Thursday, February 26, 2015

Prologue Chapter Two: At the Council

“HOST how many times has ‘The Library’ been run as of this morning?”
Her sweet synthetic voice replied, “14,988,239.”
“HOST how many of our people do you think have actually run it?”
“35 million.”
The graying General looked around the table, “We’ve been here three days, how much longer are we going to let this go on?”
The argument began again as the Prime Minister leaned forward in his leather chair, “We’ve already purged the file from all civilian databases, if the number of users have grown then the military must be at fault.”
“Don’t accuse my soldiers of failing to do their duty sir. It’s obvious the infected are sharing it peer to peer.”
The President jumped in, “And how would you know that General? Either you’re hiding it or they are.”
“You are as ignorant of this technology as you are dishonest Madam President. We’d be far better off if you kept your comments yourself.”
Just as the discussion escalated to shouting, HOST chimed in: “Dr. Vanwinegarden and his aid are here to deliver the report you asked for council.”

The door opened and two men in white lab coats entered, stood in front of the glass window overlooking the city, and waited for the noise to die down. When the older man finally spoke it was with a thick Dutch accent, although he did his best to carefully pronounce each word. “It is a rare honor for someone in my field to be brought before the supreme staff. I thank you council for your kind invitation.”

“Doctor, you’ve been asked to provide hard scientific evidence of the Alien Master and yet after only twenty hours you have it?”
“We met with a serendipitous occurrence Prime Minister. Julian here downloaded the module and by chance it failed to subsume his personality. The result was total knowledge while leaving his will unbroken. With his newfound insights we were able to work exceedingly quickly.”
“And what is your conclusion?”
“The aliens are very real sir. I am certain they are behind the virus.”
The bald secretary of state spoke up, “Absolutely certain?”
“Yes sir, of this there is no doubt. Whoever or whatever wrote this program knows our mind better than we do.”
“And you have not been able to duplicate the personality altering effect?”
“No Prime Minister. Mathematically it shouldn’t even be possible. From our perspective it’s much more like a miracle than a natural function.”
Several of them began to demand proof.

“Ah...” The doctor gestured with his hands as if trying to find a way to deliver the non-technical words he needed to convey the idea, “The proof is, ah, before the program. The program changes a man yes, but in reality it merely solidifies their desires, nothing more. It… it does not, ah, tamper with their volitions. I’m hoping I can say this right.”
“No doctor, try again.”
Julian whispered in his ear, “Yes thank you. The change is actually in two steps—in the first one the alien directly manipulates the mind, causing the affected to overwhelmingly to desire the file. In step two the person reads it and is lost.”
“Wait a moment, you’re saying our real problem is not with the module but with the aliens forcing us to use it?”
“Yes, thank you,” he said, looking relieved, “you understand perfectly. We don’t know yet how this is accomplished, although it seems they can influence whomever they want, whenever they want. We even found physical evidence of this in the form of a marker which is present in everyone who uses the file. It shows up anywhere from a few hours to a few days before, and in every case is perfectly predictive.”
“Show me,” insisted the President.
“Ah, certainly. If you could, please have your porter bring up the blue case in my van, we will do a brain scan here.”
The General gave the authorization, “HOST, alert the guard at the building entrance to get the machine from the doctors van.” Then turning to the two guests added, “While we are waiting why don’t you tell what you think of the aliens. How much of a threat do you think they are?”
“I have no strong opinions about them one way or the other sir. Aside from awe and fascination at their, ah, technical ability I could care less about them.”
“What about your student there, what are his thoughts?”

The young man spoke with the same untroubled, unmoved air as the others who read the file, but his demeanor was cold, rather than warm. “He’s an evil tyrant, a hypocrite masquerading as a benevolent hero. He is our enemy and I would unhesitatingly recommend we kill every last man woman and child who sides with him.”
Everyone but the professor was taken aback at the boldness of the speech.

“So if this program doesn’t turn you into an angel it turns you into a demon? Did the file take your soul son?”
“There is neither scientific evidence nor convincing rational argument for a soul Prime Minister.”
“Don’t be smart with me boy, I’m informing you your response is sociopathic.”
“The logical response to a cancerous cell is to kill it sir, not feel sorry for it.”
The General nodded in agreement, pleased with what he was hearing so far. “Why isn’t rehabilitation an option?”
The doctor interrupted, “I can assure you sir the change is permanent.”
“I wasn’t talking to you, I want to hear from him. Assume I disagree with you for a moment young man. Convince me why I should kill my wife and child if they take the file.”
“Consider that a technically advanced alien is somehow tampering with our minds and turning us into drones. Consider that we are incapable of reversing the transformation. Consider also that at a geometric rate of growth everyone on the planet will be converted within the month. If you are for people making up their own minds then surely you must agree that pruning back the growth is necessary.”
“This file causes altruism, sacrifice, compassion. Husbands become faithful to their wives, children obey their parents, and so forth. What’s the harm in that?”
“What better way to gain support for a cause than to have everyone be harmless, good natured, law abiding citizens? Then once we’ve decided they’re no threat the alien changes them to be violent and we’re finished.”
“Hmmm, one last question then—if they are clever enough to leverage our technology against us and advanced enough to be able to directly modify our brains, how would we fight them?”
“By taking away their ability to change us General.”

The computer detected the break in the sentence and politely cut in, “The machine has arrived.”
The doctor and Julian were busy for only a moment before their small device hummed to life.
“Give us a moment council,” he said, and his eyes widened, “Madam President, you are carrying the, ah, marker.”
Every eye turned. The Prime Minister spoke first again, “At what point did you decide you were going to try the file for yourself?”
“When the young man spoke. I figured if he was able to resist its effects then I could too. I was going to download it tonight once there was nobody to stop me.”
“Give her the program now HOST.”
She held her breath while the computer gave her the file, then slumped her shoulders in relief as it finished. They stared intently at her for a moment before the doctor broke the silence, “Is your curiosity satisfied? A few seconds ago you understood the aliens to be a menace and wanted them destroyed. Now?”
“I understand everything.”
“Please go on, Madam President, describe your present, ah, condition to us.”
“I have been re-created. It is my duty to see that everyone becomes as I am. Everyone must read the file.”
The General drew his gun under the table. “Tell us if the Doctor’s theory is right. Is the change a two step process?”
“Yes but that’s not the important thing. What you need to know is that the Master is coming to conquer us, and you need to be on His side by the time He arrives. Resistance is pointless.”
Julian was bold enough to interject with what they all were thinking, “What will happen if we don’t submit?”
“He will destroy you with fire, inflicting upon you unthinkable pain. Never ending remorse, regret and horror will be yours unless you swear allegiance to Him. He keeps his enemies in gloomy dungeons awaiting his judgment, do not let yourselves be counted among them!”
“Fascinating. What will it take to stop the invasion?”
She was pleading with them in earnest now, “There is no stopping us. There’s no stopping Him. I beg you to surrender—”
“No, you must listen!”
“Enough!” The General stood up and abruptly rendered her unconscious with the butt of his pistol.
“Doctor, any ideas?”
Julian spoke for him again, “Wipe her mind and watch what happens.”
They looked at each other and came to a silent agreement.
“Help me get her into the interface bay…”
“Don’t lift her that way, hold the ankles…”
“The tap goes in the left arm here, don’t you know that?”
“She’s ready. HOST run an emergency medical memory wipe, leaving only the speech centers and basic brain functions intact.”
The synthetic voice responded, “Operation complete.”
“HOST, apply enough stimulants to wake her.”
The President opened her eyes and looked around confused. The Prime Minster put his hand on her shoulder and spoke reassuringly, “You’re safe now, but you need to tell us what you remember. What is your name?”
“I don’t know.”
“Where are you?”
“I… I don’t know.”
“What do you know?”
Her reply came out haltingly as she racked her brain for what left after the wipe, “The Master loves me. I love the Master. Do you know Him? I could tell you about Him—”
The General frowned, then held down the ‘additional suppressants’ button and gave her a lethal dose. Her body fell back onto the bed with a permanent smile on it.

“Young man have a seat in her chair. Obviously you’re as close to a loyal technical expert as we’re going to get, and I want your thoughts for the moment.”
Julian obeyed the General, crossed the room, and sat down quietly.
“Well. We are at last agreed, I think, that something must be done. Let’s have our expert go first.”
He moistened his lips and began with that peculiar dark confidence, “I would recommend getting an army together as soon as possible.”

The thin, frail old minister of the interior who had remained passive the whole meeting now interrupted in a quiet voice, “Thank you young man, that will be all. I think I speak for all of us in saying we’ve heard quite enough from you. By all means scrub the file and discuss with the General the most effective way to kill everyone who reads it, but when you’re done our problem will remain.” He briefly made eye contact with everyone before addressing them, “Friends, I’m persuaded by what the doctor has shown me that what we really need is a defense against their mind control. What that will ultimately look like I do not know, but I do have an idea that might work in the meantime.”
Everyone leaned forward in their chairs.
“We leverage the implants and the network to create an entertainment megaplex, something similar to what the people of the West already spend their time doing. Games, puzzles, stories, all devoid of real value, but perfectly safe. If we can keep everyone continually distracted from ever wanting to use the file then we can at least stop the bleeding. That should give us enough time to sort things out.”
“Yes…” the Prime Minister, thinking it over out loud, “yes the implants are connected to the brain… they already allow us to control what people see, smell, hear to some extent… all we’ll need to do is make them want to run programs continually. We’ll call it the holonet…” 
The Secretary of State however remained unpersuaded, “The antidote is worse than the poison minister. How would we survive as a society if we do this? What will we eat once everybody stops working? How many of us will there be once everyone quits raising children?”
“Well obviously it’s a temporary measure, so hopefully we don’t run into those problems, but in the meantime I’d say have the service robots do more key tasks like agriculture and have the children grown in tanks.”
They nodded in agreement. The plan might need some refinement, but it was a good first start.
“Schedule an emergency meeting with the UN tonight so that we can share the doctors findings and get their buy-in. We’ll need everyone’s help to pull this off.”

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