Entering the Cone
Entering the Cone
Earth skewed around the side of the Sun facing the Pa’an construction project on September 21, the autumnal equinox. Every media station announced it. As daylight crept round the planet, people awakened to a hopeful new feeling, subtle but almost universal. As predicted, things began to happen, both good and bad.
The Ayatollah of Iran was publicly martyred by all four of his wives acting in concert. He was hanged by his unwound turban from a balcony in a public square.
132 US Congressional members decided to forego re-election. Some joined monastic orders and gave their fortunes to charity. There was a public outcry when the size of those fortunes was revealed by the media. Others simply disappeared into obscurity. A few committed suicide or murder. The same pattern, with cultural differences, occurred in every country. The Japanese seemed to prefer public humiliation. EU Ministers had fistfights in Parliament. Russians attempted immensely complicated coups which usually failed spectacularly. A few, however, succeeded well enough to create a constitutional Russian government.
A Big Pharmaceutical company announced a process to extend human life span up to 200 years. The price was $100,000 per year.
Potholes were filled in every major city, but road traffic declined. The Los Angeles freeways became six empty lanes with a straggling of cars and bicycles. A taxi could drive cross-town New York at any time of day in 12 minutes. Speed limits were eliminated in Texas and New Mexico and no one cared.
A group of animal rights folks took up the cause to send their Dogs to Heaven. It was imitated shortly by Cats’ Reward and Save the Whales.
Every religion bloomed. Catholic masses were jammed, even Muslims attended. In a spirit of brotherly love, Jews smote their own backs during Muslim Ashura. The Thuggee cult in India went public. You could tell people’s beliefs by their T-shirts, beads and collar emblems. Everyone had a variety of those, one for each occasion. One never knew which religion was correct, so why not try them all?
Three of the four hardest problems in mathematics were solved, one by a juvenile locked in a detention hall for committing rape.
Wardens and jailers released their prisoners. The Kremlin was invaded by half-starved, glassy-eyed individuals with no place to go. North Vietnam prisoners promptly turned around and jailed their jailers, then took the next train to South Korea.
And that was only the first month.
Elexi Goes to Heaven
“You’re going to be the first to cross over, Elexi. How do you feel about it?” Galena Lockwood was back in full force, big white-toothed smile, a new hair color in some shade of blonde, and the totally unnecessary microphone to thrust in someone’s face. That someone was wearing a light winter coat in the mild sunshine. Her hair was tied back in a practical bun and she was looking very much like an executive secretary. But her eyes were hard to read.
“It’s sort of like jumping into the ocean with scuba gear the first time. I know everything will be different, but I can’t imagine it right now.”
“Were you a scuba diver?”
“Once. I went once when I was just out of college.”
“Except that on a scuba dive you eventually come back to the surface. I’m told that this is a one-way trip.”
“It’s sort of a leap of faith, that’s true. I have a lot of faith in my good friend, Aura, who was like a sister to me, and in Mr. Kunstler, and Dr. Advani, and Sara Rothman, and all the others who contributed to get me here.” Elexi wished, for the hundredth time, that she could have said goodbye to Sara. She had barely found out that Aura had a clone in some country called Andorra, wherever that was, and her last “girl talk” was brief and unsatisfactory. She still believed that “her” Aura was murdered in the explosion.
“Is it true that Aura and Ambassador Zovoarcnor of the Pa’an financed this, um, reflector?” The camera panned around the football stadium. It zoomed in on the pair of parabolic reflector dishes, each about ten feet in diameter, flanking the end of the field near the goalposts. They stood on opposite ends of a dais a few steps off the grass, along with a generator. Cables from the reflectors plugged into sockets on a white van.
“Yes, they paid for this one and they set up financing so that others can build reflectors. This is a medium sized one, I’m told. Some will be much bigger.”
“You have a great deal of courage, Elexi, and the world is watching to see you off.”
“Thank you, Galena. We all know what you went through, being in prison and all. And that was just for talking to Zovo! This must be a great moment for you, as well.”
Galena nodded and showed another gleaming smile. “You’re very right. This is a sort of redemption for me, and to be here with you today is an honor. All I can say at this time is…Bon Voyage!”
As millions watched, Elexi walked down the field to the reflectors. Her mind raced. There were so many loose ends, regrets, things that should have been said, things that still needed to be done. It was overwhelming, too much for now. She put it all way. She had to concentrate on each step, “Don’t trip. Please don’t trip.”
She didn’t trip. She mounted the two steps to the dais, walked to the red circle between the reflectors. There was a low hum as the generator picked up the load. The automatic mechanism in the reflectors detected her in their focus. A slight glimmer formed, hardly visible in the daylight, and Elexi disappeared from this universe.
The camera panned to a small bronze plaque attached to the stage, “First human to Exit using the Pa’an gateway,” with her name and date.
Millions of hearts went with her.
Back in his closed office at Ultradata, Jag sat glued to a display screen, thinking of all that Elexi had gone through, her torture at the hands of a megalomaniac, and her obsequious service to her “Master”. Finally he muttered to himself, “May she be in a better place.” It occurred to him that he had said the same thing about Sara.
In a converted soccer stadium in Pyongchou Park there were 25,000 soldiers drawn up in regiments. The nearby streets of Pyongyang and the adjacent railway tracks were crowded with more troops, tanks, armored vehicles, mobile heavy artillery and mobile rocket launchers. On either side of the field, the soccer goals had been replaced with Pa’an reflectors. The bullseye platform was easily capable of holding a company.
News services translated into English reported that the North Korean Government, motivated by a desire to protect its people from an obvious attempt to abduct them in large numbers for slavery to Western powers, had decided to pre-empt the situation by going to war against them. Therefore, the leaders of the DPRK were calling the bluff. They would send their massed troops through the gate and bring back a great victory to the people.
The first contingent lined up on the stage, weapons ready. The automatic reflector controls detected them, began to draw power and the slight shimmering that indicated an active gate appeared a few seconds before the company vanished.
The routine went on 24 hours a day for several weeks. Armored vehicles and helicopters went through. They even sent a nuclear missile through the gate. With great fanfare they announced their success at invading the falsely advertised new home of the Western devils, and waited for reports of victory. The few remaining generals postured for the press. Big letter posters with “Victory over the Pa’an conspiracy” were plastered on walls.
Weeks passed. No one returned. The rhetoric became one of tremendous adversity against heavy resistance, but still expecting a wonderful victory.
A month passed. The rhetoric died.
South Korea, who had yearned for decades to unite the country, finally understood that the DPRK had fatally decimated its own military. They offered to take over and unite the country, provide some solace for the missing troops and a plan of integration.
While they were negotiating with the dispirited but still feisty leaders of the DPRK, China simply walked in over their Northern border and took over. In less than two months North Korea was another Chinese province.
Imam Ali Abu Zahid, the mujtahid, had not forgotten the fatwa he had issued against the golem, the abomination that called itself Aura. It called for every righteous Muslim to raise their hand against those godless AI abominations and, specifically, Aura. His followers did not forget the fatwah either. Since it was known that Aura conspired with the Pa’an, the Pa’an must also be aligned with Satan. Therefore, the hand of the faithful must be raised against the Pa’an.
But how to get there? After much deliberation and some argument, several pots of tea and some prayers, a dozen men agreed that the situation called for martyrs, if they must be, to traverse the gate and strike at the Pa’an through the only means available. So they approached a willing sheikh for funding and purchased a pair of small Pa’an reflectors. The reflectors were set up in an empty warehouse, of which there were a growing number since the start of the exodus.
The martyrs duly recorded their blessings on their families, assuring them that their male relatives would be greeted in Heaven by the usual retinue of houris and angels because of the sacrifices made by the martyrs, and for their relatives to be happy for them.
Ten heavily armed men occupied the stage and the automatic shimmer appeared. Ten men vanished. Ten families rejoiced at the martyring.
The Imam never even knew of it. No one told him.
Over a million souls a day opted for exodus as soon as the major reflectors began operation, and that number was increasing daily. The Cone of Transfer defining the open window for exodus was only in its second week with fourteen weeks to go.
Aura projected gate capacity at a million an hour.
Some left with their pets and prized possessions. An Argentine vacquero took his horse. Some came alone in the middle of the night with nothing but their pajamas. The automatic mechanism operated, the platform just shimmered and they vanished, one and all.
Exit Clubs sprouted all over the U.S. People met and decided to form new communities together in the new universe. They chose leaders and collected dues in case of an unplanned contingency in the new settlement. At their agreed time they conducted their Club’s Exit ceremony and disappeared from this universe, the same as everyone else.
The Order Goes Underground
“The bastards shot down my plane with a missile. They blew up my lab here in Cambridge and killed one of my people. They injured Deepak, and murdered our Aura. I’m lying low for a while. Let them think I’m out of commission.”
Sax was confused, “I wondered why Aura never appeared with that Zovo-whatever on the Galena Lockwood’s show. But isn’t there another copy, er, clone, of her?”
Jag heaved a deep sigh, “Yes, Aura the personality is alive and well, but the lab’s SHARPIE machine was blown to scrap. Deepak is trying to rebuild it now, but he is pretty weak and his assistant, who did that work, was the one who was killed.”
“No one from the Order has contacted you?”
“They wouldn’t. I never met them or knew who they were. They only pull the strings, they don’t dance.”
Jag continued, “I’ve given it a lot of thought. A 3500 year-old sect like the Order doesn’t just fall apart. Perhaps they think that enough people will Exit that they don’t have to resort to decimation. Of course, I don’t know how they ever planned to accomplish that anyway. Starvation, war and mass executions, probably, along the lines of Stalin’s murderous regime in Russia.”
“Jag, didn’t you tell me that part of their plan was to install a system of global domination? They haven’t got that far. Do you think that’s still their plan?”
“No doubt, but that isn’t possible right now. Too much turmoil with the reflectors and the effects of the Cone of Probability. They will wait, now that we have eliminated Mentor for them. Exit will be over soon enough. What I think they will do is cover their tracks and go underground. I would watch for them to withdraw their secondary leaders. The lower levels will be dismissed or terminated. Media references will be deleted. Watch the conspiracy media, sometimes they get it right.”
“That matches up with what we’re seeing here, and according to Gupta, across the Pond as well. You know, 34 Senators have announced retirement. I had to laugh at one rookie who announced retirement partway through his first term. What kind of idiot wins a Senate seat and gives it up in a few months? Ayup, and department heads and assistant directors are becoming hard to find. I’ll keep an ear out. On the good side, I’m unapposed in the next election.”
“Lucky you. Make some waves, Sax. Vermont will rise again. Aura and I must stay here and hunt moose and fissionables. There are a great many lives at stake. I hope you will be part of the team.”
“You bet I will. Every step of the way, Jag.”
Aura’s main occupation became hunting down Mentor clones and stolen fissionables. Ultradata invested a significant part of its new found fortunes in a new aircraft, a supersonic Spike that could cross the Atlantic in a few hours. With it, Jag could conveniently and quietly lead his operatives on the destroy missions. Occasionally, Aura got to add yet another node to her global network.
With Zovo’s new algorithm Aura was now a true distributed system. Her avatar was everywhere, the Order be damned.