Paths To Otherwhere

Copyright 1995

James P. Hogan

Chapter Three

      The trouble with the machine was that it gave anyone who coupled into it, and who allowed their mind to dwell upon the matter, a pretty good idea of what, generally, could be believed about the official pronouncements that they were supposed to live with. Since the environment was a political one, with misinformation and doubletalk having been the accepted management style for years, this meant that nobody trusted anyone or believed anything that the machine associated with negative feelings. Least of all did the powers in charge have any trust in the loyalty of their employees. But the world situation was critical and getting worse, and this research could provide the means for reversing it. The work had to go on. Consequently, security assumed a more crucial importance than was usual even for a classified program. The project's Security Officer, who reported directly to Willard, the Laboratory's overall director, figured prominently in all decision making. His name was Bruce Calom.
      "I still have reservations about this Dr. Brenner from Berkeley," he said, bringing a photo and evaluation summary up on the conference room screen. "Several of the staff members at Berkeley considered him irresponsible because he talks too freely with students about inter-departmental affairs that are not generally considered to be undergraduates' business. His reply is that enabling young people to practice making competent judgments is what universities are supposed to be for. To me that spells risky."
      The meeting was to review the new names recently confirmed as recruited to the project. With Calom were Jesse Willard, executive director, and Edward Kintner, Chief Scientist of the Octagon Project.
      "I see you've added a personal endorsement, Ed," Willard commented, looking at the requisition file.
      "We need his expertise," Kintner replied simply. "The work that he's done there is brilliant. Neville Ducaine went over those designs of his and says they're as advanced conceptually as anything we're using here."
      "I still want it on record that I don't like it," Calom said.
      "Do you have something specific?" Kintner asked.
      "Just a gut-feel that comes after years of experience. I don't need any machine to tell me." Calom had said the same thing before the offer was made, but the scientists' arguments had prevailed. He knew that Kintner used the machine to guide his decisions, which no doubt meant that Kintner didn't trust half the things that Calom said. He himself had an antipathy toward intellectuals, and scientists in particular-which didn't help matters.
      Kintner regarded him equably through his gold-rimmed bifocals. "If everybody at this establishment could be guaranteed to come risk-free, you wouldn't have a job, Bruce," he said. "I'm sure we can control the problematical aspects. In fact, if he possesses precisely the kind of specialized knowledge that we don't want being spread around, this might be the best place to keep an eye on him. We can put him under special surveillance."
      Willard nodded at Calom. "Do it, effective from his date of arrival. Get an extended background check on him too."
      Kintner had known Calom's attitude, of course. But Kintner's enhanced premonitions had been different. Evidently, what had sounded warning bells for Calom wasn't necessarily bad news for everyone else. When Kintner had coupled into the machine and contemplated future prospects, he had been gripped by a sense of breathtaking possibilities that had excited the scientist part of him. The certainty impressed itself that there could be new discoveries far beyond anything glimpsed so far. But only in association with the option of hiring Brenner. It vanished for every alternative. The machine could not be specific beyond that. So Kintner had lodged his vote, and the others could reconcile themselves in whatever way they chose.
      Willard looked down at his file again. "Very well, then, we need his expertise. And this Polish mathematician who's coming with him-nothing further to report there?"
      Calom shook his head. "Nobody's got much on him either way. He and Brenner have worked together at Berkeley for four years now. His professional and academic record is solid. Apart from that, he seems to have discovered how to stay invisible to most of the system. We'll put him under observation with Brenner."
      The offer to Jantowitz had been on Kintner's recommendation too. The man's theoretical knowledge was impressive. And why not somebody with experience in biophysics? They already had people from just about every other discipline on board. The project was a long way past being just research into the strange side of basic physics, as it had begun. Now there didn't seem to be an area of human thought, action, or humanity's very existence that didn't stand to be affected.

Baen Book 10/20/95
Copyright 1995 by James P. Hogan