Wednesday, 5 March 2008

The Secret Mathematic - Chapter Fourteen


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

Chapters: 1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|9|10|11|12|13|14|...

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

Related reading: Stubborn Town, Three Face Flip, The Long Man, Plight of the Transformer, The Extra Cars

And now, our tale continues:



FOURTEEN

Thunder Bay, Canada. It's the height of a short, torrid summer. The air is humid, and everyone's clothes stick to their bodies.

The police station is crowded and noisy. Telephones ring. People have to shout to be heard over the battery of desk fans that rattle different piles of papers in clockstep turns as they oscillate back and forth. There is a handwritten sign over the coffee machine that says UNPLUG FAN BEFORE TURNING ON but nobody reads the sign, so the circuit breakers keep tripping whenever anyone needs a refill.

Captain Beaudoin frowns in the dark as he spills the sugar, calling over his shoulder, "Will somebody get their ass down to the basement and flip those damn switches, please? Christ."

"The sign says you have to unplug the --"

"I know what the damn sign says. I can read, Garrison, thank you very much."

"Sorry, Captain."

Beaudoin stalks back down the corridor to the interrogation rooms. The fluorescents flash and stutter back to life when he's halfway there. He pushes into the observation gallery and puts his styrofoam cup down on the sill before a window of one-way glass. On the other side a native youth sits alone at small table, head in his hands, greasy black hair spilling over nailbitten fingers.

"I thought Lombard was supposed to be in with him," grunts Beaudoin to the recording technician.

"The kid spit in his face, so he went to the can to wash up."

"Christ." Beaudoin checks his watch. "Where's that damn special consultant already? We can't hold this little shit forever."

The intercom light flashes. Beaudoin picks up the receiver. "Yeah?" He frowns a second later as the fluorescents flicker off and the intercom goes dead. He hangs it up and swears. "I think he's here now. I'll go meet him. Where's the damn door? Oof. Christ!"

Beaudoin stumbles out into the dark corridor, spilling coffee up his sleeve. He wipes the excess off on the wall. The lights at the front of the precinct come back up accompanied by the hum of fans, but the corridor remains dark. From the basement a muffled voice calls, "Is that the one?"

A chorus shouts back, "No!"

At the mouth of the corridor a man stands silhouetted. He wears a long overcoat that almost brushes the floor. A briefcase dangles from one hand. As the man's grip shifts on the handle Beaudoin hears the telltale creak of leather gloves. A rasp in the dark: "Captain Beaudoin."

"Uh, yeah," calls Beaudoin. "Are you Mr. Minnesota?"

"Mississauga."

"Sorry..." says Beaudoin, but the end of the word dies a quiet death in his throat as the silhouette begins lurching toward him, keeling left and then right, hips wagging and boots hitting the floor hard. Beaudoin feels himself shrink up against the safety of the coffee-dripping wall.

The lights come up. Beaudoin finds himself face to face with a native. His hair is a salt and pepper brush-cut, his cheeks sharp, his face long, his expression cold. His eyes, however, stand out in contrast: lush, almost doe-like, chocolate brown and bottomless, somehow childishly clear and wide despite the hard man they are attached to. Beaudoin is startled as the native thrusts out a black-gloved hand.

He shakes it, discomfited somewhat by the heavy, lifeless feel of the limb. It squeezes back mechanically, then relaxes with another leathery creak. "Nice to meet you," Beaudoin manages to say.

Mr. Mississauga says nothing.

From behind the one-way glass of the observation gallery Beaudoin watches the tall, loping native make his way into the interrogation room. The kid looks up. Mr. Mississauga draws out the chair opposite him and then, after a series of discrete stages of articulation, folds himself into it. The kid watches him in silence until he's settled. "Who're you?" he challenges.

"S. Mississauga," says S. Mississauga.

"They send you here because they think I'll spill for an Indian?"

"No."

He puts his briefcase on the table and flips the catches. He opens the lid and withdraws a thick file folder. One black-gloved hand peels open the front flap while the other buzzes, forming a pointing index finger, which he then uses to scan down the pages of text.

"Is that all shit about me?" asks the kid.

"No," repeats Mr. Mississauga, still reading.

The kid shifts. "So are you going to ask me anything or what?"

Mr. Mississauga looks up. "Tell me about the robbery."

"I ain't telling it again. Screw that. I told it ten times already. Nobody believes the truth, so if it's nothing to you I'm just gonna start making shit up from now on, okay?"

"No," says Mr. Mississauga evenly.

"No what?"

"No, it isn't nothing to me. You will give me a full and proper account, in your own words, beginning right now."

The kid sneers, crossing his arms. "Or what?"

Mr. Mississauga says nothing. Beaudoin leans closer to the glass. He can't see the detective's face, but the expression on it must be something impressive because the next thing he knows the kid is telling his story -- gushing it, actually, expanding freely on details Lombard had to extract like pulling teeth. Lombard returns from the washroom. "He's finally spilling?"

Beaudoin shakes his head with a sneer. "Naw," he says. "It's the same crazy crap as before: he remembers the future. The only difference is he's giving it up easy for this guy."

"I think the kid's nuts, Beau. He huffed one too many. We need a shrink eval."

Beaudoin hesitates. "I'd be inclined to say the same thing. But if that's all it is, tell me this, Lombard: how'd he pull off the damn crime? How could he have known?"

Lombard shrugs, gesturing at the interrogation room. "I guess that's what Big Chief Columbo here is supposed to tell us."

Despite the fact that the glass is sound-proof Lombard shifts nervously as Mr. Mississauga glances back over his shoulder at them, his deep eyes narrowed. Beaudoin clears his throat. "He comes highly recommended."

"I'll bet," says Lombard.

Beaudoin shushes him, ear inclined toward the speaker. The kid's monologue is running down. Mr. Mississauga straightens in his chair. "What is your explanation for these events?" he asks.

"I don't got one," says the kid. Mr. Mississauga just stares at him. The kid fidgets, looks down at his hands, then looks up again. "My grandfather...he used to tell me stories. Stories about the Ghost World. I always thought they were nothing but bull."

"You've changed your mind?"

"I don't know," he shrugs. "Do you believe in all that -- like, spirits and shit?"

"No," says Mr. Mississauga.

"So you think the Ghost World is bull, too."

Mr. Mississauga mirrors the kid's earlier shrug. "Ancestral wisdom often grows around a kernel of truth," he says. "The how and the why might be wrong, but dismissing the what requires a more discriminating standard."

"Is that what you do? Discriminate standards and stuff?"

"Yes," agrees Mr. Mississauga. He looks down at his file folder again. "You told the police you are not able to show them the spot in which you gain access to the memories of the future. Why is that?"

"It'd be pointless. They don't frigging believe anything I say. Those stupid crackers don't know nothing about...about the Ghost World."

"You could still show them."

"It moves, though, right? It doesn't stay still. Each time we wanted to find it we'd have to search around again. And we could only find it if we were high, so I'm not doing that with the cops right on me. I ain't stupid."

Mr. Mississauga nods. "That's right. You're not." He pushes his chair back. "Thank you for your time."

Mr. Mississauga leaves the interrogation room and meets Beaudoin in the corridor. Before Beaudoin can ask after his progress Mr. Mississauga announces that he would like to survey the site. Beaudoin frowns. "The jewellery store?"

"No, the field where the children do their inhaling."

"Don't bother. We've got him dead to rights for huffing. We don't need anything else."

"I'm not concerned with that," says Mr. Mississauga.

Beaudoin waits for more, but no explanation is forthcoming. He clears his throat and checks his watch. "Well I guess we can take a quick drive by..."

"Do you have a helicopter?"

Beauboin blinks. "A helicopter?" He furrows his brow. Mr. Mississauga looks at him expectantly. Beaudoin begins to nod. "Yeah, yeah we do, more or less. We get the fire marshall's chopper when there's call for it. Do you really think that's necessary, though? The fuel's pretty far from cheap."

"Yes."

"Yes?"

"Yes, it is necessary, Captain Beaudoin."

The lights go out. Many people swear. Beaudoin, for his part, is relieved to be invisible for a spell. "I'll put in the call," he says into the darkness. "Then we can go wait up on the roof."

Mr. Mississauga says nothing. A leather glove creaks on the handle of his briefcase. Beaudoin shivers.

He's much happier when they're out on the roof. There's a breeze up here that cuts through the heat. To the south glitters the great inland sea of Lake Superior, wave crests winking in the sun, trails of turbulence dissolving away behind boats and seadoos in long, current-skewed forks. There isn't a cloud in the sky. After a few moments of silent waiting Beaudoin ventures, "Aren't you hot in that thing? On a day like this?"

Mr. Mississauga glances down at his overcoat. "I'll manage," he reports.

"I'm dying, and I'm wearing half what you are."

Mr. Mississauga shrugs. "I find shorts unflattering."

Beaudoin ekes out a friendly chuckle. "Skinny legs?"

Mr. Mississauga pushes the edge of his overcoat aside and then tugs up the hem of his left trouser leg, revealing two metal shafts planted by bolts into a plastic ankle just visible over the top of his boot. He looks up at Beaudoin. "Yes," he confirms.

"Um," says Beaudoin. He scans the sky for any sign of the approaching helicopter.

Mr. Mississauga withdraws a silver cigarette case and, by a methodical ritual involving passing items from undead hand to undead hand and back again, inserts a cigarette between his thin lips and ignites it. He catches Beaudoin watching.

Beaudoin coughs and says, "The chopper should be here any minute."

"Yes," agrees Mr. Mississauga. "It just took off."

"How do you figure?"

"Listen," replies Mr. Mississauga, cocking his head slightly as he blows out a cloud of fume.

Beaudoin listens. He hears nothing but the city: squeaking brakes, murmurs and laughs, a warble of overlapping musics, a honk, whining gulls. He rolls his lips nervously. "So, what branch are you with exactly, anyway? If you don't mind my asking."

"The Department of Miscellaneous Affairs."

"I'm sorry -- the what?"

Mr. Mississauga flashes him a small, tight smile, and then proceeds to give voice to the worst French accent Beaudoin has ever heard: "La departement de n'importe quoi." He pauses. "That's a little joke."

"Ah."

"I'm not very funny."

"Oh."

He drags on his smoke. "My department has no real title; only a succession of code names. We're officially a division of CSIS."

"Intelligence?" says Beaudoin, squinting with one eye. "The commissioner didn't say you were with Intelligence. Christ! What the damn hell is going on here, in your opinion?"

"Something strange," replies Mr. Mississauga, letting go of his half-smoked cigarette and stepping on it with a lurch. "Which is precisely the mandate of my department."

Beaudoin frowns. "You've seen things like this before?"

Mr. Mississauga looks into the sky. "Here comes our ride."

A shadow flashes over them. The red helicopter squares itself above the roof and then begins a careful descent, its blades pounding the air and sending waves of dust and dirt flying. Beaudoin throws his forearm in front of his face, but Mr. Mississauga merely narrows his eyes in defense against the grit.

The engine whines as the rotors slow. Captain Beaudoin and Mr. Mississauga bend down and approach the cabin, then clamber inside. "Hey Beau," greets the pilot brightly, then hesitates as he sets eyes on his companion. "Afternoon, sir."

As Mr. Mississauga straps himself into the rear seat Captain Beaudoin sits up front and gives the pilot his marching orders in a quiet voice before donning his headset so he can be heard properly. The pilot nods and the engine keens as the rotors spin up to flight speed again. They lift off.

It's a short flight. Inside of four minutes the field of untended grass to the west of the electrical distribution sub-station is crawling into view below. Mr. Mississauga's headset crackles. "Where do you want me to set down, sir?" asks the pilot.

"Circumnavigate the site, pilot. Give me two close passes, as low as you can manage."

The pilot looks over to Beaudoin, who nods. Beaudoin then looks over his shoulder, leaning on his seat back. "What are you hoping to see exactly, Detective?"

"The suspect spoke of a zone," answers Mr. Mississauga. Both the pilot and Beaudoin reach up to reduce the volume on their headsets. Having the tall native's voice whispered directly into their ears is unsettling.

Mr. Mississauga continues: "Inhaling solvents within this zone gave them access to data they characterized as memories of the future. The suspect maintains that the zone shifted over time, and he and his friends tracked it as it moved." He pauses, attention caught by the landscape. "Note their original locus below us now: the depressions in the grass are clearly visible. Stomped flat, peppered with trash, just inside the hole in the sub-station's perimeter fence where they first gained access to the site."

Beaudoin squints. "Okay, sure. I see it."

The helicopter is low enough now to beat down circular patterns in the grass. Mr. Mississauga points out of the window. "Track north-east, Captain. The second locus."

"So what? They get bored of huffing in one place and move on."

"The migrations are not random. The third and fourth loci, north by north-east. Can you see the fifth? It's partly occluded by that tree. The sixth is more than double the distance away." He knocks one hand against the back of the pilot's chair, making the pilot jump. "Pilot: up, please."

The helicopter swings around wide for another pass as it rises. It becomes apparent that the field is peppered with dozens of mashed down patches. "A trampled grass puzzle," says Mr. Mississauga.

Beaudoin grunts. "Does that tell you something?"

"What does it tell you, Captain? Can you see a pattern?"

"What, like crop-circles or something?"

"Too specific. Does the distribution of loci remind you of anything more general?"

Beaudoin frowns, considering this. The pilot, for his part, looks out at the undulating surface of Lake Superior. "It looks like waves," he says. "You know, when they hit each other?"

Mr. Mississauga nods. "Correct. It's an interference pattern."

Beaudoin grimaces. "Damn. What does it mean?" His eyes widen. "Does it mean the power station's giving people cancer?"

"No," says Mr. Mississauga. "Unless we posit that the suspect and his companions were deliberately experimenting with grand-scale art inspired by physics, our only conclusion can be that their motivation for choosing new loci was influenced by a genuine external factor -- a factor whose emergent pattern is immediately recognizable to us as naturalistic, at least from an aerial perspective." He pauses. "In other words, they were chasing a real effect in the world and not a hallucination."

The pilot says, "That's our second circuit, sir."

"Set us down," orders Mr. Mississauga.

The engine moans. The blades whisper as they slow. The pilot stands at the nose, chewing gum. Mr. Mississauga and Captain Beaudoin wade through the field, approaching a locus, the stalks susurrusing against their clothes. Grasshoppers leap aside ahead of their progress.

They step around truncated foundation columns, set in place years ago for an expansion project that never happened. The concrete stumps poking up through the grass, worn smooth or chipped to irregular lumps, lend the field an aura of desolation and age. It is as if the power station were built atop Roman ruins.

At the locus itself the grass has been pounded flat. Broken stalks outline where bodies have lain, their shapes held intact by the rainless days. The silver edges of potato chip bags peek out among the dirt along with empty pop bottles and grimy containers covered in warnings about the toxic solvents they used to contain. Beaudoin nudges one of the containers with his shoe. "You know I can't believe a damn thing that kid says," he says. "Do you have any idea what this stuff does to the brain?"

"Yes," says Mr. Mississauga evenly. "I grew up on reserve, Captain. I know better than most."

Beaudoin nods, not meeting his eye. "Yeah. Of course. Sorry. Should've known."

He watches mutely as Mr. Mississauga sets his briefcase on a cracked column and opens the lid. He withdraws a compass, a sextant, and a range finder with a miniature, telescoping tripod. He carefully arranges the instruments and then takes a reading, jotting figures inside a small, hot-pink notebook with a giant-eyed kitten on the cover. He checks the range finder against the sextant he holds aloft horizontally, then snaps the cutesy little notebook closed.

"What's that you're doing?" ventures Beaudoin at last.

Mr. Mississauga straightens. "If the loci are spaced according to a predictably attenuating periodicity, the next locus -- undiscovered by the suspect's group -- should be about forty meters in that direction. Let's investigate."

"What for? You said yourself they never hung out there."

Mr. Mississauga's tight little smile makes another brief appearance. "To see if we can remember the future, Captain."

Beaudoin shakes his head. "You don't get it, do you Mississauga? Those kids were huffing. We're wasting our time hunting after their bullshit instead of figuring out how they pulled the whole thing off. We need something to make that kid roll over on his pals."

Mr. Mississauga repacks his surveying tools and then lights a fresh cigarette. He looks at Beaudoin through a wall of haze. "Captain, the suspect managed to take advantage of a sixteen second gap in the jewellery's store electronic security systems to clean out the cash safe -- a heist on a level of sophistication that would make seasoned professionals envious."

"That much we know."

Mr. Mississauga purses his lips grimly. "Is it your theory, Captain, that he surreptitiously damaged the store's air conditioner with the knowledge that the resulting flood would not only cripple the security system, but also inspire the manager to prop open the back door, then arranged for a car accident to take place right outside at just the instant the repair technician and the manager were attempting to reset the sensors within the vault? Is it really your theory that the suspect counted on both the manager and the technician running out into the street before calling 911, rather than calling straight away after witnessing the accident through the windows? Do you truly believe that, by luck and happenstance, the suspect was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of all these opportunities? Is that your official prognosis: luck?"

"I don't know," admits Beaudoin, face tight.

"If so, what about the other robberies, each as amazing a set of coincidences as the last?"

"I can't explain any of it, okay? It makes my head hurt just thinking about it."

Mr. Mississauga nods curtly. "Thus, I would thank you not to disdain my approach. If we posit that the children actually did stumble upon a moving zone of precognition, we provide ourselves with a very simple litmus to test the theory. Either you and I can find the appropriate spot to remember the future, or we cannot. I've charted the next locus. Are you coming?"

Without waiting for a reply Mr. Mississauga turns on heel and begins loping purposefully through the tall grass, puffs of smoke trailing out behind him.

Beaudoin hovers in place, swears under his breath, then jogs off after him.

The area where Mr. Mississauga stops is unremarkable in every way. They're now at the very edge of the utility's property, a second line of fencing visible beyond a run of bushes. He turns back to face Beaudoin.

Beaudoin has stopped a few metres shy of Mr. Mississauga. He's embarrassed that he's too anxious to step closer. "Do you feel anything?" he calls.

Mr. Mississauga shakes his head. "The suspect reported that each new locus was approximately half as potent as the previous, requiring double the time or double the dosage of solvents in order to find the precognitive data."

Beaudoin looks up sharply. "Christ -- you're not going to huff something, are you?"

"No," says Mr. Mississauga. "I have my own ways of achieving a trance-like state. I will now make myself receptive."

"Should I be doing anything?"

"Try to be quiet. I'm a light sleeper."

"You're going to go to sleep? Here, in the middle of the field?"

Mr. Mississauga considers this question rhetorical, so he does not reply. Instead he adjusts his limbs in a series of steps that eventually conclude with him lying down on his back. His cigarette sticks straight up from his mouth, a line of smoke winding lazily up into the blue. His arms rest by his sides.

"Christ," mutters Beaudoin again, shielding his eyes with his hand as a visor while searching the field behind them for the pilot. He waves. The pilot waves back. Beaudoin jams his hands into his pockets and waits.

A while later he checks his watch, then sighs. "This is crazy," he says under his breath.

He's startled as Mr. Mississauga rocks his torso back and forth until he works up the momentum to sit up again. The dead smoke drops out of his mouth. "Your wife, Captain Beaudoin: she's named Maxine?"

Beaudoin blinks. "...Yeah. Yeah, she is. How come?"

Mr. Mississauga slowly gets to his feet and then lights another cigarette. "She'll be disappointed when I decline the invitation to sample her famous sugared yams, but she shouldn't take it personally; I only consume my own food."

Captain Beaudoin's mouth goes dry. "She is making sugared yams tonight. How did you know that?"

"She'll invite me to dinner. It will make you uncomfortable. Your relief when I refuse will be obvious."

"What?"

Mr. Mississauga checks his watch. "When does your household normally dine?"

"Around seven," Beaudoin hears himself answer distantly.

"The precognitive episodes are attenuating precisely according to the suspect's experience -- just an hour this time. In another week the next locus will provide a window only minutes into the future, and after that effect will be negligible: more like deja-vu than precognition."

"How do you know about my wife?" Beaudoin whispers.

"I remember her call," says Mr. Mississauga patiently. "Your desk phone will be ringing as we walk back into the station."

Beaudoin shakes his head, grimacing. "So you're saying the kid's telling the truth?"

"As far as I can tell, yes." Mr. Mississauga blows out a long, thin plume of smoke. "Do you know anything about quantum mechanics, Captain?"

"Quantum?" repeats Beaudoin, brow furrowed. "Naw. I drive a Chevy."

Mr. Mississauga raises his brow, but ignores this. "There are those who believe the human brain achieves self-awareness via the superposition of various quantum states patterned by the orchestrated firing of neurons. This implies a certain entanglement of information rooted in the physical structure of the brain -- an entanglement which may be able to bridge connections between discrete instances of that consciousness, even if they are temporally non-local to one another." He drags on his cigarette again, eyes on Beaudoin. "Would you care to try it?"

"Damn no!" cries Beaudoin, taking an unconscious step backward.

Mr. Mississauga offers him another small, tight smile. "We should get moving then, Captain. We wouldn't want to miss Maxine's call."


50 comments:

Dan said...

Since the locus is providing a lesser window into the future each time, did Sky miss event zero? Or will it occur at the precise time the locus and "current" time are one?

Great Chapter CBB,

THE Danimal

Simon said...

Dan, I will guess that this in another example of the anomalies leading up to Event Zero. An interference pattern is not quite the same as the pattern Sky is following to Event Zero (which I've always envisioned as vaguely resembling the pattern on a nautilus shell - the PHI ratio would fit nicely into this Event).

I have to say that I'm increasingly amused every time somebody mucks up Mr. Miss's name. You'd think that it would get old over time, but it only gets funnier. That's sort of an anomaly right there. Plus, Mr. Miss's very dry "yes" at the captain's 'skinny legs' comment made me laugh out loud.

His "I'm not very funny," garnered a smirk from me too. I just love his personality.

This chapter is yet another island in the middle part of the story, but it seems (from salt-n-pepa hair and such) that we're right around the same time as, say, Stubborn Town or The Extra Cars, give or take a few years either way.

The only line that really stood out to me was Beaudoin's "Chevy" quip at the end, funny as it was. I'd like to credit a captain of a police force with enough intelligence to know that quantum mechanics, at the very least, does in no way involve anything carbeurated. So either the captain is discretely and drily hilarious, or Thunder Bay doesn't hire very smart captains.

I think this goes just a little further to cementing Mr. Miss as my favourite character.

sheik yerbouti said...

This isn't Event Zero; it's just another one of those fading weird events that precedes it.

And yes, CBB, your work on this chapter was well worth it. Wonderful human touches throughout (I used to walk through fields where grasshoppers would jump out like that).

So what's SM's trick with getting the kid to talk? Is he calling up his Hubbardian training there?

"Quantum? Naw. I drive a Chevy."

Now THAT's comedy.

Simon said...

PS -- for the pattern I referenced in the last comment, in case anyone's interested, or wants to suggest something else:

nautilus shell

When Mr. Miss (in The Extra Cars, I think) told the Kim boys that the events were getting closer together both temporally as well as geographically, this pattern, to me, totally fit the bill. (Well, the geography part, anyway.)

Dan said...

Simon, you're right. I believe I remember Sky showing the reducing pattern to Phat-so Kim in "THe Extra Cars"

THE Danimal

sheik yerbouti said...

He said it was like a Fibonacci sequence, which would indicate the same sort of swirl ("the numbers nature counts with", indeed).

So I wonder... is this the "inverted memories" mark on Sky's map?

SaintPeter said...

I too was thinking of a spiral.

I find it hard to believe that a man who could recognize an interference pattern would not know what Quantum Mechanics was, although it could have been a joke.

I loves me some Mr. Miss. Another great chapter, CBB. As always, Bravo!

Stephen Hamilton said...

Great chapter...I'm loving this story!

gl. said...

i liked "Grasshoppers leap aside ahead of their progress."

when i looked up "susurrusing" via google, not only was i surprised that there was no definition, but there were only 5 pages that use that word: two of them cheeseburger (this story and tim, destroyer of worlds). i think that deserves an "obscurest internet word of the year" award or something. :)

Smiley K said...

Mr. Miss rocks.

I think his secret to getting people to gush is patience. He listens, truly listens, patiently. Most people listen to the point of satisfying common courtesy.

Full undivided attention to every minute detail just weirds people out because most of us will never actually experience it.

Anybody else think Mr. Miss is going to turn out to be "long?"

fooburger said...

I wasn't quite certain what to make of this chapter. It had a lot in common with a few of the other stories detailing Mr. Miss' tracking of the anomalies.
I didn't get the sense that this is imminently leading towards our eagerly anticipated event-zero... there was more of that in 'extra cars' and such. I can see it as part of this particular TSM story arc though, but a reader starting with TSM wouldn't pick up the importance of the pseudo-periodic anomalies.

C'mon.. I wanna hear how the ninjews, lallo, the book stolen by the transformer, the anomalies and all the other stuff ties in with jeremiah, my good bro Tim, and a bunch of chimps on their way to the moon. Oh yeah.. and how this all rescues Felix in his adventures of the way way beyond. :)

Okay.. I'm *not* whining here... really... but there are enough dangling details out there to make an entire writing crew for "Lost" jealous.. :)

thanks for the read!

Mark said...

What a wonderful chapter. Gritty cops and Mr. Miss. Oh, and precog kids huffing fumes. What's not to love?

I do have one pick, however.

This chapter comes to us via Captain Beaudoin's (very fun and vividly visual) point of view. In two places I noticed that we seem to get Mr. Miss's POV, just for an instant. This jarred me out of the flow.

To wit:

Mr. Mississauga's headset crackles. "Where do you want me to set down, sir?" asks the pilot.

Captain Beaudoin would not have known that Mr. Miss's headset crackled, right?

Later, we see:

Mr. Mississauga considers this question rhetorical, so he does not reply.

Again we slip inside Mr. Miss's head.

Were these moments intentional?

eric said...

This chapter was a fun read, and it contained some good humor. I personally got a kick out of the situation with the lights and the coffee machine.

I felt like it was inconsistent with the other chapters in a major way though. The other chapters have always either given us some major insight into one or more characters, or they moved the story along notably. (Sometime they did both) This chapter didn't really seem to do either very much.

If I hadn't read Extra Cars or Stubborn Town, then this chapter might have added the sense of a building climax, but given what I know of Mr. Miss's investigations, this just kind of seemed like more of the same stuff.

Like I said, I enjoyed reading the chapter a lot. Mr. Miss is such a great character, it would be difficult not to enjoy anything involving him.

But since you've always asked for our honest opinions...

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Quoth Eric,

If I hadn't read Extra Cars or Stubborn Town, then this chapter might have added the sense of a building climax, but given what I know of Mr. Miss's investigations, this just kind of seemed like more of the same stuff.

I struggled with this chapter, in no small part because of exactly the issue you highlight.

This chapter is designed for someone who has not read STUBBORN TOWN, THE EXTRA CARS or THE TASTE OF BLUE.

For those readers, I needed to establish some basics about Mr. Mississauga and his mission, but without making it nothing but a long deja-vu for readers like you, who have the background. It was a tough balancing act. I continue to agonize over the same issue in the chapters to come -- giving enough information to new readers without boring the existing readers to tears.

As always, though, I certainly appreciate hearing how a particular chapter struck you. Keep it coming.

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

Tolomea said...

Mr. Mississauga considers this question rhetorical, so he does not reply.

this bit seemed weird to me

eric said...

I can see how that would be a tough balancing act indeed.

Your excellent use of humor was a good way to go in this case as it gave us all something new to enjoy while still being able to help bring a new reader up to speed.

The comments seem to consistently show that your regular readers found this chapter to be really funny.

Mark said...

tolomea - We know from Mr. Miss's previous adventures that he only answers direct questions. In that respect, then it wouldn't be weird to see him ignore a rhetorical question.

The strange part to me, as I said in an earlier comment, is that it seemed to get us out of the Captain's head and into Mr. Miss's for just one sentence.

Am I the only one who noticed that and the other instance of it?

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Mark,

No, no -- you're absolutely right. I knew it when I typed it, just as I did when I typed a similar trope in STUBBORN TOWN:

"Mr. Mississauga does not elaborate, but merely stares at the mayor with an open brow and his bottomless chocolate eyes. This is his standard technique for encouraging people to speak, and it works."

It's exposition gone mad, told instead of shown, and I seem to have a particular problem with it with respect to Mr. Miss.

As always, thanks for flagging the POV violations, Mark.

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

Mark said...

First, let me just say that this chapter was great fun to read. I said that because I don't want you to think I'm in any way comparing it to Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. You blow that crap away with every sentence you write.

But some of these comments reminded me of ST V for the best of reasons: love for a character (or characters).

I once commented to a friend that I enjoyed ST V for those scenes in Yosemite, because, "I could watch those guys sit and eat a sandwich and still be entertained."

Of course, with Mississauga, it's Scotch Broth, and he's searching for Event Zero, not God, but you get the idea.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Mark,

When I was younger my Star Trek nerdcore burned very bright, The Final Frontier was unwatchably bad. It was a stain. It was a colossal error of judgement 90 minutes long.

Now, however, with a little perspective, I can find it very entertaining. There's just something so wall-to-wall Shatnerian about the whole debacle that it becomes enjoyable as pure camp.

That being said, what would God need with a starship?

Corollary question: why does God look like George Lucas?

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

Isosceles_CAT said...

Sorry to wander off topic, but I just wanted to say that I thought The Final Frontier was an awful movie... Until I saw Nemesis. I can't say enough terrible things about that picture, and I'm getting nauseous just thinking about it. It was not only by far the worst ST movie ever made, but it's in the running for worst movie ever. Let me justify this: some movies are so bad that they can be enjoyed on SOME level, but there is *nothing* even slightly enjoyable about watching that vile piece of festering mung. I had to shower twice just to get the stink off. Yeah, its Battlefield Earth bad.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Isosceles Cat,

Is it still cool for me to come by after work today?

Let me know.

Also, on an unrelated matter, I would like to enter the following phrase into the Internet's collective consciousness:

Mini Vaughan West blows goats.

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

Teddy said...

How bad did the dealership screw you over, CBB?

Also, Mr. Isosceles, I particularly enjoyed the more middlish ST movies because it seemed like as Shatner got more and more movies under his belt he didn't care so much about making sure that kirk was awesome as he did about just having a good time and being himself. The character isn't really right for being an admiral anyways, so that lent itself to it. I echo mark - watching one of them play solitaire would be interesting to me.

Plus, some of the lines from those movies will NEVER get old: "I -- have had -- enough -- of YOOUUUUUUUUU!"

As far as Nemesis goes, it was a little weird, yes, but the battle at the end was amazing! That slow paced, out-thinking each other chess feeling is EXACTLY how a naval battle should be, and when you're dealing with spaceships that size in an open arena it functions exactly like a naval battle, sans submarines. Romulan and Klingon cloaks, naturally, make them like submarines, which is interesting.

Anyways, that's my defense of the Star Trek movies. First one was the worst movie I've ever seen, total waste of my time. After that they improve vastly.

TRH

Isosceles_CAT said...

Yuppers, I should be home by 6.

Isosceles_CAT said...

Teddy; with all due respect, if you are indeed suggesting that The Motion Picture was worse than Nemesis, then I have no choice but to challenge you to a duel.

Tolomea said...

Mark & Cheeseburger -
Thats what I meant, it wouldn't have been weird if it had just said

Mr. Mississauga does not reply.

It's the "considers this question rhetorical" bit that seemed weird. Like Cheeseburger said it's telling not showing.

Teddy said...

And as such, I accept! as the challenged, I get to choose the method, we'll do precision landings at dawn. In a tailwheel airplane. I'll be flying a Aeronca Champ, name the airport and the day!

...ftw?

TRH

Tolomea said...

Mildly surprised that no one commented on Mr Miss apparently working for the Canadian X-files.

On that note while there is the implicit claim that Mr Miss has worked on strange cases before there is no indication that there have been other "events" prior to this one.

I'm also curious about event zero, my personal suspicion is that it's a notable exercise of the math, something really big, although not necessarily big in the "big bada boom" way, more big as in the degree to which it violates the natural order. One thought I had was that maybe he brings his sister back. Depending on how the Burgerverse works and how it's done that could potentially be a big thing. If you take a dualist POV on body/soul then it sorta automatically a big deal, however I don't recall Cheeseburger ever showing much inclination in that direction. Alternatively you could do it by messing around with the flow of time which I would generally also consider a big deal, however we have other events like that (Tim and perhaps the origins of the long) with no indication of this ripple effect (then again Tim did wipe out Sol). That said the ripples do seem consistent with a stitching or splicing point in the timeline.

Simon said...

So far, I imagine Event Zero as something along the lines of Zephram Cochrane's first use of warp drive in the Star Trek universe. Incredible, but not Earth-shattering in its immediate ramifications. Its subsequent results though... beyond astounding.

But instead of warp, it'll be the first "real" use of the Math. And instead of attracting the attention of the Vulcans, it'll attract the attention of... something else. I don't know what.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

A brief diversion, typed as I eat my lunch:

CHEESEBURGER BROWN vs. THE EVIL CAR DEALERSHIP

One day Cheeseburger Brown was driving his ultra-masculine butter-yellow sub-compact home from work, and because he'd drank too much beer at work he had to pee. He stopped at a gas station and was surprised and chagrined to find that despite extracting his car key from the ignition, his car refused to shut off.

Puzzled, Mr. Brown thought the matter over while relieving himself, and then returned and screwed around with the key for a while. Eventually the car turned off.

When it turned on again, the dashboard reported a complete computer failure and locked the transmission into a convenient "safety mode" in which only first gear and reverse are available to avoid further damage.

Since the gas station was just a hop, skip and jump away from an authorized Mini-BMW franchise dealership, he called them and had them arrange a tow to their nearby service facility.

No loaner cars were available, so Mr. Brown hung around looking at toy cars until his darling and sexalicious wife picked him up in the family Volvo.

Almost three weeks later the dealership, called Mini Vaughan West, called to say the car was repaired and ready. Mr. Brown made arrangements to leave work early and get a lift to Mini Vaughan West, at which point he was told that, in fact, the car was not ready.

There were still no loaner cars available, so Mr. Brown insisted a car be rented on his behalf at Mini Vaughan West's expense. The service manager, a short, ugly man named Tibor, reluctantly agreed and so Mr. Brown was sent home in a craptastic Hyundai Accent.

The next day the car was alledgedly ready to be picked up for real, so Mr. Brown arranged more time off work so he could retrieve his vehicle. Upon arriving he was presented with a bill for $2,700.00, which was considerably more than his quote. In fact, it was over his daily Interac limit. Mr. Brown offered to pay up to his daily maximum, and then return the next morning to pay off the remaining balance.

Tibor refused.

Mr. Brown, who was now in danger of becoming late to pick up his two small children 50 km away, next asked if he could retain the Hyundai Accent for a further day.

Tibor refused.

Mr. Brown was thus forced to rent a car at his own expense in order to get back home. The next morning he returned with cash, paid in full, and then gratefully retrieved his beloved butter-yellow sub-compact, now repaired and worry-free, covered under a 24-month warranty for all parts and work.

He pulled into his driveway and the car died with a complete computer failure.

Mr. Brown contacted Mini Vaughan West and demanded a complimentary tow to their facility ASAP, and that a loaner car be waiting upon his arrival. He received a silver Mini.

Two more weeks pass. Tibor contacts Mr. Brown to inform him that the underlying problem has not been found or fixed, but that he won't let his service foreman continue to diagnose the issue without my commitment to pay at least $550, plus taxes, parts and any additional labour.

Mr. Brown: "But this is covered under your service warranty -- you're obliged to fix the problem you failed to fix the first time around."

Tibor: "No, this is a new problem."

Mr. Brown: "How so?"

Tibor: "You brought in the car to have the computer replaced. We did that."

Mr. Brown: "No, I brought in the car to have fixed whatever problem was causing the computer to require replacement. I asked you to address the cause, not merely the symptom."

Tibor: "We don't know what's causing it."

Mr. Brown: "Your repair foreman says he believes he has isolated the location of the fault. He told me he would need to take the interior apart to gain access."

Tibor: "Yes, but that isn't covered under the warranty. You need to pay for us to proceed."

Mr. Brown: "It certainly is covered: that's the exact problem I paid you to fix, and you haven't yet fixed it despite the fact that I've given you $2,700."

Tibor: "No, it's a different problem."

Mr. Brown: "So what was the cause of the repeated computer failures?"

Tibor: "We don't know. But now you have a new computer and it's fine."

Mr. Brown: "But since you haven't actually fixed anything, won't this computer just burn out, too?"

Tibor: "Maybe, maybe not. We don't know."

Mr. Brown: "That's not really acceptable, Tibor. I'm going to have to insist that you honour your service guarantee in full. I appreciate that you're in a tight fix, and this is an elusive problem, but you're the one that offers the guarantee, not me."

Tibor: "We won't do that. You have to pick-up your car."

Mr. Brown: "But it isn't fixed!"

Tibor: "I can't proceed unless you authorize an initial billing of $550."

Mr. Brown: "That's outrageous! So you're just tossing your own warranty aside because fulfilling your obligation would cost you too much?"

Tibor: "Are you returning the loaner car now?"

Mr. Brown: "What? No! I need my car fixed, first."

Tibor: "You're not listening to me. Are you returning the loaner car now?"

Mr. Brown: "I am not returning the loaner car until my car is repaired."

Tibor: "Well, we're not repairing your car so from today onward I'm charging you a daily rate for renting the loaner, plus kilometers."

Mr. Brown: "I do not agree. I'm currently trying to make arrangements to determine how to proceed -- why don't you just put the car aside until Monday, and I'll get back to you with a decision then?"

Tibor: "No. You're not listening to me. Return the loaner car this afternoon or you'll be paying for it, every day, every kilometer."

Mr. Brown: "You're pretty determined to dig yourself a deep hole here, aren't you, Tibor?"

Tibor: "Are you returning the loaner car at this time?"

Mr. Brown: "Don't make me repeat myself."

Tibor: "You can't do that."

Mr. Brown: "Watch me."

Tibor: "I'll explain again..."

Mr. Brown: "I'm a busy guy. I don't have time to listen to you try to squirm out of your responsibilities. I'm not arguing this with you. I'll be back in touch on Monday. Until then: sit tight."

Tibor: "I won't do that."

Mr. Brown: "You're about to."

Yeah -- so now I'm six weeks without my car, mad as Hell, and playing e-mail tag with the CEO of BMW Canada, pleading for his intercession.

Wish me luck.

The next hilarity should rear its head when Tibor tries to charge my maxed out credit card for the "rental."

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

P.S. Mini Vaughan West blows goats!

Sheik Yerbouti said...

Wow.

That is all.

Teddy said...

All Hail the Mighty Mr. BurgerBrown, strongarm supreme, holder of the line, and unstoppable badass for the win!

That right there is probably reason number one that I wouldn't own a beemer - SUUUUUUUUPER expensive maintenance.

TRH

Simon said...

That is some serious suckage, CBB. I hate to be just another voice that chimes in with a tone of commiseration and blindly denounces the Evil that is the source of your own vitriol. Feels too much like a "Release the fans!" sort of Mr. Burns moment. But that does really suck.

I have found (through experience and anecdote) that going higher up the chain is your best bet. I really hope you get your just desserts and Tibor gets his.

Bridget said...

My God, man. I know exactly what dealership you're talking about, too... no experience with them, but I'm familiar with that part of the city. I was very close to buying a Mini a few months ago, but decided not to at that time for numerous reasons - though I did entertain the idea of going up there as well as the two dealerships I did visit.

Damn. Kick ass and take names, man.

Eric said...

That sucks. Kudos to you for not just bending over for them though.

Is there a Canadian version of the Better Business Bureau you can go to?

I agree with Simon about going up the chain, although in my experience, phone calls are more effective than emails in that regard.

Good luck.

SaintPeter said...

You may want to post your story to The Consumerist

You can also attempt what they call an Executive E-mail Carpet Bomb. It hsa been remarkably effective. Considering the dollar amounts you're talking about, I bet you'll get some attention from The Consumerist.

James Andrix said...

I often prefer telling, not showing. I think this might be a geek trait. Which is why there are books like the star trek enterprise technical reference, and the encyclopedia of star wars characters.

Sometimes a massive infodump of a universe is just what you want, and I think geekier people tend to be dealers in universes. We read stories, both SF and fantasy, that have lots of different models of how things work, I think because we like all the different possibilites.

And I definitely don't mind any semirandom insertions of the mind of Mr. Miss.


Nemesis was a crime against cinema.

Big t said...

CBB,

Bummer about the car, sounds you like got some cojones though.

I have been away on business for a bit and my computer went "Maximum Overdrive" on me, that left me with some catching up to do.

Chapter 14 was great, the beginning with the lights and coffee maker, and the grasshopper part. The writing is like poetry in a story, multilevel reading.

Chapter 13- one thing, my Grandmother told me that they don't serve res jello at hospitals, just incase you throw up it may confuse the staff, they may think it is blood. my Grandma hasn't been a nurse for quite some time.

The thought of Mr. Miss being long, has crossed my mind also. I see a fight with Lallo and Mr. Miss coming as well.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Re: car

Vic-to-ry!

Elapsed time between letter of complaint to satisfactory resolution: 30 hours.

CBB

gl. said...

after all that, what -was- the satisfactory conclusion?

gl. said...

(and: yay!)

Simon said...

Oh c'mon now, CBB, admit it:

You know at least a little of the Math, don't you??

Sheik Yerbouti said...

Congratulations, Simon: today, you are number 42.

And CBB, way to stick it to the jerks.

Red jello... interesting. I did not know that.

So what if you eat yellow jello, and then pee-- you know what? Never mind.

Teddy said...

Umm...Mr. Miss was born in the sixties. If he is long, we haven't seen ANY evidence of it yet. At all.

A sort of Hephaestus, he'd be...

I really don't think he's Long, though.

TRH

Mark said...

Funny that as I read the car chronicle, I got a call from Midas about my van repair. I had to catch myself from sporting too much 'tude after reading this inspirational testimony.

I still asserted myself, but without scaring co-workers.

Congrats on the victory!

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear all,

Car resolution is that I get my car back, some money back, and I get to be on the receiving end of some swarmy grovelling from the formerly prickly service manager. Also, I get a personal guarantee from the president that my car will be repaired for free if I have any issues within the next 24 months.

Good enough.

Re: TSM
Next chapter should be coming later today. I have to squeeze in an edit pass. Work is very crazy, as my principal colleague is away on vacation so I'm doing the work of two people.

Soon!

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

P.S. Don't ever let anyone tell you that writing a carefully crafted letter to the right party isn't mightier than the sword.

eric said...

Congratulations!

Maybe writing letters for those in need could be an alternative revenue stream for you.

Mark said...

Well-written letters have power, for sure.

I wrote a letter to a restaurant once to tell them what a great experience we had, with no complaints at all. They sent me a $20 gift certificate and, I found out later, they read my letter aloud to the staff and gave our server at least a pat on the back, maybe more.

Dan said...

I am submitting two consecutive

Dan said...

Entries so I can be 50 again!

THE Danimal