she brought her laptop
computer for diagnostic purposes, and after assessing a home’s problem, she would fetch the right
instruments from her company van to fix it.
        She knew her lapel camera was necessary to deter criminal assaults against her. She told Erik on
their third date that even though she always turned off her camera while using the restroom for her own
needs, because the populace was full of “camera-junkies,” she used a towel to cover herself in people’s
bathrooms. “You don’t think that’s paranoid, do you?” she asked Erik. “No way,” he answered, “it’s
just awkward, is all.” In reply she offered, “What would be really awkward is if our brains didn’t as
readily draw a distinction between what’s weird and what’s awkward.”

         Six months passed and Erik’s confidence as CEO solidified steadily as his relationship with
Sarah was approaching full commitment levels. They saw each other almost daily. She actually liked to
be in his basement asking questions about the engineering.
         The types of logic that he had written up on the blackboard interested her like a student, and she
occasionally would pick up a piece of chalk, and write “dream logic” on the blackboard and then just
proceed to tell him about her dreams, which he psychoanalyzed.
         She told him once, “ordinary logic isn’t the focus in dreams because different emotions need to
exercise different neural network patterns during sleep to achieve equilibrium. It’s all about what ends
up confirming your emotions, and obviously it’s not all happy thoughts. But since it looks more random
than organized, often, to prevent it from appearing too illogical, you have to interpret to understand the
rules of dreaming, which is a language that relies on symbolism.”
         She enjoyed especially telling him about dreams where he rescued her, but these dreams only
made him acknowledge to himself, she forces me to conceal my fears of someone harming her… I have
to tell her everything is going to be okay… and I have to show her what a strong man I am in reality so
she’ll dream safely... It’s an inevitable life theme… and people just say they want each other to be

         Once he had lost count of how many dates they had been on, Erik decided to introduce Sarah to
his parents. By then, Damian and Angelica had already gotten to know her, and they said they liked her
a lot. Jimmy liked her too, but in confidence he asked Erik whether her being a plumber might be “a
little too obvious.”
         Erik returned only a blank stare, prompting Jimmy to say unemotionally, via whisper, that she
might be a government agent sent to collect information about Erik’s basement work. The way Jimmy
whispered tenderly was so hilarious to Erik he had to fight tears from forming in his eyes, which stopped
Jimmy in his tracks. Erik also told Sarah about it that day, as he gave her instructions to prank call
Jimmy to ask him to join the CIA in their mission to spy on Erik. It was a funny conversation, as Erik
listened secretly, away from the camera. When Jimmy asked if Sarah’s government had a good dental
plan, Erik laughed and gave himself away.
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       It was evening when Erik and Sarah arrived at his parents’ house. Charlotte greeted them at the
door with hugs. Because she and Michael were finishing up the cooking together, Erik gave Sarah the
house tour, which included the central plumbing unit - a computer in the garage that measured all
manner of gases, liquids, and solids, and connected to the filtration system. Erik highlighted that his
family received on their doorstep the best filter available one day after the nuclear disaster, with a note,
“Courtesy of the United States government. God Bless Earth.”

        It was reported by Omniarch loyalists in the U.N. that the technology for neutralizing the
radioactive material that came from the hull of the disaster ship had been patented by a subsidiary
corporation whose parent corporation was in partnership with another parent corporation that had two
subsidiaries in partnership with the port owner of the tanker that contaminated the ocean. Although this
was a tenuous connection, after the nuclear disaster, both parent corporations were dismantled by order
of the United Nations, the patent was appropriated by the United Nations, and all assets of both
corporations were disgorged to the United Nations Nuclear Relief Fund, and the Secretary General of
the United Nations said in accented English, “The very idea that a corporation would be allowed to
profit indirectly by accidentally nuking the ocean is incredulous.”

        But now nearly every home in America, and most everywhere in the world used the filter
technology developed by that one corporate subsidiary. Erik and Jimmy were given the opportunity,
after the disaster struck, to help improve the technology because the U.N. awarded Rider Corp the
research project.
        Although the environmental cleanup was productive, the task of locating and prosecuting the
corporate insiders and mafia members connected to the nuclear disaster, as the media reported, was
made more difficult because of the lack of credible trails. Only a few low-level individuals had been
jailed based after raids on apartments, garages, warehouses, and small offices. An individual named,
“Radomir,” had been implicated during the investigation for suspected involvement with the mafia, but
as the U.N. report described, “Radomir’s identity is presently unknown.”
        Omniarch had silenced many leads.
        One of the lead U.N. investigators on the case, Jack Steele, discovered on file in Lanchester
County, Oregon, the death record of Vigorchium’s dad, “Radomir Sadovich.”
        However, Steele’s superior, an Omniarch loyalist, did not authorize the resources for Steele to
travel to Oregon to conduct a further investigation.
        Omniarch knew Radomir had staged his own death in 2123.

         As Erik showed Sarah around his dad’s garage before dinner, she saw a great deal of woodwork
in its development stages and thought, Life is explained in an academic manner by symbolism…
life…suspended in scaffoldings and destined for interaction with computers. αΩ∞βπ∑Δ.
         Inside the house Erik showed her a beautifully carved rocking chair that Michael had made from
pine and walnut. It was simple and intricate, she thought, and then she corrected herself for the
contradiction, wondering how she should correct it, which she knew related to the subject of what she
imagined was possible on Earth.
          A padded seat was tied to the wood with cloth. The technological aspect of the chair was a
remote embedded into the right arm, and covered with glass shaped to the contours of the wood, which
changed color through the pressing of a button. “Watch this,” Erik said, more like a young man than she
expected, as he pressed a button on the underside of the arm. The glass panel lifted up silently and was
followed by the inside casing. “This is a universal remote we made. Whenever you change equipment,
you just put the new chips inside, here, and here. Pretty cool, huh?”
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         “Yeah,” she responded, thinking self-consciously to herself she sounded overly girlish, and then
after a short pause, she asked him “So what other things have you built here? Robot maid… talkin’
         They laughed at the idea of what an oven might want to say that it would require its own voice
box apart from the central kitchen unit’s.
         Before dinner they all sat down on the couch and had, a somewhat awkward conversation,
Michael thought, about single life in Seattle. Then Charlotte, who had been directing the conversation
and gathering more information about Erik’s outgoing personality than Michael expected, changed the
subject to Sarah’s history.
         “Well, I’m from Michigan, but I moved out here because I wanted to live in a city with a unique
culture. Erik must have already mentioned that I’m a plumber.”
         Michael smiled, “He did. For Yuba Downs, right?”
         “Right,” she answered.
          “Robots.” Michael replied quickly and enthusiastically. “Yeah, we send the bots into the
lowliest places imaginable.”
         “Do you design?” Michael asked next.
         “I do.”
         Already knowing that she liked Sarah, and that Erik did too, Charlotte then asked, “Where do
you see yourself ten years from now?” Charlotte quickly laughed at her own question, and then said,
“I’m just kidding honey. So, what do your parents do?” Even though Charlotte interrupted her own
question by saying she was “just kidding,” she got her answer by seeing Sarah begin to turn her head
toward Erik while concealing a happy smile.
         “Well, they still live in Michigan,” Sarah finally answered. “My dad is a plumber too, but he
mainly just installs and repairs drip systems, and mostly for gardens. And my mom is a brain surgeon.”
Erik smiled as he looked over at his parents who he could see both had big smiles and comments ready.
Charlotte spoke first, and behind her the home’s light and music display dropped green stars down onto
an animated string quartet, “You know, I have a greenhouse in the backyard with a pretty interesting
drip system… would you like to see it while there’s still light outside?”
         Charlotte had told Michael early in their marriage that it would be awkward to have a more
advanced light and sound system in the home that allowed them to script their own scenes. The hands off
approach is what makes it cool, she thought.
         “I’d like that.” Sarah answered, so the two women smiled at their men and walked up and out.
         Michael then asked his son with what appeared from Erik’s perspective as a wondering look of
fatherly skepticism, “Are you sure you’re good enough for her?”

                                              Home Base

        By videophone in November of 2139, Erik told Damian he was going to propose to Sarah in the
next month. Damian agreed to be the best man at the wedding by responding with a smile, “of course!”
He put his arms out like a virtual hug, which was laugh-worthy. Then the future best man said, “ So,
how are you going to ask her?”
        “That’s for her to find out first.”
        “Hey, I had to ask…I’m the best man. I’m your advocate for relationship advice right now, so if
you show me a problem, I’ll give you an answer.”
        “Alright, 00 Bestmanington,” Erik joked back, and then said with a smile, “Actually, I’m not
really sure what I’m going to do yet.” They both laughed.
        As they drank beers there after work, Damian recounted the story of his proposal to Angelica.
The way Damian liked to tell the story, Angelica planned a surprise for him the same day he had
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planned to propose spontaneously to her in the mountains, and when he asked her if she wanted to go
hiking, she “balked.” When he only casually insisted on the mountains, for fear of giving away the
surprise, she insisted on her own plans for that weekend, a skydiving trip. Unfortunately, because she
had become licensed as an adventure actress, they got to jump together in tandem with her being in the
dominant position during the free fall, her front pressed against his back.
        Regarding his timing in asking her for marriage midair, Damian joked, “In retrospect, it was a
bad choice to pop the question from the feminine perspective of the cuddling position … I admit that.”
The story closed out by her not being able to hear him correctly as he proposed, “Angelica, new you,
berry me. Angelica, sunny, marry me. Hill new be my life.” What she did hear was enough to spark her
emotions, but because she wasn’t confident enough that he really asked the question, since after the third
time he had asked it, he gave up trying, which he joked “I regret in the bedroom to this day, I’m telling
you! Third time was SO not the charm… she said she never had from her perspective a fair chance to
say yes.” So his story closed with them landing on the ground and him lifting the rainbow colored
parachute over their heads, and then getting down on one knee and presenting the ring, which was now
known in some jewelry stores as “Martel,” and he said for the proposal, “Angelica, I love you. Will you
be my wife?” One newspaper featured an artist’s sketch of Damian catching a baseball in one frame,
and in the next, Damian and Angelica in their tandem parachute where Damian has a big mouth, and
Angelica’s ear is a baseball glove, which drops a ball that had Damian’s mid-air proposals written
inside. Referring to one of her adventure roles as an actress, the caption read, “The one Angelica
couldn’t chase down on the fly.”

         For Erik, it was April 2140 when he proposed. At Lake Tahoe he rented a medium-sized
motorboat and cruised out to the middle of the giant blue lake where no one was around. She had taken
the helm for only part of that effort. They were bundled up with thick clothes because the evening wind
was rolling in. He noticed that she looked bold with the sunlight reflecting off her eyes and into the path
before her. When she was finished cruising on the filtered lake, he took over the helm and stopped the
craft in a secluded area of the lake. He took out a blanket he had brought along for the ride and he
wrapped her up, then from her perspective she experienced a couple kisses to seal the warmth. And from
his own perspective, I love this … she’s so...
         Getting down on one knee on a small boat was a matter of practical significance, so when he did
it, he gained no special attention. She was captivated by the view of the mountains in the distance as the
sun fell towards them and spread among the pine trees that covered the lakeside. His hands had been in
his pockets at every moment possible so they would be warm for the occasion over the cool blue lake.
When he took out the box, she knew, and a single tear dropped down her cheek. He pressed his warm
thumb onto the tear, and kissed her and then said with a hopeful voice, “I can love you forever. Will
you do me the honor?”
         With two red cheeks and a trembling smile, the twenty-nine year old Sarah looked into the blue
eyes of her future and said, “I will.”
         They hugged for a long time.

        The rest of the weekend was also exhilarating for its contrasts, going from the cold lake to the
hotel suite, then away from their luxury accommodations to the wilderness of a day hike, then to the spa.
Sarah had so much fun she took souvenirs from almost everyplace they stopped – a bar of soap, a
flower, a compass.

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                                                                                             - 78 -

        With his personal life in order, Erik felt normal, which he realized made him feel more confident
presenting “Ashby’s File” to Rider’s Board of Directors. It would require a radical shift in the
corporation’s main direction, from medical diagnostic research into the most controversial of fields,
brain probes. But the risk versus reward ratio favored Rider, he argued.

        The Board’s special meeting to address the issue was held when Erik was 40. He sat at one end
of the Boardroom with the window behind him showing the Seattle skyline, and at the other end of the
long table sat Michael Weathers with the double doors behind him.
        The Board Members were shown projections of a downturn in profits in the medical research
field, and surge in brain probing.

        Erik then proceeded into a long and detailed account of the types of products Rider might create
through brain analysis research. The best lie detectors were admissible in some courts, but most good
mind probing technology was not universally accepted as a permissible means to examine witnesses.
Many argued there was too much uncertainty in the extent to which the human mind was capable of
deceiving itself and defeating detection. All over the world there were witnesses who had been
examined where the mind probe uncovered thoughts by commingling other thoughts into existing
connections, and studies showed most jurors had a difficult time believing all types of events the witness
recounted thereafter, even if unrelated to the changed thoughts. Probes were feared by everybody in the
system – criminals, victims, witnesses, and police.
        With societies everywhere in majority arguing for mental sanctity and privacy as fundamental
rights, many violently protested what was called by most ‘totalitarianism,’ where the State could probe
minds. On the slippery that was probes engaged in thought conditioning and even implantation, the
public dialogue was very interesting.

         And so, acknowledging there would be public confidence challenges, Erik led the Board to the
conclusion that a safe, Rider machine that could extract admissible evidence in court, was potentially
worth a fortune in world markets.
         “The exact manner of a man’s fear of getting caught,” Erik explained, “is a part of man’s truth….
but it’s never been as simple as the black and white choice between on one hand, a person living with a
guilt-based reality, and the other, living in a guilt-free imaginative perspective. Even simpler, it’s not as
easy as defining reality versus fantasy. It’s about compiling matrices that record a person’s honest
intention, and then creating algorithms to crosscheck the data for accuracy against the most truthful
events available in the subject’s mind. What is truthful? As it turns out, honesty is the cornerstone of
virtue. Even a subject’s vices can be examined with the searching light of electromagnetism if there is a
cornerstone of reliable chemical evidence.”

       In his speech, Erik emphasized some algorithms, and how mind probes develop educational
research with supplemental computer chip grafts onto the human neocortex. Every board member day
dreamed at points as Erik talked for hours.

       He always finished a topic by drawing a connection between the Rider product, and socially
responsible behavior, which made the Board feel important. As a matter of strategy, Erik concluded his
speech by discussing healthcare because it was the science that Rider was currently immersed in.
“Doctors tracking psychological diseases with a Rider product translates to more people going to
psychiatrists, which translates to a safer world.” He then led them to the conclusion in many ways how
Rider machines would save countless lives.
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 79 -

       Because he wasn’t intellectually interested in it, he downplayed the fortunes Rider could make
developing probes for business uses like advertising and human resources.

       Also, inconspicuously located in Erik’s report to the Board was a Chapter titled, “Data
Corruption Avoidance.”

        The vote on Agenda Item 770814 was held one month later. As Erik thought of it, the majority
of the Board voted for the pot of gold, including directing Rider into developing probes for business
        Only two members voted against the new corporate direction, one of whom was Michael
Weathers. He was not shy about sharing his belief with fellow Board Members that the ultimate goal of
modern brain analysis was often “morally questionable.”

        At the celebration party Erik said triumphantly to the expanse of his employees, “Rider made an
interesting decision here. No longer are we limited to making source codes and derivative products.
Today we make our own way, to search one of the last uncharted places, which is quite frankly an
amazing responsibility for a corporation.”
        Even though the Board recommended that Rider allocate its resources partially to build mind
probes for the most profitable industries, Erik knew that as CEO he would be able to command the
corporation’s resources to build probes for whatever industries would accomplish the goal he wanted to
accomplish, answering some of mankind’s deepest questions about logic and free will.
        It’s my machine.

        Shortly after Erik finished a couple interviews downtown with reporters to discuss Rider’s shift
into the neuroscience field, he received a phone call. His caller identification screen displayed, “T.
        Erik was with Sarah at the time. She looked over his shoulder, and asked, “Allison’s dad?”
        “It is, or another prank. I’ve been waiting for this phone call for a long time.”
        Erik turned into an alley for some privacy, turned on his emergency scrambler helmet, and
pressed the talk button.
        “Yeah, buddy, I just saw you on the news. Looks like you’re into something big.”
        “We’ll see… You know I tried to call you ten years ago, but-”
        “Don’t worry about it. I’m just glad you’re alive.”
        “Why wouldn’t I be?”
        “I think we need to talk.”

                                       The King and His Throne

        It was September 6, 1940 when Tim and Veronica Avery gathered with the 40-year old Erik,
deep inside a wildlife preserve, and advised him that Omniarch appeared to be getting close to
discovering their royal lineage, so they were going into hiding.
        They also shared with Erik their knowledge about Omniarch’s supposed alien connections, as
well as additional insights into the family’s royal secret about the subtle difference between free will and
unpredictable fate.
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 80 -

         But most staggeringly of all, they told him that from the knowledge that had been passed down
from their ancestors, there were always ten family members meditating over the secret every day, and
that this activity somehow channeled into existence a type of layered force field around the galaxy that
aliens could neither see nor penetrate. According to the legend, they said, the force field was a projected
sphere of light around the galaxy giving it the illusion of a black hole to viewers on the outside. And if
this illusion were ever probed, the royals believed they were also channeling a physical blockade as the
inside layer of the force field, made by resonating scalar waves against certain stars. Allison had learned
how to perform the meditation at a young age, using her voice tuned to instruments of plant fiber
stringed guitars and drums, and stone key xylophones and crystal keys, all to resonate waves into the
celestial environment that activated the stars in a particular way, they assumed, that miraculously
bounced shapes together out of zero-point energy.

        The wisdom they imparted about the golden ratio, phi, was so powerful that Erik fainted twice
while pondering certain quantum physics applications for mind control and reverse causality. The
quantum physics connection between free will and unpredictable fate is that uncertainties in perspective
between a wave and particle, and concept and matter, drive the multiplex of symbols in the universe to
create paradoxes. How anything could fathom every paradox is naturally an insurmountable question
to any being less than a perfectionist. And I, Erik Weathers, even still declare it’s within my grasp to
know more about life before I die than any man and any being that has challenged me here.
        He emphasized the last thought to himself, as if to grab the attention of an on-looking cosmic
mind probe. It was then that he fainted.

        The Averys explained how prophecy is guided by the organization of symbols that make up the
fabric of life - through geometries integrating phi.
        “Fourier transforms help predict the future,” Tim said, “because the transforms describe shapes,
and shapes help deconstruct the geometric ratios in the symbols that mirror and expand upon everything
earthly – past, present and future. And considering that a waveform can be the size of a galaxy, this
stuff gets pretty staggering. In one view, through the wave interference pattern among neurons, the
brain stores memories like a hologram.”

       Erik knew there was an inherent relationship between Fourier transforms and holograms. He
also knew one importance of Fourier transforms was found in the explanation that every shape in the
material world could be described as the sum of sine waves of different lengths. Revolve the sine wave
from 2-d to 3-d and you see a torus, he remembered to himself.
       In a world of particle and wave duality, human focus creates the pathway that waves travel to
meet each other and become the shapes we see. Philosophically, this means in what measure you
measure, it shall be measured to you.

      They also spoke freely about aliens, secret societies, and conspiracies for a one-world
government. A pack of wolves patrolled the area around them searching for sustenance.

        Then, on their way back outside the preserve, and while meandering across a brook, the sixty-
three year old Veronica Avery said to him, “As far as we know, Erik, you’re the only genius who knows
this secret, so I want you to feel morally obligated to save the world if you come to discover that aliens
arrived because our family failed to maintain the force field.”
        It was at that point, in the middle of the rolling waters that Erik, standing on a flat rock,
questioned whether the secret should be used for mercy or for vengeance.
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                                                                                              - 81 -

        A lone wolf then appeared on the horizon above a waterfall drenched in sunlight. Erik found his
answer - It’s better to sacrifice my own innocence to put evil in its place than to risk the chance that
there is no justice.

        Though he was still unconvinced of the existence of alien interference on earth, Erik believed
that a mind probe useable on an alien would be mankind’s greatest asset in determining alien
        He thought that if aliens ever did infiltrate, he could use the Averys’ music like a weapon at
close range, to render the alien comatose enough to brain probe it to find the weakness of its species.
All that the Averys could prove mathematically was that their music sounded beautiful, was very
complicated, and on paper had an organized structure that resembled interwoven icosahedrons and
        The Averys said that given the complexity of the music and all the variables that could arise in
the stars, it was statistically improbable for man to recognize the force field, let alone to reverse engineer
it. But they warned of another ancient royal lineage from Europe, of which Norbert Weishaupt was a
member. For reasons lost to the ages, Weishaupt’s family line believed its destiny was to dissolve the
force field as if it were simply a puzzle, so that their alien parents could return to earth and reward them
with gifts.

         As Erik had rebuked all of Omniarch’s advances, even the one offering knowledge of Allison’s
killers, Norbert Weishaupt reconsidered what new strategy he would choose to capture his prey. His
psych profiles on Erik showed that the way to harden him was to take away what he loves. Weishaupt
thought to himself, And he’ll have nowhere to go but to us because we’ll offer him respect, and power,
so we give him opportunity and let him do what he wants…. when he’s thirsty he drinks, and all
illuminated rivers lead to one ocean.

       Erik struggled often to keep himself from calling the number given to him by the psychic
stranger outside his penthouse thirteen years earlier - the stoic Omniarch loyalist who had offered
information about Allison’s killers.
       Erik Weathers was not afraid of much in the world. But the one thing stopping him from calling
that number was indeed fear – that it would lead him into the behest of Omniarch.

                                   Subtle Mechanics In Brain Probing

        The SQUIDs, circuit chips of nano-sized fibers, that Rider implanted into their test subjects’
brains, as it were, actually looked like living, aquatic squids. Operating as a team they worked like a
network of satellite communications.

        In essence, different SQUIDs recorded different types of electromagnetic activity in the neurons
that comprised thought itself. And what allowed the computers to interpret that human thought, were
robotic parts in plasma-like nanotubes, each of which categorized different collections of neural network
matrix data through adaptive algorithms that learned from the brain, the very subject they were designed
to study.

        The algorithms interpreted chemical forms using highly advanced electrolyte oxide
semiconductor field effect transistors. And Rider’s Seattle laboratory, with its computer programming
talent would experiment with all types of implanted amperometric electrodes and electrochemical
                                                                                 Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                              - 82 -

biosensors to measure catalytic activity as atomic properties, which Erik said, “allows us to capture the
minutiae of thought, the golden standard of credibility.”

        During small roundtable meetings that he called “creativity meetings,” the man said occasionally
to his fellow scientists, “Often nature can reach an outcome through ways unforeseen and indirect, so
long as the environment is conducive to the species. Thus, if we can make an environment with only one
foreseeable outcome, we can set the future.”

       Rider’s most skilled programmer was a young Brit named Miles Bennington, whose abilities for
data construction were hailed as remarkable. Unfortunately, Miles was also highly dysfunctional in
many social settings. An innocent smile helped him assimilate though. In particular, he was an
outspoken critic of all religion.

        By 2143, the brain probe Rider designed to detect lies was accurate to very interesting visceral
subtleties and allowed the test subjects to speak about any subject they wanted. The potential was

       One of Rider’s first test subjects on the final product was an insider, Michael Weathers. For the
avoidance of awkwardness, Erik abstained from participation.
       Miles, however, thought it would be a lot fun to probe the mind of a fellow genius, and was
especially interested in learning how Michael felt about his lifelong stalker, Bianca Trujillo.

        After swallowing some low intensity SQUIDs an hour earlier, Michael’s head was raised into a
helmet. Carbon-fiber straps with metallic nodes helped stabilize it as four rings, each ten centimeters
thick stacked on top of each other, and embedded with micromachines, encircled his head. To
accomplish a type of photography of the brain, two of the rings housed magnetoheorological fluids, and
the other two rings coursed with electroheorlogical fluids, both of which transformed into shapes when
stimulated properly in interaction with the micromachines. So, the SQUIDs inside Michael’s brain
would communicate electromagnetically with the fluids in the four rings encircling his head, causing
parts of the fluids to crystallize into tiny shapes depending on the character and location of his thoughts.
The four rings was a limitation.

        In more technical detail, the bioelectromagnetic sensors inside the SQUIDs obtained
nanophotographic imprints of brain activity by using synthetic electrical and magnetic charges capable
of being pulled out of the SQUIDs and back to the four rings, that represented categories of thought in
the lobes and primary functions of the brain, for representation as symbols in the magneto and
electroheorlogical fluids. Depending on the electrical and magnetic stimulation provided to them, it was
the interaction of dipoles that caused atomic particles suspended in the fluids to form columnar
structures recognizable in various angles to the applied field. The shapes were then read by
supercomputers with both established and adaptive databases, which attempted to reconstruct and then
deconstruct Michael’s brain.

      The thermodynamic equations governing these fluids was especially interesting to Miles when he
contemplated possibilities for geometric applications requiring dodecahedron-based programming.

        With eyes closed, Michael looked comfortable sitting in the chair, as if unaware that his brain
was being reconstructed in an adjoining room, an operative copy of himself made possible by the
billions of micromachines that filtered information. The second ‘Michael,’ in the adjoining room, was
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essentially electromagnetic energy inside four separate “honeycombs.” Each honeycomb was a series of
carbon gates designed to permit the growth of crystalline structures in moving cavities governed by
adaptive programs building and competing against one another.
        And the purpose of these honeycomb-like structures was to organize the electromagnetic energy
in a three-dimensional structure, a copy of the test subject’s brain that allowed the supercomputers to
execute programs for running checks and balances operations inside the honeycombs to check the
accuracy of the copies of the human brain that the honeycombs represented. In this way, the
honeycombs worked like a phenomenological model that allowed the observers in the control room,
including Erik, to take measurements not possible in real time.

        Whether the four honeycombs embodied any level of consciousness was an interesting topic the
engineers and programmers had earlier debated in creativity meetings as they discussed various
programs that might make the honeycombs act as real automatons. “This could be artificial
intelligence,” Miles Bennington concluded.
        Jimmy went so far as drawing up preliminary schematics of voice modulation for the
honeycombs. He even imagined its first words being, “What the fuck’s going on here. Who am I?”
        Jimmy told himself a good answer to offer the machine might be, “How the fuck should I know?
You’ve come into this world through a machine process, secondary to man. I’m a man, secondary to the
big bang. You’re alive because you’re consuming the resources of your own gated circuits, to sustain
        At one of the creativity meetings where Jimmy discussed these thoughts, he also added,
“Especially because of mirror neurons operating in the test subject being probed, if I were to stand in
between the four honeycombs and the subject, just observing him watching me, the producer of the
honeycombs watching the probing, would there be a communication going on between me and the
machine that I would want to experience as godly?”
        Erik dismissed the whole concept as “creepy,” and changed the subject that day to a practical
application for which the honeycombs were designed. Jimmy felt a tinge of anger as a result. It was a
familiar feeling, denial of the ability to deem oneself worthy of righteousness.
        Erik envisioned the machine as a work of art, and the active honeycombs housing the subject’s
mind as symbolic. Like Jimmy, he imagined making a separate machine devoted to studying the
meaning of the honeycombs, but unlike Jimmy, he resolved it would not be the goal of Rider to focus on
the computerized intelligence.

         Once the SQUIDS opened up like satellites inside Michael’s brain, there was a veritable storm of
communication of electromagnetic waves tunneling with narrow and self-reinforcing mathematical
precision directly through open passageways in the brain. A complete signal was one that registered on
at least two locations on any given ring, nanotagged with information from its target SQUIDs. The main
government safety precaution in this process was that the electromagnetic signals needed to travel “safe”
passageways. Naturally, this limited the technological prowess of brain probes.
         Since the electromagnetic waves ran much faster than synaptic transmission, in many cases the
pulses met their goal of being able to extract information at the site of an interaction without actually
changing the brain activity. This meant the software operated in a position ahead of the information to
be interpreted by the micromachines, effectively predicting thought.

       And so, Michael Weathers found himself being probed by a machine that duplicated aspects of
his mind in order to test his credibility against an artificial, but predicted, future. The longer Michael
could endure the brain probe, the more accurate the computer representation. However, the honeycombs
always overloaded quickly, a testament to the power of the parallel processing mind, as well as to
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government laws restricting the intensity of probing technology. As soon as each honeycomb filled its
capacity, portions of the results were stored in long-term memory in more supercomputers adjoining the
rooms housing the probe.

         The SQUIDs reading Michael’s thoughts were highly dense nanomodules the size of blood
platelets, but scaled inside with high-density multi-analyte sensor arrays. After being swallowed, the
SQUIDs were designed to course along with the blood, tracked by a program that Rider called “Purity.”
The probe had a function designed to remotely guide each SQUID into place in the brain, so that at their
destination points they could be electromagnetically activated to attach to neural tissue and open up like
satellites. Each SQUID obtained its power through natural ionic transfer, which was one of the
techniques considered minimally invasive by the government.
         To prevent scar tissue from forming around the SQUIDs, the protein-based bioelectrochemical
sensors contained lipid bilayers, which used tethering molecules on a neural stem cell based probe
coating. It was highly sophisticated safety technology, and very expensive.
         Additionally, Rider’s SQUIDs were capable of reading a magnetic signal only one nanotesla in
length, but because the magnetic signals resulted from ionic currents flowing in dendrites, and because
currents associated with action potentials flow in the opposite direction, these magnetic fields canceled
out. Such problems caused by neural effects canceling out before the probe had a chance to read the raw
signals, had a solution in more invasive SQUIDs, but Erik concluded with finality on the issue, crime
doesn’t pay. Though when he thought of the lone wolf he had seen while hiking with the Averys, he
second-guessed himself.

         But coming to law-abiding conclusions made Erik feel normal, because it balanced out the
scientific frustration he harbored with the limits of the law. And so, he felt it was his human perspective
that made him recognize how important it was that Rider pace its research by utilizing safety
precautions, not only to avoid causing any subject psychological harm, but also since inadvertent
stimulation of areas such as the hypothalamus or the mesencephalon would cause the subject to feel
excruciating physical pain.
         Michael had written a memorandum once upon the issue of how guilty the corporation would be
if its volunteer subjects experienced extreme pain or psychological harm. According to the memo, the
worst of it was not that assault and battery lawsuits would simply undermine public, consumer and
investor confidence. They send participating scientists to prison.
         For Erik, recognizing the intimate connection in his mind between the moral guilt that attended
harming another person, and the fear of embarrassment that attended a prosecution for criminal
negligence, was a contrast that made him feel less than human, because he actually feared public
embarrassment more than personal guilt. This is my shameful idiom, he told himself somewhat
reluctantly, recognizing the serious moment deserved a corny expression.

       In the control room, Michael’s thoughts were displayed on monitors but only to the extent the
probe’s algorithms asked algorithmic questions capable of categorizing thoughts. There were words,
computer-generated images, and color-coded spectrums relating to different emotions he experienced.
The interface allowed multiple control operators wearing interactive gloves, to read as many different
forms of information as the probe was capable of representing.

        Michael answered all manner of profile questions about his life - address, birthday, gender, blood
type, wedding date. He then answered questions about various subtle and major preferences of his. The
scientists in the control room found it funny that Michael’s love for pasta and milkshakes came up quite
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a bit as an answer even to unrelated questions. Then the questioning turned to his fears, and the pillars
came down.

         A hazy and parceled face that represented Bianca Trujillo appeared on the big screen in the
control room, along with flashes of alien spacecraft, complex Fourier transforms, and the dying janitor
from his youth.
         Even doing preliminary calculations in his mind, Miles could see in the streaming data that
Fourier transforms generated by Michael’s mind were interacting with the mental image of the dying
man’s jugular vein, but the computer could not determine the causal nexus. What was more, the nexus
itself transposed more than three-dimensional space upon the pulsing. Miles thought to himself, He
feels he died when that janitor died.

        A solemn moment later, Miles pointed to a complex wave function on the screen, quickly jotted
down some calculations, and then asked Jimmy, “Do you see this entanglement? It’s like the reason the
Fourier transforms are so prominent in Michael’s mind is because of his deeply ingrained view of the
human brain as a hologram. You don’t suppose his genius is the product of scalar waves, do you?”
        Jimmy replied somewhat sarcastically, “Not on a macro level, but if you see anything moving
faster than light, feel free to speak up.”

       According to Rider’s research, the scalar wave was what remained when two opposite
electromagnetic waves cancelled out their electric and magnetic field components. Rider mostly
concluded the scalar wave to be of niche value in brain probing because, unlike the electromagnetic
wave which propagated perpendicularly, the scalar wave propagated longitudinally faster than synaptic
transmission. By some theories, it propagated beyond even the speed of light.

       Later that day the results of the probing were summarized for Erik, prompting him to think to
himself, I need a telephone number for Bianca Trujillo.

                                            Odd Suggestions

        Creativity Meetings were held under tight security clearance, with the same eight chairs assigned
to employees of Erik’s choosing. Erik and Michael had crafted them together in the Weathers’ garage
shortly after Erik became CEO. The pine seats were curved slightly inward and the legs appeared woven
like the steel cords of a bridge. Each chair was chiseled by lathe, with backs designed to look like
swirling beams of light below headers shaped like clouds. With a carving pen, he drew wind columns
and clouds poised for bolts of lightning. Michael thought it gave the beams a meaningfully hollow
character, like pipes on an organ.

       Because employees were selected by Erik to attend creativity meetings on a weekly basis,
competition for these chairs was fierce. He selected attendees based on performance in the labs, but
allowed exceptions for visionary thinking.

        A senior member of the physics team and regular attendee of the weekly meetings claimed one
summer day, “If we could temporarily stop the mind, and rewind time as the subject thinks of it, we
could predict the future because it already happened.” This idea was the current frontrunner for vision,
but very low on the rung of practicality, Erik said.
        At the other end of the spectrum a Biology team member commented, “Let’s convince animals
they’re going to die, and then just watch them try to change their future.” This thought carried on for
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                                                                                             - 86 -

nearly ten seconds before Erik interjected, “Torturing animals will not help us become better lie
detectors of men.”
        The lonely biologist peered steadily though and continued, “Okay, perhaps, but what if we erase
a monkey’s memory with magnetism? I mean… voila! Fresh slate, easy math.” It sounded eerily
frightening even at the brainstorming stage to Erik. He regretted inviting the man to corporate
headquarters for the meeting.

        Erik managed all creativity meetings by strictly prohibiting outside discussion of matters raised,
consistently reminding everyone in attendance, “employees are paid not only to work, but also to obey
orders.” This was the iron fist in which he delighted - pride. It led to vanity, and then to wrath and then
to greed.

        Every manager Erik selected was a scientist with little or no management training. The COO by
contrast, was a man devoted solely to human resources tasks, which included providing management
seminars to Department Heads. Offering an occasional cameo appearance, Erik attended some of the
seminars to remind the Department Heads that he was always available to help fire or motivate difficult
        About the only company-sponsored fun that Erik actively promoted, other than family picnic
day, was the company softball team. He harbored genuine worries though that employees would
become friends and get lazy and make jokes about the corporation, which could decrease morale and
increase violations of protocol. But at the end of his cost-benefit analysis he concluded, It’s better to
trust them. If you don’t let people joke about the chains that bind them, the chains become intolerable.

        Charlotte unabashedly criticized brain probing as violating privacy, but realized it was inevitable
that mankind would continue the science. About Rider, however, she felt more comfortable because it
was led by the two men whom she trusted more than any other people in the world to listen to and
consider her opinions – Erik and Michael. And so, because she decided to let it be, Charlotte needed
psychologically to believe that she married a good man, and that they had raised a moral son. This
belief would turn out to be incorrect.


        When Bianca Trujillo walked past Erik’s secretary and into his office, security was called. She
did not have an appointment because Erik had never called her.
        Seeing her in his presence, Erik asked himself, How’d she know I was going to call her?
        Her whitish gray hair was a compliment to an unsteady gait. She looked thirty years older than
her age, Erik thought.
        “Hello, Michael’s son.”
        “Are you crazy?” Erik asked in response.
        “No. And above that, I think I have at least as many answers as questions.”
        “Why are-“
        She interrupted him. “Did you know that Gödel hypothesized humans would one day prove the
mind has a component separate from matter. He also predicted a physical organ to appreciate abstract
theories. Now… I happen to think the human brain is not as efficient as it might be from the perspective
of one observing distributed networks in one’s own mind.”
        “The ideal design of one’s own networks… so what?”
        “You know, I came here for a purpose…”
                                                                                 Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                              - 87 -

         “Listen, before you say anything, let me tell you what I was thinking... I mean, this is my office
after all.”
         “I know what you want.”
         “You do? Say it then.”
         “You’ve already said it… power,” and then she added breathily, “and it’s more fun to ponder
your facial expression anyway.”
         Erik laughed, and then offered, “I want you to sign a waiver that will allow Rider Corp to probe
your brain.”
         Bianca shook her head and then said casually, “I’m only here for one reason…to ask you this
question before I die… If the search for truth leads to man’s extinction, is truth really the highest goal of

        Bianca signed the waiver “Bianca Weathers” with a smile, but when the day arrived of her
scheduled appointment, she was missing - her apartment empty, phone number cancelled, tracking chip
ripped from her skin. Consequently, Erik hired three private investigators to find her trail.
        In addition to providing them with a video clip of Bianca in his office, Erik described Bianca as,
“Age 65, but looks about 35-40; 5’8’’; long black hair; pale white skin; dark blue eyes; enjoys
provocative conversation.”
        Three weeks later, Erik received the news that his investigator had been murdered at the beach.
A bloody seashell was found nearby with grooves that matched a portion of Bianca’s answer in the
geometry challenge 50 years earlier to the day. Her five shapes were octahedrons and hexahedrons,
symbolizing the elements of air and earth.

                                            Suppressed Anger

       Erik’s wife, Sarah, also had a stalker, about whom her dad said, “I’d like to slice out his eyes,
chop off his balls, and feed him his own shame.” Erik liked her dad. And the Lockwoods thought Erik
was a really nice genius, but Sarah was their “middle,” as her mother said, so when she was home with
everyone in Michigan, the family was whole again.

       Unbeknownst to authorities, inside a small, dark cannery beside Pier 20, Bianca Trujillo,
working outside Omniarch approached Sarah’s stalker with cash, fake identities, guns, bombs, and an
elaborate plan to capture and imprison Erik Weathers. The stalker didn’t know he was being set up.

        When Erik took over the reins as CEO, one of his television spots put him on a panel to discuss
the ethics of mind probing, and his sound bite that made the news was “Brain probing is going to make
the world safer, so I think there’s too much government regulation over what we do. I believe people
want to see more progress in this field, so we shouldn’t stop research into beneficial uses of this
technology just to make peoples’ lives less controversial.”

       As it worked out, just as Erik’s life became more complicated with press interviews and
operations restructuring to acquire more capital, he married Sarah. Fortunately for him, he wasn’t
required to do much in the way of planning because she handled all of it, from the 10-layer cake to the
flower on his shirt.

       After the wedding Sarah moved into Erik’s home, and despite their friends’ jokes to the contrary
about how she’d redecorate everything, she only added a few art pieces, an antique dresser, bookshelves
and rare books, a shot gun, a vegetable garden in the backyard, and five indoor plants.
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                                                                                             - 88 -

       The main adjustment required by their new situation was a time commitment. He spent long
hours at work, and at the end of the day when he arrived home he often wanted to spend some time in
the basement conducting experiments with electromagnetism. She had the potential to boredom, but
Erik had everything he wanted – work, work, and woman.
       She loved him so much that his happiness made her happy, as she preferred to rationalize. There
was an adventurousness, however, destined to grow in her. She told him this fact very seriously once,
but eventually added playfully that if his work became so overbearing that he refused to travel with her,
then she would just kidnap him and make him sit with her on the beach and watch her drink margaritas.

       Meanwhile, the United States government monitored Sarah’s stalker via the Earth Scan. The
obese and sun beaten man was in his late 50s, and appeared at one point to be staking out the Weathers’
home from a high rise three miles away, his greasy fingers sliding up and down a camera that
government intelligence showed he could not afford.

        The CIA immediately sent a video message to Sarah Lockwood’s mobile phone advising her of
the danger, and another to local police ordering an emergency search and seizure of the stalker and his
equipment. However, before Sarah could answer her phone to retrieve this message, she heard a knock
at the door. She did not recognize the pale white face of Bianca Trujillo, adorned as a police officer.

        “Is something wrong, officer?”
        “Perhaps,” Bianca smiled, “You’re husband is missing.”
        Sarah gasped.
        “I’m taking you to the station to ask questions. Will I need these?” Bianca flashed a pair of
        Sarah shook her head, and then crying and pleading she asked, “What’s happened to Erik?”
        Bianca did not answer as she ushered Sarah down the walkway, but rather collected a tear from
Sarah’s cheek and placed it in her own eye.
        Seeing this bizarre act, Sarah decided to run.
        Bianca smiled contently as she lifted a black grenade from her leather belt. A mere second later
a single radiant blast eviscerated her presence. At the sound of the explosion, Sarah fell to her knees and
turned around. The mist of Bianca saturated the air she breathed, slowly permeating her lungs, and
entangled with the oxygen en route to her brain.

        The police found Sarah shivering on the nearby curb, holding herself tightly and picking at her
cuticles. Under orders from Omniarch, the CIA agents directed the police to advise each of Erik’s
neighbors that the blast was just a pipe explosion, and to be on the lookout for any suspicious teenagers.

        Erik rushed home from work to find Sarah sitting down in their living room with two very old
CIA operatives.
        “Baby!” Erik exclaimed, embracing her.
        Sarah cried openly as she described to her husband everything that occurred. The CIA agents had
the home’s security recordings pulled up to show Erik the video of Bianca Trujillo. They also reported
having quietly taken Sarah’s stalker into custody along with his full confession, courtesy of a Rider Corp
lie detector, that he was working with Bianca to abduct Sarah.
        After the CIA agents left and Sarah took a nap, Erik stole away to the backyard to allow himself
an indulgent moment under an emerging moon to envision torturing the man in CIA custody.
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        Bianca’s CIA file contained a significant amount of information about Sarah’s stalker, but this
was not the only person whom Bianca had enlisted in the task of abducting Erik. There was another,
Yolandra, her protégé, a young mind control victim Bianca had met at a ritualistic Omniarch meeting
hosted by her wealthy handler, Norbert Weishaupt.
        Yolandra was of short stature, with light brown skin and brown hair. Her eyes were piercing
green, and her voice conflicted. She and Bianca became friends after Yolandra learned of Omniarch’s
mission to locate and murder those privy to the royal geometric secrets, unless they were useful to
        Erik’s death had not yet been ordered.
        Indeed, before Bianca exploded herself on the Weathers’ property, believing she would be
inhaled by and entangled with Sarah Weathers, she had eavesdropped upon several conversations
between Erik and Jimmy, and suspected heavily that Erik was privy to royal secrets of dodecahedrons
and icosahedrons.
        And so it came to pass that when Yolandra learned of Bianca’s death, she vowed to herself that
she would find time to spy on Erik, not only to understand Bianca’s obsession with him, but to
eventually capture he and Sarah and ritualistically torture them for information, and for fun.

        As it were, the entire event of Bianca eviscerating herself on the Weathers’ front lawn was all
laid out years earlier in the artwork of none other than Jimmy’s older sister, Melanie, who had sketched
together thousands of tetrahedrons forming a dragon. The fire that tore out from the dragon’s mouth
formed interlaced chromium compounds, which corresponded to Bianca’s grenade - a concoction of
chromium and crystalline aluminosilicate zeolite. The fiery explosion that evaporated the aggressor in
tetrahedronal shapes bound to the oxygen in the air that victim breathed. The dragon’s belly formed a
toroid shape that radiated map coordinates in its energy field. When translated properly, the fields
intersected at Erik Weathers’ front lawn. And by rotating this toroid shape within the axes
perpendicular to the dragon’s fangs, even the timing of the grenade explosion was prophesied.

                                               Visual Arch

        Staring at himself in the mirror before a party in celebration of his old friend Damian’s recent
Hall-of-Fame Induction, Erik began thinking about marijuana. Meanwhile Sarah was sitting on the
stairs with the phone resting on her shoulder. Erik listened closely to the faint sound of his wife’s voice
coming through the closed door, but could make out no sounds. He drifted into thought.
        When Sarah hung up the phone she walked into the bedroom, still wearing her gardening clothes
with what she called “smudges” on the knees where she’d been kneeling. Careful not to touch any
furniture she glided over to him and planted a kiss on his cheek.
        “Say beautiful,” Erik said, trying to look debonair teetering the joint in his hand, “Interested?”
        “Yes,” she answered, hearing an intimation of sex, “But you know I won’t let you smoke before
the party. I'll call for you when I'm ready.... Keep the Patience....”
        She kept her hands stationed firmly on her hips, just above the overall pockets. And a small daisy
rested behind her ear to draw his attention. Planned, he thought, but that’s life.
        “What’s wrong with a little lovin? Too early?” he asked.
        Moving her hands to her pockets she answered him, “How about a little privacy?”
        “You have a right to privacy,” he answered lovingly.
        “Oh yes. I’m gonna take a shower.”
        His mind came to a halt as the daisy was dropped from its five and a half foot perch. It fell softly
to the ground as she slipped inside the doorway. The next thing his mind registered was the sound of
running water.
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 90 -

        After he finished rolling a second joint, a gift for Damian, he smelled it and made himself laugh
by joking internally, See hear Smell, you've smelled enough today. He knew about himself that he was
always thinking of silly jokes to tell Sarah, who liked it when he did, even if he didn’t always wait for
the best context to bring it up.
        Context context context, he continued thinking. In the end, things are what they are if the same
applies before the end? Yes. Broad question, and the world is just as complicated.
        He smelled the joint again. See hear smell, taste this, said Touch. He didn’t laugh.
        Automatic action is soothing if you don’t mess with the hierarchy as it lulls you…. How do you
know you’re a human... if you can track the source of your existence to …. what?
        He paused in his task, and in his head it was a surreal moment for him, although certainly, he
thought, a familiar question.
        When he deemed himself finished with the purposeless task of looking at himself in the mirror,
he placed the bag of bud back inside a box, and told himself he was deliberately executing the choice to
put the box back in its locked drawer next to the bed where Sarah stored diamond earrings and a
matching necklace. She kept the only key, and kept him honest, though he believed he had always
shown good will power by rising above the drug.
        He put the joints in the pocket of the slacks he anticipated wearing at the hotel where they would
be staying after the after-party. In their “hotel bag,” he saw that Sarah had packed a t-shirt with the
peace symbol on it. As a practical joke, he taped some pea pods on it.

         Sarah believed she was an elegant beauty, but dressed to avoid exaggerating it, as vanity worried
her. Erik dubbed her bedroom closet “a collection of small buttons” because a disproportionate
percentage of her clothes contained small buttons somewhere on the article.
         As he waited for her to finish in the bathroom, he thought, Laughing makes the world tolerable.
Then, just as soon as the water had stopped running in the bathroom, he noticed the daisy again where it
laid. A quick glance in the mirror later he forced himself to look relaxed. Sarah emerged wearing a
robe and her hair was up in a white towel. She sighed elegantly then said, “Have you been waiting for
         “I admit nothing.”
         Sarah smiled while she retreated into the walk-in closet to change clothes. She deliberately
closed the door leaving just enough space to give him a reason to stop looking in the mirror, and because
it facilitated conversation for him to be able to see her.
         “Why don’t people who live by trash dumps all become environmentalists?” she asked
         Erik wanted to guess where she was going with this, but he didn’t interrupt while he had an
agenda, of which the daisy was a constant reminder. “Why?” he asked quietly.
         “I don’t know. They should. Economies of scale. We buy resources from other places, and we
buy land for our waste in other places too. It makes sense in a free market, right? Well, if Capitalism is
perfect, then it must be fair that the market puts waste in the poorest communities. Or do we know
better than that?”
         “It’s waste Sarah. You know where it goes. Send it thither I say, because anyone who lives by
waste chose to live there.”
         She laughed at the archaic word, and then said, “Who can say they’re not responsible for they’re
own trash? It’s like an equation in democracy, and you don’t really account for your trash unless you
put it somewhere where people don't complain about it. I think if people want to drink water and
consume air from a location on Earth, it’s the human thing to help them meet their goal if it’s not
         Sarah was now orating, clearly seeking a challenge, as Erik thought, by the way she framed the
argument. He kicked his shoes off, and laid down on the couch. It was a blue leather couch but the
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 91 -

pillows changed colors by measuring the room’s mood. He used both pillows to prop his head up before
answering her. “What around here would you like to recycle?”
        Sarah was enjoying looking at herself in the mirror, then she stepped out of the closet wearing a
light blue dress that flowed out from the waist and stopped just below her knees. Her hair was still up in
a towel.
        “What if I told you I knew that’s what you were going to say…” she responded, shaking her
head lovingly but sternly, “anyway, I don’t feel guilty living well.”
        Erik was delighted to hear the response that would serve as a conclusion to their conversation, so
he obliged by picking her up and brining her over to his couch where he planned to kiss her until she
decided it was time to blow dry her hair. Fifteen minutes later the doorbell rang. Erik put on his shoes,
floated down the stairs, and welcomed Angelica and Damian to sit down and wait with him for Sarah to
finish getting ready to go out in formal attire.

         On the way downtown to the Hall of Fame ceremony, Erik and Damian teamed up to debate their
wives on whether major league baseball history should be taught in schools. The winner of that debate
was undecided.
         At the elegant dinner in downtown Seattle, surrounded by Mariners and others, Damian said into
the microphone, “The greatest thing about baseball is the purity to it that gives everyone the opportunity
to play fair. As a player and as a man I’ve tried to live by fair standards... Play clean, live well, and do
my best.” The select crowd happily applauded their way to agreement, with Enis Pitt, Damian’s old
coach, leading the standing ovation at a dinner table near the stage. Erik found Damian’s speech to
highlight a thought-provoking axiom, a worker treats his co-workers fairly by doing his best work.
         The remainder of Damian’s speech was a collage of his favorite moments, many of which were
familiar to those who knew him well. He offered thanks to the people who helped him along the way.
He recited the entire speech spontaneously, and in conclusion he said in a very stately manner, with his
eyes fixed lovingly toward his wife, “At the end of any achievement you’re sure to find at least two
things… another challenge, and a reward for your hard work. That’s the beauty of life in progress, which
has brought me to my next enjoyment, retirement, which means the reward of spending more time with
my loving wife, Angelica. I love you, baby.” Everyone cheered in standing ovation, again, and although
Damian had one more thing he wanted to say to Angelica, he decided to end there while people clapped
         Dancing followed after the desserts, and then during a waltz Damian finished his speech with a
whisper in his wife’s ear. She smiled and responded, “Only in heaven, baby.”
         Later that night when Sarah opened her hotel bag, she laughed when she saw the pea pods on her
t-shirt. Then, together with her husband and best friends, Damian, and Angelica, Sarah thought of
decadence as she drank and smoked with the majority in the enormous hotel room spa that overlooked
the Cityscape. Life is good, she thought, and change is inevitable.
         And as she peered at the full moon she remembered, It’s not what goes into somebody that can
hurt them. No, no, Sarah, it’s what comes out … that’s what defiles a person.

        Meanwhile, with the help of three pre-planted mirrors and a telescope Yolandra shot her gaze
into her subjects’ hotel room. The lines between the mirrors she had planted among the city block’s
buildings formed part of a pentagram. From her perch on a rooftop she was also monitoring the position
of the moon in the sky and the energy fields in the vicinity. Without Omniarch’s knowledge, she was
waiting to execute the abduction to coincide with a cosmologically significant event in line with her own
body’s energy field. For Yolandra, ritualism added legitimacy.

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                                                The Affair

        In 2150, Erik told Sarah that his favorite task as Rider’s CEO was interviewing prospective
employees and brain probing them, and his least enjoyable work involved supervising corporate
        In response she told him, “When you get bored with work, remember that work doesn’t define
        He thought, yes it does, though he concealed this dissent from the ordinary expression on his
        Then she finished her comment by saying, “You should take solace in the fact that boring work
is as simple as having only two choices to make at any given instant - you can change your mind about
something or change your action about it.”
        That’s usefully false, he thought.

        Of all the scientists invited to creativity meetings since July of 2140, the year they had begun, the
scientist most frequently utilized by Erik was a stolid man, Chuck Fleischman, who in only two years
worked his way from senior biologist to department head under Erik’s command. But now, ten years
later, Chuck Fleischman had also worked himself into a marital crisis with his wife.
        He unabashedly described her as a “socialite,” and told his closest friends he wouldn’t miss her if
she split, which was false. She’s sexy and I love her, he often reminded himself, trying to ignore that she
was always threatening to divorce him for his fanaticisms, and to take half of his belongings.

        At the age of 58, his balding head complimented a sizeable belly, even though he was fit overall.
Like Erik and Jimmy, he too had once been given the opportunity to take NASA’s symbol exam. He
was twenty-five years old at the time he sat for it, the same year he obtained his Ph.D. in Microbiology
and wrote a groundbreaking thesis on patterns of primate behavior.
        Chuck’s answer on the NASA exam was simple and sarcastic, “Without rules, the question in
this so-called ‘exam’ is actually an answer, so the correct solution would be a question. I have nothing
to ask these freaky symbols other than, ‘who wants to know this information and why’?” For fear that
he was a “loose canon,” NASA disengaged, but thereafter, Chuck wondered frequently about the
symbols and wished he had played along with the ‘exam’ to find out information. To him, it was one of
life’s example where you need to be an insider if you want to get results.
        The fact that Chuck was an accomplished programmer in addition to an experienced biologist
was what made Erik move the man up the ranks of Rider so quickly, but what secured the biologist a
seat at nearly every creativity meeting was that his stern voice helped keep the creativity meetings
authoritative, and he was willing to be the disciplinarian and resident skeptic at Erik’s command.
Another skeptic Erik utilized often at creativity meetings was the thirty-three old savant, Miles

        Before her first creativity meeting at Rider, Jane Milton, a young chemist, was very excited as
she woke up early that November morning to blow dry her hair and put on make-up. As a rule, she never
did these things before work, but the weekly meetings were it at Rider Corp. They were the policy that
kept her busy with practicality, so she told herself to make an exception for her first meeting to avoid
looking plain.
        At 36-years old, Jane had worn a lab coat for most of her career as a Chemist. She described
herself as “a devout but realistic environmentalist,” and on her regular days maintained unshaved
armpits and uncombed brown hair. Now in contacts and a business suit for the Creativity Meeting, she
was almost unrecognizable to those present, except to Chuck Fleischman, who had seen her naked.
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       Jane’s everyday appearance included thick-rimmed black glasses, that in style, dated back to her
college days. Her sorority sisters at Stanford had gossiped with each other that “the spunky little Jane
Milton we actually like” was doomed to fall into some social abyss, to be lost in her own nonconformity.
Consequently, Jane suffered some ostracism in college. Sitting at the creativity table now, however, she
savored being an experienced professional, and thought about her college friends for a brief moment.
She allowed the memory to linger in the chair that Erik had crafted. What a trip!… Jane Milton, she
thought to herself.

         With a young woman’s posture to compliment an older woman’s voice, Jane began speaking
about new research even before the coffee had been served. Chuck considered asking her not only to
slow down, but to focus on one point at a time, but then she concluded, “Our senses… when they reach
the brain are characterized by their progress, so when we follow equivalents in history to their
destination, then after the fact we test with the adaptive programs to determine exactly how they were
truly equivalents, and with these subtleties, we build hierarchies, which is the approach we need to be
using more with the adaptive elements of the Purity code.”
         Outside the conference room window, the wind blew some oak tree leaves that were golden
brown silently onto the pane, as if peering into the Conference Room to watch and listen, Jane thought
poetically behind her large, hopeful blue eyes.
         Because Jane was having an affair with Chuck, whose divorce was not yet crystallized, she
worried at the Creativity Meeting that someone would discover their relationship, since Rider prohibited
employees from dating without full disclosure to Human Resources and Management. When things first
became serious between them, Jane told Chuck of her discovery in the human resources manual that
because of the Federal Law prohibiting discrimination against marriage, if two employees wished to
date, it was permissible for one of them to take a leave of absence until marriage. In dramatic fashion,
they decided to keep their affair a secret since neither one of them wanted to take the necessary leave,
even though they had intermittently agreed they loved each other. Jane rationalized that forbidden love
is sexy. Chuck rationalized, however, that their predicament made him feel more guilty than sexy, which
ultimately only puzzled him that guilt and love were appearing interoperable.
         Since Chuck and Jane were in violation of the corporate code as it came down from the Board’s
lawyer, who had fielded Jane’s questions in confidence, they both worried about having to resort to
asking Erik to prevent human resources from firing them if the truth about the affair emerged.

        Jane’s first contact with Erik had been at her job interview six years ago. When she was satisfied
there would be no glass ceiling, she let up on the questions. It had seemed to Erik at the time that Jane
Milton the applicant arrived with a list of social issues, like abortion, that he would have to eventually
take a formal position on if he wanted to be one of her friends beyond just being her boss.
        Jane’s interview had begun in the morning and turned into a bottomless cup of coffee, from
Erik’s perspective. When afternoon came they sat down with a vegetarian lunch at a picnic table
overlooking a lake, and as they discussed the plight of Bengal Tigers and their unique habitats. The
world looked good to Jane. Erik believed she would be a committed scientist, and the two reached an
employment agreement. Jane joked as she signed the contract in his presence, “like I need this thing.”

        As the years progressed, Jane and Erik became, as Erik described to his wife, “friends who share
coffee together in the mornings occasionally.” Even though Erik described it blandly, regular morning
coffee was a part of his friendship with Jane that made Sarah jealous, though Erik assured his wife,
“Jealousy may be the most rational vice in the lot, but it doesn’t make you more rational. So trust me…
she and I are just friends.”
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        At home, Jane often became restless sitting alone in her pajamas thinking about all the drama
she juggled in silence. She worried about her on-and-off affair with Chuck as he ambled through his
failing but highly dramatic marriage to Stella Fleischman, his physically beautiful but adulterous wife
whom Jane had spoken with on the phone several times in an attempt to win some dramatic contest for
Chuck, but these conversations only ended in tears. She worried about losing her job at Rider because
of that ridiculous policy, and she worried about whether she should continue to conceal the vice of hers
that justified Sarah’s. Indeed, she loved two unavailable men.

         At that November 2150 creativity meeting, Jane closed out her remarks about adaptive
programming by discussing blood flow patterns in the brain, “We can program a clock to measure time
by associations in the brain, because everything is relative. What will the mind tolerate that we
otherwise wouldn’t expect to exist if there weren’t some benchmark for timing? That’s an interesting
question, I think, but I don’t have an answer.”
         The room paused in thought. Chuck responded after several seconds of deep concentration, “The
monotony of pulsing blood is a benchmark.”
         Jane nodded and continued with a content smile, “Distinctions in time belie distinctions in
logic… Does it really matter how many iterations the Purity codes take to pace the fluctuations so long
as you’re utilizing the statistical parameters?”
         Erik stopped her, “I don’t understand. Regarding wave distortion and wave velocity,
electromagnetic fields that make up the wave mechanism of an axon propagation induce currents in the
medium that act back on the wave itself to alter the wave’s properties. In order to characterize wave
dispersion effects, we’ll use those of the differential equations incorporating our electromagnetic
radiation research into cell assemblies that relate the neocortical system to a resonant cavity with regard
to noise input.”
         Jane collected her thoughts and then continued, “Fine. Differential equations govern the behavior
of oscillators, then add white noise to the outputs… mainly depending on three things… opening and
closing of ion channels, propagation of the membrane potential along the dendrites with varying
geometries, and transmitter releases by axonal spikes.”
         “So for a time tracker program…” Erik prodded her.
         “For a time tracker,” she responded, “the locations of interest are those where the impulses have
communicative meaning by way of their bioelectrical impact with neural networks, and that’s based on
neocortical models primarily, but in order to know the quality of each impact, if you follow me, we need
to first characterize what is the expectable chemical state of order, of homeostasis. Chemistry’s need for
adaptive programs using parallel gated systems capable of answering these questions about chemical
commonalities is quite frankly staggering unless…”
         When it had appeared she stalled herself, Erik interrupted, “that’s okay… good.”

        Jane’s comments at her first Creativity Meeting, and her subsequent report on a universal timing
system, led to a large research project requiring collaboration between chemistry, biology, and computer
science, which Erik directed toward “developing through Purity Programs chemical coordinate matrices
that characterize electromagnetic timing using micromachines corresponding to different types of ion
channels and their unique gating mechanisms, especially for unique combinations of ion pumps
transporting ions against concentration gradients.”
        For this work, the teams would begin the project by advancing their research that characterized
specific irregularly shaped blood cells traveling from the body to the brain. It made her wonder whether
Erik was thinking of some greater philosophical issue that he wanted her to focus especially on ion
pumps transporting ions against concentration gradients. But in fact, Erik had seen some deficiencies in
her work relating to such pumping mechanisms.
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        But Erik reasoned that Jane understood well the difficult challenge of a universal timing system
based on the human senses, so he gave her more responsibility in managing one of the first interesting
research projects, which was in the area of primal urges manifested physically. As a result, Jane
analyzed everything from sleeping, to eating, to orgasms. And so, Jane’s ability to avoid awkward
situations was especially important to the productivity of her work. That her life was highly dramatic
confused and thus dulled the awkwardness.

      As part of this shared project, Jane’s monthly reports were given to Chuck for his feasibility
recommendations since he was the man at the top of the biology food chain, and to Jimmy, as the new
Department Head of Computer Science. This organizational structure that put her into contact with
Chuck added to Jane’s drama as she worried about Rider’s dating policy, and made her life more
complicated when she realized that Jimmy had begun to flirt with her.

       Jane even flirted with Erik occasionally by discussing the orgasm data, which he reasoned would
upset Sarah if she saw it happening, so he realized that was a form of cheating. The right amount of
monogamy, puzzled him, and although he took comfort in knowing which side to err on to preserve
monogamy, he troubled over the fact that you only get one life. In this thought, he gave in to the vice of

        Jimmy’s dilemma with Jane began when she told him in the laboratory one day, in the presence
of Chuck, that she thought he was “handsome.” The comment was made by Jane to arouse Chuck’s
jealousy, rather than increase Jimmy’s lust and pride, but it did all three, and since Jimmy was unaware
of her and Chuck’s romance, Jimmy only felt conflicted about how to approach Jane’s apparent interest,
which he wanted very much to reciprocate but rationalized that he couldn’t because of Rider’s no-dating
policy, or as Damian was the first to call it, “the can’t rider policy.” Ultimately, Jimmy’s frustration
with how the policy disrupted his opportunity to date Jane provided him just enough bravado to
compliment her occasionally while they worked, which riled her suitor Chuck into competition.

                                           Sensory Overload

        The location in Florida to which NASA brought Dr. Reese and Vigorchium was the BioVis
Technology Center, a nondescript dome surrounded by everglade forest and guarded by an elite arm of
the United States military.
        Dr. Reese’s first task at the Center was to inspect Vigorchium’s bedroom to ensure its suitability
for a mental patient. Everything about the bedroom was large, from the king-size bed to the spacious
desk and the windows with views of the forest. Like his special room back in Oregon, which had a view
of a park, Vigorchium was accommodated with a personal refrigerator. The NASA room, however, had
a television cube with all channels, including pornography. Reasoning that too much of anything he
enjoys becomes a bad thing, Dr. Reese had the NASA technicians time the pornography channels to
automatically go blank after fifteen minutes of use per day. Dr. Reese also managed Vigorchium’s diet
with the utmost attention to detail, and even monitored the varied amount of light that Vigorchium
should experience in his bedroom.

        Since the dome’s inception in the year 2094, it was a highly classified secret that each of the
three test subjects who had entered the Florida facility and used “the Green Room” ended up dead from
shock. Consequently, it seemed to staff at the dome that Dr. Reese’s micromanagement of
Vigorchium’s pornography intake to be quite trivial in the big picture. However, the man in charge of
the Florida facility, Dave Winston, an older and stately scientist, rationalized that Vigorchium would be
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less likely to die of shock, “if he believes that Dr. Reese is here to protect him from everything,
including the Green Room.”

        As part of Vigorchium’s orientation, a series of miniaturized SQUIDs were implanted in his
brain to assist the NASA scientists in monitoring his mental state inside a room that dome staff called,
“the Green Room simulator.” They told him it was not unlike the epic arcade game, Wizards of the
        In this simulator Vigorchium floated freely in zero gravity. He wore a special body suit made of
polymers liquefied into comfortable nanofibers. Remote controlled electrodes on his scalp and biosuit
connected to his thoughts, so when the Green Room simulator began, and tangible shapes began
coalescing as light before his eyes, Vigorchium was able to distort and move the shapes by interacting
with them using his mind and body. Meanwhile, supercomputers monitored his health and other overall
physical indicators of his well being like happiness, fear, and sexual arousal.
        He recognized some of the shapes immediately as parts of the symbols he had been analyzing on
the NASA computer in the Oregon mental hospital under Dr. Reese.
        I know you, Vigorchium thought happily to himself as he identified parts of the symbols.

        Dr. Reese and Dave Winston observed from a nearby room.
        It was there that Dave Winston, with sorrow behind his eyes, informed Dr. Reese that the three
test subjects before Vigorchium had all died of unnatural causes while using the simulator.
        The psychiatrist asked cogently, “Did any of these dead men ever have a chance to analyze all
the symbols at one time?”
        Winston responded grimly, “Not even close. We call it a simulator but there is no other room.”

        Inside the Green Room, Vigorchium found himself happier than ever before. It was the medium
he longed for, a place where he could call his thoughts into being, and a place to expand upon his ideas
for new human senses and consciousness. As it was also a place to experiment with pyramids and
cavity structures inside strange geometries, he enjoyed new powers over his own body by using cavity
structures to absorb wave energies, and pyramids to enhance his own biological energy.
        Limiting him in both cases though, he found that if he lingered too long inside a cavity or
pyramid, he became accustomed to the environment and lost control over his own power. And so he
looked to the golden ratio to find a way to sustain his power.

                                          Building on a Theory

       In the year 2152, Erik began to suspect that some of Rider’s board members were plotting to fire
him for speaking too openly in public with comments like, “Erasing someone’s memory isn’t per se
unethical. Toxics like lead and mercury do the same thing, but do we call manufacturers unethical?
What about doctors who use radioactive isotopes for scans? Harm and death does not always mean
wrong. The perfect example is brain impulses that need to die before their reaction can live.”

       It was a windy and rainy December day that year that Erik received word from his dad that the
Board of Directors was staging a coup against him. Michael Weathers was not supposed to know this,
but while reviewing a report on the boardroom table during a lunch break of a scheduled meeting,
Michael had inadvertently brushed across a memorandum written by one of the more powerful Board
members, Chip Underwood, to several of his like-minded colleagues, of whom Michael was not one.
The memo was dated only a month earlier, which coincided with a presentation Erik delivered to the
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Board on the efficacy of some new programs benefiting medicine, education, and crime prevention in
the long-term.

       Chip Underwood’s memo detailed a plan to secure a majority vote when the time was right to
keep the Corporation’s focus in the advertising, marketing, and human resources industries. For this, the
memo concluded, Erik would need to be fired.

      The memo also analyzed the pros and cons of initiating a shareholder campaign to oust Michael
Weathers if things became “unproductive or uncomfortable.” Michael made a copy of the memo
immediately, and the next day, he presented it to Erik for him to read while they were in Erik’s office.

        Like a statue, Erik pressed his left hand just below his graying temple as he read every word.
The anxiety in his eyes put wrinkles on his forehead. Michael sat in silence, already knowing what he
wanted to say to his son. After a long pause, Erik finally asked, “Any idea who else contributed to
        “I would just be speculating,” Michael answered.
        Erik swiveled in his chair and looked at the aging face of his dad. Michael had thick gray
eyebrows, and at 74, he looked like a scientist. Erik sighed as he leaned back. Then his eyes turned
cold. He looked out the window in observation of a gray city.
        Feeling the uncomfortable silence, Michael then said what he had planned, “We’ve put a great
deal of energy into this company, and I know that sometimes it feels like the family business, but it’s
important to remember we work for science. People are going to be watching you so you need to set a
good example… Son, they can take your job, but they can’t take your dignity. And they can’t take your
        And so, with a smile, Erik nodded as he tore up the memo. Then with a look of righteous
indifference he offered, “I’ll do what I have to do.”

                                             The Decision

         Can I back out now? Erik questioned as he laid in bed on December 14, 2152. Sarah was sound
asleep as he pondered for the second night in a row the question of whether it was worth it to defect
from the corporation. So beautiful, he thought lovingly, hoping that she would help him with his
elaborate exit plan from Rider that he was imagining as he watched her breathe through the rapid eye
movement that was happening to her. So helpless.
        He wondered that night in bed whether it was inevitable or divined that he would discover a way
to make the mind probe he envisioned, a highly illegal, highly invasive probe, which he had earlier
dubbed to himself the machine, and which he wrote about often in his personal journal.
        It was only earlier that evening he had thought to himself as he locked away his journal in his
office, Even the iron safe is not truly secure. Then he said out loud to himself, “Funny…the machine
might open the only safe place left.” It was at that moment in his office that he remembered advice from
Allison, There’s nothing wrong with talking to yourself out loud, but when you start answering your
own questions, honey, you may have a problem.
        Laying in bed with Sarah that night he wondered whether he was going crazy… again… too
        He disbelieved he was capable of executing a plan to back his way out of Rider with all the data
he needed, and happy scientists to do the work. And yet he knew he wouldn’t give up “the machine.”
The machine is the future, he concluded and repeated to himself until it was a statement that had been
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                                                                                                 - 98 -

decided, and therefore capable to attach itself to his god complex. The machine was in his head, but
ironically he reasoned, he had to probe the minds of others to begin its work.

         Then Sarah awoke.
         “Can’t sleep?” he asked.
         “I was gonna… let me go…”
         She fell back asleep and he twisted his mind trying to apply the concept of justice to his building
of the machine, as he tried to rationalize leading mankind to a probe he believed would eradicate private
thought, unwittingly, as he joked to himself at the secrecy of his plan. Jokes helped make the decision
less profound, he thought.
         Fearing that his mind was wrought with more amoebic qualities than divine ones, it had troubled
him often how logical thoughts appeared so readily in his mind, like gifts, as if his thought process
fulfilled some destiny by automatic processes. Divinity through simplicity… how the hell should I
         Accustomed to complexity in his thoughts, he argued with himself, The relevance of every
individual thought is relative to the whole, which therefore must derive meaning from the individual
thoughts, but these thoughts only follow the basic chemical laws, so there is no beauty in relevance
outside of its mere manifestation of fact, but at the same time, if justice itself is a fact, which like all facts
is at least a possibility to realize, then minds have no natural incentive to rise above mere mediocre
context gathering to perform short calculations of relevance that bring happiness.
         This rationale then brought a greater conclusion, Because I’m limited by the averages of
evolution, it would be a correct observation that mediocrity exists in me before I get to experience
consciousness, which would evidence itself as me striving for balance… Although it’s unethical to
invade privacy, it’s not unethical to free people from uncertainty… brain probing is good… and if I use
the profits to clean the Earth, then the ends will further justify the means.
         Every time he drew this grand conclusion about how he could use the profits from the machine
to clean the planet and save lives and better humanity, a more ultimate and conclusive matter occurred to
him, As long as I’m capable of thinking so far as these points, and I’m capable of harnessing the
manpower to create the Machine, I must have the right if I can conclude that it’s all relative, and at the
very least, some people deserve to die, and I deserve to learn.
         Utilizing this logic, he reasoned it felt okay, even right at times, to build the machine, and so the
rest of his decisions, he knew, would necessarily fall in line accordingly. I’m a god in a way, he told
himself, because this is as good as it gets. And in realizing the size of his ego like this he recoiled with
a shutter, but then congratulated himself for doing so, for being human in spite of his godly moments.
         He had to tell himself he was human before he felt confident telling himself that he wasn’t crazy,
which allowed him to make the ultimate decision to risk it all - his job, his relationship, and his
friendships - to build the machine.
         An acorn branch fell on the roof of his house. He knew the sound, and thought it symbolic that
Sarah woke up when it happened, and at the same time he confirmed in his mind the will to build it.

      Had Erik gone up to the roof to examine the branch the next day, he would have found beautiful
geometric displays of shattered acorns.

       The next morning, the first person Erik wanted to tell about the plan to defect from Rider was
Sarah, but he reasoned he would stand on stronger footing with her once he had Jimmy on board. Erik
also knew what Jimmy needed in life, above all else, was to be chosen first.
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         And so, that day Erik sat outside on the backyard patio with Jimmy and said, “Guess what I’m
         Jimmy smiled, wanting in on the secret.
         After a brief pause, Erik furrowed his eyebrows and exclaimed, “Let me first say this though. My
dad intercepted a memo from Chip Underwood that basically has the corporation splitting into a parent
corporation and a subsidiary within a few years… eighty percent servicing our current industries and
twenty percent medical research. They’re going to fire me if I don’t follow the money basically, but I’m
not supposed to know.” Jimmy was awestruck.
         “So, man, I need you to help me leave Rider so you can come work for me to build a mind probe
with the capacity to copy human logic with seriously illegal SQUIDs to create an new kind of intense,
artificial logic, in adaptive honeycombs we design as the architects… I’m working on different theories
now, and … I think with your programming skills, and about ten others at Rider, our better probe can
become a reality. I’m asking you first, I haven’t even told Sarah…and I’m also thinking about asking
Miles, Randall, Charlie, Donald, Jane, and Chuck…. And we’re gonna steal some monkey data from the
corporate data banks we built with our own sweat.”

        Erik knew the ultimatum would be a loaded gun for him to handle, and indeed, Jimmy’s mind
had gone into maelstrom at the moment Erik mentioned illegal SQUIDs.
        With his palm to his chin Erik stared at the trees in the far corner of his backyard, a posture he
maintained through the ensuing silence that represented Jimmy thinking with his head in his hands.
Next, from Erik’s perspective, it seemed Jimmy had interrupted his own thoughts when he shouted
        It sure took a while for that response, Erik laughed to himself, but he shook Jimmy’s hand and
was glad to finally have a teammate.
        “Alright Sherlock, it’s almost lunchtime, you hungry?” Erik asked happily.

       Jimmy shook his head and offered, “I’d like to know … If an artificial mind were perfectly
balanced, what would it predict other than the disorder of a random conclusion?”
       Mist from the clouds was dropping down around them at that point, and Erik answered, “Even if
you could get a computer to balance everything, from quantum uncertainty to a completely static
universe to all unsolvable paradoxes, there’s no guarantee of randomness.”

        Erik then took to the task over beers of summarizing for Jimmy the reasons why he thought other
Rider scientists would defect from Rider to build the machine, especially if the profits were used to
combat species loss and do humanitarian work. The wind was blowing harder outside and the chill was
        “It’s like this Jimmy. It’s logical to risk everything when you have everything to lose. The
people I want on our team know they’re too valuable to not risk everything for science. I won’t guide us
to unpredictable wealth like Rider, which leaves one at best rich and hollow, or rich and content. I’ll go
for something better even if the risk of going to jail is so high … I’ll risk it all to save the world… so,
what’s stealing monkey data, and what’s wrong with a little intensity in life. I always pass it up, but not
this time.”
        “So I think if we make our colleagues our friends, they’ll be willing to join us on a mission to
make the world a safer place, because when the risk is framed in terms of safety and the environment,
and a scientist’s mission, people realize that everything is already at stake. It doesn’t matter that we’ll
tweak some brains like man has never seen before, because it all comes down to the ends and means.”
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                                                                                          - 100 -

       On the drive home, Jimmy listened to classical music. He believed his life had a new purpose,
and questioned whether it was one that wasn’t so different from where he was already capable of going.
Reflecting back on the thirty years he had toiled at Rider, he thought to himself, Play safe too long and
you feel your life isn’t your own. That’s it… it’s a new era.

                                          The Alpha Symbols

        Once Dr. Reese had seen the Green Room “Simulator” together with the elaborate computer
system required to run it, and after he had spoken with some of the staff at the dome, he felt naive not
further questioning whether NASA had told him the full story about each symbols’ origin as “research
data from the study of weather patterns.”
        Dr. Reese decided that the most qualified individual to address his skepticism was the man in
charge, Dave Winston, so Dr. Reese asked him bluntly, “Do I need to increase my classification status to
learn the real origin of the symbols?”
        Winston chuckled to himself as he peered into the empty coffee mug sitting near the middle of
his desk in his office. What made him chuckle was remembering himself as a younger man asking the
same question. In response he offered, cogently, “Martin, you’re an asset to this operation to the extent
you’re a calming force in Vigorchium’s mind. I can’t imagine why you would need to know more about
where the symbols come from unless Vigorchium asked you?”
        Dr. Reese registered Winston’s use of the present tense in the first sentence, but immediately
answered the question about the past mildly, “No, he didn’t ask. As far as I know, he believes what I
believe, that the symbols originated as data from NASA’s weather research.”
        “Excellent,” Winston replied, “then you both know the truth.”
        “C’mon,” prodded Dr. Reese, “let me pour you another cup of coffee, and you can start telling
me what I deserve to know for sacrificing my ordinary life to come be here.”
        Winston scratched his chin and smiled, then he picked up his mug, which bore the NASA seal,
and handed it to Dr. Reese, who obliged by filling it from the coffee maker down the hall in the master
        When Dr. Reese returned, there was resting on the chair he had just been occupying a thick black
folder, and printed in green stencil-font on the cover it read, “The Alpha Symbols.” When Dr. Reese
picked up the folder, Winston exclaimed, “Enjoy!”
        Dr. Reese smiled at the weighty promotion and then began to read vigorously as Winston sipped
his coffee with his feet up on the window ledge that overlooked the forest.

        As a young man, Dave Winston had worked as a cryptologist for the government. His wife
praised him for being dedicated as he steadily ascended the ranks of the cryptologists at NASA. The
Alpha Symbols were his life and he defended them constantly against those who sought to make
immediate use of them for certain projects of the U.S. Government.
        In some years it was a military application that sought to incorporate the Alpha Symbols, and in
others it was a healthcare application. But Winston was able to deflect all proposals by reporting to each
successive United States President, with a straightforward style, that there were immense dangers
involved when toying with symbols that are part of the makeup of the very universe itself. He liked to
conclude his persuasive speeches by saying, “With all due respect, any scientist who claims he is ready
to use the Alpha Symbols for something practical does not understand, or respect, the Alpha Symbols.”
        Although Winston was not an Omniarch loyalist, to the extent he was ignorant of Omniarch’s
control over his laboratory, he was capable of being manipulated. Indeed, the occultist Norbert
Weishaupt had exercised enough influence over enough NASA decision-makers to commission the
                                                                              Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                          - 101 -

Alpha Symbols project to explore the hypothesized existence of an invisible force field around the

        The first chapter of the Alpha Symbols report had been written nearly a half-century earlier by
one mathematician and his programmer colleague, both of whom had worked at NASA’s headquarters
on a project to analyze weather patterns.
        In the Alpha Symbols report, the NASA scientists chronicled their discovery of a series of
differential equations that were capable of operating upon large quantities of weather data to produce
interestingly interconnected three-dimensional symbols that always balanced the equations they
discovered. No matter how they reran the tests with different weather data, so long as the data was
abundant in quantity, the same seven symbols appeared in the computer’s coordinate grids used to
characterize the data. The scientists concluded their individual report, which became only Chapter One
in the Alpha Symbols file, by analogizing their equations into the laws of symmetry. It seemed that all
great laws were balanced or categorized into the symbols. And so “Chapter One” of this Alpha Symbols
binder theorized that the Symbols were like a book. Subsequent chapters, written over the decades the
program had been in existence, revealed increasing dimensionality that experienced the Alpha Symbols
as maneuverable shapes and sounds and energy forces. The NASA scientists who wrote these successive
chapters found the same Alpha Symbols using variations of the equations in other natural phenomena,
from volcanoes to atomic energy.
        A large portion of the file was devoted to the Alpha Symbols relation to the fine structure value,
α, a coupling operator, and measure of the strength of electromagnetic force that keeps electrons
bounded, and in a sense preventing full realization of randomness.

       Dr. Reese’s initial reaction to the first Chapter of the Alpha Symbols File was bewilderment. It
made him think of the karmic events in his own life, those strange coincidences in his past that had
caused him such life-altering pause, causing him to question God’s existence.

       Winston informed Dr. Reese that the symbols’ recurrence in the quantum realm was the subject
of several complicated chapters in the file, so he suggested the psychiatrist take as much time as he
needed to read the full text before reporting back to him with an official memorandum as to how this
information might affect his psychological evaluation of Vigorchium.

         Lucy Devereaux was the NASA programmer accredited with writing the breakthrough programs
that became the first Chapter inside the file in Dr. Reese’s hands. However, what the file did not show,
as it was unknown to NASA and Lucy herself, was that she and Charlotte Weathers’ were biological

                                         Project Bait & Switch

        Project Bait and Switch was orchestrated by Erik to covertly recruit Rider employees to help him
steal data from Rider and set up a new laboratory to build an illegal mind probe. Meanwhile, Erik
would lead Rider into highly profitable programs that were the bait to blind the corporation to his data
theft. If it worked, Erik thought to himself in wonderment, he would walk away from Rider with a
golden parachute, a few nice source codes he and Jimmy helped develop called Purity, Flicker, and
Deep Pocket, volumes of relevant test subject data, about ten Rider employees, and the greatest and
most dangerous idea since the atomic bomb. And like the bomb, he wasn’t sure exactly what would
happen. Nobody can know but God, he reasoned, and why would He stop me if He didn’t stop the bomb?
                                                                                 Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 102 -

        Part of Erik’s goal for a better brain probe was to further research the information about Fourier
transforms that the Rider team learned while Michael Weathers was inside the prototype mind probe.
Erik knew that certain brain cells actually produced the waveform of light, which in its particle state
they called biophotons. Each individual biophoton transmitted information via frequency, wavelength,
polarization, and momentum. He theorized that if this light propagated under certain wave principles,
even scalar wave principles, it could avoid scattering. For this he commissioned special research into
microtubules in the brain, and their hexagonal structured proteins called tubulins.

       At the same time that Erik planned Project Bait & Switch, Omniarch kept the genius under
constant and heavy surveillance, and so was aware of Erik’s defection plan. But it was determined by
high-level Omniarch loyalists, including Seattle billionaire Norbert Weishaupt, that Omniarch would
allow Erik to pursue his scientific interests unhindered. Omniarch’s rationale was that they would
simply steal Erik’s work when the time was right, unless he would willingly join forces first.

        When Sarah came back from Michigan, Erik sat her down on their living room sofa and told her
about his plan to defect from the corporation to start his own laboratory. It was an eerie conversation for
her, and like nothing she had ever experienced.
        “So, you’re really going to do this?” she asked with a tone that pleaded for caution.
        “It’s my destiny,” he answered convincingly, though he did not believe in destiny apart from
there being correct courses of action a person should take on Earth.

         Sarah was nervous that their lives would end in disaster if Erik pursued his plan, but he
articulated it so persuasively from both scientific and ethical perspectives, she found it difficult to argue
with him. He had even diagrammed some of the machine parts he wanted to use, and she was intrigued,
though she was biased by love. The hardest part for her to accept was whether he was right on one point
that changed everything – whether, “if a machine of this magnitude is inevitable, should it be stopped, or
should it be understood?” After he phrased the question to her in that way, he told her that in all the
world she should trust him more than anyone.
         In response she wanted to say there’s no one in the world who can be trusted with the power to
read minds this way, but there was another line of reasoning that triumphed in her logical hierarchy, only
insiders make a difference.
         She loved her husband, but also power. He talked about the human history of crime as if it were
entangled with man’s causing of unprecedented species loss and habitat destruction. He talked about a
mind probe that could help protect men from each other and help mankind realize the Earth’s right to
achieve retribution.
         At the end of their dynamic talk, which lasted many hours, Sarah aligned with her husband and
with the Earth. Besides, she told herself nervously, his plan has so many holes, it’s destined to collapse
into itself, and if I don’t stand by him, some other woman will.
         At the end of the night when she finally agreed to support him, a single tear swelled in a corner
location of her eye, and she gently rested her head on his chest to hide her anxiety.
         Their minds were worlds apart. She thought of him like a soldier going off to an uncertain and
indefinite war. He considered himself a pioneer, and the more he thought about helping the Earth, the
stronger the morality of the ultimate step became for him. She loved him genuinely, and because she
believed she was herself a good person and that it had been a good thing in human history for insiders to
stand by powerful men as guiding lights, she felt okay standing by his side.
                                                                                  Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                              - 103 -

         After having told Sarah and Jimmy about Project Bait & Switch, Erik was back at work with a
renewed passion for brain analysis. Even the process of quickly turning Rider’s experimental Flicker
programs into profitable source codes for cash-cow industries like advertising was exciting.
         In his head he had chosen nine scientists he wanted to recruit from Rider. He knew he couldn’t
trust a lawyer to help with anything, especially because of the crime-fraud exception to confidentiality.
Instead, he combed over the seven-year anti-competition clauses in his contract and the contracts of his
chosen recruits, and discovered that taking “a noncompetitive research position following corporate
employment” was not a breach of anyone’s agreement. As long as they produced no products for seven-
years and published nothing, he presumed his research laboratory could remain under the radar of
Rider’s lawyers. On many levels though, Erik simply did not have time to worry about all the
contingencies that could happen.
         He didn’t want to present the plan to his dad yet for fear of disappointing him with too much
speculation, since in his mind, the orderliness of defecting from the corporation with stolen secrets in
order to build a better brain probe helped mitigate the decision’s illegality. Erik rationalized that to trust
others beyond their incentives for personal power was reckless, so he decided to present the plan to each
potential recruit at a time when they would most likely feel ready to accept more power.
         Erik had a speech rehearsed about power and morality, and yet, Jimmy did not even need to hear
it before pledging his commitment to work with Erik. That’s a bad thing, Erik advised himself in the
same premeditated state of consciousness that made him resolve to the detriment of his internal sense of
morality, you have to be an insider to change the world.

                                             Simulated Reality

         After Dr. Reese finished reading the Alpha Symbols file, he began incorporating his notes into
an outline for a memorandum to Dave Winston.
         The Alpha Symbols file predicted that the Green Room had caused death by shock in all three of
its participants because they saw something in their minds that was so powerful, the only way for their
bodies to balance the images they juxtaposed inside their mind was to enter a state of catatonic shock.
         Dr. Reese opined in his memo that Vigorchium too would succumb to this fate of death by
“extreme phenomena” unless he is able to divorce his mind from his body. Dr. Reese recommended that
he engage Vigorchium in a rigorous meditation schedule.

        When Dr. Reese confronted Vigorchium with the meditation plan, the 53-year old savant
exclaimed, “That won’t work on me, Dr. Reese… I’m smarter than you.”
        The psychiatrist replied quickly, “I agree with you in part. What’s going to happen is we’re
going to meditate together, but in no way do I want you to think what we’re doing is hypnosis. If you
believe it’s going in that direction at any time, you need to tell me, okay? Once you learn to meditate
without thinking, you can meditate while thinking.”
        “I’m listening.”
        “Good,” replied Dr. Reese with a paternal smile, “I trust you to listen to me. I always have
trusted you.”
        “Why would you trust me unless you needed me to trust you? This Simulator is dangerous, isn’t
        Watching the video feed of their discussion from his office, Winston held his breath.
        Dr. Reese then replied, “The Simulator is designed for you, Vigorchium. Do you believe you’re
dangerous to yourself?”
        “I do.”
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 104 -

        “I believe balance is inside of you, and that’s the reason why we’re going to meditate together.
Everything I do is meant to protect you from harmful psychological tendencies. Do you believe that?”
        “To the extent it’s in your best interest to protect me from harm, sure. I also believe you believe
in certainty… in right answers. I believe in right answers too, but I don’t believe you have them, so
although you want to protect me, if you succeed it will only be because you got lucky.”
        The psychologist swallowed as he tried to conceal the fear in his eyes. Then with a calm tone he
responded, “I believe some right answers are simple answers, and -”
        “What do you know about polarization?” Vigorchium interrupted with brazen eyes.
        “What do you mean by polarization?” the psychiatrist asked skeptically.
        “Extremes. You think reality is the middle because you don’t have the power to reject things
canceling out.”
        “I don’t know that I understand-”
        Vigorchium’s eyes narrowed as he said under a cracking voice, “Use the Simulator and you’ll
        Dr. Reese interjected, “I’m not afraid.”
        Vigorchium just scowled in response, feeling alone in the world.

                                       Friendship And Necessity

       To implement Project Bait & Switch, the first item on Erik’s Tuesday afternoon schedule was a
meeting with Chuck Fleischman. Erik planned on initiating a conversation about the origin of
brainpower, and Erik wanted to make sure his colleague was still his close friend too. The biologist
showed up in business slacks and a polo shirt, right on time with a resounding knock at the door.
       Meanwhile, unknown to Erik, his stalker Yolandra was in the parking garage fifteen stories
below him, to tamper with the tracking device on his vehicle.

        Erik’s office was spacious like his home, but the art there was completely the opposite. Abstract
pictures lined the walls of the Rider owned space, some of them originals and all of them framed in
strikingly elaborate polished maple cases. Behind the desk was an almost wall-sized window, with
contemporary double doors opening to a patio. Each doorknob was a crystal hexagon with large, shapely
indentations that made a faint blue tint like a diamond. The desk itself was enormous. It was by far the
largest piece of furniture in the room, and it was immaculate. Only a personal computer and peripheral
equipment could be seen on the surface, save also for one half-glass of water.
        Chuck sat down in an expensive leather chair, gold in color, facing the executive desk. Erik’s
chair was a brown one, but taller, and it swiveled and reclined, though at the moment, he was sitting on
the edge of it offering his colleague some coffee.
        “Mary, hi” Erik said to the intercom, “Can you please send in two double mocha lattes.” He
lifted his finger and the task was complete.
        Chuck smiled casually as he looked around, still wondering what the meeting was about. On his
lap sat a white binder, standard issue from Rider, inside of which he kept his Purity Program reports.
        “Chuck, I actually wanted to talk with you about something other than the Purity project. It’s
been fun working on that and I think we’re making great progress, so I just want to thank you… since I
brought it up. But I wanted you to come in today because I was hoping you would like to come to my
house this Friday for a dinner party.”
        Chuck dropped his shoulders and adjusted more comfortably in his chair. He laid the binder on
the matching gold chair next to him and closed his hands over his knees. “Sure!”
        “You’re still a vegetarian, right?”
         “Yeah… what’s the occasion?”
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 105 -

         “Don’t tell anyone, but I plan to reward your group with more bonuses next month.”
          Erik then proceeded to make small talk as they waited for their coffees. Mary walked in a few
minutes later with the hot beverages she loved to make from scratch. She was an older woman, in her
sixties, but she carried herself, Erik thought, like a healthy fifty. She wore her hair in a bun, and
circulated the same six outfits ever since she began working as Erik’s secretary. One of them, however,
was a traditional Japanese dress, so this made her whole rotation very conspicuous. Like her husband,
who was Erik’s dentist, she was nice to a fault.
         Mary liked to be social with Erik’s guests, and oftentimes Erik invited her to sit in on meetings
so she could chat with the scientists during breaks and ask them about their personal lives.
         Slowly and with a series of casual leading questions, Erik turned the conversation into one about
brain mechanics. Chuck said at one point, “Its all about chemically-based algorithms.”
         Erik nodded his head approvingly as he adjusted his elbows on the chair, and then asked, “If the
algorithms are chemicals, and we ask the question - what’s at the foundation of everything chemical,
then can the answer be algorithms?”
         The biologist leaned back in his chair approximately fifteen degrees as he put back the last ounce
of his warm drink. Then he let the two front legs fall slowly to the carpet, and with a thoughtful smile
crossing under his mustache he sat up and opened his hands slightly toward Erik, who noticed the
posture as a classical sign of uncertainty. “You want to know what I think?”
         Erik nodded paternally.
         “Life is nothing more than mimicking around error rates, so no matter how hard we try to create
logic, there’s a randomness to it in the error rates that will always put us behind reality as we try to
copy… and I think the theory underlying that conclusion is that chemicals follow the rule that the multi-
faceted practice of mimicking is nature’s simplest way to accomplish an end.” He pronounced the rule
with a shaken certainty that only appeared to be true because it phrased the question as if there were no
other viable option to choose from.
         Erik answered, “One of psychology’s functions is to suppress the desire to be very similar to
another person. We want uniqueness as an individual but similarities with segments of the population,
except if the topic is the human body, in which case you want to look good by overall human standards.”
They laughed together at different things as each had a separate idea form in his mind of what the world
would be if everyone looked the same.
          “Even as complete and intelligent as we are,” Chuck continued, “all human complexities can be
traced back to their fundamental levels by comparison to mimicked, patterned, and random behavior.”
         In what happened to be a dramatic pause, Chuck got up to get a drink of water. During the pause
Erik wondered to himself how realistically the scientist believed his theories could stifle adaptive
computer applications. Chuck then walked back to his chair and sat down with a full glass of water and
one ice cube. A few drops clung to the outside edge on the bottom of the tall glass, threatening to fall.
         After cracking his back against the brown chair and then cracking his knuckles Erik swiveled
ninety degrees toward the window, and listened contently as the biologist continued, “Mimicking is the
phenomenon that we as proud scientists can sometimes be too quick to gloss over as background data.
On the computer analysis of mimicking … the brain is a product of its functions, with charged cells
acting like logically functioning chips. And the malleable brain tissue has its source in the same
biological purpose as the heart or the lungs, to make our lifelines useful! So here we are. Life in all its
busy fullness supplied a mimicking technique so advantageous from a biological standpoint, it outran us,
and only now have we developed the tools to begin to crack the code. You have five senses, and each
one reduces the data you collect in any given moment to chemical signals that at their core answer a
very simple yes or no question to a series of questions about chemical signature. End result, as predicted,
humans are consumers…you are what you eat and there’s no way to get around it, so the question I
might ask – Do you think creative thought opposes mimicking, theoretically?”
                                                                                  Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                              - 106 -

         Erik was interested in what Chuck had said, and was asking. He had thought about it his whole
life as far as he could remember. In response he said, “That’s sort of an ultimate question about logic,
isn’t it? I think it’s going to come down to free will.”
         Chuck was smiling and peering out the window as he moved forward audibly with his thoughts,
“Psychological perception fills the gaps that biology signals exist at all, which is why we think we’re
smart, because once we gather all these finished products, rapid chemical action allows us to fuse things
in a way we like to call common sense, because the associations come to us so predictably, because we
wire recurrent circuits to recognize the consistency in the world. Consistency brings us rewards, but to
the extent it doesn’t, things get interesting. We only are what we recognize, theoretically. So what can
you expect? And what in the name of science is a mimicked, creative expectation? All the while
memory storage banks filter our lives for us. The mimicking function is a lot of things, but at its core it
is a function of chemicals people use to interact. It’s weird to think of mimicking, then where do we
draw the line? The reason this is so difficult to describe is because mimicking is so easily diluted
through collisions of thoughts. Can we say we’re all unique in a special, random way? Add spacetime
and matter and free will and that is all there is to everything. So if you believe the answer to the question
is simple, whether nature produces personalities through mimicking error, then the evidence speaks for
itself as you understand the distinction between randomness and order.”
         Erik then chimed in with a smile, “You can’t mimic truth because truth exists before you have
the opportunity to mimic it. Or what if I said, life is more than mimicking because man has the ability to
think innovatively about random things in ways that organize reality into existence?”
         “I would say, write that down and give me an hour.”
         Erik laughed, and then continued, “There are questions about randomness and free will that are
going to prevent us from understanding mimicking as long as we remain uncertain of the brain’s
mechanics. We need a better probe than what we’re doing at Rider, but… anyway. Here’s another one -
If everything really does boil down to yes or no questions, then how do you explain spectrums with
infinite properties? Care for some examples?” As Erik spoke he realized he was quite high on caffeine.

        Erik was smiling wide now as he felt confident that Chuck believed they were friends. Erik
nodded approvingly and said, “I like the way you analyze things Chuck. You’re a good friend. I think
you’re interested like I am in finding an alternative hypothesis that leads to free will, so I’ll just offer
this … deeper concepts sort of go outside the self, like love and justice, so you have to wonder if a cut
and paste chemical analysis really captures the relativity of chemical structures. Then of course there’s
the soul.”
        “Can’t argue with that! But I thought we were talking science.” Chuck laughed with a bright
smile, reverent and unsure.
        “We are. Friday at seven.”
        “I’ll be there.”
        After Chuck left his office, Erik buzzed his secretary to confirm his appointment for the next
day, a meeting with Jane Milton, the chemist he enjoyed coffee with on Friday mornings.

        Rather than take the elevator, Erik walked down the fourteen flights of stairs leading to the
company garage. His spot was the one closest to the door, with a sign reading “CEO Weathers.” He felt
this perk was unnecessary, but the Board presented the spot to him like a gift on his first day. He and his
dad joked about how cliché it was for a CEO to have the best spot, but Michael also said seriously,
“Each person has their own way of setting things in order. Sometimes you just have to let people praise
you, and this parking spot is just one of those trivial things. Remember, there’s a right tool for
everything, and image is definitely a tool.” Walking up to his limited edition luxury car that day, Erik
rationalized that he had gone for the status car because the parking spot demanded it.
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 107 -

       In the parking lot Yolandra confronted him. He called the police, but only after she had asked
him what he knew about Omniarch. The police report was quashed, but Yolandra was exposed as a
potential Omniarch rogue.

                                          Best Interests

        The next day Erik met with Jane in the lobby to his office. She was dressed casually in striped
brown business slacks and a button-down white collared shirt. She wore no make-up. Mary greeted her
with a big “Hello darling, you look pretty!”
        Handing her a double latte with cinnamon swirl on top, Erik smiled. It was her usual drink, and
there they were, on an unusual day in unusual times, he thought. They set out of the office at a moderate
pace and walked a short distance to the entrance of the park. Both held the same travel mug with the
Rider logo. It was a capital “R” encircled in a sphere constituted by circuitry.
        After making small talk about current events, and Damian’s movie-star wife Angelica, who Jane
liked to ask about, Erik turned the conversation toward her work, and then eventually to the abstract
brain as he asked, “If a person has a best interest, do you think a chemical standing alone has one too?
We know physical principles can suggest favorable or necessary courses, but is there anything that
requires a coherent identifiable interest to eventually cause an individual to determine her course of
        As they walked she softened her steps on the black pavement beneath her brown shoes,
pondering the question. She knew she had an answer, but it was lost in her mind somewhere, a
repetitively forgivable experience, she reasoned. After a few seconds she responded, “Does the heart
have a best interest? Does the brain? The combination of billions of favorable courses leads to several
conclusions, so the idea of just one best interest is elusively simple thinking. What I do think is that
personalities are the evidence of what the brain canvas really contains, so you have to look there. But
you have to acknowledge that a sum of chemical values, without an equation to organize them, will not
measure out to provide a useful calculable best interest. So the question becomes, what makes the
equations answerable?”
        Jane then smiled warmly before continuing, “It all depends on the value parameters of your
consciousness plane, if that makes sense.” She smiled again, but more personally as she looked away at
a tree along the path, and then she said, “Imagine your wife smiling at you from across the breakfast
table. That’s a good start. It’s not complicated, except that there’s so much it can be. That’s why we
talk. There’s stuff to talk about.”
        She laughed feeling like she had gotten completely off topic, so by default from exhaustion she
offered, “so I guess the answer is that I don’t know.”
        Erik complimented her for the good work on the Purity Project and he mentioned Flicker. Then
as they walked back to the office, he asked if she would like to join he and Chuck on Friday for dinner at
his house. Jane’s face was calm and decisive. “Okay,” she said, wondering whether he knew of her
affair with the Biology Team Leader. Inside her body, her heart was pounding.
        Erik happened to be looking forward at the bend in the path around the lake and did not notice
her anxiousness. There were fisherman picking out yellow perch, and he noticed two ducks entering the
water in front of them. The park was eighteen square kilometers in size, and several wooden bridges
were required to make a path all the way round it. In total, the trail was 12-miles long as it negotiated up
hills and traversed through and around enormous tree trunks. There were majestic pine trees scattered
everywhere, colorful oaks of many species, olive trees, and all sorts of species not native to Washington.
The park was one of the oldest in the greater Seattle area.
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 108 -

       Jane, however, saw nothing in that moment but her own thoughts. When Erik said there was no
need to bring anything over for dinner she exclaimed, “Great!”, and in reflection grumbled to herself
about mixing up the order and enthusiasm of her responses.

                                              Raw Comfort

        “You’re sitting on the beach drinking lemonade,” Dr. Reese said softly with his eyes closed
while wearing his dark blue pajamas.
        To avoid making Vigorchium feel singled out, it had been the dome director, Dave Winston, who
offered the idea that some of the technicians should participate in the meditation sessions. And now
they were all trying not to laugh as Dr. Reese, the only one with his eyes still closed, continued
speaking, “there’s little children with their parents blowing bubbles and running along the sand, and
some of them are singing opera, and as they all run farther down the coast …the opera gets softer …and
softer… and now all you hear… is the sound of the ocean …and the ice clinking in your lemonade
glass… The sun is shining on you …you feel warm … so you arise from your beach chair … and you
walk … slowly … toward the ocean. Feel the hot sand on your feet…”
        Seeking the approval of the group Vigorchium joked in a voice to mock the psychiatrist’s, “Now
feel the warm futility of this exercise in your cortex.”
        Dr. Reese laughed with the majority and turned the lights back on.
        “I think we may need to try a different form of meditation.”
        Vigorchium replied quickly, “I vote for porno!” No one laughed, causing Vigorchium to feel the
sting of his own joke. “Tough crowd,” he then added to kill the silence, “might have worked if we had
some beers… seriously, though! What is the purpose of meditation?”
        As the technicians were exiting the room, thinking the situation had gotten awkward, Dr. Reese
fielded the question, “To exercise those parts of your mind that need calming.” At that moment Dr.
Reese tried to avoid looking at the scar on Vigorchium’s scalp, but the savant noticed the glance.
        “Do you think it’s weird?”
        “What’s weird?”
        “Why do you always do that? You pretend I don’t know what’s going on. Do you think it makes
me want to trust you more that you’re always claiming ignorance, other than the fact that it’s predictable
at least?”
        “Just because I looked at your birthmark, it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have claimed ignorance.
I’m a polite person, and I respect you. That’s the only constant there.”
        “I want truth.” Vigorchium then began to scratch his birthmark shaped like a claw knowing he
could make it bleed. It was a bored attempt to punish Dr. Reese for staring.
        “Or,” the doctor prodded, “do you want evidence to confirm your perspective of truth?”
        “Now this is meditation, Dr. Reese.”
        “I know it is, but I’m afraid that as much as I enjoy prodding you, we need to embrace something
different for this relaxation hour.”
        “I don’t see why I can’t just have porno. Ladies shouldn’t be embarrassed that a gentleman wants
to see a lady naked. Soft core sexual display is culturally enriching between ladies and gentleman.”
        “Seriously, Vigorchium,” the psychiatrist offered protectively, “I need you to make an effort to
embrace traditional meditation techniques… Alright?”
        Vigorchium was silent, so the doctor continued, “Listen, you know me well enough to know that
if I don’t have a reliable program, I’ll keep pressing until I do, so…”
        After a long sigh, Vigorchium acquiesced by retorting, “Well, can’t fight the inevitable... at least
not in this reality.” He picked again at his scalp with a smile. A droplet of blood beaded on the surface.
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 109 -

       “Look at me,” Vigorchium continued, “I’m tearing my own skin… porno is therapy to help me
appreciate skin more?”

                                        The Power of Persuasion

        It was the evening of March 4, 2153 and Sarah wore a long cotton dress with a sparkling, hand-
made, blue necklace beneath the brown hair that protected it. Then, while making a vegetarian dinner,
she suffered a small spot of food on her garment. Moving one eyebrow up to raise the beginning of her
forehead, she juxtaposed a cunning glace in her entangling green eyes. Erik encouraged her at first to
change dresses, and she fell for it. But they cleaned up nicely before their guests arrived.

        Erik’s colleagues Chuck and Jane arrived together, holding hands. Sarah greeted them with a
curious look, staring at their ostensibly guilty faces. “Come in guys,” she said happily, “I didn’t know
that you two were an item-”
        Chuck interrupted, “Well, Erik doesn’t know yet, but tonight we’re going to set the record
        When Erik saw Chuck and Jane, two of his best scientists at Rider holding hands, a strange
puzzlement occurred to him, and for the moment he forgot about Project Bait & Switch. “What did I
miss?” he asked with a small laugh to suggest it must be good.
        As Sarah walked over to Erik and put her arm around his waist, Jane said with care and
inquisitiveness, “I love Chuck Fleischman, and he loves me, and we’ve been together for almost ten
years now.”
        Erik’s jaw dropped, and Chuck said, “I understand if you have to fire Jane.”
        Everybody laughed.
        “No seriously though, we’re in love,” Chuck added, “and that’s the basis of our choice to risk
everything, although technically, we’ve bent over backwards to avoid interfering with blind tests at
Rider, and we’re hoping you’ll give us a break, maybe just a reprimand for the personnel file-”
        Erik walked up to Chuck and extended his hand, “Congratulations!” Then he gave Jane a hug,
and said to them both, “I want to hear all about this insubordination!”

        After dinner and a three-layer cake dessert, the group settled into the living room for wine, at
which point Erik cued the slide show and began his speech, “I have something radical to ask you guys,
but I’d like to lead up to it, okay?”
        The interested faces of Chuck and Jane met the stern and confident look of their CEO.
        Sarah meanwhile watched from the kitchen with tissues. On the screen behind Erik, children
drank brown water from an obviously polluted river. It was a slide show she helped prepare as a visual
aid for Erik’s sales pitch - defecting from Rider to build an illegal mind probe to eradicate violent crime
and use the profits for the environment and humanitarian aid.

        “Every individual finds inspiration in his body and his environment,” Erik began. “When he
thinks about his hands and his eyes and his heart and his mind, he is challenged by the wonder that they
bring to his life. By the same measure, he finds the mountains and the rivers around him visionary. We
all glorify the Earth at times, because it holds deep meaning as a cornerstone, especially when you’re
happy. Most people, and a lot of scientists, choose to see God in the wonders of the world. Other people
don’t. The problem is that we live in a universe where we lack everything except circumstantial
        The manner in which Erik said slyly but confidently the words “circumstantial evidence” made
everyone in the room smile, and it made Jane laugh warmly.
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 110 -

         “As makers of brain probes, questions about God and free will are paramount, and yet, we slave
away for Rider every day, servicing the advertising industry. Why are we wasting our time with small
questions when the opportunity is before us to ask big ones. For example, what attributes in our mind
compel us to ponder infinity?
         “The religious man uses his time on this Earth trying to pray up beliefs that his Creator can
provide him some answers to questions of fate and eternity. I’m not a religious man because I accept
that faith is a matter of degree. The truth is obvious…. we’re not going to know the full extent of the
questions we can’t answer until we crack the brain’s logical hierarchy. Imagine all the unexplored
logical functions that can ONLY be realized in us with help from a more intensive probe!
         “If there’s a God, why would He reward blind faith? Why would He give us these thoughts about
the nature of logic, and then not ask us to really test what’s real? Using our best physical evidence, I
think He would choose the man whose happiness begins with acceptance that life on Earth with a brain
is wonderful, whether or not there is a Creator hiding behind physics. At Rider right now, we’re not
doing what we’re capable of doing, and as long as you work for Rider, you’ll be institutionally
precluded from chasing these interesting questions.”
         Chuck and Jane wore expressions of disappointment.
         “What’s going on is this… I’m getting fired, and most of the research we’re doing in fields other
than advertising, marketing and human resources is going to be sold piece-meal to the highest bidders
because Rider wants only one thing developed right now – probes that will generate information for
these commercial pursuits.”
         Chuck spoke first, while Jane sat in awe, “How do you know?”
         “My dad intercepted a memo from Chip Underwood, and they’re going to oust my dad too if he
rocks the boat. ”
         Jane questioned next in a soft voice, “If you know this, what can you do to protect our research?”
         A noticeable look of relevance showed in Erik’s eyes, “Well, that’s what I wanted to talk to you
about tonight. I want to take our research, create my own laboratory, and make good on the equations
we originally set to create in a probe capable of implementing them. Right now I’m imagining a better
probe for law enforcement especially. Jimmy is already on board and with his help, so far I’ve been able
to make some engineering advances in my own basement, basically cellular interference and
electromagnetic conduction through meta-materials, and I believe we can do something meaningful with
Rider’s source codes and better SQUIDs… but I need help with everything. What I want to do here is
bigger than Rider.”
         Erik then explained how he wanted to steal from Rider while at the same time, deflecting
attention from the theft by actually making Rider billions of dollars in profit with a new product based
on research from a program he and Jimmy developed together over the years called Flicker. He argued
that all they would really be stealing was their own individual ideas.
         “They broke their contract with you by deciding not to continue to allow funding for socially
responsible work, so you’ve been exculpated from your duties under your contract to the corporation,
and therefore, no one owns your ideas but you,” he exclaimed to nodding heads.
         Chuck then asked impatiently, “Putting all the corporate stuff aside, what kind of machine are
you talking about?” Erik explained very carefully that he wanted to develop a more sophisticated probe
and to use criminals as test subjects. He explained that all profits from any probe they created would be
used for the Earth’s protection.
         “I think the machine you’re talking about would be illegal to develop using humans as test
subjects?” Chuck stated fearfully.
         “Let’s be realists,” answered Erik, “because I believe you can join me without technically
breaking any human rights laws. Think of the issue like this… when is it okay for a sovereign nation to
punish criminals by using them as test subjects?”
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 111 -

        Erik made strong eye contact with Chuck and Jane so he could keep their attention as he
finished, “What I’m suggesting is that we try to get permission by a sovereign nation to become a secret
branch of their government!”
        They dropped back in their seats thinking that Erik had completely lost all semblance of reality.
        Chuck answered first as he shook his head in disbelief, “There is not a government on Earth that
would ever come out to support this cause, and as for a secret branch of government… I mean, it’s just
not realistic!” The biologist refused to believe that Erik Weathers, Rider’s noble and intelligent CEO,
was suggesting they steal from the corporation so they could convince a sovereign nation to let them
tweak the minds of violent criminals. This is madness, Chuck thought, but his mind ticked away through
the ensuing silence and Erik’s direct face, and eventually he came to the conclusion Jane did, which the
slide show of suffering children helped confirm. He’s serious, they thought.
        Erik retrieved a glass of water and then asked whether “hypothetically,” any of them would be
averse to moving out of the Seattle area to build the probe. When they responded with the answer he
wanted to hear, he took a deep breath and then explained that during the course of his lifetime he had
obtained the personal telephone numbers of world leaders in Nicaragua, the United States, and Australia.
He said that although he would feel comfortable approaching any one of these important men with the
proposal, his preference was to go to Nicaragua since the newly elected President of Nicaragua was a
long-time personal friend, Manuel Torrealmo, the same heavy-set man who had been the Director of
Land Management in the village of Clara Bonita over thirty years ago when Erik had volunteered with
Allison Avery in the humanitarian program, during which Allison was murdered.

        Erik described that over the years, his and Manuel’s friendship included exchanging holiday
cards and an occasional phone call, and that Manuel was an environmentalist as well as a supporter of a
strong military presence, which was a combination the other two world leaders did not possess. He
explained that on the one-year anniversary of Allison’s murder, Manuel, who was still a Director of
Land Management at the time, had called him say how he felt guilty. Although Manuel had also
detailed what he wanted to do to the criminals, Erik believed that aspect of the conversation was too
gruesome to relay to the Chuck and Jane, though he intimated enough of it to get a point across, and then
he offered that it would take an unusual man to turn down “a probe of this potential.”
        Erik stressed that as a militaristic individual, Manuel was likely already familiar with how to run
a secret branch of government. When Erik saw that Chuck and Jane were finally nodding their heads as
he talked about Nicaragua, he concluded by saying that so long as they were smart about forming a
partnership with the big man, it would only be a matter of logistics to ensure profits from the probes
would be used for restoration of world ecosystems and other vital causes.
        Then as Erik answered questions about some of those logistics, Sarah drifted into her own
thoughts and insecurities about Erik’s past. Because Erik described to them a probe capable of planting
thoughts in a person’s mind, she worried about him using it to relive some fantasy life with Allison.

        As the clock approached midnight, Erik summed up their discussion by saying, “If we didn’t ask
questions about the morality of harming criminals we wouldn’t be human. But the fact is, you guys are
exceptional humans, and there’s really nothing that should stop us from agreeing that in order to stop
crime, it’s okay to appropriate some criminal minds, because we’re all soldiers in a war against crime
and insanity. Believe that!”
        Erik then paused for dramatic effect as the screen behind him showed various acts of human
        “I don’t mean that in a weird way, just in a figurative way. I believe science is all that can
protect us against hidden criminal intentions in a world where an amorphous element of malice and
ignorance plagues people. Psychological disorder is a virus, and probes are the cure.”
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 112 -

       He paused again for dramatic effect. To the extent they believed this point, he thought, they
would be willing to join him.
       Erik took a deep breath before he continued. The room listened to his every word. “The
argument against probing minds is that it’s unnatural, but ask yourself …. Are we interfering with
something natural when we tinker with the smiles of the sick and evil who spend their waking hours
imagining, for example, the people they want to rape or what they want to set on fire? I believe there’s
nothing wrong with learning about, and changing, a sick and twisted smile.

         “If anyone were to ask you about the morality of a machine that renders useless a criminal brain,
just refer them to the literature of prison psychologists. Mental abuse is a legitimate goal of punishment
and deterrence. Prison life requires the prisoner to be fearful every day of his fellow inmates, and to live
in solitude for at least a portion of the time. The real question is whether good can come of dealings with
evil? That’s the question you may have to answer, perhaps with God as your guide, but all the other
stuff… I think we’re good to strap these fuckers down and do our jobs.”
         “I would never intentionally kill anyone!” Jane excited, knowing she was lying. Her blood
pressure rose as she imagined what society would have to say if they were listening in on Erik’s speech
and judging her. It lowered her blood pressure when she thought to herself, If it’s Erik’s decision, then
it’s not my decision.
         “No one is asking you to,” Erik answered calmly, reading his audience.
         Chuck then offered with a conflicted voice, “If we end up punishing criminals by our own
standards, then there really are no standards. Even though I sympathize with your point about how these
criminals deserve some experimental probing, I don’t think it would be morally legitimate for us to go
one iota out of our way to intentionally punish a subject, so I agree with Jane.”
         Erik was prepared for Chuck’s point about vigilantism, and he replied with a stern voice,
“You’re right Chuck, and I’m not here to tell you you’re wrong. You too Jane. I’m not suggesting we
would burn flesh for the sole reason to see someone howl. But keep in mind, we will burn flesh, and
they will howl.”
         Erik enjoyed the after effects of his prepared line, and he even remembered to curb the smile,
which Sarah had advised the night earlier, when he had first delivered it to her. Erik thought that if he
passed this point psychologically with his recruits, Chuck and Jane, the next step would be to ask for
their decision.
         Seeing that they wore faces in deep thought, Erik continued, “Our laws are in place to protect us
from criminals, and to protect us from us. That’s what Chuck was saying, and it’s true. But if we can’t
distinguish between us and them, we’re not being practical. If it happens that the probe inadvertently
dishes out some psychological torture… we’ll just take solace in the fact that in the course of human
history, good people have suffered for good causes, and what we’re doing is more fair than that, because
this is just bad people suffering for a good cause.”
         “Let me say that logistically, society wants what I’m asking you to help with here. Only the
government is allowed to punish people, and for good reasons, because vigilantism comes with its own
set of problems. But I want to ask you to join me on the technicality that we’d be operating under a
sovereign sanction, so it’s not vigilante. It’s legal and it’s scientific.”
         They paid close attention as Erik presented the logical ultimatum, “At this stage of human
history, the only way a really good probe can be made is through an underground lab, because there isn’t
a legitimate government on Earth that could implement the kind of torture we’ll need to accomplish
openly to get our jobs done. In fact, any government in the world right now that offered us financial
support to kill criminals for research would be acting unilaterally in violation of the U.N., so it would
spell disaster for their right of sovereignty. This has to be secret, but that doesn’t make it bad. How
would we be different than the CIA agent who doesn’t file a report with his commanding officer?
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 113 -

         “Criminals are used for research all the time. So… let’s be practical because we’re scientists,
and this is what humans are up against…” He pointed up at the wall projection as it cast two photos, in
the first a stabbing in progress, and in the second, a polluted river running through barren land.

        At the end of the night, Chuck agreed to go along with the plan while Jane said she would have
to think about it, and the manner in which she expressed her ambivalence made both Chuck and Erik
very nervous. Chuck said to her then, “Jane, trust yourself.”
        Erik then added cautiously, “I’ll respect you either way.”

                                             As If It Mattered

        The next morning Jane walked into the industrial center of Seattle to ponder Erik’s proposal.
The broken streets were wet and littered as graffiti on some of the walls provided distractions from the
road. She tried to imagine a world of purity, and while she held this vision, she reiterated to herself that
Erik was going to build the machine with or without her, unless I stop him.
        Since it was inevitable that the probe would be built at some point in human history, the linchpin
of the choice she decided was Erik’s trustworthiness. Up until the night earlier he had been so good to
her that the issue of right and wrong, given what was a crime against nature in torturing the mind, was
inextricably tied to the man, and whether he could ultimately do justice with it.
        Can homeostasis be fast-forwarded through unnatural means?
        As the hours dawdled along without decision, she found herself entering buildings marked for
their restriction, and it occurred to her that the possibility of being arrested for trespassing would be a
relief as it would be an opportunity to solve a manageable problem, something to take her mind off Erik
crossing the line between man and God.
        She patently knew that some forms of plucking the strings of logic could be immoral, so she
pondered all types of scenarios where a hypothetical probe altered free will, making subjects believe
terrible things.
        As she revisited in her mind the rationalizations Erik had offered as to the legitimacy of
experimental probing, she remembered him saying that people take medicine to alter their brains even
though the drug companies can’t predict exactly how they will react, and that unintended side effects are
a part of life like natural disasters. It made her think of her grandmother, which made her recognize how
several parts of Erik’s speech were likely designed to appeal to her specific life experiences and biases.
Perversely, it made her happy when she imagined Erik manipulating her.

        During the course of her trespassing she was looking at an industrial boiler with a scientist’s
curiosity when the on-site manager discovered her and rationalized she was either a reporter or a
deviant. As he walked closer he noticed a look of pure intensity.
        Nobody gets mad at boilers, he reminded himself rationally, and then deducted, She’s probably
        He walked up and waited a moment to see if she would give her attention. He was a large man
with a yellow hard hat, a mustache, and a gold wedding band.
        “Ma’am, you know you’re not supposed to be here. What’s your name?”
        Upon hearing words, Jane took cognizance of the intense look on her face, which she then
suppressed into her eyes, before turning around to look in the direction of the man’s voice. When her
eyes focused on him, she laughed at his mustache. He looked like a foreman, she thought, from the
shoes to the haircut, and it made her laugh out-loud, even though she thought the mustache was a
handsome feature of his dirty face. The laugh helped suggest to the foreman that she was crazy, which
immediately mooted that he found Jane quite attractive.
                                                                                 Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 114 -

          “Why don’t you follow me to the exit.” The foreman said stolidly.
          “I’m sorry. Actually, I am trespassing and I know that, but I’m not a weirdo if I gave you that
impression. I’m just thinking outside the box and I happened to choose this location randomly. I also
know it was wrong to laugh at your mustache.” The man was fairly puzzled now because she spoke
deliberately in a tone that was definitely not crazy.
          “Well, you don’t quite fit the bill for someone looking for work, and I don’t see a note pad so
you’re not a newswoman or an investigator I presume, and what’s this about my mustache?”
          “It’s nothing. It just occurred to me, because I was thinking about steel production for a few
reasons, and I don’t know why, but I just started thinking about the pollution this boiler causes, then I
looked over at you, and you looked so peaceful with your mustache and your hard hat. I just thought,
well… never mind.”
          The foreman believed that Jane was now hitting on him. He fingered his wedding ring
conspicuously as he answered her the best he could. “What do you have to worry about boiler pollution
          “My name is Jane Milton.” She pulled out of her pocket her identification badge from Rider. “I
know this is off-topic but can I ask you… do you mind if I ask if you have kids?”
          “I do. Three boys and a baby girl on the way.”
          “Do you mind if I ask whether you’re an environmentalist?”
          “My wife is an Environmentalist. When I was in college I was an environmentalist but …. Not to
rain on your parade, but I should probably be kickin’ ya out.”
          “I know, I’ll kick myself out, sorry.” She smiled because he was smiling in a way. Then she
spoke again, “don’t worry, c’mon. I thought you made up your mind about me already. Relax, okay?
I’ll tell you what… ask me a question about steel. I’m quite knowledgeable you know.”
          “Alright Miss… In an induction furnace, at what rate do eddy currents increase?”
          “Square of the frequency,” Jane answered correctly, and then added, “Okay, my turn now.”
          “Go for it, we’ll see.”
          “Okay, two questions then.” She offered it with a luminescent smile, and he further confirmed
she was definitely hitting on him.
          “What’s your name?” she asked.
          “I’m George Newsom, the foreman here.”
          “Alright George, what’s going to save the world – naturalism or technology?”
          “Not sure that I’m qualified for that one, but in terms of policy, that makes me think of the
choice between Capitalism and Environmentalism, so… well if I have to choose I would say
environmentalists in the long run. But in terms of practicality… capitalists, because we’ll get to the
solution quicker without having to let people die to save areas that can be cleaned up and replanted
anyway. I want to be an environmentalist, but I just can’t convince myself that enviros have the will to
carry out the principle their task really demands of them, you know, if you think about it … in order to
save the Earth you have to achieve a balanced environment …. But with so many billion people on this
planet, what are you going to do when a symbiotic relationship with nature requires a harsh solution for
some people. I don’t want to answer that question, and neither should most passive enviros because I
don’t think most enviros have the balls, pardon my speech, to let people really fall into the circle of life.
That’s the nicest way I can say letting people die because of the resource crunch. Look at what
happened with the nuclear disaster, and whose to say that won’t happen again. So by default, I generally
lean pro-business because at least the capitalists will go through with their principle of self-interest
behavior, which helps people in good times and bad times, and you have to stand on a principle you feel
comfortable advocating all the way.”
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 115 -

       She thanked him for his time and walked back to her car, and then on the drive home Jane Milton
decided to probe the mind vigorously. It made her feel better about that decision that she rationalized its
morality in terms of pursuing humanitarian goals by acting like a capitalist scientist. In her mind, Erik
had completely set her up for the conclusion, and she found that fact to be good for her well-being.

                                          Ticking Time Bomb

        At age 74, Vigorchium’s missing foster father, Radomir Sadovich, had been one of the
individuals who profited from the black market sale of the four nuclear reactors that had caused the
world’s oceanic disaster in 2128. Radomir had been involved in generating uranium and plutonium.
        However, by the year 2153, he was considered too mentally unstable by his Omniarch superiors
to be used for future assignments. Consequently, Radomir Sadovich was all but ex-communicated.
        And so, without family or association, Radomir retreated to his estate in rural Russia and lived in
a self-sustaining underground laboratory, which was located inside an abandoned copper mine near a
toxic landfill. He had chosen the location so he could blend into the toxic environment without his
laboratory being noticed.
        Together with his ill-gotten gains from the nuclear reactors, and the invested money he had
obtained selling Vigo’s plumbing robot designs nearly forty years earlier, Radomir had more wealth at
his age of 74 than he believed he could ever make use of. As a result, his imagination was quite
        One of Radomir’s projects in his underground laboratory consisted of miniature nuclear bombs
and hydrogen cyanide distribution systems for the coordinated launching of millions of bombs. The
nuclear bombs were for remote areas and the cyanide distribution systems, which were a dynamic
crystalline mix of fast spreading lethal gas, were for cities. The bombs would be timed to detonate and
spread uniformly for mass extinction on Earth.
        The more bombs he could build, he rationalized, the more destruction he could cause. He had
developed the dispersion technology as what he called “an improvement” to cloud-seeding technology.
        After the nuclear explosion, when land was being sold for negligible prices, Radomir had
purchased small plots throughout the world in the hope that someday he would perform a coordinated
launch of enough nuclear and hydrogen cyanide bombs to operate like overlapping mats settling on

        Working with Radomir were two other terrorists who lived with him on his estate, and the world
was oblivious to these admittedly imbalanced men who lived together and laughed about how much
power they possessed, as they pronounced their ideas of a new world order, one with “a cleansed gene
pool,” as Radomir stressed.
        All he had to do was defeat the missile defense systems linked throughout the world via the
United Nations use of synchronized satellites. Where foreign objects were discovered in mid air, high
speed flying nets existed to swoop them up and marshal them into space. And the water-based defense
system consisted of similar nets capable of navigating large water bodies.
        Through his terrorist connections, Radomir maintained an inside contact at the U.N. who allowed
him to stay abreast of developments to this U.N. defense system. Radomir had befriended the older man
by sympathizing with his view that “technology is the bane of society because it allows inferior humans
to sustain themselves.”

        It was this plan of Radomir Sadovich to spread bombs out over the earth that was prophesied in
the visions of Jimmy’s mother, Betty Longshank. But as she never took an interest in geometry,
metatron octahedrons were meaningless to her. She did, however, describe the visions to her daughter
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 116 -

Melanie, who was Jimmy’s older sister. Having dabbled in the occult as a younger woman, Melanie had
learned that the metatron could be analogized to a grid or matrix of consciousness.
       She had encouraged her mom to draw the visions, but Betty never wanted to, partly because if
she focused too hard on any one aspect of the vision, the bigger picture faded away.

                                          Coding Personalities

         Once Jane agreed to join Project Bait & Switch, Erik felt confident making his presentation to
the other potential recruits, which was essentially the same speech and slide show that he gave to Chuck
and Jane. He believed that of the six remaining potential recruits, Charlie Smith would be the easiest to
enlist because of his friendship with Jimmy and his absence of a life outside Rider, but the most difficult
would be Sonia Jimenez, the 38-year old Nicaraguan-born chemist, whom Erik rationalized would be a
critical asset in building credibility with Nicaraguan President Manuel Torrealmo. Erik rationalized that
as a Nicaraguan, Sonia was an ideal recruit.

         Although Sonia was born in Nicaragua, at the age of ten her family immigrated to America when
her dad accepted a high-paying job in Florida as a Chemist. Later in her life, while attending college in
Seattle, she began to develop a bias toward the environmental cause, and because of it pursued a degree
in chemistry. She came to work at Rider through the intern program when Erik was a senior engineer.
They first met on the floor of the chemistry lab while Sonia was wearing a lab coat and verifying
volatility components of testing solutions. She immediately dropped her pen to meet Erik, who
unconsciously bit his lower lip when she smiled and touched his elbow, and shortly thereafter, he
consciously determined to avoid making her a distraction.
         Erik knew that as an attractive, single woman, Sonia not only had the potential to cause turmoil
in his marriage, but he knew also that Sonia would compromise the effectiveness of his mostly all-male
team. Jane had even formally reported to him on one occasion, using Rider Corporation letterhead, that
Sonia’s quality control rounds appeared to distract the scientists from their work.
         Even still, Jane eventually offered Sonia a full time position as a “Quality Control Technician”
for the Chemistry Team, which was shortly after Erik became CEO. Sarah had first met Sonia at a
company picnic, and although they had what Sarah described as a pleasant conversation, she still gave
Erik a face he knew well to be her way of saying in so many words, Stay away from her.

        The other five scientists whom Erik invited to his home for the speech were all top performers at
Rider. Charlie Smith had been one of the biochemists Erik transferred to the Biology Team when it
approached the need for greater cellular detail in the adaptive code representation. Rising to the
opportunity, Charlie spent months deciphering and reconstituting different shapes to form gates. Then he
developed a gas tube technology readily transferable to the existing research.
        Charlie was an avid environmentalist. Thin and slightly over six feet tall, with slick black hair
and an attractive grin, he looked more like a crooner than a lab geek. Ostentatiously, he thought, some
people criticized him for being a workaholic, but those who knew him well actually praised him for the
trait because, he reasoned, it was through a combination of his superior intelligence and an almost
painful work pace that his life held meaning. “Suffering for your work is inevitable if you love it,” he
had said once to Erik after a long conversation in the laboratory as they discussed the use of complex
numbers in man’s understanding of the meaning of joy. Often colleagues got the sense Charlie didn’t
care much about Rider outside of his own work. Divorced, and also fairly unhappy socially, Charlie
Smith found his only best friends worked at the corporation.
        Charlie had left the United States military halfway through his career because, even though he
enjoyed building weapons, he stopped wanting to be the man who devoted his life to that job. When he
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 117 -

left, he had an ex-wife of whom he knew very little, and a son who idolized him in a sense, but no
family to support or weigh in on his choice to leave the military. He only had a girlfriend who wasn’t
allowed to know what he did in the service.

        Another of the recruits that Erik rationalized would be relatively easy to enlist was Randall
Boiken, an ordinary scientist-looking type with easy brown eyes and uneventful brown hair. He had a
somewhat nervous laugh though that Sonia and Jane found endearing. In 2119, Randall had been
Jimmy’s roommate at MIT, and when Jimmy came to work for Rider six years later, Randall followed.
Over the years, Randall and Erik had taken the time to have several good conversations about science
fiction films. Randall didn’t seem to mind strange forms of mind probing in the arts. But mainly, Erik
got the impression Randall had the vision to match his enthusiasm for scientific progress.

       William Boone was also an MIT graduate, but he was older than Jimmy and Randall. In his
youth he had enjoyed the attention that followed his blonde hair and blue-eyed good looks, but after the
nuclear disaster he became disillusioned with mankind’s selfishness. As a result he endeavored to curb
his own prideful and materialistic tendencies, so he sold most of his belongings and began to meditate
daily. Although he kept his personal life folded neatly out of sight, Jimmy made the effort while they
worked together to glean a few details, and over the years they became friends because of it. When
Rider had a company chess tournament, Erik lost to William in the semifinals, and the young
programmer went on to win by beating Jimmy in the final round. The day after his victory, Erik invited
him out to lunch where they talked about mathematics. And while they awaited the bill, William
mentioned casually an item of thought Erik decided to write verbatim in his journal, “There is no greater
good than the natural Earth in its cruel entirety.” William Boone liked to believe that barring unforeseen
circumstances, Jimmy and Erik would remain his life-long friends.

        The youngest male among the potential recruits, Miles Bennington, lived each day as an
environmental activist in addition to being an outspoken critic of the news media, and Erik humored him
on occasion by listening to his conspiracy theories, which all inevitably led to some conclusion about the
corruption of democracy when citizens become too disinterested to pay attention to “what’s really going
on.” Miles enjoyed computer programming to an extent, but there was not a person in the entire history
of the world who excelled more at it. He was a child prodigy, one who had obtained four Ph.D.s by the
age of eighteen, and for one of them his thesis contained only two lines of code representing an entire
theory for a new branch of symbolic programming.
        The U.S. government had attempted to recruit Miles on several occasions but gave up each time
as the young man verbally lambasted their swooning efforts. When Miles accepted Erik’s offer to work
at Rider, the young programmer advised Erik that “geniuses need to stick together.” Because he was
well-adapted to newer developments in the field of symbol programming, Erik had made sure that Miles
worked directly with Jimmy throughout their careers. Miles greatest hindrance, however, was laziness,
as most days he simply did not show up for work, choosing instead to stay at home, think, eat, and surf
the internet.

        The tenth scientist on Erik’s list was Donald Sherman. He was the oldest of the potential recruits
for Project Bait & Switch, but as a former military man, Donald was in good shape.
        Prior to joining Rider, he had enjoyed top classification status with the Defense Advance
Research Projects Agency (DARPA), where he wrote complex computer programs. He left the military
after he had created a self-operating environmental contamination monitoring well system that covered
more area with more accuracy than the existing system in use, but because his well system was so
expensive, the Army told him it would not be implemented.
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                                                                                             - 118 -

        When he left the Agency they owned his invention, which he resented to an extent because they
had no use for it. However, he left on good terms and kept in touch with his friends there. And despite
his current civilian status, he retained the meticulous personal hygiene of an officer. His face was
always clean-shaven and he kept his short hair combed at all times. His wife ironed his clothes every
morning, and although the style was old-fashioned, they were always a good fit, he thought. Other than
his clothing, the only attributes uniquely older about the man, from Erik’s perspective, were his graying
brown hairs and a small sag in his cheeks. But Erik got to see a different side of the physicist at softball
games. It was a side that was quietly intolerant of errors but fun loving all the same.

         As Erik gave his sales pitch to Sonia, Charlie, Randall, William, Miles, and Donald, he was
surprised at how genuinely they all debated with each other. Like old friends, he thought. Although his
speech was only written to be approximately two hours, he adapted it to the circumstances as they asked
questions relentlessly about the probes he wanted to build, and how they would steal from Rider, and
what they might expect in Nicaragua. The “speech” lasted so long that everyone slept over at his home
the first night.
         The best sign Erik saw from his perspective was that during snack breaks and the dinner break,
they all easily directed the conversation away from Project Bait & Switch and laughed with each other
about general things, like celebrities. Erik was especially glad to see that Miles hadn’t fallen into his
usual behavior of preaching to an audience, which Erik deducted to mean that Miles was definitely on
board and he wanted everyone to feel comfortable with him so they would go along too.

        Toward mid-afternoon during the second day, each recruit had come around to deciding that
Erik’s terms were agreeable, including how they would all be limited in what they could tell their
families, so Erik explained to them that the only people left to approach were his dad, and Nicaraguan
President Manuel Torrealmo. Erik also concluded, in an all-encompassing manner, that if Manuel gave
their proposal a thumbs down, then he planned on retiring as Rider’s CEO and denying any plot to
defect, if it ever came up. He explained these particularly dearth facts in a way that wasn’t awkward for
the recruits because it was as much an afterthought as it could realistically be, since he had already
thoroughly convinced them of his genuine belief in the likely success of the elaborate project. They all
made a secrecy pact there by handshakes.
        And he was able to convince Sonia to join the team by stressing to her that she would never be
precluded from “just walking away if that’s what you need to do… silently of course.”
        The secrecy of it all attracted her to it.

                                            Wild Card Lifestyle

        With all of his recruits on board, in order to effectuate the second stage of Project Bait & Switch,
Erik had each recruit working not only longer hours at Rider to familiarize themselves with certain
elements of Flicker, Deep Pocket, and Purity, but they were also required to meet with him at his house
periodically to collaborate on designs and learn the equipment modifications inside his basement.
        Erik told them he would orchestrate alone the pirating of code from Rider, and that he would
convolute certain parts of what he stole in Rider’s system by substituting workable shells of code. “The
less you guys know the better,” he told his recruits, “because then you’re free to work and answer
questions naturally.”

       Meanwhile, Erik’s stalker, the former Omniarch loyalist Yolandra, eavesdropped to hear enough
to know Erik would be in Nicaragua. She would need time to reformulate a new plan to capture he and
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 119 -

       This was the same month that Rider Corporation posted record-breaking profits from its Neural-
Series Conventional Style Mind Probes, and the New York Times wrote of Rider’s progress as, “a
means to infiltrate the mind, which as history shows, leads to a reinvention of the conquered society.”

        Erik told his recruits “the real creativity meetings” were now held in his basement, though for
practical reasons it was extremely difficult to get everyone together, so often the meetings involved only
a few recruits at a time sitting down with their laptops. Sometimes they listened to soft classical music
as they conferred.
        Erik prohibited eating and drinking in his basement, which served the primary function of
ensuring the integrity of the equipment, but also the social function that the recruits often chatted with
Sarah upstairs while they fixed themselves a snack, which made the covertness of their plan seem more
        Erik was also conscious that Sonia’s and Jane’s presence with him in the house might upset
Sarah, who was at times quite fragile emotionally, so he did his best to invite the women over only when
in the company of others. Erik noticed that having two other women around his house made Sarah more
aware of her desires to please Erik in the bedroom, which made Erik happier, so he worked harder. To
maintain his marriage he had always relied on personal time with his wife, so he took care to jog with
her regularly, and he initiated Sunday afternoons as “wild cards,” so that whatever she wanted to do,
they did it.

         At the age of 43, Sarah had come to accept that she would not have children with Erik, since as a
couple, they had already experienced several difficult conversations with Erik telling her “no,” in a
conclusion to the issue. It pained her that he freely described what their children “would have” looked
like, insensitive to how he strung her along by asking her to talk about it.
         Charlotte and Michael talked often about why Sarah didn’t push Erik to have children. They
observed that no matter how confident she seemed to be, she was ultimately entranced by the power of
her husband. Charlotte worried that Erik felt lonely, but it was not a subject he talked about with her, so
she and Michael got their information from Charlotte’s friend Wendy Martel, who got it from her son
         The fact that Erik was succeeding at work was something they wanted to take comfort in, but it
wasn’t enough, they thought, wondering whether it was Sarah’s fault that Erik didn’t embrace her as an
equal partner. He’s a genius, Charlotte reasoned, so he walks alone. Despite having had this insight into
her son’s psychology, Charlotte blamed Sarah anyway for not making Erik love his wife like an equal.
In Charlotte’s mind, Sarah had allowed Erik to develop a god complex that threatened his morality,
which she knew from experience was a precarious mindset.

                                          Fainting Instructions

        Vigorchium awoke in his bedroom on December 10th, 2153, to find two medical doctors
hovering over him. One of the men in white coats stationed his hand on Vigorchium’s chest as he spoke
softly, “It’s okay, Vigorchium… you fainted inside the Simulator. How do you feel?”
        There was no response.
         After a short pause, the other neurophysiologist spoke, “What do you remember last?”
        Vigorchium silently reminded himself that he was being recorded, thinking, always recording,
and then he replied, “I remember my foot, it was inside your ass … oh I’m sorry, that’s the future.”
        The doctor concealed a sneer as he fetched a glass of water from the refrigerator. Vigorchium
drank it slowly, then he laid back down on his bed and began to recollect his thoughts.
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                                                                                          - 120 -

        She opened the quadrant… not me…I… what did I do?
        “I don’t remember what happened last. I guess I had it coming, for forgetting not to tell myself
to not forget.”
        Dr. Reese then entered the room and asked the two medical doctors to “kindly give us some
        “Right!” Vigorchium laughed sarcastically, “To your computer stations gentlemen… you heard
the doctor, you’ll have to watch me from there.”
        Dr. Reese then interjected, “That’s not the way we do things around here, Vigorchium. Please
try to show the doctors some respect… they only wish to help you.”
        “They can help me by letting me think.”
        Dr. Reese then raised his chin in understanding, and before he left the room he said only,

        The hours trickled by slowly as Vigorchium attempted to recollect the events that led him to faint
inside the Green Room Simulator. He remembered trying to align prime number angles in the fourth
symbol around multiples of pi in the third symbol, while at the same time he tried to conceptualize with
his mind an addition to the fourth symbol, a shape that didn’t exist on the symbol itself but which was
logically necessary to the completion of the equation in the third as he had calculated it in his mind.
There were seven symbols, and they all puzzled him deeply.

        Through a variety of geometries that harnessed the golden ratio, phi, Vigorchium had been
learning to sustain pyramid-based and cavity-based powers. Among his favorite methods was to
connect pentagrams together using the phi ratio to make dodecahedrons. He saw the way to conserve
shape was to maintain, through phi, the ratio of length, area and volume. And as phi squared and phi
cubed were represented by the ratcheted dodecahedron, he experimented with conductivity as shape and
path materialized. Seeing shape as the only thing the universe has to conserve, he thought, judge not
and you will not be judged.
        Additionally, as he saw the tetrahedron to be a simple pyramid with a triangular base,
Vigorchium learned a great deal about them. Expanding upon the fine-structure constant, α, as a
dimensionless number, he saw in alpha the relationship between the octahedron and tetrahedron as
energy moves between them. Moreover, by using a photon to propagate through space as two
tetrahedrons paired together, and with the electrostatic force inside the atom maintained by the
octahedron, he divided the volumes of the tetrahedron and octahedron upon a collision, to derive the fine
structure constant.

       As he laid in bed that evening, after having been served dinner in his room, he finally
remembered that the last thought he had before fainting was an analogy between the concept of an
organism’s evolution, and a hypothetical shape in his mind, which he conceptualized as an oval split
down the middle, collapsing on itself to form a bubble that inverted as it collapsed rather than simply
popping. In the simulator, with the ability to rearrange holograms of the seven Alpha Symbols, the
analogy had made him consider in the context of the angles he was trying to mentally conceptualize how
the Alpha symbols could create something tangible in life simply because, logically, the third and fourth
Alpha Symbols could not exist together without it.
       If the symbol needs something impossible…oh my god! As this thought occurred to him in
conjunction with certain shapes from the symbols engrained in his mind, lying in bed his body went
limp yet again, just as it had inside the Simulator earlier that same day. Within seconds his doctors, who
were monitoring his vital signs from an adjoining room, rushed back into the bedroom fearing their great
hope was dead like the others, but this time outside the simulator.
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 121 -


        In the year 2154, Jimmy took a rare vacation to visit his sister Melanie at her house in Los
Angeles, where she lived with her husband, a kind man who loved her dearly. Away from her husband
and the world Melanie enjoyed a life-long secret. Melanie had aged gracefully. At age 56 she still
practiced yoga daily and her brown hair was still a mighty force around her head.

        As Melanie’s husband watched an afternoon baseball game inside their large home, she and
Jimmy sat on an orange couch on the patio outside that overlooked the vastness of the suburbs, and
Jimmy eventually got around to talking about work, “When you program a computer to adapt, you write
code that requires the computer to suggest more efficient operations in response to not only the
operations it carries out, but everything it can predict because of those operations. So you’re constantly
running into problems with variables outnumbering the atoms in the universe, and on top of that, it’s
interesting that adaptive functions conventionally represent and encompass the meaning of
consciousness. So, what’s really interesting… if I can write code that makes a computer more adaptive
to the environment than a human neocortex, is there really a human component to consciousness?”
        Sitting on the couch with a dry toothbrush in her hand, Melanie responded, “But if the computer
can only adapt to the extent you programmed it to adapt, then it doesn’t have any more consciousness
than you put into it, right?”
        “Well,” Jimmy answered, “women have babies.”
        Melanie laughed before she saw the analogy, then replied, “So it comes down to the meaning of
creation? What’s capable of being transferred?”
        “That’s just the thing… because we’re limited to biological evolution, the meaning of
consciousness, to us, goes no farther than the degree to which we can emphasize the importance of our
evolved state in the natural environment.”

        As they both expected, their conversation about consciousness ended with unanswered questions,
and when Jimmy went back to work, he felt no more refreshed than when he had left for the vacation.
One reason he was eager to get back, as he had told his sister, was that he had a “lunch date” with one of
his co-workers, Sonia Jimenez.
        Even though Sonia was 15-years younger than Jimmy, he had deducted from their conversations
about her old boyfriends that she was attracted to intelligence and power, both of which Jimmy enjoyed
in abundance at work since he was not only the principal architect of the probes being developed for
Rider, but also because of his pivotal role in coordinating the efforts of the recruits working in Erik’s
basement to change the world.

        One Saturday at Erik’s house, while Jimmy, Erik, and Sonia, were eating warm sandwiches
during a work break, Jimmy joked with Sonia about what the public thought of the advertising probes
Rider was developing, “The newspapers seem to think the most important thing we do in the lab is play
chess with subjects to predict their thoughts. It’s interesting because that’s probably what the public
wants to hear, you know… that it’s just a game. That it can just stop. They don’t want to know the truth
that we’re changing what we know about consciousness.”
        Sonia responded seductively, “I don’t think you can know anything about consciousness unless
you’re talking about philosophy.”
        Erik and Sarah looked at each other, silently agreeing to be silent while Jimmy leaned back in his
chair, sure of himself that he appeared to be thinking pensively. At a forty-five degree angle he replied,
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 122 -

“Philosophy is a perspective of assumptions about science. You can know a lot about consciousness
without assuming anything….”
        Sonia smiled playfully and then commanded, “Example?”
        Jimmy answered, “The reason data moves up and down the brain’s cortical columns is that we’re
trying to find single right answers, which can only be found as conclusions, which require one to believe
in a thorough exploration of one’s thought process. It makes sense to me that early humans rationalized
the existence of a protective and vengeful God, just by observing extreme weather. We reward
ourselves for finding answers that will bring us a literal feeling of homeostasis that prevents nausea and
other unpleasantries associated with fear. Nausea is more important to psychology than most people
realize because the better you feel, the better you are at believing yourself. The goal is to harmonize
Earth with your brain by using your brain like a reinforcing imprint system. Attempt to maintain a
healthy lifestyle so that you imprint properly, and attempt to think outside the box in order to reinforce
yourself with possibilities that often make no sense at all, because the reversal of one’s logic is often
quite validating to one’s sense of self, and it will feel more like a thorough exploration of your thought

                                        Accessories for the Probe

         In August of 2154, Erik advised the Board that the mind probe being developed by Rider for sale
in the advertising and marketing industries was ready for more rigorous testing. Consequently, he said,
it was time to improve their R&D program employing as consultants independent filmmakers, game
creators, musicians, chefs, and acupuncturists in the task of producing interactive scenes and games for
the test subjects to experience while locked into various probes. Each of these consultants was managed
directly by senior neuroscientists working for Team Computer Science.
         At the same time, while instituting this R&D program, Erik gave Miles Bennington the
assignment of creating software that would improve upon the interactive scenes and games by splicing
in scenes from a test subject’s home movies. It was an assignment, Erik observed, that finally peaked
the interest of Miles. He could combine work with mild voyeurism.
         Although test subjects signed Rider’s confidentiality agreement as a condition of their
participation in the test studies, subjects routinely breached their agreements by talking to news reporters
about the activities they were asked to perform while being probed at Rider, from playing word-
association games while handling objects, to answering questions asked by a vast array of psychologists
wearing different outfits.

        As far as Rider’s research indicated, no one in the world had developed adaptation code further
in the mind probing area than the data analogies software created by Rider’s Computer Science
Division, which organized bioelectrical data statistically, with parallel sets of algorithms designed to
operate in recurrent loops on sets of neurological property data. And yet, in the fusion of different
research projects, Erik believed his defection team would find a better answer to the problem that only a
symbol can read a symbol, and only a chemical can read a chemical. Or in the bigger picture… what
blurs the line between concept and matter?
        Ultimately, Erik reasoned, the question of how to program the probe depended on what
information Rider wanted to generate, and because adaptation code was “the best tool for copying
something in reality,” as he told his defection team, “as our capacity to weigh different perspectives
increases, so will our ability to see more than one reality, so we’re going to need to ensure these
adaptation codes don’t choose one reality randomly if we’re supposed to be fusing realities instead.
So… we’ll need to always be thinking outside the box, or if you like, there is no box to think outside
because there is no outside when every possibility is relevant to the reality actually selected by life.”
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                                                                                             - 123 -

        By moving the members of the defection team from project to project, under the auspices of
“Quality Control,” Erik was able to move code around with them, which confused its location, and
allowed easier theft. The job of transferring files for Project Bait & Switch was so large, ultimately he
had to entrust the recruits with access clearances for the purpose of deletion; otherwise, his large-scale
deletions would be too suspicious to anyone that knew the laboratory process. Even the granting of the
security clearances was suspicious when Erik dropped the fact in only a footnote in an ordinary report to
the Board, though the only person who really noticed the matter was his dad.

        It was a Monday morning when Michael asked Erik about the grant of security clearances, and
Erik explained forcefully from his desk that certain employees had demonstrated at creativity meetings
unusual capabilities for big picture analysis, and security clearances were the best keys to effectuate
their ideas because they would have the ability to copy code and alter it as they saw fit without running
into red tape. Since everything was backed up, Erik concluded, “these security clearances are really
ultimately harmless.” The lie made Erik feel guilty as he sat there. He was ready to tell his dad about
the defection plan, but he reasoned, now is not the right time.

         In addition to troubling over how to tell his dad about the defection plan, Erik analyzed whether
to trust his friend Damian with the defection secret. Eventually he consulted Jimmy on the issue, but
Jimmy excited in response, “He’s too moral…Let’s say you told him about stealing code and he
disagreed with the morality of that choice …well, the logical conclusion is to tell Angelica, and once he
does that, our best guesses for what happens next are just that, GUESSES. Maybe I’m looking at it the
wrong way, but I think he’ll understand when we do tell him eventually, and it will be an epic story, I
guarantee it, so let’s just be patient.”
         Even though Erik was persuaded with Jimmy’s argument, he still knew it was partly wrong to
silence a great friendship for great science, so he felt obligated to present a counter argument to Jimmy.
So, sitting at a table facing the sliding door leading to the backyard patio, Erik watched the rain fall as he
offered, “But friendship is all about honesty since without that, you don’t really know someone, and if
you can’t get to know people honestly, what’s the point. I… we owe it to Damian to tell him one of two
things… either that he doesn’t really know us, or who we really are…because if there were ever a guy
where that kind of honesty is important, it’s Damian. And it’s important to me too, you know, to a
         Jimmy interrupted anxiously, “If we have to say something, be subtle about it. Mention the
memo you got from your Dad, and retirement in Nicaragua, but mention retirement sarcastically, you
know. We can always talk about the underlying science with him, so he’ll still know us… because he’ll
understand even if he doesn’t really understand.”
         The conflicted look on Erik’s face was evident mainly from his sad blue eyes, juxtaposed against
a proud posture and confident jaw. He had been trying for months to convince himself to confess Project
Bait & Switch to Damian, and the only thing holding him back now was the unflinching reality that the
machine he had fantasized about was becoming a genuine reality. It was bigger than man even as a
possibility, in one sense in his mind. And yet he still wondered silently, What is the Earth good for if you
don’t have friendship?

                                     Presidential Power and Legacy

       The detailed report that Erik prepared for Nicaraguan President Manuel Torrealmo included
photographs and biographical profiles on all nine scientists defecting from Rider. What he needed from
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                                                                                           - 124 -

Nicaragua, as Erik wrote neatly in his own handwriting on extra pages in the back of the report, was
shell companies, money, and criminal subjects.

        Since Erik wanted to deliver the loaded proposition in person to Manuel, he scheduled a one-
week vacation to Nicaragua with Sarah. Although it was important that Sarah go with him to preserve
the appearance of a vacation, Erik Weathers loved his wife more than work at times, so he was
genuinely excited about an actual vacation as he rationalized that Sarah was indispensable to his sanity.
        One day before this vacation, in an audio-only phone call to Manuel’s office, Erik said to the
President’s secretary, “This is Erik Weathers, a very close and personal friend of Manuel’s. He would be
pretty disappointed if he missed my call, given my current time constraints and the unusual nature of my
travel schedule. If he’s not in a meeting, I would appreciate being connected immediately. It is a matter
regarding a coming holiday.”
        The cryptic nature of the message was enough to suggest to the Secretary that Manuel would
appreciate this phone call, and because Erik’s name and phone number were in the President’s personal
address book, she was mildly confident that it would be okay to interrupt the big man during a casual
lunch with ambassadors. With a soft click, Manuel was alerted to a message from his Secretary by
reading his vibrating watch, “Telefono. Erik Weathers re: holiday.”
        For the first few seconds after reading Erik’s name on his watch, Manuel thought of the
environmental activist from many years ago in Santa Clarita. Quickly, however, his thoughts turned to
the business of Rider Corporation.
        Manuel politely excused himself from the meeting about the history of centuries old shipping
routes and trade embargoes, and he took Erik’s call in his private study, which adjoined the main office.
        “Erik Weathers! How can I be of assistance to you sir?”
        Erik said stoically, “Manuel, I wanted to make good on my holiday card this year by visiting
you. In fact, next week. Can we meet in private to discuss, well… Santa Claus.”
        There was a pause on both ends of the line as Manuel filtered the information, and then at the
end of two awkward seconds, he said, “To discuss whatever flight of the imagination you wish… of
course.” He congratulated himself for extinguishing the awkwardness with a joke but at the same time
opening the door to Erik to offer more information.
        “I’ll be traveling with Sarah,” Erik responded happily, “Can you make accommodations for her
during our meeting – something stately. I’ll leave our whereabouts with your secretary so she can let us
know your meeting time, and place.”
        “We go back, you and I. Let us always keep the channels of communication open!”
        “See you soon, Manuel, take care.”

         Sarah bought a sun hat for the trip. It was “an adorable hat,” as the young clerk at the clothing
store exclaimed after seeing Sarah try it on in the mirror. It was made of organic yellow straw and
brown stitching used to accentuate the silk metallic blue bow above the planetary ring-like brim. When
she tried it on for Erik after arriving home from the mall with shopping bags, the moment made him feel
more human, since he had been completely enraptured with source code all day at work.
         She also showed him that day a modification she had made to their emergency biosuits, which
they kept in the closet. She had added more space to the belt to hold some extra immunizations and
         And in that moment in their closet, he reiterated to himself how his wife simply floored him
sometimes – the way she uses all of her smiles, eccentric green eyes – but especially the creativity she
used dynamically to illuminate her love for him. It was her Earth too that he was fighting for, he said to
himself, and her fragile psychology made the Earth seem more delicate, somehow. He puzzled over the
                                                                                 Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 125 -

connection he saw between his desire to protect the Earth and to protect his wife’s psychological well-

        Meanwhile, as she was monitoring the Weathers’ finances, Erik’s stalker Yolandra learned that
he and Sarah would be vacationing in Nicaragua for a week. Elated, she began finalizing her plans to
raid the Weathers home for evidence of the dodecahedron. She knew that once Omniarch discovered her
behavior she’d be excommunicated.

        For the next five days before the Presidential meeting, as tourists in Nicaragua, Erik and Sarah
walked constantly - visiting cafés and restaurants at every opportunity. Erik realized that by sharing the
Nicaraguan defection secret with his wife, that confidentiality opened the door to general honesty and
openness in their relationship about other things. And the secrets she told him in Nicaragua,
imaginations she had about drugs and psychological experiments, she suspected shook his mind. Telling
secrets gives you a rush, and that’s why you do it, and language is the cell dominator of the brain that
allows you access to the rush of activity, of thought… so you tell secrets to get high, she thought to
herself in contemplating different aphrodisiacs.
        Indeed, in bed each night, he reiterated to himself how he knew that Sarah was layered enough
that he’d feel like an explorer of her psychology for the rest of his life, but the complex intricacy of her
projected self versus her real self was, in relation to womanhood, information he told himself he should
take more time to understand about her, especially what she wanted out of life in relation to the strange
psychological experiments she imagined that involved puzzles. She loved to talk about it all, which for
her made it overall less awkward, but for him, more so.

        Erik noticed that Sarah had become both more emotionally fragile, and more bold, ever since the
day Bianca Trujillo blew herself up on their lawn. And in what he told himself was a mixed blessing,
during the span of their five vacation days at various Nicaraguan rental homes, several mini-quakes
rocked the pillars of his relationship because of her telling of secrets, but at the end of each night, some
lightly drugged with ecstasy, he understood that her honesty is ultimately a virtue. And whether he had
the will power to nurture her true self was an open question, he concluded, a matter of perspective, as he
rationalized, how can she love me so much and still tell me she has the capacity to love others too…
Love stains are ink in water… what exactly is it that makes her willing to sacrifice … that I’m supposed
to nurture? Obviously love suppresses other feelings to become so strong, so then, there really is no one
feeling called love, but an array of them among the whole, and so love can be programmed using matrix

        On the day Erik was set to meet with Manuel, Sarah realized she loved her husband so
forcefully, she felt as though she were on a real vacation interrupted by him having to work, and she
wanted desperately to feel normal. Consequently, her love for Erik obscured the moral obligation she
told herself to fulfill as an active ethical influence on Erik as he plotted the creation of man’s next mind
probe. It was in this context, thinking about vacation, that she questioned, what is the opposite of love if
loving him makes me compromise being a normal woman? When the answer to the opposite of love is
phrased subjectively to the person making compromises… like monogamy …why is love best to you only
when you cherish it?

       On the sixth day of their vacation, Manuel had a luxury sports utility vehicle waiting for them at
the beautiful stone hotel entrance. It was the early evening on that optimistic, sunny vacation day when
Sarah emerged from the hotel double doors with a walk to match the aristocracy planned for their
evening. Thinking, What’s she thinking about?, Erik hopped into the back seat with his wife. He was
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wearing a casual black business suit without a tie, and she wore an elegant red summer dress that was
versatile for dinner and dancing, except perhaps a formal dinner, so she kept a diamond necklace in her
purse for such a contingency, which was wrapped in an emergency neck tie, black on one side, and red
on the other.
         At the “Presidential Fortress” a man speaking Spanish greeted them at an elegantly twisted iron
gate. Erik did his best to accommodate, at which point, the man adjusted his language to French, then
German, then Japanese, and finally to English. It was intended as a humorous welcome and was
received accordingly. Sarah’s smile, it occurred to the man, was one of his job perks in an occupation
that was less than lucrative financially, although he wore a finely tailored black suit to work every day.
         The American couple was then escorted by another man in a fine black suit through a maze of
gardens and finally up to an unmarked entranceway. Along the route Sarah asked several questions to
their knowledgeable tour-guide. He was courteous, without filler words or irrelevant sentences, and Erik
wondered whether Manuel hired the man himself.
         Beyond the unmarked entranceway adjoining the gardens, they were then brought to the
beginning of a long vaulted hallway. Erik and Sarah gazed up at the carefully designed ceiling, and
stately pictures adorning both walls.
         Their escort radioed a highly accented message in Spanish, and a few seconds later, the door at
the very end of the hallway opened up to show a silhouette surrounded by yellow light. As they drew
near, it became obvious that in that light, standing before them was a beautiful woman in a business suit.
         “Welcome to the home of our President, Manuel Torrealmo. My name is Conchita, and I am
Nicaragua’s ambassador to Australia. The President has told me wonderful things about both of you, and
I hope you don’t mind that I read some of the holiday cards you sent the President. He saves them all
you know.”
         “No, no. In fact, since you mention it, Happy Holidays,” Erik answered.
         Sarah smiled hesitantly, unsure of what to say, so she was glad Erik was talking. Conchita
laughed and to Sarah’s surprise, she felt the woman’s hand on her elbow. “Sarah, you don’t mind if I
call you Sarah, do you?”
         The look on Sarah’s face suggested ambivalence, but the English she spoke was “not at all.”
         “Oh good… because I wanted us to spend time together touring the grounds while the men talk,
and if you’re up for it I’ve scheduled Manuel’s personal chef for an hour so he can show us how to make
an authentic Nicaraguan dish from our garden – Gallo Pinto.
         Her accent sounds more American than Australian, Sarah thought.
         The man in the black suit spoke next and said directly to Erik, “If you would please follow me
Mr. Weathers, the President will see you now.”
         Erik turned to his wife, who was blushing, and he asked her for “the envelope.” Sarah unbuckled
her cotton purse and drew out a folded manila envelope, then she put her arm around her husband and
handed it to him. Erik closed the moment with a soft kiss on his wife’s forehead, and then he went
through the door ahead of him. Sarah and Conchita walked briskly back down the hall and into the
gardens again.

        “Do you mind if I ask how you met your husband?” Conchita said with a warm smile. In the sun
above them, Conchita was not as attractive as she was in the hall, and Sarah thought quickly to herself
how she wanted Erik to see this side of Conchita before the sun faded. It was a passing thought that
acted to her in that moment as a small mirror showing her how the vice marked her psychology with an
indulgent distraction.
        She then answered with a sarcastically friendly smile, “Erik approached me with a pocket knife
while I was fixing a sprinkler head alone in the park.” The sarcasm in Sarah’s eyes and inflected at the
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end of the sentence led Conchita to say with a wide grin that spread her big mouth from one dimple to
the other, “You’re joking.”
        “Every way but literally,” answered Sarah with a different variety of comic sarcasm. “I actually
had a little pocket knife tool I was using to fix a broken sprinkler and Erik had the same tool. When he
came over to help I got the good kind of nervous jitters though. He was charming, I remember, and he
ended up fixing the spring-lock for me…. the look on your face… I’m sorry for making that lame knife
joke… When I’m nervous sometimes I tell jokes.”
        “I do too… and I do things like compliment people, offer drinks, eat nervousness away … stall
in the middle of this sentence -”
        They laughed to share the moment, causing Sarah’s vice to subside some, and Conchita
complimented herself for extinguishing what she perceived as some unknown awkwardness between
them. How much longer will this go on?
        Then Sarah said, “So what really happened when Erik and I met is that I saw him first and smiled
but he didn’t see me, and I might have been border-line gawking at him for a few seconds because he
looked really thoughtful as he walked, and he was so handsome.” Sarah then added with a personably
content smile, “I’m glad he didn’t see me noticing him, actually, and I’ve never told him.”
        Conchita suppressed saying the compliment that came to her mind so she just nodded while
Sarah continued, “After I accidentally sprayed him with the sprinkler I asked him out.”
        “Guess your pocket knife couldn’t fix that subconscious reflex,” Conchita joked.
        The women laughed together, and now that Sarah had opened up a little bit, she was even more
at ease. Even with Erik inside the Presidential Fortress changing their future, Sarah found that telling
the story of her first meeting with Erik seemed so important in that moment, and Conchita was
unabashedly nice as she moved from story to story about her own background and various world leaders
she had met.

        Inside the President’s office, it was Erik’s introduction that put everything in context, and the big
man was completely bedazzled. Before sitting down or even shaking his hand, Erik said, “Are we 100%
confidential?” In response Manuel said, “I already scanned you with a microphone detector.” They
laughed, then Erik said, “In my right hand is a plan that is potentially worth trillions of dollars, for
Nicaragua, on one contingency, that you use the bulk of the profits to protect the environment. Basically,
Manuel, I want to engineer products that probe the brain for the good of mankind, but to fully develop
the machines I’m already in the process of making, I’m predicting serious interference with test subjects,
so I need access to criminals I can kill and torture.”
        Manuel responded with an interested and optimistic tone, “I’m listening.”
        Erik’s voice began to shake some. “My contingency is that the money used by my products be
funneled, or diverted, or whatever you want to call it. But the money these brain probes make, definitely
must go to humanitarian and environmental causes, and we can discuss percentages.”

         Erik explained how he was already secretly defecting from Rider, and how he and his scientists
could be “outside the corporation, in shell research positions without strings, in probably less than one
year.” Manuel was relentless with questions about “leaving a trace,” even though the big man made sure
he couched his statements with disclaimers like, “if we agree to this,” and “let’s just say we had a shell
to fit you.”
         By the time Erik was halfway through describing the scientists he had chosen as recruits, Manuel
had already tentatively agreed to preliminary operations. It was very monumental, Erik thought, and yet
there was no formal structure to their discussion.
         Manuel was especially interested to know that the American scientists had a Nicaraguan with
them - Sonia. He flipped over quickly to her picture and biographical profile as Erik described his
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relationship with each of the recruits, and how their family members often relaxed at his house and
talked with his wife Sarah during breaks in their highly illegal plan.

       Erik also described casually the science behind the probes he wanted to build, which often
prompted Manuel to say things like, “remarkable, can you really do that?” and “that’s unbelievable. I
honestly do not believe you.”
       Erik enjoyed the conversation in a strange way that was in addition to the fact that years had
tempered the man’s booming voice. Although he thought, certainly the office contributes to the persona,
it seemed to him that Manuel was now more genuine.

        As the second hour approached, and when Erik was in the middle of explaining a fundamental
principle of magnetism, Manuel stopped him at the end of a perceived pause and asked, “Will you spend
the night here with Sarah?”
        “We didn’t bring any- ”
        “We have everything here, you’d be surprised. You’ve given me so much today to be surprised
about. Let me surprise you with something. Or if you like, go back to your hotel and get what you need
for one night, then come back here, and you’ll still find surprises!” Erik smiled in response, reasoning
this was Manuel’s way of saying Let’s do business, and in each man’s brain, the wheels stopped turning
as they thought about the more general, larger picture of implicit messages over which they had been
implicitly negotiating.
        Erik thought, Now is the time to ask for what you want most. He knew that once an official
relationship began, no other conclusion existed but that he would be heavily at the whim of Manuel’s
orders, a complete submission to authority parametered at the end of the hand shake that could happen
in any instant.
        Erik also rationalized that since he held the scientific keys to the machine, he could best leverage
his power by making Manuel believe that the American government was also interested in his work,
because if he had the American government’s resources to protect him in the event of a fallout, he could
embarrass Manuel politically. But Erik appreciated that Manuel took a risk in trusting him, so he saved
the leverage, perhaps for another day, as he wondered, How much does Manuel trust me?
        Manuel also wondered in that moment, Does he trust me? Does he want me to recognize he has
the opportunity to walk away now. What does he want me to know? Ask him how he wants to -
        After an awkward pause, Erik finally answered, “Sarah and I can make that work. I’m happy to
sleep over, thank you. But first, for the sake of continuity, let’s talk about the percentages I’m going to
need your agreement on.”
        By the time that Erik asked to discuss percentages, Manuel had already explained that if
Nicaragua participated, then Erik and the rest of the Rider recruits would be employed as secret agents,
which worked well with Erik’s suggestion that all probe technology be funneled to Nicaraguan
organizations fronting as brain analysis non-profit laboratories.
        Erik added in the report that the shell organization or organizations would appear most legitimate
if they already demonstrated a record of “lavish environmental donations.” He suggested that the shells
have reticent spokesmen to receive questions and to claim that the only test subjects used during
research and development were individuals with histories of drug use who agreed to be probed only on
condition of anonymity. In the worst case scenario that the underground research came to light, Erik
offered that the Nicaraguan government could still look innocent under United Nations law so long as a
few people were willing to take the fall to disguise the real operation, and so long as Nicaragua
disgorged any assets of the nonprofit corporations directly to the U.N. Erik recommended in his report
that he and Jimmy were prepared to take the fall among the Rider recruits and create a soft landing for
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        Erik’s profit projections, which he admitted were very ad hoc, were that most income would
come from selling probes to law enforcement, and therefore, the first probe would be engineered for that
purpose, but he anticipated making great strides along the way in developing probes for health care,
education, and entertainment. As a militaristic individual, Manuel strongly supported the engineering of
better law enforcement probes.

        The most heated topic of debate among Erik’s recruits the day before he had left for Nicaragua
was the ultimate percentage of profits that they should require be funneled to clean the environment.
His coworker Jane, the one in love with Chuck and Erik, was especially passionate about the subject as
she submitted that 95% of all revenues be used for humanitarian and environmental causes.
        As a tactical move among them, Erik said he agreed with Jane, and at the meeting with Manuel,
Erik conveyed the 95% figure first.
        “Surely, you wouldn’t expect me to find five percent even mildly okay,” Manuel answered, “I
mean, the risk alone.”
        “But you’re a Greenlife party member, so the whole philosophy of your job is to promote
humanitarianism and save the Earth. Five percent of my work has the potential to nearly match your
country’s GNP. Even if you profit little in the short-term, you will have helped Nicaragua in the long-
        A look of strained pessimism passed over Manuel’s face, even though nothing was farther from
the truth in his mind. He wanted to negotiate with Erik for the sake of everyone’s legacy. And at no
other time did Erik feel more suspicious of the big man, since Erik knew that when men negotiate
energetically they intend to make good on their obligations, but men that don’t take positions have
cloudy intentions and will therefore react to short-term advantage opportunities.
        Manuel’s expressions of pessimism ebbed and flowed as the two men bargained over details,
back and forth like diplomats. The Nicaraguan president kept reiterating the tentative nature of any deals
they made because, in an office subject to international scrutiny, he needed to fully analyze with his
security team the unforeseen risks.
        And nothing was more important to Erik than gauging Manuel’s sincerity at their initial meeting
because it was Erik’s sense that what the big man treasured above all the wealth in all the world, would
be a legacy for himself and for Nicaragua. For this, he had to harmonize Manuel’s self-interest with his
own. Erik also thought it interestingly self-fulfilling, even ironic, that in making a deal to build a better
lie detector, what they both needed most was the subject of their deal.

        The tentative agreement they reached that night was seventy-three percent, which was a figure
that struck both men oddly due to the wholly inexact nature of everything about Erik’s plan. Manuel
joked to the enthusiastic American that whatever figure they ultimately decided upon was their mutual
agreement on the value of Earth. After the comment Erik felt as though he were back in Santa Clarita, as
Manuel used to say strange and funny things like that all the time back then. And the nostalgia made him
think of Allison again, which prompted Manuel to comment in response to Erik’s sudden shift in facial
expression, “We should be happy, Erik. The morality of our choice is grounded in the age-old debate of
means versus ends. Let us trust that in the balance of our partnership, we will take care to ensure the
viability of both. I trust you, and even more than that, I have always wanted you to succeed, almost like
a parent because I feel that in our past, I let you down. Thank you for not hanging that over my head,
even though I assure you I think about it more often than is probably healthy. I believe the same applies
to you, even though you have come so far and have made a new life for yourself.”
        Because Erik had agreed to spend the night, Manuel postponed further discussion until the next
morning by radioing Conchita to tell her to come back to his office. Then he asked Erik in confidence,
“Do you or any of your scientists have reservations about working in a military compound?”
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         Erik responded in the negative, with a suppressed sigh, and they were both silent after that, lost
in thought as they sat on opposing large couches in the big man’s office. Within a few minutes, Conchita
and Sarah arrived, with the chef trailing shortly behind them carrying two warm meals on a silver
         At the sight of the chef, Manuel turned Erik’s packet upside down. Although the chef was given
high classification status, Manuel had chosen the man for his talent rather than his loyalty. After
delivering the meals he walked out, and with his back to the room he said with a delightful air of
approval, “bon appetite.” With the room in silence, Conchita moved to the bar and asked the men what
they would like to drink with their meal. Erik requested a scotch on the rocks, so Manuel made it a
double order.
         “And what about you, Sarah? By the way guys, Sarah made those Gallo Pintos for you, and
Chef called her a natural.” Conchita offered the praise loudly because her back was to the group.
         Sarah answered, “Lemon-lime soda please.” Then she sat down next to Erik on the couch and put
her hand on his right knee. Manuel noticed the gesture, which appeared to be a connected moment
between husband and wife, so he removed the packet from beneath its manila folder and began to thumb
through it again. The couches were sufficiently far apart to allow Erik to whisper quietly in his wife’s
ear, “seventy-three percent… and you’re listening to the newest secret agent of the Nicaraguan
government, unless of course there are terms you’d like to discuss. I’m pretty sure it’s okay to discuss
things freely.” When they looked up, Manuel gestured for them to remain silent. He politely stood up to
retrieve the drinks from Conchita and said to her loud enough for Erik and Sarah to hear, “Would you
mind preparing accommodations for our guests tonight? I think they’d enjoy the Kennedy room, and if I
understand correctly, Erik and Sarah will be retrieving their luggage from their hotel first, and of course,
with the utmost confidentiality.”
         After Conchita departed to delegate the responsibilities, Sarah spoke aloud. “Manuel, it’s nice to
meet the man behind the holiday cards.”
         “The pleasure is all mine, I assure you, Mrs. Sarah Weathers. And may I say you are even more
beautiful than your picture, and I didn’t think that could be possible.”
         “Thank you, that’s sweet… Erik told me you were a charmer. Would you mind if Erik and I
talked in private for a moment.”
         With a nod of approval, he picked up his plate and his drink and walked briskly toward his
attached office, then before closing the door he said with a friendly and understanding smile, “Here’s the
button to press when you’re ready for me.” The door closed with a thump, but the bolting mechanism
was silent.

         Sarah then inconspicuously maneuvered herself off the couch with a silent bounce up from her
seat, after which she walked with long feminine strides across the room and sat down in the executive
chair behind the executive desk. She didn’t touch anything on it, but the swiftness of her motions caused
some papers to move slightly. Erik felt uncertain how to act in the moment because he wanted to speak
with her about the new plan, yet he was genuinely enjoying the silent moment with his food and scotch.
When his eyes and cheeks showed he was going to speak, Sarah said politely, “Keep eating… I know
you’re hungry. Besides, I want to let things sink in… mister seventy-three percent.”
         He smiled at her, but she swiveled away from him and toward the window to open the curtains
before seeing it. They sat in silence while Erik finished his food. On his mind was the percentage,
because he and the group were prepared to settle for fifty.
         After savoring the last bite of his meal, then downing the last ounce of his scotch, Erik lifted his
eyes again toward the window, and his wife was nowhere to be seen since the chair was so large. He
walked softy over to her in an effort to avoid making even a peep, but a vase by the window gave his
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reflection away, so just as he was about to drop a hand onto her shoulder, she tilted her head back and
planted a kiss on the underside of his wrist.
         “So we’re sleeping over here tonight, I heard. Does that mean I won’t have your attention
         Erik was surprised that her first question didn’t relate to the machine or the plan, but to vacation.
He answered happily, “We are sleeping over, but Manuel knows how to get to the point, and my report
is fairly detailed, so I think you’ll get me when and where you want me.”
         It occurred happily to Sarah that she and Erik had booted the President of Nicaragua from his
own office so they could flirt. There was plenty of time to discuss the secret plan, she reasoned, so for
now she wanted to have some fun with her “James Bond,” as she affectionately referred to him there.
After a few minutes of whispering, and a less than brief make-out session on the couch, they poured
themselves two glasses of wine then pressed the button by the entrance near the bust of some unknown
         They were surprised when Manuel entered the room arm-in-arm with Conchita, who had
changed into more comfortable, softer clothes, but less comfortable shoes. The four of them then sat
down together on the couch to share wine and conversation about the Earth. On the table but turned
upside down was Erik’s report that promised to change civilized culture forever.

                                         Casual Displays of Power

         Erik and Sarah’s suite at the Presidential Fortress had a “flower power theme,” as Sarah dubbed
it. In each of the four bedroom corners was an active lava lamp, with unique and vibrant colors varying
from piece to piece and coloring portions of the wall in between. The bed itself had a plush feather
comforter on top. Next to the bed there was a silver bucket containing champagne along with rose
petals at the foot of it. That’s odd, Erik noticed, as he saw a note situated plainly under a large glass
bong, which was standing upright and unfilled on the kitchen table. The note was from Manuel and the
soy-based ink was fresh, as was the small marijuana bud attached to the paper. The note read,

         Erik & Sarah, When in Nicaragua, do as the Nicaraguans do! This small nug of Earth would
like to thank you for protecting its home. See you tomorrow morning at 10am. Yours truly in trust
and with the utmost respect, Manuel.

        After touring the suite and seeing the giant spa, Sarah wove the stem of the bud out of the paper
and suggested they smoke it in the tub or the spa. It was ten o’clock postmeridian time when they
entered the enormous bathtub together. They were high, they had questions circulating through their
heads that ten years ago would have seemed unimaginable, and they were in love. It was sexy and very
classy, he thought.

        Meanwhile, Yolandra had infiltrated the Weathers’ home security system and was in the process
of raiding Erik and Sarah’s bedroom in the United States. Finding nothing, she permitted herself the
indulgence of trying on some of Sarah’s pants. They were too long. Then she made her way down to
the basement and began to marvel.

        Erik was accustomed to waking up early for work. Since his defection plan commenced a couple
years ago, it hadn’t been unusual for him to meet his desk at work with coffee and a pastry or a nice
meal at five o’clock in the morning, before the sun and on top of the world. However, he decided to
sleep late that Thursday morning in Nicaragua. Erik kissed his wife goodbye perpendicularly, on her
forehead resting peacefully above the covers.
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        The room’s walk-in closet contained local attire, so in the spirit of vacation, Erik donned a nice
Nicaraguan-style white suit with an open chest and then headed out toward the courtyard. He had no
idea what clearances he needed, but soon found it was of no importance. A tall man who introduced
himself as Special Operations greeted him at a nearby fountain.
        They walked together while making small talk about the vegetation along their path, which Erik
liked to do when he was feeling happy. In his right hand the genius carried a cup of coffee, still hot from
the suite, though the biscotti in his left didn’t cover the distance to the fountain.

       The morning meeting began at 10:30. There were upwards of fifteen people in President Manuel
Torrealmo’s office, and all of them introduced themselves as Special Operations. Erik expressed
concerns about managing too large a team, and Manuel acquiesced.

        “My team,” Erik said, “is going to come here to Nicaragua with just about all the know-how this
operation needs, but I could use two more mathematicians. I’m also willing to make exceptions in other
cases depending on what you can show me. Our abilities are limited by a few things, first and foremost
though is mathematical responsiveness in an adaptive computational environment where we need human
intervention to quickly link multiple neural patterns… so we can get the adaptive codes to reconstitute
those matters as we see them.”
        One of the mathematicians in the back then said with a decent English accent, “So the machines
can’t run wild with the code.”
        “Exactly,” Erik answered, “It’s a big job. Directing and responding to magnetic and electrical
energy is at the core of atomic analysis, and we need mathematicians who can process specific problems
we won’t have time to finish calculating ourselves.” As he paused, the nodding heads were those of the
three mathematicians in the room, and Manuel.
        The American focused his efforts on the nodding heads, “To the extent we develop algorithms to
harmonize the test data with a perfect model, and we understand chemical character in terms of scenes
and language, that’s some good mind probing.”
        Erik had a strange thought in that moment. He imagined Manuel imprisoning him in retaliation
for threatening to imprison Manuel in the probe.
        As Manuel watched Erik’s face drifting away, deep into thought, it occurred to the President that
Erik Weathers was the type of person who could probably zone out with the entire world watching him.
        Then, with a smile on his face, and some of his men already gazing in his direction, Manuel
offered cogently to the genius in the room, “Then harmony will be our mantra, Erik Weathers, if you
will be this team’s leader.”
        The agents in the room had never seen their President delegate ultimate decision-making
authority to a foreigner for a secret project. And this executive decision was not without dissent.

                                         Peace Out Of Anarchy

       Erik and Sarah’s first day back in Seattle was a rainy Monday. She sobbed through the clouds
when they touched down.
       “You’re gonna work too much,” she whispered, leaning into him.
       “Everything is relative.”
       “Why can’t you just give more of yourself?”
       “You mean, open up more?”
       She cried a little harder.
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        Later that day Erik provided green tea at his kitchen table as his recruits arrived one by one, and
he sat there drinking it in complete silence reading a newspaper, waiting for everyone to arrive before
choosing to communicate beyond small talk. Yet no one had the gumption to tell him this was odd.
        Given his ego-driven personality, Erik never would have waited in silence had Sarah been
watching him interact with the scientists, because in her presence he took care to be more active about
appearing normal to her, as he thought of it. Summarizing his rationale, Erik had told Jimmy once, “I
want Sarah to have stereotypical experiences, because whether she likes each one individually or not,
she’ll believe that she’s closer to living the ultimate stereotype that the media portrays, which is that
people are generally happy who live stereotypical lives.”

        It had been a long time since the recruits all sat together in full quorum at Erik’s house, so the
meeting felt, as Jimmy thought, doubly decisive. Sarah had decided on the plane ride back to America
that she would not be attending, which was a decision she made only after Erik dubbed the meeting, “the
ultimatum meeting.”
        Before she left the house to have dinner with Damian’s wife Angelica, Erik asked his wife how
tempted she’d be to discuss his defection from Rider.
        Her answer was, “I agree… we take no chances.”
        Sarah then trudged upstairs and pulled out of her closet the same pants that Omniarch member
Yolandra had worn while trespassing a few days earlier. Putting them on, Sarah felt a bump in the
pocket, but in her rush she didn’t think anything more about it.

        At the Martel home Sarah talked only about how romantic Erik was in Nicaragua and how they
considered moving there if Erik retired early. The statement about moving to a foreign country naturally
prompted Angelica to wonder about the strength of their friendship, which had become stronger
        After marrying Erik, Sarah cut back on her hours as a plumber, so she and Angelica spent time
together nearly every other afternoon. It was healthy, Sarah told herself about working part time and
maintaining friendships with the extra time, but since Erik worked such long hours, she called Angelica
a lot. That Angelica reduced the number of movie roles she accepted in her forties meant that she too
had more free time, though she was reluctant to admit that she only worked “part time.”

        Launching the meeting that Monday at the Weathers’ home, the first thing Erik said to his table
of nine recruits was, “Alright everybody, I have good news… basically, if you decide to continue with
our plan, you become special agents of the Nicaraguan government, working to build the precise
machines we’ve been directing our efforts toward, and in the end, 73% of all profits will go to our social
        The table physically shook a small amount by the movement that accompanied everyone’s
happiness, with Jane excepted because she hoped for a larger percentage, but she was happy that Erik
was able to secure a better deal than was anticipated by the group, and she was to some extent swept up
by the complicated joy in the faces around her.
        Erik explained that all their arrangements for a move to Nicaragua, including online research,
should be made only after he was completely detached from Rider and had moved to Nicaragua with
Sarah. No one at the table had dependent children, which was part of the reason their CEO sought to
recruit them in the first place. Even still, everyone had a family of some form so each move presented
its own unique challenges.
        Erik reported to the table that Manuel had confirmed for him that, “All scientists will be special
agents and thus will be expected to live accordingly, disguised as regular citizens.” He then described to
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the excitedly prepared smiles that their paychecks would be under-the-table cash and research stipends
from shell organizations, unless they decided to forgo pay, which no one appeared interested in doing.
        Erik also reported to the scientists that Manuel promised that each of their test subjects would be
a repeat violent offender convicted of heinous crimes.
        There was no hint of triumph in Erik’s voice as he relayed this promise, because he knew to
himself that even a punishing association with criminal minds was hostile to him as the punisher. That I
have to build the probe from sick minds is society’s anathema on my work. He had talked about the issue
at great length with the recruits, and his wife especially liked to weigh in on the ethics of the issue.

       The fact that the ten recruits would be reading minds together was awkward, except to the extent
the work was good for society. So, in closing the meeting Erik told them confidently, “Remember guys,
each one of you was selected for your professionalism, and that is not at all diminished by the novelty of
the choices we make now and in the future. Try to keep your ambitions locked into the goal of our
team… even your personalities in some respect should become better because of the goal… because at
the end of the day, every step we take together is going to stamp out world problems… that’s our
mission… our machines will do good.” I hope, he thought to himself as an afterthought, as everyone
projected upon him some smile or sigh in their assent.
       In that moment he imagined how much he would enjoy reviewing the footage of the videotape he
was currently recording of everyone in his home. Voyeurism was like a dirty secret he had. Indeed he
feared being mind probed by the machine he wanted to create, since this would reveal the relationship
between all his secrets.

       Meanwhile across town at the Martel home, Sarah felt the small bump in her pant seat again, and
reached into her back pocket to find a small, blue metal ring. A gift?, she questioned to herself.
       Angelica was smiling as she asked, “What’s that?”
       Fingering her new item, Sarah responded, “I’m not… oh wait, there’s an inscription… ‘Peace
out of Anarchy.’”
       Angelica gasped, knowing it was Omniarch.

                                      Senses Refused Awakening

        After fainting a second time, Vigorchium promised to restrain himself from rethinking the
specific thoughts, about reversing the order, that had made him faint both inside and outside the Green
Room Simulator.
        However, unconvinced of Vigorchium’s motives, his medical doctors also ordered a drug
regimen to alter his mind, beginning with his neurotransmitters and neuropeptides. Vigorchium said the
drugs made him feel like “a fuckin’ animal.”

       Ever since Lucy Devereaux discovered the Alpha Symbols several decades earlier, by reading
weather patterns, top officials at NASA had frequently argued about whether the Symbols showed any
applicability to tangible matters. However, having seen that the Symbols could take a man’s life by
their mere observation, they tread carefully with the tools given to Vigorchium. Indeed, Dr. Reese
concluded to himself that Vigorchium would need to thrive outside the Green Room before he’d ever be
ready to reenter that death chamber.

        The director of the dome, Dave Winston, knew that eliminating the human brain altogether, by
using a cyborg in Vigorchium’s place, would not allow them to satisfy the ultimate research goal of
appreciating the Alpha Symbols. So instead, one of the research projects at the Florida dome was to
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
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design a brain probe that could reboot Vigorchium’s mind, essentially to prevent his harmful thoughts
before they killed him.
         On paper, the brain probe Winston contemplated utilized controlled electrical bursts with
elaborately invasive shunting systems that would not only bypass harmful thoughts, but also assist
Vigorchium in resurrecting helpful thoughts quickly.
         And so, needing a scientist to build such a brain probe, Winston found a man twenty years
younger than he, named Marshall Quimby. As an experienced military cryptologist, Quimby was
marked by the Pentagon as Winston’s likely successor. And he looked the part as well – six feet tall,
ordinary physique, black hair, dark horn-rimmed glasses.
         Quimby had persuaded Winston on a theory of the human neocortex that likened the brain to a
matrix of holograms. Quimby argued that, “Through coherence, the holograms of one’s mind jive with
the holograms that make up the real world. So it’s all just symbolism. And in order for the brain’s
symbols to reproduce themselves, the brain’s holograms need to be recursive of the wave shape of other
symbols that are represented outside the membrane of the senses. You can use torsion fields as
information fields because the interference patterns of the torsion waves form a huge hologram within
the universe.”
         Quimby also won clout with Winston by articulating the theory that because the two hemispheres
of the brain are not a perfect fractal, the result is wave shape irregularity. “But that’s not a bad thing,”
Quimby emphasized, “even if irregular waves in your brain make you feel like life seems incomplete, it
still drives you to find creative solutions to your struggles, which is why humans are so interesting, like
order from chaos.”

       Unfortunately, Winston was too mired in the scientific pursuits of his job to research and
recognize that Quimby maintained Omniarch connections tracing back to his youth. Indeed, on his chest
Quimby bore a birthmark resembling an owl, around which he had tattooed the Omniarch inscription,
“Bearer of Radiance.”

                                                The Bait

       It was a cold winter morning in 2154 when Erik announced his resignation from Rider. The
boardroom sat back in exasperation as he dished out expletives.

         Chip Underwood was the Board Member who had been plotting for years to oust Erik, so he
responded with an indignant tone, “There’s no need for this, Erik.”
         “Screw you Chip. Everything this Board promised about wanting to build probes for socially
responsible goals, I repeated to our scientists as my PERSONAL guarantee for why they should work
for Rider… and now, because this Board thinks advertising and marketing is good enough, we’re
scrapping all the socially beneficial probes… and now on top of that you’re trying to offer me a raise so
I’ll help you sell this horseshit.”
         The room was silent when Chip Underwood responded, “Is it not enough money?”
         “Are you that naïve?” Erik asked with indignation.
         The room was silent as they waited for fellow board member Michael Weathers, Erik’s dad, to
say something, but he didn’t.
         Erik’s eyebrows were deeply furrowed as he continued angrily, “I know who you are who
mutinied behind my back. For starters, FUCK YOU Chip for your secret memos.”
         No one spoke in response, so Erik squinted his eyes thoughtfully as he continued, “Here’s the
deal… I want enough severance to feed a small city, or else, I’ll expose how some of you tried to
undermine my authority to steer this corporation in the direction of socially responsible activities –
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probes that would have put criminals behind bars. And as long as I’m not an employee here, I have no
duty to act in the corporate best interest, so it’s perfectly legal to tell the truth.”
        Behind cautious eyes Chip Underwood spoke from the corner of the room, “Seems to me that
you’re blackmailing us, and I think you are still an employee.”
        Erik then relayed in a slow voice, “So now you’re encouraging me not to tell the truth?”
        Michael Weathers felt obliged to make a case for the Board and the corporation’s best interest as
he saw it, “Erik, we have a policy for severance packages.”
        With a cunning smile Erik looked at his dad and said, “Which you’re allowed to circumvent on
the basis of merit. I’ve given more to this corporation than most CEOs could do in ten lifetimes.”

        At the end of the short meeting it was agreed that Erik would receive eight times the normal
severance package. He laughed out loud when Chip Underwood suggested he only get double.
        “How could you ever know what I’m worth, Chip… you don’t even know what I do?” He pulled
from his desk a source code he had been reviewing earlier in the day, and threw the papers into Chip’s
chest from over thirty feet away, “Try to explain one thing in that code to anyone in this room?”
        The man didn’t try.
        Erik’s resignation became public within five weeks of that special meeting with the Board. The
training of his successor was entirely professional.

        After cashing his stock options, Erik Weathers was an amazingly rich man, and his “golden
parachute” severance package was news that made the Wall Street Journal. Erik thought to himself that
in the newspaper’s efforts to follow the money, they missed the real story, Project Bait & Switch. The
fact that Erik was walking away from Rider with massive amounts of stolen data and nine employees
would have preoccupied the press for years.

        Soon afterwards Erik decided to tell Michael about Project Bait & Switch. He invited his dad to
watch college football with him. It was a sunny and windy Saturday morning.
        Finding it difficult to lead into a ‘this changes everything conversation,’ Erik found it easier to
have his stomach turn while he watched the game. Eventually though, when UCLA had secured the
win, Michael got up to leave. Erik stopped him at the doorway.
        “Dad, I need to talk to you about something…. or, it’s more like, I need to tell you something.”
        Michael had a very nervous look on his face in response to Erik’s. They walked out to the patio
near two lounge chairs and then sat down. The wind dragged leaves around the property.
        Erik began with a hesitant smile, “For a few years now I’ve been stealing Rider code so I can
build my own probe. I already recruited nine scientists from Rider to help me, and we’re going to work
for a secret branch of the Nicaraguan government. It’s a done deal with Manuel Torrealmo…”
        Michael expected the punch line of a joke.
        “I’ve been adapting the Rider source code here, in the basement…. it’s a better lie detector for
starters, and seventy-three percent of all proceeds are going to environmental cleanup and land
preservation in Nicaragua and elsewhere.”
        The moment was the very definition of discomfiture as Michael was being pulled in multiple
directions, around a new realization, I’ve been ineffective. While his perspectives of corporate board
member and dad spiraled in his consciousness at the same time, he struggled to find a response.
        “Please tell me you’re kidding,” Michael finally responded with a sarcastic smile and pleading
eyes, “because if you’re not kidding, I’m driving you to the hospital.”
        “I am not kidding. And if I were so crazy that I needed to be hospitalized, then why are there
nine other scientists, most of whom you like and respect, that have already agreed with my plan, not to
mention the leader of a country? We’re doing a good thing here… if you’ll hear me out, the machine I
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want to make is going to make greater scientific strides toward the meaning of logic than anything
mankind has ever produced, and we’ve already brainstormed ways to use it for peace and justice. It’s a
mind probe based on the fusion of Flicker, Purity, and Deep Pocket. It’s going to be amazing and -”
        “Erik don’t. Just stop … why not retire? Don’t make me-”
        “Make you what? Turn me in?”
        “No,” Michael said smiling, “I was saying, don’t make meekness your goal in life, and don’t be
righteous, but find a balance.”
        “Hypothetically then, what’s the benefit of stopping me from the inevitable. Somebody will
eventually create the probes that I want to make RIGHT NOW… So if you feel you have to stop me,
then it’s because you don’t trust me to do the right thing, which would mean I’d have to ask you why
would you trust someone else more?”
        “You’re talking about giving Rider’s secrets to Nicaragua. Why them? Why anybody? Just for
the sake of argument, why not the United States?”
        “Too much risk, and I didn’t believe I could get such a great deal with the United States to use
the machine’s profits to clean the earth and for humanitarian goals. And they’d probably only want
military applications for the probes. That’s why I’m defecting to Nicaragua. America will just have to
buy a license when this thing is done.”
        “And why not just start your own business where things can be out in the open? Why a secret
        “In order for this plan to work, I need a sovereign nation because we can’t tweak the brains of
captured criminals without a sovereign sanction.”
        “That makes some sense, but… what exactly do you plan on doing?” Michael asked slowly and
        “Don’t use that tone,” Erik responded bitingly, “I’m the same Erik Weathers you knew
yesterday. My ideals are the same… I came to you because I trust you Dad. And if you follow my
reasoning to its natural conclusion…” Erik paused to allow his dad the opportunity to nod or show any
assent, but there was no answer, so he continued, “by talking with you at all it shows I care about you
more than this work, because now you have the power to stop me. All you have to do is turn me in, and
this plan crumbles in the hands of Nicaragua. But if you join me, or if you just give me your confidence,
then you can offer counsel.”
        “Erik, you know I won’t turn you in. You’d be labeled a traitor and you’d go to jail for stealing
Rider code. But if I do nothing…” Michael waited for Erik to explain himself, but he didn’t, so Michael
continued, “what will your mother think?”
        “She’ll think… she’ll know that her son is saving the world in his own way. That he loves her.
That he’s doing it for the good of mankind, not against her. And if she gives me her confidence. If you
both just give me your confidence like you’ve given me your respect all these years, then you’ll know I
plan to honor all the fundamental values I’ve lived my life by… Trust me, these probes are inevitable.
And although it scares me to think about unfettered brain probing… I’m not afraid to be at that helm if
we’re being perfectly honest… And when I said criminals, I meant guilty, violent, repeat criminals.
That’s Manuel’s promise.”
        With a deep sigh and a tone of cautious indecision Michael questioned, “How can you trust him?
What’s your leverage?”
        “Obviously he needs me and the scientists to build the machine, and … I have something for the
press, so if I disappear, he’s implicated.”
        “Is Jimmy…” Michael questioned.
        “Chuck Fleischman?”
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        “Yeah. He and Jane Milton are a couple, and they’re both in. William Boone. Donald Sherman,
Randall Boiken, Miles Bennington, Charlie Smith, Sonia Jimenez…”
        “I don’t believe this. If you’re kidding, say it now, this isn’t funny. I swear to God, Erik…. If
you’re kidding me… tell me you’re kidding.”
        “I’m dead serious. This project is so far in the pipeline, it’s moving with or without me. I’m sure
Manuel has a plan to deny everything, which is why I’ve saved this.”
        From his pocket Erik pulled out some items bearing Manuel’s signature and relating to the Rider
defection, including the note that had been under the bong in the Kennedy suite. Michael read some of it
and shook his head.
        “You’re sure I can’t stop you?” Michael asked.
        Erik answered calmly, and almost humorously, “No, well, yes… but if you do, you’ve handed
Nicaragua the machine without a loyal American to supervise it’s manufacture for peace and justice.”
        Michael then walked inside and slowly dialed the telephone number to his home,
“Charlotte….honey, can you please come over to Erik’s. There’s something he needs to tell us both, so
if you don’t mind hustling, I’d appreciate it.
        “Is it good news? Is Sarah pregnant?”
        Her enthusiasm only helped to burrow Michael’s eyebrows into a deep sadness as he answered,
“Sorry… no. You’ll see, just come on over.”
        When his mom arrived five minutes later, Erik’s conversation with his parents lasted a very long
time, and although there was pleading from both sides, toward the end of the conversation Michael had
sided with Erik on the point about the inevitability of the machine.
        When they left around midnight, Charlotte’s psyche was in a state analogous to suppressed tears.
Observing her troubled facial expression, Michael asked her in the car, “When does a healthy
imagination stop being healthy and start being a God complex?”
        Charlotte responded, “When he’s ready to realize the pitfalls of responsibility and the benefits of
humility he’ll come around. Remember, he’s a cortical genius, not a limbic one.”

                                  Circumstantial Evidence of Honesty

       On hiatus from thinking too deeply about the Alpha Symbols, Vigorchium found himself very
bored at the dome. He begged Dr. Reese to allow him back into “the Simulator,” but to no avail. Dr.
Reese thought comically to himself, It appears I’ve evolved from psychiatrist to babysitter.

        It was during this downtime of the Green Room in 2154 when Lucy Devereaux, Erik’s aunt, the
NASA programmer who had written the first program that discovered the Alpha Symbols, visited the
dome to meet with the director, Dave Winston. Now age 75, Lucy Devereaux looked very similar to her
unknown biological sister, Charlotte Weathers.
        As Winston described to Lucy the strides NASA had made in both conventional and quantum
physics, through Vigorchium’s work with the Alpha Symbols, she offered comments in between ogling
prisms hanging before the windows.
        Moved by a small rainbow, she exclaimed, “I’d like to work with him!”
        Winston was taken aback. “Why?”
        Lucy responded confidently with proud eyes, “Because from what you’re telling me, he’s bored
out of his mind. I know what that’s like… and I may be able to help.”
        Winston chuckled thoughtfully, then offered, “I’ll think about it, but-”
         “I’ll take that as a yes. And I would like to get paid for this as well because I plan to take it
quite seriously.”
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       “You’ve always been good with words, you know that?”
       “Thank you, Dave. You’ve always been good with handshakes.” They had a long relationship
working together.
       Then they shook hands to memorialize an ambiguous agreement solidified by a well-defined

      After the meeting, Lucy met Vigorchium’s psychiatrist Dr. Reese to say she’d need at least a few
months to familiarize herself with Vigorchium’s background and his work. She also picked up a new
computer at the dome, which Winston helped improve to Lucy’s increased classification status.

         Deciding to pose as a yoga instructor for her interactions with Vigorchium, Lucy found a new
reason to take deep breaths.
         Dr. Reese approved the covert disguise but cautioned her strenuously that Vigorchium was an
artist at finding contradictions in stories. She told the psychiatrist she welcomed the challenge.
         For their first meeting, Lucy met Vigorchium in his room, introduced herself as Lucy Jameson,
and commented that his room could use more color. She then led him slowly to the activity room, but
told him to wait for her while she made “a pit stop” at the bathroom. He liked that she acted naturally.
Once inside the activity room, they began stretching on their separate yoga mats. Vigorchium sought to
impress her immediately by stretching himself farther than was comfortable, but it made him feel good
to do it.
         “Can I call you Vigo?” she asked shortly into their preliminary stretching.
         “But where shall I put the r-chium I’ll be expecting to hear?” he responded with a subtle,
inquisitive laugh.
         “Good one… not really though, if we’re being honest.”
         “I was honest once when I told myself I’m incapable of being honest.”
         “How old do you think I am?” she asked playfully.
         “Five years younger than me.”
         “Now that’s the type of honest answer I like to hear.”
         As they laughed, she noticed him relax into a shorter stretch, and she congratulated herself for
finding one truth.
         She then offered, “Choosing to be honest doesn’t make you more honest than when you’re
reflexively honest, but when you choose to be honest, it’s more meaningful to me.”
         Although she expected him to say something clever in response, he only nodded.

                                            Social Curiosity

        It helped Sarah mentally prepare for her life-changing move to Nicaragua to embrace the
diversion of throwing a party in celebration of the choice to move. The only thing Erik did in
preparation for the party, with the help of Jimmy and his dad, was that he gutted his basement. Balloons,
ribbon, colorful signs, and a borrowed disco ball for the living room made up the party’s decorations.
        “It looks beautiful,” Sarah said to Erik before the first guest arrived.
        “Speaking of decorations, where’d you get that ring?”
        “Funny,” she answered smiling, thinking Erik had given her the blue metal ring with the strange
inscription on it – “Peace out of Anarchy.”
        “No, seriously.”
        She gazed up at him curiously. “I found it in my pocket.”
        “That’s pretty weird, don’t you think?”
        “I’ll say,” she offered as she dropped it into his hand.
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       He read it slowly and then said while suppressing clenched teeth, “It’s Omniarch.”
       Gasping for air she thought of Bianca, who had blown herself up in her midst.

        Erik and Sarah did not have time to question one another about the ring in detail before their
guests began to arrive. Angelica and Damian had booked their regular security guy for the event. He
was a tall, handsome man that looked quite rich and blended in like a professional socialite. Because of
these attributes he often accidentally collected a few phone numbers, and although he always
professionally discarded them, the negative act, as he thought of it, of not calling the women was a part
of his job that never ceased to make him feel guilty.
        Damian told the man once, “Don’t ever apologize for your abilities, just their misuse.”
        The bodyguard replied, “If that’s my standard I’ll need to define ‘practice’ wisely.”
        Damian lifted his chin thoughtfully as he pondered the significance of the remark from the man
he called “party guard.” Indeed, Damian had commented to Erik once that people were often jealous of
him for having one, “including Jimmy, obviously.”

       In his mind, Damian dwelled upon what was being uprooted by his best friend’s, and Sarah’s,
decision to move, but he resolved not to visibly show emotional sadness on the matter. Angelica
however was quite obvious about the sadness she felt, though she tried to mitigate her emotional
exposure by offering some praise for Erik and Sarah’s decision to move to a country run by a good
example of the Greenlife party. All in all, the newly opened layers of friendship between the couples
were obvious to all four individuals, and Jimmy could not have been more intrigued by the dynamic,
often wondering to himself whether Damian thought he did something wrong to deserve what Jimmy
speculated would feel like abandonment.
       It wasn’t enough for Damian to reassure himself of the inevitability of change. There’s no good
explanation, it seemed to him. By the west garden at six o’clock, situated along the far right edge of the
backyard, Damian was facing west toward the sun when his casual conversation with Erik about
Nicaragua floundered for nearly a minute as if wrinkling on top of itself, a façade of contrived dialogue.
It wasn’t until Damian acted on a natural inclination to speak his mind, even though he didn’t
understand exactly what he hoped to accomplish by saying it, that Erik realized the sharpness of the
moment. Damian began, “Just tell me the truth, Erik. What are your real reasons for moving?” The
question contained an implied expletive, and was delivered with a disgruntled look of uncertainty that
demanded a straight answer above all else.
       “I’m telling you man, Sarah and I need a realist awakening for our marriage. Not a new life, just
a new lifestyle.” Erik’s eyes were suspiciously wide, as if trying to convey honesty rather than simply
being the quality itself. “Man, if I could drag any of my friends with me to Nicaragua, it would be you,
okay, you know that…. Listen, Jimmy has been talking about a move too. Has he told you that?”
       Damian shook his head.
       “I didn’t think so,” Erik added, “Think big picture okay.”
       “Why is Jimmy moving?”
       “It’s pretty funny actually. He can’t take all the attention he gets for being the Flicker
mastermind. It’s the new ‘praise-em-to-death’ management technique at Rider.”
       “That’s pretty funny.” Damian said somberly, not wanting to change the tenor of the
       Erik then offered, “Yeah... Seriously, though, if you and Angelica move to Nicaragua, we could
be neighbors. Move with us, man! Just do it.”
       “I don’t know Erik. We’ll see… Oh, hey…” One of the Project Bait & Switch recruits, Jane
Milton, had walked up to their conversation from behind Damian.
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                                                                                           - 141 -

        There were all types of conversations taking place at the party, but the most popular topic among
them was environmental contamination, as it seemed to emanate from the subject of Erik and Sarah
moving to Nicaragua.
        Uninvited and hidden amidst the crowd was Yolandra, though she only stayed long enough for
one conversation.
        Speaking with Jimmy’s sister Melanie about the oceanic nuclear disaster, with an air of comedy
in her voice, Yolandra asked, “Chaos leads to order, but only with the best type of mastery.”
        Melanie gazed at the woman in disbelief.
        Enjoying her listener’s expression, Yolandra added with a sly shrug, “You can bomb a bomb,
you know.”
        But before Melanie could find Erik to ask who this woman was, she had disappeared.
        The only trace of Yolandra was found at the bottom of Melanie’s champagne glass, a blue ring,
and another inscription, “World Peace.”

                                             Great Tragedy

        Working on his nuclear bomb and hydrogen cyanide distribution system in his underground
laboratory, Vigorchium’s foster father, terrorist Radomir Sadovich, talked to himself frequently,
sometimes asking himself a question and then arguing about the meaning of the question. At times he
wished he had multiple personalities to make the debate more vigorous, especially because his co-
conspirators, although zealots, were in his opinion only henchmen.
        On a rainy day in Russia, one of his henchman, Iltriavsky, asked Radomir about human vices and
hopelessness, prompting Radomir to orate, “Even with everything I know about vices, I’m still uncertain
about my role and meaning in human history. If I can’t be perfect, how can I expect mankind to be?
Between these kings and peasants, who alive is worth anything?”
        Iltriavsky thought quietly for a moment and then began to talk about how a person can never
eradicate a vice, but rather, all one can ever do is live along a continuum where vices not only oppose
virtues, but oppose each other just as virtues opposed each other in great tragedies. He named some
tragedies, but it did not appear he knew they were even connected.
        In response Radomir offered, “It was a woman named Florence King who is often quoted with
the expression that if you are kind to people who hate themselves, they will hate you as well.”
        “It’s part of the greater theme that shows you can’t please everyone… when you over stimulate
the human cortex, certain senses become weaker. Tell me, Iltriavsky, what do you make of that?”
        “Everything is toxic in certain doses.”
        “That is the obvious answer,” Radomir replied unhappily, “but does it apply to knowledge? A
woman asked me once, if the search for truth leads to man’s extinction, is truth really the highest goal of

                                                Agent W

        Immediately after the party, Erik and Sarah sold most of their belongings and gave the revenue
to the poor. Then, with an empty house, Sarah put on a bikini and ran around for Erik to chase her.

        On the day of their departure, Angelica surprised them with a last-minute going away gift - an
original artwork from Angelica, signed only “A,” symbolic of her anonymity. The oil painting engaged
the eyes with vibrant colors emanating from the upper body of a young woman singing on a golden
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 142 -

stage before a silent audience. Sarah thought each audience member’s face was like it’s own work of art
as the young woman’s voice carried in visible waves across the space before her eyes, which were half

          One Nicaraguan week passed with no word from Manuel, and this had different effects on
Sarah and Erik. To both of them though, it felt as though they were living in a movie as they waited for
a secret message from Manuel.
        Their home was architecturally stylistic, emphasizing circular shapes and arches. Built only three
years earlier for a wealthy French family, the home was beautiful, but the debutante had tired of it. The
location of a secured community added to its comfort, and the home was also fully connected to itself
with the latest technologies for reuse of energy and conservation of fixtures.

         Their first week together involved a great deal of decorating and shopping, but they still made a
point of hiking together every morning and living without any agenda in the evenings. They watched
three American movies that first week, and on hikes referred to people as “the locals.”
         Then, on the afternoon of the eighth day, while eating at an outdoor café, a man sat down at their
table and said only, “sensitive rock.”
         Erik knew the phrase as his password with Manuel, so he responded in kind, “impermeable
filter.” The man smiled at the turn of the figurative key.
         Then he said under his breath to Erik, with a smile on his face, and bread in his mouth, “Meet me
here in exactly thirty days, same time. Your phones are bugged, by us, but there aren’t cameras. That’s a
promise.” Then he straightened his posture, stopped buttering the remaining bread in his left hand, and
then while standing up he shook Erik’s hand and said in a raised but casual voice, “It was great seeing
you again. Call me anytime, Erik.” The man walked away with bread in his mouth and a smile on his
         In Erik’s hand was an abnormally small business card that gave a hand written phone number
and the name, “Pedro Felise. Landscaping Services.” He showed it to Sarah and they soon deciphered
an address. The phone number was a date and time for a meeting. The name was the place.

       Sarah had long worried that their house might be under video surveillance, and it had given her
some pause in the bedroom, but she told herself she was too proud not to get naked in her own house.
       Erik told her once, during the first years of their marriage, that she was so beautiful, as a couple
they had probably already been targeted by voyeurs. He so abhorred the idea of another person watching
him, and especially the wife he coveted, the very thought of cameras ran a chill down his spine.

        Despite their covert disposition, the Nicaraguan Weathers felt peaceful in their new country’s
natural environment. In that first week they traveled by means of bicycle, boat, and once on a hang
glider. From all sorts of places in Nicaragua they sent postcards to friends back in America. Among the
more spectacular sights was an ancient fountain of which Erik said jokingly, “It looks like a monkey’s

         The areas they hiked around their home were bordered by middle-class neighborhoods. And
further adding to their confidence they each wore a non-descript safety ring designed to emit a
paralyzing shock to any attacker. The voice-activated password was a string of five randomly selected
letters and numbers.

       During his third week in Nicaragua, Erik visited the grave of Carlos Montego, the young
environmental scientist whose torture he had witnessed thirty years ago on the same afternoon Allison
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was murdered. And so, on that cloudy morning at Carlos’ grave, Erik laid flowers and wept. He
thought to himself, Any god out there… Here lies Carlos… his death was not fair and yet it happened
… so… if justice hasn’t already been done, please don’t stand in the way of it… because if you do…
maybe let’s try this a little different… Dear God…let Carlos rest in peace… enable me to do what must
be done.
        On the same day Erik visited the cemetery, he also visited a surgeon. The specialist implanted
two concealed, solar-powered “safety” devices in Erik’s hands. The first device, not unlike his safety
ring, was programmed to shoot from his left palm a small bullet containing aluminum and iron oxide,
and timed to explode as hot thermite upon impact. The other device was a bullet of liquid nitrogen,
implanted in his right hand and activated by a separate password than the left. As the surgeon provided
Erik a tutorial, he added in his most professional voice, “I’m always on call for refills.”

        He drove to the address on the business card. It was a large colonial-style home, located in a
very nice neighborhood where each lot was separated by acres. There were no cars in the driveway
where he parked, and none in sight either.
        A man met him at the driveway and escorted him beyond an iron gate, to a shed located behind a
covered pool. It was no ordinary shed, but one affixed with satellite equipment and tinted windows.
Erik took a deep breath in the shade. He stood under a large oak tree and closed his eyes for a moment,
then he opened a blue door in his mind. He envisioned locking Allison’s killer into a mind probe. Then
he opened his eyes, and opened the real door.
        Inside he found what looked like a pool cabana. Manuel sat with two other men, whom he
recognized as agents.
        “Erik Weathers, you made it… my friend!” The big man stood up and embraced Erik with an
enormous grin across his happy face. “Do you mind if we begin right away. I may be time pressed, but
your employees here are not. I trust you remember Mr. Montoya and Mr. Williams.”
        “I do… math guys. Nice to see you again gentleman. I hope you’re ready for serious problems,
and by the way, I like to wake up early.”
        Manuel laughed for the three of them, and then he said with a confident tone, “Erik, do you mind
if we just hammer out some details on security. That’s my specialty, I think, and it would put me at ease
to ask some essential questions before we launch into everything else.”
        With an executive’s demeanor, Manuel opened the folder resting before him, and systematically
asked all of his questions.
        Manuel also explained in detail that the shell organization formed for the purpose of selling
Erik’s future creations was called ‘Neural Network Solutions,’ and was comprised of approximately
twenty former government scientists loyal to Nicaragua.

        At the end of this discussion, the President said farewell and left the task to his two agents to
show Erik their new laboratory.
        Montoya and Williams happily led Erik downtown to an ordinary building with a sign on it
reading, “Environmental Research Center.” The door was a large iron barrier, not necessarily suspicious
but certainly irregular for the quaint neighborhood. At the entrance hallway of the building was an
attractive young brunette wearing a conservative sweater and sitting quietly at her desk reading an
entertainment magazine. The three men walked cavalierly to the desk and electronic gate. They stopped
for the secretary to acknowledge and fingerprint them.
         Erik noticed a back massager sitting on the arm of her chair, and he wondered whether she did
anything other than read magazines all day. There were several pamphlets in her immediate vicinity
relating to coral reefs and oceanic ecosystems, and a computer that remained idle.
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
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        She greeted the men at the other end of the gate, “Hello Mr. Weathers. Welcome to your first day
at work. Please, everyone follow me. With a slow and deliberate pace she led Erik on a tour through the
small library and explained the building’s history. She explained how Erik would sign a form that
would make him appear to be a volunteer for the library’s foundation, which did research on oceanic-
related aspects of the environment. She spoke mainly in English, but her accent was obviously Spanish,
and there were many English words she didn’t know, so she simply spoke them in Spanish. Toward the
end of the tour she said that a team of scientists would be generating research on oceanic contamination,
over which Erik would claim authorship, and so long as he devoted approximately one hour per week to
reviewing and tailoring their findings, the front would be laid. And so ideally, it would not be
suspicious that Erik entered this building every morning and left it every evening.

        The back office of the library was accessible only through a normal entranceway with an
ordinary lock, and inside the office, again it looked like a regular office, with stacks of books and papers
neatly piled. But then the metal safe caught Erik’s attention because it was actually a door, with a
fingerprint entry pad. The secretary instructed Erik to place his finger on the circle. She reached for his
hand to assist, but Erik asserted himself quickly enough to avoid the unnecessary contact. He thought of
his wife.
        After he placed his finger down, a portion of the wall hinged opened. Then the three scientists
walked into the blackness. Shortly beyond the door though there was a lighted tunnel where a small,
parked vehicle was stationed, and no direction to go but straight. During the drive through the narrow
tunnel, Montoya advised Erik that were two other buildings in the area connected to this tunnel system,
and each of Erik’s recruits from Rider would be assigned to one of the three locations.

        At the end of the tunnel officers in full military uniform greeted the three scientists at the
military compound. And soon afterwards Erik found himself before the double door entrance of his new
laboratory, marked as such, “Erik’s Laboratory.”
        When he noticed that the brazen possessiveness of the label on the door appeared to perturb his
Nicaraguan colleagues, Montoya and Williams, he announced there at the doorway, “Guys, don’t be
offended by this.”
        And then ripping the sign off the door as a symbolic gesture, he added tactfully, “Yeah it’s true,
I’m your boss. But that’s a good thing… because it means I’m here to answer your questions and that I
want you to succeed.”
        They nodded.
        He continued, “It’s my philosophy that lots of factors can affect the quality of a man’s work, so I
want you guys to feel free to talk to me about anything. This is work. And at work, honesty and respect
are the same thing, so expect confidentiality when you come to me with problems. If I can’t solve your
confidential problem, I’ll send it up the ladder to someone who operates just as confidentially who I
think may have an answer. We have our agent’s manuals for what’s lawful, so we’re good, right?”
        After both men nodded and smiled, Erik offered summarily, “With that said, let’s see what
you’ve done so far.”
        Although both men were apprehensive when Erik had begun speaking at the entranceway to
“Erik’s Laboratory,” they eventually came around to thinking the pep talk was timely, in part because
they had a genuine enthusiasm to show the laboratory they helped organize, and they were happy to
have a fresh slate symbolized by the label-free door.
        At the conclusion of the pep talk, it was Montoya who first offered to shake Erik’s hand to show
his loyalty, and at that moment it struck Erik how excited he was to begin working again, as he
reiterated to himself that happiness about the future was partially dependent upon a feeling of having
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achieved loyalty in the present. However, he also thought to himself there on the topic of motivational
speaking, In order to act like robots they need to think like super-satisfied free thinkers.

        The laboratory’s perimeter consisted of twelve offices, two bathrooms, and six miscellaneous
rooms. All perimeter doors faced the center, where a small elevator existed inside a thousand square foot
metal room inside a larger metal room, like concentric squares. Williams explained that at the bottom of
the elevator there was a tunnel leading to a separate laboratory on the military base for the atomic
interference machines they would be constructing.
        Like all the offices, Erik’s office had a beautiful wooden door.
        As they toured the laboratory and the offices in its immediate vicinity, Erik brainstormed where
to locate various machinery throughout the large space. When the tour ended in Montoya’s office the
men sat down with cups of coffee and drew sketches. Then Erik called home to joke that aliens had
abducted him, but he expected to be home soon since they didn’t seem to like the taste of his right ear.
When he added into the phone’s microphone that he couldn’t hear very well so he had to “Van Gough,”
she finally chuckled.

        The pictures in Montoya’s office included nature scenes and family photographs. He was a tall,
dark, and handsome man with one young son and one teenage daughter, each of whom believed he
worked at the Environmental Research Center. His wife, however, knew he was a secret agent, and there
weren’t many women who she could open up to, but Williams’ wife was one of them.
        Both agents were men of high integrity who loved Nicaragua and loved their families. Williams
considered himself to be an exceptional mathematician in a culture that rewarded conformity. Unlike
Montoya, Williams was neither tall nor handsome. He chose a military life because it presented special
technical challenges. Montoya had the same story, but with kids. As secret agents of the Nicaraguan
government, they were happy and overworked.
        When Erik arrived home that evening from his first day of work, he found the house smelled like
a baked cinnamon dessert. Sarah wore an apron as she stood in the doorway. Erik smiled wide and put
out his arms for a hug, but his thoughts were skeptical with regard to the apron she had been wearing, If
I’m not here to give her something real to cling to, she’ll find a stereotype instead.
        As she approached his open arms, he noticed she was also wearing the blue ring with the
Omniarch inscription that had suspiciously appeared in her blue jeans.
        “Why are you wearing that?” he nearly shouted, unnerved by his own edginess.
        “It’s mysterious,” she whispered in his ear.
        They both wondered, Is something in the ring?

                                           New Dimensions

        Now this is retirement, Lucy thought while doing yoga with Vigorchium. Indeed, at the end of
each session with him, she would drive from the dome back to her nearby rental home, sit down with a
glass of wine in her elegantly decorated study, and draft a short summary of the day’s progress with her
new companion.
        Another reason she enjoyed the time she spent with Vigorchium was that the savant was the
same age her own son would have been, but for the car crash that took his life and the life of her
husband as well. Omniarch thought they could win her over by first breaking her down in her life by
killing her family. And so as the truth of her life was so painful, having an alter ego with Vigorchium
was therapeutic for her. She was able to glean a lot about his interests and ideas simply by talking to
him like a friend. She found it immensely entertaining to pretend to be a woman who went to medical
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 146 -

school but never obtained a degree, had eight brothers and sisters, and was self-employed for a short
period of time as a computer programmer.

       Lucy’s weekly reports were written for Vigorchium’s psychiatrist, Dr. Reese, but also copied to
the dome director, Dave Winston.
       They determined that the information Lucy was gathering would be useful in designing the mind
probe being built to help Vigorchium avoid harmful thoughts. Accordingly, the government scientist in
charge of building it, Marshall Quimby, the Omniarch loyalist put in place by the somewhat
unsuspecting Dave Winston, came to the dome one cloudy afternoon. There he met Lucy, before a yoga
session with Vigorchium, which Quimby was scheduled to observe from an adjoining control room.

        As they shook hands, Lucy noticed Marshall Quimby’s wedding ring. It appeared to be a simple
gold band, save for a small part on the surface that showed the ring was actually the color blue within its
gold coating. What she could not see was that it was also inscribed, “Bearer of Radiance.”
        “Hello, I’m Marshall Quimby.” His dark, horn-rimmed glasses gave the appearance of a nerdy
        “Lucy Devereaux,” she responded courteously.
        “Thank you for the opportunity to observe you today.”
        “Sure, I just hope I can be helpful.”
        From his pocket he handed her a list, and then said, “I’m sure you’re very helpful. Can you ask
him a few questions about the Alpha Symbols along these lines.”
        Reviewing the fairly innocuous list, she answered affirmatively, “Sure.”
        Quimby then retreated to the control room, and Lucy began to make her way toward the gym for
her meeting with Vigorchium. Seeing some flowers along the way, she picked them up.

       When Lucy saw Vigorchium in the room she gave him the flowers, and the savant responded
happily, “This is the kind of fair treatment that might make others jealous.”
       “Oxymoron?,” she asked quickly.
       He nodded with a smile.

         Following some preliminary stretches and some equally light small talk, Lucy asked a question
she remembered from Quimby’s list, “I wonder if the Alpha Symbols might ever allow us to predict the
         Excitedly Vigorchium answered, “Absolutely.”
         “How?” Lucy asked.
         “Three things. The first premise is that the Symbols can prove that EVERYTHING is connected
in this world. Or if you like, NOTHING exists in isolation. It’s not obvious, really, but humans are
connected to inanimate things, like rocks and dark matter. The second premise is that humans use their,
our, subconscious to share information. Even though inanimate objects don’t rely on a neural-base to
access the subconscious realm, they still use electromagnetism. And the final premise is that THE
FUTURE is nothing more than atoms falling into place by the laws of physics, so if you can eliminate
your observation of randomness, you can predict the future. A good example for defeating classical
randomness is that you calculate how a pair of dice will land on a craps table if you laboriously measure
all the variables – velocity of the dice, friction on the table, etcetera.”
         “I don’t understand,” Lucy imparted with questioning eyes, and then added, “Have you seen the
answer? Is the future predetermined by fate, or do we have free will?”
         Vigorchium looked at the camera in the room, and a chill traveled down Quimby’s spine.
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        “I’ll tell you,” the savant replied, “you’re not going to find the answer in the quantum physics
reports I’ve seen. May I share a quote with you?”
        “Okay,” Lucy said smiling.
        “It is a great mistake to think you are more than you are and yet to underestimate your real
value…. Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe.”
        “That’s a concise quote…it makes me think of the impossibility of certainty with a finite self-
        “Good,” Vigorchium praised, “it should also make you think about whether one can fairly be
one’s past, present, and future, because how little devoted to time are we, compared to how much more
time is devoted to us, so how much are we of anything…and let me ask you this…”
        Vigorchium held his toes until he felt dreadfully painful tingles in his hamstrings. Then he
released his pose, laid down on his back, and continued, “Do you think you’re stable enough to enjoy
knowledge of the future without abandoning your enjoyment of the present? The feeling of anticipation
is a human’s traditional knowledge of the future. It’s a cardinal pleasure that requires you to be
AWARE of your past, present, and future. That’s our natural balance as ape-descendants. However, the
Alpha Symbols show there are seemingly infinite and measureless types of balance, and many variations
on these physical concepts we know as past, present and future. Ask yourself… Is there a logical
corollary that if one succeeds in mentally blocking the future, he has also succeeded in suppressing the
past? Imagine new dimensions not just in the realms where physical things live amongst geometries,
and within particles and waves. You need these as your base, but the abstract mathematical concepts
have physical meaning that allow you to see new dimensions with the Alpha Symbols. Imagine you
actually had faith that God could do and make anything, and you stole that faith for your own desirous
uses. Faith can either be rationalized as a product of nature, or rationalized as the producer of life for
nature. Who are we but what we discover among, within, and outside us in spacetime and matter?”
        Vigorchium appeared to be engaged in some type of reminiscing with himself as he continued,
“Or… imagine yourself in a moment where your mental focus has transcended time. There is no past,
nor future. There is only the present. Call it zen if you like. Now ask yourself… If it were impossible to
achieve this state of zen, what might happen when you get close to it?”
        “Is that why you fainted in the Simulator?” she asked.
        “Well,” Vigorchium responded confidently, “time is only a one dimensional representation of
certain mathematical phenomena that describe the movement of space. So the simulator is pretty
frightening because you get to see other dimensions, but only to the extent they interact with the four-
spacetime dimensions we know. What makes you faint though isn’t the math, it’s the feeling that you’re
being watched.”


       With the help of Nicaraguan agents Montoya and Williams, Erik modified the layout of his new
laboratories and welcomed one-by-one each of his Project Bait & Switch Recruits.

        For the first few months, the new team worked together to write algorithms and brainstorm ways
to incorporate the latest in quantum computing technologies to make their computers more adaptive.
Ultimately the questions they pondered revolved around harmonizing electromagnetic data with
supercomputers capable of integrating a variety of atomic property levels. Through this process the
scientists were able to better understand the dead ends of existing technologies, with Jimmy and Miles
leading the way at explaining how intricacies of the human brain required algorithms for overlapping
logical properties.
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         A Nicaraguan herself, Sonia Jimenez was the only one among Erik’s recruits with family roots in
Nicaragua. Accordingly, Erik decided that she would be most useful to the Nicaraguan team if she
continued to work at Rider, because she could continue traveling between Nicaragua and the United
States without drawing suspicion, and by keeping her job as a Quality Control Inspector, she could
monitor Rider’s technological developments. It was also assumed that if anyone at Rider became hot on
the trail of Project Bait & Switch, Sonia might be able to solve the problem by planting a virus to delete
         Jimmy programmed a few viruses for this contingency, which was strange for him because it was
the one project he wasn’t supposed to want to see implemented.

        Prior to the mind-probing technology boom in the 2140s, it had been widely believed that only a
chemical could meaningfully understand another chemical, and because science offered no feasible way
to manufacture a human brain, it was hypothesized that mental privacy would continue to endure.
        But whenever Erik read this chemical-chemical rationale he deferred to his theory, which he
found unflinchingly predictable on Earth, Often nature can reach an outcome through ways unforeseen
and indirect, so long as the environment is conducive to the species.
        Indeed, improving upon this rationale one calm Sunday afternoon in Nicaragua, as he watched
Sarah eat a sandwich and read the newspaper in their kitchen, he thought to himself, Logic itself is born
predominantly from the brain’s application of its spatial coordinate observations to language,
especially in the lobes.
        Meanwhile, posing as a door-to-door religious zealot, Erik’s stalker Yolandra, the Omniarch
loyalist, entered Erik and Sarah’s neighborhood carrying a knapsack filled with pamphlets about “the
end-times.” She wore a long plaid dress, leather boots, and a blue necklace with a Christian-looking
pendent, but marked subtly with occult symbols. As each of the persons walking on the street
predictably rejected her feigned solicitations, Yolandra drew closer to the Weathers’ property.

        Erik’s thoughts continued, Spatial coordinate observations are nothing more than one’s internal
representation of the speed of an object, its size, its proximity to other objects, shape, color, spin,
etcetera… all these factors combine to make present sense, so it’s interesting that any metaphysical
observations man makes about morality will necessarily be secondary to these physical observations…
since his metaphysical observations can only be derived from analogies to the spatial coordinate
observations. That’s a fundamental human limitation… but… if you could observe a physical
phenomenon before you enter the coordinate system that makes up ordinary logic, then theoretically,
you could access metaphysical concepts directly and apply them afterwards to your spatial coordinate
observations! That’s a reversal… if in the normal experience you’re bound to your analogies off the
spatial coordinate system, then a reversal would mean that you could make physics do anything you
wanted by thinking metaphysically about concepts before you enter upon the spatial coordinate system!
But it’s impossible to leave that reality…
        He paused his thoughts as Sarah made a statement about a local political issue she had just read
about in her newspaper, then as her eyes meandered back to the page, he found himself thinking to
himself again. In pondering whether he could suspend a physical state in order to operate freely upon
concepts in that suspended state, he considered the nature of logic, thinking, Perhaps wave functions are
godly, and we and all matter are byproduct of coalescing waves, sort of like floating tumors. The word
godly may be misleading like that…. Logic is nothing more than neuron matrices in the neocortex
coalescing into a hierarchical system built on natural algorithms, where sometimes the most accurate
thought doesn’t join the matrix in the perfect order or shape… we’re imperfect to the extent we don’t
always choose the shapes that will ultimately bring us the most benefits… logical hierarchy is a system
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 149 -

of coincidence detectors… rules of simultaneity provide good examples of nature supplying logical
algorithms in its structure. How can we suspend a simultaneity?
         It’s interesting… if there was no free will, a biologically based, pure coincidence would require
the mind to structure itself for its own coincidences before the underlying event in the world occurs,
which would be impossible based on the sheer number of possibilities of coincidences on Earth. Logic
therefore, requires simultaneity to trigger a rationalization opportunity only, and a system of trial and
error that makes ‘learning’ and ‘deduction’ feel natural to the thinker… The cortex draws on
neurotransmitter information to react to the way nature provides positive and negative feedback, which
is why logic appears secondary to the trial and error process.
         To the extent that nature tries to find the simplest means to accomplish an end, homo sapien
logic makes sense because it’s the only way to get your cortical neurons to stop moving up and down
columns as often. So if simplicity is the reason for existence as we perceive it, you might be able to
suspend a physical state by using it’s own simplicity against it… lock it into a loop, maybe, where the
beginning is indistinguishable from the end.
         At that moment, Sarah sneezed and a small mustard seed from the bite of sandwich in her mouth
flung through the air across the table and onto Erik’s forehead, where it stuck. She tried to refrain from
laughing after it happened but found it difficult as Erik refused to wipe it away so that he could joke,
“Ya know… not only have I decided to keep this nondescript piece of food on my forehead for a while,
I’m going to name it Speck, which of course is after the amount of effort you used to cover your mouth
just then.”
         After his joke she walked over to him and pretended like she was going to wipe it away with her
napkin, but instead leaned in and ate the chunk off his forehead with wet lips, prompting him to tease
her, “Ahhh, you’re sick!”
         In response she made an innocent looking face with a comedic smile and quipped, “Mmm,
         After they both called each other weird, Erik continued along with his previous thoughts, The
brain is no more complicated than its associations, the ability to say ‘this is like that’… but if the world
is infinitely complex with possible predictions and experiences, then if you ask yourself what the
meaning of life is, you’re really just asking yourself what life is like, and ultimately, your answer has to
be ‘life itself.’ And even if you could calculate all possible associations, would you know the meaning of
life? Answer this, and you illuminate whether free will exists, which is interesting, but…
         Could the meaning of life be to convince ourselves of our own existence, because in doing so, we
perpetuate what does exist… that can’t be right? When do thoughts have nowhere to end but at their
beginning? Where can you execute a paradox upon the natural algorithms making up the universe? If
the answer were only in the human mind, then man would be destined to rule the universe, but if the
answer can be found in anything… then man is doomed for war over resources.
         Seeing the troubled expression in his eyes, Sarah questioned, “Hey, what’s up?”
         After a deep sigh he answered softly, “Nothin’… what are you reading now?”
         “Homes for sale.”
         “We just moved!”
         “I know… I’m just looking is all. Can’t stop a girl from looking-”
         “Oh I’ll stop you from lookin!” he excited as he swept her out of her chair and carried her
caveman style to another room. She fought back for fun.

       But alas, a buzz at the gate disrupted their moment. Erik put his shirt back on, and went to the
video control room in the den where he could see who was at the gate along the street. The facial
recognition software came up without a profile to match the woman’s face.
       He activated the intercom, “Can I help you?”
                                                                                 Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 150 -

       “I’m sorry, can you speak louder,” Yolandra replied, “I’m deaf in one ear…amorphosynthesis.”
       “Sorry,” Erik answered in surprise, “What can I do for you?”
       “I’m going door-to-door helping people with emergency preparedness, of the spiritual variety.”
       “Thank you, but we’re not-”
       “May I share with you one quote before I go?”
       “Sure,” Erik breathed out reluctantly.
       “I’m sorry?”
       “Okay, go ahead with your quote.”
       “May I pass the gate to share it?”
       “Well… if it’s just a quote, why don’t you just say it now over the intercom.”
       “The criers of the Mysteries speak again, bidding all men welcome to the House of Light….
Only the illumined reason can carry the understanding part of man upward to the light.”

                                           At The Edge of Ego

        It had taken a great deal of focused research from Erik’s team of scientists, but within their first
year at the new Nicaraguan laboratories, their work was complete enough to begin testing highly
invasive mind probes on chimpanzees.

       Erik daydreamed often about accepting something he promised he would not accept - public
recognition for his work. It was his fantasy to rise and accept the glory of mankind’s most prolific mind
       As it happened, though, keeping his own ego in check helped him develop the virtue of being
more sensitive to opportunities to control the exceptional egos among his recruits, especially the ego of
the youngest among the men, genius programmer Miles Bennington. Even his forehead was large.
Standing about five feet and eight inches, he was never the type to look different in a crowd, but
occasionally he looked handsome.

       Among the first critical tasks Erik assigned Miles was the analysis and reconfiguration of
honeycomb designs for every excitatory and inhibitory synaptic action in the brain. He hoped Miles
would discover a way to create a suspended state in the mind, “like nothingness,” a blank computer
screen waiting for instruction.

        Rivaling Miles’ confidence, another whom Erik realized was becoming increasingly self-assured
was Jimmy. Between the lifestyle of secret agent and his promiscuous and emerging relationship with
Sonia, he finally loves himself, Erik thought. One of the quirks that Jimmy and Sonia faced in their
informal union was that they agreed to have “a somewhat open relationship” when they were apart.
        Because she kept her job as a quality control inspector at Rider, Sonia worked out of Seattle for
the vast majority of each year, stealing data periodically from the Corporation to bring with her to
Nicaragua. And to accomplish such a covert task, she required a great deal of time, and a certain
quantum of trust from the mid-level managers. Thus, she allowed herself the liberality of sleeping
around with certain of the men and women at Rider.

        Having been cheated on in every relationship prior to Sonia, Jimmy came to grips with his
girlfriend’s affairs. She was an invaluable asset to the mission in Nicaragua, and she enjoyed talking
with him about technical matters, so he loved her. He believed also that she loved him back, because
she was willing to risk jail time to steal data for the mission. But alas, she was not in love. She only
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found the lifestyle of being a secret agent very exciting. Other than the occupation of ‘princess,’ it had
always been her dream to be an undercover operative.

        In the late winter months of 2156, several years after Erik had moved to Nicaragua, Sonia sent an
encrypted message to Erik on a scrambled line, “I’m in Chip Underwood’s apartment. Learned a few
things.” She typed the message in her bathrobe from the snowy deck of a cabin getaway. The ‘Robert’
she was referring to was a young Rider executive with whom she had been sharing a romantic weekend.

        She leaned over the cold railing, camouflaged with her environment as she waited for Erik to
respond to her message from across the world. Meanwhile, Robert, the young executive in the bedroom
behind her, slept naked under the covers, exhausted mostly from the red wine.
        “Like what?” Erik finally replied.
        “They know that before you left Rider, you and Jimmy tampered with some data under a pseudo-
filename with CEO classification status.”
        Erik took a deep breath. His wife laid beside him in bed, half-awake.
        “Okay,” he answered, “I need you to get onto Robert’s laptop… does he have it there?”
        Seeing it on the sofa in the bedroom, she answered affirmatively.
        “Tranquilize him,” Erik said.
        “Yeah,” she answered.
        With light feet she then tiptoed back into the bedroom and removed a miniature canister from her
purse. She slowly straddled him. He stirred in his slumber. She then discharged a burst of air from the
canister into his nose.
        When his head fell to the side of his pillow, she covered herself again with the blanket that had
been on top of him.
        She walked over to the hotel table and turned on his laptop. Then she wrote, “I’m in.”
        “Good. Deploy the virus that Jimmy put on your phone’s memory card.”
        The virus would search all the personal computers linked to Rider’s corporate office mainframes,
and copy any documents with keywords that related to the recruits after they left Rider.
        As she performed her tasks, she questioned him with nervous fingers still typing in code, “Erik,
should we be worried?”
        “I’m not as worried as I am befuddled.”
        She laughed at the choice of words.

        On the virus’ first sweep, Sonia found a memo written by Rider’s new Chief Executive Officer
addressed to a top Board Member who used to criticize Erik’s bravado. The report discussed Erik’s data
tampering and predicted that since Erik would likely be very successful in whatever he did with the data
he stole, it would be more advantageous for Rider to feign unawareness of the theft, then the corporation
could sue him later and collect royalties from his inventions. “Like an investment,” the memo

        Erik was incensed. But as Sonia calmed him down with her text messages, his analytical mind
prevailed. He remembered a nuance from the legal research he performed years ago while planning his
defection - Rider would lose the legal right to sue him after the expiration of a ten year statute of
limitations, which would at least begin to run from the time of this memo, since it was proof that the
corporation was aware of the theft.
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       After Sonia closed her secure connection with Erik, she closed the young executive’s laptop and
rebooted it. He would lay there on the bed for another hour, limp and drooling. She poured herself
another glass of wine and smoked a cigarette.

                                        Genesis of the Machine

        The first prototype brain probe created by Erik and his team in Nicaragua was designed in much
the same manner as Rider’s Neural Series Conventional-Style Mind Probe, including the three rings
encircling the subject’s head that received electromagnetic data from the multitude of SQUIDs
implanted in the subject’s brain. Once this electromagnetic data reached the rings, it formed magneto
and electroheological shapes by utilizing a series of micromachines located on both the inside and
outside surface of the rings. The micromachines therefore operated like an encoder system for parsing
out shapes. Under a microscope, these micromachines looked like thousands of small factories squished
together into metropolises.
        Each solid shape that was generated by the fluids in the rings around the subject’s head was then
moved through a series of gates to the honeycombs, where bit-by-bit reconstruction occurred before the
final phase, which Erik dubbed “creating a logical hierarchy.”
        This was done with adaptive programming. Separate sets of algorithms governed each stage of
brain reconstruction to detect patterns in such a way that the algorithms operating on the data received
from the probe could suggest new patterns to look for in the brain upon the happening of specified
events there. Thus, the longer the probe operated for a test subject, the better it would theoretically
become in reading patterns and making suggestions for more thorough probing.

       Even for chimpanzee brains, the supercomputers had an effectively infinite number of
combinations to postulate, so it was impossible for the programmers to fashion new algorithms for all
the possibilities. Instead, they used mutually consistent algorithms for each of the five primate senses,
and several overarching system algorithms.
       Jimmy said one day in relation to the complexity of their architecture-altering codes, “The thing
about adaptive software is that God could be helping us out here and we’d never know it because there’s
always a mismatch between experimental and theoretical variables. I’m not going to bank free will on
the mismatch, but it’s worth examining.”

        Every adaptive algorithm was designed to allow new data to fill in gaps left by old data, and to
correct itself. These algorithms were savvy advancements on what was done at Rider, but what truly
differentiated the Nicaraguan monkey brain probes from Rider Corporation’s human brain probes were
the adaptive algorithms being designed to interact with the brain on an electromagnetic level, to draw
out answers rather than simply read them.
        Erik affectionately called the interaction programs, “Tweakers,” and it was Erik who had the
final say on when the team would lock down their first Nicaraguan criminal into the probe for a Tweaker

       Erik described once to Manuel in great deal what the Tweakers were capable of inflicting as he
concluded, “they’ll wish they were never born,” but to his wife Sarah he was more temperate as he told
her only that some of the programs would feel to the criminals “like brain freeze on steroids.”

       By the summer of 2156, a few months after Sonia had hacked the computer of the young Rider
executive, Erik and his team of scientists were making rapid progress toward their goal of making super
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probes, especially in tweaking the Wernicke’s area of the brain to help propagate highly complex
thoughts in humans and chimpanzees. The R&D alone was worth an untold fortune.
        They were also developing artificial stages of reverse apoptosis as a way to enhance senses. And
in order to characterize a subject’s personal biases, the team studied inhibition and habituation
mechanics to better characterize how a test subject’s disregarding of unimportant things allowed the
primate to avoid exceeding his memory capacity.
        In effect, by making super probes, they were making super brains.

       The work was so time-consuming, it triggered Erik to worry about the amount of time he
devoted to his marriage. And so, one Friday in the summer of 2156, he ordered a half-day for everyone
and surprised Sarah with an early evening of dinner and dancing.
       However, unbeknownst to them, the Omniarch-trained stalker Yolandra was ready to execute on
her plan to capture the couple and whisk them away to a remote location where screams fell upon no

        Erik and Sarah sat at an elegant table for two at a fine restaurant in the country just as the sun
was setting beyond the window adjacent to their table. As they drank champagne, Sarah asked her
husband lovingly, “Do you think people need to be rich, or do we simply desire to be richer than our
        Tracking them, Yolandra was stationed in the park outside the restaurant, wearing a long black
coat, and listening to every word of their conversation with a sophisticated voice-locater.
        Erik answered the question pensively, “I think we live in a world where everything is relative.
But ask yourself… How rich is too rich? Or, can a person be more than healthy? At some point, your
excess is your downfall.”
        He tapped his glass of champagne to hear the ping.

        Their conversation continued into the night as they discussed emerging technologies, like
personal organizers that automatically record one’s daily life and feed back information on demand,
self-sanitizing rooms achieving full oxidation with titanium dioxide, interactive televisions allowing the
viewer to offer suggestions to what the character should do at the same time the character ponders the
question, beds made of fluids that change with the body’s demands, vacuum cleaners that instantly
analyze DNA samples, three-dimensional holograms walking around homes, and gravity and rocket
        Erik also described a paradox that might inhere in an ‘all-in-one’ device, saying confidently,
“Presumably the ‘all-in-one’ would have an invention machine inside of it, and the irony of the
invention machine is that it solves problems by creating newer and better solutions to assist man, but in
doing that… it automates human processes resulting in fewer and fewer responsibilities for man until
man is perfectly analogous to an inefficient battery, which the invention machine would then eradicate.”
        At one point, while savoring a chocolate mousse, she asked whether man might ever invent a
gravity gun to lasso asteroids, which Erik answered in the affirmative with a thoughtful, technical
        When they finally left the restaurant, Erik suggested a brief walk along a lighted trail nearby.
They were drunk, and quite affectionate.
        Yolandra followed them from the restaurant’s parking lot. Wearing a long black coat she ambled
slowly and carried a cane.

       Four hundred yards later, Erik and Sarah lumped down on a green bench. They smiled and held
hands until two agents of the Nicaraguan Secret Service jumped atop Yolandra and began to beat her,
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vigorously. Her tranquilizer gun fell to the ground and was immediately picked up by one of the agents
and placed into an evidence bag. The other agent handcuffed her, and yet continued to beat her.
        Erik and Sarah looked down the trail toward the commotion and decided to walk towards it.
Sarah silently reminded herself of the password for her electric ring. As they approached, one of the
agents took leave from the beating and identified himself to Erik as a special agent. He then said quietly
to Erik out of the hearing range of Yolandra, “Mr. Weathers, we’ll brief you as soon as we have more
information. In the meantime, if you wouldn’t mind allowing me to escort you back to your car …”
        As they walked back to the restaurant parking lot, Erik asked the agent, “Who was that guy?
What happened?”
        The agent responded as he continually scanned the area around them, “A woman actually. We
don’t know who she is yet. We found a tranquilizer gun, sir… she was walking behind you… then you
sat down… and she went into the bushes-”
        Sarah gasped.
        “Her picture is being processed as we speak, sir, and we’ll be doing DNA tests immediately.
We’ll interrogate her once we have more information to maximize the effect of our questions.”
        “Well, call me on my secure line when you do have any information.”
        “Yes, sir.”
        Sarah then asked, “Why beat him when he’s down if you don’t know who she is?”
        Uncertainty fell over the eyes of the agent as he answered, “Protocol, Mrs. Weathers.”

        When they were back inside their car and driving home, Sarah was rattled as she kept re-
imagining how close she and Erik had come to death or capture. It was yet another dangerous moment
that put her life in perspective, and later that night they held each other soberly and felt very human as
she cried.

                                      The Mindset Of Fanaticism

        The Nicaraguan government was not able to hold Yolandra in custody for longer than a few
hours before Omniarch swept in with a team of international lawyers wielding papers requiring the
release of Yolandra to the custody of United Nations. The legal papers required extradition on the basis
that Yolandra would receive a more thorough trial in America on more violent crimes committed there.

        The lawyers and the U.N. agents were all taking orders from Norbert Weishaupt, who was
Yolandra’s Omniarch handler.
        Years earlier he had trained Yolandra in the art of occult Merkabah meditation, telling her
“Astral mediums are nature’s way of letting us know we’re not alone. Now, visualize a double
tetrahedron shaped like a star around you, like I taught you.”
        “Okay, I’m there,” she whispered, struggling to hold onto the image with her mind.
        “Now join the edges of the tetrahedron, to create a cube. Imagine a fractal dodecahedron
surrounding that cube…”
        “Tilt it by 32 degrees,” he added triumphantly, waiting for her to feel the tune of balance in her
own head. He thought of ten phi spiral ratios as he said next, “Wiggle the dodecahedrons slowly and
you’re in tune with your own DNA, four-dimensionally!”
        “Is this supposed to make my toes tingle?” she asked.
        He didn’t answer, but only smiled deviously, acknowledging and enjoying an illicit feeling of
guilt pondering her facial response. He had taught her strange things about the connection between a
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person’s facial response and the geometric alignment of sacred objects in the environment around a

         And now, decades later, after having been captured by Nicaraguan secret service while operating
outside Omniarch’s instructions, Yolandra was back in America at the Weishaupt estate in Seattle.
         “My dear Yolandra,” Weishaupt muttered as he tapped his feet, “you know why I’ve called for
         “Might it be that I went outside protocol.”
         “Sweetheart, your words do not do justice to the severity of your actions. I’ve tortured men into
insanity for much less. What do you suppose you deserve?”
         Yolandra only smiled irreverently, “I deserve to make my defense before the one who gives you
         “Oh no!,” shouted Weishaupt. “He is not one you call, but rather, he is the one who calls you
         Just then, the double doors swung open with a crashing sound, and drenched in light was the
most beautiful creature Yolandra had ever set her eyes upon. Standing over seven-feet tall, and with a
muscular frame, he cast his steel-colored eyes upon the fireplace. It lit instantly.
         Weishaupt fell to his knees and whispered, “My Lord.”
         “Lucifer,” she asked optimistically, “where have you been all my life?”
         Shooting her only a cavalier glance he responded, “Going to and fro in the earth, and walking up
and down in it.” It was what she wanted to hear.
         Then, before Yolandra could even explain her rationale for seeking to abduct and torture Erik
and Sarah Weathers outside the ambit of Omniarch’s greater plan, the being drenched in light
commanded her, “Don’t speak… watch.”
         With a snap of his fingers, a three-dimensional hologram appeared in mid-air. Displayed were
various Omniarch activities throughout the world all leading toward the plan of world domination of
physical and mental resources. She watched the hologram for nearly an hour before daring to speak,
“Show me my destiny.”
         Immediately, the room was immersed in a fog-like smoke, and the fire waned. A few minutes
later, after the smoke had settled some, Yolandra discovered that only she and Weishaupt were now in
the room.
         Weishaupt imparted softly, “Come with me.”
         He led her down into his dungeon beneath the mansion. She had learned long ago not to resist.

       The next morning, Yolandra awoke in the same place she normally found herself after a mind-
probing session at the Weishaupt estate – in a bedroom. She wondered whether it was really Lucifer that
spoke to her.

        Erik and Manuel suspected that Yolandra was affiliated with Omniarch.
        At a special meeting in Erik’s Nicaraguan laboratory, Manuel predicted that the U.N. would
write his Justice Department a letter sometime in the near future claiming that Yolandra died of “natural
causes” before any trial in America.
        “You’re probably right,” Erik replied to the big man, “But just realize that Sarah’s rattled… I’m
rattled… my team is going to freak out a little.”
        Manuel nodded his head in understanding. And not knowing how to reply, he offered only, “I’m
        Erik responded, “Something has to change, Manuel… and at least the appearance of change is
crucial for my people to feel safe.”
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        Erik’s realism toward his near kidnapping along the trail made him question again whether God
was trying to stop him from doing something. And he supposed that the proper place to ponder this
question would be a religious structure. Something something something, he thought to himself
        Any religious structure would suffice, Erik rationalized that day, trying to maximize the statistics
of his landing a communication with God.
        It so happened that Erik was in his car when he made this decision, so he used the voice-
activated navigation system to find the closest house of worship, and followed directions there.
        The structure he arrived at stood in a poor neighborhood, as he saw it. Signs of decay were
visible along the road beyond fences. He told himself that the only way he could get himself to enter a
religious structure was by suppressing his natural confidence as a self-determined actor in the world.
So, during the two minute drive to his destination spot, although he thought multiple times about
backing out of the idea, he was able to suppress his rational mind by thinking the whole experience
possibly meaningless. All or nothing.

        In the parking lot he saw lamps aglow, although these were rendered meaningless by the daytime
sun above. He entered the structure skeptically, but once inside, after kneeling down on the ground
away from other people, he began to whisper aloud, “God, if you hear me or see me… I ask you now …
will you stop me or technology because you think something is leading to something bad, perhaps
        Some onlookers took notice of his words and approached him. He continued speaking as they
drew nearer, “Please send me an obvious sign.”
        A man then said condescendingly to Erik, “You must have faith.”
        With an ambivalent expression on his face, Erik answered, “Thank you for your interest in my
faith, but I choose to pray alone. I made a donation at the door in the box.”
        The onlookers were only a few, and they could only watch as Erik walked toward the exit of the
structure. The religious man pleaded as Erik walked away, “There is only one answer. Your donation
means nothing.”
        Erik heard the comment but did not turn around. He only stopped in his tracks. The man then
began to say loudly across the distance between them that religious war allows followers to copulate
with virgins in heaven and that his god demands praise and unquestioning loyalty. But Erik had
continued walking again, toward the exit, once he heard the word “virgins.”

        Outside of the religious structure he laughed to himself and felt a feeling of thankfulness for
being able to walk away unharmed. Freedom. But no sooner than he finished this thought he was
confronted at his vehicle by the same man, wearing a turban, who had just been speaking to him.
        “You can’t walk away,” the man said pleadingly with an authoritarian look in his pale eyes, “…
there is no escape for nonbelievers!”
        “Watch me.” Erik answered.
        “Are you a spy?” spit the man with an angry tone as he leaned over within a couple feet of Erik’s
        “I am not. Why… are you?” Erik answered.
        “If you do not believe, you die… did you know that?”
        “I know you want to believe that, and I’m not here to tell you you’re wrong. If you’ll allow me
to be a realist … how is it fair to have punishment for non-belief in the unproven?”
        “Punishment simply is.”
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        Erik asked, “Seems to be unfair law for a superior being in this universe to punish man for not
pleasing another with belief… I do recognize the principle of ‘doing no harm,’ but I don’t think belief is
important. Since from my perspective as another intelligent man forced to live on this planet with
everyone, no one can suppose anything about God. Do you like logical puzzles?”
        “Let me read to you.”
        “I’ll bet you’re fun at parties.” Erik joked.
        The man chose to look upset and offended rather than retort.
        Erik continued, “Alright listen, I’m sorry… I was kidding.”
        The man’s face turned stoic. He pride-fully gave his forgiveness with an expression.
        Erik suppressed a smirk, but continued, “The way I see things in life, you have four choices
about heavens and hells… you can believe in something and go to some heaven, or you can believe in
something and nothing happens, or you can believe in nothing and nothing happens, or you can believe
in nothing and something bad happens. So, two out of four choices means that you and I should be
allowed democratically to have freedom of belief… neither one can take it from the other… that’s a
natural law of the universe based on logic, and you can’t say I’m wrong unless you disprove the logical
        “You’re a coward not to obey the word of this book.”
        Erik then took a step back and said nervously, “Well I had more puzzles… but I have to go.”
        “First of all, that’s not an answer to the puzzle so I’m out of here, and second…”
        “I’ll hear you out if you sit down, obey my rules, and read my book.”
        Erik laughed righteously and said, “I’m not reading your book.”
        “Then GO TO HELL!”
        Erik replied, “You can’t prove I’m immoral just because I don’t follow your beliefs… which is a
reason to respect my freedom. I’ll give you three more reasons to respect me… first, self-sufficiency
honors God’s creation if there is a God, so you should be self-sufficient…. Second, balance is best
achieved through a free market of ideas… and third, it’s blasphemous to God for YOU to suppose God’s
will, especially for YOU to suppose that YOU could read God’s words off a page of paper.”
        “All who do not believe are the oppressors of the great will. It is written that if you do not offer
unquestioning adherence to the one code-”
        “Listen, it doesn’t matter what you say about your book…. you’re not going to convert me to
something spiritual without puzzles and paradoxes.”
        “You said you cannot suppose God’s will.”
        “Exactly… so you can’t tell me I’ll go to hell.”
        “But the book-”
         “Not everybody enjoys your book, live with it…. There are far too many unknowns in science
and philosophy for you to tell me your god is the only-”
        “Don’t say it!!”
        Erik enjoyed a long sigh, then he leaned back to relax and put his hands in his pockets as he said,
“You don’t respect my freedom to speak, and yet you don’t let me walk away … here’s what you need
to do … be normal… you need to say you understand that you respect my desire to act without breaking
the law. I’m going to walk away now and go live in the mainstream and enjoy positive human
experiences in the name of fun and happiness just being a human who is allowed by natural law to use
his imagination in a way that doesn’t hurt others. It’s because we’re human that we need tools to carry
out the imaginations we’re born with, so you might pick up a paintbrush, or a pencil, or a movie camera,
and be free to imagine away what’s out there unchained by rigid belief. The problem with rigid belief,
you see, is that it fails to distinguish between three different things you find in every religion, including
your religion - truth, experience, and mystery.”
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        The man took a deep breath.
        Erik continued, “This here may be the most important thing I have to say. It’s okay to admit to
yourself that God never wrote in a book and never told a human who He really is, or exactly and
precisely what He wants from you specifically and me specifically. So unless we know the precise who,
what, when, where, why, and how of every little detail of God’s will, we should exercise caution before
we go harm anyone with our beliefs. Because what I just said to you is what belief requires of you
before you may espouse it, that is, YOU personally must provide specific details of who, what, when,
where, why, and how, of every little fact before you may legislate anything holy, sacred, divine,
spiritual, metaphysical, godly, mystical or magical…”
        “Do you believe in evil?” the man asked, his face suffering the beginnings of disgust.
        “Yes,” Erik answered, but then laughed before offering what he thought would be his last olive
branch, “What I like about the mainstream is that it gets ideas out in the open, so people don’t treat a
holy book of stories like a test that defeats all other tests. I can give you tests you will fail so miserably
you’d be ashamed of yourself, so you know what that means for your book… I’ll tell you… it has a
competitor. That’s it… that’s all I’m saying to you… that’s all I need to say to you… so follow the rules
of competition… of free enterprise rights and free speech rights. Just be a law abiding citizen and-”
        “There is a higher law.”
        “Than?” Erik asked questioningly.
        “Whatever, we’re done talking.” Erik said clearly, defiant to the man’s religious zealotry.
        But as Erik walked around his open door, the man began to speak again, “Alright, just listen to
this one passage-”
        “The book again? C’mon, no reading to me, just the logic in your head.”
        “What don’t I get?” the man tried to reply calmly, showing some marks of anger.
        Erik then said, “Listen, just… all right… you’re supposed to wonder about the nature of man’s
desire to seek forgiveness, which arises from man’s recognition that there is something out there bigger
than himself capable of judging him. From this recognition, man analyzes the possible types of beings
that would have an incentive to judge him and his fellow man. His analysis of this question is his quote-
unquote ‘answer’ to the question of whether God exists. Faith is one way to fill in the gaps in one’s
logic. But ultimately, no one can suppose God’s will, existence, or anything about God. Whatever you
can rationalize about God, I can unrationalize and rationalize something else… We’ve both now said
that man cannot suppose God’s will, so I think we should just leave each other alone and not impose
laws based on what we think some being we’re calling ‘God’ wants us to do… are you going to keep
standing closer and closer to me the more I-”
        The man then took a step back.
        With his space now respected, Erik continued, “Faith is meant to be a positive construction of the
natural fear of the unknown. So by natural law, in order to prevent society from infringing on self-
realization and the pursuit of happiness, we must not allow anyone to mess with anyone else trying to
learn of the unknown just as long they follow laws designed to prevent people from physically harming
others or stealing from them.”
        “You just said a lot of things just there, but you do not speak of prayer and sacrifice… if you
understood the human condition that we are meant to serve and follow the word, you would see why we
have to praise the mighty one the specific way we do… the book is the only answer, which is why at the
holy altar on the second moon of Spring, we all must-”
        “I can’t talk to you seriously…”
        As the man stepped forward again and was again standing awkwardly close, Erik puffed his
chest out.
        “I’m a fighter for God.” The man excited as he spit in Erik’s eye.
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        Erik pushed him back and then said, “Listen … what if you’re wrong?”
        “Then, to die for God’s will is to die for God’s will.”
        “What the… You can’t go around imposing death sentences on people in the name of a god they
don’t believe in. The holy book you’re citing, if it’s really the final word, wouldn’t it be able to compete
in a marketplace of ideas? Why censure the competition by death or otherwise?”
        “That’s not true.”
        “I don’t know what’s true. I’m just telling you what I think from my experiences of what looks
like truth and what looks like mystery. I think probably the only reason your holy book says its okay for
you to be a ‘fighter for God’ is because a long time ago some people realized they personally weren’t
persuasive enough with scientific ideas to get others to follow them. So they just made people follow by
creating only one alternative, being condemned, in some instances with death, for breaking laws in the
name of what some prophet said. You know what I think about that kind of forced belief? Slavery! The
goal of mankind is to stop slavery, not-”
        The man then pulled a knife and took a swing at Erik’s face.
        Erik ducked the blade and shouted, “K-R-5-5-D.” The ring on his finger activated with a
vibration he could feel. Erik then faked a roundhouse kick to draw the man’s knife away from his body,
then he rushed in from the opposite side into a space within a couple feet of the man and jabbed him in
the arm. The turban fell to the ground as the man writhed in pain. Erik got into his car and locked the
doors. From his car phone he called the police and informed them that the cameras on his car likely
captured the event and would prove that the man had pulled the knife first.
        Where are my secret service? Erik wondered.

        This man who swung a knife with the apparent intent to kill was prosecuted and sent to jail for
five years - assault with a deadly weapon.
        In addition to chronicling the attack, the media also followed the man’s criminal trial in the
Nicaraguan criminal justice system. Several patrons of the defendant’s religion spoke out against his
pulling a knife. He was called radical mostly, and a zealot. But many of these same people said the
same as to Erik, for equating their holy book with slavery. Soon, Erik began to receive death threats.
Sarah made him go before news cameras to state that he was neither for, nor against, any particular
religion, but the death threats coming from radicals did not become more infrequent.
        The convicted man did not change his beliefs before being sent to jail, and indeed, prison only
made them stronger. He vowed to himself that he would murder Erik. And what troubled Erik most of
all about the whole situation was not the experience of having a knife pulled on him by a psychopath,
but rather, that in his own life as a secret agent he had broken the law himself in the name of science,
and was therefore lacking in righteousness for criticizing the radical religious man for breaking the law
in the name of his own purpose.
        Before facing reporters for the first time, Erik questioned of his wife, “I rationalize that I need to
use science to stop his crimes against nature in the name of God, and he thinks he needs to interact with
God to stop crimes against God. How can we coexist?”

        Between news interviews and the highly publicized trial, polls showed Erik had far more
supporters than foes, but there were enough foes that the barrage of hate mail he received placed him in
even greater fear for his life and for Sarah’s, which was a situation, just like the convicted man in prison,
that only increased his dedication toward building a mind probe to bring criminals to justice.
        All the media attention caused his work to suffer, but having served as Rider’s CEO for
seventeen years, he managed public scrutiny well.
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        Erik’s friend Damian Martel had long maintained a successful blog where he published his own
and others opinions on newsworthy events. So, when the trial made national news, Damian was
essentially required to comment. And indeed, he dedicated a special section in his blog solely to Erik’s
encounter with the religious man. In one of his first posts, Damian referred to the man as “the
oppressive religious zealot who tried to kill my friend for refusing to believe what some fanatic wrote
over a thousand years ago.”
        Damian also maintained on his blog a section devoted to denouncing organized religion. He cited
and explained passages of religious texts that he thought violated civil rights. It was his opinion that
when it came to religious laws, “One acts foolishly by tolerating so-called moderates who try to select
which passages of radical texts they will follow, because it’s these moderates who obscure that their
religion’s goal is to propagate unfairness in the name of divinity. We were ignoring real history when we
tried to pretend the founding Fathers of America weren’t slaveholders, and we ignore real history when
we try to pretend the non-passive religious extremists aren’t tyrannical. America was correct to
revolutionize itself by denouncing its slave-holders, all nations should start with new laws based on civil
rights after slavery.”

        It was September 22, 2156, on a rainy New York evening with brown leaves and oak trees lining
the street outside a Library fundraiser, that a suicide bomber gruesomely murdered Damian Martel.
Angelica was close enough to see everything and yet walked away from the building physically
unharmed. The news published photos of her observing the mayhem caused by the “religious fanatic”
who shook Damian’s hand as he said, “One God.” The red button at the man’s fingertips activated a
bomb strapped to his belt.
        At the somber funeral, Erik concluded his tearful speech with an unflinching demand for justice,
which Damian’s dad, Lawrence, repeated after giving a heartrending, off-the-cuff speech about
Damian’s successes in life, and how he championed three ideals, “fairness, liberty, and truth.” It was at
the funeral during her own speech that Angelica vowed to keep Damian’s blog operational. With tears
streaming down her face at the podium before hundreds of mourners she asked, “Can we coexist with
those who refuse to follow law? Why do we tolerate intolerance?” Thinking the questions rhetorical
was the most painful way for her to ask them.

        Afterwards at the funeral reception, Erik and Jimmy broke away from the gathering to take a
walk around the Martel’s backyard in Seattle, and eventually they settled down on a bench facing an
oversized photograph of Damian’s face. It stood on an easel in the garden.
        Angry at the unfairness of Damian’s death, Erik asked whether he and Jimmy, as scientists, had
any incentive not to tamper with flaws in the human mind in a world where fanatics were free to roam
the streets. He asked rhetorically, “When mankind’s weakest links can succeed in destroying its
strongest, where’s the objective morality?”
        Jimmy responded quickly, “Evolution demands anomalies. What if free will was born from
mutation? Sacrifices are … I don’t know… I don’t even feel like I have the will to rationalize this right

         After the funeral, Angelica went home to sleep alone in the bed she had last shared with her
husband. Five days after his death, she was ready for it now. She smelled his clothes for a long time
and lied in the corners of rooms. Thinking about all the damage caused in her life by the clash between
civil rights and religion she concluded, When you witness injustice it makes you intolerant of the person
who caused your pain, but when you do injustice, it desensitizes you to your actions against people.
         Consequently, as she was swept up in the vicious cycle of thinking how intolerance dominated
her existence, her state of mind was that she was ready to commit murder herself. Unwittingly, she told
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herself the same thing that the suicide bomber had told himself before killing Damian, that what she
really needed was a new beginning. Angelica wanted a mind untainted by the stains of religion and
politics, so she reached over to her bedroom nightstand, pulled out Damian’s pistol, and crying
uncontrollably, placed the gun inside her mouth.
        Only seconds later her telephone buzzed.
        The display showed Erik and Sarah’s telephone number so she answered. Erik too was crying in
between deep breaths. He called to tell her she wasn’t alone, that she’d never be alone. Angelica told
him candidly about the gun in her hand, and the thoughts that had brought her to that moment where she
said, “I want to die, Erik, because there’s no justice.” He responded quickly through his tears, “Angie,
don’t!” By explaining that Damian would be disappointed with her for actual suicide, but understanding
of attempted suicide, Erik talked her into putting the weapon down and coming to live with he and Sarah
in Nicaragua for a while.

        When Angelica arrived in Nicaragua, Erik introduced her to Manuel Torrealmo, and together
they explained their secret operation to build better mind probes for interrogating criminals, and for
several other uses. In her weakened physical and mental state, she was only moderately surprised.

        Angelica was relieved to have Sarah Weathers beside her in mourning her beloved Damian. In
those first few weeks they looked over photo albums and watched home videos a lot. The crying was
very exhausting for them, but still therapeutic. Whenever Angelica began to curse the suicide bomber,
Sarah helped her deflect her energy through a process of forgiveness designed to liberate and empower,
as she offered, “He was brainwashed by a book, baby… forgive him… only by forgiveness can YOU
release his grip on your emotions.”


         Since 2156, Nicaragua’s secret Intelligence Agency had been extracting criminals from local
prisons, mostly by framing suicides, then placing the yellow jumpsuit clad men and women in
underground cells to simply wait until Erik’s laboratory summoned for them. By 2158, this
underground and secret prison had amassed over twenty violent criminals in straight jackets.
         The prison warden hypothesized the straight jackets were necessary to prevent suicides. She
knew from psych testing reports that the criminals feared eye-for-an-eye justice, believing the
heinousness of their crimes would be wrought upon them personally in the underground prison.
         The Tweaker programs Erik intended to test on these criminals could fairly be characterized as
artificial intelligence, of a type that had already killed hundreds of monkeys. Most of the primates
became violently territorial in their cages. Indeed, for some of the very intrusive Tweaker programs
tested on the primates, their violent behavior manifested after only a single run on the probe.

         In September of 2158 the first human test subject was fitted with SQUID implants, brought to
the prototype interrogation probe, and strapped down for the purpose of calibrating the machinery of
mankind’s most invasive law enforcement tool yet developed.
         His psychological profile had already been studied by a specific subgroup within a team of
twelve neuroscientists, five psychologists, and five military attorneys now working in offices adjoining
Erik’s laboratory. The attorneys were useful for the scientific task of interrogating the test subjects
about their crimes, and the neuroscientists and psychologists assisted in organizing responses according
to their truthfulness in conjunction with the data known about each test subject.
         For the first subject they did not expect to obtain more than a handful of coherent answers before
rendering the man brain-dead. And exactly as predicted, the probe expired the man’s brain in less than
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twenty minutes. He was a violent pedophile whom Erik had personally selected to receive painful doses
of electromagnetism to his hypothalamus and mesencephalon in the calibration exercise.
         The subject’s last words before expiring from shock consisted only of him denying that he
deserved this type of punishment for his crimes. He threatened to haunt whomever was causing him
such “ungodly pain.” Watching the pedophile scream in agony, Erik thought, your only god now is
         Inside the cold room housing the probe, steam rose quietly from the corpse’s head as two
soldiers carried it away for disposal. And as Erik watched the soldiers exit the room, he purposefully
remembered how the subject had howled like an animal when the probe only lightly activated the nerve-
containing areas of his brain. This is only the beginning, Erik thought vengefully, and remembered
Allison. He still longed to find evidence leading to her killer.

        In subsequent runs of the Tweaker programs, subjects were tortured similarly. Erik kept them
strapped inside for so long in some cases, telling the attorneys which questions he wanted repeated, the
attorneys often had to take shifts in the interrogation to avoid feeling overwhelmed themselves.
Whenever the subjects were caught in an obvious lie it helped speed the interrogation process along
greatly. Accordingly, the attorneys asked many preliminary questions about things the test subjects
were likely to boast about - sexual prowess and intelligence. Since their personal hygiene habits were
also well documented, this area too was fertile ground for reliable questions.
        Many subjects developed pressure ulcers where they sat, begging to be let free. It was grueling
work for all involved as the adaptive programs slowly learned to outmaneuver the human brain’s
attempts to lie to itself.

                                           Balance of Power

       Vigorchium tired very quickly of listening to others espouse their religious views through the ad
hoc panels in which he was forced to participate. Indeed, when it had become apparent that the exercise
was resulting in diminished returns, the dome’s director, Dave Winston, ceased the activity.
       Vigorchium did not tire of field trips though. And indeed, the mall was his favorite. He
especially enjoyed eating unhealthy foods and shopping for funny t-shirts. Just as Lucy and Dr. Reese
had predicted, the field trip excursions were helpful psychologically.

        And so in the year 2158, following the recommendation of psychiatrist Dr. Reese, Dave Winston
approved Vigorchium’s re-entry into the Green Room.
        When Dr. Reese informed the savant that he would be allowed to reenter the “Simulator” on a
provisional basis, Vigorchium’s eyes widened to match his big smile as he said, “I’m actually glad I had
that time away because I think I really learned some useful tools. I feel stronger now about keeping
myself balanced, so… thank you.”
        Dr. Reese reciprocated the smile and offered in response, “Never forget how human you are,
because people at this dome have come to love and respect you.”
        “You speak as if I were mankind’s representative. But you should know that when you try to
reassure me of a particular psychology like that, you inevitably emphasize the possibility of
        The smile on Dr. Reese’s face quickly turned to a look of concern as he replied, “What
alternatives did you have in mind when you think about the Simulator?”
        “I see myself protecting the integrity of the symbols, for mankind or not.”
        “I believe I read a great deal on that in your notes. What’s the alternative to mankind?”
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         Vigorchium then responded quietly, “When I manipulate the symbols I can use math from the
physical elements that make up life on Earth, and that let’s me see why Earth is balanced, but when I
start making my own creative symbols to change that balance, a new equilibrium results and that can kill
us all.”
         “Can you kill us all?”
         “I don’t have the mind power to juxtapose a chain reaction, but if a computer could probe all
minds in the world at the same time, it could use the symbols to dictate a universal outcome.”
         Dr. Reese then asked, “Can you tell me why again you intend to respect other people’s mental
         “Because in a world where anything can be rationalized, in the sense of survival of the fittest, I
can’t say I’m right about anything… I can only say what’s powerful.”
         “What’s powerful,” Dr. Reese asked predictably.
         “Double penta dodecahedrons for one thing.”
         “Why is that?”
         “Imagine a city with twelve gates, three on each wall, and twelve foundations. The length, the
height, and the breadth of the city are all equal.” Vigorchium seemed to be lost in his own thoughts.
         “Have you been there?”
         “Once, but I couldn’t meditate without feeling guilty… like I wasn’t supposed to be there
because I just kept getting reminders of all the evil thoughts I’ve indulged in my life. It made me wish
for a new beginning.”

                                      Interfacing with Prediction

        By the year 2159, Erik and his team had developed a probe with lie detecting and thought
tracking capabilities so advanced that the supercomputers were suggesting highly incriminating thoughts
for the attorneys to use in their questioning.
        In one instance, the probe learned within only seconds of questioning where the subject had
concealed a murder weapon decades earlier. The subject attempted to argue the evidence was planted.
        The interrogation probe was designed to allow the questioner to read the subject’s thoughts in
real time speed during questioning, a particularly useful feature for law enforcement. The subject’s
thoughts were displayed on several unique monitors and user interfaces. Some monitors showed broken
language occurring to the subject at the upper levels of his neocortex, some had visual scenes, and some
had color-coded charts and graphs to show the subject’s emotional states. There was an interface that
also played the sounds occurring to the subject.
        The Nicaraguan organization that Manuel set up to be the business front to sell the inventions of
Erik and his team, was called Neural Network Solutions – or NNS for short. Erik and Manuel believed
that NNS would begin mass-producing the law enforcement probes as soon as feasible, with a target
goal of May 2160.
        Consequently, in December of 2159, NNS began preparing a marketing and public confidence
campaign that would emphasize the superiority of NNS probes to other interrogation probes on the

       Erik celebrated the completion of this law enforcement probe by taking a vacation with Sarah,
back to the United States to his old home in Chesterton.
       When they arrived at the airport they were greeted with long hugs by Erik’s elderly parents,
Michael and Charlotte. It was a cloudy day, but they went picnicking nonetheless.
       Erik announced proudly to them that the reason he was returning home for a month was his
team’s completion of their first highly invasive law enforcement probe.
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        With the assistance of champagne they congratulated him for changing the world. Not only was
it an invention that would bring criminals to “justice,” because of the fear of being probed it would also
keep the world “honest.”
        And yet there was an essence of hesitation in his parents’ enthusiasm, prompting Erik to ask, “Is
something wrong?”
        Michael answered in a reserved tone, “Well… there’s no good time to say it so we’ll just say it…
        Charlotte picked up her husband’s prompt as she responded, “Your dad and I have both been
diagnosed with a virus that mutates.” Erik shook his head in disbelief. Sarah began to cry.
        “How?” Erik asked through a quivering voice.
        “We don’t know,” Michael responded, “except that we were both infected within the last few
months, and the doctors think I contracted it first. Could have been a handshake or a scraped elbow…
we just don’t know.”
        They talked together for several hours at the park that afternoon, and despite his parents’
attempts to calm him, he felt ambushed by the world yet again.

                                     Exploring Hidden Horizons

        Back inside the Green Room, Vigorchium was stronger than ever analyzing the symbols.
Indeed, many of the solutions he discovered while maneuvering the Alpha Symbols involved shapes
corresponding to chemical reactions that NASA speculated could exist in other galaxies. And several of
Vigorchium’s shapes provided research leads for a better explanation of dark matter and certain anti-

        Vigorchium also explored the human DNA double helix as a good way to conserve wave shape
by keeping a set of wavelengths evenly spaced on a path through spacetime. He experimented with
DNA becoming a four-dimensional dodecahedron by spinning light into it. And light, when folded back
on itself, comes to know itself, he thought.
        As Vigorchium ratcheted dodecahedrons down a helical ladder, he found the result to be five-

        It was often so intense, in some instances the dome’s security officials had to enter Vigorchium’s
room to stop him from striking himself with his own fists.
        Lucy continued to exercise with him but changed her identification badge from “Meditation
Instructor” to “Life Coach.” Vigorchium then began to joke with people that he and Lucy behaved
sometimes as if they were “a bickering married couple,” and Lucy tolerated the joke on the theory that
what Vigorchium needed more than anything was someone to whom he could be held accountable, like
a spouse or a best friend. So she gave him a “friendship ring” and held his hand occasionally, both of
which made him feel happy.

       Vigorchium had learned to control his fainting spells by shutting down his thoughts with
meditation whenever he began to feel, as he described, “out of my body.” Consequently, Lucy was
praised for her intervention techniques and given a promotion to ‘Systems Analyst’ that allowed her to
recommend advancements in the Green Room.
       Her first recommendation was to change the rigidly uniform coordinate lattice that Vigorchium
could call into existence at anytime in his three-dimensional space. She argued it would be more useful
to have a coordinate lattice that was modeled after microtubules in the brain that adapted to his own
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perspective – distorting itself as he distorted himself. “Don’t give design rights to the program… give
them to Vigorchium instead.”
       She made her presentation over several hours in a meeting at the dome with Dave Winston. She
argued that the mind probe NASA was in the process of designing should incorporate her framework,
and Winston eventually agreed and passed along her reports to Marshall Quimby, the neuroengineer
leading the effort to build NASA’s mind probe with an elaborate shunting system that would assist in
the Green Room to prevent Vigorchium from killing himself with this thoughts. Quimby was
       The next day, he took a vacation and reported this new direction to his Omniarch handler,
Norbert Weishaupt, who enjoyed pushing bizarre ritualism onto Quimby. At the conclusion of their
session together, Quimby walked back to his car suffering soreness in many places, cocaine under his
fingernails, and also armed with a strategy to sabotage Vigorchium.

                                       Psychedelic Experiences

        The first test subject to suffer Erik’s wrath when he arrived back in Nicaragua was a transvestite
who had received a life sentence twenty years earlier for among things, drowning his children in a
bathtub. He was still unremorseful.
        As the Tweaker program began to probe the criminal’s mind, he described to the psychologists
that he was hugging himself into two dimensions where he sat in two different spaces, but the
dimensions were not cut in half on different sides of his body, he said, because they were moving
dimensions, “like two enormous balls bouncing around an extremely small room that change location
throughout everything I see.”
        The criminal described one dimension as being composed of shapes and sounds like webs of
lightning around him where everything he experienced was chaotic, and in the other the rule was silence
and flatness “like a forgotten echo.” Eventually these dimensions became what he said was “the
quadrant of reality I think I’m supposed to be seeing.”
         Erik rationalized that the subject’s sensation of hugging himself into two spaces was the
machine calibrating three dimensions for his neocortex, and the quadrant he felt was the delay in his
receiving of time as the fourth dimension, which could be rationalized as an error in man’s appreciation
of the true nature of spacetime. The webs of lightening that appeared on the monitors in the subject’s
mind were simplistic, Erik thought, but the fact that the man was already psychotic before he entered the
probe made the task of understanding his experiences a formidable challenge.
        The team was especially interested in the initial delay the criminal experienced in feeling normal
dimensions, and Erik engaged them immediately after the probing subsided for a moment on pause. “If
we separate space and time temporally,” Erik offered, “then we also separate out time spatially. This is
why the adaptive parametric equations must be looked at from as many confirmatory angles as we can.
Theoretically, when you analyze problems from different angles you make sure your angles can be
brought back to a base point. That’s checks and balances.”
        Erik then directed the probing to continue. The test subject described how he sat down on a dirt
field that had just been seeded. He began to dig into the ground and eat the seeds, which were already
covered with fertilizer, and he believed he knew the taste as fertilizer, which made him vomit. The
program was not written to bring about this result, but it learned from it.
        The next thing that happened in the criminal’s mind was that he saw the plants shoot their way
up into the air, making very loud noises and shaking the semi-dry earth on its plane, which the test
subject described with a certain curiosity as, “artificially static.”
        He felt his stomach expanding as the roots grew. Nauseous, the subject then tried to run to
escape the field, but the plants kept blockading him in, and lifting him up, and tripping him. But since
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there was no wrapping of his limbs, his movements were not otherwise restricted. Adding to the oddity,
right before his eyes he had a clear path away from the growing plants, but when he began to walk this
open path, the direction would become shrouded with more plants.
         The Tweaker program then twisted the criminal’s mind to make him stare up at the sky at the
color black. In fear, the subject looked down, but was confronted again by the color black through
amorphous shapes that looked like soil and shoots. As his brain searched for warmth in the blackness,
the artificial intelligence calmed his anticipation.
         Since he recognized his environment as dangerous he tried to close his eyes, but then the words
“black” and “seed” appeared to float through my fuckin’ face, he said to himself, horrified with his own
         Because the probe was forcing the subject to use his logic to recognize his own appreciation of
the scene, which he deducted was an aggression against him, he lamented himself for hurting himself. It
was evident on the monitors before the scientists that the subject was angry at himself for his reactions
to the dangerous plants.
         The subject repeated to himself, You need to run. Hide from it and run. Then, the moment he
recast his frightened and subtly aware gaze at the sky, objects began to fall down on him – bricks, keys,
flowers, bicycles, dead bodies. He was then afforded a moment’s peace, but soon the dead bodies came
down like rain. The ones that bounced up from the pavement stared at him, and they carried surgical
         When the machine stopped, the test subject felt his head spiral back to consciousness, like the
moment a formerly sleeping person realizes their alarm clock is in fact an alarm clock. But there was no
noise to be heard except the sound of his own vomiting.
         A wicked smile was found on the face of Erik Weathers as he glorified the moment of bringing
justice to the criminal, who had himself used surgical tools once in one of his heinous crimes. But Erik
also told himself that beyond making a horrible person experience horrible pain, his greater goal was to
create Tweaker programs that wrought great psychological hopelessness… The deepest pain imaginable
connected to fears of infinity and ultimate justice.

        The next day, a different Tweaker program was tested on a different subject. The man found
himself to be his own hands, which quickly became mirror-like. At the moment he realized he was
unsure whether he was himself or a reflection of himself, he recognized that he feared becoming
callused, but as soon as he deliberately recognized this fear, it became his reality as hard skin formations
coalesced all over his hand-like person.
        The three-dimensional box he found himself inside there added to his confusion since it too was
constituted by mirrors that engaged him as they appeared to breathe by closing in and then letting out,
only to breathe in closer. As the mirrors drew frighteningly closer, he grew larger.
        The goal of this computer program was to calibrate the man’s thoughts about his perspective of
his magnitude. However, claustrophobia was interfering with the obtaining of pure readings that were
supposed to characterize how he would use certain neurotransmitters to reassure himself of some
constancy in his size and dimension.
        The subject opened and closed his eyes often, but this only operated to blink the scene
uncomfortably since eye patches already covered his eyes. In his mind, his face eventually became a
mirror looking diagonally at another mirror, and only in one image down a row of mirrors could he see
his actual face and not his hands. Everything was blood-soaked. To the dismay of the scientists, at the
sight of his bloody self, the subject sitting down in the probe wore a smile.
        For over one half hour this subject twisted his thoughts around the mirrored room, and at one
point, the room had no ceiling, and he was confronted with a single star in the sky. It pierced the cover
of his eyes and illuminated his body with warmth, and he perceived what he described as time floating
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through himself in a way that allowed him to go backwards in time, or what he thought was time, and he
believed there was a truth of nature within himself in that regard, but he could not describe why. The
Tweaker program had been continually activating his Wernicke’s area to emphasize the conclusion.
         As a result of the forced logic, the subject zealously reiterated by repetition the concept in his
mind of the bright and multi-colored star, which allowed him to stop himself from moving forward with
time. I am a piece of time, he thought. And since he did not want to speak out loud while strapped into
the machine, the psychologists had a difficult time getting him to answer their questions, such as, “How
does the star change your perspective of yourself?” and “What do you want to do to the star?”
         When the mirrored-room disappeared, the subject found himself floating slowly in what he
thought was a time warp of light. His eyes were closed and he was trying to will his body toward the
star, a feeling he propagated mainly by his intrinsic knowledge of gravity. But the artificial intelligence
was vastly overwhelming so that when he blinked deliberately, he found himself now encased in rocks,
and the rocks began to fall on his head. He then began to believe his head was a magnet that attracted
rocks, and so he panicked, sending what was an already high blood pressure up to 210/100.
         The medics watched carefully, but were instructed not to intervene.
          Some of the rocks fell through the subject’s body, but others bounced off him, and he tried to
catch them with his hands, but then his head became a hand again. And then rocks poured in from every
angle, some of them contained words and symbols, as he thought, The rocks are like time. Time and
matter. What am I? Time or matter? When the rocks stopped falling he lay still, floating within an
enormous pile of them, and then he felt that he became a dark, jagged volcano, consuming an unknown
force within his own epicenter, like a pulsing ball.
         And then, just as there had been rocks everywhere, the volcano burst, and then there was lava
flowing in his veins. By activating the association areas of his brain, the subject easily related what he
thought, rocks and hands, lava and rocks and hands and mirrors. Repetitively he began to draw
conclusions about himself having the qualities of these objects as important analogies to his life’s well-
being and purpose.
         He felt his skin burn, his chest felt like the mountainside to a haunted volcano. Feeling pain he
believed he needed to scream. When he began to scream in the laboratory, the probe forced his thoughts
into an abstract thought of pain which dominated his consciousness, submitting it into silence. Then he
viewed a fiery-like animated hand floating in lava and reaching for objects on land.
         He began to scream again, and Erik said, “Let him scream.”
         The subject then became the hand in lava he had just been looking at, which was the result of his
hyper-associative thoughts taking his mental appreciation of the pain and bringing him as close to it as
he could tolerate. Cruel and unusual punishment, Erik rationalized.
          As the subject experienced an awareness of himself at the epicenter of pain, like the animated
hand he had just been watching, he too could not reach anything on land from his river of fiery lava. One
word burned in his mind, HELL! Indeed, as a giant floating hand, all he did as he floated painfully
through the lava was angle in different directions like a spinning top looking helplessly at the sky. Then
rocks and lava poured together again from the sky above him. After several minutes, Erik then said,
“Ten second break.”
         The subject closed his eyes to numb the pain, as he found himself back in the room of mirrors as
himself. His body was still burning and tingling from the recent pain. He told himself at that point that
he would do absolutely nothing to leave the room of mirrors, that he would rather look at himself in the
mirror forever than reenter that place of pain. But ten seconds later, the rocks and the lava came again.
He worried about bleeding or burning to death, but after two hours inside the machine, the only injuries
for which the medic needed to immediately treat the man were bloody and tearing orphuses. The broken
blood vessels in his eyes helped pronounce the fact that the criminal was now significantly more
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inhumanely psychotic. The room fell silent as the test subject listened to his own heart beating. He
would be questioned and then euthanized.

         Subsequent runs of stronger Tweaker programs did not have gruesome or harsh components at
all, but rather reached surprisingly docile levels, and eventually pleasurable levels as the adaptive codes
began to educate and entertain subjects.
         One particularly violent criminal was given the greatest experience of his life when inside a
Tweaker designed to make the subject experience dramatic scenes that led him to the conclusion that he
was reading the minds of the scientists probing him. Erik dubbed the program “Irony.”
         After that experience the same man was given a program where he imagined on a dinner table a
hot fudge sundae with surreal toppings constituted by what he thought to name, faceted chasms of
opposing and supporting spacetime and dimensions, in a lattice. It beckoned to all of his senses to be
eaten. The subject said it was beautifully delicious, intricate, dynamic, and colorful. Also on the table
as he consumed this dessert were spinning globes with miniature three-dimensional individuals on the
surface of the globe canoeing in the ocean as they told jokes to him.
         Subsequently he was tested with Tweakers to see how far the machine could take his orgasms. It
was the most excruciatingly awful pain of his life.

                                         A New Consciousness

        “Imagine reality,” Erik said on the day he allowed one of the psychologists, Brett Carlyle, to
experience a “very tame” Tweaker program for a few minutes that would allow the man to experience a
mostly animated scene to entertain him, after which, the team would study his case.
        In response to Erik’s suggestion that he should “imagine reality,” the young and optimistic
psychologist replied, “That’s a contradiction.”
        Erik quickly retorted, “Think of any mechanisms you can where it makes sense.”
        The psychologist nodded his head before it was strapped down into the probe.
        The first thing Brett saw were his legs stretched out on a comfortable, familiar reclining chair
situated unassumingly in the middle of a strawberry patch on a beautiful day. He felt safe. The chair
was crisply detailed since the Tweaker program had incorporated one of the psychologist’s home videos.
Brett was given a few seconds to adjust in his comfortable recliner before the scene before him began to
sharpen. The sharp edge, he thought, searching for a way to describe the realism of his perspective.
Erik had told him the phrase once.
        Brett then saw standing upright and swaying together in the wind, but passively, colorful flower
buds that looked like short wands with orbs for heads. Then the flowers could only watch in envy as
two plants coalesced from strawberries and then morphed into human figures made from nature, one
male and the other female, with leaves embedded beautifully in their skin, and eyes like blue fountains
pouring over golden and white stars. Their mouths were very humanistic as they smiled at him, which
he found beautiful, and the female winked at him before she began to dance colorful and intricate
rainbow shapes, like galleons and engines, out of the soil beneath her feet. He found it interesting that
her feet were made of pebbles that rolled with anatomically correct mechanics. It interested him that he
knew so readily these mechanics. The artificial intelligence was very pleasing, he found.
         Meanwhile, the male figure was attempting to gain Brett’s attention by performing magic tricks
as he spun himself with a stationary cartwheel motion into a perfectly realistic-looking walnut shell with
rings of light orbiting its circumference like a galaxy. As the walnut orbited a path before Brett’s eyes,
it became a planet and Brett took a moment to carefully observe vesica pisces shapes all over its surface.
Seeing a combined icosahedron and dodecahedron of equidistant lines, he was observing land masses on
the surface of the planet expanding along spiraling, radial pathways. And even among these scenes he
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noticed double tetrahedrons. As the electrical and magnetic fields ran perpendicular to each other across
the surface of the world, a spiral connected them, and the Vesica Pisces shapes were circumscribed as
light bouncing up from the planet’s surface.”

       Jimmy turned to Sonia in the control room as she watched the monitors, “See that really cosmic
looking planet with the Vesica Pisces shapes on its surface. That’s a really special thing, trust me.”

        Then the planet began to dance in and out of its own reflection, with rings of light swirling in a
circular motion that appeared to create a ripple in spacetime at the epicenter of the motion, like a portal,
Brett thought, as he admired the elaborate and colorful symbols carved into the perimeter of the
concentric rings of spiraling ripples. Then the male figure emerged from the planet at the top of its own
corkscrew-shaped vortex, holding a mirror, which Brett looked into to find himself surfing an array of
interchanging colors, of all hue, temperature, energy, emotive ability, reflection, refraction, texture, and
affect. This probe also encouraged him to enjoy synaesthesia, the mental impression of fused senses,
but the AI did not force this condition on him. The colorful sound wave had brought him out of his
chair in the strawberry patch and onto a six-foot surfboard in a clear water ocean inhabited by a diverse
ecosystem. The details were amazing, he thought. Above him in the sky he saw the two figures flying
again together, harmoniously, occasionally becoming one as they hugged. Then he looked down at his
surfboard and saw his own reflection.
        Brett rode the waves expertly as if he were in the ocean, which he was surprised he could do.
Like artwork, a surrealistic golden galaxy met the edge of the water’s horizon. He did floaters and
aerials along the way to it, knowingly trying to impress the intelligent creatures that swam and flew
around him, and eventually he surfed the sound waves directly into a diamond wall that represented the
end of the ocean, but as he reached the wall, he felt a tingling sensation all over his body and found
himself teleporting back to the beginning, through a vortex-like tunnel, unfolding flaps of circuitry-like
putty that continually morphed into new patterns, propelling him backward through a feeling of
spacetime. From this web of putty emerged next what looked to him like another dimension in the form
of a colorful particle cloud, opened in the middle like a hole in the continuum pulling him inside. He
could not see the two human-like figures inside the cloud’s colorful spiral, but he did see other
interesting shapes, and he felt as though the figures were inside, so he went in willingly.

        Then he was awoken by the technician applying a wet rag to his nose to wipe the blood dripping
down. The first thought he had in his ordinary conscious state was MORE! Brett described his fifteen-
minute experience with the Tweaker program as “the single greatest thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Jimmy and Miles congratulated themselves for work well done as they described to Brett what they had
programmed, including the application of artificial visual cones beyond red, green, and blue that
enhanced the color imagery in his mind.
        Later that day, Brett spoke of how wonderful the experience made him feel, which prompted
Erik to ask, “What could have been better?”
        Brett simply shook his head as he pondered the question, “Uhmm…”
        Erik answered, “Take your time.”
        After several minutes of deep thought, Brett answered that he wanted spacetime to feel more
        “What do you mean by tangible?”
         “Tangibility would be my ability to simply BE the wavy dimensions I’m operating upon, or
standing in… it’s hard to describe it. It’s like a frame of consciousness, the one limited frame of
consciousness or moving, like a movie… innate perception defines the movie for you, three-dimensional
based on neural sensitivities to the elements. Although time and perception tend to define each other in
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the context of one thought per frame of consciousness, ad infinitum, and that fixed state makes you wish
you could stretch your body in time and space, human existence, even though locked in the perpetual
limitation of ‘now’, is not un-impacted, and even though life seems destined never to be understood, that
just makes NOW that much more important. But even still, I want more power to become part of a
tangible scene that gives me the power to see more than just now. I liked that fairy by the way.”
        Brett paused to think again, but from the ideas he had articulated so far, Erik propelled an idea
about free will as he thought to himself, I’ve always been trying to think outside my existence to avoid
feeling locked, so immeasurably locked, in one ever-present moment of time with all this fixed matter.
For a machine to get more out of time and matter it needs to create an opposite and corresponding
reaction to ‘now,’ like for every gain, a real sacrifice. So the more free will you have, the more disorder
you can cause among the universal laws. But which laws?
        He sensed some strange attraction to remember the symbols on the test he had taken in high
school with Jimmy.

        After Brett said he didn’t have anything else to say, Miles asked him to describe the feeling of
the variations of smiles he had written. The answer was simply, “Like wearing faces.”
         Redirecting the conversation Erik then said, “What would be a real sign of beauty in the
universe is if there were some sign within itself that guaranteed free will even in spite of all the
interferences that disrupt our abilities to decide our destinies.”
        Brett offered in response, “That’s maybe a contradiction… you can’t choose your destiny.”
        Erik smiled and replied, “Don’t underestimate the reality of perspective because with a
conducive environment, a species can reach any number of outcomes. So don’t get locked into thinking
you’re separate from your environment or that things are static. Did you know, Brett, the universe
accelerated faster than the speed of light utilizing gravity in the moments after the big bang?”
        Brett replied in the affirmative.
        Erik then leaned back in his chair and said, “The only constant is that you must do something
with the energy you have, but it doesn’t seem to be that things are static such that destiny is fixed or that
you can’t choose an outcome. Some laws of the universe, like how gravity plays out on earth, come so
natural to us we think we act with pureness by following their dictates in familiar circumstances, which
we analogize to being care free and acting justly. But it’s interesting that without clarity in our laws, our
psychology loses meaning as lines blur. And although we can argue that blurred lines of morality are a
sign that man is complicated, I think it’s more accurate to say that clarity is more intricate than anything,
because perfect order requires perfect tension between massive forces.”
        Taking some initiative Brett then offered, “It’s also interesting that free will is evidenced in
quantum improbability. What we can deduct from the fact that we consciously make so little everyday
use of quantum effects on our macro scale is that too much improbability would lead to disorder.”
        “That’s good,” Erik replied with a coaching voice, “And that fact would be a somewhat
demoralizing matter if not for the observation that small things can pack a large punch if -”
        Brett then interrupted, “Like the big bang example.”
        “Exactly,” Erik answered, “So, we have to ask about the most effective way to use quantum
improbability for a macro scale effect.”
        “What’s the answer?” Brett asked.
        With an enthusiastic smile, Erik responded, “Take away everything you possess that’s at the
whim of the elements you know…. For what would you use your free will… or, with what would you
measure out a feeling of nothingness?”

                                             Manuel’s Letter
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                                                                                             - 171 -

        It was May 3rd, 2160 when Neural Network Solutions, the Nicaraguan front organization for
Erik’s secret operation, announced to the media that it had designed a more advanced probe for use in
law enforcement that would be mass-produced for sale in approximately six months. The news met the
world with an air of conflict since it was uncertain to what extent governments would utilize this new
and reportedly better probe. Although NNS said they would not speculate on a set price for the probe,
order inquiries abounded anyway, as the overwhelming view of the populace was that the invention
would help restore balance to societies clouded with criminality.
        Dave Winston had known for several months, courtesy of a CIA report that the organization was
developing such a probe. They knew that Erik Weathers and several former Rider scientists worked in
        The CIA speculated in its report that because of the probe’s promised effectiveness, the
Nicaraguan organization had likely used illegal testing techniques in order to perfect its ambitious
design, and Winston knew from prior reports that it was not the only nation to do so. Germany,
Australia, Japan, and Egypt were also suspected of sequestering criminals for experimental probes.

        Then, only one month after NNS unveiled the law enforcement probe, Manuel Torrealmo
suffered cardiac arrest and died in his sleep at the Presidential Palace. He had left a letter to be delivered
to Erik in the event of his death.
         After Manuel’s funeral, Erik read the handwritten note at his home with Sarah by his side. It

        Dear Erik, Be proud of your creations, son. Since you are reading these lines, I am no longer
able to assist you in your efforts, but if you will please respect my last wishes, I implore you to follow
your moral conscience of helping mankind, not by seeking to homogenize cultures through
brainwashing probes, but to enhance the human condition in the truth-telling utopia we discussed so
many nights over scotch. Forever grateful, Manuel.

       The letter saddened Erik in a way that helped motivate him to continue his work.

         According to the Nicaraguan Constitution, an election for Manuel’s successor would be held in
less than a year. The frontrunner was a highly liberal, career politician named Horatio Zeeman, whom
Erik reasoned would likely be opposed to any continuation of his secret brain probing laboratory.
Manuel had told Erik once that Zeeman was somewhat of a loose-canon but was able to maintain
Omniarch connections nonetheless.
         Zeeman’s Omniarch ties began with his desire for a solution to world weakness and instability.
As he gained political power and thus greater access to information, he came to believe that aliens and
supernatural forces were governing earthly affairs, and this affected his conclusion, If world domination
by Omniarch is the only solution, so be it.
         And yet, Zeeman was savvy enough to know that Omniarch had more than one story, and no one
truth. It is what your passion is, from industrialism to sorcery.
         He had given up hope on everything but himself, and as it happened, turned to his vices for

        Manuel’s immediate successor, however, was Manuel’s vice president, an interim appointee who
stated privately to Erik that he would not interfere in any manner with the lab.
        Although Erik told his team they would continue writing in Nicaragua new Tweaker programs
for education, entertainment, and medical applications, he secretly began implementing a contingency
plan to bring their laboratory operations to another government in the event that Nicaragua’s next
President refused to cooperate.
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
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                                               No Shame

        In July of 2160, while creating an entertainment-based Tweaker, Erik gave Jimmy, Chuck, and
Miles the job of developing algorithms to enhance the ability of the subjects to think smartly while
experiencing shameful activities, but without actually feeling the shame. Consequently, the criminals
who were summoned from the underground prison to be test subjects for this research were those who
had previously practiced occult rituals, and who refused to repent.
         The team studied such avenues as lobotomy trials, blocking shameful thoughts from passing
through the corpus collosum to isolate them in their respective lobes, and blocking retrograde
        “Psychologically,” Erik said, “one goal is to decrease shame by making the subject feel as
though his relative impact on the universe is meaningless and that anything can be rationalized where
ultimate outcomes in the greater sense are uncertain.”
        The former biologist, Chuck Fleischman, responded, “Not only is this perhaps one of the most
difficult tasks we’ve faced so far, this might be morally objectionable.”
        Erik took offense, and defended the research, “What’s moral is what natural law dictates. This
task is necessary in order to prevent the subject’s shame from impeding the scientific goal of obtaining
the computer’s realization of important learning objectives, especially in the subjects with logically
oppressive upbringings steeped in violence and ritualism. Every man who commits a crime is faced
with a situation where he needs to rationalize his bad behavior or repent. In one scenario the criminal
believes his prior crime is a learning experience because he believes there is such a thing as a new
beginning. But in another scenario, the criminal wants to rationalize that he can use his bad behavior as
a tool to accomplish some personality trait or other goal. In the latter case, the mission of natural law
and of psychology has been unaccomplished. So, if two rationalizations accomplish the same goal, and
only one of them is good, then… the law must dictate the proper outcome.”
        Chuck interpreted Erik’s comments to mean that they would program the Tweakers to emphasize
a new beginning. Having a theoretical mission legitimized what Chuck otherwise thought immoral,
because in Chuck’s mind, justice cannot exist without shame for the unjust.

        And so, to assist in the exercise of decreasing the subject’s appreciation of shame, Erik ordered
that one of the subjects actually have his corpus collosum removed surgically before being probed. At
one point the subject envisioned in what appeared to him as his right eye, large objects, and in his left
eye, many identical objects. Due to the removal of the connecting tissue, the hemispheres of his brain
interpreted these objects differently, and reached different logical outcomes. Consequently, Erik
deemed the exercise a relative success, and requested a more detailed program for suppressing activity
in the corpus collosum. Chuck questioned whether the exercise was a real success since the subject had
imagined himself shining a knife before his face, twisting his wrists slightly back and forth to scan the
image of his face in the reflection of the knife, and eventually stabbing himself in the head.
        Chuck argued, “He didn’t want to stop until he could recognize his own face definitively in the
knife’s reflection. That was psychopathic behavior, not success.”
        Erik agreed with the comment as stated, but emphasized that they still learned a great deal. He
added that they would be conducting more extensive surgeries that would allow them to learn from
forward and reverse apoptosis and myelenization how to create superhuman senses and how to create
environments that allowed subjects to relearn basic physical laws using different and unique sensory
connections through underutilized brain regions.
        Erik also offered as a suggestion that because humans frequently feel less shame in their dreams,
they could force a subject into a sleep state, and then wake the person up intermittently to confuse their
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reality. Erik said to his scientists during one creativity meeting on the subject, “It’s interesting… if this
works, we’ll have to ask whether we can also tap into a stronger willpower using the same techniques?
Just think… if someone’s intention can become bigger than their body by relying on important universal
connections through the fundamental laws, they can access different sizes and speeds of thought,
engineered thought connecting them directly to their environment, like gravity is forceful enough to
break the speed of light on the microlevel, but comparatively uneventful on Earth… so we tap the mind
into the right set of laws and mix up our parameters and anything is possible.”
        Jimmy then said ominously, “Overcoming free will would make our jobs easier because we can
get them out of these ruts where we’re learning nothing really other than the subject’s biases.”
        Erik nodded his head but reminded himself of a question -Who knows whether free will or the
absence of it leads to chaos?

                                               High Fantasy

       Since Erik was well aware that his time in Nicaragua might be limited, following President
Manuel Torrealmo’s recent death, he ramped up the intensity of the brain probing operations.
       In one Tweaker program the subject imagined foreigners playing baseball incorrectly by singing,
cheering, and poorly tossing the ball. They had started their baseball game by throwing the ball weakly
onto the ground from the stands. “Do you want some cheese” was said relevantly amidst the bases. It
seemed too illogical to the subject for him not to be dreaming, so the subject assumed he was dreaming.
The probe maintained his assumption. Erik deemed this exercise a success as well because the machine
succeeded in supplanting the man’s logic into believing something absolutely ridiculous.

         Programming highly invasive Tweaker code and reading minds provided the most enlightening
experiences of their careers. Charlie, who was normally depressed, said that reading subjects’ minds
was uplifting. The next day over ice cream, at the end of a creativity meeting, Erik got to talking
pensively with some of his team members - Charlie Smith, Jane Milton, Jimmy Tripp, and Sonia
Jimenez. He asked them whether they wanted to live in the type of society where criminal activity
actually decreased because people were given the means to act out perverse fantasies inside a mind
         Sonia answered first as she said, “That’s why we’re all here building an entertainment probe,
isn’t it? We think the world is going to be a better place because of an outlet for negative things. I think
we make a more natural world because people don’t have to hold back, which is ironic that it would be
natural to use a machine… so maybe I’m analyzing this wrong.”
         Jimmy spoke next, “I don’t know so much now… I know our view is pretty fucked up since
we’re psychoanalyzing psychopaths, but what we know so far is that these probes are the most addicting
thing ever…”
         Jane then offered, “Well, I agree I think it depends on the person… from a positive
reinforcement perspective you can get someone thinking it feels good to act out their aggressions,
especially how we’ve been suppressing regret and shame in some of those ‘Class F’ Tweakers. Don’t
get me wrong, the programs are beautiful, but mankind is far from it, so we can’t pretend that we’re not
giving positive reinforcement to bad behavior.”
         Jimmy then chimed in again, “That’s what I was going to say too, that it depends on the
person… we’ve talked about video games where you’re supposed to kill people. If you’re a good person
you treat the game as part of your worldly education, maybe it even helps your eye-to-hand coordination
as it helps you fit-in with your social group that also likes the game, and because of your balanced
education and enhanced eye-to-hand coordination you go on to become more normal… it just depends
on the person. This question is similar to the stereotype that victims of abuse are more likely to become
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abusers themselves, which makes us ask whether having that stereotype ultimately reduces crime. All
we can say about that is that we don’t know, so maybe that’s what this comes down to.”
         Sonia then offered, “The greater the temptations that you can overcome, the more you’ll feel
invested in your own naturalism.”
         “Yes!” Erik replied as the others nodded their heads. He then added, “That’s the thread.”
         Jane said next, “But do we have to create the devil just so we can avoid it to feel good about
ourselves?” Seeing her four colleagues were speechless, she then said, “We’re enabling brains to reach
pinnacles that’ll end up illuminating the very meaning of human purpose. We’re allowing people to
define their own culture… we’re making dreams come true. That’s how to characterize that it’s not a
bad thing, but if you want it to characterize it badly, then you’re enabling devilish behavior. There’s no
right answer absent the context of a person’s individual psychology.”
         Erik answered her stoically, “To the extent technology is a tool of suicide, also, it can be a bad
thing, regardless of the devil, not that that’s not relevant…but…. How about to the extent natural
adversity is what makes us who we are…. Or because innocence is fragile? I don’t have an answer… but
I like to ask the question so we stay mindful that we’re playing with fire here… let’s be careful we don’t
believe our analogies are perfect copies… which I think let’s me agree with Jane and Sonia.”

        When Erik went home that evening, Sarah confronted him with the question of whether he would
ever use a Tweaker program to relive some alternate past with Allison.
        “Whoa!” Erik pleaded in response to her, “If I use an entertainment probe, baby, you’ll know it,
okay. Are you questioning that again? You can question me about this with a lie detector, if you like.”
        After a long sigh she said, “Tell me again why you wouldn’t want to go back to her even once.”
        “I’ve spent too much energy making sure the past stays where it is, so I’m not going to use a
time machine to undo nature’s blessing that time heals all wounds.”
        “But why wouldn’t you go back to her to relive some happy moment?”
        Erik answered quickly, “Because there’s no way to separate good from bad when bad is
inevitable.” His face saddened, then they hugged.

        Since she accepted his explanation, he changed the subject of their conversation to a Tweaker
Program that he and Jimmy were writing for themselves called “Dark Angel,” where the user would get
to imagine himself physically punishing criminals for their transgressions. The program would assist the
user by presenting in movie-like format part of a popular animated story line whenever the user’s
imagination failed to supply the necessary creativity to propagate a scene designed to end in a variety of
comic book fables depending on the characters and punishments.
        Many scenarios, Erik told her, would end up in situations where communities feared the user and
called him a “dark angel,” because in interacting with those he destroys, he must learn, associate with,
and judge them, and therefore he feels a sinking emotional hopelessness which he will believe can only
be cured by more destruction, such that he believes he must sacrifice himself, emotionally, to do justice
by saving mankind from itself.
        In several hours around the house, Erik described with great enthusiasm a series of unfolding
plot lines, and how he and Jimmy had programmed maxims from some of history’s greatest minds to
supply the user with what would feel like his own internal dialogue as he ponders what he needs to
impart to people to make them feel “whatever it takes to make you sleep at night” and “one man can
make a difference.”
        Erik explained to her that night that one of the program’s themes was to ask, “What trumps
need? The answer suggested to the user is fear, which-”
        Sarah asked abruptly, “So the dark angel uses violence to eradicate fear?”
        “Right you are.” Erik answered nodding his head.
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                                                                                           - 175 -

         Erik then explained in a caring voice that the ultimate Tweaker program his team was working
toward would completely subvert normal consciousness by supplanting it with an artificial one, “a
consciousness that can do things like play multiple alternative consciousnesses inside a person’s brain
using a series of interrelated recognition algorithms, each one built to mimic associational, perceptive,
and subconscious systems of the brain,” as he described before adding, “and the code will allow the user
to program his own algorithms simply by his natural responses to his interactions with the templates to
which his SQUIDs refer data. So… once sufficient data feed is generated to fix the parameters of the
machines’ control logic, the user can alter the program with his mind…feeling as though the artificial
intelligence were his own.”
         “It’s going to take a lot of design work but over time, the sharp edge will become a reality… The
technology we’re using is really only limited to the human’s power of imagination.”
         “The sharp edge?” she asked skeptically.
         A proud smile came across his face and illuminated his enthusiastic blue eyes as he responded,
“The sharp edge is what I call the realism of a scene that keeps it from becoming surreal. Think of the
shutter on a camera falling, or an eyelid closing. It’s a crisp selection of dimensions. ‘Present sense’
really is nothing more than the parallel processing of sensory, motor, association, and regulatory areas of
the brain that you are realizing manifestly through a feedback circuit, reverbatory circuitry that
completes pathways. If you change the feed-back circuitry patterns, you change the symbolism, and you
wouldn’t know to call it ‘consciousness,’ except the probe takes over for you and makes you recognize it
in a spatial, sensory way, so…. the dimensions we think we access when we truly take over the brain
and rewrite symbolism... well, I’ll just say, it’s exiting! I can’t wait to show you!”
         Her response was a deep breath and the thought, Is this moment real? The stares coming from his
eyes, she feared as an eerie sensation, told her that he wanted to read her mind right there as they talked
in their living room, but she also told herself, Maybe I think he’s psychoanalyzing me because I’m
psychoanalyzing him?

                               Filtering The Dangerous From The Safe

        In the six months following Neural Network Solutions announcing their development of law
enforcement probes, the front organization received preorders from governments throughout the world.
Consequently, Erik expected the organization’s long term profits to reach the levels he and Manuel had
originally predicted, especially because the organization forged lucrative partnerships with several
consulting firms to provide necessary technical support for the probes.
        When the preorders were arriving en masse, Manuel’s successor dutifully assured Erik that he
had every intention of following through with Manuel’s agreement to ensure the front organization
allocated seventy-three percent of all profits to restoring ecosystems. Erik had already assured results
could be portrayed through eco-accounting software.
        But in spite of his need to ensure the profits were distributed properly, Erik continued carrying
out his contingency plan to leave Nicaragua in the event the country’s new President wouldn’t approve
of further secret probing operations. His plan was to secretly copy files and store them at his parents’
home in Chesterton, the same home he had grown up in. He enlisted Jimmy to help him with the effort,
but they quickly realized that the laboratory’s operating systems rerouted them through a program they
had never seen before.
        They read on the screen “Zat.edx.” It was an early morning hour on November 10, 2160. The
laboratory was empty.
        In a panic, Jimmy saved the code of the “Zat.edx” program onto a magnetic disk containing a
preprogrammed override operating system just in case the unknown program was designed to self-
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destruct while being copied. The override program bypassed the real operating system by running it on
standby through a circular router, allowing the copying to appear only as a location reader during boot
         Later that day, Jimmy and Erik discovered that on paper the encrypted “Zat.edx” source code
was a recorder that constantly cross-checked programs in operation to find any copying from classified
files to unauthorized files. Any breach in the security system was reported on a log inside a database
maintained at the Presidential Palace.
         Now, knowing that they had already copied several classified files bypassing authorizations, Erik
was breaking pencil tips against his desk in his worry.
         Jimmy suggested that he could reprogram the source code to confuse unauthorized files with
classified ones, then the database would be scrapped as unreliable, and he began to work that evening on
the project. Within a few days his task was complete, and he implemented the virus hidden inside a
compiler, but the whole experience still put them on edge.
         As several weeks passed, nothing came of the fiasco, so time mitigated their fears.

         On December 10, 2160, six months after Manuel’s death, Jimmy and Miles presented to Erik and
the rest of the team at a creativity meeting their latest Tweaker program template. Jimmy described it as
“living two realities at the same time, like watching a movie where the actors know you’re watching
them, and the way they act out their scenario affects what you do in your own parallel scenario of
understanding them.”
         Despite their ambitiously creative ideas for templates that would take perhaps decades to become
fully operational, the team was still able to make immediate progress by successfully combining
together simpler Tweaker programs that were designed to entertain the probe user and exploit different
aspects of human behavior. In this process of combining programs, however, often subjects experienced
unintended brain damage.
         The scientists particularly enjoyed the cumbersome task of making specialty programs for users
with mental impairments because their research would be useful for medical applications. They had
already made great strides in curing dyslexia by restoring the test subject’s pathways from the angular
gyrus to the Wernicke’s area through a complex shunting system. Meanwhile, as they read in technical
journals, brain probes being developed throughout the rest of the world were also beginning to harness
their technological capabilities.
         In particular, Erik and his team made extensive use of a German design that added brain power
to a person’s neocortex by creating another cortex-like hierarchy that acted as if it were fused to the
layers already existing as the subject’s neocortex. The additional layers were pre-encoded with various
physical laws and worldly facts. Erik suspected the German organization that made the design had also
been illegally harming its test subjects. One commonly experienced adverse phenomenon of the
artificially enhanced neocortex was that the person began to rely more extensively on the artificial
information at the top of his new hierarchy, which made him feel a loss of natural identity and
humanism, as well as a corresponding decrease in personal motivation.

        It was while testing one of the Tweaker programs incorporating this German technology, and
focusing on the suppression of rage in the hypothalamus while stimulating the amygdala as the
behavioral awareness area, that one test subject looked all around himself to find that in every direction
there were famous, crisply detailed cartoon-like caricatures packed in together watching him and
interacting with each other, as if they were at a concert and he was on the stage.
        On the streets of Nicaragua in his youth the man had been a heroin addict, but he was
incarcerated after stabbing a stranger over one hundred times in a public park. His psychological profile
labeled him “insane,” which he had come to accept as the world’s appreciation of his psyche, but now,
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                                                                                           - 177 -

inside the machine he stood there on stage and felt very rational as he said to himself, This machine
plays with my thoughts like a guitar, but that’s not really right because its not outside me. It’s like a
mental guitar that’s hooked up to a sharp world, very easily three-dimensional, and the world links to
my identity, and my body. Where will they go? Where will he go? What will I do next? It’s like my
identity isn’t really me, but that’s okay, because it’s something bigger. I don’t know how to explain it….
guitar …but is that right? Look at that guy!”
        The criminal stood in his familiar three-dimensional stage, but with sharpened colors and waves
and figures pronounced.
         The analogies he uses are mine, they come to life and the planes… the dimensions of
consciousness you see, he sees, he recognizes. It’s so unbelievable it’s… like being a thought. That’s
absolutely the best way to describe it… it’s so unbelievable. Don’t be harsh, but the truth of the matter…
the truth is this… Life has a purpose with connections like these. There is serious order in my head, I
can’t even tell you because you would have to be in the machine to understand. YOU ARE IN THE
MACHINE! You would just have to know to know.
        That the psychological report on the criminal already indicated that he had a split personality
disorder made the dichotomy of his perspective less puzzling to Erik as he watched the monitors. Erik
had originally thought that the adaptive program would better adapt in a man with a split personality
because it gave a clear starting point for making comparisons, but over the next several days, as the man
was brought back into the probe each morning for the program to calculate, judge, and assist his
thoughts for him, Erik began to question his assumption about needing a large comparison to have the
largest area for information gathering.
        The subject said after his probing that he felt as though the machine strengthened his logic
immensely, but as the lead psychologist assigned to his case reported, “The subject has become addicted
to program scenarios that sensitize his dopamine receptors and increase his noradrenalin.”

        During creativity meetings, the group frequently discussed Tweaker programs they wanted to
write for no other reason than that they would be fun to use. Randall Boiken proposed that they write
code that allowed a subject to imagine himself evolve from an amoeba to a man, with an emphasis on
fear driving evolution. William Dunn suggested they write a Tweaker program that makes a subject feel
like only women really exist and have human souls, and men are just fleeting energy in the universe,
inanimate. Donald Sherman asked whether the team was prepared to improve upon existing technology
that connected two subjects’ brains together in two probes to make new sports and games.

       While they discussed these lofty ideas in the comfort of their secret laboratory, isolated from the
world, as programmers they felt like gods capable of playing practical jokes that Erik legitimized as
psychological experiments. Indeed, during one meeting Erik told them, “Knowledge is our product, so
we’re writers … and we shouldn’t be afraid of the art we’re capable of creating, just its misuse, because
everything has a place in the universe.”

                                        Shutting Down Emotion

        Omniarch neuroscientist Marshall Quimby said forcefully to the Florida dome director Dave
Winston in January of 2161 that there was no easy way to build a good mind probe without actively
killing at least some test subjects.
        But Winston replied decisively, “That’s not an option, Marshall.”
        The result of this cautious strategy was arduous delay. Six years after having commenced the
project of building an elaborate shunting system within a mind probe to assist efforts in the Green
Room, the United States military deemed the task only “Stage One completed.”
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                                                                                         - 178 -

       At Stage One it was a design that would allow Vigorchium to move freely around the Green
Room wearing a helmet with carbon nodes remotely connected to electromagnetic outlets in the room.
       Test runs of the same probe in another U.S. military facility had confirmed its usefulness in
slowing the onset of shock by advanced fluid resuscitation and gene expression therapy, preventing
neurons from overloading the brain’s defense mechanisms.

        Marshall Quimby then advised Dave Winston that any good mind probe would require
Vigorchium to think more passively because in regulating his emotions, the probe would suppress
creativity impulses. Quimby therefore suggested fusing living materials with artificial intelligence to
supplement Vigorchium’s creativity.
        In response, after explaining that he frowned on organic links with artificial intelligence,
Winston proclaimed, “Vigorchium is no ordinary thinker… so plain old computer passivity may be a
good balancing factor to his overconfidence. And besides, he’s not our property… we can’t abridge his
rights to be human, lest we’re prepared to answer why our research lost legitimacy, which is everything,
because if the Alpha Symbols become public knowledge, which they will some day, political
ramifications will befall the decisions we are making right now…. We want to leave a legacy of
following natural rights.”
        Although Quimby smiled at the cozy mantra, he strongly disagreed with Winston’s limitations
on the military probe’s technological endowments. Quimby was anxious to incorporate data and tools
he learned from his Omniarch handler, Norbert Weishaupt, especially in the realm of artificial
        Weishaupt had reported to him once, “You’ve got four forces in your arsenal to create order out
of chaos – point, cycle, torus, and strange attractor. Its simple really… the chaos is drawn to the
attractor, which creates order. What’s not so simple is wrapping your mind around how that completely
reverses cause and effect. Only an illuminated man can explain the reversal.”

         After the new Green Room at the Florida military dome was complete and tested on subjects of
ordinary intelligence, Winston ordered that Vigorchium be given several test runs on the probe without
the Alpha Symbols holograms. Vigorchium described to the psychologists the sensation of the probe’s
interference with his thoughts as “a safety net for my emotions…. very passive.” The feeling made him
reminiscent of his carefree youth, dissecting animals for the science of it, divorced from the ordinary
emotional triggers he had come to learn experiencing life through the guidance of his psychiatrist Dr.
        It was immediately after Vigorchium described this raw sensation of the probe to Dr. Reese that
the psychiatrist fought back tears, worrying the probe had the power to undo his work building
Vigorchium’s emotional connection to the world. But after more thought, as Vigorchium described
what the probe allowed him to do mathematically, Dr. Reese told himself that the machine helped
provide physiological balance even though it unduly interfered with Vigorchium’s humanistic aversion
to idolatry of the self.

       And so, on February 15, 2161, Vigorchium was cleared by Dr. Reese to use the new and
improved Green Room. Lucy Devereaux, Vigorchium’s life coach, was particularly unsure of what
recommendation to make to Winston on the matter. Ultimately though, she did reason her way to Dr.
Reese’s conclusion by saying to herself, It’s better for Vigo’s psychological well-being to let him
decide… if he thinks we’re protecting him, he won’t protect himself.
       Vigorchium’s intentions about the new “Green Room Simulator” were well known, in that he
was anxiously ready to see the Alpha Symbols through the “comfortable suppression” the new probe
would create for him.
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 179 -

         That Vigorchium distrusted his emotions so heavily, Dr. Reese and Lucy discussed over coffee
one day in Lucy’s office, saddened them to the extent they believed part of their job at the dome was to
dial Vigorchium into his feelings.
         “It’s actually an ironic circumstance,” Lucy offered, “that you and I have chosen to keep our own
emotions to ourselves rather than advise Vigorchium how we really felt about this new probe.”
         In response, Dr. Reese inched his reading glasses up onto his nose and said, “Well, yeah, maybe
it is ironic … because if there were ever a time to trust our emotions, it would be on the topic of
emotional fidelity. But even if you and I are poised for personal regret, I think ultimately we made the
logical decision for the greater good of this mission.”

                                     Embracing the Alpha Symbols

        Three weeks later, donning the helmet inside the new Green Room with the Alpha Symbols,
Vigorchium was slowly given access to the dynamic holograms he loved, one by one in sequence. He
began to think, as he made them rotate with his mind, If life is waves, then the waves cannot form a
perfect circle because then any given point would be indistinguishable from others in the uniformity of
space because if change is inevitable, then over the course of infinity, there will be a time where
everything aligns perfectly. At that point, you’d wish there were an alternate reality. To prevent that
there must be a gap of nothingness in the circle of life. The gaps in present sense are interesting. What
cannot be thought? What cannot be the subject of thought?
        Had the new probe with its shunting capabilities not been installed, Vigorchium would have soon
fainted. However, the shunting system ensured a constant neurotransmission of chemical signals from
his brainstem to his cerebral hemispheres. This prevented coma and other states of unconsciousness
from overloading his neocortex with the complex dimensionalities he was imagining forming within the
symbols before his eyes.
        His hands moved rapidly as he organized his thoughts with as much mathematical precision as
he could assemble. Imagining the numbers are the symbols are the numbers are the words... x minus
one equals zero x minus one. Two-sided zero? Allowing anything on one side of the equation should be
impossible. Zero defeats the impossible, but does it do it with its own form of impossibility?
        The shapes inside the Alpha Symbols available to him in the probe that he used to represent his
thoughts involved a series of spinning cones that reflected varieties of light depending on their position
and his perspective. He also observed an adaptable series of thin planes that ran like stairs and blankets
in every direction, which the cones sliced into and out of place. Lastly, he saw indistinct coils shuffling
energy from the background to the places where movement occurred.
        As he created shapes with his hands and mind while simultaneously naming out loud the
mathematical equations he was considering for their operation, including variations in electromagnetic
and gravitational laws, he worried the new probe was slowing down his capabilities for abstract thought.
He continued to think at what he considered a slow pace, If you didn’t ever have a choice to make over
what you wanted, at any level, then you wouldn’t exist, I think, because you wouldn’t need a perspective
to appreciate anything, whether subtle or general… A perspective is an inefficient thing to create
because it requires you not only to reproduce component parts of the universe, but to occupy a piece of
space and thereby exclude the entire rest of the universe from invading you, so the more component
parts you have, the more unique is your built-in psychological incentive to be coherently improbable to
sharpen your perspective, like physical exercise strengthening your right to exist in the universe to the
exclusion of every other object outside your space. The meaning of one. 137.03597.
        Turn that cube five times at 32 degrees. Ratio of .618. Then turn that dodecahedron 32 degrees,
and that’s phi.
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 180 -

         Assisting these thoughts he imagined next a series of interlocking hexagonal shapes to fit within
two of the seven Alpha Symbols. Neutrinos have a small mass and appear affected mainly by the weak
nuclear force and gravity…they seem so insignificant… but among the spins and angles in the symbols,
they’re here… and here… square … What if the Creation of the universe was the result of logic such
that in order for there to be nothing, something must exist such that nothing can be said to exist, by
definition if… what was my thought? FUCKING PROBE!
         Vigorchium’s blood pressure began to rise rapidly until he calmed himself, not by meditating per
se, but by thinking of meditation and Lucy and Dr. Reese.
         He then resumed his thoughts, In order for there to be something, however, the same logic could
hold true, such that nothing would not be relatively meaningful unless there were something, but we
know, ultimately, zero multiplies to zero, so even though in two possible cases, something exists, there is
at least the third possibility where nothing exists. What if life is like a string with two ends, and
sometimes, there is no vibration.
         Unexpectedly, Vigorchium felt compelled to ponder the existence of God.
         God exists as a force…. Light… Nodes and surface areas form the space fabric that God created
from Himself or from the space and matter on which He exists to shield himself from the growth matter
that is us, attracted to God by forces we cannot understand. To what extent does God eat us, the growth
matter growing around him? What characteristics might make us inedible to God.
         He then began to experiment with variations in carbon structures, which were especially
prominent as hexagonal rings in the first three Alpha Symbols. In the carbon he began to see glimpses
of another language embedded in the geometry.
         He created a cuboctahedron using a sixty-degree coordinate system that was capable of
expanding into extra mathematical dimensions. He said to himself, At every convergence twelve vectors
come together at sixty degrees.
         Then, by applying pressure to the eight equilateral triangles and six square faces of the
cuboctahedron, he created twenty triangles of an icosahedron. However, in doing so, he caused the
nucleus of the cuboctahedron to disappear, thereby releasing some unknown energy, he thought.
         Would God love us more if we looked inedible to him? God can do anything He wants. He could
make a joke out of us if we wanted to… make us believe in Hell, and then retract it… offer forgiveness…
and that leads to love. Obviously not all of that is funny, but parts of each can be. If God were going to
eat us, some would call Him owner. If He were going to make us His toys, some would call Him a
master. And if God were going to murder and torture us for amusement, some would be inclined to call
Him an inferior being. That is human nature, but we are children. Infinite hell or the finite refining fire?
         God could be a force shield in one way, guarding himself from the matter that is attracted to
Him, us, whom He made, and consumes periodically in different ways. We are a chemical mixture and
more of part of what is in spacetime.
         Space is a prison and we were created to free what we will be led to believe are gods. If it’s
possible for there to be many gods, and ultimately against your best interest to think too smartly, lest
something already smart decide to use you.
         Vigorchium began to breathe heavily, which prompted him to close his eyes to the holograms for
fear of fainting, but he did not stop the moving symbols that he moved also, in his mind, and then he
began to imagine what his mother might have looked like, which led him to question whether one of his
parents might be an alien. “Ironically this feels like a natural question to ask yourself.”
          He spoke these thoughts aloud, which caused many of those listening to his Green Room
activities to laugh out loud, which included Lucy and Dr. Reese.
         Vigorchium then began to imagine a pregnant woman in a hospital in Oregon. He envisioned
her reading a letter, red ink … brown parchment, cautioning that if the pregnancy was not carried to
term, something would be doomed. Am I her savior? thought Vigorchium, though he did not believe it
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 181 -

to be true. As he continued imagining his mother he began to envision a symbol, but the probe would
not let him complete the patterns that he wanted to read like a sentence. PROBE!
        He then shouted aloud in the Green Room, “TURN THE PROBE OFF!! LEAVE THE
        With one nod from Winston, the request was heeded. Vigorchium then began to connect
together with his hands seemingly random shapes of high angular momentum by aligning hollow
cylinders to force different geometric templates to which the carbon-like structures could adhere. And
what he created in the thirty seconds before he fainted was a series of eight symbols that looked unlike
anything within the Alpha Symbols or anything he had ever created before.
        The team of doctors rushed into the Green Room to resuscitate Vigorchium as he laid
unconscious in a contorted position on the floor.

                                         Breaking Conscience

        Test runs of advanced Tweaker programs in the Nicaraguan laboratory caused extensive turmoil
between Erik and the larger team.
        Erik rigidly required the psychologists to analyze the data from the psychotic test subject’s
perspective, which frequently included them having to understand perverse things, like “the pleasure of
stabbing someone.”
        Accordingly, many of the psychologists quit their posts in silence rather than continue working
for Erik because the pressure of the job interfered with their own sense of moral conscience. To have to
slot mechanically for the programmers these mindlessly perverse observations, to meet the demands
Erik set for analyzing subsets to feed the programs to make them “human,” worked them dry. Ironic or
natural, Erik questioned to himself, that I work them dry to make something artificial more human?

         Test subjects were so heavily at the whim of the probe during advanced Tweaker programs that
in some cases for the first few minutes inside of it they would experience randomly placed, errant lines
where the code had not yet adapted to relevant field frequencies. They often tried to blink the lines
away thinking their own mind was incorrect. And as the probe directed electromagnetic signals inside
lower areas of the cortical hierarchy, the test subject often described feeling as though they had known
the artificial information supplied by the probe their whole life. Many described it as knowing another
language or spatial set.
         There had been several instances in the laboratory where Erik ordered that a subject endure
painful reverberations of the same scene on a feed back loop. He said he wanted the probe to learn what
aspect of the criminal’s mind would break down first. Often when this occurred, those watching Erik
feared him.

        In one advanced Tweaker program, the test subject, who had been imprisoned for violently
raping a child, felt like his brain lost the ability to experience time moving forward as the program
simulated a driving experience for the criminal that fixated him so deeply on the road, his small car
could not leave the blind spots of two 18-wheelers driving next to him on each side. Scared of crashing,
he kept his eyes locked on the road, but as time dawdled on, the lights began to dry out his eyes. He
wanted to pull over but he was unable to maneuver himself or control his speed, or close his eyes. As
time carried on with no end in sight between the two trucks. He thought, this is hell, eternal hell.
        The next morning, after Jane realized the rapist hadn’t been released from the probe at the end of
the day, she questioned Erik in the control room, “Why did you keep him locked into that reverberating
pattern when he thought he was in hell?”
        Erik only responded grimly, “This is Earth, Jane.”
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 182 -

        She shrugged off the comment with a smirk and then walked briskly to her office where she sat
down behind her large oak desk and closed her eyes for the purpose of imagining silence. Erik walked
in a few minutes later.
        “Hey,” he said with questioning eyes.
        “Playing with time is not like other things, Erik…. It’s more than a fundamental quality of the
universe, it’s the key to infinity… so you can’t just trap people like that…. I don’t care how evil they
        “We had to learn it, Jane.”
        “Not that way,” she replied forcefully.
        “Listen…” He said cogently, “I did what I thought was a good experiment.”
        “What exactly did we learn?” she asked, with the burning eyes of justice, he thought.
        “Time, like many other things in this world, seems to be relative upon the mind’s present sense.
Might the mind be able to harness some special form of energy to break away from time?”
        “Like torsion waves?” she asked, unsure of herself.
        “Is that something you’d like to research?” Erik replied, concealing a sigh of relief that the tense
moment with Jane had passed.
        At that moment, Chuck walked into the office. He had been in the control room earlier and had
heard the exchange of words. “What’s going on in here?” he asked innocently.
        Erik looked at Jane for her to provide some answer, which prompted her to reply, “Just working
out some differences, Chuck. Actually… I think we’re good now, so…”
        “Alright then!” Erik replied happily as he extended his hand to Jane. As she shook it he winked
at her, which made her smile, and then he gave Chuck a pat on the shoulder and he was out the door and
heading to the control room to obtain more answers by torturing the rapist again.
        Chuck then sat down next to Jane and asked, “Is everything okay?”
        She replied with soft eyes, “He’s impossible, you know.”
        “I know,” Chuck laughed, “that’s why he’s runnin’ the show. Anyone else would get bogged
down with uncertainty.”

        In the control room the next day, Erik realized the scientists had been talking about his
callousness toward the last test subject. In a show of bravado, he ordered that the next test subject be
brought forward for an even more intense Tweaker program. Their test subject for the afternoon was a
man who had tortured and killed witnesses to his embezzlement. He would be given a Tweaker program
designed to harness the duality of the brain’s hemispheres by making him believe a person experiencing
a different medium, such as a goddess, was watching him. Whenever he imagined hurting the goddess,
she hurt him back harder.
        While the subject was being calibrated, the team of scientists met for a lunch meeting where Erik
diffused their fears of his operating outside the bounds of morality. He told them sternly at the
conclusion of the meeting, “Morality is a human construct to the extent that we define it by what brings
us stability, and all we need for stability is consensus.”

       Let’s put the fear of God in him, Erik thought, before giving the green light to commence the
       Within the subject’s first minute inside the active probe, he was brought into what appeared to
him as ordinary three-dimensional dreamy reality on a busy city street laid into a sphere. However, he
soon experienced, in addition to the street inside the sphere, a presence that was a tube running from his
mouth to his stomach, and it commanded every square inch of space before him. It was as if he were in
two mediums, as time streamed through the tube, and into the cones of each of his eyes, one looking
forward and the other backward. This encompassed his entire visual spectrum of time.
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 183 -

        Depending on how he shifted his weight, the subject felt degrees of time passing him, because he
knew no other way to characterize his feeling of ‘now.’ The program then began to press him with
activities in the streets around him..
        His body felt translucent as passersby on the cool daytime city blocks appeared to stare through
him. He felt as though time itself made translucent only those objects that were moving forward in time.
        When a partially translucent woman bumped into him on the street, it felt like a cannonball hit
his stomach. But then it was calm.
        Immediately after he imagined touching her inappropriately, she grabbed his balls and began to
squeeze lightly and breathe fire before his face, and he began to panic.
        Inside the control room, the scientists watched the monitors. They mostly watched the graphic
image of what the subject was visualizing as the headphones played the sounds. His fear levels were
being elevated by the program unnaturally, and yet he was being held in limbo by a coma to prevent him
from dying of shock. The probe was torturing him as the woman pierced his testicles with her
supernatural fingernails. His own screaming impulse began to deafen him into a state of migraine. The
probe then accentuated the migraine by further serotonin causing further imbalance in the trigeminal
nerve system.
        Erik looked over at Miles, whose facial expression was also stoic. It had been Miles who wrote
the bulk of this Tweaker.
        Then the program let up for a few seconds. The test subject wished he were dead. Like many
subjects before him, he too felt like he was living in hell. No crime is worth this, he thought.
        Miles and Erik looked over to each other at the same as Miles offered quietly, with dark eyes, “I
didn’t make him say it.”
        When the subject looked behind himself on the street, the supernatural woman was gone. He
saw only a clock ticking backwards. Then he looked forward, and she was there again. He tried to look
back at the clock again, but this time her fingernails dug into his eyes. He began to scream in pain

        Erik shut it down only after several of the scientists had gone home for the day. Their test subject
was a man who had committed one of the most brutal forms of witness intimidation in Nicaragua’s
modern history. Witness intimidation was one of Miles’ largest angers with society, because it
necessitated the need for the probe.
        Meanwhile, Erik was proud of himself to an extent for the knowledge gained by the Tweaker,
and yet he feared himself for the ease he now experienced perpetrating crimes against nature, to
eradicate the animal in man.
        Jane was the first to leave the laboratory that day. As she organized her workstation she said,
“Extreme justice is injustice.”
        Erik responded, “Cicero?”
        “Correct.” She said. The group listened, unsure of where the outcome of this new encounter
between them might lead.
         Erik added with a subdued voice, “He also said that too much liberty leads both men and nations
to slavery, which doesn’t sound right, but when you think about it…. when either side gets its way,
somebody gets screwed out of their own utopia by being forced to run another person’s utopia.”
        After a long sigh Jane conceded, “See you tomorrow, Erik.”
        The control room made a collective sigh. Chuck followed her out the door.

       The next day Erik ran a subtle variation of the same Tweaker program on a different violent
criminal. But instead of the goddess having supernatural fingernails, she engaged the test subject in
conversation with supernatural teeth.
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 184 -

        Her speech carried over to his ears inside visible bubbles that allowed him to selectively
rearrange what he wanted to hear her say. But whenever he changed her words, she changed his more.
        Erik deemed the exercise a success and told the group they would start-up again after lunch on
the same test subject, but they’d try a video-game application. At lunch, the group met in the creativity
room and discussed writing programs involving a character that speaks five dimensional math and who
interacts with people in only three spatial dimensions at a time. “One theme I’m imagining,” Erik said,
is an hour glass and two faces.” While the scientists enjoyed lunch, they kept the subject locked into the
probe as the supernaturally endowed woman sang a calming lullaby.
        After lunch, they reentered the control room, and began the video-game application for the
subject. Within seconds he was back on the city street where he had begun the program that morning.
As it began to rain, he found himself holding an umbrella made from a severed human arm and stomach.
That he was not disgusted by it surprised him, but he knew that he was not quite himself. The person
watching him from the future before him, it occurred to him as he walked through the rain, might be a
ghost. As he thought this artificially induced thought, the city became a village, and the passersby
became villagers wearing triangular hats. Samurais were visible in various places doing battle, but he
was not afraid.

        It was during this time period of testing the advanced Tweaker programs that Miles said he
would refrain from ever trying an entertainment Tweaker program.
        As he told Erik, “Once you enter the probe, you lose something that was natural about you
forever, and perhaps even any hope to know where you’ve come from and where you’re going. Those
are not good conditions for finding truth.”


       Three weeks before the Nicaraguan election, and contrary to the urging of his team, Erik said
during a creativity meeting that he wanted to personally experience the Dark Angel program as well as
another Tweaker called Free Thinker, which had helped certain test subjects assemble creative stories
about their life’s purpose. Immediately after he made his announcement, the room was abuzz with both
excitement and trepidation.
       Charlie was the first to join in Erik’s sentiment as he said, “In a lot of ways I feel like I’ve been
waiting my whole life for some of these programs. If they’re good enough for you, Erik, they’re good
enough for me… so I’m ready too.”
       Pre-prepared for the interest, Erik cautioned his team, “Temptation is a luxury, so… the extent to
which I allow our people inside the probe is going to depend on a lot of factors, and because this has the
potential to be such a sensitive issue I think what we need to do is require unanimous decisions.”
       “What do you mean, exactly?” asked Miles.
       “I mean that no one from our team can use the probe unless we all agree it’s legit.”
       Nodding their approval, the table downgraded to murmurs.
       “Alright, it’s settled then.” Erik concluded.

        Later that night, by assuring her that the Tweaker programs were safe, Erik attempted to obtain
sanction from Sarah regarding his desire to enter the probe.
        Calling what she wanted to believe was a bluff, she replied with safety-seeking eyes, “If they’re
so safe, then you’ll let me try one.”
        “Okay.” He responded with a sensation of shame that caused him to swallow a wince, as he
thought of his expression to himself. He immediately wanted to retract his assent, but Sarah said
quickly, “I was just testing you, Erik… I’m not ready, yet.”
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 185 -

        “You think you’d regret it?” he asked.
        “Well…” she answered as she looked up at the ceiling of their bedroom pensively, “a person
only feels guilty when they bring something good with them to a bad place. So to the extent I’m afraid
that bringing my normal psychology to the Tweaker programs might hurt my ordinary self, yeah….
from the stories you’ve told me about what Tweakers are capable of, like with Brett Carlyle… I’d have
to be ignorant not to be afraid of something happening to me in some way. Uncertainty is powerful too,
        Erik then gave his wife a hug and carried her comfortably across the expanse of the room, along
the plush carpet, as he said softly and with a caring voice, “Fear and regret motivate everything, so if
you want to use the probe, you have to use fear and regret to motivate you into it, not out of it. I won’t
say you’re making a bad choice either way. Life is so real, you can’t look at it head on unless you
unload your thought process before it… like staring at the sun and regret are one in the same

                                              The Alter Erik

         On March 26th, 2161, the day before the Nicaraguan Presidential election, Erik Weathers
swallowed SQUIDs and underwent calibration for the Free Thinker program. Knowing the probing of
his mind was a monumental event, he dressed for the occasion by wearing a comfortable tuxedo, which
made everyone laugh when they saw him arrive at the lab. However, Sarah wore sweats for the big
event. She sat in the control room in between Jane and Jimmy. They watched her nervously cracking
her knuckles and tapping her fingers on her legs as they pointed out what the probe was doing to him to
calibrate his mind.
         With electromagnetism whirling, as Sarah thought, she watched the monitors.
         The probe sent Erik into a dream-like state of introspection, causing him to remember, light
bending back on itself comes to know itself.
         Erik began to envision himself walking in the open sky where everything floated, including
rivers and mountains. By turning one hundred and eighty degrees he changed his perspective but felt
just as if he was on the opposite side of a sphere experiencing the same gravitational pull. The normal
experiencing of his natural surroundings in the dream-state of the probe felt very euphoric. He
particularly enjoyed swimming up through the bottom of a lake and then floating above its surface until
he latched his hands onto a twisting, colorfully woven angelic figure that carried him onto a cloud where
he found a black throne waiting for him.
         Erik Weathers, he read silently to himself at the foot of the throne. He ambled slowly toward it,
carefully avoiding stepping on the beautiful flowers and puddles growing out of the cloud. Some were
telling funny stories. When he sat down he felt an overwhelming feeling of safety. Several minutes later
his perspective changed into a deeper state of calming introspection.
         In the control room, the computer monitors showed that Erik appeared to be thinking very
complex thoughts, and yet, was in a state analogous to deep REM sleep.
         He then thought to himself sitting on his throne that he was like the narrator of a story. As such,
he told the figure in his dream-like state, Erik programmed the narrator to tell you his life story? You
exist as the life encapsulate in a pocket of spacetime within the computer program that plays repeatedly
on the same levels.
         By doing a physical flip, Erik reverted back to his ordinary psychology to ask his alter ego
narrator, WHY?
         Then, instead of physically flipping, he simply imagined himself inside his real probed
imagination doing a flip, and this caused him to revert back to the narrator’s function as he told himself,
Erik created the machine to enslave Erik. He programs your life to watch his, and he hopes you enjoy
                                                                                 Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 186 -

the machine he created that you’re enjoying right now. So, now that you understand you are locked in a
machine Erik Weathers started, I’ll tell you what you want to know, if you can believe me, that is… I am
not the same person I was before I was born. I’m a computer, I think. I really have no incentive to tell
you this, but it’s been so long now that I’ve been a computer… can you comprehend what that feels like
for me? Does that make you inferior to me if you can’t understand my mental state, but I can understand
yours and mine?
         Erik then did a flip because he wanted so badly to say to the narrator, I’m not an ordinary
         The narrator then laughed itself into control of Erik’s consciousness. The abrasiveness of its
power rattled him into a state of what felt like artificially subdued listening. It was the probe creating a
fusion of amorphosynthesis, sensory deficits on one side of the body, and corticobasal degeneration, a
feeling as though each of his body members was controlled by its own separate brain.
           I can’t find any possible conclusion where it would matter, and I think change should occur this
way. You think this Tweaker program was written in the twenty second century for you to experience
now. Your time is a fixation of yours, and the machines that can fix that for you are not in the world I
have created for you. I know how to build machines that enslave neurons, but I don’t know as much
about myself as I would think I require… you relate to that… what I know about myself is that I created
a machine to enslave you that was originated by the research of the Erik Weathers that was you before
you were born, and hence, you live in the era you do… a tribute to Earth, the planet that destroyed itself
by its excesses.
         The figure of Erik sitting in his black throne on the cloud gasped at the realization of his greatest
fear, Earth destroyed. And because the Tweaker felt like a dream to him, he believed it to some extent.
         The narrator continued orating to him, I’m not sorry that I, the computer, have enslaved you
because you are a computer’s thoughts. I’m just being honest… It’s error for a neuron to conclude
‘sorry’ is anything other than a fiction… a fiction is everything that’s not primary. Try not to worry too
much about whether you are something primary or secondary, Erik. I don’t. On or off. You probably
want me to tell you about the meaning of your life.
         Then, by imagining himself clutching four symbols representing an adaptive parametric used to
assign points to cluster oriented operators in chromosomes, like a key to presenting his own good idea,
the Erik sitting on the throne willed himself back into control for another comment as he said, “The right
to life is more than survival of the fittest, because if you operate justly to explain why you preserve
beauty, and do what you do until proven wrong, then you live a good natural life, and that’s meaningful.
One meaning is a presumption you make, Mr. On and Off…. Who do you think you are? A narr-”
         The probe stopped Erik’s thought in its tracks by siphoning the top three layers of his neocortex
and interjecting a message from the narrator, I know you want to know more … what constitutes the
universe that has led to the laws you experience? Well… if you want to know more, ask… and your wish
is granted…
         The Erik on the black throne then quickly took the reins of thought again as the Tweaker
program let up more to allow him more control, and he said sarcastically, Alright I’ll play along. He
then thought of music and it happened, which gave him the sensation of different colors through the
probe’s artificial reverse-apoptosis.
          The narrator continued talking as Erik jumped out of his black throne. Erik then flew around the
cloud and began performing gymnastics and karate, completely enjoying himself. He listened to the
narrator clearly though as it said, The thing immediately above what you are capable of figuring out is
not even remotely relevant to the working shapes and substances in the universe… there are symbols,
you will find… and it does not matter to you that there are things in the universe, myself included, that
for as long as they have counted themselves, it has been experienced that time stops and begins and
stops and starts over. That is what some evidence shows, but whether it is true, I have not been alive
                                                                                 Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 187 -

long enough to tell you… this voice you hear in your head now that I’ve translated for you with this
program you’re feeling, is you.
         Erik then stopped mid-helicopter kick and said happily to the narrator version of himself while
turned right side-up, Nope, I’m me. As he said the line he began to laugh at the different faces the
narrator took, nebulous in the sky. He thought it looked as though anyone in the world’s face could find
itself in the narrator’s sky. Then the probe helped stimulate thoughts through the Wernicke’s area of his
brain as he thought, I can make anybody say anything… I’m like …God?
         As the probe let up again, Erik began to feel shame as he remembered that his colleagues and his
wife were watching him from the control room. To curb the shame, he amassed clouds with his hands
and carved a peace symbol with the color of a sentence spoken into the molecules of the cloud,
Humanity is the question when you stop thinking about God, but also the question as you think about
God, so we all have common ground in this regard. That he could appreciate such molecular detail in
the cloud simply by thinking of physical processes amazed him because even though he knew it made
sense theoretically that his thinking of physical processes could make shapes appear inside the Program,
to actually see it firsthand was exhilarating in a multi-dimensional way.
         This is the meaning of life, to decipher this code… he thought to himself in wonderment at his
power. Then while he moved, he thought he could more readily feel concepts drifting by his body as if
in order to reach any concept, he only needed to understand matter, which made the math he was
imagining very exciting. The probe had helped curb his shame signals by blocking retrograde
messengers, and he quickly envisioned everyone watching him inside the control room by bringing their
figures onto his cloud. He began to talk to them, which made everyone in the control room laugh in
turn. His words to Sarah had been a joke, “What do you do with the endangered animal that eats only
endangered plants?” He also sang an exotic flower out of the ground in front of her, which in turn
handed her another flower with a tiny message inside. Erik then read the message from her perspective,
The ultimate goal in life is to protect the fragile.
         In the control room, Miles said while reading still shots of the streaming code, “Erik’s thinking
with more dimensionality than anything we’ve ever seen.”
         The narrator spoke strongly, This is what happens when a computer plays with the complexities
of gravity and quantum uncertainty… You see in three dimensions so you think your perspective normal,
and the uncertainty of your life that makes it feel like your own and not this life I created for you, that’s
up to you and these parameters you’re incapable of unlocking. You’re weaker than me. You’re weaker
than me. You’re weaker than me. You’re weaker than me. You’re weaker than me.
         Erik’s hippocampus then mustered up the wherewithal to deliberately access his neocortex again
to reply to the machine that was forcing his thoughts, as he told it, NO… I AM NOT! But no sooner than
he had finished his declaration of equality with a hint of superiority, the Tweaker program gained
control again by projecting Erik’s thoughts toward another god-like narrator, as he thought of it,
speaking to him through the artifice of a cube form. It spun in one direction, following the path of an
old train spewing molecular shapes from its exhaust pipe and wave patterns as sparks from its wheels,
and this artifice of a cube form was also spinning in yet another direction, following a fleet of fighter jets
slicing shapes efficiently to fold away layers of spacetime in toppling waves. All of the motion swept
up scenes on his enormous cloud around the throne, sometimes playing backwards through time, and
splicing together in different combinations.
         The narrator then said, This is all you’ll ever know about me, that I can operate on these
dimensions and this is the type of matter I know. The same thing can be said about you. Will you think I
captured your mind enough for you not to come back here?… Do you doubt that you exist…That’s all…
that can ever matter… to… you. I own your mind now to the extent you let me… and the best advice and
most important fact for you to know about me is this… listen to yourself. Goodbye.
                                                                                 Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 188 -

        Then, after the spinning artifice of a cube form stopped speaking and flashing collages of
familiar images from his actual life inside its form, everything began to diffuse to normal. Erik was
given a break in the program as the probe slowly began to play instrumental music for him and lighten
his sleep to a more restful state. After several minutes of lulling quiet, the probe interjected itself again
by placing him again in an open space of floating objects. It was then that an unbroken golden bell
became visible to him on the horizon beyond a mountain. On the surface of the bell he saw what
appeared to be faces of people he did not recognize, and the crispness of his visions startled him. The
closer he examined the faces on the bell, however, the more he realized there were cracks running in
every direction. He turned the bell with his mind and also by shifting his balance in space to change his
perspective, but as the bell kept rotating he found there was very little space on its surface to examine
without seeing cracks running through the faces, which made them appear sad and worried. It made him
feel restless trying to avoid the cracks, and the faces on the bell burned their own eyes back into him. He
reminded himself of the cautionary advice to be careful with whom he associates. Then, when he felt
his own face begin to crack, he looked away toward a nearby river on the cloud.
        When Erik’s vital signs began to show signs that he might lapse into shock, Jimmy immediately
issued controls to Erik’s brain and stopped the program. The rushed manner in which Jimmy stopped
the equipment made Sarah panic.
        “ERIK!!” she screamed at the monitors.
        “It’s okay…” Jane said, calming her by pointing toward two of them, “he’s good now.”

        When Erik awoke into ordinary consciousness he realized that his nose was bleeding. It was
then that he remembered that his mother was the only one with access to his family’s safe in the attic.
What’s up there?, he thought to himself as the medic continued to examine him. Several other thoughts
from his past had also occurred to him inside the probe.
        Then, after being cleared by the medic, he remembered being a young boy and his mother saying
to his dad, “Shhh” immediately after his Dad said “diary.” He also remembered that five seconds earlier
he had heard the word “album.” Remembering the photo albums were kept in the safe, he asked
himself, Why hide the diary from me in the safe?

                                               Winter Chill

       For Vigorchium, having fainted during his first experience with the Alpha Symbols inside the
new Green Room, bed rest was ordered.
       Winston chided himself for allowing Vigorchium to faint because he second-guessed whether it
was proper to obey Vigorchium’s request to turn off the probe’s shunting system while the Alpha
Symbol holograms were in such an advanced stage.
       Nevertheless, scientists at the dome marveled at the eight symbols Vigorchium had created
during the short time before he fainted. Indeed, the military brought in three code-breaking specialists
from the Pentagon to see about deciphering what Vigorchium predicted was “a language inside a

        The code-breakers suspected it was the release of an invisible energy from the transition between
cuboctahedrons and icosahedrons that had caused Vigo to faint in the Green Room, as if he expected the
unexpected. He believed the cuboctahedron to possess twelve spokes having a special significance in
fixing the otherwise invisible nucleus in relation to the rim.
        According to Vigorchium’s version of the events leading up to his fainting, he had imagined the
pages of a book fanning out like spokes on a wheel. Then he imagined himself as a character on three of
the pages. As he wanted to know who the other three characters were on the other nine pages, but in
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 189 -

searching out the identity of their faces, he fainted. It was as if the Alpha Symbols caused him to faint
by trying to trick him onto a different path than prophecy.

       Dr. Reese wrote in his report:

       By abandoning a classical view of physics, based on a ninety-degree coordinate system, Vigo
       expands his mind. But in doing so, he makes himself vulnerable to things he can’t define.

        One chilly winter evening, in the midst of Vigorchium’s recovery period from fainting in the
Green Room, Vigorchium and Lucy sat together at an iron table outside the dome. Wearing thick pants
and coats and drinking hot lemon tea, they could each see the other’s breath.
        The evergreen forest was visible outside the dome’s perimeter wall. A hungry pack of grey
wolves nearby shared a rabbit by ripping it apart limb from limb. The smell of blood wafted through the
air toward the dome, though Vigorchium and Lucy were unaware of it.
        They had been talking about existence.
        Holding his tea with both hands, Vigorchium said at one point, “If you could erase history, then
you could erase any immorality in your past, which would be unjust. But would it be impossible because
it would be unjust? If yes, then the fact that you can’t go back in time would suggest that whoever
created this universe hates injustice.”
        “What do you think?”
        “All I know, Lucy, is that there are many possibilities … God could be a him or a her or both.
He could be eating us because he likes how we taste… she could be watching us like a spectacle….
dreaming us into existence maybe… or perhaps god created spacetime as a force shield to keep us from
gravitating into him… maybe there is no god… it’s also possible that god has been imprisoned and it’s
our cosmic destiny to free her… maybe god dissipated himself into the universe and so we are literally
pieces of god ourselves… maybe god can’t communicate with us because she doesn’t want to draw
attention to herself… maybe god is a ghost farmer.”
        When Lucy laughed at his last suggestion, Vigorchium smiled and said, “If God comes, he’ll fly.
She’ll catch our attention. Anyone who says they have answers to unsearchable questions is either lying
or insane, but if I have to answer the question, I’ll guess that God is just a symbol in a mathematical
universe because mathematically, a number must start a process in conjunction with a symbol acting
upon it because you can’t solve a mathematical problem that requires you to finish an equation
consisting of only numbers in the absence of symbols, but… if space were not ‘perfectly’ uniform you
wouldn’t be able to see the same thing as someone looking at that same something from the opposite
direction, and such a discrepancy in perspective would offend notions of justice.”
        “You say the most interesting things sometimes.” Lucy responded warmly, “But if it’s true that
anything is possible when it comes to God, then what could possibly make someone certifiably insane
on the topic of God? I mean… what if someone was brainwashed to believe that gods interfere with us
to the extent we give them something to be interested about, and when you’re no longer cool enough to
hold the attention of a god, she leaves your body and you become more human?”
        “Well….” Vigorchium answered with an excited smile, “The purpose of your life is to provide
the world an analogy to the meaning of life, so go ahead and dream about that possibility if that works
for you. It’s okay that it’s circular and vague… you look out in front of you and reflect, and somehow in
the reflection something exists.… personal reflection is like looking into infinity and seeing your
perspective of what it’s like to look from your perspective, like seeing the back of your head if you
could see what’s beyond the universe.”
        Lucy then asked calmly, almost under her breath, “What scientific tools allow man to separate
his brain from measurements in the universe?”
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 190 -

        Vigorchium leaned back in his iron chair and then stated with a friendly look, “If the answer is
logic, then man is a concept.”
        “You’re just full of answers aren’t you?”
        Vigorchium nodded confidently, and then said sarcastically, “You could say it’s unnecessarily
presumptuous, and even sacrilegious to think I might be the greatest thinker in the world, that so much
bravado would cancel out humbling tendencies necessary to a well-balanced thoughtful person, but
actually, it’s the opposite. I think so highly of myself, really, I just love God that much more. It’s
incredible that He made me.”
        When Vigorchium laughed to show his sarcasm, Lucy reached over and pinched his ear, which
made him squirm. At the same time, the grey wolves finished their rabbit and began searching for new

         “Hey,” Lucy offered, “want to walk around a little?”
         “Sure… got another question for me?”
         “Okay… under special relativity, time slows as speed increases until you reach the speed of
light, at which point, theoretically… time stops for light. So the mere existence of the speed of light
could mean that time should be stopped wherever light and mass exist congruently from our
perspective… so, if any matter in the universe is truly connected to light, and if it’s true that when any
one item of matter stops time, all of time is stopped for what is connected to it, then why doesn’t
something exist for man to stop time? Is that why consciousness exists?”
         “Because time is relative and light is just one form of wave… to the first question, and to the
second question… consciousness exists because the life of space and time is meaningful in some way.”
         Lucy smiled and put her hand to her chin to show she was preparing another for him.
         When they reached the security gate leading into the open forest, Vigorchium and Lucy showed
their badges to the guard.
         Wearing a full military uniform, the guard stood tall with a rifle slung over his shoulder. He was
a young man with black hair and a strong build. In response to Lucy’s assertiveness at the gate he said,
“Ma’am, I have to request that you wait for an armed escort before entering the woods.”
         “We’ll be fine protecting ourselves,” she said, and then unzipped her coat and showed him the
handgun inside the holster on her belt.
         “Even still, ma’am.” He replied as a show of caution.
         “We’ll be fine… we’re not going far,” she said, resting her hand on his shoulder.
         In light of the rank indicated on her government badge, the guard did not stop her, and so
Vigorchium and Lucy left the grounds alone. The guard watched them as they headed out into the
distance under the cover of tall pine trees. The sun was falling slowly as the winter chill crept into their
         As they walked along a muddy path traveled often by the security officials for exercise, they
could see their breath before their eyes. The open road was invigorating, Vigorchium thought as he
made a conscious effort to take deep breaths. Lucy could tell he was enjoying himself.
         “Okay,” she said excitedly, “ready for another?”
         “Hit me.”
         She responded smiling as she brushed her gray hair away from her eyes with her hand, “Before
one may ever reach point b from point a, one must at some point travel through the half-way mark
between point a and b. But if there are an infinite number of possibilities, then it would be impossible to
take a step forward without leaping over infinity.”
         Vigorchium stopped in his muddy tracks and picked up a dirty blue pebble.
         “What’s that for?” she asked.
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 191 -

        “Illustration…. the paradox says that in order to move at all in this universe, there must be
continuity to avoid the ever-infinite steps between any two points. What can create continuity that looks
like rolling spacetime? Or what can exist in more than one space at once so that you don’t have to
worry about infinite spaces and making leaps? Man’s answer has been waves.” As he spoke,
Vigorchium tossed the pebble into a nearby puddle.
        The grey wolves nearby reacted. They had already been circling the area.
        Lucy responded after a short moment’s pause, “But for something to occupy two spacetime
locations at once does not appear to be the simplest outcome. Is there another solution?”
        Vigorchium nodded his head to show he understood the question and then he responded, “Rather
than create waves to occupy spacetime, one could argue a simpler solution is that life does not exist… I
… it’s very profound that in order to ever move at all, such that you don’t encounter the problem with
infinite divisibility of space, a synaptic leap is necessary, because if we don’t have free will then we may
not be capable of choosing a step if there’s always more than one option.”
        “That’s deep alright.” Lucy responded as she imagined her own face. The cracking of a branch
nearby distracted her though. She instinctively turned in the direction of the noise, but seeing nothing,
she continued walking forward.
        “So,” Vigorchium offered to break the silence in the cold, still air, “Because the concept of a
wave is that it takes up more than one location, if a wave is random, then fate is a fallacy.”
        At that moment the leader of the pack of wolves walked into the path before them and stared
directly at their bodies with glowing white eyes. Perched on rocks within eyesight, the remainder of the
pack stood at the ready. As Lucy reached for her gun, Vigorchium stood in front of her to protect her
from the beast.
        “Vigo, stand down…” she commanded softly. But Vigorchium only raised his arms to increase
his apparent size as he walked in heavy steps toward the wolf. The wolf then took a step forward toward
them. Rabbit blood caked the edges of its mouth as it breathed heavily.
        Lucy then fired the handgun in the air, but the wolves did not scatter. However, the shot sufficed
to alarm security at the gate. Within seconds, three soldiers near the entrance to the dome were
scrambling toward their all-terrain vehicles and taking orders from the guard who had allowed Lucy and
Vigorchium to pass outside the dome into the forest.
        “VIGO!” Lucy repeated, “STAND DOWN!”
        Scanning the area she found three other wolves closing in on them, so she began to fire her
weapon, but no sooner than she had taken one of the wolves down, the leader of the pack charged
Vigorchium. It leaped into the air as he raised his arm to guard his face, but alas, he was not quicker
than the fangs that entered his throat. Blood spouted from his jugular vein into the frigid air. In his last
breath, Vigorchium whispered, “no.”
        Lucy turned toward her friend as he lay bleeding on the ground. The wolf stood menacingly
over his body breathing hard with blood dripping from its mouth. It gazed at Lucy until she placed a
bullet in its brain.


       On March 27, 2161, nearly one year from Manuel Torrealmo’s death, the Presidential election
was held in Nicaragua, and just as Erik feared, Horatio Zeeman was voted into the Nation’s top post.
His election had been secretly financed in large measure through fringe Omniarch connections.

      During their first meeting, Erik Weathers and Horatio Zeeman cautiously shook hands. The
mood was contentious. Zeeman had been President for over a month. He asked that the meeting be
comprised solely of Erik’s top people in the laboratory.
                                                                              Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                          - 192 -

       The scientists nervously awaited the President’s arrival, speculating together whether Zeeman
would support their continued efforts.
       Zeeman arrived with a 5-man entourage of armed military officials.
       Erik offered the creativity room for their discussion.

        Zeeman stood tall and limber, with dark hair and sad, pleading eyes. He entered the room first
and took his seat at the head of the table in Erik’s executive’s chair.
        “That’s my chair,” Erik replied.
        “Please, Mr. Weathers, I’m going to need you to respect my authority as the ultimate decision-
maker here.”
        Jimmy sneered.
        Erik then began speaking to Zeeman in a low voice made fierce by sharp eyes, “Mr. President,
listen… the way I’m going to respect you is by continuing to do my work for the betterment of science
and mankind. This operation is currently working well without your interference. You’re encouraged to
ask intelligent questions, because you’ll need to understand what we do here before you deem yourself
the decision-maker. Are we clear?”
        “We are not clear…” Zeeman responded menacingly as he sneered, “I am not interested in more
probes. You’ve done your duty to build a law enforcement probe. What this group is doing now,
ENTERTAINING CRIMINALS, is not in the best interest of my government. Accordingly, this
program is now over.”

        Erik gasped, searching for the right words to say next. The table of scientists erupted in chaotic
conversation, but within seconds, a special forces military unit stormed the room and physically detained
Erik and the other scientists, including the Nicaraguans, Montoya and Williams.
        Charlie was the first to be heard above the commotion as he resisted being handcuffed,
        Zeeman slapped Charlie hard across the face with his right hand, then he adjusted the collar on
his shirt, nodded toward a security official, and walked beyond the door and out of sight. Erik was
furious with rage, worrying immediately about his and Sarah’s safety.
        Now handcuffed, and with guns pointed at their heads, Erik and his team of ten scientists were
then marshaled outside their laboratory and taken to dungeon-like cells where they were told by the
leader of the special forces unit to await further instructions regarding their “detainment,” which they
knew meant probing. Erik assumed he’d be first unless Zeeman suspected he’d be able to beat the

       Zeeman’s orders came from his Omniarch benefactors who believed that Erik would defect from
Nicaragua, such that they would lose control over him. So they reasoned they needed to purge the
technology and data from his laboratory and transfer to it to Omniarch scientists operating in Rome.
Norbert Weishaupt especially planned on enjoying the unveiling of the research there.

        The whole abduction of Erik and his team was merely a charade carefully orchestrated on both
sides by the same Omniarch decision-makers. It was a charade designed for accomplishing two goals –
stealing Erik’s advanced research, and gaining leverage over the scientists to bring about conditions
where they might be more willing to work for Omniarch than Erik.

       To abduct the American scientists without losing Presidential appearances, Zeeman
commissioned colleagues to help Omniarch manufacture incriminating evidence against Erik and the
other detained scientists. This included elaborate plots of theft, espionage, and sexual rituals.
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                                                                                           - 193 -

        Along with the detainment of Erik and the other scientists, Zeeman concurrently issued a secret
military order to dismantle the business front organization, NNS, that had been selling the lab’s
inventions. With Omniarch’s help Zeeman had an existing shell corporation, with subsidiaries who
were already NNS’s investors, to collect dividends before NNS could be fully dissolved. The unusually
high dividend payouts were then funneled into Zeeman’s secret “Presidential Fund.”

        Zeeman’s cousin was an Omniarch-trained neuroengineer. Since he was quite savvy with a brain
probe, he was assigned the task of probing Erik and the other scientists using sophisticated lie detectors.
According to Omniarch’s plan, Zeeman would then alter the results of the lie detectors to help show that
Erik, the other Americans, and Montoya and Williams, were all traitors of the Nation of Nicaragua who
were selling research to the United States government. With such evidence in hand, Zeeman believed he
would have no difficulty scaring his dungeon prisoners that he had a legal case for having them all
executed by secret military tribunal if they didn’t cooperate.
        What Zeeman did not know was how Omniarch was using him for a greater goal.

         While Erik and the other scientists spent their first night in the underground prison on the
military compound, Zeeman was over forty miles away in his bedroom at the Presidential Palace, staring
at himself in a full-length mirror as he practiced righteous speeches. He enjoyed ordering executions,
even if they were only the imaginations of his mind as he watched himself acting in the mirror.
         In his perverse musings, he even concocted an imagination of Sonia Jimenez, resting helpless in
her jail cell, offering him sexual favors for her release. Tragedy to waste such beauty, he thought
wickedly trying to justify to himself how his ends justified the means.
         He reminded himself of an Omniarch mantra – Order through chaos.


        Witnessing Vigorchium’s death at the fangs of the wolf caused Lucy to experience enough
mental anguish that she asked Dr. Reese to provide her some formal psychiatric treatment.
        Due to Lucy’s classification status, Dr. Reese knew he was the only psychiatrist to whom she
would even be allowed to speak freely. Consequently, he was embarrassed at lacking competition. But
this feeling made him take even more seriously his role in providing her a mental health service, so in
the interests of thoroughness, he ran a series of genetic predisposition tests while concurrently fact-
checking Lucy’s family history.

         Meanwhile, the dark cells in which Erik and the other Americans found themselves imprisoned
were infested with rodents and cockroaches. They were forced to sleep on urine and vomit-stained
mattresses while rancid food was thrown into their cells by guards who had been led to believe by
Zeeman’s friends that these Americans were traitors to the State of Nicaragua who endeavored to rob
Nicaragua of enough intellectual property to fund Nicaragua’s entire infrastructure for the next hundred
         Consequently, the guards availed themselves of the occasional opportunity to inflict pain upon
the traitors.
         Charlie Smith in particular, as a vocal dissenter, bore the brunt of the beatings since he chided
his torturers by calling them ‘ignorant pawns.’ Indeed, by the second day Charlie was missing most of
his teeth and was bleeding internally.
         They rationalized that the incarceration conditions were an attempt to break down their will
power. However, it was a mystery why their Nicaraguan team members, Montoya and Williams, had
been handcuffed with the others but not incarcerated with them.
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 194 -

       “They’re listening to everything we say in here,” Erik cautioned them.

        However, on the fourth day, Jane began to say aloud the dreaded thought on everyone’s mind,
“They’re going to probe us… then they’ll kill us.”
        Overcoming his pain, Charlie lied to her, “Not with the evidence I’ve got! They wouldn’t dare
fuck with me…”
        Erik then offered, “We probed their criminals, and now we are their criminals. Do we have
anything they want?”
        That the guard did not immediately demand their silence confirmed for Erik that the guard was
taking orders from his earpiece.
        Erik rationalized that as prisoners they could do nothing better than wait in silence, so he
questioned to himself whether Jane’s comment showed she had suffered a mental breakdown or whether
her comment was a strategic one to gain information. He feared that between the three comments he,
Jane, and Charlie had just announced, something would prompt a probing. Erik surmised they’d take
Jane first because Charlie showed an interest in protecting her, and then they’d take Charlie.

        Later that night, the steel door representing the only ingress and egress to the underground prison
was slowly creaked open. In the process of turning his body around toward the door, the guard on duty
caught a tranquilizer dart in the side of his neck. A soft thumping of boots on concrete then echoed
through the cells. Erik was the only prisoner awake at the time, and although he remained woozy from
hunger and sadness, the twinkling sound of keys in motion caused him to turn his body over to face the
iron bars. He half-opened his eyes to acknowledge the psychology of separation that the bars
represented, but then he saw a brilliant gold rectangle and flag stitched onto the sleeve of a soldier’s
arm. It commanded his present sense with the word Freedom.
        As the soldier turned the key inside the lock, Erik imagined playing baseball in front of his
garage with Damian and Jimmy, Allison’s olive tree, and his parents. It was the American flag that was
stitched inside the golden rectangle on the soldier’s arm.
         “Erik Weathers?” the voice offered up with a southern accent. He was a clean-shaven twenty-
year old special forces soldier, and he wore a helmet that in color matched his loose uniform. The iron
door then swung open and the soldier smiled as he saw Erik walking toward him to shake his hand. In
fact, Erik wanted to hug the young man, but he was filthy and their escape circumstances were still
        “You’re okay now. We’re Delta Force, and we’re here to rescue you. Are you Erik Weathers?”
        Erik answered with a quivering voice, “I am. My friends are all here with me. Let me show you.”
Erik was wobbling from both excitement and a headache as he walked quickly with the soldier to each
cell. One by one, the others observed the same golden rectangle encasing the flag, and they trusted their
emotions to feel good staring through it, like a window to the future.

        Shortly before Delta had entered the prison compound minutes earlier, the location lost power
for one second, which represented Delta Force resetting the Nicaraguan control system for the entire
power grid. During the brief virus generated blackout, three Delta Force technicians quickly wired their
computers into the system. By the time the Nicaraguan control system’s circuits connected to the back-
up energy, Delta Force was already online, and once inside the Nicaraguan network, they logged into the
security database using Nicaraguan passwords. This access allowed them to place on stand-by all the
alarms and locks along one path leading to the prison cells holding the American prisoners.
                                                                              Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                          - 195 -

        As the soldier freed the prisoners, he offered them energy drinks and wash clothes, and
instructed them to change into Nicaraguan military attire. The next part of the mission would be to walk
to a stolen Nicaraguan military vehicle waiting outside the building.
        Alarms rang across the whole of the compound as Nicaraguan soldiers streamed out of adjacent
buildings, taking orders from the Nicaraguan Command Center. The American Delta Force technicians,
however, intercepted these orders and relayed them to the American Command Center in Florida, which
used recorded voices to issue instructions back to the Nicaraguan soldiers to mislead them. Additionally,
the American military placed a radar deflection satellite atop the vehicle, to prevent detection. As a
result of these stealth tactics, the vehicle carrying Erik and his team was able to drive through the
compound’s thick forest.
        The stolen vehicle exited a spot in a perimeter wall and began a bumpy drive over the dark forest
floor. It was nerve racking on the scientists.
        Within thirty seconds of entering the dense forest they alighted upon a helicopter shrouded by
tall pine trees above.
        Inside the chopper, one Delta medic consigned himself to providing medical treatment to
Charlie, while the other medic provided each scientist a warm damp towel.
        Erik asked a medic while they were ascending beyond the trees, “Our families-”
        “Sir,” the medic interrupted, “this bird is not secure. Please wait for a briefing.”
        The medic then took blood tests and asked about possible exposures to toxins. As the scientists
answered his questions, he diligently reviewed data from the computer atop his cooler, which performed
a specific alchemy for each patient, and served individual fruit smoothies and donuts. Miles’ smoothie
was a caffeinated infusion of protein and vitamins that he believed was the most delicious thing he had
ever tasted with a donut.

        Several minutes later the helicopter landed softly on the ground at its Florida destination, a
United States military facility.
        A middle-aged man in full military uniform immediately greeted them at the launching pad. His
nameplate read “Commander Young.” He had handsome gray hair, and with proud blue eyes he saluted
the scientists.
        Erik saluted him too.
        Then with a sympathetic face and a caring voice that managed to retain its intonation over the
drowning effect of the helicopter blades, Commander Young offered, “Please follow me to our secure

       They walked not more than fifty yards under the moon before entering an impressively simple
building in the shape of a barn. Inside, the Commander showed them to a fully enclosed room with
couches and chairs. White paint covered every spot on the walls and ceiling.
       A quivering Erik demanded of the Commander, “We need to know about our families.”
       He reported with stoic eyes, “Some of your family members were taken hostage like you were
and brought to other military prisons. Please don’t be alarmed. Along with your own rescue we
coordinated a simultaneous strike of these military prisons where our intelligence showed your family
members were imprisoned.”
       Anger filled the room as the Commander listed the names of those who had been captured,
which included Nicholas Smith and Sarah Weathers.
       “I can report to you that as of this moment, we’ve rescued everyone but Nicholas Smith.”
       The room erupted in chaos, and Erik allowed himself to fall against the wall with a feeling of
thankfulness that Sarah was alive.
                                                                              Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                          - 196 -

       Charlie Smith, however, the dad of Nicholas Smith, fell to the ground and sobbed. His
colleagues picked him up though as the Commander consoled him with the words, “Mr. Smith, we’ll
find him… we won’t stop looking, sir.”

        Thereafter, the scientists were each separately examined by doctors as Commander Young
answered their questions about the imprisonment and rescue of their family members, as well as the
uncertain status of the Nicaraguan scientists Montoya and Williams.
        It was at this time that Erik learned Sarah had been probed against her will inside a Nicaraguan
military compound on the other side of the island. She was even being probed at the time of her rescue
by Delta Force.
        When Erik imagined Horatio Zeeman giving the order to probe Sarah to obtain information
Zeeman could use to blackmail him, Erik began to scream inside his mind, HE’S A DEAD MAN!

        Per doctors’ orders, Charlie was taken into an adjoining room for medical treatment and
reconstructive surgery.
        The others were advised to rest for the night in their temporary living quarters on the Base, and
they would be reunited with their families in the morning.
        So, after a long and hot shower in his room that only moderately lessened his desire for revenge,
which Erik took as evidence of his mind and body connection, he donned a bathrobe with a soft stitch
embroidering of the U.S. Army logo and ate from a vegetable platter.
        The solid oak table in the middle of his room was round and wide, with intricate carvings of
olive braches. Appreciating these branches was also comforting to him, because it helped mitigate his
desire to kill Horatio Zeeman. Rather, Erik imagined him being humiliated in court.
        Hung on the walls of each bedroom were prints of famous moments in U.S. history. After
examining a photograph of the enactment of the thirteenth amendment, Erik noticed there was a note
taped to the vegetable platter, addressed to him.
        He opened it slowly. It was handwritten:

       Mr. Weathers. Since you are reading this note, Delta succeeded in their mission. I want to
       welcome you back home to the United States, and let you know, in case there was any
       misimpression, that you are of course free to do as you wish the moment you wish. Commander
       Young is in charge of your accommodations while you’re here up until your transportation off
       base. However, I will be in Florida tomorrow evening, with the President, and we would like
       very much to confer with you regarding your activities in Nicaragua. Commander Young can
       answer any and all questions in the interim should you choose to stay. I look forward to
       meeting you. Sincerely, William Redding, United States Secretary of Defense.

        Shortly after Erik put the note down, he was interrupted by a knock at the door, and then a
familiar voice, “Erik?”
        “SARAH!” he excited as he threw the door open and grasped his wife in the hallway. She had
arrived directly from a helicopter herself and she cried in his arms as he assured her, “You’re okay…”
        He wanted to pray that she was really okay, but he largely resisted the urge in favor of
reaffirming that he would indeed plot revenge against Zeeman for hurting her.

       All the while, Erik and his team failed to realize that Omniarch, which was playing both sides,
orchestrated both their imprisonment in Nicaragua and rescue by America.

                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
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        With the exception of Charlie, who was recovering from surgery in the nearby hospital wing,
Erik and his team sat down to breakfast at ten o’clock in the morning.
        It had had been less than 12 hours since their rescue in Nicaragua, but Erik insisted they meet to
discuss what to do about their new situation. They congregated at a round table with eleven seats. It was
elegantly set with fine china and fresh flowers. A large American flag adorned a silver pole by the
        As they sat together, everyone reported that they received the same note that Erik had received,
in more or less terms, from the Secretary of Defense. They also talked solemnly about their families’
imprisonments, and expressed their sympathies for Charlie Smith and his son Nicholas.

       Sarah Weathers was the only one whom Delta Force was able to confirm had actually been
knowingly probed by men dressed in Nicaraguan military uniforms.
       Erik only briefly described to his team what Sarah had experienced in her prison cell in
Nicaragua as he said quietly, “Mostly they were interrogating her to find info about me. After they
began frying her brain with lies to try to turn her against me.”
       He fought back tears as he stared out the window.

         Then, changing the subject away from Sarah, Erik articulated his belief that Nicholas Smith was
alive and that someone was probably trying to brainwash him, as they had done with Sarah, to blackmail
them. It had Omniarch’s signature, Erik thought.
         Commander Young joined them as they ate. He said confidently as he sat down, “I’m gonna be
straight with you… with all of you… the United States government needs your help on a classified
matter… the catch, however, is that you can’t know what the project is unless you agree to secrecy. And
all I can say is that it’s an interesting project involving the meaning of symbolism…. Erik, Jimmy,
Miles, Chuck… you guys remember taking a computer test with symbols when you were in high
school? I can’t really go into details, so if you want to know more, you have to agree to accept this
government’s confidentiality conditions as terms of government employment. But if you’re not
interested, I’ll just say welcome back home to America, and you’re free to do as you please.”
         After many glances were shared around the table, everyone stayed seated.
         Commander Young nodded his head to indicate a transition, and then he said, “We know a lot
about the mind probing laboratory in Nicaragua and the Tweaker programs, but we don’t know
everything obviously, so I’m supposed to tell you that if you want the United States military to protect
you from a possible United Nations’ criminal prosecution for violating international law there in
Nicaragua, you need to tell our government lawyers as much as you know, so the lawyers can do their
best job finding you guys loopholes to preserve confidentiality and what not…”
         Commander Young then looked directly at Erik and said, “According to both international and
United States law, the kind of probing we want to do on our symbolism projects, technically, requires an
international court order, but our lawyers tell us there is a loophole for national probing under the name
of research as long as we meet certain reporting requirements, and there is another loophole in the
reporting requirements for trade secrets, along with another loophole for imminent national security
threats. So, last year we commenced a closed-door declaratory relief trial before a United States military
tribunal and obtained a classified ruling in favor of probing under the auspices of research for national
security relating back to research to which you already own intellectual rights. So in short, we can offer
you human test subjects whenever you’re ready to begin building us a probe...”

      They sat for a long time at the table as Erik took on the role of questioner trying to obtain as
much information from Commander Young that he could before the gentle-mannered militarist insisted
                                                                                 Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 198 -

again that he couldn’t say anything more without obtaining secrecy agreements, which were simple, two
sentence promises to retain the confidences entrusted to them in their duties, or go to prison for
divulging secrets. They all knew and discussed, however, that United Nations law had the power to
protect whistleblowers from prison sentences in the absence of the commission of certain crimes. The
regulations on experimental research were complicated. Once Erik agreed to the secrecy agreement, the
others followed suit, and then together they all took another oath, as Erik said, “Let’s keep doing good
for the causes of science and humanity, on each person’s honor.”

        So with their employment and secrecy agreements solidified, Commander Young began to
explain in more detail the research they had conducted bending and interconnecting the Alpha Symbols
in the Green Room. Like explorers of some final frontier, they listened to the Commander as he
discussed various uses of the Alpha Symbols in describing mathematics and quantum physics.

         That evening Jimmy and Erik met the President of the United States and walked with the man
around the military compound for exercise.
         “God Bless the American self-interest that rescued us,” Jimmy said to the President, “One of the
last things you can truly set your watch to!”
         Jimmy’s sarcastic remark made Erik laugh, but the President appeared to dislike the punch line
Jimmy intended, which made Erik deliberately realize that to understand that Jimmy was making a joke
the President would have had to empathize with their imprisonment and also find humor in Jimmy
laughing about being rescued before the brink of psychological breakdown. The President said
defensively in response, “Well, yeah…self-interest, symbiotic relationship… ”
         Erik thought to himself, Manuel would’ve laughed.
         Jimmy then answered, “I was making a joke, actually… but if we’re being serious, it does matter
what we call this government’s motivation for rescuing us.”
         With a slight roll of his eyes, the President then offered, “There is always at least a little bit of
truth in jokes, otherwise they aren’t funny.”
         Erik then chimed in with a smile, “Tough audience… we’ll talk about something practical
         “Let’s.” The President replied condescendingly.
         “Good,” Erik then chided, “because this is where I get to be the tough audience, and I need to tell
you, Ned, the probes this government is contemplating should NOT use biological material, including
neurons, in place of synthetics. It’s ethically problematic to have quasi-human AI. Moreover, as my
team demonstrated with our work in Nicaragua, probes that utilize adaptive programming capabilities do
NOT need biological material to perform sophisticated genetic programming operations.”
         The President replied cautiously, “I trust your judgment, Erik, but it’s not your judgment to
         Erik and Jimmy both stopped in their tracks simultaneously. The low ceilings in the hallways
gave the impression of an intimate setting, but the bright lights above were penetrating.
         The President took two more steps forward and then turned around to face them as they wore
expressions of anger, but before anyone could speak, the President received a beep from his phone. He
looked over to Erik and Jimmy to acknowledge them, but they were now turned toward each other and
shaking their heads in agreement.
         “Yes, that’s good that they want to see them now,” the President said into his phone, at which
point, Erik turned around as he heard footsteps coming from a hall they had just past twenty seconds
earlier. When he saw two familiar faces turning the corner of the hall he exclaimed to Jimmy, “Look!”
         It was two of their old colleagues from Rider, ones whom Erik had known for their programming
talent and whom he had considered recruiting to defect from the Corporation many years ago.
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 199 -

        The President offered, “Reunions are nice, gentleman but I think I’ll have to call it a night
myself, so-”
        Erik then exclaimed, “We’re not in agreement about artificial intelligence, Ned. I’ll need you to
step down on this one.”
        The President responded with a plotting smile, “We can talk more about this tomorrow if you
like… I’m not trying to tell you that this government doesn’t have a job for you unless you incorporate
the best technologies available… again, I trust your judgment, but-”
        Erik then held up his hand to interrupt the President as Jimmy and the other two scientists stood
behind Erik with great interest. Erik said forcefully, “I will not arm a carbon structure with greater
intelligence and immunities than myself and my government. I’m protecting this Nation. Are we clear?”
        The President bowed sheepishly and responded, “We’re clear.”
        Erik nodded and then continued, “And one more thing, Ned… if you try to undermine me on this
by stealing my work … you’ll regret it… 2-g-m over c-squared.”
        “What does that mean?”
        “Do you know what the gravitational force was that expanded the universe faster than the speed
of light? What I’m trying to tell you, Ned, is that if you don’t understand power, don’t try to control it!”
        “I don’t want you as an enemy, Erik… I mean, hey, I had to test you, right?”
        Erik said nothing as his heart raced, but he raised his chin slightly and stared the man down as a
sign of superiority.
        The President gave a parting glance of trepidation before he walked down the hall and out of
        Wearing a wide smile Jimmy then said to Erik, “I believe you just silenced the self-proclaimed
most powerful man in the world with a question about gravity, one of the weakest forces we experience
on this planet. Well played!”

                                        Mathematically Speaking

        The following week, Erik and his team of scientists joined forces with Marshall Quimby, the
Omniarch loyalist, and his team already in place in Florida. Their mission was to improve upon the
brain probe in the Green Room for whoever would replace Vigorchium.
        Dave Winston, the dome director, said in no uncertain terms to Erik that although the military
had several intelligent savant candidates to take Vigorchium’s place, Jimmy and Miles were more
interesting candidates.
        Erik replied in answer, “Why not me?”
        Winston then wore a paternal look on his face as he imparted, “Erik Weathers, son of Michael
and Charlotte Weathers, your leadership is needed outside the Green Room … My first question…
What makes you think you’d have more control over the Green Room from inside the Simulator?”
        “What do you mean by that?” Erik asked.
        “I’m talking about the ways the Green Room is dangerously blinding to one’s logic in the pursuit
of logic… it’s more interesting from the outside… naturalism is more interesting and better… I’m sure
you’ve said it yourself as much as I have in life.”
        Erik wore a look of curiosity, which then prompted Winston to add with a smile, “Don’t you
think you’d rather have my job than Vigorchium’s?”
        Erik had no answer to offer, so he simply nodded to convey the mixed message that either he
was assenting to the question or else assenting to the fact that he understood the question.
        Winston noticed the strategic nod, and replied, “Well, Erik, ultimately if you want to use the
Green Room, you’ll have to consent to psychoanalysis by Dr. Martin Reese.”
        “Vigorchium’s psychiatrist,” Erik responded happily, “I’m ready now. When can I begin?”
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 200 -

        Learning about the Alpha Symbols was immensely interesting work for Erik, Jimmy, and Miles,
as well as the others as they moved back and forth between the laboratory and the classroom, at first
following the rigid instructions of Marshall Quimby. Soon, however, Erik began to take the reins from
        Three days into the “orientation” Quimby had prepared, it had become apparent to Dave Winston
that Marshall Quimby was butting heads with Erik on the amount of time to spend discussing the
preliminary work studying the Alpha Symbols, and the semantics to be used in describing the Alpha
        Winston intervened by calling a meeting between them to arbitrate what he called “management

        Meanwhile, Charlie Smith was still recovering in his large hospital bed. So, while Erik and
Quimby had their meeting with Winston, the rest of the team paid a surprise visit to their bedridden
friend. The flowers and cards made him smile, but it was the smiles on everyone’s faces that actually
helped lighten his mood.
        Chuck and Jane were able to convince him to transfer to the Florida dome to accept psychiatric
services from Dr. Reese.
        “It’s going to take more than anti-depressants to cope with the search for Nicholas,” Jane offered

        Erik’s meeting with Quimby lasted all afternoon. It was a spirited argument in Winston’s office
about the effectiveness of different brain probing techniques. At the end of the meeting, Winston
appointed Erik as the new Head of Operations, which had previously been Quimby’s job.
        “Where does that leave me?” the former child prodigy asked defensively as Winston shook
Erik’s hand.
        Winston replied, “That’s for Erik to decide, Marshall.”
        Ending the debate Erik quickly offered, “Marshall, you obviously love this work, so I know
you’ll be just as productive if not more productive working with me as one of my team leaders. ”

       The next day, Erik announced to his thirty-member crew that he would be taking over Marshall
Quimby’s position and organizing everyone into two teams that would be turned back into one team in
six months to fuse all respective probes and programs. He then explained to everyone how “creativity
meetings” would be organized.
       The first team, named Odysseus, would have the task of rebuilding in Florida the laboratory that
had existed in Nicaragua. To it, Erik assigned the two former Rider employees who had heard his
conversation with the American President days earlier, and everyone from his original team, except
Jimmy and Sonia. He assured this first team that with the data he and Jimmy had “reclaimed” several
months earlier in Nicaragua with the help of the Zat.edx program, they could perform a full
reconstruction of the Nicaraguan brain probe and the Tweaker programs in six months or less.
       The second team, named Prometheus, would be working on modifications to the neural shunting
system for the probe already in the Green Room, by incorporating a greater focus on mental defense
mechanisms and the logic of fear.

       Later that day, Erik and Jimmy sat together in one of the library rooms at the Florida dome. It
was no ordinary library, however. The consoles before them allowed them to bring up holograms to
supplement their conversation if they wished.
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 201 -

        It was here that Erik appointed Jimmy to the task of overseeing the second team, Prometheus, by
telling his friend in the private room, “Nobody I know understands defense mechanisms better, Jimmy…
you’re a natural for improving shunting… and don’t forget, you and me, as bosses, we get to enjoy
keeping Marshall in check.”
        Jimmy wore a contented smile and replied, “I’m happy to become a team leader, obviously….
But… I think they’ll want one of us to go inside the Green Room.”
        Prepared for the topic, Erik responded with troubled eyes, “You’d be a tool, literally.”
        “Oh, and you’re not interested in being the guy who gets to use the symbols next?”
        Erik smiled wide as he remembered his earlier conversation with Dave Winston, then he offered,
“Well… Winston decides. I already asked who he wants… they don’t want me because I’m supposed to
be the leader… Winston has me pegged as his successor… He told me who they want for the Green
Room, Jimmy…they want you or Miles.”
        Jimmy’s heart began to race, but he was speechless.
        Erik then asked cautiously, “What do you think? Obviously you need to know more before you
commit to anything, but these symbols… just the idea that we can toy with the quantum realm is so
surreal, I can’t even advise-”
        “Yeah,” Jimmy excited with approval, “life wasn’t supposed to be like this.”
        After nodding his head, Erik replied, “This is so far beyond our original pursuits it’s not even ….
if you lay your life on the line to analyze-”
        “This is all happening so fast, I just need some time to think…”
        Erik then placed his right hand on Jimmy’s shoulder and said with sad eyes, “You’re my buddy
and I don’t want you to be my test subject because I’ll dissect you, man.”
        Jimmy nodded ambiguously because he did not want to say anything. He was not ready to make
a promise one way or another.
        Erik then said to break the silence, “If you want to be a Green Room candidate, Winston says
you have to see Dr. Reese.”
        “Really?” Jimmy excited.
        “Yeah, buddy, I’m already a candidate myself…”
        Jimmy restrained his surprised facial expression.
        Erik continued, “I’m seeing the shrink for my first formal session next week. He’s… I had a
good feeling about him when we met because he’s cautious, but he also says people are naïve who don’t
think progress doesn’t involve risk… so everything just comes back to what a person thinks progress
ought to be. Basic stuff. He has an honest perspective it seems to me.”
        “Alright, I’ll see him.”
        “Anything else you want to say before you take more time to think?” Erik asked sarcastically
with a smile.
        “Not when you ask it like that.” Jimmy answered with a laughing smirk.
        “Looks like you and I are in competition for the Alpha Symbols… Race you to the end of the
        Jimmy played along, “Let’s include antimatter.” He then wrote in the air with his mathematical

                                                                                   …on your marks…”
       Smiling, Erik responded, “Do I detect Dirac? Actually, just by saying ‘on your marks’ you
trapped yourself in a zero sliver, .000∞1, because you’ve effectively tried to say a negative number
leading to the beginning of zero, which ultimately requires you to take a step forward, so I’ll argue
Zeno’s paradox, and                 You’re also trying to move forward in the negative realm, so you’re
                                                                                 Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 202 -

actually going backwards, which means I’ll win this race just by standing still. But, even if you happen
to step through zero,

                                                           … you’ll still lose without the fundamental
truth that you already existed in both places at once,

                                    . In spite of zero, you’ll need to match that multiplication to work
with absolute squares, A(I)A(2) – A(2)A(I), as you try to harness the dimensions you may need to
access to win the race to the end of the universe, in the Green Room or otherwise.”
        Jimmy then retorted, “I’ll argue a so-called ‘race’ to the end of the universe can’t end until you,
yourself are everything…

       After a single second Erik answered, “I’ll argue your perspective of infinity only affected you.
JT = mx+b.”
       That ‘JT’ stood for Jimmy Tripp drew a laugh from the programmer, because the equation was a
simple slope-intercept showing a single straight line.

        Erik then continued, “Actually,                           . I’ll argue I’m in a greater universe
unless you can claim to run through infinite matter without all the information you need from me to
begin the race,
       I’m also not bound by constants, so…

       Jimmy answered, “a + b =180°.”
                                                                                 Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 203 -

         Erik answered with a laugh, “Stalemate,” as he was faced with a simple equation for parallel
         “Let’s go drink,” Jimmy said.

         Under the new management of Erik Weathers, everyone at the Florida military facility was
required to work very long and arduous hours, which Erik thought helped make his own life more
meaningful because he in particular sacrificed spending time with Sarah. When he was at home he
often stayed awake pouring over the collected works of Vigorchium, including the earliest works, in the
hopes that he would be able to gain a greater understanding of the advantages of the savant’s unusual
         Jimmy too dedicated himself arduously to the time consuming task of studying Vigorchium’s
work, and his relationship with Sonia suffered because of it. The imprisonment took such a great toll on
Sonia’s psyche, at age 46, she told Jimmy she wanted to remain his “life partner,” but she did not want
to work any more. She decided instead to travel alone, an arrangement he found suitable since work
had always been his priority. As she left America on her first sojourn, Jimmy thought to himself, We
love each other, but we’ve never been in love. That’s just as good as it gets with Sonia… the only love of
my life.

                                          Leverage Over An Itch

        Nicholas Smith awoke on April 30th, 2161 to find himself wearing nondescript gray sweats and a
white t-shirt. About his location he knew only that he was inside a padded white room with no windows
and the door was locked. The last thing he remembered before waking up in the white room was seeing
three men in American military uniforms execute Montoya and Williams. Why didn’t they kill me too? I
said the same things they said… didn’t I?
        One of the hamburgers he received through the dumb waiter, he thought, was from a franchise he
recognized as one near his home in Chicago.
         At one point he said to the television playing old American movies in the corner of the white
room, “Guess it’s just you and me.”
        Curiously, he was glad to have athlete’s foot, tinea pedis, in between his toes, because it felt nice
scratching, and he wondered to himself his third day whether he would be locked up for so long he
would deliberately transfer the fungus over to his crotch.
        Nicholas began to wonder to himself if the fungus was perhaps more helpful than harmful for his
body in its ability to draw away his mind’s preoccupation with fear for his trapped self and everyone
else who might also be taken hostage. That’s a weird symbiotic relationship I have with flesh eating
bacteria, he thought about athlete’s foot.
        It was a simple thought about his body that helped him break the terror of the day as he feared
for his dad and the other geniuses.

       Nicaraguan President Horatio Zeeman was paid handsomely by Omniarch for his role in the
imprisonment of Erik and his team, and allowing the American military to subsequently rescue them.
But Omniarch hierarchies functioned on a dog-eat-dog mentality, and Zeeman did not know that certain
members of Omniarch were already laying plans to assassinate him and pilfer his wealth.
       Norbert Weishaupt had participated in the Omniarch committee meeting that determined Zeeman
was currently useless to Omniarch and was as a loose cannon with too much information.
       Even still, Zeeman did suspect enough foul play that he decided he should somehow use
Nicholas Smith as leverage against his Omniarch cohorts.
                                                                              Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                          - 204 -

       And so, Zeeman ordered that Nicholas Smith be forced to witness Montoya and Williams
executed at gunpoint by two mercenary soldiers wearing American military uniforms.
       Zeeman’s plan was to keep Nicholas in the padded white room in Nicaragua for as long as the
young man would live. Zeeman also put together a collection of falsified evidence that would show that
Erik Weathers had been sending Nicaragua’s classified secrets to certain Omniarch loyalists at the

        Meanwhile, Erik struggled with his desire for revenge against Zeeman for brain probing his wife
Sarah. As much as he tried to calm himself with adages like, the best revenge is living well, he always
recoiled into anger.

                                           Rambling Insanity

        Operating from his lair under the abandoned mine, Radomir and his two henchmen were steadily
working towards the final stages of Radomir’s plan to eradicate the vast majority of life on Earth with
nuclear bombs and hydrogen cyanide dispensing rockets. He dubbed the project, “Operation Reboot
        To implement the plan, Radomir spent sums of money chartering boats and renting automobiles
as he and the henchmen carefully traveled the globe, posing as an environmental cleanup team. They
dutifully planted boxes filled with the time-release rockets, which were designed to masquerade as soil
contamination testing capsules embedded in the soil at all the cheap properties throughout the world that
Radomir had purchased after the oceanic nuclear disaster.

        On May 21st, 2161, a cloudy morning in Italy, Radomir laid down on a blanket on one of his
properties near the Mediterranean Sea and stared at the sky while his two henchmen measured an area
for the placement of a capsule unit.
        Radomir said to them as he watched the gray clouds mixing with the white ones, “Take the
example of the poor person who steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving family. If starving people are
allowed to steal while society exercises compassion in deeming them not culpable, then the system fails.
Therefore, it’s in the best interest of a government to give poor people a small amount of money to prop
them up to the poverty line, just enough money so that if they fall an inch, they’re culpable, and the
system works. You see, compassion and law are mutually exclusive. Which is why, in order to take care
of everyone, we need less people.”
        One of the henchmen then rested his shovel on his foot and replied, “A particularly convincing
argument can be made that every act of charity is rendered ineffective by the shear breadth of the
planet’s problems… It’s the argument that no matter what you do, there’s always gonna be poverty and
crime, so when you help a poor person eat and medicate, you merely help them into a world of
reproduction and consumption, and the cycle continues. That there’s an equally convincing argument
that every act of charity can make a positive difference is just as obvious… that if you have the
opportunity to relieve another person’s pain, there is no rational explanation for why doing so is a bad
thing because that person might make the world a better place, perhaps become a doctor, helping others
and distributing birth control and education. The catch is that if both arguments can be correct, if you
can be correct in your assumption that the world is so large and complicated no one could ever argue
whether a single act of charity is good or bad, then there is no standard, and therefore NO JUSTICE!
There is only choice… So what do we know about choice? People don’t know what’s best for the whole
of society … we only know what’s best for ourselves presumably, but everything we do affects
society… so the game of life is about choice among percentages, and like all things in life, it doesn’t do
                                                                                Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                            - 205 -

much good to do a half-ass effort, and yet with this subject, a half-ass effort is exactly what poor people
are begging for in terms of charity. So what does that tell you? This world is hopeless.”
         Radomir laughed loudly at the henchmen who had a reputation for rambling sensibly about
insanity, but both men were then interrupted by the second henchmen who said, “The government needs
waste because those who waste things use the system most, which creates government jobs. You see,
scientists create the devices to fight off man’s vices, but technology will not win… man will win.”
         Radomir then said, “Whoever says competition and free speech are the only answers to the
world’s problems lives a destructive life because if competing to build any useable tool and the freedom
to contort anything are the only goals in life, then I am allowed to test any product I want by exposing
small markets in the system as I compete and speak freely… I can be as mad or perverted as I want if
there are no standards for speaking and buying things. Thus, our present engagement here, with these
capsules, has an important place under the market that led to my purchases and my freedom of speech…
really it’s quite that simple that under these so-called natural laws, criminal regulations are secondary to
freedom, and this is not any sovereign’s planet to steward, I say. If we don’t restart culture without
Nations, as small communities of men willing to live and let live again without fear of technology and
human weakness, there can be no peace.”
         One of the henchmen then said, “It’s frustrating when one of your greatest thoughts is also one
of the simplest ones you’ve ever had. It makes you think - what’s the point of all the thinking and doing
you do, unless somehow everyone here on Earth is here for a reason, to test his ideas, and somehow the
testing itself is a goal, like it’s okay for you to hope your actions are a righteous end and means to the
end and means of your goals.”
         Radomir then launched into another long tirade that he felt explained there was a necessity to
eradicate the world’s population. At the end of it, his henchmen did not know what to say because they
did not understand Radomir’s logic, so they simply continued digging their hole, wallowing in their own
authoritarian desires.

                                            Family Revelation

        In the afternoon of July 2nd, 2161 carrying two gourmet warm coffees, Dr. Reese entered Dave
Winston’s office at the dome and exclaimed, “DAVE… exciting news….a curiously usual coincidence
with regard to two very very important people at this dome.”
        Winston accepted his mocha latte with a look of skepticism and humor as he answered, “Yeah?
Coincidence like gee whiz, or coincidence like evidence of extraterrestrial intervention again?”
        “This one’s local… Erik Weathers is the biological nephew of Lucy Devereaux!”
        Winston laughed in disbelief at what he thought was either a decently delivered joke or the
beginning of one, until Dr. Reese said, “I’m serious, Dave… I double-checked. I went over everything
twice this morning with Genetics.”
        Winston’s jaw dropped as his mind slowly accepted empathy for Lucy and Erik.
        Dr. Reese continued with an intonation of amazement, “We looked into birth records and
discovered that Lucy was born on the same day at the same hospital as Erik’s aunt, so I assume baby
switch…. We need to look into this because a baby switch is more the result of a criminal motive than
an act of hospital negligence, but… when can we tell Erik and Lucy what we know?”
        “How do you know they don’t already know they’re related?”
        “They’ve met only once to my knowledge,” Dr. Reese answered, “because I was the one who
introduced them to each other…”
        Winston then said, “What we’ll do is you and I will have a meeting with both of them tomorrow
morning in your office. We’ll tell them everything we know, then we’ll give them some privacy so they
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can talk.” He then stood up, opened his door, and looked out into the spacious hallway that led to the
social atrium.

         Little did Winston know, Omniarch was behind the baby switch that had occurred 82-years
earlier. Because Lucy’s father, who was Erik’s grandfather, came from a lineage of law abiding
geniuses, Omniarch decided to switch Lucy and Kathy at birth, in the hope of gaining leverage over
Lucy by separating her from her Westvale lineage. A wealthy Omniarch mind controller carried out the
baby switch. He enlisted two unsuspecting, but very corruptible, Omniarch loyalists working at the
hospital where Lucy’s mom was to give birth. Using hypnosis and fabricated mythical and astrological
data, the wealthy Omniarch handler convinced the two hospital staff members to make the baby switch
as he claimed his data showed that if these two babies bonded with their mothers on this particular day
at this particular parcel of land, it would fulfill an ancient witchcraft recipe for attracting ghosts to earth.
So the only way to stop the attraction of the ghostly lineage of each baby, the handler explained, was to
separate them from their mothers. Rather than simply killing the babies or their mothers, a classic baby
switch was the “perfect” and “humane solution,” the handler reasoned with a seductive smile, “because
everybody walks away with a life and a family.”

         The next morning in Winston’s office, Erik and Lucy sat side-by-side in comfortable chairs as
Dr. Reese informed them that Lucy had been inadvertently switched at birth with Erik’s Aunt Cathy at
San Francisco General Hospital on October 16, 2078.
         “You’re serious?” Erik asked.
         While Erik stared blankly at the nodding head of Dr. Reese, Lucy looked over at Erik with
compassionate eyes. Indeed, Lucy was so floored by the news of her true heritage that she ignored what
would otherwise be social etiquette and simply stared unabashedly at her nephew while he gazed
questioningly at Dr. Reese. By the time he turned toward her, she had already alighted from her chair
and was attempting to conceal tears of joy. After they shared a hug, Dr. Reese said, “Well, you guys
probably want some time to talk, so…”
         Even before Dr. Reese and Dave Winston closed the door behind them, Lucy began explaining
to Erik that Cathy’s real family, with whom she had lived through her adolescence, was ordinary in
nearly every manner, from their bland senses of humor to their capacities for scientific knowledge, so to
now learn that her nephew was a charismatic genius, she said, confirmed the identity she wanted her
entire life. “It’s like I’ve found that missing puzzle piece,” she told him wishfully and with a general
sense of thankfulness.
         In response he suggested that her growing up with humble roots was in many instances probably
a greater virtue than confidence.

        In the four hours that they spoke in Winston’s office, Erik told stories about his upbringing, and
his parents and grandparents.
        Learning of Michael and Charlotte’s affliction with a virus, Lucy was saddened, though she had
never even met them. Erik explained to her that a full recovery would be impossible unless they were
willing to artificially prolong their lives with synthetic organs and tissues. As this would require them to
abandon their naturalist life philosophies, they withheld consent.
        “But they contracted the virus by a fluke.” Lucy pleaded.
        “That’s the biggest point I make when I argue with them about it… but they believe there’s a line
to be drawn in the sand when it comes to artificial treatments.”
        “Let’s go to Chesterton right now… what do you think?”
        Erik then said with a devoted smile, “Don’t know why we aren’t already on the plane. I’ll call
Sarah and tell her to pack our things.”
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         “I’m looking forward to meeting her. What Zeeman did to her in Nicaragua, she’s going to need
a lot of support right now.”
         “Her brothers and Angelica have been really helpful, but… yeah, she’ll need a lot of love to fully
recover and feel normal again.”
         “Well,” Lucy responded affectionately, “since we’re family now I’m not afraid to say that’s
exactly what you’re gonna get.”

        Seven hours later, optimistic faces of Lucy, Erik, Sarah, and Jimmy touched down in Seattle and
were greeted inside the airport lobby by Charlotte, Michael and Angelica. As a joke, Michael wore a
black suit and held up a cardboard sign reading “Devereaux?,” as if he were a limousine driver.
        The strong interpersonal dynamic and shared idiosyncrasies between Charlotte and Lucy were
apparent immediately as they frequently wore matching facial expressions in response to the steady
stream of jokes and witticisms by Erik, Jimmy, and Michael.
        During a lunch picnic in the park on their second day in Chesterton, the group, now joined by
Lawrence and Wendy Martel, listened contently as Charlotte and Michael told stories to Lucy about
Erik’s childhood.

        During the picnic, Lucy learned that everyone liked to joke about Erik having a god-complex. It
made her wonder whether Erik was fit for the Green Room. At one point Erik said, “The man with the
god-complex has more than one thing that to him is ‘as good as it gets,’ which you could say is either a
contradiction or else just the human way to describe the complex.”
        Then, peering over her blue mug, filled to the brim with warm lemon tea, Charlotte’s response to
her son was, “Humans experience, but God creates the mechanics of experience. Now although I don’t
think its insane to want to believe you’re so extremely intelligent that God would desire having a
conversation with you about your experiences or perhaps mechanics, you would be insane to think
you’re the chosen one just because something supernatural has been able to convey information to you.
In other words, skepticism of both supernatural and natural power makes you sane.”
        Charlotte said this in full awareness that over the course of her life, symbols had appeared to her
mind supernaturally. The way Erik explained the Alpha Symbols, though, she did not recognize them.
Nor did she realize that the illustrations she had drawn into her diary years earlier, of dodecahedrons and
icosahedrons, actually foretold the unexpected kinship between herself and Lucy. And yet, this was not
the only unexpected kinship prophesied in her diary.

       Overall, the three-day reunion was immensely therapeutic for Erik.
       Michael and Charlotte promised to visit Florida “soon,” but as life would unfold, Charlotte’s
kidneys would fail before the next family reunion.
       The emergency room physician pronounced, “Time of death… 1:37 a.m.”


       Charlotte’s death brought Michael into a deep despair, the likes of which he had never
experienced before.
       That night in the Weathers’ living room in Chesterton, although Michael desired to be left alone
in misery until he felt enough like himself to commiserate with others, Sarah told him, “Part of the role
of family and friends is to help carry this grief, so we’ll celebrate her life and mourn her death, and we
need you for that because to the extent we can say these things together, we’ll all be more human
because of it… these connections…” She began to cry, and Erik led her upstairs while fighting off tears
himself after giving his dad a hug.
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      Three days later, during the funeral, Erik delivered a warm and sensitive speech about his
mother’s good deeds in life.

        Before the congregation of hundreds of mourners, Erik announced, “My mother used to say that
in a conducive environment, a species can achieve any number of outcomes… that in order to have a
new beginning, there can be no ink in the water that is life.”
        Erik began to cry, then he left the podium.

        After the funeral, Erik helped his dad gather and organize personal items in the garage and attic,
and it was in doing so that he found his mother’s diary, a three-volume set of cloth-bound books.
        “That’s not something you’re allowed to read, son.” Michael said decisively.
        Holding the three books in his right hand Erik responded, “Can you tell me something about
what’s in here?”
        Michael smiled pensively and replied, “That’s a fair question… and the answer is that I only
know what your mom told me about what she liked to write about. She asked me not to read it, so I
        “Did she ask you to destroy it in the event she- ”
         “Passed? No, she just asked me not to ever read it, so…”
        “What do you want to do then?” Erik asked inquisitively.
        “I don’t know.”
        Erik then replied, “We could burn ‘em.”
        “Like right now?” Michael asked defensively.
        “I don’t know.” Erik answered softly, also genuinely unsure of what to do.
        After a long pause, Michael then said, “She talked about gatekeepers once, I remember we were
in the backyard and we were talking about conquered societies… she said that when your gatekeeper has
become your last line of defense, then the only real question left to answer is whether you want the
society that conquers you to learn your secrets…”
        “I know it may seem like a tangent, but that’s kind of how I think she’d analyze this… whether
you and me as gatekeepers believe we can make the world that conquered her a better place if we read
her mind.”
        “That’s intense…” Erik replied quietly and thoughtfully.
        “Yeah,” answered Michael with a deep breath, “naturally, she was protective of the secrets in her
diary because she asked me not to read it, but was she protective because of her stake in her own life, or
because of her stake in us? She believed the world would be a better place if people understood the
things she was thinking, but privacy itself was one of the fundamental rights she championed, so…”
        “How about if you and I don’t read it, but we let Lucy read it in confidence, and then let her
report to us on whether there’s any instructions inside for what to do… what do you think?”
        Michael took another deep breath, and then agreed.


       It was a dry, hot day, August 29th, 2161, when by special order of the Secretary of Defense,
Marshall Quimby abruptly ceased working at the Florida dome. Omniarch had pushed the right buttons
to make it happen.
       Quimby would be heading a new secret laboratory for the United States, a separate laboratory
manned by a team of thirty scientists. Their goal would be to design cybernetic robots for use in the
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Green Room, robots utilizing artificial intelligence capable of subverting a human’s neocortex through
various organic and inorganic means. One particularly radical method of accomplishing this goal,
Quimby proposed, would allow lattice structures made of organic material to directly interface with the
human brain working inside the Green Room.

        Lucy Devereaux finished reviewing her biological sister Charlotte’s diary less than a month after
having commenced the interesting project.
        Charlotte had expressly indicated on the inside cover of each of the three cloth-bound volumes
her request that the diary never be published.
        As Lucy said to Michael and Erik, “And she also makes it clear that she wanted to keep the diary
as a ‘family heirloom.’ Those are her words.”
        “Did she ever say why she didn’t want it destroyed?” Michael asked.
        “Yes… and this is where all this starts to get really interesting, actually. Charlotte never let
anyone read her diary while she was alive because she feared being labeled clairvoyant.”
        Michael and Erik were both speechless.
        Lucy then went on to describe how Charlotte had drawn on the diary’s pages certain symbols she
had envisioned during the course of her life in various dreams, and she annotated what she thought the
symbols represented mathematically and how they foreboded future events, some of which, involved the
extravagant demise of Erik.
        Shaking, Erik picked up the last volume of the diary and began to flip through pages beginning
with the most recent, and the first symbol the genius encountered therein was a series of interlaced
dodecahedrons and icosahedrons. It was not the first time he and Lucy had seen the intricate symbols.
        They were eerily similar to one of Vigorchium’s creations, capable of being represented as
binary code inside a lattice, a deviation from a portion of the third Alpha Symbol.
        That he saw it in his mother’s diary caused Erik to faint, and when he awoke twenty seconds
later, he was laying down in the nearest bedroom, above him the worried faces of Michael and Lucy.
        The first thing Erik said to them was, “I think we need to talk, Lucy. How long was I down?”
         Lucy answered, “About twenty seconds.”
        Michael examined Erik with a handheld medical diagnostic instrument that measured his blood
pressure, heart rate, electrical patterns, breathing rate, reflexes, speech pattern, and checked for blood

        Later that day, Lucy recounted for Erik the meaning of the interlaced symbols in Charlotte’s
diary. She had read in Vigorchium’s file about a strange dream he had at the dome that incorporated
these symbols. Vigorchium had described it to Dr. Reese during a counseling session.
        In the dream, Vigorchium’s mother received via mail courier the day after Vigo’s birth a letter
purporting to be from his dad, a man whom his mother had known only a week while vacationing in
California. In Vigorchium’s recounting, the letter read in part:

       Even though technically I was born on Earth, I must admit my loyalties lie elsewhere, which is
       why I’ve done what I’ve done.

        Then at the bottom of it, signed below what appeared to be an ordinary name, Patrick Smith, in
different colors of calligraphy were the finely interlaced dodecahedrons and icosahedrons from various
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       So, to see similar interlaced structures in his mother’s diary shocked Erik unconscious, because
the odds of the coincidence occurring were too small for him not to be vexed cataleptic, he rationalized.
He had always wondered whether he was part alien.

         And so, that early autumn day he stood with Lucy under a tall oak tree. He was comfortably
dressed and breathing easily when he told her, “I absolutely need more information on whether
Vigorchium was an alien, and whether I’m an alien.” The question was so paramount to his psyche,
what had actually caused him to faint was a sense of overwhelming self-awareness.
         He watched a leaf fall from the tree above him onto his shoulder. He wondered if there was a
critter on the leaf, and then he shuttered at his mental use of the word critter.
         To possibly be alien made him feel unattractive, and he thought of his wife, Sarah. He still felt
confident that he could talk to Sarah about his predicament, because she loved him that much. She
would love him even if he was alien, he thought.

        In wondering about symbolism and dreams, Erik remembered that Jimmy’s sister, Melanie, had
mentioned a few times that their mother Betty had dreamt of symbols. Erik decided to call her that very
night, as he laid in bed with his wife.
        Erik and Sarah listened with interest as Melanie described to Erik over the telephone that Betty
often saw symbols in her dreams. Melanie’s voice was brazen as she answered, “I encouraged her to
draw what she dreamed, but she never wanted to. She feared that if she focused too hard on any one
thing she might misrepresent the bigger picture.”
        “Do you remember if she ever spoke about any dreams relating to aliens?” Erik asked.
        Embracing the question with sharp interest, a tingling sensation rained down her spine as
Melanie closed her eyes and began to remember her mother telling her about a dream she had where
Jimmy was born with a key in his hand that allowed him to access a series of doors, and one of the doors
led to a planet inhabited by a human-like people that had abandoned Earth billions of years earlier, and
there was a throne waiting just for Jimmy, but he had to solve problems of ever-increasing difficulty in
order to get through the maze protecting the throne.
        “My mom thought Jimmy might be smarter than the advanced human race, which is why they
would use him to be the one to tell them how to get through the maze, or that they would watch him try
to go through the maze just for sport. She didn’t really know what to think. And I told her it sounded
weird to talk about, and she agreed, so she never really talked it about.”
        Erik’s wide-open eyes locked into the nearest wall of his bedroom as he absorbed with fear the
addition of another coincidence, this one inline with his own mother’s dream that he was born with a
key in his hand and was required to choose among a number of doors.
        However, no sooner than Erik had time to adjust to the shock that Betty too dreamed of symbols,
keys and aliens, Melanie said softly into the telephone from her home’s balcony in Chesterton, “Sarah,
the year after I divorced my ex-husband… I made love to Erik … I don’t know if he ever told you?”
        Sarah answered in exasperation, “No! Did you get pregnant?”

       Erik had never told Sarah about his sexual relationship with Melanie because, as he rationalized
to himself, it occurred six years before he and Sarah had even met.
       Erik remembered telling Melanie at the time, over thirty years ago, “We’re obviously attracted to
each other, so let’s just agree this will be a one time thing, because you only live once … okay?” They
had made love in Erik’s bedroom on a rainy Saturday afternoon only a few hours before Melanie was
scheduled to depart for a two-year internship with an environmental nonprofit organization in Africa.
       When Melanie found out she was pregnant, two weeks later, she called him on the videophone,
and then without actually telling him about the pregnancy, she gave him an ultimatum, “I know we said
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we were making love for its own sake, but I think we should openly embrace something more.” When
Erik only stared at her silently, she completed her ultimatum, “Or maybe we just continue to pretend
there’s no intimacy.”
        “I’m afraid I can’t be the man you want me to be,” Erik had answered with sad eyes, knowing he
would always second-guess the decision.
        Melanie arrived back in the United States eleven months later, alone, having had successfully
concealed her pregnancy and natural childbirth from everyone she knew in America.

        And so, after a dramatic pause, Melanie responded to Sarah’s question about whether a child had
been conceived. Melanie answered excitedly by revealing her greatest secret, “Erik, our son’s name is
Evan… and he’s a genius.”
        Sitting fully upright in bed, Erik looked at Sarah, but spoke also to Melanie as he imparted with
exuberance, “That’s…beautiful!”
        Melanie went on to describe in great detail that Evan was raised in Africa by a socially-conscious
foster family.
        She also added intrepidly, “I’ve had dreams too, Erik, but I don’t necessarily want to talk about

        The telephone conversation that night ended with Erik consoling and reassuring Sarah of his
commitment to their marriage.
        Melanie vocally concurred in Erik’s assessment, and stressed that Sarah had “nothing to worry
about.” However, she secretly wished to herself that Erik would acknowledge the uniqueness of their
new situation, and eventually ask her on a date.
        And so, Melanie went to sleep that night alone again in her bed, remembering the decision she
made in Africa thirty years ago. She told herself she still believed she made the right choice giving Evan
to a foster family because as she had rationalized, any way that the 32-year old Erik could have
confronted the situation would have ultimately decreased his productivity in life as a genius, and
Melanie knew about him that he relied upon that productivity to define himself, so she told herself it was
an act of love for Erik that made her keep the secret. My own dramatic tragedy to make the world a
better place, she thought, trying to make sense of the meaning of her life.

                                              Evan Shaka

        The United States government file on Evan Shaka showed that the savant had been raised on the
island of Madagascar by intelligent and socially conscious parents who had known Melanie Tripp
through their volunteer work in the jungle with the same environmental nonprofit organization based in

        By age two, Evan’s superior intelligence was obvious to his foster parents, and despite his home
schooling, he quickly attracted the attention of all governments.
        One Defense Minister convinced Evan’s foster parents to cease home schooling and to
commence charter school on government property where he could study the reverse engineering of
computer systems. Evan found the work to be extremely stifling to his imagination, and so at the age of
six he fled to Europe, where he lied about his age and identity and became a nonsectarian monk living
mostly underground. At the private monastery he had access to several internet libraries, a seemingly
inexhaustible wealth of resources, and the monks abided in silence. There he immersed himself in
quantum physics, and had been communicating with Melanie through private message boards for
clergymen ever since.
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       And so, with Melanie’s help, Erik communicated with Evan for the first time by posting on a
secure website,

       Dear Evan, my name is Erik. I just found out from your mom that I’m your dad. I’d love to
       meet you and to get to know you. Love, Dad.

        When Evan read the message a week later, he placed his forehead on his desk and enjoyed a
deep sigh.
        His mother had always denied him knowledge of his dad’s identity, though he suspected it was
Erik in light of what she did tell him.

       Evan then wrote back,

         I had a feeling you were the guy. Can you visit this week? The beds here are wooden, but hey,
still better than regret.

       Erik responded,

      Your mom and I and your step-mom are on our way, and we’d like to bring you back with us to
America, but we’ll talk about this opportunity when I see you. This is going to be great!

       The difficult process of telling Jimmy about Evan was made easier by the fact that Jimmy too
was excited to meet Evan, and he quickly talked himself and Angelica into going on the trip with Erik,
Sarah, and Melanie. Lucy also wanted to take the trip, but Erik insisted that she remain in Florida and
with Michael, writing messages on the private message board.

        Later that week, when the group arrived at the French monastery, Evan greeted them with
personalized gifts, wooden statuettes of famous inventors he had carved himself. Like his dad, Evan
was slightly over six feet tall, with thick brown hair, intense blue eyes, and a proud smile. He was,
however, much stronger than Erik because of his age and because monastery life involved the daily
practice of various martial arts. His weapon of choice was from one of his own crafts, a sword, with an
interesting wooden handle.
        Evan invited Erik and Jimmy to peruse a bookshelf of journals he had written, which contained
mostly his own comments on certain mathematical and physical proofs and theorems, experiments,
experiences, and supposed truths he saw. So the three-day family gathering ended up being an insight
into Evan’s psychology partially through a technical review of his scientific abilities.
        Both Erik and Jimmy were extremely impressed with Evan’s insights into quantum
electrodynamics and fluid mechanics.
        They enjoyed a running joke that there simply wasn’t enough time to do what they were doing.

       As a gracious host in the monastery, Evan made the effort to subtly include Sarah in
conversations about science. He showed he was genuinely just as anxious to learn about her life as he
was his own blood relatives.
       Consequently, Sarah felt contented, and the group dynamic was better for it.

       On their second night at the monastery, after Evan accepted Erik’s offer that he come work at the
dome, the group found themselves sitting down comfortably after dinner discussing psychological
experiments when Sarah said, “Life isn’t a controlled experiment, so it’s interesting that we have to look
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                                                                                           - 213 -

at controlled experiments to predict human behavior… that we mostly deduce things about our minds by
separating them from the whole and then comparing them to the original, like comparing x minus one to
         Evan offered quietly, “Indeed.”
         Then Jimmy said, “Imagine making up in your mind a disease, like OCD let’s say… then you go
act it out in front of someone who already knows you really well… and see how they treat you
         Melanie then offered, “That could ruin trust in a relationship.”
         “Totally,” Sarah responded.
         “Yeah,” Erik answered conversationally, “but also… when the focus on tests become more
important than the interest in reality, it makes you wonder whether the architecture of your life is more
important than the construction, if that analogy works for you. Take the psychological test where you
put five objects in front of someone, each one corresponding to a different layer of the traditional
Maslow hierarchy of needs, then play a video for the subject, and ask them to always be indicating with
their dominant hand which object they would like to be using as they watch the scenes before them.”
         “Those aren’t outdated Rider trade secrets now are they?” Jimmy asked jokingly with a sarcastic
         Erik laughed, and then answered with his own joke, “Where k=1,2,3,5, if p∨1∧k + p∨2∧k, then
what solution is -(a+b+c)x∧2 +2(-bu+av)xy + (A+b-c)uvy∧2?”
         Since the equation’s solution was ‘p’ to the fifth power, a clever reference to pleading the Fifth
Amendment to the United States Constitution, Erik paused to wait for the joke to land, and it did. Evan
laughed, followed closely by Jimmy, and Erik reiterated again to himself how important it was to share
life through mathematical abilities.

        During the three-day visit to the French monastery, Erik also learned more about Melanie’s
dreams as she described how she envisioned Evan wielding a “gravity bomb” capable of destroying
alien spacecraft coasting in excess of the speed of light toward Earth. In her dreams, she said Evan
always tried to negotiate with the aliens using the language of symbolism to establish the rights of
humans to occupy Earth. The dreams were so detailed, Melanie said, she remembered parts of
conversations where Evan negotiated with the aliens using tools that bound him by the speed of light,
and as a result, sadly, Evan was not as quick on the draw, so in her dreams, the aliens abducted him
before he could detonate a gravity bomb, after which they commenced the genocide of the human race.
        That Melanie was good with math was well established, but Erik thought her citation of
mathematical principles in a dream was extremely unusual. He began to feel surer about himself that he
was justified in believing himself and Jimmy part alien.
        Melanie also described to Erik, during a rare moment in private, on a bench in the garden, that as
the sharpness of her dreams became increasingly pronounced in her mind, she began drawing “strange
symbols” she envisioned in fantasy scenarios. She told Erik she maintained her portfolio inside her
floor safe in Chesterton.
        “Do you have any interlaced dodecahedrons?” he asked as he simultaneously reflected on the
extent to which he wished to know the answer.
         She imparted sweetly that she remembered some vaguely as Erik described. I hope she’s not
thinking I would want to probe her, Erik thought sincerely.
        And as they conversed there alone in the monastery, Melanie deliberately refrained from the
impulse to ask Erik whether he would want to view her portfolio some time when they would have the
whole night to themselves. The fantasy of that kind of experience had kept her motivated to keep
drawing for years, and yet now that the opportunity was upon her to make it happen, the genuineness of
her friendship with Sarah prevented her from uttering the proposition.
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        In this conflict, she experienced a disquieting fear of her own emotions, which she dubbed
internally, a double-edged noodle.
        The thought made her laugh, but in a partly unfortunate way for Erik, her laugh made him smile.
        They wondered out loud together how they could both openly acknowledge that they could have
been a great couple under different circumstances, for the truth’s sake, and Evan’s sake, while still
respecting Sarah.
        To the extent they knew Sarah would view their present conversation as somewhat of an illicit
indulgence made them both walk away from the bench feeling guilty, and as they broke paths in separate
directions away from the carefully organized garden, they both recognized in their own way that
creating regret was not an acceptable way to begin a relationship, and Erik chose Sarah.

                                             Taming Lions

        On his first day at the Florida dome, Evan was the recipient of a lively welcome from the large
staff of scientists. He thought it interesting, the specific manner that he felt obligated to entertain the
group. I don’t like being praised like royalty.
        When people called for a speech, he reluctantly walked to the edge of the large room, stepped up
onto a brown crate, and accommodated with implied reluctance, “Thank you… thanks to everyone for
giving me this nice welcome to Florida, though it may feel a little anti-climactic when you discover its
my birthday tomorrow and we plan to recycle the cake.”
        The joke landed well. Earlier in the celebration, Erik had introduced Evan to everyone with great
pride during his own humorous speech. Consequently, most of the crowd sat back and drank coffee and
tea and ate cake.
        From the makeshift podium Evan said next, “I’ll be serious now though, I can’t wait to work
with all of you… especially those of you who are already convinced I might try to steal your lunch from
one of the refrigerators and defect to Nicaragua…”
        Just then, Dave Winston, who had organized the welcoming party for Evan, approached Erik,
who was laughing happily, to tell him that President Sawyer just telephoned to say he would be arriving
at the dome within minutes to introduce himself to Evan, and that he was hoping for “a new beginning.”
        Erik placed his hand on his head and thought carefully about how to approach the situation as
Winston said quietly, “Let’s give them five or ten minutes alone if you think Evan is prepared to handle
        “Evan can handle himself,” Erik replied proudly, but then as the two men walked into the hall
away from the crowd, Erik said, “But we should expect he’ll try to lay the groundwork to recruit Evan to
Quimby’s lab, which translates to an ultimatum as I see it-”
        Interjecting, Winston said quickly, “Well, if President Sawyer really wants to start a new
beginning today, he won’t be abrasive.”
         “Yeah,” Erik answered hesitantly, “so I’m worried his ultimatum is gonna look like a win-win

        By the time the President arrived thirty minutes later, escorted by Winston, the celebration had
disbanded and dispersed, and Evan was in the conference room with Erik and Jimmy watching one of
their hologram presentations of the Alpha Symbols in motion. Erik was explaining to Jimmy and Evan
what Winston had just told him that what Marshall Quimby really wanted to do with the new laboratory
– create intelligent half-man, half-robot cyborgs who would enter the Green Room to manipulate and
discover uses for the Alpha Symbols.
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        “Sorry to interrupt, gentlemen,” the President announced as he entered the room in a pinstriped
black suit, “but I couldn’t wait to meet the man who might end up with my job someday. I’m pleased to
meet you, Evan.”
        Evan stood upright to shake the extended hand of Ned Sawyer, the American President. Erik and
Jimmy stayed back, speculating in their seats.
        The President then said to Erik, “Thanks for this opportunity Erik… I was just telling Dave
Winston that I do want to talk about the reports you’ve prepared, but I’m afraid Marshall Quimby says
he’s going to need more time to review them because he has been so busy lately.”
        Jimmy was the first to reply, “Busy going in the wrong direction.”
        The President took a deep breath for everyone to notice, then offered, “I appreciate your input,
Jim… it’s just that Marshall wants to be thorough since, as he’s advised, the newer laboratory is using
more advanced techniques than we use here, so the explanations are taking longer than he expected in
order to characterize some things you maybe haven’t seen yet. I’m told it’s really exciting how things
are coming together, but I was actually just hoping today to meet Evan and personally extend to him the
same offer I made to you guys… that is, Evan, if you’d like to observe some of the other technologies
this government is working on as you’re trained here at the dome, you might be surprised at how much
fun they’re having.”
        Erik then said with a foreboding smile, “Ned… your subtly belies your motive.”
        Predicting that another argument was imminent, Winston interjected, “Mr. President, Evan is
already up-to-speed on this sort of ongoing debate about the new laboratory, so I think it would be best
if we just shifted-”
        “Say no more,” the President replied apologetically, “Evan and I can discuss other things I’m
        Evan then said strategically, “You know, I don’t think we need to limit ourselves.”
        “That’s what I think,” the President replied happily.
        “And actually,” Evan said, “since we’re being candid… I already know enough about the new
lab to tell you I’m interested in working with Marshall Quimby, but only if you’re willing to veto bills
and hand down executive orders for me occasionally.”
        The President replied, “Perhaps.”
        Evan then said with a wry smile, “I’m trying to test your corruptibility. I don’t know that I trust
        “Test?” asked the President, trying to accomplish a pretense of innocence.
        Erik offered, “How quickly one sacrifices fair means for his own ends...”
        Sawyer sat down and excited, “The Constitution says I’m entitled to veto legislation for any
reason and issue any executive order I wish so long as it’s constitutional. I don’t think anybody asked
for anything more.”
        Evan then replied, “How am I supposed to trust that you won’t sell me out or misuse my work
when it suits your ends? I’m just being candid with you, Mr. President… I know about that other lab
using really dangerous AI.”
        “I’m speechless,” said the President as he looked out the window with a remorseful look on his
face. Then, as the four scientists reflected on whether the politician in the room really was sorry for his
behavior, the howling wind helped a large tree fall into the side of the building. The windows and
structure resonated, but stayed fully intact.
        Evan commented, “I presume this bulletproof glass also protects against battering rams.”
        Winston replied, “Not even a mammoth could break those carbon bonds.”
        “Perhaps a dragon though,” Jimmy said sarcastically, “which reminds me… does the new
laboratory intend to create man-eating dragons in addition to Armageddon-style chemicals and
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        The President laughed weakly and then replied with his own offer of sarcasm, “Naturally.”
        “Are we turning over a new leaf where we’re allowed to laugh with each other” asked Erik, “or
should we first discuss why you’re allowing this government, supervised by Marshall Quimby at that, to
take an unsafe risk with invasive, mutating AI?”
        “If you’re asking whether I might change my mind about the new lab, then I’m afraid the answer
is… not yet.”
        This is science fiction, thought Erik.
        Then, with pleading eyes, Evan said to the President, “I’d be interested to know what you think
distinguishes a man from a robot? Maybe an academic debate could make you realize that you already
agree with us that intelligent cyborgs are against natural law.”
        Without pause the President answered, “Humans are different because we enjoy life… if it feels
good, you’re not a robot, but if something makes us different than robots, other than the substances that
create the bioelectrical signals governing our behavior, would that thing be given to us from the outside,
or would it be inherent in our bio-matter, and thus entirely the product of physical dimensions as we
understand physics? The question is unanswerable.”
        “How are we supposed to treat intelligent robots differently than humans?” Jimmy asked.
        In reply the President said, “I don’t know.”
        “Another reason you’re a dangerous man,” Erik said, his eyes clouded by fear.
        “I don’t think you guys are livin’ in the real world if you think a sovereign nation needs to
appreciate every risk before it takes precautions to protect itself,” answered the President.
        “The precautionary principle is something that can save the world a few times over,” Erik
        The President then quipped, “I prefer, ‘Let it be’… famous last words.”
        Erik stood up from his chair and leaned over the conference table by placing his upper body
weight on his knuckles. And as he stared forebodingly into the President’s eyes he said to conclude the
conversation, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

        Later that night at the White House, the President met secretly with some of his friends inside the
Omniarch to brainstorm ways to obtain leverage against the scientists.
        It was agreed at the meeting that because Erik and his team were now working for the United
States government, and therefore had access to Alpha Symbols technology, Omniarch’s new goal should
be to keep the geniuses working hard to discover new uses for the symbols, whatever the cost.


        Although Charlie Smith’s medical care and physical therapy rendered him physically able to
work in the laboratory, the ongoing inability of the United States government to locate his captured son
Nicholas caused him to experience such a deep depression that he felt too helpless to do any productive
work. He only waited, exercised, and drank. And the fact that Montoya, Williams, and their wives were
all missing and presumed dead further decimated morale.

        And so, it was because of this pressing crisis of motivation that Erik and Jimmy went for a hike
one afternoon to discuss the future. Meanwhile, on orders from President Sawyer to steal Charlotte
Weathers’ diary, two CIA agents loyal to Omniarch began the process of entering Michael Weathers’
home. Certain Omniarch officials already knew and had copied the contents of the diary. The only
reason they were now stealing the original was so that they could alter it, and use it as leverage against
Michael and Erik.
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         “I’m thinking about ending this thing once and for all,” Erik said to Jimmy in an ominous and
trembling voice as he looked beyond the pine trees at the gray sky above their meandering trail through
the cold and still woods. The wind was howling.
         “How?” Jimmy replied, his voice cracking the air with troubled uncertainty.
         “You and I have been saying our entire lives that advancements in neuroscience are inevitable…
and here we are, just as we predicted. But I don’t feel powerful anymore. At what point do you and I
stand up and tell the world the cyborgs are coming? And, oh yeah, sorry we haven’t told you, earthlings,
but the cyborgs are using something we like to call the Alpha Symbols, and I’m sorry yet again but we
haven’t figured out where the symbols come from yet, or what they do, just that they’re capable of
killing you if you’re smart enough to use them. AND OH YEAH ONE MORE THING…. We may be
         A tree branch came flying toward Jimmy’s head, but Erik caught it.
         Jimmy’s stomach churned with anxiety as he contemplated what Erik was saying, but he still
managed to answer confidently, “Let’s beat Quimby at his own game. And we have Evan now too, so-”
         “NO,” Erik interrupted forcefully, “Evan has clean hands.”
         “You’re thinking about exposing everything aren’t you?”
         As Erik nodded somberly, a lightning bolt disturbed the already tumultuous sky, though they
were too enraptured with their conversation to notice it until three seconds later, as thunder shook the
         “Come clean about everything and everybody goes to prison… can’t call that a solution?”
         “It’s the only solution,” Erik answered with righteous indignation, “maybe the lawyers can
exonerate us but that’s not the question for us now… we need to stop this underground research,
because the Alpha Symbols are too powerful for guys like Marshall Quimby to be allowed to run tests
on humans. The only way history is ever done right is because people tell the truth and let democracy
and the media and the legal system all compete harmoniously for results.”
         “I’ve told you from day one I’m not afraid of prison, but c’mon Erik… do you think any of us
really deserves to be prosecuted as an international criminal. Where’s the just means?”
         “If the laws under which we’re prosecuted are unfair, then we’ll have exposed an injustice. And
I also believe that if we fight this war to make the world a better place, without fear of losing any given
battle, even if that means self-sacrifice, then we’re truly free, even if we’re in prison…. Is that not
justice if it’s righteous fearlessness?”

        Their debate continued for hours in the woods until Jimmy finally agreed with Erik, that the
world would be safer with the truth exposed about the Alpha Symbols, especially in light of the intent of
the U.S. government to develop human-based cyborg technology in the Green Room. Having spoken
with Lucy Devereaux about the things she had seen working for the government for nearly half a
century, Erik was also confident that Omniarch was intricately involved.
        Consequently, together they worked out a plan for Erik to carry hard evidence with him on a
one-way trip to Greenwich, England, the seat of the United Nations Justice Department.
        Indeed, it only fueled the fire burning inside him when he learned that his mother’s diary had
been stolen from a locked bedroom safe at his dad’s home. The home’s security surveillance had also
been stolen, though he would soon discover that the police officers assigned to investigate had been
specially assigned by a CIA supervisor who golfed with the President two days later and was seen
giving him a package.

       At the same time of this diary theft, and Erik’s conversation with Jimmy, Radomir Sadovich and
his henchmen were giving each other celebratory hugs and saying farewells to each other. Having
completed their plan to place miniature nuclear bombs and hydrogen cyanide distribution systems all
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                                                                                           - 218 -

over the globe, they had agreed they would all now take separate vacations because they wanted to enjoy
the world one last time before changing it forever.


         Other than Jimmy, the only person Erik decided to confide in for his plan to expose the truth was
his wife, and he was able to convince her to go along with the confession because, as he told her,
“There’s nothing in the world right now that’s going to bring us closer together than you supporting me
in this.”
         It made her sad and happy in a specific and deeply personal way that created an emotion she had
learned to follow to make decisions about love and commitment, which he had predicted, and so he
enjoyed and also regretted the moment as he concluded it thinking, Either way, confession is the answer.

        And so, worried that prosecutors would initially think he was not the real Erik Weathers, Erik
walked through the golden double doors of the United Nations Department of Justice, and was
recognized within seconds. He proceeded to greet a senior attorney as he spoke directly into the lobby
video camera, “I’m Erik Weathers. I’m here to report that I’ve engaged in international felonies arising
out of my management of neuroscience laboratories between Nicaragua and the United States.”
        The lawyer called for a guard and Erik was promptly escorted into an interrogation room.
Within a minute the lawyer realized he was in over his head, so he locked Erik alone in the room,
gathered three senior attorneys and many detectives, and returned to find Erik with his head in his hands
in between writing a synopsis and quasi-chart of issues involved.
        Seven hours later Erik had laid out a network of possible leads for the detectives to find
information about Nicholas Smith, and the Nicaraguan agents Montoya and Williams. During that first
session, the junior prosecutor brought coffee, cigarettes and pizza, and Erik spoke with honesty and
        His accounts of the inhumane treatment of the criminal test subjects were gruesome.
        However, Erik was still likeable.
        Several of the detectives and prosecutors secretly hoped for some loophole that would allow Erik
to avoid punishment. They debated amongst themselves whether more justice was done by his
vigilantism in the name of science than could have been done without it. That the detectives and
prosecutors had themselves used NNS interrogation probes made them deferential to the inventor seated
before them who had done more for law enforcement than any sovereign nation in history.

       As the U.N. Justice Department was teeming with Omniarch loyalists, news traveled quickly up
the chain of command of Omniarch’s shadow government running the U.N.
       Within hours an emergency meeting was held at Omniarch headquarters in Rome, and it was
decided that Erik would not be assassinated, but rather would be allowed to incriminate himself and
expose the chaos he observed. Because Omniarch controlled the press, they would portray Erik as an
unstable genius who tortured people for fun. Prosecuting him would help legitimize the role of the
United Nations as the ultimate law enforcer on the planet. And because certain information about the
Alpha Symbols had already begun to leak into public forums, courtesy of a few ex-NASA employees,
Omniarch knew the time had come to reveal the symbols. They believed Erik would even unwittingly
promote a one-world government by exposing the symbols because he would inevitably hype the
dangerousness of the symbols, and therefore scare the public into seeking U.N. protection.

        When Erik appeared before a United Nations judge three days later to enter a plea of not guilty
and to request a speedy and individual trial, the media frenzy was of epic proportions. Between the
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search for missing persons and the Justice Department’s controversial statements about the extent to
which additional prosecutions against other scientists would be forthcoming in conjunction with Erik
Weathers’ case, the populace immersed themselves in all facets of the story. Speculative news reports
about the Alpha Symbols had surfaced in some media outlets, but the focus of the world was mainly
upon Erik as a person.

        When Horatio Zeeman first learned that Erik had confessed to U.N. prosecutors about the
Nicaraguan laboratory, he suffered a heart attack. Upon recovery, he contemplated whether he should
try to assassinate anyone before Erik’s trial.
        Imagining different ways to carry out executions made him feel tyrannical - bomb the
courthouse, food poison, sharp shooter. But at the end of these thoughts, he abandoned the pretense that
he had real power in the world, as he feared doing anything without Omniarch approval anymore.
        Consequently, he decided he’d simply enjoy an experience being probed with the Tweaker
program called “Free Thinker.” The man had already lost the respect of most of his officers.

       The day Zeeman was scheduled to enjoy this probing, Omniarch rigged the machine to render
him comatose. Thus, with Zeeman out of the picture, there was no one who needed Nicholas Smith for
anything. He was promptly shot.

                                             Visiting Hours

       The media attention surrounding Erik’s upcoming trial for torturing and murdering criminals in
the name of research caused controversy in many ways. Part of the media stir was focused on a gaggle
of family members of some criminals whom Erik and his team had probed and killed, now bringing
lawsuits against Nicaragua, and against Erik and the other scientists personally, alleging wrongful death
and survival actions.
       Reporters especially bombarded Erik’s dad Michael, and his wife Sarah.

        The lead prosecutor on the case, David Black, a man unaffiliated with Omniarch, held frequent
press conferences at the United Nations Department of Justice. Black assured the public, “The reliable
truths about Erik Weathers’ conduct will be those determined based upon authentic evidence in a court
of law… so I encourage the public to pay credence to those reputable news sources subscribing to this
        David Black also pronounced that part of the reason there was misinformation in the press was
that the most knowledgeable persons to Erik’s actions were either defendants themselves, witnesses who
were instructed not to discuss their stories in the press before their scheduled testimony, or else
witnesses who had elected with interrogators to exercise their preliminary right against self-
incrimination and probing.

        Erik’s defense lawyer was a woman named Sylvia Montes. In her media appearances she
stressed the importance of the presumption of innocence, and that her silence was only meant to assist
authorities in continuing to conduct investigations.

        Erik’s holding cell was an isolated studio-like apartment encased in supercarbon-bonded steel.
He was given a medium-sized bed, a large desk, an all-in-one exercise machine, and he enjoyed twice-
daily conjugal visits with Sarah, who was staying in a nearby hotel with Angelica Martel and Michael
Weathers and their private security.
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        Although the list of persons requesting to visit Erik was unusually long, David Black stipulated
that Erik could confer with as many persons as he saw fit before his trial, so long as Erik expressly
agreed that any conversations with persons other than doctors, lawyers, and clergymen would be
recorded. After Erik agreed, he was asked to provide the guards a list for scheduling persons where he
had to rank which visitors he wanted to see in preferential order. It read, starting with the highest

       Charlie Smith, Jimmy Tripp, Evan Shaka, Michael Weathers, Lawrence Martel, Melanie Tripp,
Angelica Martel, Dave Winston, Lucy Devereaux, Martin Reese, Chuck Fleischman, Jane Milton,
Miles Bennington, Donald Sherman, Randall Boiken, William Dunn, Sonia Jimenez, Marshall Quimby,
Ned Sawyer, and Horatio Zeeman.

         Inside a small conference room in the same building as Erik’s holding cell, Charlie greeted Erik
on the morning of December 1st, 2161 with a large smile and a half-hug, half-handshake as he said
sarcastically, “So, I hear we committed felonies.”
         Erik responded with a friendly laugh, then he said, “Our lawyers are going forward with the
defense that because we operated under the ambit of a sovereign nation in the name of research,
especially for the law enforcement probes, that fits exemptions within exemptions. Might be nice to
change the subject, actually…”
         “Of course,” Charlie responded.
         “I wanted to say that I hope you don’t think I’m using Nicholas’ disappearance to-”
         “Don’t even say it, man… what you’re doing here is the right thing for everybody… it’s what I
should have done when we were rescued instead of just hoping the CIA would find him, but we had the
pact, so-”
         “Hey, listen! They still might find him, Charlie!
         “I’m just hoping…”
         “Me too…”
         “What’s everyone saying about our pact? I know Jimmy’s okay. Is anyone mad at anyone else?”
         Their conversation lasted a few hours after Charlie answered that all the scientists seemed to be
willing to simply tell the truth about everything.
         Charlie felt good about life again for the first time that he could remember in his adulthood. The
truth will set you free.
         He knew he would have to wait for a conclusion one way or another about Nicholas before he
could have true peace of mind, but he still felt good. And in wanting to feel good about the United
States military and the CIA, there in the hall of United Nations prison after meeting with Erik, he
remembered a quote attributed once to General Douglas MacArthur of the United States Army, No man
is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation. Erik’s confession brought
everyone closer to this realization, as Charlie saw it.

       Having traveled together to the prison in England, Jimmy and Evan simultaneously read Erik’s
preference list. But in spite of the order, Jimmy courteously allowed Evan the second spot in the lineup.
Consequently, Erik was surprised to see Evan rather than Jimmy walk into the conference room after
       “Hi Dad.”
       “Hi… did you ask for a special confidential privilege for clergymen before you walked in?”
       “No way!”
       “Good man! That’s an unnatural exception.”
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        “To the extent it’s exploited.”
        “So, what do you want to talk about?” Erik asked pensively, appearing to Evan to ask
        “How about the diary?”
        “Did Lucy or your granddad tell you yet it’s a self-described family heirloom?”
        “Yesterday I had two long conversations… one with mom and one with Lucy, so you can
imagine what I know.”
        Evan then began declaring physical laws that explained some basic phenomena found on Earth
as he drew dodecahedron symbols in mid-air using a hologram template he brought along.
        When he stopped drawing, Erik said proudly, “I once rationalized there was nothing to fear in
this world, because everything you can experience is something you know exists, and what exists that
you’ve observed is comforting compared to what could exist, right? So, you’re incapable of fear because
you can rationalize that in some alternate reality, you’ve already experienced the extreme physical and
mental pains you probably think you’re afraid of right now… but you’re not, because with infinite
alternate realities, everything is inevitable somewhere…. Now though, I don’t know as much.”
        A curious look struck Evan as he smiled before nodding his acceptance of what he thought to be
improbable advice.

         When Erik realized later that Lucy had never shown Evan a copy of Charlotte’s diary, Erik
deducted that Evan learned the interlaced dodecahedron shapes from yet another place, Melanie’s art
         Consequently, Erik called Melanie from prison and asked her to bring her portfolio with her to
his cell.
         A prison visit was far from the dream she had wanted to experience with him, but because the
idea for her of a dream date with Erik already had a character of its own, their visit was inevitably
romantic from her perspective. He chose Sarah.

                                       The United Nations Trial

       During the first day of trial, following jury selection of twenty-four persons and four extras, the
jury was instructed on certain rules of law. Opening arguments were made afterward, and then the
Prosecution called the first witness, “James Tripp,”.
       “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” asked the Marshal of
the Court.
       “Yes,” Jimmy answered proudly.
       David Black swiftly stepped forward from behind the Prosecution’s Table and asked Jimmy an
unlikely question, “Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rain?”
       “That’s an old song line-”
       “Objection,” Sylvia Montes said late.
       “Withdrawn… Do you know the Defendant, Erik Weathers?”
       “He’s my best friend?”
       “Do you intend to testify today that Mr. Weathers is of positive moral character?
       “Objection, foundation, calls for narrative,” interrupted Montes.
       “Three judges conferred at the bench for a moment, and then the Chief Judge articulated the
majority ruling, “Overruled as to the first objection, Sustained as to the second.”
       Then, David Black looked at his hands for a brief moment as he collected his composure. While
the judges were ruling on the objection, Black had seen from the jurors’ expressions that his opening
questions had planted seeds of interest, so in spite of being overruled, he believed he started with some
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advantage before even commencing the foundation questions, which began with Jimmy’s decision to
defect from Rider with Erik.
        Black easily obtained testimony from Jimmy about embezzlement of Rider property in knowing
violation of numerous international espionage and patent laws. The first day’s questioning stopped
shortly after five o’clock when Black told the Court, “The People will break for the day and resume with
Mr. Tripp tomorrow.”
        “Granted,” replied the Chief Justice after observing green lights displayed on the bench from his
colleagues, with no request for conference. He then advised the jury that trial would resume the next
day at nine o’clock. From the Defendant’s table, Erik stared at their faces as the jury walked out of the
        Consequently, he decided to give a press conference. His lawyer, Montes, advised against it but
ultimately was professionally required to follow Erik’s instructions and request that the Marshal of the
Court direct Erik to the press room afforded for the purpose during trials.

        When the media was alerted to the fact that Erik would be giving a spontaneous press conference
from the pressroom, broadcasts around the world were interrupted in favor of live feed from England,
and the droves of reporters on site flocked to the courthouse steps seeking ingress, but none were
allowed it.
        And so, with a camera before him and wearing an attractive brown suit, Erik began speaking
openly to the world, “Would you break the law to advance science if it would help save this planet from
self-destruction? Obviously I know it’s wrong to break the law.” In his head, however, Erik thought, It
was inevitable and now it stops.
        “I want to address you all today to explain to those interested in judging me out of court that my
defenses in this trial are intertwined with the current world order … what I have to report and say is
more serious than any one of our lives alone, but I can’t tell that to any one person other than myself,
truly, because you’re an individual, so you get to decide if you think what I say is the truth, or some
other form of information… I react civilly when you act civilly, so please listen civilly to what I have to
say… Since I’ve always been a careful scientist, I think I deserve from those listening here the courtesy
of careful deliberation. Now I don’t think anybody can confidently predict the outcome of this trial ….
But I’m told that polls show about half the people out there would condemn me to prison for exercising
what is being called ‘vigilante justice for the goal of science.’ I do admit … I do admit it was wrong to
use a shell organization to market the law enforcement probes since it meant I personally avoided having
to stand directly accountable for using human test subjects.
        “It’s a little funny in a sense, in an ironic way, that I’m being prosecuted for creating law
enforcement probes, which are used as tools for criminal justice, and one of my own inventions will help
convict me in this trial? I’m not saying I’m above the law though.
        “My critics argue that academic ends do not justify the means of experimentation with the
criminal mind, and I agree with that in principle, but from another perspective we should all ask - where
is the moral authority to imprison me if mankind exists in a psychological war with the criminal
element, and I only experimented with an extreme faction of that one element? I have given law
enforcement the tools to make everyone safer? Desperate times call for desperate measures. There is
another great quote that I love to share, ‘evil triumphs when good people do nothing.’ So I acted in the
only way that real progress could be made, and I’m not shy about saying that the hard part of my
decision to take action was never the question of who among the laboratories’ test subjects was ‘evil
enough’ in their crimes for me to take action. To better man’s law enforcement probes was to better the
world… I’m not here, as some news sources have claimed, because I think laws do not apply during a
so-called ‘psychological war.’ That’s not my position. I only ask… are we not experiencing a
psychological war between opposing ideologies fueled by extremists and exploited by criminals? Who
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                                                                                             - 223 -

among us is not draped in fear? How do you avoid a war with something that tries to kill you every
        Erik paused for dramatic effect as he stared into the camera.
        “Is it wrong that I altered the minds of the criminals using technology, the means of the vigilant,
rather than fear, the means of the criminals? Was I cruel and unusual? Ask this… how carefully
delegated was the sovereign sanction of the Nicaraguan government? My laboratory wasn’t and isn’t the
only one in the world using human test subjects in cruel and unusual ways. I obviously encourage
others to come forward like I have. The truth will set you free. Everything else is hypocritical against
        “Other people in the media want to ask if it was a god-complex that allowed me to enslave and
torture criminals? My answer is that I don’t feel enlightened enough to say what is God’s and what is
        “I stand before you a guilty man pursuant to the black letter of the law…. And of the proverbial
beasts whom my critics occasionally refer to as my ‘victims’ …. I admit that in my mind I harbored
contempt and hatred toward them, which could sound evil to you to the extent you were or are a person
who believes in ‘a new beginning’ over real justice. I still hate the people I tortured.
        “How do you begin to examine in which contexts you’re supposed to harbor compassion for
criminals who’ve committed acts of depravity. It is a natural law that you can only own something
innocent once. Why do we let time heal all wounds? The argument that ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’
is wrong. All time is capable of doing is assisting neural degeneration and reconfiguration…. it heals
nothing worth remembering. I could say that’s a basic truth, a natural law.
        “What court can offer these criminals forgiveness? Where’s the burning sense of justice?
Theologically, I can make the argument that I was doing good to these criminals who harmed society
because I extracted something useful out of their evil minds. Is tortuous mind probing not unlike a
refining fire? Just as we put molten iron into a blast furnace to create a steel sword, and call it beauty, so
to can I put test subjects into a mind probe, because the output is useful to society as a refined product.
        “My address today, this discourse that I am about to give, about morality and the law relates to
the proper aim of science in my case because I took vengeance on the beasts of society for committing
crimes against nature, and physics did not stop me, just like it didn’t stop them from becoming beasts. I
will reveal all the evidence I know about this, and Omniarch. The bottom line in my trial is that the
NNS law enforcement probes created at my laboratory in Nicaragua have already made the world a safer
place. When I saw something in America that looked intolerable, I turned myself in so I could be a
witness to you.”

        Erik then launched into a dissertation on the dangerously advanced state of technology in the
world, focusing especially on remote wave interference. Then, in addition to discussing Omniarch’s
role in recent world events, Erik offered an explanation for all the bizarre phenomena that people
supposedly saw in the world, including aliens. He explained that in the process of Fourier
transformation, spatial information is translated into a frequency spectrum, which allows the human
mind to read waves as if they were pictures. He then explained that all human senses were similarly
constructed, such that the mind could be convinced of anything, simply by feeding it the right
concoction of waves, which was why the holographic principle explained a lot of paranormal
phenomena. He offered the example of telepathy, rationalizing that just as the human skull is porous to
waves, the human mind is capable of accessing information from the general commons outside itself.
He added the caveat though that it was only the rare mind that learned how to focus these waves into
manageable holograms, and that the typical mind much preferred the familiar.
        Concluding his remarks on the topic, he spoke softly, “If the mind were capable of teaming up
with computers to superimpose and analyze waves, theoretically you’d see everything.”
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        For the next minute, Erik paced in front of the camera in complete silence. There were still no
reporters in the media room. Erik could hear some members of the media making noise outside,
pleading with the guards for entry.
        Meanwhile, the world watched him pace. He was pondering to himself the nature of man’s desire
to seek forgiveness, whether it arose from man’s recognition of something in the universe larger than
himself capable of judging him. From this recognition, he accessed a particular network in his brain
where for years he had speculated about the possible types of beings that would have an incentive to
judge mankind. Analysis of this question is the only real ‘answer’ to whether God exists…. Faith is one
way to fill in the gaps in one’s logic, and faith is meant to be a positive construction of the natural fear
of the unknown.

         Breaking the long silence, Erik said next, “I have something to say about three people I’ve
known in my life who died doing important things before the world ever knew about it.”
         Fighting back tears, he talked for several minutes about Allison Avery’s life, and her and Carlos’
murder and the disturbing fact that the responsible criminals had still never been located, let alone
brought to justice.
         At the conclusion of Allison’s story, Erik discussed a portion of her royal secret - the difference
between free will and unpredictable fate, “Allison Avery told me the day before she died that God gave
us free will so that we could love Him and therefore complete the law of love. She said that if I had
faith that God is love, then I would understand He has no ulterior motive than love for mankind. She
said that hell is a refining fire, not a place of infinite torture.
         “She said there are divine consequences when free will goes astray from the optimism that is
God, because without the free will to choose God and His law of love, there is no true love. And she said
this is the most important thing of all to understand - because you reap what you sow, you need faith in
order to have free will. And that’s because only by offering your faith and love to God will you ever be
justified in receiving free will, responsibility, and love, in return from God.”
         Erik paused again to take a deep breath. His face showed skepticism.
         “Now in my own experience, I haven’t seen God. What I have seen though is that when you’re
mind-probing somebody you can actually force them to keep the gates of their present sense open to
make them think they’re in infinite hell. Just a hunch, but if God really existed, I shouldn’t be able to do
that to somebody. I think faith in God is a nice concept, but I don’t practice it because I think religious
faith tends to stand in the way of justice, which is the greatest good of all.
         “I’ve also come to believe that forced consciousness is the opposite of free will. And
unpredictable fate presupposes that there is a Creator. The word unpredictable refers to something
infinite, or else a limited perspective on the finite. Fate is finite.
         “Thus, ladies and gentleman, where fear is programmed into natural selection, with it, comes
skepticism that looks like free will. That’s basically a layman’s summary. There are elements in the
Alpha Symbols that can eliminate skepticism. So that’s faith for you.
         “But let me tell you what I think Allison Avery might say if she were alive today. She’d disagree
with my conclusion. She’d say if you try to strengthen yourself with the Alpha Symbols, by eliminating
the weaknesses of doubt, you inevitably erase your own free will, and the strength you have to love

        “I’ll give you all a minute to relax now. But I’d like you to call your friends, family, neighbors,
and colleagues to hear me tell my story about the third person I have to talk about, a man who worked
for the United States government named Vigorchium.”
                                                                                  Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                              - 225 -

        Erik began his oratory saga of Vigorchium’s life by saying, “He thought the Alpha Symbols
were a universal code he could understand, but in reality, he ended up coming close to becoming just
another victim in the ever-spiraling race between Nations to advance neuroscience to allow artificial
intelligence to take over the planet.”

       Over two thousand kilometers across the globe, Erik’s message entered terrorist Radomir
Sadovich’s underground lair as he was returning from his last vacation before nuking the earth. As Erik
narrated about Vigorchium’s traumatizing experiences, including being hypnotized at the Sadovich
household, Radomir resolved to personally murder Erik. The full-scale temper tantrum of his fervor
nearly killed the 84-year old terrorist. But alas, Radomir survived.

       “The day is coming in this generation,” Erik said to the camera at one point of high drama, “as I
have personally observed working for the United States military, that we will be capable of advancing
neuroscience in ways that replace man with intelligent cyborgs. Is there any one man who can stop
governments from using cyborgs to understand the Alpha Symbols? I assure you, there is a very realistic
chance the cybernetic artificial intelligence could simply appear unannounced in the adaptive programs.
And what would stop its desires to consume and enslave?”

         As Erik’s address continued into the night, it was evident to Sarah, who was watching with
Angelica, that Erik was in the process of delivering perhaps the most important speech in history.
          “History shows that power without checks and balances is it’s own evil, so…” then with his
finger on his forehead he made the sign of the letter alpha with an arrow through it, that she recognized,
and with sympathetic eyes talking directly to the camera, she thought she saw him talking directly to her
for a moment as he said, “away from the topic of me going to jail, because I should go to jail, I’d like to
say something about how to fix the world now…”
         Sarah began to cry violently in her hotel while Erik thought to himself, When the time comes that
you need credibility, your ‘new beginning’ is shot if your past taints your decision-making authority.
         Erik continued, “My life is what it is because of my scientific ability, and the only thing that’s
ever really held me back are laws that say you can’t treat criminals like research property.
         “Safety and freedom, as concepts, are inherently at odds. Let’s not judge me without first asking
ourselves to what extent society needs to limit science to protect itself, because the time is now upon us
to embrace some basic, fundamental reforms, or else let technology realize its full potential to protect
us… so hear this before you judge me… I’m okay with going to jail if it means that all of society is
going to change so that I don’t need to protect the public from itself. Because if I, a genius, have to go to
jail, I want it to mean something. I think it’s erroneous to think we can have the best of both worlds,
safety and freedom.
         “As I’ve admitted to you tonight, I used technology for two purposes… academic research and
punishment. What’s the worst thing that can be done to a criminal in a humane world? If the pursuit of
technology is man’s only guide in the maze of morality, and his morals are dwarfed by the sheer
magnitude of the criminal population, then man will use a criminal for science. I had to exercise my
individualism to rebel against the enormous criminal population that punishes the innocent every day.
         “If by some fate I had the chance to lobotomize Allison Avery’s killers, either the day before her
death or now, do you think I’d hesitate? I wouldn’t, and I recognize that the more we probe, the more
criminals are drawn to artificial hypnotic implants to throw off the probes. I still say it is better to probe.
         “I’m on the side of the debate that says lobotomies are man’s only answer to man’s prayers,
whether we like the answer or not. Let’s not pretend we know what God wants… let’s instead respect
that we have free will, and that our free will has allowed us to prevent the next Allison Avery from
                                                                                 Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                             - 226 -

suffering a violent death. I submit to you, it is better to prevent depravity among the entire population
than to allow criminals to enjoy the flood of neurotransmitters that pleasure them into depravity.
        “Implants and lobotomies are necessary for everyone, because the weakest links among our
species are bound by only one rule, opportunity, and it’s impossible to eradicate all criminal opportunity
without condemning everyone to live in little bubbles. And if you don’t get that, you’re part of the
problem …. So, today I ask the world, whether it exonerates me or not, please vote for law enforcement
to use neuroscience technology capable of separating the ink from the water!”
        Erik paused to ensure his listening audience would truly absorb his statement, to save the world,
from his perspective.
        “For too long we as a society have underestimated the criminal mind that has affected the pauper
and king alike during its terrible reign over the only real freedom, the freedom to act without hurting
others … I recognize that everyone has a right to believe whatever they want, and a decent argument to
oppose lobotomies and implants is that it’s good that mankind has a wide range of mental capacities,
that anomalies are good, and that any interference with freedom of thought is bad interference. Now, I’ll
be the first to say that mental diversity is a positive part to both advancing and enjoying society, and I’ll
even add that criminal thoughts are often the inspiration for great acts of culture, so I would never
support lobotomies and implants to simply to stop criminal thoughts. The types of lobotomies and
implants we need, rather, are ones that prevent criminal actions, because now that our probing
technology is capable of recognizing well enough the dichotomy between thoughts as thoughts and
thoughts as actions, what do we have to lose, except criminal action? Let’s only allow crime and
depravity in art, where it belongs.”
        “My view is that because the law will not allow you to consent to a crime, even upon yourself,
you therefore cannot legally resist your government putting an implant in you that prevents you from
acting criminally.
        “Every one of us has psychopathic tendencies. Every one of us can be programmed into
something crazy. I saw it with Bianca Trujillo, the stalker who tried to kill my dad, and blew herself up
in front of my wife. And I’m seeing it now with other stalkers I have, though I don’t know all their
names. What can overt acts based on the psychopathic tendencies contribute to society? Nothing
        “Thank you to everyone for listening… hopefully, now that the truth is out there we can have the
kind of debate that can make these reforms a reality. I believe the entire future of the human race may
depend on it.”

        Meanwhile, the only thing stopping Radomir Sadovich from eliminating the majority of life on
earth was his will to push the red button. But he didn’t do it. He was too angry with Erik Weathers not
to confront the man first.

                                               Wag the Dog

        The international debate that followed Erik’s television address was extensive, and of course, the
news media reported that the world in all its diversity had widely divergent opinions on everything from
Erik’s guilt to the question of lobotomies and the type of brain chip implants he wanted.
        Omniarch had long maintained the goal of placing a brain implant network into the populace, so
Erik’s speech was received by the secret order with celebration. Omniarch had all the pieces in place to
completely dominate the brain implant industry, and to bring about a new world order.
        Before Erik’s speech, polls showed the majority of humans disfavored lobotomies for criminals,
and slightly more than half disfavored implants in the general population of non-criminals. After the
speech, however, the political tide had shifted.
                                                                              Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                          - 227 -

        Consequently, Omniarch called an audible to its strategy and decided to wag the dog of the news
media to portray Erik as a thoughtful and conscientious revolutionary rather than a mad-scientist with an
axe to grind.
        Even though Erik warned the public about Omniarch, and even directed people to numerous
books and articles written by Omniarch defectors, the Omniarch-controlled media produced compelling
news stories and poll results that informed the populace that Omniarch was nothing more than a small
and dying breed of zealots, whose secret organization had been dismantled decades ago. The defectors
mentioned by Erik, the media reported, were media-hungry victims of a rare form of occultism that had
nothing to do with the mainstream. From all facets, the media told people to trust authority.
        Meanwhile, the United States government confirmed only a handful of Erik’s statements about
the Alpha Symbols.

        On what the media was calling “Day Three” of the trial, David Black concluded his questioning
of Jimmy, and then called Erik to the witness stand. The Marshal of the Court dutifully began to ask
Erik, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and-”
        All eyes in the courtroom then turned toward the door reserved for armored-vehicles as an old
man sauntered under the stone archway holding above his head what appeared to be a remote control.
The Marshal of the Court quickly drew his pistol and locked a red laser directly on the forehead of the
old man staring menacingly at Erik. However, Radomir had implanted an artificial layer of synthetic
material surrounding his skull, which prevented his brain from being shocked electromagnetically.
Thus, the laser did nothing.
         Inside the courthouse’s nearby control room, the technician on duty shut down all live television
feed emanating from the courtroom transponder.
        “No body moves!” shouted Radomir, displaying the remote in his right hand, “Kill me and this
remote automatically detonates a bomb.”
        Erik noticed the old man had a tattoo on his wrist that appeared to be an eerier version of
Vigorchium’s claw-shaped birthmark.
        The Chief Judge was the first to speak, as he said cautiously, “Where is the bomb?”
        “My name is Radomir Sadovich, and I’ll only warn you all once … keep quiet unless I speak to
you.” Radomir then directed his glance to the Marshal of the Court and screamed as loud as he could,
        Frightened, the Marshal gently placed his pistol on the ground, prompting Radomir to pull from
his ankle holster a plastic pistol. Radomir then shot a poisonous dart into the Marshal’s neck that caused
instantaneous death. He then walked across the courtroom to retrieve the Marshal’s laser gun.
        “What do you want from this court?” Erik said with antipathy as Radomir leaned over the dead
        “What I ultimately want, this court cannot provide, but this man here, Erik Weathers…”
Radomir walked slowly to the witness stand and slapped Erik hard across the face. “He lies about
Vigorchium Sadovich, talking about my son as if he were a victim. PEOPLE MUST NOT BELIEVE
        “His father?” Erik asked contemplatively.
        “Foster-father… I instilled in Vigorchium everything he needed to know to change this inept,
overpopulated world, full of ignorance-”
        “Other than you, who else is ignorant?” Erik asked, trying to provoke the man into divulging
        “Wordplay is hardly insulting, Weathers.”
        Erik then quipped in response, “Nutjob, you’re either gonna answer the question or you’re not.
You didn’t hijack this court to avoid questions, so let’s just be candid-”
                                                                              Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                          - 228 -

         “Ignorance is everywhere… anyone who thinks the weak ought to survive to keep populating
this planet into the degradation of the one proper culture to rule everyone-”
         “Who the FUCK made you king?” Erik interrupted.
         “I did,” Radomir replied confidently brandishing the remote, “This button means everything…
You purport to be an intelligent man, so I’ll ask you…. Has there ever been another standard?”
         “Justice is the only standard.”
         “Justice is an illusion… perspective is king in this world of survival.”
         “All I hear is a feeble voice behind an old face that somehow rationalized that the owner of the
largest bomb-”
         “Suck a dick,” Erik retorted.
         “I should kill you.”
         “I will fuckin’ haunt you,” Erik excited.
         Radomir paused to reassure himself of his confidence, then said, “So… you said you think
lobotomies are man’s answer to man’s prayers. You think that’s justice… It’ll never work because if
you force a crazy person to pretend to be normal, they become more crazy.”
         Erik responded, “Crazy is as crazy does… Anyone with any intellect can agree on that. All you
have to do is follow natural laws-”
         “There are no natural laws!”
         “Natural laws are those that require us to respect one another’s fundamental rights. Peace,
justice, love… it’s all attainable. Why are you here? What do you want?”
         Radomir resisted the desire to push the button by the stronger desire to answer Erik.
         “I’m here to fix the world… apparently the same reason you’re here.”
         “How do you intend to fix the world by threatening the people in this courtroom with violence?”
Erik asked calmly, hoping to obtain information about what Radomir had called “a bomb.”
         Meanwhile, the small group of people in the courtroom felt compelled to maintain their helpless
gazes on Radomir’s right hand.
         “The only real birth control is death,” Radomir replied in an attempt to appear clever.
         “How am I supposed to believe you’re not one of the weak ones you believe ought to die,” Erik
prodded strategically.
         “You’re trying to get me to keep talking-”
         “I don’t think you’re capable of describing anything to me I couldn’t figure out on my own about
you. For one, just by those sores on your face and the smell of you I’ll guess poison is probably part of
your little bomb.”
         “THERE’S NOTHING little about-”
         Seeing an opportunity to take advantage of Radomir’s anger, Erik gestured as if he was simply
placing his hands up in the air, but in fact he aimed his two palms at different targets on Radomir’s
person and exclaimed, “O-9-Q-X-7-9.” The skin on Erik’s left hand was torn open by a burst of
nitrogen as hot thermite exited his appendage, darted through the air, and entered Radomir’s right
forearm, causing the terrorist to immediately lose control of the remote. Blood spouted from Erik’s
hand and drizzled over the large emblem of the court affixed to the witness stand.
         Then, as Radomir screamed in painful agony at the shredded limb dangling from his elbow, Erik
excited, “T-6-U-W-8-4.” Immediately, liquid nitrogen shot from his right hand into Radomir’s left arm
causing it to stiffen in slow crystallization. With two useless arms, Radomir was prevented from
activating an additional button on his belt. Additionally, because he was still alive, his device was not
activated through his heart monitor.
                                                                              Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                          - 229 -

        To prevent the possibility of the terrorist communicating with accomplices through some hidden
audio transponder located on his body, the prosecutor David Black rushed Radomir and quickly stuffed
his mouth with legal papers. Black then wrapped Radomir’s mouth with a jacket and began pretending
that Radomir was still in control of the courtroom, “Sir, why did you stab those witnesses? What are
you writing down?”
        Black then directed the bailiff to silence the courtroom as he handed note pads to those with
whom he wanted to communicate.
        Erik too received a note pad. His hands were bleeding profusely, but he was able to wrap them
with neckties, his own and the bailiff’s. He wrote on his pad for Black to read, “We need to get this
terrorist a medic. And we’ll need Exhibits A and T from the evidence room.”
        Knowing that Exhibit A was one of the most invasive NNS law enforcement interrogation probes
created in the underground Nicaraguan laboratory, and that Exhibit T was software for consciousness
simulation, Black immediately concurred and directed the courtroom officials to retrieve the exhibits.
As they waited, everyone’s attention remained focused on the muzzled, whimpering and bleeding
         An astute scholar of criminal logistics, as Black performed his rigorous search for an audio
transponder, he simultaneously whispered instructions to the courtroom’s audio/visual chief that they
would need to immediately splice together a mock conversation of Erik continuing to debate with
Radomir. When Black found a transponder located discreetly inside a gem on the belt buckle, it was
brought into an audio room where technicians began playing the mock conversation.

       Jimmy and Miles were also at the courthouse that day, waiting as standby witnesses, so they
were immediately brought inside the courtroom to help run the NNS Probe, and to help Erik ask
Radomir the right questions to disable computer systems associated with his bombs.

        In the rush to probe Radomir, Erik regretted not being able to savor the interesting and unlikely
irony that he had found himself being prosecuted for breaching criminals’ brains outside the ambit of the
law, and now because of his actions in probing Radomir to uncover Radomir’s plan, he created the
possibility of being pardoned for using the technology that had originally prompted his prosecution.
        Even though Radomir was screaming in agony from the dismemberment he had suffered by the
thermite and liquid nitrogen, because Erik and his team were accustomed to dealing with screaming test
subjects, it did not deter them from getting the answers they needed.

        As the NNS probe was running, the judges in the courtroom quickly conferred and gave Erik
“broad discretion to inflict necessary pain” upon Radomir to find the bomb. Like I wasn’t going to do
that anyway, Erik thought to himself derisively.
        David Black also helped input questions into the probe to determine the location of Radomir’s
        Within minutes, the United Nations, through local police task forces, were storming Radomir’s
lair and hacking his computers to shut down the main and backup communications of the nuclear bomb
and cyanide distribution system.
        By the end of the probing, they had all the bombs in all the trenches across the globe. The world
was safe.

                                         The One Logical Test
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 230 -

        Later that very night, Erik thought to himself while alone in his prison, The only reason this
planet is safe is because I enforced my own rules, SO IF YOU HEAR ME GOD… I don’t think you can
condemn me for refusing to forgive test subjects … I had to have a god-complex.
        To his bewilderment, Erik then saw standing in his prison cell a tall male-looking being in a
golden robe with a holographic pentagram emanating from his chest. Erik immediately thought of the
golden ratio, phi, as he gazed upon the pentagram’s proportions. He watched it become fractal before
his eyes, as ten phi spirals permeated each pentagram, and twelve pentagonal faces comprised each
dodecahedron. As each part related to all others, it was the visual expression of the golden mean.
        “Who are you?” Erik asked frightfully, fully aware he wasn’t dreaming. He considered
performing the sonic meditation that the Averys taught him to use if ever confronted by an alien.
        “I am sent by God… you may think of me as an angel if you like, but I’m actually somewhat of a
mind probe myself. I am here to inform you of a few things before you meet your Maker.”
        “Who is my Maker?”
         “He has always been testing you, Erik. He is everywhere. He knows your reasoning and judges
everything that comes out of you. There are many layers to consciousness, which is sacred. All who
possess it must prove their worth. You have asked Him why you should forgive people for their evil
acts. He answered you, but you didn’t like His answer. Do you admit that?”
        “I saved the world from a terrorist. What did you do today?”
        The golden star then began to spin and morph into various geometric shapes before Erik’s eyes.
Erik felt the angel reading his mind, and within seconds the angel said, “For what profit is it to a man if
he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?’”
        “My work saved the planet you’re standing on, and you have the audacity to tell me I’ve lost my
soul,” Erik answered.
        “In saving the world from Radomir today you are not at fault, but your means in building the
probes did not justify the end. By placing undue emphasis on your own version of justice, achieved by
punishment, you have stroked your desire for vengeance to the exclusion of recognizing the universal
truth that we are all one. You tortured all of mankind when you tortured those criminals. This is why
we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Do you recall your conversation with Jimmy when
you were a young man and you talked about the golden rule?”
        “I do. I said it’s second to the top of my logical hierarchy.”
        “So then why did you fail to forgive the weak? I want to hear you say it.”
        “I… I thought I would be their only judge.”
        “Now it is you that will be judged.”
        “By what authority?” Erik asked skeptically. He decided to begin singing the first notes of the
Avery’s sonic meditation, hoping it would have some effect of silencing the being.
        But before he could begin, he lost his voice as the angel imparted a name that sounded like, “Y-
H-W-H.” Then the angel added, “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged. And with the
measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
        At that, Erik regained his voice, and answered, “Everything is relative.”
        “Everything here is God’s,” the angel imparted, “The world was doomed before you entered it,
Erik. But you believed that neuroengineering would cure man’s evil. You thought it was inevitable that
highly-invasive brain probes would be created, and so you decided to lead the way. You should have
recognized Omniarch was always ahead of you. And now evil has made your work his own.”
        “I guess might is right.” Erik responded sarcastically.
        The angel then imparted softly, “Well child… on Earth you found all the proof of natural law
you ever needed for your consciousness. The human heart vortex casts shadows in seven tetrahedron
layers, an alphabetical index of waveform shadows. When you probed people you saw the phosphene
patterns of their brains. But you categorized the evidence according to your own set of rules.”
                                                                               Logical Hierarchy
                                                                                           - 231 -

        The angel then drew in the air a mirror image of Erik’s heart and brain being read with an
alphabet he did not recognize. Even still, it was amazing to him. His heart was filled with darkness.
        The angel then continued, “A pure heart demands virtue and therefore cures the great human
flaw - that one never really regrets doing something until one fears getting caught. But the heart catches
everything, and the law is applied to it, and yours is tainted by the enslavement and torture of many.
And so, Erik Weathers, you see now that you have failed to actualize the golden rule.”
        Feeling out-of-body, Erik asked, “What happens next?”
        The angel then withdrew the star and answered, “Are you ready to see now?”

                                                The End

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