Reality Inspector, chapter 8

Copyright © 1982 John Caris

Traffic was moving easily along Portola Drive. The city stood out, molded by the sunlight overhead--a Rembrandt touch. The air was clear, and John could see Mt. Diablo rising up against the eastern horizon.

The alien program had reappeared. This is a most important opportunity, he thought; perhaps, I can discern slight changes because of the reactivation. The program had been removed as soon as it was discovered, and it was discovered when M-l had increased suspiciously. But how long had it been working in ZAC before its discovery yesterday? Did it leave any subtle traces that might provide clues to its origin?

More things were now coming together, and that meant that he might be able to identify a pattern which connected the disparate fragments. In the morning mail was another clue--or threat. A small package had arrived containing a tiny, cardboard box and a tiny, paper bag--the size for a doll. Besides the box and bag there was a typed note: "Which do you choose?" Great! If he were a doll, perhaps. But what real difference was there between a box and a bag? Both were paper products, both were of the same size, both had the same essential nature--they were containers. But one was rigid and the other, foldable. Were there any other differences? He must give the question more thought.

John parked his car and entered the Mint. On the elevator down to ZAC's chambers he felt disappointment that he would miss tonight's chess game. The previous game two nights ago had been a draw. So the match was still one even. Mary would play white tonight, and, if she could win, she would gain a psychological advantage.

Leaving the elevator, John waved at the guards and went through the turnstile. He had not visited with ZAC for several days. Would the computer give him any new data? ZAC was never aware when the alien program was functioning; it only knew about the program when the attendants told it as they removed it.

He put a chair in the place with the most positive vibes. It was still the same place that he had found on his first visit, but each time he always checked in case something had occurred in the meantime. The environment could change, however subtly, and he never knew when that might happen. He must be ready lest some new ingredient appeared that would throw his focus out of kilter. Since rechecking was part of his routine, he did not think about it.

He put himself at the still point and expanded. It was easier now to understand ZAC, although communication was still on an elementary level. They were not expressing any complex ideas yet.

The computer felt his presence and responded. Its reddish aura increased in intensity while the blue and white auras dimmed. An unusual rumble appeared in the texture of its sounds. ZAC had something to tell him. He expanded further, into ZAC's private suite, right up to its metallic shell. He felt a tremor in the shell which he had not noticed before. The yellow aura dimmed and then flared bright, mixing with the red. The computer's sound--its voice he thought--made clashing harmonies, not the normal dissonances.

He scanned ZAC's metallic body, pausing at two places that had an aggravated energy flow. He projected empathy and care. He gently touched the two sores on its side. The computer uttered a low rumbling moan.

If he could project himself inside of ZAC, maybe he could discern the cause of those sores. But he never did that without the client's permission and then only if necessary, if there were no alternatives. He had learned early in his career that projection into another's body could become a death trap--for both the client and him. But ZAC did not offer any invitation. Perhaps, the concept was not understood by the computer; perhaps, it was a personal choice.

Time reappeared. John stretched and got up for some coffee. He would try a different approach. Now that he and ZAC had an intuitive communication, he would use conventional language. By mixing the two, he hoped to discover hidden clues. What was the computer feeling when it spoke through the printout terminal? He would try to determine that.

He opened his attache case and removed several papers on which he had written possible questions to ask ZAC. This was a touch and go situation. Questions shaped their answers. If the questions were off, the responses would tell him little.

A straight question-answer session would provide little help. For at this level ZAC was rigidly predictable--GIGO. He had framed some questions which, he hoped, would injected irony into its thought processes. He knew that the questions could not pose a bare contradiction that the computer would immediately reject; instead, he sought a neat irony that ZAC could savor without losing touch with its program.

He typed in a series of questions that asked for trivial data. He used the approach of one giving a lie detector test: put the subject at ease, and watch how he responds under normal conditions. Then slip in a few disconcerting questions.

ZAC told him, as he had expected, that the alien program had appeared mysteriously, that it had been removed, and that no apparent harm had been done.

When the computer had answered the question about possible harm, John had noticed that its red aura flickered brightly and then dimmed. ZAC could communicate only with the language available in its program and that language was not complete enough. ZAC had more to say but lacked the proper words. This was a recurring problem among humans too. He often wished for the correct phrase at the proper moment when he was alone with Mary. Usually, he could only find some cliche; often he remained silent.

The significant thing was that ZAC was trying to communicate even at the intuitive level. Its desire was sincere. Well, friend, he thought, let's see what we can do. He typed in a new series of questions; ZAC would soon be ready for the introduction of irony.

"What is 2 + 2?"

"4"

"What is 3x3?"

"9"

"What is M-12?"

He looked at the printout and then glanced at some figures on a sheet of paper. He was shocked.

"When did you receive this recent value for M-l?"

"Today."

John went over to one of the attendants and asked her the same question. She told him that no data for M-l was inserted today but that tomorrow data would be fed in. Also, she said, a new value had been inserted yesterday after the alien program had been removed. John wrote down that number and went back to the keyboard terminal.

"What was the value for M-l yesterday?" he typed in.

He compared ZAC's figures with those of the attendant. They were the same, yet the computer was insisting that a new value had been received today. He asked ZAC if today's value was being used for computation; it answered in the affirmative. The alien program had reappeared--and so soon! Who was receiving the irony now, he wondered? For the moment ZAC had reversed their roles.

He then asked the computer for a graph showing the lapse of time between appearances of the alien program. He studied the printout, which indicated an average of about three weeks between appearances. Whether or not this was the alien, it was a significant event; for a one day interval had never occurred before!

"What was the identification number given when today's M-1 value was inserted?" he typed in.

There was a pause--one too long for a high speed brain. Then, "3.1416" appeared on the printout.

That was pi. Would that be used as an official ID number? Hardly. It could be checked easily, though. John went back to the chair and sat.

Time disappeared.

He was going to play a number game but on the intuitive level. He would use phi, the golden proportion--1.618. He projected the Fibonacci series: 1 + 1 = 2, 1 + 2 = 3, 2+ 3 = 5, 3 + 5 = 8, 5+8= 13.

ZAC answered by continuing the series. John sent a warm feeling of thanks. He replayed in his mind his perceptions during ZAC's continuation. He had noticed a tinkly quality in its voice and a wavering as if ZAC were missing a beat. He expanded, touching ZAC's body. Then he projected the Fibonacci series again, stopping at the same point. While ZAC continued the series, John scanned the two sores. One was changing its energy pattern. The texture was now like a fine weave. Slowly, the lattices widened until the field looked like a chess board. He was startled. Be careful here, he thought, that you don't read in your background thoughts.

He turned his attention to the other sore. It was disappearing. The chaotic whirling energy was diminishing in size. Surprised, he watched it disappear completely--perhaps into another dimension. And now he saw that the first sore had also vanished. Hmm, he thought, maybe phi is a healing salve for what ails ZAC.

What was ZAC asking him? What troubled him? John projected a series of images: a seed planted, his death, a pawn that passed away, a choice between a box and a bag. Could the computer interpret that pattern?

ZAC responded with the series of prime numbers. Prime numbers? What's the connection, John wondered? He repeated his images.

ZAC answered with the Fibonacci series. So he repeated his images several more times, and the computer responded by alternating between the prime numbers and the Fibonacci series. Two ways to interpret my images, he thought. Which way do I choose? But no, I don't have to choose; I can, like ZAC, use both alternately. One series is based on division while the other is based on addition. So far, I have thought of the image series as additive. How would I interpret it with division? A prime number is one that can be divided without remainder only by itself or by unity. So, the first three images fit because they are single units. The fourth image, the package I received today, that is two things. But wait, the choice is one thing. So that will also fit. They all relate because of division.

Then an idea struck him. A pawn is itself, that is indivisible; yet it can change into a queen if it reaches the eighth rank. So, it contains within itself the potential for change whenever the proper conditions occur. Potentiality is like a seed, and a seed must die for the plant to grow. A pawn dies when it becomes a queen. Is there any choice there, though? John was bothered. Is there any real choice between the two containers? Perhaps, all choice is forced.

He heard ZAC's voice and opened his awareness. The computer was speaking about the Fibonacci series and prime numbers. Its voice was monotonously repeating first one series and then the other. Suddenly, John realized that he had a choice; he would choose neither.

He got up from the chair and told the attendants that the alien program had reappeared. He left as they pressed the emergency button.

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