Thursday, 7 February 2008

The Secret Mathematic - Chapter Nine


The Secret Mathematic is a science-fiction novel told in an indefinite number of chapters, posted serially by me, your securely ensconced host, Cheeseburger Brown. This is the ninth installment.

Chapters: 1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|9|...

Multimedia: Listen to the The Secret Mathematic Overture in MP3 format, by Syntax Error.

Related reading: Three Face Flip, Stubborn Town, The Long Man, The Extra Cars

And now, our tale continues:



NINE

A long grey limousine slides through traffic, a brace of tiny, colourful flags flapping from its front corners. The windows are black and glossy, reflecting smeared versions of the surrounding skyscrapers, fingers of metal and glass reaching impossibly high into the blue, cloudless sky.

Bahram watches Lower Manhattan pan past. His bodyguard sniffs, craning his head to see the antenna-studded summits. "People sure do love megaliths," he says, his voice a gravelly baritone. "First Stonehenge, now this."

"Indeed," says Bahram distantly. His sleeve is rolled up past the elbow, and in the crook is an intravenous line connected to a hanging sac of transparent fluid. He crosses his legs as he draws on his ebony cigarette holder, gaze sliding over the bicycle couriers and yellow taxicabs and throngs of people pushing along the clogged sidewalks. Horns honk.

Opposite the Hudson River rise tall wooden walls plastered in posters and advertising bills. Behind the walls loom half a dozen cranes, some hauling loads up, some letting loads down, others rotating slowly in place. The smoke and growl of hidden bulldozers wafts into the street. "They never stop building," continues the bodyguard philosophically. "It's never enough, hah?"

"New York is a monster," agrees Bahram, ashing his cigarette gingerly with a double-tap on the edge of the tray. "And we're about to proceed into the very belly of the beast, you and I."

The bodyguard shifts. "Are you worried?"

Bahram pauses. "I am," he admits. "I'm afraid of letting my father down."

"You expect trouble?"

"I don't. I have only to ask a single question, and memorize a one-word reply."

"That doesn't sound too tough."

Bahram nods vaguely, eyes still out the window. "Let us hope you are right."

The limousine slows outside of an ancient-looking ConEd utility building of vine-choked brick. A taxicab honks and darts around. The chauffeur waits for a break in traffic to open his door. Bahram detaches the IV and rolls down his sleeve, massaging his forearm. The bodyguard leans closer to the glass, squinting at a group of figures arranging themselves on the sidewalk beside the car. The men are bearded. Their faces are tight and hard and unforgiving. They each wear a black fedora and a long black coat.

"Who are these guys?" prompts the bodyguard.

Bahram stabs out his cigarette. "The Calumniatorian Guard."

"The what?"

"Hasidic assasins, my friend. Defenders of the rabbi." He smirks humourlessly. "Jewish ninjas."

The bodyguard narrows his eyes, noting how the men's right hands hover at their waists as they arrange themselves into two lines of three, a corridor of black coats and hats between the limousine and the ConEd building. "They're armed, Prince."

"They are," agrees Bahram. "If their scimitars fly, we have no hope."

"I'm armed, too."

Bahram smiles sadly. "It would not matter."

The chaffeur opens the door and steps aside. The bodyguard stoops to squeeze out onto the sidewalk, then straightens, casting a rough look at each of the Calumniatorians. He notes no reaction. They simply stare back, their long beards and curled sideburns swaying in the breeze. Bahram follows him out. He pays no mind to the Calumniatorians, striding purposefully through their fold and directly to the glass revolving door. The bodyguard checks over his shoulder once more before continuing inside.

The Calumniatorians break formation and follow wordlessly.

At the reception desk is a young woman wearing a modest, long-sleeved dress and a scarf in her hair. She watches them approach. "Prince Siraj," she says evenly. "You were to come alone."

"My father insists on certain reasonable protections," replies Bahram, his chin high. "I'll not be dissuaded."

She gives him a slight nod in concession, then looks at the squat, muscular bodyguard, scanning what little of his scarred, lantern-jawed face is visible beneath the hem of his hood. She turns back to Bahram. "He will have to disarm."

"We will not comply."

"That is unacceptable, Prince."

"So be it. We shall leave. Your masters can explain why the Shah's deal has been broken." Bahram shoots a meaningful look to his companion and they both abruptly turn back to the revolving door, now facing a row of expressionless Calumniatorians. Their hands quiver by the unseen hilts of their blades. Their brown eyes are beady and cold beneath the brims of their black fedoras.

"Wait."

Bahram turns, the corners of his lips curling subtly beneath his fine, inky moustache. He raises one brow.

The woman touches her ear, cocking her head as she listens to a concealed speaker. "It will be permitted," she continues, then turns to the bodyguard. "Please state your name for the registry."

"Comeuppance," he rumbles dangerously.

"Is that a surname or a given name?"

"It's all you ever need know, girl."

They are directed to an elevator. It descends deep. When the door clatters aside they find themselves facing a tall, thin man with a greying ginger beard and tufts of auburn hair sticking out from beneath a pinned yamulke covering his crown. He looks the pair up and down slowly, sucking his teeth. "Gentlemen," he says at last, "You're late."

"Forgive me, sir. We were delayed in traffic."

"It is not mine to forgive, Prince Siraj. The Sabbath waits for no man. You will be obliged to complete your business before the sun sets."

Bahram shoots the cuff his cream-coloured suit and consults his Rolex. "Very well."

"You're here to see the artifact, of course."

"Of course."

"I'm Dr. Leibowitz. I'll be serving as your escort. Please, we can't dally. If you'll walk this way?"

"Thank you, Doctor."

Dr. Leibowitz casts a fleeting, anxious glance at the silent bodyguard and then turns and begins walking swiftly down a dim hall, lit in small pools by naked bulbs hanging from the water-stained ceiling. He unlocks and opens a corroded metal door at the end, then carefully makes it fast behind them.

They proceed through a series of stone catacombs as old as the first Dutch settlers on the island. Pale limestone stalactites hang from the ceiling like icicles, dripping intermittently upon their stalagmite partners down below. By the meagre glow of the widely-spaced lamps Bahram notes Hebrew characters carved into the walls, indicating directions down various shadowed turns.

The bodyguard touches his elbow and whispers, "I've been under every part of this city, in every sewer and pipe, but I've never seen any of this."

"Naturally," Bahram whispers back. "If you had, you'd be dead."

"Easier said than done."

Bahram chuckles drily. "It has been done before. To your kind and worse. These people are not to be underestimated, my friend. That has been done, too, and the consequences were ugly." His mouth tightens briefly into a bloodless line. "This is a hard-won truce we enjoy."

Leibowitz looks back over his shoulder. "Hurry," he says. "Time is running out for you, Prince."

In the final stretch of dank corridor dust rains from the vaulted ceiling in time to the muted pounding of machines at work up above. Bahram realizes that they are walking directly beneath the mammoth construction project by the Hudson they saw from the limousine. "Doctor, may I ask what you are building up there?"

"A shield," answers Leibowitz without turning around. "There is some concern about our operation being detected from above -- thermal leaks, visible in the infrared to aerial surveillance."

"Sputniks?"

"Yes, certainly -- Sputniks and more. The space age has just begun. Keeping secrets is about to become exponentially more difficult." He pauses to unlock another heavy door, easing it closed behind them as Bahram and his bodyguard wait beside the reinforced jamb. "That's why we're putting hundreds of tons of concrete and steel over our heads, to better masque our activities," he continues. "Once complete, the two principal towers will be the tallest free-standing structures on Earth."

"Who will occupy the towers?"

Leibowitz shrugs. "Financial concerns, mainly. The Rockefellers are calling it the World Trade Centre."

Bahram smirks. "So it's a Jewish banking conspiracy, is it?"

Leibowitz fixes him with a sharp look, though his hazel eyes twinkle in amusement. "Don't make fun."

Bahram chuckles.

At the final door Leibowitz taps a complex code into a brass keypad on the wall, each alefbetic key clicking in turn. The door clanks loudly as the lock disengages. Leibowtiz hauls it open and gestures at the visitors to proceed.

"Gentlemen," he says, "behold a sight few goyim ever see: our inner sanctum -- the Mine of Truth."

They emerge between two Caluminiatorians flanking the door and into a wide hall with a vaulted ceiling decorated by intricate mosaics of dense, Arabesque patterns and Hebrew glyphs. They stand on a balcony gilded by a brass railing, and in the yawning pit below are hundreds of Hasidic scientists hard at work. They wear black fedoras and white labcoats, the ends of tzitzit fringes dangling at their waists as symbols of their devotion to Yahweh. The activity is brisk and businesslike, calls in Yiddish and English echoing off the walls. "What's all the hub-bub?" asks the bodyguard.

"Dusk approaches," says Leibowitz. "All work stops for the Sabbath. Come now, we have no time to waste. Follow me, gentlemen. Quickly."

"But what are they doing?" the bodyguard persists.

"They're decoding the Tanakh," he says, urging them along the railing toward a spiral staircase. "The Pentateuch, if you prefer. They're working to extract sod, the true messages of God, hidden in the text."

"Kabbalah," explains Bahram.

"Precisely," agrees Leibowitz, drawing a fob-watch on a golden chain from his vest and glancing at it anxiously. "Hurry now!"

The bodyguard squints, his wide mouth frowning. "But why? What messages?"

"Our study is deveikus," says Leibowitz as he rushes down the stairs ahead of them. "A part of the ongoing communication between God and man -- as we unravel the vibrations of the upper spheres of Creation we influence the harmonics, changing God as He changes us. The more we learn, the closer to Him we come. It is this intimacy that propagates da'at, giving rise to time and the shape of history."

The bodyguard blinks. "Hah?"

They reach the bottom of the staircase and rush down a narrow alley between laboratory tables where Hasidic scientists are quickly but methodically loading their apparatus away into boxes marked in rows of Hebrew script. As they pass by Bahram and the bodyguard take in the enigmatic tanks of fluids connected by bundles of cabling. Some of the tanks shimmer as oscillatations induced by small motors slosh back and forth through their volumes.

"We seek to understand the ten sephirot, the planes of Creation enfolded around God," explains Leibowtiz. "This group is calibrating the initial conditions of an experiment exploring the interaction of Gevurah and Yesod frequencies in a kosher medium. The group opposite is collating the data points with specific Tanakh passages and vowel strings."

The bodyguard sniffs, a mischievous glint in his eye. "I thought the Bible was just a bunch of stories."

Leibowitz offers him a half-smile. "And so shall seem the skyscrapers above to be just a bunch of buildings."

Toward the end of the hall is a zone under construction, separated from the working area by a wall of translucent plastic sheeting. Beyond the sheeting the silhouetted forms of Hasidic engineers and workmen stow their tools and clang shut their cases. Bahram cranes his head, taking in what appears to be a large, curving cave cut into the bedrock behind them. "More tunnels, Doctor?"

Leibowitz shakes his head. "Particle accelerator. It runs clear under Jersey."

The bodyguard frowns. "How does an atom smasher decode secret messages?"

"The laws of creation are written into every part the world...sir. With the energies that will be available to us once this unit is complete, we hope to be able to probe all seventy-two true names of God."

The bodyguard blinks, puzzled. Bahram shakes his head dismissively.

They pass out of the great hall and through another metal door with a brass keypad. On the other side the temperature drops sharply. Bahram and his bodyguard can see their breath. "Almost there," reports Leibowitz, consulting his fob-watch again. "Let's keep up the pace, gentlemen."

Giant insulated pipes are suspended above them, their surfaces clung with frost. They all snake toward a common centre, disappearing through a wall with heavy steel doors marked in orange and black warning stripes next to a small window of double-paned bullet-proof glass. An old man in a wide-brimmed fur cap and sumptuous fur coat stands at the window, watching them warily.

A platoon of Calumniatorians is ranged around the walls, hands on the hilts of their blades.

Leibowitz toggles a contact beneath the grille and says a few words of Yiddish. The man behind the window makes a sour face as he looks the visitors up and down, fleshy lips drawn into a pout. "Not that one," he says in English, pointing to the bodyguard. "It cannot pass."

Bahram clears his throat. "I will not concede to --"

"There's no time, Prince," interrupts Leibowitz. "If you want to see the artifact, you must do so now and you must do so alone. The minutes are passing: choose."

Bahram hesitates, then nods.

"Boss --" begins the bodyguard, stepping closer.

Bahram holds up a hand. "Stay, Lallo. I cannot fail my father. You will remain here."

The bodyguard closes his mouth, grimacing darkly, heavy brow beetled.

The steel doors part. Leibowitz stands aside. Bahram takes a breath and then walks through the opening. The doors close behind him. Red bubble lights spin on the walls beside a white clean-suit hanging from a peg. Bahram pulls it on over his finery, then slips elastic-edged booties over his shoes and a pair of plastic gloves over his hands. Finally he drops the hood down over his face, his vision slightly obscured by the glare of red highlights on the transparent plastic visor.

A guttural, heavily-accented voice sounds through an overhead speaker: "Ingress eight thirty-seven; Bahram Siraj, Prince of Anwar; year fifty-seven twenty-four; twenty March, nineteen sixty-four."

The red lights die. Green lamps illuminate. The doors ahead split.

Bahrams steps into the inner chamber, heart pounding in his chest. The doors close behind him, sinking him into near-total darkness. His own breathing is loud inside the hood. He is unsure how to proceed.

But then his eyes adjust, prying from the gloom a set of very dim amber lamps in the middle of the chamber. He looks around. The giant pipes all lead there, too, to a throne of silhouetted machinery with rivulets of fog cascading down its sides. Overhead, a massive fan slowly beats.

He takes a tentative step forward. This is it: the artifact!

He is startled as a ring of smaller lights illuminates, revealing a tapered dais covered in wires. Now he can make out that there is something resting atop the upper pedestal, shadowed and still.

It is a head.

Bahram furrows his brow, feeling a cold sweat released from his skin. He steps closer again, plastic booties hissing on the metal floor. As he nears the artifact his breath catches in his throat: the thing stirs.

Though the details are hard to discern in the amber gloom Bahram can see its skin, lined and wrinkled like ancient leather, and he can see two black voids where the eyes should be. The holes seem to faintly glint. The lips, wizened and cracked, move slightly apart, crumbles of dust falling from their corners.

Bahram fights down his sense of panic. His every instinct is commanding him to flee this horrid, alien thing.

Instead he does his duty, closing his eyes and then opening them again as he speaks with the clearest voice he can muster: "Is...is it time?"

A voice like cobwebs replies, windy and almost unintelligible, "No."

Bahrams blinks. That's it. This is what the Shah has sent him to do, and he has done it. Now, after it is finished, he feels a strange sense of anticlimax. He jumps when a speaker on the wall behind him crackles. "Prince, the Sabbath is nigh. We must restabilize the artifact and lock down the system!"

He nods slowly to himself, backing away from the pedestal.

"Prince!" crackles the speaker again, Leibowitz's voice edged with urgency.

Bahram turns to go. He waits for the metal doors to open again but before they do he hears the disembodied head shift again, another fine rain of dust tumbling from its disintegrating lips. Contrary to everything Bahram has been told to expect, the artifact speaks again. And what it says causes a violent shiver to slither across his shoulders, making the skin of his scalp crawl.

It says, "Soon."


27 comments:

Simon said...

Ahh! Time for what?? Event Zero? On the grand scale of things, 1964 to the timing of Event Zero could be "soon".

Oh, and speaking of Jewish ninjas, I had to share this that I've seen before.

I suspected it was Lallo at the first utterance of "hah?" One of his trademark words. Cool to see him again. Also neat to think that the World Trade Center was planned that long ago, and with such a use in mind.

And what, in the hell, is the artefact?? Whose head is that? This chapter brings rise to way more questions than it answers. Like why is Bahram on an IV? What's that for? He's obviously not long if he needs medical assistance like that.

I think I would call this chapter delightfully aggravating. Perhaps I need only wait for Teddy and Sheik to chime it with more enlightenment.

al said...

holy shit, Holy Shit, HOLY SHIT!!!

JEREMIAH!!!

I CANNOT wait till you tie all of these episodes together. I am wondering if this is a predestined paradox or what. I have no idea.

Poor Tim. It seems that the plan failed and Jeremiah and he could not take a shortcut back to the future.

al said...

I have to wonder if Lalo has met Jeremiah before and if they know each other. Two beings that old have to have crossed paths at some point. I would also speculate that the towers were destroyed in the burgerverse due to Lalo's war on the Long.

Either way this is an epic preamble that out does anything else out there. I cannot remember storytelling this epic. What can you compare it to? What other storyteller out there has ever created an entire universe with such a rich history and future and tied it all together in the present? The only thing that comes close is Powers published by Marvel/Icon.

My hat is off to a master storyteller that has surpassed the standard by which all other epics can be measured.

Orick of Toronto said...

intriguing chapter. I also guess Lallo for some reason. Neat to tie in the world trade center.

For some reason, the line "This is it: the artifact!" seems a bit out of place here.

It's not Jeremiah, it's Marvin, or maybe Bender. :)

Simon said...

Of COURSE Jeremiah! I have a habit of reading too quickly sometimes in my excitement and not grasping certain subtleties. The Jewish thing makes very much more sense now, taken in stride with Jesus and the Robot.

So, too, does Jeremiah's heartfelt lament in Simon of Space of, "Fifty million hours." HE would obviously know the timing of Event Zero.

(That resounding smack you hear? Palm to forehead.)

Teddy said...

Interesting thesis, Al. I'm not so sure that Jeremiah can survive decapitated, though. Also, with the full power of the Math at his disposal, I seriously doubt that aging would affect him.

I suspected it was Lallo from the first time they mentioned a gravelly baritone in the car. I like the name that he gives: "Comeuppance". Appropriate to his mission.

Interesting the the WTC showed up in this fashion. Also, the jewish ninjas - interestingly, the first assassins were a muslim cult, established to help in the crusades.

TRH

M said...

With the power of the secret math at his disposal, I seriously doubt that Jerimiah would end up decapitated and hostage to a cabal of hasidic jews.

It's Tim.

Eric said...

Geez. What suspense! I'm going to be checking about every 10 minutes for the next chapter.

The eyes make me think of Jeremiah, but then, didn't Jeremiah have blue skin and the ability to self heal? Maybe that's what the equipment is all about? To keep him from using the math.

I didn't think about it being Tim, but that would be kind of cool. Maybe our eyes all would go black with we were a couple thousand years old.

Either way, I can't remember the last time something I read left me this anxious.

SaintPeter said...

I was almost certain that it was Jeremiah from the very begining of the chapter. I am reminded that Golems are from a Jewish story and Jeremiah seems to be a close fit to me.

However, I'm not sure, based on the description of the head, if it was indeed Jeremiah. However, it is described as an "Artifact".

Sheik Yerbouti said...

Dang. Ninjews, Lallo, and the Face of Boe... possibly Jeremiah (that was my thought at first too, though Al beat me to the punch). I called Lallo as soon as the girl scanned his concealed face; the fact that he called Bahram "Prince" threw me at first.

Yeah, the IV makes no sense in light of what we know (though it may be some preparatory measure for his encounter). No, I believe it's just the Shah himself who is long...

I do wonder who was right -- Lallo or Bahram -- about the results of a fight between six Ninjews and Lallo. Kind of like whether earth could actually prevail against the Hroshii if it came to violence (no, that's not a CBB reference).

Simon, I'm sorry to disapoint you with a lack of extra insight, but CBB seems to have spoon-fed us all the details that might be uncovered in this chapter. Methinks this might be another window into the world of the Math (obviously, from its inclusion in this novel).

Fifty million hours is just over 5700 years. If Jeremiah really counted from 30 AD, then that would put Simon 3700 years in our future. Otherwise... a bit further. I know this part of the timeline was discussed during SoS, but I don't remember CBB actually giving any hints.

Eric, Jeremiah wasn't blue. You're probably thinking of him as featured in the viral dream.

M, maybe? Perhaps J could have used his "Mathness" to preserve ol' Timmy boy, the way he must have made him fat again after he wasted away on their trip to the sun...

end transmission.

Ross said...

"...Bahram can see its skin, lined and wrinkled like ancient leather..."

Hasn't CBB always described Executive skin as leathery? It must be Jeremiah.

As for why he allowed himself to be captured, I can only wait excitedly for more.

Brilliant as usual CBB!

(Long time reader, first time poster by the way.)

Simon said...

Sheik, I imagine Jerry's 50 million hours includes all his operating time from sentience to his own "present" during the time of SoS. So that would include going forward to the time of Tim, and then back again to Jesus before starting over again. So add in a good millennium or so to get from "our" present to Tim's. That might put SoS only about 2700 years ahead of us now.

This is all assuming that's Jerry's head up there, of course. But what fun is incremental story telling if you can't make wild-ass assumptions along the way, eh?!

And, to be picky, if Tim was as monstrously obese as portrayed in his story, a few months wasting away aboard a ship in bored indolence would still have left him with a good dose of corpulence to lug about. Or for J to lug about, as the case may be.

NINJEWS!!

Teddy said...

hehe...I was thinking Face of Boe as well.

"There is another..."

I think it's Tim as well. Any old skin seems leathery, and jeremiah would have been better preserved. He doesn't eat food, he eats ELEMENTS and uses them to nano-construct what he needs. Nevertheless, we'll see later. We don't know much about the time when SoS happens, other than it's after everything that happens here but before The Rich Dance.

Let's talk Math, though. Not secret, but addition. Felix and the Frontier ends approximately one century before Simon of Space begins. We know this because Jeremiah tells Simon that Felix was last heard of about a century before that, saying "Something Wicked This Way Comes", which is the message translated in the last moments of FatF. Before that chapter, there were 200 years that he was travelling. Before that, unknown. This is all obviously post-T,DoW, as Jeremiah was newly minted then. So there's something, at least...300 years after Felix' second to last message home that we know of.

TRH

Tolomea said...

Did we ever establish that Simon's J and Tim's J are definitely the same J?

Speaking of which there is still the outstanding question of what the heck Simon is doing in Jesus and the Robot.

Also Jeremiah as depicted in the SOS art work is def colored, looking at the front of my dead tree copy I'd say it's a bluey green color. However I believe that's the robot carapace from when he was disguised.

Someone should dig the uncovering chapter out of SOS and copy the description here.

Tolomea said...

Here's the carapace reference, not that it's particularly relevant

"Pish and I hung around with Monkey all morning while he carefully removed Jeremiah's silver exterior and replaced it with the new blue-green carapace."

And here's a description of J

"Like the human executive I had glimpsed on Maja's World Train, his skin was both leathery and coppery at the same time, creased and wrinkled with the record of a range of expressions, crow's feet at the corner of his eyes and pinched in the corners of his mouth. Unlike the first human executive I had seen Jeremiah had no hair, though he did have faint traces of eyebrows composed of short, translucent fibres. His nostrils were mere slits, his ears faint parabolas of skin around similar slits. His neck was thin, and his face narrow. His hard black eyes were utterly unchanged."

While I was digging I turned up this, which I had totally forgotten about.

"Dr. Drago Tesla Zoran"

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Simon,

That Jew-Jitsu posters is hilarious -- it looks tailor-made for this story!

...Also neat to think that the World Trade Center was planned that long ago, and with such a use in mind.

Planning began in 1960. Between 1961 and 1965 thirteen square blocks of Lower Manhattan were razed in preparation, including the digging of a 60m well or sub-basement foundation to support the complex. The towers themselves started to go up a year later. At the time of this story the construction crews are largely working to remove demolition debris.

al said,

Poor Tim. It seems that the plan failed and Jeremiah and he could not take a shortcut back to the future.

Maybe, but I'm pretty sure Doc Brown can figure out a way to send him back from the future if he really puts his mind to it.

Orick said,

It's not Jeremiah, it's Marvin, or maybe Bender. :)

One one zero one one zero one zero one one one zero one...here I go!

Teddy mentioned,

I suspected it was Lallo from the first time they mentioned a gravelly baritone in the car. I like the name that he gives: "Comeuppance". Appropriate to his mission.

If you'll recall, throughout Lallo's time as a "superhero" he introduces himself as Comeuppance. If those years of his life were a cartoon, he would probably wear a shiny purple unitard with a big C on the chest.

m said,

With the power of the secret math at his disposal, I seriously doubt that Jerimiah would end up decapitated and hostage to a cabal of hasidic jews.

This is just one of those moments where, really, I can't say anything without spoiling the plot. Still, I didn't want you to feel snubbed m: I hear ya! Also Eric, also Saintpeter.

Sheik Yerbouti said,

I do wonder who was right -- Lallo or Bahram -- about the results of a fight between six Ninjews and Lallo. Kind of like whether earth could actually prevail against the Hroshii if it came to violence (no, that's not a CBB reference).

Ah, sweet Heinlein! Meanwhile: I'm not sure if that assessment is accurate, either. I think we'll see as time goes by that the Shah and his closest associates have a preoccupation with their own safety, a preoccupation which may border on paranoia.

Dear Ross,

(Long time reader, first time poster by the way.)

Welcome to the annals of commentary! All feedback is welcome!

And Simon was back with,

That might put SoS only about 2700 years ahead of us now...

I'd like to wade into this to pin some dates down, but I've just realized that I've left my little red notebook with all my scrawls in it on my desk at home, and so I hesitate to blather on and be wrong. Remind me about this issue again, though, and I'll see if I can't place the events of SOS in terms of a familiar calendar.

Tolomea wondered,

Did we ever establish that Simon's J and Tim's J are definitely the same J?

No. (Not "no they're not" but "no we haven't established if that's the case or not yet").

We know from SOS that H.Executives replicate without modification, because at the time of those events they are mounting a second attempt to engineer a system of genetic recombination. We also know that there are sixteen "models" of Executive extant at that point in history, with all operational Executives being of one of the sixteen kinds. We know also that Executives of a common kind "pool" their memories periodically, so that experience is distributed throughout the genus.

So the question is: has the iteration of Jeremiah that travelled with Tim ever had an opportunity to come into contact with any another Jeremiah?

We just have to wait and see.

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

Eric said...

An interesting thought regarding the pooling of experiences between human executives: Would the math give them the ability to pool across time and space to some degree? Could a Jeremiah from Simon's time pool with the the Jeremiah that's hanging around with Jesus?

Tolomea said...

So the structure of the collective Jeremiah memories is a tree with various cross links at the points where they sync up. However the only treatment of the 50 million hours I can see that would be of the right general magnitude and logical, is for it to be the single direct traversal from the common root to the instance present with Simon.

Also I don't like the whole J or Tim theory at all, from the Felix stuff it seems reasonable that if J is functional at all he would be better preserved and given the tech level at Tim's last known point in time it's hard to see how Tim would be preserved at all (unless J did it). To me it seems more likely that it's some other long who somehow has forward knowledge of whats coming.

Now if we take the assumption that the destruction of the towers could have destroyed the artifact then if the artifact is indeed long it'd make sense for Lallo to be involved. That said we shouldn't discount that the Shah and the Jews have obviously had some form of altercation, so maybe that flared up again.

fooburger said...

Hmm... I get this itchy feeling here. My opinion is keep any reference to the actual 9/11 attacks out of the story. I know a lot of fiction writers probably wouldn't care, but that's treading in pretty dangerous territory from my perspective, imho.
I say this because I had a gut reaction when the WTC was referenced: "okay... I just hope he doesn't try to tie this in..."

I wasn't clued in on Lalo until later in the chapter. I think a reference to an extremely ugly face is where I start thinking lalo. There was probably something there that I just missed.

I'm guessing that Lalo was 'made' by some party in this war (immortalized by the strange creatures he saw that one day as a caveman)... however, he was 'made' far in advance of jeremiah's interaction with jesus, if he was so... etc.

I really can't rule anybody out as to who the head-only wonder is. :)

This was a great chapter, btw, regardless of that pit that developed in my stomach when I became aware of the WTC reference.

Buddy said...

FYI typo: "Bahram detaches the IV ..., messaging his forearm."

Guessing 'massaging' instead of 'messaging'.

al said...

well. let's add up some facts...

Lallo is Long
Jeremiah could be considered Long
Time travel is possible

Could Jeremiah or some other Human Executive have gone back in time and used the secret math on regular humans and made them Immortal? Would that make Lallo and the other Long the next/first generation of the Human execs?

Why would they do something like this?
I would find the story of how Lallo ends up very interesting.

Can't wait for the next chapter...

Mark said...

Whoa. This is great stuff.

I'm not as speculative as lots of these other folks, but I'm thinking that the artifact is an Executive. How it got be-headed I'll not try to guess, but I wouldn't think it's impossible, especially with the power wielded by that rogue group of executive offshoots whose beginnings we saw in one of Felix's tales.

fooburger -- I worried about the 9/11 link, too. I considered very briefly including a reference to the 9/11 attacks in one of my stories. It was not about the attacks directly, but that the folks jumping from the buildings would have survived had a certain safety feature been invented (it was a time travel story in which folks altered the course of history by causing the death of an important inventor, among other things).

I chose to use another example of people jumping out of buildings.

Shadowphone said...

Typos: also, "alefbetic" (unless that was a nod to the Hebrew alphabet).

I believe Cassandra was behind the "Longination"... or at least the rogue exec, though they might be inextricably bound together. In fact, I think we can safely assume that some form of time travel was used, a la Scott Bakula's "evil leaper chick" nemesis (then again, I may be making that up for dramatic effect).

Mark, I hadn't thought about 9/11 in the context of that story... probably because it wasn't written by Giuliani, eh?

On to part 10!

M said...

tolomea said,

Speaking of which there is still the outstanding question of what the heck Simon is doing in Jesus and the Robot.

I was about to suggest that maybe Simon is long. But then I realized that it would be hard to explain how Simon could recognize Jeremiah if he hadn't met him yet. That presents too many complications in the plot to bother specultating further. Also, I can't recall Simon demonstrating any of the qualities of a long in SoS.

Sheik Yerbouti said...

I had assumed that Simon ended up there out of some desire for redemption or whatnot after the Volmash memories were re-implanted.

As to the how... well, if an exec in Tim's day could figure out time travel, then I'm sure a few millennia later it'd be a piece of cake. Probably rather Math-y, though, and as such, not widely done.

(also, I used the wrong alias again; curse that over-helpful Google sign-in mechanism)

Teddy said...

As Jeremiah described it to Jesus, they "fell through a tear in time". They didn't so much figure it out as happen upon it, and more accurately it happened TO them. They may be able to figure it out after this, but I don't think they had any clue what they were doing there, and only the most rudimentary theories as to how to get back.

TRH

Sheik Yerbouti said...

Teddy, good point.

I still hold to my rather cloudy hypothesis as to the "why", though.