Algorithm

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Chapter 15


Adam stirred to life. He had dozed off on a tattered lounge in a lunch room just outside Percy's lab. His blurry vision soon zeroed in on Linda snoring on a couch directly across from him. The digital wall clock silently announced that it was approaching five-thirty. Without having windows for a clue, Adam guessed, or rather hoped, that it was the afternoon and not the next morning. They had decided on waiting for Percy's analysis, which was clearly taking a while. As he swung his legs onto the floor, he pulled over the laptop case and found an Ethernet port on the wall nearby. Within minutes, he was looking over the DNA analysis initiated what seemed like eons ago.

Linda's snoring came to a sudden, staccato halt. "Hey. What time is it? Has Percy finished his analysis?"

"I just woke up myself. It looks like it's late afternoon and I haven't seen Percy. By the way, did you know you snore?"

"Snore? Me? I think you got that backwards."

Adam grinned. He looked back down at his screen and his mouth widened into a smile. "Guess what. The DNA sequence analysis is complete."

"And did you find anything of interest?"

"It's not so much me as the software. But, yes." Adam waited for a reaction, and failing that, added, "There are patterns, especially in the non-coding portions of the DNA, that are self-referential. And other patterns that seem to act as switching points, kind of like 'if this is true, then do that'."

"So, what does all that mean?"

Adam eyes glazed over as he continued, speaking as if to himself. "And yet others that repeat themselves throughout the DNA as if they are commonly-used routines." He went on as if mesmerized, "Commonly used routines …"

Linda waved her hand in front of Adam's eyes. "And?"

Adam had drifted off for a moment, lost in thought. "These features … self-referential, switching points, repeated routines. I've seen this thousands of times before."

Adam put the laptop on the waiting room table and sat back with his arms folded. "They usually represent a set of instructions, lines of code, like in a computer program. The non-coding DNA looks like a program, an algorithm … a huge and complicated one, but an algorithm just the same."

Linda sat up, her eyes wide. "So the coding portions of our DNA represent the proteins, the building blocks for our structure and function, while the non-coding DNA runs the show. It makes sense, and is consistent with some of the current theory. Especially when you think about the amount of non-coding DNA we have compared to lower life forms."

Adam shrugged. "Does it? Does it really?"

"What else can it mean?"

"You said it yourself. Lower life forms have less of this 'algorithm'."

"Sure, because they have a less complicated system to run." She paused mid-sentence. Something wasn't quite jelling. Her hands rose to her head and massaged her temples, trying to force the buried inconsistency to her forebrain. Suddenly her hands dropped, and she looked up at Adam. He nodded with each word she said. "Physical complexity might not be the sole reason for a larger algorithm in higher life forms."

Adam continued, "Because the differences between these life forms are minor. They all share a basic and symmetrical structure—one head, two arms, two legs—essentially built from a similar set of blue prints. Higher life forms share the same parts. Minor modifications lead to different species."

"And that would mean that the significantly more complicated non-coding DNA is necessary for something else, something else more developed in higher organisms."

Adam opened up his arms and coaxed her on. "And that would be?"

"The brain! The more extensive development of the brain demands a larger and more complex algorithm."

"Don't stop there."

"Christ. The structures of brains are also very similar, which means the algorithm is not just responsible for the structural details … "

"… but also for its function," finished Adam, who added, "Which means that … "

Now Linda jumped in. "… that the complexity of the thinking process is somehow mapped out in the non-coding DNA, which makes sense! Just think about the concept of instinct. For generations we've accepted that given a specific stimulus, animals can and do act in a pre-programmed manner. Sure, there's some learning involved, but there's so much evidence for automatic behavior, especially in simpler species where the range of behavior is limited and easily observed. Our current view is that higher organisms learn more and rely on instinct less."

"And what about Man? Is he free of this pre-programmed instinct?"

Linda shook her head. "Not at all. We relegate that instinct to the 'lizard brain' deep within our psyche. An animal instinct for survival. We pride ourselves with self-consciousness, a self-awareness distinct from other animals. And we have come to rely more on learning for survival than on instinct."

After a moment Adam said, "Yet, our DNA has the highest percentage devoted to the non-coding portion. I wonder if you can tell when it's instinct or experience that drives us? What if everything we do is preprogrammed, just like in all those lower species that rely on instinct alone? In fact, if you think about it, we may be the most programmed life form on the planet."

Percy burst into the lunch room, and while trying to catch his breath, he wheezed, "I've found something, something incredible."

The three ran to the TMS lab. Percy led them to his main computer screen and explained. "Like I mentioned earlier this afternoon, the carbon-13 particles appeared to line up in a spiral, and they consist of four distinct sizes. I was able to transfer the sequence of these four sizes for a string of about a million to our data analysis systems."

Percy spoke in a controlled manner, which resulted in an irritatingly slow delivery. Adam prodded him on. "And you found?"

Ignoring the rib, he continued in a methodical and almost robotic cadence, intermittently pausing to catch his breath. "Our protocol … consists of … first storing the data in files … which in this case simply means … that I gave them the numbers one to four."

Linda caught on. "Which means you have a big file with a linear sequence of numbers limited to those four."

"Quite. Quite. And then I looked for patterns. However, after hours of analysis nothing came up." With a wry grin, Percy added, "No secret messages … or anything of that sort."

Sarcasm. Nice.

Adam spurred him on. "But you did find something."

"Quite. Quite. So then, I searched other databases where we store a wide variety of information from a wide variety of sources."

Losing their patience, both Linda and Adam spoke simultaneously. "And?"

Now Percy's grin widened into a full-fledged smile, revealing a single gold-capped canine. "And I found a hit." Before they could spur him on any further, he turned their attention to the screen. "You see the colored bands displayed here? The one on top is a depiction of your carbon-13 sequence: red, blue, yellow and green for the four particle sizes."

Linda gasped. "And the one on the bottom is a DNA sequence with the four bases displayed in the same colors."

"Quite. Quite." Percy added, "And what do you see?"

"The two bands are identical. That DNA sequence is from what?" Adam asked.

Linda looked at the coding information displayed alongside the colored band and answered, "It's the DNA code for human albumin."

Seeing that the two were glued to the screen, Percy slowly turned a dial on his keyboard. The two bands scrolled in tandem across the screen. "As you can see, the identity is essentially one hundred percent, all along this sequence. Other portions of the carbon-13 stream appear to be lining up with other protein codes, The computer is finding more and more correspondences. It would appear that your medallion contains a transcript of DNA, human DNA."

The weight of this discovery seemed to overwhelm Percy. He not only pushed up his glasses, but wiped his forehead with the sleeve of his lab coat. "Did you really find it in a lump of coal as George explained it to me?"

The two continued staring at the screen, mesmerized by the symmetry displayed before them.

Percy went on. "If that's true, this is the finding of the century … maybe the millennium … I can't wait to let my colleagues know. The implications are staggering."

Adam broke away from the monitor. "It's true. That medallion is old, very old. But, could we wait a bit before we let the world know?"

Percy nodded but Adam could see in his eyes that he was not really paying attention. He was bursting at the seams. Percy asked, "How is it possible that this disk contains a copy of our DNA sequence?"

Linda spoke up, "A copy? Maybe not a copy …"

Adam completed her train of thought. "Yeah, what if this disk is the original?"

Percy whispered, "My God."

The conundrum left them with little more to say. The three stared up at the display in awe, surrounded by the muted hum of lab equipment. After a few moments of introspection, Adam switched the topic to something that was nagging him. "Any ideas as to how x-rays make it send out neutrinos?"

Percy seemed taken aback by the question, but managed a response, visibly relieved at the change in subject. "There may be some trace elements buried in the medallion, elements unstable enough to break down when subjected to x-rays." He mumbled to himself. "Although I'm not sure any such elements exist."

Percy wandered over to the MRI chamber and stared at the medallion. "Perhaps we can have some experts here at Brookhaven take a closer look?"

A knock on the lab doors stilled further conversation.

Adam asked, "Expecting anyone?"

"Not at this time of day. Most people have gone home by now. Let me see who it is."

Percy looked concerned as he viewed the hallway monitor, and saw a man in uniform holding a package and swaying impatiently back and forth.

"Looks like a delivery man."

"Do people normally have free access within Brookhaven? Doesn't the gate call you up like they did for us?" Adam pressed.

Percy swiveled to answer Adam as he reached to open the door. "Usually, but there are some delivery services that have open access."

Adam joined Percy at the monitor and grabbed his arm before he depressed the electronic door switch. "Do you recognize the uniform? Is that one of your usual delivery services?"

"Well … no. Come to think of it, I don't recognize the uniform at all."

Adam's eyes locked on Linda's. He snatched the medallion out of the micro-MRI apparatus and said, "I think we should leave. Right now. I've got a bad feeling about this."

Percy took a step toward the door. "Just let me see who this is."

Once again, Adam stopped him. Linda asked, "Is there another way out of here?"

"This is most irregular. If it makes you feel more comfortable I can call security. I'm sure they'll confirm this delivery is legitimate."

"I think it would be best if we just leave now, and even better if we left quietly."

Percy shrugged his diminutive shoulders. "Oh well, if you insist. There is an emergency exit at the far corner. Just press down on the bar and the door will open." In a despairing tone, he added, "But what about these findings? We have to let the scientific community know about this so that other experts could examine the disk, confirm our discovery. You do realize that this means we are not alone? That there is something out there that may have created us?"

"It might mean that. And I agree … go ahead and share these data. In fact, make sure the news gets out to your colleagues and the press if you like. Maybe once the discovery becomes public we could put an end to these intrigues."

Percy looked at the disk in Adam's hand. "But, the disk. We need to safeguard it."

Adam opened the emergency exit door. "That's exactly what I am doing. Go ahead and let that fellow in. If he's not who he appears to be, just tell him we left a few hours ago." A nod and a wave sealed the deal, and Percy waddled to the lab entrance doors.

They ran to the back of the building, crouching low and moving between several parked cars. When they arrived at the side lot, they got a clear look at the front of the building where a white van idled in wait. The two emerged from the evening shadows and walked past the van.

No signage or logo on the van. That's not good.

Percy's golf cart was just a few paces ahead.

"Can you see if the keys are in the cart?" asked Adam.

"Are you serious?"

Linda quickened her pace and when she reached the cart whispered back to Adam, "We're in luck."

Adam took the driver's seat, and Linda slid in next to him. They purred away taking several random turns within the complex of buildings. The Brookhaven streets were nearly deserted, and dusk had arrived. After a few dead ends they found the gatehouse street and parked the cart a few hundred feet short of the entrance.

They approached the gatehouse by foot. Linda looked to her rear. "Do you really think that Borman is at it again?"

"Not really sure. I guess I've developed an aversion to surprises and a fondness for suspicion."

"I don't blame you. In any event we could ask the guard to call Percy just to make sure everything is fine."

They walked up to the gatehouse, saw the Pathfinder parked in the visitor's lot, and got out their ID badges. Taken alone, a black limo parked alongside the Adam's car was not quite enough to arouse suspicion. The blue-gray security cap lodged in the foliage surrounding the gatehouse could have been a lost article of clothing. By the time Adam reached the gatehouse door, the two disjointed observations screamed out a belated warning.

The guard pointed a hand gun at Adam's head and drawled, "Hold it right there."

Adam, with Linda just behind him, gasped as the buzz cut head smiled and lolled to the side to get a better view of Linda. A ring dangled from his right ear, matched by one through his nostrils. His dark knit sweater stretched over enormous biceps. As he rose from the stool, he pulled down on the sweater with his free hand, but not before it unveiled a glimpse of solid six-pack abs.

He looks like a professional wrestler. Jeez, weren't they all just a little crazy?

On the floor behind him lay the body of a uniformed guard. Adam gripped Linda's arm and edged her closer to him.

"Ain't that sweet?" snarled Buzz Cut.

"What do you want with us?"

Adam's mind slipped into survival mode. Stalling the behemoth before him seemed like a good first step, at least giving him a chance to think.

"Ain't me you should worry 'bout."

A van screeched to a halt beside them. It was the delivery man. Momentarily out of view, Linda broke away and ran over to it.
"Get the police! This man has a gun!"

At first, the delivery man looked shocked, and then an expression of understanding calmed his features, and he laughed. Buzz Cut arrived with Adam in tow. Using a polite voice, the delivery man reached out of his window. "Please give me the disk."

Adam thought about arguing with the pair, however, it was clear they knew exactly what they wanted. He reached around his head and handed over the medallion to the driver.

"Now get in," commanded Buzz Cut.

"But you have the medallion. What do you want with us?" asked Linda.

Buzz Cut shoved the pair ahead of him while the driver scurried out and opened the rear doors of the van. "No funny business. Just get in and stay quiet." was the only explanation the driver offered.

"What the hell is going on? What do you want with us?" Adam asked.

For an answer, they were shoved into the van. Linda tugged at Adam's jacket and pointed back at the gatehouse door. "Look."
The narrow angle made the view a challenge, but Adam saw the prone guard. One leg was moving. The doors slammed shut behind them. The van was otherwise empty and a heavy wire mesh separated them from the front seats. The driver and Buzz Cut slid in. They pulled up a short distance into the visitor's lot, and lurched to a stop alongside a black limo. Its darkened rear window rolled down.

The driver said, "Got 'em, boss," and leaned out of his window. Adam saw the medallion drop into a set of very white and gnarled hands. Although the limo's passenger remained unseen, the voice was a dead giveaway. "Sehr gut … excellent."

"And this too, boss."

A gold rod and a Luger dropped into waiting hands.
"Ah. Very nice. You know now where we are going to."

As the limo pulled away, the van driver turned to look back at Adam and Linda. "Make yourselves comfy. It'll be a while before we stop again."

He turned to Buzz Cut and handed him a set of keys. "Here, you'll need these. See you back at the farmhouse."

Buzz Cut exited the van. The driver pulled shut a sliding panel behind his head, cutting off any possible conversation, leaving Adam and Linda completely in the dark, both figuratively and literally.


Minutes later, the gatehouse guard staggered to his feet. He was a bit unsteady and had a difficult time focusing, as a massive headache claimed his attention. Someone handed him his cap and helped him onto the stool. As he slowly regained his equilibrium and the world stopped swirling, he turned to the door to thank the stranger for his help. The door was locked and no one was in sight. The guard shook his head. He lifted a phone from its cradle and proceeded to call HQ.
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