Paths To Otherwhere
Copyright © 1995
James P. Hogan
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
"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
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