Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Chapter 9: Meeting an enemy

I landed in D.C at dawn on the redeye from LAX.  The sky was streaked red in the east as I stepped into the Uber cab and handed the driver a piece of paper with an address on K Street.  I had not slept on the flight but I was as wide-awake as I've ever been. After all, I was about to come face to face with an enemy: Timothy, head of the Telepathy Unit that had launched a hallucitropic missile at me and my partners.  The cab passed the Heritage Foundation, Cato, Brookings and a few other high-end think tanks, which I probed quickly as we sped by.  No one was home.  But I knew that Timothy was home and waiting to greet me.  And there was someone else, quiet, but a key figure in some way: Franklin.  Franklin was home, waiting with Timothy.  I picked up an odd sensation...Franklin was chewing on something rather tough.

The driver stopped in front of a residence, a well-kept two-story brownstone.  A tall thin man was standing on the front steps looking at me.  His expression was calm.  I felt that he could pour me tea and snap my neck at the same time.  His mind was opaque; I did my best to make mine the same, though he had the upper hand psychologically and it was hard to tell if my thoughts were leaking.

The driver said I did not need to pay and sped off, which in itself was disconcerting.  I walked towards the steps and said, "Hello, Timothy."

Timothy replied, with the same calm face, "Hello, Harry."

We shook hands and I braced for a telepathic frisson, but nothing happened.

He ushered me into a sitting room full of antique furniture.  On the walls were photos of D.C. landmarks, the Lincoln Memorial, etc.  The room was designed for emotional acoustics; it was breathtakingly empty of meaning.  He gestured towards a chair at a coffee table, where I sat, and he sat across from me.  There was no food or drink on the table.  Timothey crossed his legs and brought his palms together prayer-like, resting his chin lightly on the fingertips.  I concentrated on controlling the waves of terror cresting within me.  I decided to speak first.

"Thank you for meeting with me."

Timothy smiled slightly, "My pleasure."

A dog sauntered into the room, head hung low, eyes searching everywhere.  He was a brindle-coat, greyhound-like.  He sat between Timothy and me, looking out the window, his ears twitching when we spoke.

"This is Franklin," Timothy said.

"Hello, Franklin," I said, then realized we had already met.  I glanced sharply up at Timothy, who nodded and smiled faintly.

"You'll get to know Franklin better," he said.

Timothy dropped his arms to the chair rests and looked at me.  "What are we going to do with you?" he asked, the smile gone.

I sighed, gratified to be finally getting to the point.  "I don't know.  I'm open to suggestion."

He laughed in a brief and controlled way.  "You, know, Harry, you are pretty good at keeping your thoughts closed to me.  I don't encounter that too often in civilians.  Of course they're usually not trying to close their thoughts when I'm around."

"Your thoughts are closed to me, too," I said, "as I'm sure you know.  I'd be willing to open our thoughts to each other if you'd like, or we could just figure things out by talking."

He smiled again, “Talking takes forever and is usually unreliable.  Let's just open up.  Ready?"

I relaxed my mind and so did Timothy.  In one awful instant my enemy and I were together, entwined intellectually like lovers in a motel bed.  I saw it all: the correctness of my "conspiracy theory," the international network of conspirators entrapping everyone in a global war. The group included government officials, scientists, military people, businesspeople, a few historians, no English teachers.  The common mindset involved improving the human race by eliminating most of it, then starting from scratch using bioengineering and AI to build a new and improved humanity.

Timothy and I stared at each other.

He said, "You have some interesting ethical structures."

"Yes, I believe it's wrong to trick people into committing suicide."

"Of course.  What if I told you that the ethics of our conspiracy are unsettled?"

"What do you mean?"

Franklin shook his body and I felt a brief electric thrill.  Timothy opened his mind again.  I saw that the group he led, charged with developing telepathic weapons in service of the conspiracy, has its own ideas about things.  They are disdainful, for instance, of people in the conspiracy who love Mad Max movies and long for the imagined glory of a post-apocalyptic scarcity economy where bullies rule, nor are they drawn, as some are, to a Dr. Strangelove scenario of a subterranean survivor elite. Timothy thinks about better societies that could emerge from the wreckage of this one, societies where things work as advertised- not just the car and the dishwasher, but human relations.  Timothy thinks human life should work as advertised.

Then Timothy opened his mind further to show me something startling: He is in opposition to the conspiracy, as is everyone in the Telepathic Unit!  They feel that no one will benefit from an expanded Mideast war.  Their only interest is in building the next civilization.  They do feel, to be honest, that telepaths should rule that civilization. I'm just saying.

Timothy, reverting to speech, made me a proposition: "Continue writing against the war.  The military planners will not mind because you will be ineffective against them.  But we would like you to help us in certain ways."

"What ways?"

"Millions of people, Americans and many others, are about to turn against their governments in disappointment and anger.  These people need to know that not everyone in the government is part of the problem."

I listened with no comment.  Timothy continued.

"There are people in Washington who actually want something good to come out of this period of chaos.  You can help us get the word out."

"How?"

"We can expand your audience.  You have a few hundred readers at present.  That could be thousands if we establish you on YouTube, perhaps with an interview show.  We can promote your writing in many ways."

In all my years of daydreaming about my crusade against the human war machine, I never featured myself working with the establishment.  On the other hand, I never featured myself winning my crusade either.

"What would I need to write?"

"Just the truth.  Write about elements in the government who are not pro-war, who do want to build a better human world."

I agreed to try it out.  For two reasons:

1. I'm not the brave hero you might have thought.  Given a choice between getting snuffed in short order (which certainly would have happened had I demurred) or giving Timothy and his dog a chance, I chose the latter.

2. As noted, I'm just giving the Telepathy Unit a chance.  I'm a telepath so I will know if they are lying about building a better world.  If they are, our deal is off.

"Ok, I will try it," I said.  "What's next?"

Franklin rolled on the floor and Timothy said, "Continue writing your novel. Emphasize that it's fiction.  You didn't really fly to Washington, did you?  I don't really exist, do I? You are making this up.  That is the best cover.  Meanwhile, I'll work on YouTube."






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