Divine extinction, p.15
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       Divine Extinction, p.15

           Hylton Smith
 
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  *

  Pierze realised he could rely on Manuel and his contacts in Southern Iberiana to discreetly check out Andreas Silva. However, Johan De Boer was a tricky proposition. He really needed the ‘gentleman’ to try and make contact with Freema, so he could fabricate some kind of surveillance. He had also informed work colleagues of Freema, Silva and De Boer, via his secretary, that they had been temporarily suspended. He expected this to be queried. As they were detained in a secure location he thought some friends might visit their homes or call their communicators. Neither of these things happened, and then someone from the office asked to see him. The woman, a middle aged software specialist, found it awkward to approach the subject. “I am a spokesperson really, many of us have thought of coming to see you earlier, but we were nervous. I know that in this department people tend to keep things to themselves, but the three people you have suspended were extremely secretive and only communicated with one another. When I was doing a clean-up routine on some of the workstations, I found evidence of activity which seemed strange. It was the same on all of them. Export of files had occurred which hadn’t been executed by the person who was responsible for the workstation. They were mainly to do with intended travel arrangements and meetings, mainly for managers, but predominantly for you. The personnel whose station had been infiltrated became so worried they asked me to bring this up.”

  Pierze didn’t want this to go any further right now; it was important and at the same time, a temporary inconvenience. He had to show an interest. “What makes you connect the intrusion to the three people suspended?” The lady said it was always timed at coffee or lunch breaks, when most people were ‘off-station’. She claimed that they were the only ones seen unaccompanied at someone else’s station.

  “This was observed many times before I was asked to watch from my office, then together with the station owner, check the file activity with them immediately afterwards. I have printouts to back this up. We have no idea why this information is so important to them, but it is obviously not something they wanted to ask about openly.”

  Pierze thanked the whistle-blower and said that it strangely fitted with the reason he had authorised their suspension. He twisted the truth and told her that there had been similar complaints about them from another source. “It’s reassuring that you and those you represent have your wits about you, well done. If I may request your help as a spokesperson, please convey my appreciation to them and my request that they just behave as if we never had this conversation, for a little while. It won’t stop here but I need to gather more proof of their misdemeanours. It’s a sensitive issue and they may lose their positions.” Pierze took the wad of printouts offered.

  *

  The code breakers had made more progress with respect to cosmic equations. There was great excitement amongst the cosmologists that the species which had built the object may have developed a unified mathematical means of describing the infinite and the infinitesimal. As this ‘theory of everything’ had continued to elude Earth physicists, they were trying to monopolise the efforts of the code breakers to this end. This was blocked by the World Security Body; they wanted any further information from the object, which could be suggestions on how to deal with the predicted disaster. There were some additional references to Phobos which did not seem to fit with the diagrams, but as yet there was no reliable translation of the symbols in that section.

  All of the analytical equipment for the probe was ready to be attached. The probe itself would require a few weeks more. There was a sense of inertia with the programme, even though it was well ahead of schedule. It was almost as if each day was falling through a hole of irretrievability, without accountability. More ordinary citizens were turning to the Circle of Light, many of them in a gesture of resignation, as much as faith.

  *

  When Zara met with Olga Assante just prior to her brief moment of nothingness, he reminded her of his description of how she could help her generation as a disciple. She had originally rejected this on the basis of time. “There are so many things that I’ve always wanted to do, and now they may have to be achieved sooner, with the impending guillotine of life on Earth.” Zara had considered this at length and pointed out that many of these ambitions required considerable finance.

  “If you were to accept the role I suggest it would bring its own celebrity and income. I doubt whether you could find a better opportunity. It would also be compatible with your list of objectives, by travelling the world. You would be able to fit the two activities to the same schedule.”

  Olga thought about this and indeed it made sense, but then she raised another concern. “I don’t have the kind of outgoing personality for persuading others to follow me into some allegiance with a doctrine I’m vaguely intrigued with.” Zara said she had more charisma than she realised.

  “However, that is not the main purpose. We are facing extinction, and even if that is going to occur in eighteen years from now, every minute is important. Many are able to rationalise this fate with the certainty we are going to die at some time anyway. For others it is the indeterminate lease they have on life which is the comfort zone. As soon as a finite time is placed upon their tenure, the neurosis begins. If you can just be yourself I’m sure you will help these folks enormously. You say the Truth confers a vague feeling of intrigue to you, I am utterly certain that this will strengthen as the clock counts down. Finally, there are no targets, objectives, obligations or attendance required in places of worship. The Circle of Light is there for everyone who can or cannot cope with a mass ending. It is an overarching doctrine which welcomes participation from all religions and non-religious individuals and groups. It is not a replacement of any existing beliefs; it is simply the Truth about everyday events and policies offered by the ruling elite. It will hopefully even help these institutions, that we, the contributors to the exchequer, can be trusted with good and bad news without their spin-doctors. Transparency is at the heart of the pledge.” Olga was moved enough to agree to at least a probationary period. Zara left to meet with Pierze.

  *

  When Pierze visited the three moles again, one at a time, with his fistful of printouts, it produced an interesting difference in their reaction. Freema and Silva closed ranks, but Johann De Boer wanted to talk off the record. Pierze laughed at this request. “In investigating the murder of a President there is no off the record. As this is an attempted murder and the President is recovering, the best you can hope for is for me to give you witness protection. I do have to be straight with you, and you will be going to prison if you are found guilty of conspiracy by a jury. I can determine where that will be, and depending on what you tell me on the record, I can make you disappear when you are freed. It’s the best I can do.”

  After a considerable break in the interview, Johann De Boer decided to fill in some of the blanks. “The ‘gentleman’ you seek is known to the others as Atlas. This is a code name of course and it is not registered with us in any traceable way. That’s why you have no number in our communicators for that name or any alias he may have. He contacts us and it is one way only, and we only meet with him when he decides to. That’s why the apartment is leased. I have a name in my head, at least the name on the lease, which I assume will not be him. I got this by hacking the estate agent’s database. It should be possible to prise something from that name. Maybe more important is the laptop at the apartment. I have a memory stick with what I have uploaded to his laptop, and other data I’m not supposed to have. Freema asked me to trash her laptop to wipe her connection to his, and she also asked me to wipe his at the apartment too. I agreed but didn’t do it. He would have known it was one of us and that would have been inadvisable. She wasn’t thinking straight. Even if you can’t find him you know where the apartment is and I can get you in. I gave you one password already and I know you have another, but they will only get you into general information. The second I can give you will allow access to specific data into which my uploade
d stuff fits. There are other files which I don’t officially have access to, but I do know what is in there. Alternatively, you may have people of your own who are bright enough to figure out how to break the passwords. You must remember though that getting in will leave a trace. I happen to know what is in there because the fire alarm went off during a meeting and I was in the toilet. It took me a minute or so to clean up, if you know what I mean, and when I rushed past the conference room door I stopped and picked up my laptop. I noticed his was hibernating – he must have thought he had switched it off. I was amazed by what pressing one button revealed. When I got outside he asked where the hell I had been, and I reacted angrily insofar as I was indisposed and nobody had come back to check if I was still in the building. He laughed at my outburst, saying that I had risked my life by grabbing my laptop and risked arrest as I was still unzipped and partly on display. We were then informed the problem was next door, smoke had got through a conduit to his basement and set off the alarm. When we all returned to the meeting room he was relieved that he must have remembered to switch off his computer, when it was actually me. I was glad to let it pass. I want to know what revealing the name, password and secret data will get me. I would prefer to do this in that order and in steps – not all at once.”

  *

  Pierze took a call to say Zara was in his office. “Welcome Snr. Zara, sorry I wasn’t here when you arrived. I seem to have an increasing number of irons in the fire at present. Can I get you some coffee?” Zara made him feel comfortable.

  “I know the feeling of being submerged in other people’s time demands, it was an ancillary reason for taking DCI into employee ownership. Coffee would be great, thanks.” Once the secretary had delivered the beverages and closed the door on exit, Pierze got down to business.

  “I’m very grateful you could spare the time to give me your input. When we were in Moscow I appreciated your common sense approach to the information held in the object. You weren’t alone in that recommendation, but you put it to me in a very easy to understand weighting of priorities. No doubt you will have heard that the World Security Body has felt it necessary to halt the over-zealous cosmology boffins’ obsession with a unifying theory, or some such detour. The blocking of this was a bit heavy-handed but it was considered crucial. I wanted to ask you if you and your expedition colleagues feel there is more to learn from the language of the object rather than the equations it seems to use.”

  The perplexed look on Zara’s face was eventually linked to his reply. “I’m not qualified to comment on how near or far these equations are to their Nirvana, or indeed what use we may be able to put them to, or how long all of this would take. My input is therefore exclusively related to the task of preventing the threatened impact, if it is feasible. There isn’t much talk about how we may achieve this, only how the builders of the object may help us again. If they were responsible in some measure for altering the course of Comet 2005NB5C in 1908, albeit at the expense of a smaller impact fragment, we are indebted to them. I do endorse extracting all possible information from the object with utmost urgency. It’s the only way we’ll know if they do offer a solution, and whether we are capable of implementing it. We must answer this question absolutely as soon as possible. The equations business is best considered as mental masturbation for the present, until we know there is going to be a future. I’m not suggesting that this hobby of theirs will yield nothing practical, but we cannot afford to indulge in purely esoteric pastimes with the constraints implied by the object. I would immediately rescind my view if there was a valid argument for near-term concrete benefit which would help divert the comet. The equations will still be there when it impacts, unfortunately we will not.”

  Pierze had not bargained for such an impassioned plea, but it did give him an entry to the other subject he was curious about. He had intended to leave it until the end of the meeting. “I do appreciate your clarity of vision, yet I find it confusing that you are reportedly the originator of this new faith which seems to be sweeping across the globe. Don’t you find that it distracts you from your daily business?”

  The reply wasn’t what Pierze had anticipated. “It really only came about during the discovery we made in Tunguska.” Zara felt at first that he had skilfully lied but conceded to himself that it was at least partly true. “That event was so unique, so fundamental and so thought-provoking that it left little room in my mind for anything else, even my important work with the companies I was responsible for. When I experienced the squabbling scientists putting their own egos above the welfare of the rest of the world, it just came to me. I asked myself – what ever happened to words like ‘neighbour’? They are still there, but their meaning has changed. Neighbours are now merely the people who are living close by, whereas not so long ago they were people we spent time with, cared for, and helped when we could. I realised that the cement between people in general has eroded and the major religions of the world have let people down, even though they may not see it that way. I talked to a few prominent individuals I have known for a long time, and suggested that the Tunguska revelation has provided this focus on the responsible things we must do, which in turn has brought us an altered perspective. It then occurred to me that this revelation was probably the worst news we could have received, and still it has sparked genuine desire to work together. It has begun to reverse this awful trend of descending into chaos from order – the increasing shift from the essential needs of the species and environmental benefit, to one of predominance of the individual. When I made a further suggestion that faith in the Truth could deliver where others had failed, it seemed to connect with a lot of people – we can be trusted. Anyway, here I am on my soapbox again. You are in the business of managing the truth, with good intention, but I was focussed on the Truth in Tunguska. I must also add that although these ramblings in my head were as a result of Tunguska itself, the friendship with an extraordinary person such as Alexei Stepanov was a big influence. I’m only the ‘facilitator’ of this Circle of Light, others have taken it on apace and I’m very pleased about it becoming something that the citizens really seem to want; isn’t that how it should be?”

  What stuck in Pierze’s mind about this declaration was the accusation that society was hell-bent on dismantling order and therefore law, the only substitute being chaos, and therefore the road to anarchy. It echoed his own downbeat projection with the perennial struggle in his daily occupation. It took his thought process to a different plane. For the second time, he visualised the potential benefits of the political system which prevailed in Orient. The first time was when he had visited Din Chow Zen with Sanchez to ask for their assistance in bringing down Sidonia. His mind then turned to the Sidonia cult itself; was it really so bad to subscribe to ideals which could benefit the species as a whole? Maybe it was the method they chose which was unacceptable. Perhaps the end result would have been preferable to the ultimate destiny for democracy. He disagreed with Zara on the point as to whether the populous could be trusted on such complex matters. Snapping out of this cerebral surfing, he looked at Zara intently. Was this a man who could bring humanity to its senses, or alternatively, was he capable of a very elaborate deception? His gaze hardened on Zara’s coffee cup.

  “I must say I always enjoy our exchanges, they are never dull. I hope I can call on you again when necessary. I’ll do all in my power to ensure we take your point on channelling every last drop of resource on to total extraction of data from the object, and also initiating structured proposals for dealing with Comet 2005NB5C. When I announce a steering body for this, will you be available?”

  Surprising though the request was, the reply was definite. “Absolutely, as long as you appreciate that I’ll always speak my mind, regardless of who it may embarrass.” They shook hands on this accord. They spent another hour discussing the makeup of such a ‘committee’. When Zara finally left, Pierze resumed his fascination with the coffee cup. His new friend deserved respect, but the professional in Pie
rze rose to the occasion. He took a tissue, put the cup in a plastic bag and sent it to the lab, asking them to run a DNA comparison with that of Constantin Boniek, alias Osvaldo Martinez.

  *

  Olga Assante’s recollection of her timeout was different to that of Kipketer and Moreno. “I was dead, but able to ask questions – to whom I didn’t know. I only had one question. What was it truly like to be dead? The voice was familiar. Like the one which tells of the Circle of Light, like that one but not actually that one. It assured me that being dead was the same as one thousand years or one year before I was born. I simply did not exist. While I was thinking about this I realised I wasn’t breathing. I didn’t need to. I was still in the womb and I could see that I was dead. There was a difference between seeing and being. It was a frightening and exhilarating experience.”

  Zara gave her the obligatory free communicator with the appropriate software tweaked to Boniface’s preferences from Olga’s emotional evaluation. She was informed of the incentive for converts to receive free communicators and the ringtone control was initiated within minutes of her departure from the test lab. Olga was to spearhead her recruitment from Balkan and Turkish Iberia initially, but her personal objectives to travel would fertilise the latent germination all over the world.

  Zara had originally expected to engage seven disciples, but the impact of television in spreading information about the exponential growth of this faith, coupled with the real driver – Tunguska, persuaded him to pause at three for a while.

  Chapter 15

  Maxi Duarte had never looked worse in the eyes of Ricardo Pierze - who in retrospect was pleased he hadn’t been afforded the chance to make a disparaging comment. “Ricardo, I have to quit. Last night – you may have heard actually – Emile was playing for the first team in La Coruna and there was a three-way clash of heads. The others had broken noses and cheekbones, but Emile suffered a neck injury when he landed awkwardly. He’s in intensive care right now. He hasn’t regained consciousness. They’re debating how and when to relieve the pressure build-up in his brain. They aren’t hopeful about him recovering the use of his legs, even if they get him conscious again quickly. I er, you must excuse me, I just wanted to tell you personally and I needed to get out of the intensive care unit while they did more tests. I must return now. I hope you understand I have to be with my son from now on.”

 
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