Reality Inspector, chapter 19
Copyright © 1982 John Caris
Copyright © 1982 John Caris
He sat on the southern slope of Telegraph Hill with Coit Tower rising behind him. Soft, billowy clouds, some filled with rain, hung over the city. The clouds were moving in from the south; this often meant a rain storm. And there was an electric feeling in the air.
He had decided to spend the afternoon here, meditating on ZAC and its alien program. He would leave in time to catch a bus to the Cow Palace. He wanted to be in Mary's cheering section for tonight's game, the seventeenth.
As he sat quietly, he opened his awareness to the many ideas flooding his mind. The alien program was triggered off by a code, and then it shaped the interpretation of the incoming data. How this worked he was not certain yet. So, he decided to review the threats that he had received. The first one stated that he was going to die. The second, the pawn with the phrase "passed away," had two meanings. The phrase "passed away" meant death, and a pawn was frequently traded or sacrificed. But chess used the term "passed pawn," which was one that had moved beyond the enemy pawn chain. And a passed pawn had the potential of becoming a queen, if it reached the eighth rank. So he was uncertain about the correct interpretation of that phrase.
The third threat was the box and bag with the question "which one?" Here the choice was between two types of containers. John could understand the containers as traps--that he was in a trap whichever way he chose. Of course, he could choose neither; but the mystery of what was hidden in the container was too attractive; and so he would choose one. Did this threat indicate his opponent's insight about human nature?
The fourth threat still puzzled him. Escher's dragon did not seem to fit in--unless it was a bit of absurd humor--that he would be turned inside out. The dragon biting its tail--Ouroboros--symbolized potency, and thus it could imply his potential death. But as a threat it was too roundabout.
More direct, though, was the fifth threat--the two shots fired in the night. He could have been killed if his opponent had wanted that. And so the sixth threat came as a soft, sweet voice purring that the next time would be it. So far, the next time had not arrived; and now he was close to the solution.
He noticed that rain was falling over the Bay Bridge and the Ferry Building, which was dwarfed by the group of highrises in the Embarcadero Plaza. The Ferry Building, a monument for the city's past, retained its noble bearing, a stalwart figure opposing the nearby mountain of concrete and glass.
The clouds were still moving northward. If it started to rain on Telegraph Hill, he would go into Coit Tower. Perhaps, the murals would give him inspiration. Meanwhile, he watched a rainbow grow. It formed a giant arch with one column in the bay and the other at the Transamerica Pyramid Building, which was partially hidden from view by some pine trees. Strange, it went east-west; he always had thought that rainbows in San Francisco went north-south.
He let his eyes wander along the curve of colored light, feeling its beauty with his mind. Something flickered, catching his attention. He looked at the cluster of highrises in the Embarcadero Plaza. Beams of sunlight bounced off the windows of those buildings; lines of light shimmered off the flat surfaces, bumping into each other. A crisscross effect appeared, and he held the patchwork in focus against its background. Light and shadows, playing upon the highrises, rearranged themselves until forms began to coalesce. The shapes of two faces were emerging; they reminded him of a king and queen--the king on his left and the queen on his right. Each shape was rather abstract but still recognizable. The symbolic quality of both figures filled his mind; they were the most important pieces in chess; their mating was the purest solution to any chess game.
The faces of other chess pieces appeared around those of the king and queen. A thought took root in his mind, sprouted, and quickly grew into a tree. The many fragments came together, and then he saw the pattern which connected. All the colors of the rainbow were radiating from the pattern, which had taken on the form of a redwood tree. In a moment he understood the totality of ZAC's reality problem.
The vision vanished, and he felt satisfied; he could still taste its lingering flavor. He sat open to all the forces of nature. Time was no more, and he floated up above the city. The electricity in the rain-burdened clouds pinched him. Energy was flowing easily through his center, and he experienced a revitalization. Not only was his mind open but also were his bodily pores. He had difficulty distinguishing himself from his surroundings.
He soared in the air for an eternity and then returned to the place on Telegraph Hill where he had been sitting. Filled with joy, he breathed deeply of the moisture-filled air. The touch of earth tingled his spinal column; his mind began to re-examine the vision experience. The image of a passed pawn stood out sharply. He focused on that image, and a structure formed in his intellect.
A passed pawn was behind the enemy ranks; a passed pawn could become a queen. When the center opened, a passed pawn sneaked through. It was a seed that sprouted in ZAC's program. A good player could spring the center open so that a pawn could pass through. ZAC was very predictable, so its responses could be forced. And shah mat was the key which opened the center. The king was never traded nor sacrificed, only mated, the union of two opposites.
A working hypothesis formed in John's mind: Mr. X constructs a chess game that he will play with ZAC. The game is designed so that ZAC is forced to make the proper moves. The game works like a combination lock on a safe; each move prepares the center for opening. When Mr. X makes his winning move, he prints in "Shah mat." The winning move opens the center, and "Shah mat" triggers the alien program, which happens to be the chess game itself. It infiltrates ZAC's program for M-l and forces a different interpretation of the data.
The logic of the hypothesis satisfied him. Now only one question remained: who was Mr. X? It must be someone who had the opportunity and the mindset to design such a program.
The rainbow was dissolving, and rain clouds were still moving northward, but no rain had dropped on Telegraph Hill. John saw the sun poking its head through a cloud. A breeze was flowing by, moist and warm.
He recalled the dossiers that he had received on all the employees of the Federal Reserve in San Francisco. One name stood out. Only that person, he realized, could be Mr. X. He was the only one who had both the opportunity and necessary mindset.
His mind began to work furiously. How could he shape the evidence so that Mr. Acorn would accept it? Motivation was apparent and so was the probable method, which could be checked out. But so far, all the evidence was circumstantial. What he needed was something that would link Mr. X directly to the alien program. Now, he must devise a strategy that would bring Mr. X out into the open. If necessary, he would offer himself as bait for a trap.
A voice calling his name brought John out of his meditation. He turned around and saw a burly man, wearing a suit too tight, walk toward him. John stood up and went to meet him. The man handed him a business card that was engraved "Dr. Reginald Glove, Chief Administrator, Computer Division, Federal Reserve Bank, San Francisco." The man pointed toward a car and said, "Dr. Glove wishes to speak to you."
John noticed the slight bulge of a handgun under the man's arm and, filled with suspicion, walked with him to the car. Dr. Glove was in the back seat; and as the two came up to the car, he opened the door.
"Please join me, Mr. Ocean; I believe we have a mutual interest to discuss."
Was this the last and final trap? If he got into the car, he could be killed quite easily. But if he did not, they could kill him anyway. Besides, he did not have definite proof, only his hypothesis. Now he knew he was correct, but he needed concrete evidence. John took the bait and stepped into the car.
Dr. Glove had a long, bony face on top of a portly body that was dressed in a tailored suit. A quiet, disarming charm exuded from him. He told John that he wished to be friends, so he wanted to describe the high points of his life. If John could understand him, why then, a profitable friendship was in the offering.
John relaxed into the back seat as the car took the Highway #1 tour of Marin County. Dr. Glove described a painful and suffering childhood. His father had been cruel and his mother unloving. He had run away from home several times, and when he had been found and brought back, his father had punished him severely. He had realized at the age of ten that he must plan his life carefully if he wished to revenge himself upon his upbringing. He had devoted himself to his studies and had gained approval from his teachers. But one teacher had taken a personal dislike to him and had nearly prevented him from going to the University. Glove had learned from that experience; he must trust no one. Slowly, he had begun to understand the nature of power. If he were to succeed, he must work his way to a position where he would have sufficient power to crush his opponents and live like a king. Perhaps, he would never have the wealth of a billionaire, but he would be someone that the wealthy must reckon with.
Once he had worked his way up to his current position of power, he was then ready for his big project, which he had planned and plotted for several years. So, he carefully designed a chess game that would force ZAC to misinterpret data. That chess game was the crowning achievement of his career, and, of course, he would be extremely unhappy if anyone thwarted him now. At the proper moment he would play the game with ZAC (and ZAC had always made the same moves), and then M-l would increase. With the rising interest rate, his investments had grown bountiful. Treasury bonds, money funds, and private loans had brought in high profits. And when the stock market had hit bottom, he had bought up thousands of shares. At the right moment he would sell them and begin the cycle all over again. He had devised a perpetual motion machine for making money.
Now, he was accumulating enough wealth so that eventually he could play the international money market, like the multinationals. Buying and selling currency was extremely profitable but fraught with terrible risks. This was the main reason that the government was trying to curb inflation by creating a recession. In the international market, inflation had harmed the value of the U.S. dollar, which was the main currency for global commerce. Multinationals often made more profit from buying and selling currency than from their products. Playing the international money game required a large stake, and in a few more months Dr. Glove would have sufficient capital to play.
John knew that every system leaked, even Dr. Glove's. But he must be careful, or his personal system would start leaking.
The car was driving along the Fairfax Road down into the town of Fairfax. John was so absorbed in Dr. Glove's story that he had not noticed when the car had turned off Highway #1.
"It is now four-thirty," Dr. Glove said, "and commuter traffic is beginning. Why don't we stop at my cottage in Kentfield for a drink while we wait until the commuters are off the road?"
Here was another forced move, and so John responded, "Of course."
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