Radiance: A Novel

E-book edition of the 2002 Carter Scholz novel of post-Cold War science/technology, extensively annotated with references and related texts.
fiction, sociology, politics, transhumanism, history, SF
by: Carter Scholz, Gregory Benford, Hugh Gusterson, Sam Cohen, Curtis LeMay 2013-07-062019-08-17 finished certainty: log importance: 8


Ra­di­ance: A Novel is SF au­thor sec­ond lit­er­ary nov­el. It is a ro­man à clef of the 1990s set at the , cen­ter­ing on two nu­clear physi­cists en­tan­gled in cor­rup­tion, mid-life crises, in­sti­tu­tional in­cen­tives, tech­no­log­i­cal in­evitabil­i­ty, the end of the Cold War & start of the Dot­com Bub­ble, nu­clear bombs & mis­sile de­fense pro­gram, , ac­cel­er­a­tionism, and the great sci­en­tific project of mankind. (For rel­e­vant his­tor­i­cal back­ground, see the ex­cerpts in the ap­pen­dices.)

I pro­vide a HTML tran­script pre­pared from the nov­el, with ex­ten­sive an­no­ta­tions of all ref­er­ences and al­lu­sions, along with ex­tracts from re­lated works, and a com­par­i­son with the novella ver­sion.

About Radiance

Discussion/reviews (ex­cerpts in an ap­pen­dix):

Com­mer­cial sites:

Sim­i­lar works:

Editor’s preface

This HTML e-book has been pre­pared from a scanned copy (22M) of the first Pic­a­dor Feb­ru­ary 2002 hard­cov­er, ISBN 0-312-26893-9. (The novel is out of print and un­avail­able as an e-book.) All foot­notes, hy­per­links, and other an­no­ta­tions are my own work.

Radiance

by Carter Scholz

Cover

Front & back cover of first Pic­a­dor hard­cover edi­tion of Ra­di­ance: A Novel, Scholz 2002

Jacket copy

Some­where in Cal­i­for­nia, in the 1990s, a nu­clear weapons lab de­vel­ops ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies for its post-Cold War mis­sion. Ad­vanced as in not work­ing yet. Mis­sion as in con­tin­ued fund­ing. A scan­dal-plagued mis­sile de­fense pro­gram presses for­ward, drag­ging physi­cist Philip deep into the machi­na­tions of those who would use the lab for their own gain.

The So­viet Union has col­lapsed. But new en­e­mies are sought, and new rea­sons found to con­tinue the work that has le­git­imized the power of the Lab, its man­agers, and the politi­cians who fund them. Quine is thrust into the cen­ter of pro­grams born at the in­ter­sec­tion of para­noia, greed, and am­bi­tion, and torn by in­com­men­su­rable de­mands. Dead­lines slip and cost over­runs mount. He is drawn into a mael­strom of pol­icy meet­ings, clas­si­fied doc­u­ments, petty be­tray­als, in­ter­rupted con­ver­sa­tions, missed mean­ings, unan­swered voice­mail, stolen data, and porno­graphic files. Amid all the noise and sta­tic of the late twen­ti­eth cen­tury made man­i­fest in weapons and an­ti-weapons, hu­man be­ings have set in mo­tion a ma­lign and in­hu­man re­al­i­ty, which now is be­yond their con­trol.

More than a cri­tique of cor­rupt sci­ence and a per­ma­nent wartime econ­o­my, Ra­di­ance is a novel of lost ide­als, bro­ken as­pi­ra­tions, and hu­man costs. In this vivid satire, re­la­tion­ships are just a ques­tion of who’s us­ing whom. Fail­ure is just an­other word for op­por­tu­ni­ty. “Spin” is a prop­erty not of atomic par­ti­cles but of the news cy­cle. Na­ture is a blur be­yond the wind­shield, where lives are spent on the road, on the phone, on the make, in fierce com­pe­ti­tion for fi­nan­cial, po­lit­i­cal, and in­tel­lec­tual re­sources. It is a world which lan­guage is used to evade, ma­nip­u­late, and ex­pe­dite. It is a world where every­one’s story is al­ways open to re­vi­sion and lan­guage is used for jus­ti­fy­ing every­thing from de­fense pro­grams to di­vorce.

Blurbs

“A tour de force of ob­ses­sive, mi­cro­scopic re­al­ism and a vi­brantly satir­i­cal phan­tas­mago­ria at once. It gives a ter­ri­fy­ing glimpse of a war at the junc­ture of sci­ence and pol­i­tics, one never fully fought or aban­doned, only cov­ered in de­nial and fa­tigue. It reads like a de­clas­si­fied doc­u­ment of the hu­man soul.”

, au­thor of Moth­er­less Brook­lyn

“Carter Scholz’s laser-beam prose is com­bustible upon con­tact, so stim­u­lat­ing that—as you take it in­—you can ac­tu­ally feel your synapses over­load­ing with halo­gen-clear bril­liance. Ra­di­ance is provoca­tive, riv­et­ing, fun­ny, but above all else, it is star­tlingly unique.”

David Grand, au­thor of The Dis­ap­pear­ing Body

“I doubt there’s an­other writer in the coun­try who can match Scholz as a styl­ist. Ra­di­ance is a splen­did evo­ca­tion of time and place. Beau­ti­ful, fun­ny, and scary, too, it’s every bit as bril­liant as the name im­plies.”

, au­thor of Sis­ter Noon

“This beau­ti­ful and dis­turb­ing novel is a su­perb ren­der­ing of our strate­gic de­fense weapons pro­grams and of the Amer­ica that sup­ports them. It’s fic­tion about sci­ence in ser­vice to fic­tions, a co­her­ent beam that il­lu­mi­nates our world in a new way. Scholz’s ear for Amer­i­can speech, and the pre­ci­sion of his lan­guage, re­mind me of , , or Pyn­chon, but here the high mod­ernist bril­liance is put to ur­gent po­lit­i­cal use.”

, au­thor of Antarc­tica

Acknowledgments

Grate­ful ac­knowl­edg­ment is made to An­dré Gspon­er, Di­ane Wolk­stein and Ca­r­ole Gal­lagher for per­mis­sion to quote from their work. Other quoted ma­te­r­ial is taken ver­ba­tim from pub­lic doc­u­ments is­sued by the U.S. De­part­ment of De­fense, the U.S. De­part­ment of En­er­gy, and its na­tional lab­o­ra­to­ries. For ad­di­tional tech­ni­cal in­for­ma­tion I am in­debted to An­drew Lichter­man and Daniel Mar­cus. Most of all I am grate­ful to my ed­i­tor, Bryan Cholfin, for pa­tiently nur­tur­ing this book through its long ges­ta­tion.

I. Radiance

[pg1]

“I call upon the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity in our coun­try, those who gave us nu­clear weapons, to turn their great tal­ents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of ren­der­ing those nu­clear weapons im­po­tent and ob­so­lete.”

Pres­i­dent , 19833

“Out of the crooked tim­ber of hu­man­ity no straight thing was ever made.”

4

[pg3] Quine ap­proached the on a road that led nowhere else. The morn­ing light was thick, al­most a sub­stance. Past the ra­zor­wire of the perime­ter fence, cranes and wa­ter tow­ers and in­cin­er­a­tor stacks rose above the fortress city’s sprawl of build­ings. Con­struc­tion ve­hi­cles moved on its roads. Be­yond, grass­land stretched to hill­sides sal­low from drought and spot­ted with dark stands of live oak.

Soon he saw the pro­test­ers block­ing the gate. Cars in both lanes had stopped. The blue lights and red lights of pa­trol cars flick­ered on the road’s shoul­ders. Black­clad po­lice formed a line be­tween the pro­test­ers and the gate. Over chant­i­ng, rhyth­mic but un­in­tel­li­gi­ble, rang a bull­horn’s clipped com­mands, and the pro­test­ers moved off the road­way, the rhythm of their chant stum­bling. A few re­mained kneel­ing in the road be­fore the gate. Three po­lice hol­stered their ba­tons and moved re­spect­fully among the kneel­ing pro­test­ers, like acolytes among de­vouts, help­ing them one by one to their feet and lead­ing them within the gates to a wait­ing bus. The se­quence of block­ade, ar­rest, and re­lease was by now rit­u­al. The ar­rested chat­ted with their cap­tors.

As the cars edged for­ward, Quine saw once again the dark­haired young woman in the crowd and once again felt the hol­low­ing of his heart. Her re­sem­blance to Kate, any re­minder of Kate, still lanced him.

Two cars ahead, Leo High­et’s5 red con­vert­ible sounded its horn as Highet leaned out to heck­le, –Get a life! The woman flinched and Quine’s eyes locked on High­et’s head, the bald spot, the wedge of fea­tures [pg4] vis­i­ble in the rearview mir­ror, the broad nose and dark glass­es. Once through the gate High­et’s car sped into a right turn to the ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing while Quine drove on to the sec­ond check­point, then through a desert of bro­ken rock, buried mi­nes, and mo­tion sen­sors erect on metal stalks like un­liv­ing plants. Past this dry moat he stopped at a third check­point, then parked in the shade of a con­crete build­ing with blank walls and win­dows, and ner­vously thumbed the car ra­dio, –affic and weather to­geth, while he watched two younger sci­en­tists cross the lot and en­ter the build­ing. Then he stilled the car and went in.

In his office, one hor­i­zon­tal win­dow too high to reach framed an ob­long of sky. On the walls, aban­doned by the prior oc­cu­pant and by Quine un­touched, hung graphs and pic­tures, seis­mo­graphs of bomb tests, the branched coils of par­ti­cle de­cay, a ge­o­log­i­cal map, of mol­e­c­u­lar etch­ings, a moun­tain­scape, all over­laid by mem­os, monthly con­struc­tion maps, field test sched­ules, Every­one Needs To Know About Clas­si­fi­ca­tion, car­toons, Cu­rios­ity Is Not A , white­board thick with equa­tions in four col­ors so long un­wiped that Quine’s one pass with a wet rag had left the sym­bols down one edge ghosted but not erased, and a sec­ond desk, loose pa­pers cas­caded across its sur­face, the com­puter mon­i­tor topped by a seam­split card­board car­ton GREY and but­tressed by books man­u­als fold­ers xe­roxes , and , 6, Nu­mer­i­cal So­lu­tion of , Sell­ing Your­self and Your Ideas! and un­der the desk banker’s boxes DESTROY AFTER, and D NULL in black mark­er. 7, the prior oc­cu­pant, was “on in­defi­nite leave”. But when Quine had moved in, Highet had in­sisted that he leave Nul­l’s half of the office un­touched, ei­ther against Nul­l’s re­turn or, as Quine was com­ing to be­lieve, as a mon­u­ment to dis­ap­pear­ance.

Quine checked his com­puter mail. Most of the mes­sages were no­tices, chaffing, power plays, triv­ia.

A memo­r­ial ser­vice will be held Nov. 1 for Al Hazen who died Oct. 27 fol­low­ing a lengthy ill­ness. He was 51. Hazen worked with the Weapons Test Group at Aguas Se­cas. Do­na­tions in his mem­ory may be made to the [pg5] Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety.

One mes­sage could not be ig­nored:

From: Leo Highet
Date: Thu, 31 Oct 1991 17:58:36 (-0800)
To: Philip Quine <quine@.ban­l.­gov>
Subject: Ra­di­ance
Cc: di­et­z@styx.ban­l.­gov, sz­abo@styx.ban­l.­gov, ki­hara@.ban­l.­gov, huy­gens@aries.ban­l.­gov, lb@­dioce8.ban­l.­gov

Gen­tle­men:

As you know, the Belt­way boys are com­ing and it is CRUCIAL that they go home awed. I want con­fi­dence, en­ergy and style. There are unan­swered ques­tions and we will take hits on those. Meet­ing at noon to­day to brain­storm our ap­proach, bldg 101, rm E-501.

Highet

—“To ap­ply and di­rect this vast new po­ten­tial of de­struc­tive en­ergy ex­cited the in­ven­tive ge­nius of as had few other en­ter­pris­es.”—

More galling than the mes­sage was High­et’s new com­puter lo­gin sforza and his sig­na­ture quote. The in­spi­ra­tional con­ceit, that they were all Re­nais­sance maestri un­der the gen­tle pa­tron­age of Prince Leo the High, had come iron­i­cally from Quine, who was read­ing about da Vin­ci’s eigh­teen years as un­der , . Leonardo had writ­ten, “I hate war, as all ra­tio­nal men hate it, but there seems no es­cape from its bes­tial mad­ness.” Not while men of ge­nius bend their tal­ents to it, Quine had added. Here was High­et’s come­back.

High­et. What a piece of work. Builder and de­stroyer of his own leg­end. A fe­cund the­o­rist but a dis­tracted ex­per­i­menter, an in­differ­ent ad­min­is­tra­tor but a cham­pion politi­cian. From the start of his ca­reer he had trav­eled to the cap­i­tal, made him­self known to con­gress­men and their staffs. In re­ward for such at­ten­tions he was at a young age ap­pointed tech­ni­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tive to a dis­ar­ma­ment con­fer­ence. His con­duct was im­pec­ca­ble un­til one after­noon, goaded by the other side’s men­da­cious pre­sen­ta­tion and by his own un­govern­able need to com­mand the cen­ter of every sit­u­a­tion, he let slip clas­si­fied data9.

Highet made al­lies sooner than friends, and en­e­mies sooner than ei­ther. After this gaffe his al­lies were silent while his en­e­mies pounced. [pg6] But Highet made the first of the hairs­breadth es­capes on which his leg­end was built. A pa­per pub­lished a year be­fore, cosigned by the Pres­i­den­t’s sci­ence ad­vi­sor, had ex­posed the same se­cret. The hear­ings were dropped and Highet was ex­iled to an un­der­funded ou­bli­ette of the Lab housed in tem­po­rary trail­ers: J Sec­tion.

Any­one else would have lan­guished there. But Highet built by inches a power base, us­ing his charisma to at­tract the bright­est, most dri­ven grad­u­ate stu­dents he could find, form­ing in the mean­time new po­lit­i­cal al­liances. When Con­gress at last funded Ra­di­ance, all the nec­es­sary tal­ent was in J Sec­tion, and fiercely loyal to High­et. Soon he was as­so­ciate di­rec­tor. Two years lat­er, the di­rec­tor re­tired and Highet filled his place.

J Sec­tion. Re­search And De­vel­op­ment In Ad­vanced Nu­clear Con­cepts. Con­cepts as in weapons. Ad­vanced as in not work­ing yet. Ra­di­ance’s char­ter was to de­velop en­ergy weapons of all types, but High­et’s hope and pet was the : an or­bit­ing bat­tle sta­tion of . The bom­b’s ig­ni­tion would charge the rods with en­er­gy, fo­cused into beams that would flash out to strike down en­emy mis­siles, all in the mi­crosec­ond be­fore the sta­tion con­sumed it­self in nu­clear fire.

So far the beams flashed out only in the­o­ry. The the­o­ry, orig­i­nated by Null, seemed to Quine sound, but the more he stud­ied his com­puter mod­el, the less he un­der­stood why any of Nul­l’s tests had ever pro­duced the ghost of a beam. Yet the far­ther tests fell be­hind ex­pec­ta­tions, the more stri­dent be­came High­et’s pub­lic claims. War­ren Slater10, in charge of test­ing, had re­signed in protest. His let­ter of res­ig­na­tion was clas­si­fied and squelched. Bernd Di­etz was given in­terim charge of test­ing, and to Quine fell the task of find­ing in dis­ap­point­ing test data any op­ti­mism about the promised re­sults.

Mean­while Highet had grown ever more reck­less. He be­gan show­ing up at high pro­file con­fer­ences and sem­i­nars in sub­jects out­side his field: on , , , , , 11, mak­ing no dis­crim­i­na­tions be­tween the cut­ting edge, the spec­u­la­tive, and the snake oil, as if the force of his char­ac­ter could re­make phys­i­cal law, or at least the lo­cal ver­sion of it. He spoke in ban­quet halls at Red Lion Inns, he passed out ab­stracts, [pg7] off­prints, video­tapes, he painted fu­tures brighter and more defi­nite than the pre­sent, with him­self and his vi­sions at the cen­ter of them, invit­ing the wise and the bold to sit with him in the pros­per­ity and rec­ti­tude of that in­ner cir­cle, out­side which was dark­ness, bar­barism, and chaos.

And have made a trade of delu­sions and false mir­a­cles, de­ceiv­ing the stu­pid mul­ti­tude12. Again the voice. In the mind’s shad­ows were count­less voic­es, dead, liv­ing, un­born, lost. Since work­ing on Ra­di­ance Quine had dreamed them. Now they came into his wak­ing life. This voice he rec­og­nized from Leonar­do’s note­books.

On his sec­ond com­put­er, se­cure in steel shield­ing, waited Quine’s sim­u­la­tion of the rods. This frail su­per­struc­ture of hope was raised on a sprawl­ing foun­da­tion of faith. Hun­dreds of man-years of Lab effort and in­ge­nu­ity had gone into the un­der­ly­ing physics codes [pro­gram­s]. Even so, it was not pos­si­ble that they could de­scribe the full com­plex­ity of a nu­clear blast. Sim­pli­fi­ca­tions and es­ti­mates en­tered in, ac­cept­able only be­cause their re­sults matched ex­per­i­men­tal data to some more or less ar­bi­trary tol­er­ance. , mag­netic fields, burn prod­ucts, pho­ton scat­ter­ing, ther­mal con­duc­tion, ion vis­cos­i­ty, , all these im­pon­der­ables had to be cal­cu­lated and up­dat­ed, in­ter­act­ing in every ker­nel of space, at every nanosec­ond. If Quine had once puz­zled for years over the para­dox of a sin­gle pho­ton, the com­plex­i­ties here were lit­er­ally un­think­able. The re­ward of deep un­der­stand­ing was not part of the pack­age.

None of this caul­dron of ap­prox­i­ma­tion, this vast ra­tio­nal­iza­tion, this in­gen­u­ous mim­ic­k­ry, was Quine’s re­spon­si­bil­i­ty. To him it was a . His laser sim­u­la­tion ran on top of it all, pass­ing it data, re­ceiv­ing its judg­ments. Again he ig­nited his bomb and waited for the nu­clear pin­ball of par­ti­cles and en­er­gies to reach his rods. Color bars and line graphs crept across the screen, the vis­i­ble sat­is­fac­tions of pro­gram­ming. The solip­sis­tic ma­chine worlds. It was near to pornog­ra­phy, with­out nu­ance. Any half­bright no­tion could be sim­u­lat­ed, the sim­u­la­tion tweaked to an ap­prox­i­ma­tion of suc­cess, and the suc­cess con­jured as proof for more fund­ing. Tweak and squeak, as Highet put it. Re­al­iza­tion was a “ma­te­ri­als” prob­lem. Bend your backs, men, to prove this golden turd of an idea. [pg8]

The dis­play glitched and broke into the . Lines of filled the screen, void qelem, , atof(nptr). He ceased to see words or even let­ters, his eyes grasp­ing in­stead at the pix­els, the shards of light within the char­ac­ters. That ra­di­ance within the mean­est mote of be­ing.

What is light? Sur­faces boil with quan­tum fire. How comes this dumb swarm­ing to write beau­ty, alarm, or des­o­la­tion upon the soul? Eyes are the quest­ing front of the brain, the chan­nel to the heart. The eye may not, as thought, emit il­lu­mi­nat­ing rays, but our knowl­edge of its work­ing is no surer than his.

Mind’s eye and heart’s chan­nel pre­sented him now Kate’s rus­set hair, her full mouth and cheeks, her dim­pled chin, her dark eyes framed by wire glass­es. Like a key those fea­tures fit his heart. They ap­peared be­fore him like a truth of na­ture. Mostly he lived in the mun­dane, scarcely not­ing what or whom he passed, but at rare mo­ments the world came for­ward in all its vivid­ness, stun­ning his heart. Every time he saw Kate, there was that shock of pres­ence.

She was 23, he 37. They’d met in a yoga class. He had­n’t pur­sued at first. He was cou­pled with Nan, a quiet woman his own age who worked at the Lab. They lived apart but spent half their spare time to­geth­er. He was con­tent and not con­tent with what they had. But he and Kate talked, and they went out a few times. She seemed in­ter­ested in him. Her eyes met some­thing in his. Some hope had stirred in him, some need for joy so long put by he’d ceased to miss it. Thus fed his need grew, covert but unchecked. The years sep­a­rat­ing him from Kate, years he’d squan­dered in ever more es­o­teric projects at the Lab, seemed his to re­claim at will. Kate’s at­ten­tion fed in him some myth of start­ing over. He grew testy with Nan and im­pa­tient with him­self, seek­ing not a break be­tween them but be­tween them­selves and what he now acutely felt them be­com­ing, bur­dens and re­proofs to each oth­er. Nan waited him out. Her deep­en­ing dis­ap­point in him was un­spo­ken but heavy. His des­per­a­tion grew un­til he could con­tain it no longer and he lay it be­fore Kate, blurted it out, a bit­ter plea. Save me. Who would­n’t flee from that? She re­garded him kind­ly. Oh Philip, the mo­men­t’s passed. It just did­n’t hap­pen for us. There’s some­one else. That the mo­ment could pass. That he had let it. Had not seen it pass­ing. [pg9] Such a small thing, that at­ten­tion, that re­newed hope, briefly given and with­drawn, gone now.

The morn­ing too was gone to no end. Every fail­ure now he re­ferred back to that mo­ment, and he saw in his life only pat­terns of fail­ure and empti­ness.


Quine avoided that part of the build­ing where High­et’s young the­o­rists worked, X Sec­tion, or, as the older men called it, the Playpen. But to­day his cus­tom­ary exit was blocked by a tour group of weary adults and bored chil­dren in face­paint, their guide say­ing, – that ac­tu­ally re­pair hu­man cells, as he swerved past a sign WARNING TOUR IN PROGRESS NON-CLASSIFIED CONVERSATION ONLY to the swell of the in full clash with The and a rapid din of sim­u­lated com­bat fol­lowed by the ad­mir­ing ex­cla­ma­tion, –S­tudly! Big win! and laugh­ter fad­ing as he passed an open room in which three re­frig­er­a­tors stood flanked floor to ceil­ing by case upon case of so­da, and veered into a stair­well clat­ter­ing down metal steps to a metal door held open by a waste­bas­ket and silent de­spite EMERGENCY EXIT ALARM WILL SOUND and emerged onto a load­ing dock be­tween brown dump­sters NOT FOR DISPOSAL OF HAZARDOUS WASTE step­ping down onto a paved path then jump­ing back to dodge a white elec­tric cart DAIHATSU jounc­ing onto a de­bris of torn as­phalt and tread­marked dirt past chain­link CREDNE CONSTRUCTION and three blue PORT-O-LET stalls to van­ish be­hind three glossy cylin­dri­cal tanks COMPOSIT PLASTEEL CONTAINMENT DO NOT INSTALL WITHOUT READING PLASTEEL KIT B INSTRUCTIONS, on past tem­po­rary trail­ers hold­ing his mouth and nose against the metal­lic stench of bright green flux ooz­ing from an open pipe into gray earth, un­til he re­gained the main road and passed the check­point, show­ing his badge, to en­ter Build­ing 101, pass­ing through the lobby where vis­i­tors and em­ploy­ees were ed­i­fied by mod­els of bombs, lasers, satel­lites, , and pho­tos of the cel­e­brated No­belists who’d de­vised them, and on to the con­fer­ence room where all but Highet had al­ready ar­rived.

–He was one of the­se, shall I say, Marx­ist rad­i­cal types. His mother cut him out of the fam­ily mon­ey. Hel­lo, Philip. We’re wait­ing for Leo [pg10] as usu­al. So he’s in Prague now sell­ing lap­tops to the Czechs. Ah, the man him­self.

–Who’s this you’re talk­ing about, sounds like he’s fig­ured out that free mar­kets are diplo­macy by other means. Every­one, this is Jef Thor­pe, post­doc from the Uni­ver­sity of Utah, he’s here to look us over. Jef worked with , and I just want to say don’t be­lieve the con­ven­tional wis­dom, some­thing is hap­pen­ing there13. Jef, this is Den­nis Ki­hara, our new press offi­cer, he takes the heat for my ex­cess­es. Bernd Di­etz, ma­te­ri­als and re­search. Frank Sz­abo, sys­tems in­te­gra­tion. Phil Quine, our x-ray fo­cus­ing gu­ru, Philip, Je­f’s done in­ter­est­ing work in your area, you should sit down with him. Okay, all pre­sent? Let’s do it.

Highet seated the young man op­po­site Quine. Jeans, jacket over t-shirt, short black hair, high col­or, a small gold stud through his left nos­tril, his pres­ence a breach of pro­to­col and prob­a­bly se­cu­ri­ty, though the oth­ers knew bet­ter than to say so.

–You all see the news last night? About the protest? The good news is we won. First they showed the pro­test­ers, out on the street, wind noise, bad light­ing, and then our re­but­tal from our re­spectable office. We won be­cause we got to go last, and they put us last be­cause we pro­vided clo­sure. That’s the model for our pre­sen­ta­tion: be­gin­ning, mid­dle, end. We’ll be­gin by show­ing footage of suc­cess­ful tests. The mid­dle will be video sim­u­la­tions of the sys­tem, where we’ll high­light po­ten­tial prob­lems. By defin­ing the prob­lems we con­trol the ques­tions. And we’ll end by ad­dress­ing the prob­lems and in­tro­duc­ing en­tirely new ap­proaches and spin-off pro­grams. Den­nis is run­ning things, but I may break in at any point.

–Leo, can we skip the last part, the sci­ence fic­tion?

–No, Bernd. Past, pre­sent, fu­ture. Clo­sure. With­out this you leave peo­ple ready to ask ques­tions.

–We’re avoid­ing ques­tions?

–Not if they’re in­tel­li­gent and in­formed but we have a few crit­ics and wise guys on this panel and I’d like to keep it sim­ple.

–Leo, I have more re­spect than you for the in­tel­li­gence of sen­a­tors. Con­gress­men are not al­ways so bright but

–Bernd, it’s sim­ple cour­tesy. We in­form them at a level that’s nei­ther [pg11] con­de­scend­ing nor tech­ni­cal, we tell them their money is be­ing well spent, show them how, say thanks so much.

–Sales­man­ship.

–Grow up, Bernd, a cou­ple times a year I ask you to do this. Is the money well spent? Yes or no.

–Yes, yes.

–I’d ah, feel bet­ter if we could dis­cuss the mid­dle part in ah de­tail, there are just some ques­tions that I’m not com­fort­able to ad­dress with­out ah, just a lit­tle more in­put. For ex­am­ple the fo­cus­ing data…

–Den­nis, only Slater has ques­tioned that data, and he’s gone. Dis­cred­it­ed. Fo­cus is now Philip’s ba­by.

–So, ah, fo­cus is our main prob­lem?

–Yes, it’s one, said Quine. –Fo­cus, bright­ness…

–But we’re within an or­der of mag­ni­tude?

–I don’t see any quan­ti­ta­tive agree­ment with the­o­ry, said Quine. –The tests have shown a few bright spots. That’s all I’m will­ing to com­mit to.

–That’s all you’ve com­mit­ted to for what is it ten months now Philip?

–I don’t see any fun­da­men­tals. I’m be­gin­ning to won­der.

–Are you pulling a Slater on me, Philip? Be­cause I want to tell you some­thing, all of you. Some peo­ple in the lower ech­e­lons are mak­ing Slater out to be some kind of hero. To m this man was a men­ace to every one of us be­cause he did­n’t care about win­ning. He did­n’t know what he wanted out of life and would­n’t have been able to get it if he had known. I have no re­spect for par­a­sites like that.

–Leo, Null had a bril­liant no­tion and we should pur­sue it, but that’s all it is so far, a no­tion. We

–No one’s ques­tioned Nul­l’s the­o­ry, no one, not even crit­ics.

–Sure but it’s a long way from there to even a pro­to­type

–We have sup­port­ing test data

–which may or may not mean qual­i­ta­tive agree­ment may or may not, but never quan­ti­ta­tive, we have no un­der­stan

–well you’re the one with the mod­els Philip lo these many

–and you’re the one who said this was a long term pro­ject, your words, long term, and now sud­denly [pg12]

–oh sure, and if we all had seven lives

–now that there’s a lit­tle pres­sure it’s

–what I’m hear­ing

–it’s sud­denly ur­gent

–what I’m hear­ing from you Philip is that we need more shots. Con­vey that ne­ces­sity to our guests when they’re here, think you can do that? And put a lit­tle ur­gency into it?

–I won’t pre­tend we have fo­cus when

–Y­ou’re not go­ing to give me an inch are you?

–Not on the ba­sis of spotty data I can’t in­ter­pret.

–I tell you what. There’s an eighty kilo­ton shot [bomb test] com­ing up next Sat­ur­day, right, Bernd? Pig­gy­back it, Philip. Get your­self some bet­ter da­ta.

–In what, a week? De­sign and fab­ri­cate ap­pa­ra­tus in a week?

–Nine days. Jef can help you if he sticks around.

–Now hold on…

–Get off the pot. Let’s move to Frank’s con­tri­bu­tion. You’ve all read it?

–Leo…

–We’re mov­ing on.

There was a brief si­lence in which pa­pers rus­tled.

–Noth­ing new here, said Di­etz.

–That’s its strength. We’ve taken heat on pre­pro­duc­tion tech­nolo­gies. This is a sim­ple, vi­able off-the-shelf op­tion. It’s an easy sell. Con­trac­tors are lin­ing up.

–It’s good show-and-tell, said Sz­abo. –We can point to a card cage, this is the guid­ance sys­tem a year ago, then hold up a wafer, here it is to­day. Tan­gi­ble progress.

Di­etz con­tin­ued to study the pa­per. –These are 14 in a smaller pack­age.

–That’s right.

–These were shelved over ten years ago as an vi­o­la­tion.

–That toi­let pa­per? Let that worry us we might as well give up.

–These are not by any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion di­rected en­ergy weapons. You want to put, what does it say, five thou­sand of these in or­bit… [pg13]

–We’re pur­su­ing many op­tions, Bernd. These would be one layer of a shield. Look, it’s a long way to de­ploy­ment. Oh and we get some­thing else to­tally for free with Frank’s idea. Al­ways think dual use. Put a war­head on these guys they’re , aim them down­ward get a thou­sand g im­pact, three k p s ter­mi­nal ve­loc­i­ty, earth­-cou­pled shock waves to de­stroy hard­ened shel­ters. We have a friend in the Pen­ta­gon who’s hard for that and the Belt­way boys know it.

–Wait just wait you mean, this, these ah in­ter­cep­tors are for the pre­sen­ta­tion? But it’s, we need to ad­dress the ex­ist­ing prob­lems, that’s what they’re com­ing for, we can’t feed them some­thing to­tally new! And with this Slater thing

–Den­nis, trust me, it’s the best pos­si­ble thing to do. As far as Slater goes, he’s his­to­ry, a blip, not even an in­ci­dent. This visit was sched­uled long be­fore his snit. Sure we’ll get closer scrutiny than we would in the av­er­age dog-and-pony but it’s an op­por­tu­ni­ty. Re­mem­ber NORAD’s fa­mous ? They got a bil­lion-dol­lar facelift out of those in­ci­dents. You up to speed now?

–Well yes, I mean no, not on the in­ter­cep­tors but…

–Put Frank’s pa­per in the kit, I’ll step in dur­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion. Oh, and make sure every­one gets a sou­venir.

–A, I’m sor­ry?

–A sou­venir. What are you giv­ing the kids for fam­ily day to­day?

–Ah, some laser-etched alu­minum disks…

–Good. Run off half a dozen make it a dozen more etched with the Ra­di­ance lo­go, can you do that? And glossies of the new artist’s ren­der­ings.

Highet was out the door be­fore any­one else had left their seat. Thor­pe, aban­doned, stood but did not move quickly enough to fol­low the older man out. As the seated men stud­ied him in­cu­ri­ously he blushed and ex­it­ed.

The oth­ers then rose. Sz­abo went out singing un­der his breath, –It’s a long way, to de­ploy­ment, it’s a long way, I know. In the mean­time, we have em­ploy­ment, it’s the stick that makes us go…15

At the door­way Di­etz said to Quine, –It is out­ra­geous that he should bring a boy into that meet­ing and crit­i­cize you this way. Easy for him to make promis­es, but when the promises are not so easy to [pg14] de­liver we suffer for them.

–I don’t think the boy knew what he was get­ting in­to.

–Tell me what you want added to this test as soon as pos­si­ble. He has put our asses on the line, both of us.

–I’ll send you e-mail.

–Sou­venirs! He gives sen­a­tors sou­venirs.


Quine had come to the Lab at ’s in­vi­ta­tion, Réti the leg­end, in­ti­mate of Ein­stein, Heisen­berg, Schrödinger, founder of the Lab. Im­pos­si­ble to refuse. Réti had for one se­mes­ter graced Quine’s uni­ver­sity with his pres­ence, where he’d sat on Quine’s doc­toral com­mit­tee. Quine must have made an im­pres­sion, for two years later Réti called him. I hear you are work­ing hard on some good ideas. How would you like un­lim­ited re­sources for this work?16 Come for the sum­mer, work on what you will.

Quine and Sorokin, a fel­low post­doc, had iso­lated the emis­sion of a sin­gle pho­ton from a cal­cium source in or­der to de­ter­mine whether a lone quan­tum dis­played . For two long years they had re­fined their ap­proach, par­ing it to es­sen­tials, de­sign­ing an ex­per­i­ment they might hope to re­al­ize with the school’s mea­ger re­sources. El­e­gance born of need. A slow and painful progress. At the Lab, in one month Quine was able to de­sign and build a de­tec­tor acute enough, and the ex­per­i­ment came off on the first try. Both tun­nel­ing and an­ti­co­in­ci­dence were ev­i­dent. They had touched the cen­tral mys­tery. Even a sin­gle pho­ton is both par­ti­cle and wave.

Quine stayed. After that it was never a ques­tion. Not till much later did he guess that he’d been played. That Réti had his rea­son for wait­ing two years be­fore ap­proach­ing him. That by then his work was ripe for pluck­ing, and the Lab’s re­sources had lit­tle to do with its fruition apart from giv­ing them the juice of it.

At the Lab his pa­per brought him a celebrity near to grace. Un­lim­ited time to think. No as­signed du­ties. And the mys­ter­ies ceased to open to him. Idle, he took up one of High­et’s end­less sug­ges­tions, the op­tics of x-ray mir­rors. He wel­comed the work, as though it paid some tithe of the mind to the prac­ti­cal. And it was a chal­lenge, but fi­nally it was, as the pi­o­neers had with ex­act irony called their first bomb, a [pg15] “”. Any so­lu­tion, even if it laid bare prin­ci­ples, was be­side the point if it could­n’t kill mis­siles. So his mir­rors never passed a de­sign re­view. He wrote some com­puter codes for mod­el­ing the mir­rors, and those turned out to have some pe­riph­eral ap­pli­ca­tion in . The weapons work which he knew to be cen­tral to the Lab still seemed dis­tant from him. Then Ra­di­ance geared up, and his mod­el­ing soft­ware proved flex­i­ble enough to ac­com­mo­date the next idea: the bombpumped Su­per­bright. Op­por­tunis­tic as a virus, the Lab took it up. Now he was pres­sured. Now he was in a com­pet­i­tive at­mos­phere where the pos­si­bil­ity of fail­ure, of weak­ness, of doubt, could not be voiced even to one­self lest it un­der­mine the re­solve needed to get through each day. All the projects here were diffi­cult, at the edge of the pos­si­ble, and all the sci­en­tists worked at their lim­its and at the lim­its of their sci­ence. You could work on a prob­lem for months only to have your work de­mol­ished in min­utes in a re­view by your peers, your com­peti­tors, your col­leagues. That was what re­views were for: to show up fa­tal flaws be­fore they be­came ex­pen­sively en­trenched in a de­sign. So ideas were ham­mered with­out mer­cy. It was and it was­n’t per­son­al. If the idea was good, it was yours but some­how be­yond you, and if it was bad the at­tack was on it, not on you. Quine saw men in tears even as they went on ar­gu­ing and, after it was over, thank their as­sailants17.

Through­out this he kept silent faith with the mys­ter­ies. He would re­turn to them when the pres­sures of the mo­ment were past. Pro­gram­ming took only the sur­face of his mind; its essence he held in re­serve, or so he thought. Quine came at last to un­der­stand that he did well at his as­signed tasks pre­cisely be­cause he brought them his all. Noth­ing was left over.


When he left the build­ing the sun was low. The air was thick with heat, and as he started the car the ra­dio blurted –record temp, be­fore he si­lenced it.

Through the gate traffic slowed. Demon­stra­tors in cos­tume pa­raded in the road. Quine edged for­ward through skele­tons and spooks with signs and props, TECHNOLOGIES OF DEATH, a lon­grobed man­tisheaded fig­ure tow­er­ing on stilts above the crowd, tam­bourines jan­gling, EL DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS, and lab se­cu­rity herd­ing the [pg16] crowd off the road. As he cleared the crowd a klaxon blared. The man­tis swayed, tug­ging at robes snagged on the perime­ter ra­zor­wire as the en­trance gates slid shut, alarm lights strob­ing. On the in­ner perime­ter road se­cu­rity ve­hi­cles ap­peared, rac­ing to­ward the en­try kiosk. Then he saw stand­ing by his pas­sen­ger win­dow the woman who re­sem­bled Kate. She wore black span­dex bi­cy­cle pants and a blue shirt. She was star­ing at the gate. Quine hes­i­tat­ed, then rolled down the win­dow.

–You want a ride out of here? They’re go­ing to start ar­rest­ing peo­ple.

She looked at him, then back at the gate. On the main road Quine saw a flurry of ap­proach­ing lights. City po­lice.

–I can’t wait.

Whoops blasts squeals cut the crowd noise. She saw the ve­hi­cles ap­proach­ing and with some­thing like an­noy­ance got into Quine’s car. Quine sped away shut­ting his win­dow against the shriek of the pass­ing ve­hi­cles.

–I’m Philip Quine.

–Lynn Ham­lin. Did you see what hap­pened?

When he looked at her all re­sem­blance fell away. Same body type, same round fea­tures, but hair al­most black with a rus­set tinge, cropped close to the neck. No glass­es. Dark pen­e­trat­ing eyes. Tanned calves faintly downed, lithe as a huntress’s. No key turned in his heart, just an echo of loss.

–The one on stilts, his cos­tume caught on the fence. It must have set off the alarm.

–Were you there for the de­mo?

–No. I work there.

His ID was still clipped to his jack­et. She’d been look­ing at it, and now she smiled, as if to con­fide her lit­tle sub­terfuge.

–What do you work on?

He turned onto a road par­al­lel to the free­way, where earth­movers were parked in torn up lots be­hind em­po­ria of sport­ing goods, fast food, auto parts, video­tapes, com­put­ers, dis­count car­pets. Sun flashed through the struts of a half fin­ished re­tain­ing wall.

–De­fense weapons. [pg17]

–You mean Ra­di­ance. Do you be­lieve in it?

And those in the an­te­rooms of Hell de­mur, say­ing, I do not ap­prove what goes on in­side.

–It’s what I do.

–Do you know what Ein­stein said? That you can’t si­mul­ta­ne­ously pre­pare for war and pre­vent it?

–Where can I drop you?

–Corner of Mari­posa.

As they passed over the free­way, the sun struck their shadow out to­ward the golden east­ern hills. He sensed her still look­ing at him, then she faced ahead.

–I like this time of day, she said. –The light.

–I don’t, said Quine. –It makes me think of end­ings.

She said noth­ing to that. As the car de­scended into the shadow of the over­pass Quine said, –We did­n’t hear about the protest. The or­ga­niz­ers usu­ally let us know.

–Maybe they’re tired of play­ing your game.

–It’s not my game. A green sign with white let­ters Mari­posa hung over the in­ter­sec­tion. Quine pulled to the curb by a bus stop bench plac­arded FAST DIVORCE BANKRUPTCY. She turned to him with sud­den ve­he­mence.

–These demon­stra­tions won’t stop, you know. You don’t know how an­gry peo­ple are… Her voice held some doubt, whether for the anger or his be­lief in it, he could­n’t tell.

–Then I’ll prob­a­bly see you again out there, he said.

–Tell me, what’s the point, I mean, is­n’t it ob­vi­ously a waste now that the cold war

–Look, and hear­ing the an­noy­ance in his voice he stanched it, –I don’t make pol­i­cy…

–Well, that’s part of the prob­lem, is­n’t it. Peo­ple not tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for what they do.

Pricked, he turned to her just as a bus pulled to the curb, the squeal of its brakes pre­empt­ing what­ever he might have meant to say. Some hurt might have re­mained in his eyes. She seemed abashed and held his gaze for a mo­ment longer be­fore reach­ing to un­buckle her seat­belt.

–Lis­ten… would you have lunch with me some­time? [pg18]

She looked at him in sur­prise. –Lunch? Why?

–I’d just like to talk more.

–Do we have any­thing to say to each oth­er?

–We could find out. His pulse thick­ened in his throat.

–But you’re the en­e­my, she said.

–Me…? He caught, un­der her se­ri­ous dark brow, a glimpse of mis­chief, though she did­n’t smile.

–Thanks for the ride.

She was out the door be­fore he felt the protest of his heart. So even now he had not re­lin­quished hope.


When he got home Nan’s car was in his park­ing space. Most Tues­day nights she spent with Quine. He went to her place Fri­day nights and some week­ends. But he’d worked late Tues­day, so they’d shifted it to tonight. He’d for­got­ten.

–Lo, she called, –In the kitchen. I picked up some tortellini at Il For­naio and a sal­ad, is that okay?

–Fine. As he en­tered she turned with a wary smile. The sight of her brought him a roil of gid­di­ness, of mem­o­ry, of guilt, of sad­ness. Her fea­tures were sharp and fine, her skin pale, her straight auburn hair just start­ing to show gray, her slight body al­ways dressed with a style that in its im­pec­ca­bil­ity read as a brave front.

–Bread’s in the oven, can you get that?

He looked for an oven mitt while she talked about her day, some se­nior­ity con­flict in the per­son­nel de­part­ment. Quine’s pa­tience wore. When, set­ting the plates down, she bent to kiss his neck, he flinched.

–What’s wrong?

–Noth­ing. It’s just High­et’s go­ing mad again. A Con­gres­sional vis­it’s com­ing up, it should be rou­tine, but he acts like the whole pro­gram’s at stake.

–Is it?

–First he drops Nul­l’s work in my lap, then to­day he starts pimp­ing some lu­natic idea of Sz­abo’s, and he as­signs me a post­doc like, like a chap­er­one… and the pro­test­ers.

–What about them?

–They’re get­ting on my nerves. [pg19]

They ate in si­lence for a few min­utes. At last he said, –What would you think if I quit?

–Quit? Your job?

–Yes.

–But Philip, what would you do?

–Well, I don’t know. I could take some time off to think about it.

–Time off? I thought that we were try­ing to save mon­ey…

–Save…?

–Philip, I’m not try­ing to pres­sure you, but I thought we agreed that it makes sense to look for a place to­geth­er…

–I told you, Nan, I can’t think about that while this project is on, I can’t make big plans like that un­til this whole thing is, is set­tled.

–Well, could­n’t we start look­ing just to see what’s avail­able, just go to a few open hous­es…?

–If you want. But I don’t see the point if we can’t afford it yet.

–The point is to plan for a fu­ture, Philip. Haven’t you made any pro­gress?

–Pro­gress, I feel like I’m chas­ing my tail, there’s no progress to be made!

–Please don’t snap at me.

–I, I can’t even dis­cuss it with you, you don’t have the clear­ance.

She stood and car­ried dishes into the kitchen. He got up to fol­low.

–Nan… He came up be­hind her and em­braced her. Her hands rested on his fore­arms.

–What about Sun­day?

–Sun­day?

–We’re see­ing Ginny and Bill, re­mem­ber? If you came early we could

–Sun­day. Look, I have a dead­line. I can’t. I’m sorry but I just can’t.

–Y­ou’re work­ing? But if you’re not get­ting any­where…

–Well but that’s the whole prob­lem is­n’t it! Mean­time there are still short­-term goals and meet­ings.

She sighed and left the kitchen. In the liv­ing room the tele­vi­sion came on. When after a mo­ment he en­tered the room he heard her in the bed­room speak­ing on the tele­phone. Re­mote con­trol in hand he viewed a cool panop­tic tum­ble of war famine cat­a­stro­phe enor­mity [pg20] larded with a fan­tas­tic plenty of goods ca­ressed by smil­ing tanned mod­els, to pause on the lo­go­type of Mar­tin Ma­ri­et­ta, –a proud sup­porter for twen­ty-five years of sci­ence pro­gram­ming on pub­lic tele­vi­sion, his im­pulse to switch again frozen by the worn, im­pos­ing face of Aron Réti, say­ing thick­ly, –In sci­ence there is a cult of the beau­ti­ful the­o­ry. But how beau­ti­ful is re­al­i­ty? These beau­ti­ful the­o­ries, these el­e­gant math­e­mat­ics are not ver­i­fied by ex­per­i­ment. Ex­per­i­ment shows us a mess of a uni­verse with over a hun­dred ba­sic par­ti­cles and three ir­rec­on­cil­able forces. We would like to unify them all, just as we would like to smooth over all the po­lit­i­cal differ­ences in the world. But ex­pe­ri­ence shows, in physics and in pol­i­tics, that this is not al­ways pos­si­ble.

Abruptly the screen glared with the in­vo­lute ra­di­ance of the bomb. Sun’s heart. Cos­mic ground. and cou­pling. A thin roar is­sued from the set and the thick voice rode over it, –The duty of sci­ence is to pur­sue knowl­edge even if it leads to the un­beau­ti­ful. Or to evil. How else learn about evil?

Nan re­turned to sit be­side him. –Is­n’t that Réti?

The cam­era re­turned to the physi­cist. Emer­i­tus di­rec­tor, Réti was rarely at the Lab; the office he kept there served him solely as a clu­b­room or a back­drop. Six months ago a film crew had come to the Lab. Quine had heard Réti shout­ing at them be­hind the closed door.

–Watch, this is what Highet calls the lib­eral bias of the me­dia, said Quine as the cam­era went to the in­ter­view­er.

–After the war, many of your col­leagues turned away from weapons. Some of them have won No­bel Prizes. Do you feel that your work with weapons has cost you ? Has it com­pro­mised you as a sci­en­tist?

–N­ev­er. In fact it has chal­lenged and im­proved me as a sci­en­tist.

–Y­ou’re closely con­nected to Ra­di­ance. What about re­cent charges that test re­sults have been faked?

–This is a lie! First, I am not closely con­nect­ed…

–But you’ve lob­bied ex­ten­sively for Ra­di­ance in Wash

–I am no lob­by­ist! I am a pri­vate cit­i­zen with some sci­en­tific ex­per­tise, and when I am asked to tes­tify about tech­ni­cal mat­ters I do so… [pg21]

–But for over forty years you’ve been an ad­vo­cate of nu­clear weapons. Your au­thor­ity and in­flu­ence are well known.

–Now you lis­ten to me. It is an im­per­fect world, a dan­ger­ous world. There is evil in the world. How do you meet it? All ends, even the best, are reached by im­pure means. Rea­son is sup­posed to be the hall­mark of sci­ence, but I tell you that no one is swayed by rea­son. A the­o­ry, an idea, does not make its own way. It was Ein­stein who said merit alone is very lit­tle good; it must be backed by tact and knowl­edge of the world. I know of many cases where maybe the data does not quite agree with your the­o­ry, no, you think, the carpers will ques­tion, your case is far clearer if you dis­card this set of data, if you re­port only these re­sults. And who are these frauds? Ptolemy18. Galileo19. New­ton20. . . .21 What mat­ters in the long run is not some wish­ful dream of scru­ples, but whether you have dri­ven your knowl­edge home!

Be­hind the fury in Réti’s eyes Quine saw a bright and open wound: more il­lus­tri­ous for his in­flu­ence than his work, he had failed at every­thing but suc­cess. And Quine’s own life, he sud­denly saw, was bent around Réti’s in­flu­ence. A man has no wealth nor power but his knowl­edge, Réti had once said to Quine. But now he said that if power did not lead, knowl­edge could not fol­low. Quine stood, ig­nor­ing –Philip? what is it? and went to the bath­room. He held the sides of the sink, heart rac­ing. In the cab­i­net he found the pill bot­tle.

The spirit is ra­di­ant, yet there are two prin­ci­ples of ra­di­ance: that of light, and that of fire. Fire comes to the use of those who go not the way of light. And the differ­ence is, that fire must con­sume its ob­ject.22

Quine re­turned to Réti’s an­gry voice, –So I have no No­bel Prize, that ac­co­lade of the pure. But would un­der­stand me well. And his­tory will be my judge, not you.

–What is it, Philip? What’s the mat­ter?

Quine turned to Nan, her face in the phos­phor light bleak as a rock out­crop. He reached to touch her neck. Un­smil­ing she leaned her head against his hand. His fin­gers cupped her nape and he drew her mouth to his.

In the bed­room they un­dressed on op­po­site sides of the bed. The tele­vi­sion droned on. Be­tween her legs he felt the string of a tam­pon, [pg22] and as he touched it she bent dou­ble and en­closed him in her mouth. Above the ac­tiv­ity of their bod­ies his spirit hov­ered sadly re­gard­ing the ter­rain of his life. Lightly his hands cra­dled her head. He be­gan to pump se­men. Deep in­side him a talon drove home and brought forth, im­paled, his soul, writhing. A minute later he was awash in sleep. Wait­ing at a counter to pick up xe­rox­es. Quick tap at his shoul­der. Kate. She smiled, her eyes upon him, and he knew it was a dream, and he was hap­py, and he slept. [pg23]

Two

The morn­ing sky, pal­lid with haze, con­veyed yet enough sun to cast through the high em­bra­sure of his office win­dow a faint rhom­bus which crept to­ward the door­way re­lent­less as a horo­logue. From his desk Quine gazed at it half hear­ing the ra­dio, –ild­fires in three coun­ties, when his phone rang.

–Quine.

–Is this Philip?

–Yes, who’s this.

–Lynn. From the demo yes­ter­day?

–Oh. Oh yes. How did you… He stood and paced with the phone. –How did you get my num­ber?

–I called the switch­board. I want to apol­o­gize. I be­haved bad­ly. Are you free for coffee?

–Well I… not this morn­ing.

–Later this after­noon?

–Well I…

–Don’t let me pres­sure you.

–No I, I want to. It’s just a sur­prise.

–I get off work at four. Do you know the Café De­sa­pare­ci­dos [the miss­ing]? In the cen­tral mall. I work near there.

–Sure I, okay, I’ll see you there about four.

As he hung up Jef Thorpe knocked on his open door. Black jack­et, blue shirt, jeans. A faint pock where yes­ter­day the nose stud had been.

–Come in. [pg24]

–I guess we’ll be work­ing to­geth­er.

–Oh, you’re stay­ing.

–If you’ll have me. Lis­ten, that meet­ing yes­ter­day, I did­n’t be­long there, I’m sorry if…

–Not your fault. Doc­tor Highet has his way of do­ing things.

–Yeah, I see that. Lis­ten, be­fore we started I want to tell you, the sin­gle-pho­ton ex­per­i­ment you did with Sorokin was re­ally el­e­gant. I was, you know, sort of sur­prised to find you here, I thought you’d be some­where more the­o­ret­i­cal.

–I thought every­one had for­got­ten that ex­per­i­ment by now.

–Oh no. It was very sweet work.

–The de­tec­tor was crit­i­cal. We worked on it for two years. We got it only after I came here.

–You did­n’t fol­low it up.

–Sorokin thought I was wrong to come here. He said it would be a black hole. He may have been right. Of course things look differ­ent from in­side.

–Black hole, yeah, I’ve thought of that. But you know where I come from. That lim­its my op­tions in the straight aca­d­e­mic world.

–You don’t have qualms about de­fense work?

–It’s not what I’m here for.

–It’s just, you might want to con­sider your po­si­tion. I came in neu­tral about de­fense work, but be­fore long I was in the thick of it. It’s easy to slip in­to.

–I’m sort of apo­lit­i­cal.

–Well, if that’s what you want, turn­ing to the com­puter which glowed with:

Date: Fri 1 Nov 09:05
From: Leo Highet
To: Philip Quine
Subject: Up­com­ing J Sec­tion Tests

11/4 23:00 PDT, Build­ing 328, Co­de­name “Ste­larc”, ground-based , R. Gros­seteste23, sup.

11/9 18:00 PDT, Site 600, Co­de­name “”, 80 kilo­ton, B. Di­etz & P. Quine, sup.

“Me­chan­ics are the Par­adise of math­e­mat­i­cal sci­ence, be­cause here we [pg25] come to the fruits of math­e­mat­ics.” LdV24

–Looks like we’re re­al, said Thor­pe.

–Y­ou’re lucky. It was years be­fore I was as­so­ci­ated with a shot.

–Is that luck?

–It’s a bit of a pres­tige. A merit badge25.

Quine cleared the screen and brought up the Su­per­bright test da­ta.

–You see. In­tense bright­ness here, and here. Very er­ratic pat­tern.

–This data is picked up how?

–When the bomb ig­nites, ra­di­a­tion from the rods bounces off some re­flec­tors to

–X-ray mir­rors?

–Yes, some­thing like that. They’re . The data agrees with the­ory to a point, but when we in­crease pow­er, we don’t get an in­crease in beam, in fact we get less. We’ve talked about try­ing differ­ent met­als in the rods, we’ve used gold till now, but mer­cury…

–Yeah, el­e­ments sev­en­ty-two through nine­ty-five would be good to try but with the, you know, time con­straints, I checked and Fab­ri­ca­tion has gold rods ready to go, so maybe those are a good choice and you can, or I mean we can sort of con­cen­trate on sen­sor con­fig­u­ra­tion…

–Sounds rea­son­able.

Thorpe con­tin­ued to stare at the screen. –Could this be an ? This pat­tern I mean, could those re­flec­tors be pick­ing up a sort of im­per­fect fo­cus, you know, the edge of a ring? If we move them in…

–I’ve tried, no luck.

–Can I look at your fo­cus­ing code?

–Yes, sure, all the files are in this di­rec­to­ry.

–That’s great. Mind if I work here? point­ing to Nul­l’s desk.

–Ah, sure. Sure, go ahead. I’m go­ing for lunch and maybe a swim.26 I’ll see you lat­er.

We read of the beaver that when it is pur­sued, know­ing that it is for the med­i­c­i­nal virtue of its tes­ti­cles and not be­ing able to es­cape, it stops; and it bites off its tes­ti­cles with its sharp teeth and leaves them to its en­e­mies.27


Gaunt, sat­urnine, Bran Nolan in a cor­ner of the cafe­te­ria looked up un­smil­ing from scat­tered pa­pers to raise a hand in greet­ing. [pg26]

–How’s our new boyo Ki­hara?

–W­eren’t you in line for that po­si­tion?

–It’s my Touret­te’s syn­drome. Ter­ri­ble li­a­bil­ity in a press offi­cer, never know what he might blurt out in pub­lic.

–You should have been asked.

–Do you know, I’m hap­pier, if that’s the word I want, where I am. Ki­hara is a lit­tle lamb. The last man, Ves­sell, did­n’t out­last Slater. And we’re not done with all that, no in­deed.

–Get­ting some work done? Quine in­di­cated the pa­pers.

–“The Lab has a long­stand­ing com­mit­ment to de­vel­op­ing new meth­ods and tech­nolo­gies to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment”, the most effec­tive of which to date has been the press re­lease. Do you know we have a tox­ics mit­i­ga­tion pro­gram now? Seems there’s a toxic plume seep­ing into the ground­wa­ter un­der a vine­yard off the north bound­ary. Vines died, soil went gray, the whole field stinks like sep­sis. I’m writ­ing an up­beat re­port about it. And your­self? How’s the death ray com­ing?

–We can maim small in­sects at a me­ter. The new con­cept is in­ter­cep­tors. Small fly­ing rocks.

–Do you know, da Vinci in­vented 28. He’d have been right at home here with all these ad­vanced minds.

–Yes, that’s High­et’s con­ceit.

–Throw­ing rocks at things. We should be proud, think­ing about these old im­pulses in such an ad­vanced way.

A plump fig­ure came for­ward shak­ing a sheaf of pa­pers, from which Nolan re­coiled. –Bran, Bran, Bran. What must I do to get you to use a font other than ?

–Hello Bob, how’s the gout? I don’t like this busi­ness of tart­ing up man­u­scripts. You get en­chanted by the beauty of it all. You start to think you’re writ­ing the .

–A few at­trac­tive fonts, taste­fully ap­plied, can spice up a pre­sen­ta­tion. A lit­tle hu­man­i­tas, you know. Why else, Bran, did we get you that pow­er­ful and costly ?

–I don’t know, Bob, why did you? I was still fig­ur­ing out the .

The sheaf of pa­pers fell fan­ning from their clip onto the table. [pg27]

Shak­ing his head and chuck­ling grim­ly, Bob passed on to an­other table.

–Hu­man­i­tas, yes, that’s what we need here, is­n’t it, Highet with his Re­nais­sance, and there, need a few more par­ti­cle men who’ve read the 29, cou­ple more man­agers who’ve stud­ied , lend these bi­nary views a lit­tle tone, dress up the win­ners and losers, the Elect and the Preterite30, the screw­ers and the screwed. Each man in his sta­tion, and keep your dis­tance from the low life, can’t have just any­one win­ning, be­cause if you ever let the rab­ble ahead, if they can rise, you can surely fall.

Nolan folded back pages, –lis­ten to this bit, “the sup­port of this tight-knit com­mu­nity”, sup­port is it now? I’d have said the goad­ing, the am­bi­tion, the Schaden­freude, that’s what gets the work done. The wife walked out six months ago with the kid, you’re eat­ing Camp­bel­l’s soup cold out of the can, you haven’t got a clean shirt, but after a few months of eigh­teen hour days you’ve got data that every­one wants to see. You win big.

–Bran, you work here, too.

–What should I do then, write nov­els? Or maybe jour­nal­ism, that’s it, in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism. Have you met the jour­nal­ist from Cam­bridge? Right over there with his tape recorder, name’s . He’s re­search­ing the be­lief sys­tems of those who work on weapons of mass de­struc­tion31, I think that was his phrase. Quite the charmer. He’s pub­lished one book on sci­en­tific fraud, and a pa­per highly crit­i­cal of what he calls the de­fense es­tab­lish­ment. You prob­a­bly don’t watch TV but there was a pro­gram on PBS last night, Stera­dian was in it abus­ing Réti.

–Does Highet know he’s here?

–Highet in­vited him.32

Quine headed for the door, pass­ing as he did Ar­mand Stera­di­an, who held a small mi­cro­phone be­fore a J Sec­tion tech­ni­cian, –y­ou’re so goldang busy every day you just put off think­ing about it, though in Quine’s view pres­sure was a tool well used to put off think­ing.


Black cot­ton­woods around the pool throve de­spite the drought. Their catkins lit­tered the wa­ter. A jet moved on the sky, stitch­ing a con­trail [pg28] across a lace of cloud where a white sun strug­gled. Quine sat on a towel on the grassy verge and watched a portly swim­suited man en­ter through the gate, bar­rel chest glossed with hair, and be­hind him a woman in a white hal­ter top and shorts, the heads of three men turn­ing to fol­low. The pool was crowded this Fri­day after­noon; it was warm, it was the end of the work­week, it was fam­ily day; un­like Quine, most worked a five day week, most would de­part hence into a for­get­ful­ness. In the shal­lows of the pool two young girls splashed. One opened her mouth to show her com­pan­ion a bright penny on her out­stretched tongue. A young mother in a black mail­lot gripped a lad­der to raise her­self half from the pool and wave at her in­fant in a nearby stroller, glis­ten and shadow in the cords of her back, and Quine suffered a pang for a life now be­yond his know­ing: to be wed, with child, so young. On ther­mals a black and white winged vul­ture, , rocked and banked. From the jet thun­der fell like muffled blows. The warmth and the sound of wa­ter churned by swim­mers and the spray tossed up by their pass­ing lulled Quine into a lethargy from which he woke with a start to con­sult his watch. On the pool’s floor danced cusps of light.


The café’s walls rose past ex­posed beams and ducts to the nacre of frosted sky­lights. Lynn sat in a wire­backed chair at a glass table, face down­cast at pa­pers be­fore her. In the mo­ment be­fore she looked up, Kate’s face glowed be­fore him. What do you do, Philip?

–Hoy es el , Lynn said in greet­ing, ban­ish­ing Kate’s im­age. An­gu­lar­i­ties all her own moved in her flesh; a small gap showed be­tween her teeth as she smiled.

Quine seated him­self and said grave­ly, –I should tell you I’m in­volved with some­one.

–Gee, I said I wanted to apol­o­gize, not start an affair.

–I, sorry I…

–And maybe pick your brain about Ra­di­ance.

–I’m sor­ry, I, what did you say be­fore? El día…

–To­day is the Day of the Dead. All Sain­t’s Day. All of Cal­i­for­nia used to be Mex­i­co, you know, they called it . Once my group shuts the Lab down, we’re go­ing to re­claim Azt­lan for the na­tive peo­ples [pg29]. Oh, don’t look that way, I’m jok­ing, that’s the kind of thing the far right says about us.

–Y­our group?

–C­i­t­i­zens Against Nu­clear Tech­nol­ogy33. I’m a para­le­gal with them.

–What’s that you’re read­ing?

–Y­our press re­leas­es. She held a sheaf set in un­adorned Courier font. –You peo­ple have fin­gers in a lot of pies. When I started my con­cern was the bombs, but that’s just the tip of the ice­berg, is­n’t it. There’s also the su­per­com­put­ers, the lasers, the ge­net­ics, the chem­i­cals…

–You prob­a­bly know more about it than I do.

–Y­our cover sto­ries are so cre­ative. Every one of. Oh, go ahead, or­der, she’s wait­ing.

–Cap­puc­ci­no. What do you mean, cover sto­ries?

–Quisiera un espresso por fa­vor. Every one of these quote be­nign tech­nolo­gies has a pretty easy to imag­ine mil­i­tary use. Laser for etch­ing mi­crochips, uh huh, right, and here’s one about kinder gen­tler W, “less vir­u­lent” tear gas for “crowd con­trol”, heav­ier for con­trolled de­liv­ery, if this is the stuff you’re pub­lic about I can only imag­ine the rest.

–Y­ou’re wrong, there’s a gen­uine effort to con­vert to peacef

–D­ual use, I know. Gen­uine effort to blur the line is what it is, and it goes far be­yond the Lab, peo­ple in physics and comp sci de­part­ments across the coun­try are lin­ing up at the same trough, the grants are there and if they don’t take the money some­one else will. That’s the rea­son­ing. What a waste of tal­ent and re­sources.

–It’s more com­pli­cated than that. The peo­ple I work with, they’re not cyn­i­cal.

–Yes, I know how peo­ple get caught up in their work. I have a friend there, not in Ra­di­ance, in an­other sec­tion. He’s a Quak­er, he calls it “be­ing in the world”. At least he’s thought about it. How did you get into it?

–Me? I’m, well, a lapsed the­o­rist. But I’m not typ­i­cal… Was he not? Réti, High­et, Di­etz, Thor­pe, all had failed in some sub­tle way that in such a place could be de­nied. But where was there not fail­ure and de­nial?

–Do your peo­ple pay any at­ten­tion at all to our demon­stra­tions? [pg30]

–In J Sec­tion? Not much.

–We seem to bug your boss, at least.

–High­et?

–In his lit­tle red sports car. What about you? What did you think about the big one yes­ter­day?

–It seemed, I don’t know, fes­tive, al­most a cos­tume par­ty, I did­n’t re­al­ize at first it was Hal­loween…

–But no, that was­n’t it. It was a cer­e­mo­ny. An ex­or­cism.

–Oh come on, what, you mean we’re pos­sessed…

–By ar­ro­gance, if noth­ing else.

–That’s ab­surd, you can’t con­vince any­one with some ab­surd rit­u­al…

–It’s no differ­ent from your rit­u­als, your bomb tests, just as ab­surd, but re­ally dan­ger­ous!

–They’re not my tests… and he re­mem­bered B. Di­etz & P. Quine, sup. –I’m sor­ry. I’m no good at talk­ing about this.

The set of her fea­tures, so poised and ea­ger, soft­ened then and her voice low­ered. –I don’t mean to at­tack you. I’m sure you think about it.

–Yes but, but I’m not sure! What to do, I mean. What if it is a waste, what if, if all the money and the decades, all the lives and tal­ent… then it’s more than just me, it’s not just my mis­take, but some­thing wrong at the root of it, and what, what can I do about that?

–If it is a mis­take, you can face it. You could stop.

–But that would­n’t stop any­thing. It’s al­most as if these things we work on… they use us to get born. Could use any­one.

–It must be very hard for you. Their eyes met, and the trou­bled sym­pa­thy in hers wrung him. Her face was so con­cerned for him that he al­most cried out with self­pi­ty.

–It’s not your fault. I, I need to get back now.

–I re­ally am sor­ry, can we… can we for­get about all this and just start over?

–S­tart over…?

Abruptly he rose and walked away stolid with loathing of his own er­ratic heart, and of her for stir­ring it.


[pg31] In the night he woke sweat­ing with a pulse of nine­ty, reached for the pill­bot­tle next to the small box Un­lock Your In­ner Po­ten­tial and its plas­tic head­set. The pills opened a plain of time­less­ness in which it seemed a lost part of him­self dwelled. as he lay in their haze, his flu­ency re­turned. Won­der­ful prob­lems en­ticed and yielded to his in­sight, wis­dom de­pended from the sky like fruit. He kept a note­book in case any in­sight sur­vived his wak­ing. None did.

He at­tached the head­set like a blind­fold. At the on­set of dream­ing a strobe would flicker there and rouse him enough to . He set­tled and con­jured an im­age: the bat­tle sta­tion shin­ing in the void of space. Slen­der arms and rods piv­ot­ing. The mis­sile rise in swarms, bright points on the black hol­low of a cres­cent Earth. They blur in a sil­ver mist of chaff. Above the cres­cent dis­tant bat­tle sta­tions ig­nite in globes of light, their beams lance out, but swarm fol­lows swarm up from the Earth, far too many to de­stroy. He pulled off the head­set.

The world has changed, the old en­emy has col­lapsed into ru­ined re­publics. Yet de­spite this con­sum­ma­tion of all the Lab has strived for, the work goes on, the mood is spir­it­less, the shots in the desert con­tinue like some rit­ual of penance, some black and end­less pro­pi­ti­a­tion of forces that in los­ing their fixed abode have grown closer and more men­ac­ing.

Still­ness. Faint whis­tle of tin­ni­tus, first sounds of bird­call. Wan dawn light. The en­emy is gone. But the work goes on and on.34

Three

[pg32] For a while Lynn was not among the pro­test­ers. Their num­bers had di­min­ished to a small con­tin­gent by the main gate, hold­ing a droop­ing sheet painted DIABOLIS EX MACHINA. Quine slowed through the gate and stopped, valves in the en­gine tick­ing, for a back­hoe lurch­ing across the main road, and closed his win­dow against the dust bil­low­ing to­ward him as he went on past an air ham­mer break­ing a side­walk to rub­ble, over­tones of its chat­ter fol­low­ing him across the rock moat and into the build­ing where, too late to re­treat, he saw Thorpe seated at Nul­l’s com­puter tap­ping with­out letup at Quine’s en­trance.

–Morn­ing, said Quine.

–Is it? I’ve been here all night. Some­thing there for you to read.

On top of Quine’s stack of jour­nals, a year’s un­read ac­cu­mu­la­tion, col­ored slips in their pages flag­ging ar­ti­cles that at an ear­lier time would not have waited a day, was a xe­rox topped with a yel­low sticker SEEN THIS? 1954. A dig at his age?

–I know it’s old, said Thor­pe. –But I think it ap­plies. See, I started with an EE from a hick school, taught my­self quan­tum me­chan­ics by read­ing Dirac, so my per­spec­tive is sort of, things don’t change that much. Lots of good ideas have been left hang­ing. That’s how I found your pa­per… I mean… stum­bling at hav­ing touched as he thought Quine’s sen­si­tive point, –not to say, it’s just, you know, if you’re a stu­dent like me, not well con­nect­ed, not see­ing all the lat­est preprints and hear­ing all the gos­sip, you need an­other way up. So this is my way, sort of look­ing for old for­got­ten stuff to build on. [pg3]

–So tell me about this.

–I came across it work­ing for Fish and Him­mel­hoch, look­ing for a sort of nu­clear model to ex­plain the cold fu­sion re­ac­tion? Okay I know, the cur­rent wis­dom is, there’s no re­ac­tion, it’s bo­gus, or if any­thing is hap­pen­ing it’s elec­tro­chem­i­cal, okay, fine. But you know, if you model the process in a nu­clear way, it looks like a phe­nom­e­non called su­per-ra­di­ance. The equa­tions are sim­i­lar. Highet saw the con­nec­tion.

–To this? Highet told you about Su­per­bright?

–Very sharp guy.

–That’s quite a breach of clas­si­fi­ca­tion.

–He sort of hinted around it, cit­ing the open lit­er­a­ture. Any­way it’s moot, I’m cleared now. What do you think?

–I’ll read it when I get a chance, drop­ping it back on to the stack of jour­nals.

–But, I mean, we don’t have much time. Should I pur­sue it?

–What have you been do­ing?

–Well, here, let me show you, I started sort of mod­i­fy­ing your code but I had a cou­ple of quest

–You changed my files?

–No no I made copies, changes only on my copies and I

–Okay, but look, just be sure you log all your changes into the , okay? You know how that works?

–Yes, sure but I won­dered about a few things like where you’ve got this of here, what’s that?

–That’s the rod ar­ray, an­gles lengths di­am­e­ters den­si­ties

–Okay I thought so, be­cause see I was think­ing if you make that some­thing like ten to the mi­nus ten here

–That’s the thick­ness, we can’t make rods that thin it’s im­poss

–But what if we play what-if with these num­bers…

–Wait what are you do

–then the beam, oops that’s a lit­tle ex­treme but you see what I

–But there’s no, I mean sure, you can make the model do any­thing, but it has to cor­re­spond to re­al­i­ty!

–Sure, I’m just get­ting, you know, the feel of the sys­tem. But, oh here I wanted to know what this func­tion does, this hy­per­bol

–Yes that’s the re­sponse curve of the re­flec, look, can this wait? [pg34] and with­out paus­ing Quine was out of the office as from speak­ers over­head a pleas­ant fe­male voice ad­vised, –At­ten­tion all per­son­nel. Start­ing at mid­night tiger teams will con­duct ex­er­cises in this area us­ing blank am­mu­ni­tion… and he turned into the re­stroom where at the end, past a row of sinks and uri­nals op­po­site metal stalls, a gym bag hung on a hook and steam bil­lowed as Quine, el­bows braced on a bas­in, looked up from the lav­ing of his hands at a bass voice echo­ing around the hard tile, –bist du ein Tor und rein, to see in the mir­ror not his own eter­nally sur­prised fea­tures but fogged void, and turned from the hiss of his faucet to glimpse through the mist a hard white nude male body emerg­ing to towel it­self, still singing, –welch Wis­sen dir auch mag beschieden sein35.


In the cav­ernous build­ing where Di­etz su­per­vised, Quine watched long metal tubes welded one by one to the great mon­strance in which the bomb would rest a quar­ter mile un­der­ground. From in­stru­ments at the ends of each tube hun­dreds of ca­bles would run to the sur­face. Di­etz dis­played a blue­print of the cylin­der.

–We are al­ready weld­ing. I can­not wait to know.

–Can you hold off a day or two? If I had any idea where to put the damn things I’d tell you if I had any idea even how to find what I’m look­ing for…

–We can go ahead with other things for just a lit­tle while. For a day. Now the rod con­fig­u­ra­tion…

–Un­changed. I’m not touch­ing that.

–Make sure, please, that Highet knows all this. Some­times he wan­ders through here and if things are not what he ex­pects he is most un­pleas­ant.

Out­side High­et’s office Quine, arm raised to knock, from within heard High­et’s in­sis­tent rasp, –like , you know, it’s not who makes the mis­take it’s who takes the blame, and at Thor­pe’s voice barely au­di­ble, –sorry for the poor son of a bitch stuck in his po­si­tion at his age, barely shows his face, and High­et, –n­ever passed a de­sign re­view, Quine’s ears flared with heat, the door be­fore him turn­ing flat and in­sub­stan­tial as he low­ered his hand and pro­ceeded down the hall un­see­ing, guided by a fa­mil­iar­ity more the pris­on­er’s than the adep­t’s [pg35] around a cor­ner to a wa­ter foun­tain, stopped be­fore a bul­letin board and its over­lap­ping no­tices O Sec­tion, pro­gram­mer needed to model un­der­ground plumes K Sec­tion, LASS ex­pert needed Z Sec­tion, mul­ti­me­dia guru sought B Sec­tion, ma­te­ri­als en­gi­neer, while two young men passed, one say­ing, –I have no spe­cial loy­alty to , and on to a fur­ther junc­tion where a con­vex mir­ror above him pre­sented an anamor­phic view around the cor­ner. There Nan emerged from a cross cor­ri­dor with a wiry man, white teeth in a tanned face, black­haired fore­arms fold­ed. The two spoke briefly. The man put a hand on Nan’s neck and bent for­ward to kiss her mouth. Quine turned back the way he had come, slow­ing only when he found he had nearly cir­cled the build­ing. He back­tracked to High­et’s door and en­tered with­out knock­ing.

–Get Thorpe out of my office.

Highet looked up in sur­prise. –What did he do to you, Philip? You look ready to spit.

–If he’s so im­por­tant give him his own space, I don’t want him hang­ing around me.

–Thought you’d ap­pre­ci­ate the com­pa­ny, thought he might be use­ful to you.

–What’s that sup­posed to mean?

–Thorpe han­dles him­self well, you could learn from him. Show some team spir­it. Poor boy’s feel­ing aban­doned by you.

–I’ll work with him, but I don’t have to like him or share office space with him. It’s bad enough Nul­l’s stuff is still there.

–Thorpe has his own space. You want him out, you can tell him so. By the way, Réti’s here for a vis­it, you might want to pay your re­spects. In­stead of run­ning around down in Fab­ri­ca­tion with Di­etz.

–Some­one has to tend to those de­tails.

–Let me tell you some­thing, Philip, I’m a smart guy but to be bru­tally hon­est I’m a sec­ond rate physi­cist. I have the ideas but not the per­sis­tence, I’ve known that about my­self for twenty years. But I’ve learned to po­si­tion my­self and to use other peo­ple to get what I want. Win win, you know, we help each other look good. You take my point?

Voices ap­proach in the cor­ri­dor as Highet went on in a lower tone, –One path in the world is up. There’s also a path down. What there is­n’t is stand­ing still.36 Now you, friend, have been stand­ing still [pg36] for quite a lit­tle while. I’d say you need to make some ca­reer de­ci­sions soon, be­fore they’re made for you.

Flanked by two Lab fac­to­tums, Aron Réti came slow­ly, stamp­ing his cane, into High­et’s office. His eyes, azure be­hind thick lens­es, peered with­out recog­ni­tion as Quine greeted him. –Ah, my young friend, how are you?

–You re­mem­ber Philip Quine, Aron. That beau­ti­fully sweet pho­ton de­tec­tor he built for us.

–Of course, of course.

–So here we are, three gen­er­a­tions of first rate physics tal­ent.

–Yes yes, the torch is passed.

–I re­ally must be

–No, stay. Aron, Philip’s go­ing to get us the data we need to si­lence the crit­ics.

–The crit­ics, there is no need to mind them.

–From your em­i­nence per­haps not, but I have to deal with these fools and dupes al­most dai­ly. Do you know what a sen­a­tor, a United States sen­a­tor, said to me the other day? He called this place a sci­en­tific broth­el.

–I know the man you mean. Broth­els I am sure he knows well, but of sci­ence he is ig­no­rant.

–Well un­for­tu­nately this ig­no­ra­mus chairs a com­mit­tee that over­sees our fund­ing, so I have to deal with him.

–S­peak­ing of in­flu­ence, this left wing jour­nal­ist, I see him here again, why do you let him in? Six months ago he abused my trust with gut­ter tac­tics of the worst sort.

–You mean Stera­di­an? He’s a . He’s so cock­sure I let him hear things I want to see in print, look here… Highet lifted from the desk­top a folded news­pa­per, –“Ra­di­ance Re­search Forges Ahead”, see, this is solid gold. He’s so ex­cited when he hears some­thing that may be clas­si­fied, his crit­i­cal sense shuts off. You can see him quiver like a puppy dog.

–Keep him away from me, I want noth­ing to do with him. What is our test­ing sta­tus?

–We need more. As al­ways. Clas­si­fy­ing them has helped de­flect crit­i­cism but we’re still be­ing nickel and dimed. [pg37]

–What do you need?

–An ad­di­tional three hun­dred mil­lion over the next year.

–I will talk to the pres­i­dent. This is for Su­per­bright?

–Yes. We can defi­nitely show quan­ti­ta­tive agree­ment with the­o­ry. It’s only a mat­ter of time and mon­ey. Philip will tell you how close we are. He and his new as­sis­tant have made tremen­dous head­way, just tremen­dous.

–So? Tell me about this, my young friend.

–Well, I think it’s pre­ma­ture to say so. There’s a shot next Sat­ur­day. We’ll know bet­ter than.

–Philip’s too mod­est, that’s al­ways been his prob­lem.

–No I just think we need a lot more

–More fund­ing. Ba­si­cally it’s a mat­ter of fund­ing. In the long run we see co­her­ent beams strik­ing out a thou­sand miles and di­verg­ing no more than a me­ter. We see a sin­gle bat­tle sta­tion down­ing every mis­sile any en­emy can launch. And Aron, we’re also go­ing ahead with your in­ter­cep­tors. As part of the over­all sys­tem.

–Bal­dur?

–S­mall­er, faster, smarter, cheap­er. Less than thirty bil­lion to de­ploy.

–Even twenty years ago I thought that this idea only needed the tech­nol­ogy to catch up. It is good we have a his­to­ry, a tra­di­tion, a cul­ture here.

–Like Ulysses, we’re never at a loss.

–Re­al­ly? Never at a

–Philip…

–Un­less we’re try­ing to pro­duce a thou­sand mile beam where no test has ever shown

–Philip!

–Well how long do you think we can keep it up! this this

–As long as it takes.

–and you, Doc­tor Réti?

–My young friend, I am an op­ti­mist.

–Philip I want a word with you. Ex­cuse us Aron. One arm clutched Quine in tight em­brace and steered them into the hall­way, Highet say­ing in low con­trolled tones, –One day soon, very soon, I’ll stop [pg38] giv­ing you sec­ond chances. Come up empty this time and you’re through. Clear?

–Mean­ing what? You’ll what?

–I don’t know. I don’t know but it will be ter­ri­ble and fi­nal and I promise you’ll never for­get it. Highet raised his voice to hearty ami­a­bil­i­ty, –Good man! You let me know, and went back into his office.


As night came on the life of the build­ing went to X Sec­tion, the Playpen, where the younger men worked on schemes even more spec­u­la­tive than Su­per­bright, and Quine re­turned for the thou­sandth time to his sim­u­la­tion with the sink­ing heart of a man re­turn­ing to a love­less home. En­trap­ment. As if fine wire had threaded his drugged veins, and now, as feel­ing re­turned, any move­ment might tear him open. He fid­geted the ra­dio on to, –fades to a red­dish color as it en­ters Earth’s shad, and off as he saw again the tilt of Nan’s head, the fine whorls of her ear, the man’s dark hand cup­ping her neck. The ridge of her col­lar­bone, the warm pulse of the vein across it.

On Nul­l’s white­board deltas sig­mas omegas in­te­grals in­fini­ties in var­ie­gated ink still wove like fun­da­men­tal forces their el­e­gant pat­tern around a void. From the clut­ter on the desk he lifted CENTURY 21 LAB QUARTERLY. Chang­ing world be­to­kens larger role for sci­ence. Ac­cept­able lev­els of so­cial risk. Pub­lic does not fully un­der­stand. World free of threats too much to ask. Rev­o­lu­tion­ary new tech­nique. Ma­jor im­prove­ment. Im­por­tant to a va­ri­ety of na­tional goals. Unique mul­ti­-dis­ci­pli­nary ex­per­tise. Two young men, one poised to hurl a bal­loon, car­omed past his door­way. He shut the door on guffaws and –teach you some hy­dro­dy­nam­ics!

He picked up Black 1954. He looked at the ci­ta­tions, then read from the start. He stopped often to reread, with a dogged­ness that made shift for his halt sense, once so fine, of the rhythms of sci­en­tific thought, the probe and test and parry and clinch that now re­quired his slow and re­me­dial at­ten­tion to be grasped. As he read, his re­spect for Thorpe grew even as an empti­ness opened with him. When he was fin­ished he started into space be­fore reach­ing across the desk to snap off the lights.

The phone chat­tered. On the sec­ond ring he lifted it, hold­ing [pg39] si­lence to ear for a mo­ment be­fore speak­ing. In the dark­ness the com­puter screen, phos­phors charged by the room’s van­ished light, was a dim fad­ing square.

–Quine.

–Hi, it’s Lynn, I’m glad I caught you. I’m hik­ing up Mount Ohlone with some friends tonight, you want to come?

–Well…

–I know it’s short no­tice.

–I should be work­ing.

–Good heav­ens, all night? We’re not start­ing till nine.

–No but… He scru­ti­nized the white­board as if this quandary might be ex­pressed there in dou­ble in­te­grals. –I mean… sure, why not.

–Good! Meet us at the park gate. It’s ten miles north on Crow Canyon Road.

In the hall­way a length of sur­gi­cal tub­ing, knot­ted at both ends, lay rup­tured and limp in a film of wa­ter. As he left the build­ing sprin­klers came on in a sil­ver mist and rain­bows shim­mered in the flood­lit air. He drove out past parked ve­hi­cles and armed men in fa­tigues.

He ar­rived ear­ly. The sky was star­ry, the moon full. Some planet was set­ting in the west, prob­a­bly Sat­urn by its col­or. The V of Tau­rus pointed back the way he’d come. A car ap­proached, lights snag­ging in the trees, then came around the last bend light­less and rolled to a stop.

–Mark, Julie, this is Philip.

–Why’re we whis­per­ing?

–Park’s closed. Not sup­posed to be here.

They went around the closed gate and past a build­ing set back among trees. In a sec­ond story win­dow a dim line flick­ered, a flu­o­res­cent tube not on nor off, stut­ter­ing be­tween states. Fifty yards fur­ther they left the road for a broad path that rose wind­ing un­der black oak, then bay. An owl called, leav­ing the har­bor of a eu­ca­lyp­tus.

Quine and Lynn walked in si­lence. Ahead Julie laughed and touched Mark’s arm, not a lover’s touch, but a ges­ture of in­ti­macy with the world, the same hand ca­ress­ing air and un­der­brush. They talked about peo­ple they knew, hes and shes dart­ing in and out of au­di­bil­ity like moths in the dark. Soon they en­tered a dark­ness of [pg40] trees where noth­ing was vis­i­ble but shards of the moon fallen like leaves around them. He went more slowly and stum­bled. Lynn paused and he heard a rustling. Leaves popped free of a branch and came crushed un­der Quine’s nose, car­ry­ing to him a strong waft of mint and resin.

–Sweet bay, she said, –is sa­cred to Apol­lo, but this is not , Lau­rens, it’s Cal­i­for­nia bay, . Her tongue lin­gered on the liq­uids.

They kept climb­ing un­til they broke from the woods into an open slope. Moon­light rinsed palely the open range land be­low them.

, Lynn said, in­hal­ing as she broke from a sage­brush a twig of gray leaves.

It was pun­gent in her cupped palm. The warmth of her came with it.

–Named for the god­dess Artemis. Who loves it. And this is wil­low. Salix. Los alamos. Which is the mean­ing of Or­pheus’s name. Who opened doors he could­n’t reen­ter.

–How do you know all this?

–This is where I grew up. This is the smell of my home. This is how I know I be­long.

They came up to Mark and Julie at the edge of the grove. The moon hung above them, swol­len, no god­dess re­mon­tant but an air­less world al­ready mapped, trod­den, and pro­jected for di­vi­sion into satrapies of min­ing, man­u­fac­tur­ing, and de­fense, oc­cu­pancy de­ferred only un­til these sce­nar­ios could en­rich their plan­ners at a mar­gin of re­turn greater and more re­li­able than what cur­rent tech­nol­ogy as­sured.

–Let’s sit here.

Julie passed around bread, cheese, fruit, a plas­tic bot­tle of wa­ter. On the grass they sat eat­ing. Some­where crick­ets chirred on and off, their pres­ence like a field of en­ergy shift­ing.

–It’s so warm tonight. Al­most like sum­mer.

–You from around here, Philip?

–I went to school in the East. I’ve been work­ing around here for eight years.

–Prac­ti­cally a na­tive. What do you do?

–I write soft­ware. [pg41]

–Friend of mine works for CodeWin, maybe you know him.

–It’s a big in­dus­try.

–Big­ger by the day, said Lynn dry­ly.

–Where’s the Big Dip­per? I can’t see it, said Julie, stand­ing.

–It’s too low to see, said Quine. –That’s the han­dle above the ridge­line. There in the west, that’s Vega set­ting. A sum­mer star. Win­ter com­ing in over there… point­ing to that swarm of fire­flies tan­gled in a sil­ver braid, –The Pleiades. Also called the Seven Sis­ters. You can count more than seven on a clear night. But not with the moon out. And right be­hind them Ori­on, you can see him just com­ing over the hori­zon, those three stars in a line. Chas­ing them. Kind of a bad luck bunch, the Sis­ters. They were all se­duced by one god or an­oth­er, ex­cept for Merope, who mar­ried Sisy­phus.

–Look! Is that a plan­et?

Find­ing the pale green disk where Julie point­ed, a hands­breath from the Sis­ters, Quine knew it was the beam of a laser ten miles south stab­bing to the edge of space where sodium atoms glowed in its heat.

–No, not a plan­et… Sud­denly Lyn­n’s hand was in his. She squeezed it on­ce, and be­fore he could re­spond re­leased it to run down­hill to­ward a dark grove. He stood for a mo­ment and then he ran too. He ran for no rea­son he could name, wind in his ears, an ex­cite­ment ris­ing al­most to fear in his heart, hack­les alive. Some pres­ence al­most, chas­ing him. Then the dark­ness of the trees was around him and he tripped and went sprawl­ing. The pres­ence was still there. He feared it though he knew it was be­nign. It was not death, but it would change his life if he let it.

–Philip? Are you all right?

She stood over him, at the edge of the grove as Mark and Julie ap­proached. He lay there in anx­i­ety, anger al­most at how she’d stirred him, at the beauty of her move­ment, at the way her fea­tures held the moon­light.

–Philip…?

–I’m fine. He brushed leaf dirt from his sleeves. The pres­ence was gone. They walked in si­lence un­til emerg­ing from the grove and head­ing downs­lope. Over­head the green star had van­ished.

–So what are you work­ing on now, Philip? [pg42]

–Oh… things in the sky, Quine said. –An aero­space part­ner wants us to pro­gram low or­bit bal­loons a cou­ple of miles across, the ap­par­ent size of the moon, sun­l­it, car­ry­ing mes­sages, lo­gos, ad­ver­tis­ing…

–But that’s so, Julie be­gan and Mark cut in, –Seems I read about this. The Sierra Club’s bring­ing suit, aren’t they?

–I don’t know about that, we’re just the con­trac­tors, I just do my job… and Julie glanc­ing at Lynn claimed Mark’s arm to move them away and re­sume in a low voice their con­ver­sa­tion of hes and shes while Lynn walked apart, oblig­ing Quine to fol­low, leav­ing be­hind –she sees him as a recla­ma­tion pro­ject… to over­take her on a knoll. She waited with crossed arms. Be­hind her, the val­ley was filled with glit­ter­ing points. At its far verge was the flood­lit ter­rain of the Lab.

–Philip, what are you do­ing?

–You don’t like me as a soft­ware mogul?

–Is that your, your cover sto­ry? Her face re­mained still and fixed on him, moon­shadow in her eyes’ hol­lows.

–That bal­loon thing re­ally is a Lab pro­ject, they started a small group on it…

–You don’t want to tell them what you re­ally do.

–No, I…

–You think Mark is­n’t smart enough to see through you? He is. You take his good faith for fool­ish­ness.

–Look I, I just did­n’t know what you told them. I did­n’t want you to be em­bar­rassed by me. His face heated as he said it.

–Well, that would be my prob­lem, would­n’t it. Now I have a differ­ent prob­lem. Be­cause it hap­pens I did tell them. She waited for some­thing he was­n’t able to give her, then went on. –When you were talk­ing about the Pleiades you were so, I don’t know, at ease. What hap­pened?

–Look, I’m sor­ry, I just… An­other breath of warm breeze and he re­al­ized he was sweat­ing.

–What hap­pened?

–That green star we saw. It was­n’t a star, it was some­thing from the Lab. A laser test.

–A Ra­di­ance laser? [pg43]

–No… some­thing else. Un­clas­si­fied. A guide star for .37

She was lis­ten­ing with her arms still crossed. –Why did that change your mood?

–It’s just, I’d al­most for­got­ten, about every­thing ex­cept, ex­cept for be­ing here. That thing in the sky re­minded me. Then Mark asked what I did…

–They re­ally have their hooks in you, don’t they.

–I know that.

Face still hol­lowed in moon­shadow she stepped to­ward him. His need to be touched and take com­fort welled up, but some struc­ture un­known yet dread­ful held him still. After a mo­men­t’s wait she turned to face the val­ley lights. –I’m sur­prised you haven’t quit.

–And do what! Turn from the one place where my, my tal­ents have some use?

–What do you want, Philip?

–Want? I don’t know. I can’t get it. I want eight years back. Be­fore this I was a sci­en­tist.

–They haven’t robbed you of that.

–Yes, that’s so, I gave my­self over, and now I’m on the line for some­thing I don’t care about. That’s the way, yes, you’re go­ing to get screwed re­gard­less, so you should make sure it’s for some­thing that mat­ters to you…

–What would that be?

–I don’t know.

Julie and Mark were call­ing. They went down the slope and re­joined them. She was still talk­ing to Mark, –so I’m, wait, stop, this is it, these are the bound­aries and he’s like, what did I do? She turned to Lynn with the pack, –take this? and em­braced Mark from be­hind, arms around his chest, straps of her short­legged over­alls a dark X on her back, bare calves duck­walk­ing the pair down the slope.

In the lot Lynn said to Julie, –Get a ride with you guys?

Quine called out, –Mark, just jok­ing about the bal­loon.

Mark looked up, fum­bling with his keys, smil­ing. –Oh yeah?

–Thanks, thanks for, for invit­ing me. He got in the car, opened the glove­box, found a tablet, brushed lint from it, swal­lowed it dry. [pg44]


In his apart­ment was a smell like stale smoke and old sweat and rot­ting food, edged with some­thing fouler, like the metal­lic stench of the flux from the open pipe. At first he thought it came from out­side, where ear­lier they’d been roofing. But on the deck the air was fresh. He knelt to the car­pet and smelled noth­ing. In the kitchen he bent to the drain and smelled noth­ing. From a bot­tle he squeezed a pearl of soap onto a sponge, ran hot wa­ter in the sink, scrubbed and rinsed it. He scrubbed the stove top. The ceil­ing fan was silted over by grease and spi­der­web. He fetched a chair and reached to touch it. A black gob­bet fell from it to the stove top. He fetched pli­ers and freed the nuts hold­ing the shield, bang­ing with the han­dle to break the dried paint around the rim. In both hands he bore the shield like a chal­ice to the sink.

In its con­cav­i­ties had pooled a glossy tar. He scrubbed it for min­utes, smutch wash­ing into the sink. Then he spooled off yards of pa­per tow­el­ing, wet and soaped it, and climbed the chair to wash over and again the sleeve of the fan, the blades, the hub. A vis­cous brown residue clung to the tow­els and his fin­gers. Fur­ther into the re­cess, be­yond his reach, was more tar.

Sweat soaked him. He went onto the deck. The moon was dim and red­dish, as if the sky held smoke. He stared in won­der and fear un­til the knowl­edge that it was an eclipse broke upon him ban­ish­ing fear and won­der alike.

When he went back in the smell was wait­ing. He un­der­stood that from now on every­thing would smell like this. For a while he sat at the ta­ble with his eyes shut, then opened the news­pa­per for the mem­ory of CARPETS CLEANED but it parted to 24 HRS OUTCALL DAWNA and LOVE TALK $2/MIN and he stared bleakly at the sullen pout, cir­cleted fore­head, hair as wild as if fresh risen from the sea, linen garb pleated in most sub­tle fash­ion. His hand found the tele­phone, and after a dis­tant chirrup a small in­sin­u­at­ing voice flicked like a tongue in his ear, and he stepped back from the un­cra­dled re­ceiver, switched off the lights, leav­ing the voice breath­ing un­heeded into the dark­ness and the moon­light pooled on the floor.

He show­ered. In the stream lust swelled in him like nau­sea. Hot [pg45] spray lashed him. In­co­her­ent im­ages flashed upon him. Run­nels nudged moon­white globs to­ward the drain. De­pleted he tow­eled. On the sink were Nan’s tooth­paste, hair­brush, lip­stick, mas­cara. On the toi­let tank an un­zipped travel kit of quilted cot­ton gaped to show di­aphragm, jel­ly, tam­pons, vi­t­a­mins, ibupro­fen, hair­pins, bar­ret­te, lens wet­ter, a glass jar of face cream. A tow­e­lend snagged in the zip­per as Quine scrubbed dry his hair, drag­ging the kit. Items hailed on the tile floor. He dropped the tow­el, then swept his hand across the sink top. He grabbed the kit and hurled it. The jar flew out and smashed against the wall. [pg46]

Four

Dry sycamore leaves scraped over pave­ment in a hot wind drawn out from dis­tant desert by a stalled off­shore low. Over the ridge east of town dust and the smell of ma­nure from the farm­lands and a haze of smoke blew fit­fully into the val­ley. as the sun rose through lay­ers of haze Quine, dri­ving to the back gate of the Lab so as to avoid the pro­test­ers, passed the dead vine­yard by the north bound­ary. He pulled over, still­ing the en­gine and the ra­dio’s –ty thou­sand acres ablaze.

The gate was closed but un­locked. A bright new sign bore the bio-haz­ard tre­foil and DANGER TOXICS MITIGATION PILOT SITE ALPHA KEEP OUT. The drone of flies rose and fell like a tur­bine. Stunted vines clung to ir­ri­ga­tion up­rights. Bark from one sloughed like ash on his fin­gers. From deep in the vine­yard a warm moist fla­tus per­fused the air. A stink like the of a dy­ing beast. He ran back to the car chok­ing and drool­ing. At an ir­ri­ga­tion faucet he rinsed his mouth, his face, his hair, his hands, yet the foul­ness, as of cor­roded met­al, lin­gered. What god loves this?

At Nul­l’s desk Thorpe worked.

–Bernd Di­etz called. He has to know where to put the re­flec­tors.

–I’m tempted to leave them where they were in the last shot.

–We can’t do that, Highet would

–That’s why I’m tempt­ed.

–Yeah he’s, he can be a real prick can’t he.

–Not if you play by his rules. He al­ways has a car­rot handy.

–Well I have quite a few ideas but you need to look them over, sort [pg47] of tell me where they’re out of line, you know we’re re­ally down to the wire here and

–Okay, let’s as­sume Black’s right…

–Oh then you’ve read

–As­sume we’re look­ing at quanta as lo­cal­ized par­ti­cles guided by a phys­i­cally real field…

–High­et, you know he re­ally grilled me on this stuff when he came out to Utah, put me through the wringer, made me prove every as­sump­tion, but after an hour I had him con­vinced, and I thought he re­ally re­spect­ed…

–Typ­i­cal Highet slap and stroke.

–Now sup­pose we…

–Y­ou’re good at this. And very fast.

–Com­mer­cial soft­ware you know, those eigh­teen hour days tone you right up.

–No don’t touch that, we can’t change the rod ar­ray, I’ve al­ready told Di­etz.

–Can we re­ori­ent it?

–Maybe. I’ll check.

Un­der Thor­pe’s shap­ing the model grad­u­ally be­gan to show cor­re­la­tion. After sev­eral hours one run pro­duced an an­nu­lus. Then noth­ing for hours more. Again the an­nu­lus. He ro­tated the mod­el’s rods again and again and at one an­gle power jumped and the an­nu­lus closed to a point. They stared at the screen. Thorpe bit his thumb. –What do you think?

–It looks all right.

–It looks fan­tas­tic. It’s a hun­dred times brighter than the last shot. But the mod­el’s tweaked to hell and gone.

–I don’t see any­thing wrong.

–No, nei­ther do I. So now if we put the re­flec­tors here… see, this is how I work. I’m not a the­o­rist, I don’t have your back­ground, I need to, you know, im­merse my­self in the code, feel the sys­tem…

–Well, it’s a re­mark­able job. I could­n’t have done this. I’ve tried for months.

–Well, I could­n’t have done it if your code was­n’t so com­pre­hen­sive [pg48]. You re­ally worked at this. But it’s, you know, at some level it’s all just sort of push­ing num­bers around. I don’t know if it’s say­ing any­thing re­al.

–We’ll know soon enough.

–Do you think some­thing’s wrong?

Quine shrugged. –Noth­ing I can see.

–Y­ou’re not con­vinced.

–I don’t have to be. It’s what Highet wants, is­n’t it?

–Yeah but, that’s not what you think I’m do­ing, is it?

–No…

–Be­cause I would never do that.

–I’m sure you

–S­ince the Fish and Him­mel­hoch thing I have to be very care­ful. They were cru­ci­fied, just cru­ci­fied, they’re pari­ahs, their ca­reers are fin­ished. Any­thing re­motely to do with cold fu­sion is taint­ed, you may as well say you’re work­ing on per­pet­ual mo­tion. And I was on that team, I was in that lab. So I have to be very care­ful.

–Per­pet­ual mo­tion, you could prob­a­bly sell that to High­et. At least as a talk­ing point.

–It’s not funny to me. I had noth­ing to do with that de­ba­cle, just so we’re clear on that.

–Sure. I un­der­stand.

–Sorry I’m touchy. Just, you know, tired. You’ve been gen­er­ous, let­ting me work with your code and all, I re­ally thought you’d stick me with the scut work but you’ve done it haven’t you, all the test de­tails, and let me do the in­ter­est­ing part. This could take me a long way and I’m grate­ful.

–Why don’t you go home, get some sleep?

–Yeah, okay, I’m whipped.

–Take to­mor­row off. I’ll tell High­et.

–No no, I’ll be in. We have to write up a work or­der.

–I’ll do it, don’t worry about it.

–Are you stay­ing?

–God no, what is it, mid­night?

–It’s, oh Je­sus, it’s two a m.

–No, I’m leav­ing in five min­utes. I’ll write the work or­der to­mor­row. [pg49]

–Oh I meant to, here’s some­thing else for you to read… and, hes­i­tat­ing a mo­ment, Thorpe placed a sta­pled xe­rox on Quine’s stack, held his gaze for a mo­ment, and de­part­ed.

It was a new pa­per by Sorokin. At now. Quine skimmed it as if read­ing news from a dis­tant galaxy or a re­mote epoch. It so­lid­i­fied and ex­tended the work they’d done to­geth­er, the ex­per­i­ment that had sep­a­rated them. It was clear that it was a field now, and that Sorokin owned it. He stanched an up­welling of envy and self­pi­ty.

But in­stead of go­ing home Quine broke apart Thor­pe’s code and stud­ied the changes. He gave the model a new set of en­ergies: points clus­tered around the fo­cus. Again, with differ­ent en­ergies, the same fo­cus emerged. Some­thing was wrong, he could smell it; his in­stinct was not yet dead.

Near dawn he found it. Along with the sen­sor po­si­tions, Thorpe had tweaked the sen­sor re­sponse func­tion. Play­ing the sys­tem, as he said, to get re­sults. But now the func­tion em­pha­sized cer­tain wave­lengths. As might the sen­sors them­selves when struck by the bom­b’s ra­di­a­tion. The bright­ness from the ear­lier tests might be noth­ing but re­flec­tion, in­stru­ment er­ror. When you put that er­ror into the fo­cus­ing code, the code nat­u­rally con­firmed the da­ta. Glue in a house of cards. And down in a cor­ner of Nul­l’s white­board, half erased, was it? yes, the same func­tion, the same tweak. There in the cor­ner of his eye for months. Wasted months. Wrong from the start. Er­ror or fraud? No way to know. Maybe started as one, be­came the oth­er. But wait now. If you re­moved the tweak, if you stopped try­ing for a beam, chaff fell from the prob­lem and the ex­pres­sions said some­thing else en­tire­ly.

A pres­ence en­tered the room. Air gravid and light adance. There ap­peared to his mind’s eye the bat­tle sta­tion lost and in­signifi­cant in a tide of ra­di­ance, all the uni­verse’s light at wave­lengths and col­ors be­yond mere vi­sion, stream­ing in in­tri­cate bro­cade, weav­ing and me­di­at­ing be­tween mat­ter and en­er­gy, wave and par­ti­cle, the phe­nom­e­nal and the . Here was the mys­tery, at last, open for his know­ing as he hov­ered be­tween fa­tigue and ec­sta­sy, and he knew he was un­ready to pass through the gate of rev­e­la­tion into this realm of light. He drew back. And the pres­ence like a roe­buck in for­est star­tled [pg50] and was gone. The tide of light re­ced­ed. He was left with only the par­tic­u­lars of rods and re­flec­tors. But he had found their flaw. Mys­tery might elude, but the in­for­ma­tion was sure. Thus an­gels must feel, ra­di­ant with the cer­tainty that flows from their sin­gle de­vo­tion to right.


–Bernd, I need some re­flec­tors.

–For Tal­iesin.

–Yes.

–I know, I have a work or­der al­ready, this morn­ing, from Thor­pe.

–No, I need more.

–We do not have time to add

–I have to have re­flec­tors made of some­thing other than beryl­li­um.

Di­etz was silent. He be­gan leafing through a log­book. –Do you know, try as we might we can­not keep traces of oxy­gen out of the beryl­li­um. I have told Highet this. Long ago.

–Re­al­ly.

–I have pro­posed hy­dro­gen in the past.

–Why haven’t we tried it?

–“Don’t mess with suc­cess.”

–I see. I’d like to try it.

–Does Highet ap­prove?

–I’ll take re­spon­si­bil­i­ty.

–With­out his ap­proval I can do noth­ing.

–Bernd. This is what Slater thought, is­n’t it. That the beryl­lium re­flec­tors were giv­ing false bright­ness. And Null knew it too, did­n’t he.

–I did not see Slater’s re­port. Di­etz did not look up from the book.

–Make some hy­dro­gen re­flec­tors for me. Ca­ble them sep­a­rately from the beryl­li­um.

Di­etz shut the book. –Send me a work or­der. I will have to send a copy to High­et.

Ki­hara came through the doors with a fol­low­ing of suited men.

–Won’t be a minute gen­tle­men, don’t let us dis­turb you, you can see here the pre­ci­sion en­gi­neer­ing we’re ca­pa­ble of, bang-up job of in­ven­tive­ness, max­i­mum re­turn on in­vest­ment, the an­swer to re­vers­ing the bal­ance of trade deficit, in­no­v­a­tive fed­er­ally gen­er­ated to in­dus­try, im­proves the na­tion’s eco­nomic com­pet­i­tive­ness [pg51] as we work de­lib­er­ately and con­sciously to build part­ner­ships, a new class of in­for­ma­tion with com­mer­cial val­ue, very cre­ative co­op­er­a­tive efforts, free­dom to ne­go­ti­ate in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights, fees and roy­alties, cover the tech­no­log­i­cal wa­ter­front, take for in­stance these fine-grained steels, not to men­tion … and Quine re­turned to his office rum­mag­ing through CENTURY 21, Rings Fields and Groups, Com­puter Ad­dict Whole­sale Mi­cro­cen­ter, Tech­ni­cal Ref­er­ence, to come upon WORK ORDER Form 4439A Au­tho­rized Use On­ly, and sat for a minute hold­ing a pen above it sud­denly frozen at the sound of Thor­pe’s ap­proach­ing voice, –you have to in­voke the world con­trol op­tion from the , re­lax­ing as the voice re­ced­ed, pen mov­ing to spell SECONDARY SENSOR ARRAY.


From High­et’s open door he heard, –You want less pres­sure, try the 38, it’s a fuck­ing re­tire­ment vil­lage for the re­al­i­ty-im­paired! and a lower voice un­in­tel­li­gi­ble in re­spon­se, then –I don’t care, I want re­sults! the lower voice grow­ing sharper, –is cheap. My peo­ple have to make it hap­pen, as the door opened and Di­etz, pale and shak­ing, came out past Quine glanc­ing at him with­out a word and stormed down the hall, Highet fol­low­ing to the door, call­ing out, –A beard with­out a mus­tache, does that make you an hon­est man? and to Quine, –Y­ou. I don’t want to talk to you now. Send me e-mail.

–I think you’ll want to hear this. We can show quan­ti­ta­tive agree­ment.

Highet looked at him with loathing. –You want to change the re­flec­tors. The day be­fore the shot.

–I want to try hy­dro­gen.

–That’s an in­cred­i­bly bad idea, that’s to­tally brain­dead39, to in­tro­duce a new mea­sure­ment tech­nique at this stage. You have to cal­i­brate, you have to

–If Slater’s right, if the beryl­lium shows false bright­ness, it’s only a mat­ter of time un­til we know it. It might as well be now. Or do you want to spend an­other fifty mil­lion on an­other shot?

–I’d love to. Who told you Slater said that?

–It’s com­mon knowl­edge. We’ll have to ad­dress the is­sue even­tu­al­ly. [pg52]

–Com­mon knowl­edge my ass.

–Then it might be wise to pre­empt ques­tions about it. The shot’s so close to the pre­sen­ta­tion, we can’t be ex­pected to have data that quick­ly. But we could say we’re in­ves­ti­gat­ing. If we have to.

–Y­ou’re sure about the quan­ti­ta­tive agree­ment?

–The sim­u­la­tion’s ex­cel­lent. I won’t take credit for it. Jef Thorpe did the work.

–Did he now. Well, we’re a team. Good re­sults show good man­age­ment.

–I’d like Jef to give the pre­sen­ta­tion.

High­et’s eyes fixed in cal­cu­la­tion on Quine as the phone rang and Quine waited for the dis­mis­sive wave with which Highet ended au­di­ences, but in­stead he spoke a mo­ment, then cov­ered the mouth­piece and said, –Want to make some money Philip, De­von Nul­l’s tak­ing on in­vestors, and un­cov­er­ing the mouth­piece, –Yes, ap­pli­ca­tion’s out­side the en­ve­lope no prob­lem there, keep me briefed, and in an­other mo­ment hung up, lean­ing back and clasp­ing his hands over his thin­ning crown, gaz­ing at the ceil­ing.

–Well that’s fine, that’s very fine. Won­der if we could work up a lit­tle some­thing. I could in­vite some key peo­ple to the ranch for the shot, some un­named sources, goose the process a lit­tle, can we get Thorpe in on this?

–He’s prob­a­bly in my office.

–You may work out yet Philip, Highet grudged as one thick fin­ger stabbed the phone. –Jef? Leo. Get over here, ris­ing to pace past framed and signed pho­tos of three Pres­i­dents, an­other of Réti and him­self with the cur­rent Pres­i­dent, artist’s ren­der­ing of the Su­per­bright and of a fu­sion dri­ven space­ship, car­toon of a mush­room cloud WHEN YOU CARE ENOUGH TO SEND THE VERY BEST, cer­tifi­cates from pro­fes­sional so­ci­eties, a length of ca­ble, a cir­cuit board. He stopped at the win­dow, gaze caught by some­thing, and parted the ver­ti­cal slats of the blind with his fin­gers, speak­ing soft­ly, al­most to him­self.

–Do you know the dark­ness that’s out there? Do you re­al­ize how ten­u­ous this all is? Twenty thou­sand years of civ­i­liza­tion, and only in the last few hun­dred has ra­tio­nal­ity be­gun to dis­place su­per­sti­tion. I tell you I would sup with the dev­il, I would risk ar­maged­don, not to [pg53] lose that. When I think of those fuck­ing tree hug­gers out there… and turn­ing back to Quine, voice low and in­sis­tent, –Think the ills are in a sys­tem, think it’s that sim­ple, Réti and his an­ti­com­mu­nism, your new girl­friend and her peacenik bud­dies, won­der why’s she drawn to you?

–Now wait just a

–Dark­ness and mal­ady is in the hu­man heart, Philip, don’t you know that? The en­emy is the heart. You can’t hide from that dark­ness… as Thorpe en­tered in black linen jack­et, red t-shirt, nose stud, eyes ea­ger, and High­et’s de­meanor switched to the cheer­ful, –Jef, my man. I want to wow the rubes when we go to the desert. We have a ranch out there with data lines from the test site. What can you do that’s portable and fan­tas­tic? I want flash that makes you reach for your check­book.

–I’ve got an in­ter­face toolkit from my CodeWin days, I can throw some­thing to­geth­er. Just tell me what kind of data I have to work with.

–I’ll email you the de­tails. Shot’s to­mor­row evening, not too much for you, is it?

–Demo or die, I know the drill, said Thor­pe, grin­ning.


The evening wind whipped dust across the high­way, vi­brat­ing the cars stopped in three lanes be­hind flash­ing lights at Codor­nic s EXIT NLY as Quine punched –il­lion in prop­erty loss, over to –non­in­jury ac­ci­dent be­ing cleared at the Codor­nices Road exit not block­ing lanes for you, drowned in a siren blar­ing up the shoul­der OHLONE VALLEY RESCUE ƎƆИA⅃UᙠMA as Quine edged against horns and un­heard curses into the exit lane and cut back onto a com­mer­cial strip be­hind the cen­tral mall, the re­verse of which colon­naded and ped­i­mented fa­cade, its raw con­crete stained by rains, caught with a sort of wounded dig­nity the sun’s last rays as they like­wise gilded Es­tancia Es­tates An Adult Com­mu­nity where Quine parked and for a mo­ment held in his gaze a prospect of iden­ti­cal bun­ga­lows ar­rayed on lawns bil­liard-green out to the sur­veyed bound­aries of chain­link and dry pas­ture be­yond.

–Oh! Philip. Come in. I was­n’t ex­pect­ing you, your dead­line…

–Well it’s Fri­day night, I thought

–I’m glad you, but, if you’d called I would have made din­ner… [pg54]

–I was­n’t sure I was com­ing.

–Y­our work is done?

–There’s a test. I fly out to­mor­row after­noon. And there’s a pre­sen­ta­tion Mon­day.

–Can you stay tonight? We can go out for… is some­thing wrong?

–I need to ask you some­thing.

–Yes? What is it?

–Who’s the guy with the curly black hair and the good tan?

–The, what?

–I hap­pened to see you the other day. In a hall­way. He was act­ing kind of pro­pri­etary.

–Pro­prie, her face flushed and she turned to look across the room, one hand rest­ing on a table. Quine wait­ed.

–How long has this been go­ing on?

–His name’s Ben and he’s a good friend, and it’s been, we’ve been friends for years. Since be­fore I knew you.

–You still see him?

The flush dark­ened, and as she turned back to him her mild fea­tures con­torted into a stiff anger he’d never seen in her. –Do you mean, do I sleep with him? Yes. I have. Once or twice since you and I have been to­geth­er.

–Once or twice. You’ve lost count.

–Oh, Philip! Why are you, this is hate­ful!

–It hurts me, Nan.

Her face was a mask of plain mis­ery. –We never

–N­ever what, laid down rules? I did­n’t think we had to, I thought some things went with­out say­ing.

–With­out say­ing what! That I’m yours alone when you don’t give me any­thing, for God’s sake Philip I did­n’t turn to Ben for sex, just for, for kind­ness, for friend­ship, just to feel that I mat­tered! To some­one! Five years of my life Philip, I’m no longer a young wom­an, do you want to know when it was I saw Ben, when I went to him after you and I were to­geth­er?

The cold­ness, the ab­solute cold­ness of the mo­ment.

–You don’t, you don’t even care do you. It hurts you, but I can see in your eyes, you won’t lis­ten to me. How can I pos­si­bly ex­plain when [pg55] you won’t even give me credit for, for lov­ing you, Philip? When you and I met, at that pic­nic, and I was so charmed by you, by your in­tel­li­gence, your mod­esty, your re­serve. Do you re­mem­ber, the thun­der­storm? I had­n’t seen one since mov­ing West. And after­wards you took me home, we were drenched, and I loaned you clothes. Oh Philip, it was long over be­tween Ben and me, he was like a broth­er, I just wanted to say good­bye, to tell some­one close to me how happy I was. How happy I thought I’d be.

–And the sec­ond time?

–Yes, that’s all you want to hear. Two years lat­er, when you did­n’t come to din­ner, did­n’t call, and I waited and wait­ed, so it was only an an­niver­sary just a date on the cal­en­dar that’s all, but I called Ben and he came over to be with me, and he did­n’t, did­n’t even want… cut off by her sobs.

–But I, you know I was work­ing, you could have

–When you come here and, and sulk for hours, barely ac­knowl­edge my ex­is­tence, don’t call for days on end, then ex­pect, how do you think that makes me feel… I would have told you about Ben if you’d asked if you’d ever shown any in­ter­est at all. If you even know who I am!

Within him a stone fell and fell, sound­lessly turn­ing.

–Philip, talk to me! Don’t turn away like this!

–I have noth­ing to say, and he was out the door, where street­lights had come on, know­ing that his leav­ing now was worse than any­thing gone be­fore, a with­drawal he could never make right. Don’t tell me, don’t tell me we don’t feed the empti­ness in each oth­er. [pg56]

Five

In the of Nevada thou­sands of acres of waste and in­fe­cund desert had been re­claimed for sci­ence as the Aguas Se­cas Weapons Test Site40, and one hun­dred miles fur­ther west was the Ad­vanced Re­search In­sti­tute of the East­ern Sier­ra, a ranch at the edge of the , a black fa­cil­ity whose fund­ing ap­peared in no bud­get. Leased to the gov­ern­ment by a con­ser­v­a­tive busi­ness­man, it served as a lay­over site for Lab per­son­nel on their way to the desert. It nes­tled in the broad base of a canyon near a creek’s loud runoff through lat­eral . To the west the ground rose in the space of a few miles from six thou­sand feet to a twelve thou­sand foot crest of gran­ite crags. Be­low, a few miles to the east, the north-south high­way lay like a dropped rib­bon across the wrin­kled val­ley floor, and a hun­dred miles fur­ther across desert dot­ted with sage un­der a flotilla of thun­der­heads was the chalk white sink of Aguas Se­cas.

Even be­fore join­ing the Lab Quine had seen ARIES. On his first trip west, while switch­ing planes at Phoenix, he’d been paged and di­verted to a sin­gle en­gine craft bound for a Kern County airstrip, where a sher­iff’s four by four awaited him. The first Ra­di­ance shot had just gone off and at the ranch they were cel­e­brat­ing. Quine met Highet there. Highet was beat­ing a twelve year old at chess, telling the boy, I’ll trade a bishop for a knight any­time, I love knights, they leap bar­ri­ers, they face eight ways at once.

A month later Quine was at Aguas. Rank smell of sage hov­ered in the predawn cool, im­men­si­ties of desert air quiv­ered to the hori­zon. [pg57] They drove with the sun ris­ing be­hind them, the young ini­ti­ates jok­ing, group lead­ers and guards and ob­servers in DoD hard­hats silent and grim. Road­ways of ca­bles led from in­stru­ment trail­ers over desert pocked with the col­lapse craters of pre­vi­ous tests to the dis­tant bore­hole. Above it a red crane pointed straight up. The count reached ze­ro. And the earth rip­pled. A wave rushed to­ward them and the ground shook as if a train were pass­ing and pass­ing and pass­ing. When it stopped the air was a clear plasma of ex­al­ta­tion. To know that the bind­ing forces of mat­ter were yours to break, the wealth of na­tions yours to squan­der in such sub­lime force, this was a deep and se­cret sweet­ness known only to the few.

At the ranch now Thorpe was jok­ing with some grad stu­dents from X Sec­tion. Oth­ers were there from J Sec­tion, and some stern faces he did­n’t know, mil­i­tary or in­tel­li­gence, and Stera­dian alert as a cor­rupt deputy. Highet ar­rived in blue jeans and tooled leather boots, car­ry­ing cases of so­da, chant­ing in a false twang, –T­waace the sug­ar, twaace the caffeine… fol­lowed by a West­ern sen­a­tor ca­dav­er­ous and grin­ning in white Stet­son, and his young aide plump and groomed to a sheen, with the zeal­ous black eyes of a pul­let.

–Look at em, young, bril­liant, con­fi­dent, said the sen­a­tor. –That’s how I felt at their age. They own the world.

–The world? re­torted High­et. –They own their gen­i­tals. The rest of them’s mine, rais­ing his voice to in­tro­duce, –Gentle­men, the right hon­or­able Howard Bangerter of Utah…

The aide asked if physics had yet suc­ceeded in find­ing in the traces of Cre­ation the fin­ger­prints of God, and Highet nod­ded, a slow smile spread­ing and his tonguetip dart­ing as his hands rose to con­jure, –Not God ex­act­ly… as Quine walked onto the deck where three bar­be­cue grills siz­zled, and a keg of COORS LITE sat amid greasy pa­per plates bear­ing the ru­ins of meals, and the sun had long since chased the wan­der­ing moon, it­self pur­su­ing Venus, be­hind the moun­tain wall. Al­though the sky re­tained day’s blue a chill came down from the re­mote and snow­less peaks.

–This young man, High­et’s voice car­ried out from with­in, won last year’s , a pres­ti­gious award I hap­pen to ad­min­is­ter… and Quine stepped down from the deck, cross­ing [pg58] dry grass to the creek’s rock­strewn wil­lowed bank where it trick­led through small pools and clumps of rot­ting leaves. Quine fol­lowed it up­ward, breath la­bor­ing. He stopped at a large boul­der long ago tum­bled from a higher place, and sat. Lit­tle residue of the day’s warmth re­mained in the shad­owed stone. The west­ern ridge above him was a great dark wave. In the east a glam­our of rosetint clouds swept up from the hori­zon. The ranch was small be­low him. A cold wind came down the great wall of rock. Into this wilder­ness he might as­cend and be lost.

But he re­turned. Thor­pe’s voice came up as he slid open the glass doors, –back­ground, you know, trucks on the high­way, that sort of thing. Other side of the spool you can see some small trem­blors we had this after­noon. When the shot goes off we’ll see more than a wig­gle. But the real ac­tion’s on this screen here. At the site they’re record­ing every­thing for later analy­sis but data’s also piped to this work­sta­tion where this au­to­cor­re­la­tion soft­ware gives us an im­me­di­ate win­dow on what’s hap­pen­ing. Red is in­tense en­er­gy, blue is, you know, less in­tense. We’re look­ing for sort of a red ring­like struc­ture.

Quine watched the sty­lus quiver as about him oth­ers con­versed. With­out warn­ing the sty­lus jerked. The screen of the work­sta­tion came to life, num­bers flow­ing down its right edge. Col­ors co­a­lesced on screen. The sen­a­tor and his aide leaned in en­rapt. A minute passed. Blue and green sur­rounded a corona of yel­low and a jagged red core flecked with white.

–We have bright­ness, Thorpe said. –A hun­dred times the last test. More. Could be a thou­sand times.

–Three or­ders of mag­ni­tude im­prove­ment, de­clared High­et. –At this rate we’ll have every en­emy mis­sile on Earth neu­tral­ized in a few years, and rais­ing his tone with his glass, –To Team Su­per­bright! Leonar­dos of the age. You peo­ple are the best in the world.

Grunts and howls of tri­umph went off like rock­ets. The sen­a­tor’s aide leaned smil­ing to whis­per in the sen­a­tor’s ear.

A sec­ond wave of guests ar­rived, a dozen men in suits adorned with MAMMOTH CONVENTION CENTER NAME COMPANY and a few women pack­aged as brightly as new soft­ware, and Quine moved off through the manic younger men hopped up by caffeine and sugar and the shot. [pg59]

–Need now’s an­other lit­tle war where we can demo this stuff. Feed some some an­ti­quated mis­siles and pro­voke him to use them.

down­stairs run­ning

–thought Mal­ibu was bad but Aca­pul­co’s about three inch waves

–guy at the Cloudrise Sem­i­nar, he blasts wheat into stub­ble in a shock tube at mach ten, calls that sci­ence, eighty k a year.

–maybe the moon’s changed its or­bit or

–thou shalt not piss on a col­league’s fund­ing

–trans­late the project into terms at­trac­tive to

–well then or

–corn smut

–know bet­ter than to say that in pub­lic with troops on the bor­der

–shell game

–call it Vir­tual Wilder­ness

–I hear Sara squeezed it out

–boy or girl?

–peo­ple make money on it they’re more likely to go along

–girl I think that’s what Moe said

–why leave home to get away

–he did­n’t go deep enough

–photo and topo data­base with frac­tal in­ter­po­la­tion soft­ware to smooth the an­i­ma­tion

–a quag­mire like Viet

–sub­stan­tive work­ing re­la­tion­ship with at least six ma­jor US com­pa­nies

–get or

–hell why not go world­wide

–trans­late the project into terms at­trac­tive to DOE

–not this time, this is South­west Asia

–get on your put on the gog­gles you’re up in the

–and some­body from the in­sur­ance com­pa­ny’s sell­ing records of who owns what where to thieves [pg60]

–take out the in­fra­struc­ture of the whole frig­ging coun­try if we have to

–get up close to ex­tinct an­i­mals

–ev­ery­body makes out, home­own­er’s paid off, in­sur­ance com­pany raises rates, thieves fence the stuff, fence makes a profit

–ought to get the memo­r­ial award

–as de­fined in para­graph R41 of sec­tion 11 of the of nine­teen fifty four

–in Cara­cas this guy went by on a bi­cy­cle sliced the damn fin­ger right off for the wed­ding ring

–know­ingly and with in­tent

–liv­ing things prob­a­bly get in a pretty thor­ough fash­ion every few mil­lion years

–bet­ter than real

–so cool cause like the pro­gram’s work­ing but you don’t know what it’s do­ing so there’s these emer­gent prop­er­ties

–so­phis­ti­cated en­cryp­tion al­go­rithms de­serv­ing of patent pro­tec­tion

–con­trol the flow of in­for­ma­tion, do it by clas­si­fi­ca­tion do it by mis­di­rec­tion prin­ci­ple’s the same

–in­cor­po­rat­ing cer­tain as­pects of prior art such as mul­ti­pli­ca­tion

–trans­late the project into terms at­trac­tive to Dis­ney

–get this straight, if I say nine times six is sev­enty two I’m in­fring­ing?

–yes but when your story comes back it has your fin­ger­prints on it then you know where it’s been

have no spe­cial loy­alty to DNA42

–must have mis­judged my au­di­ence

–but if you cod­ify your knowl­edge that nine times six is sev, ah, fifty-four in

–some­times the en­ve­lope pushes back

–women at that high en­ergy con­fer­ence in

–held re­search po­si­tions at four uni­ver­si­ties pub­lished thirty pa­pers be­fore any­body re­al­ized43

–won’t im­pact the users of the al­go­rithm, or affect the mul­ti­pli­ca­tion [pg61] mar­ket, only the ven­dors of such al­go­rithms

–k­in­bakubi kenkyu kai?

–lin­eal de­scen­dent of that be­ing the first pub­li­ca­tion

–no PhD not even a BA all his pa­pers copied from ob­scure jour­nals

–se­me-e?

–Go for it, Bruno, do the meat thing.

Quine edged into a hall­way and down a nar­row flight of stairs as be­hind him mu­sic be­gan pound­ing, catch­ing as he turned a last glimpse of Thor­pe, cheeks flushed, smil­ing at a cir­cle of ad­mir­ers the im­par­tial smile of tri­umph.

Na­ture is more ready in her cre­at­ing than Time in his de­stroy­ing, and so she has or­dained that many an­i­mals shall be food for each oth­er.44

He con­tin­ued down­stairs to­ward a light. In the cel­lar seven or eight young men from X Sec­tion were gath­ered around an old rack­mounted mini­com­puter and a pooltable.

–so he goes, learn to has­sle peo­ple and lie with a straight face.

–Ex­cuse me, I need to get back. Does any­one know the arrange­ments?

–Ex­cel­lent ad­vice, dude.

–Ex­cuse

One glanced up. –There’s pool cars out­side some­where.

Full dark. A dozen cars. E108637. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY OFFICIAL USE ONLY. Key in the col­umn. The seat har­ness slid up and drew in over his chest and waist as a chime sounded and dash lights blinked red then glowed teal. The car swayed and bounced for a mile down the dirt road. There the high­way stretched north and south into void, un­der stars like chips of ice. He could go any­where. But time was a field that moved with him, in­escapable, close as the blue light in the cab­in. He drove for hours with­out stop­ping, ra­dio for com­pa­ny, wash of noise, hol­low­ness in his be­ing. Moun­tains that a cen­tury ago killed em­i­grants with their rig­ors fell to his ve­hi­cle. De­scend­ing to the flats he saw brush­fires crawl­ing on far ridges like lu­mi­nous cells writ­ing some mes­sage across the land, and the farm cities on the an­cient seabed added their sul­furous light at the meet­ings of cap­il­lary high­ways glow­ing with the heat of a sum­mer long past its term, [pg62] and boom­ing through the car’s win­dows when he opened them was the smell of dust, ma­nure, smoke, ex­haust, chem­i­cals, and he crossed the last ridge into his val­ley of a mil­lion souls, of all the places he might go, for all the free­dom he had, here again.

In the dark apart­ment he stripped, drop­ping rank clothes be­hind him on the way to the bath­room. The mir­ror’s sud­den light showed, be­fore self­hood in­ter­posed its pro­tec­tive as­sur­ance, the face of a stranger, ag­ing and vul­ner­a­ble. Low­er­ing his eyes from the bright­ness he stood void­ing for long sec­onds. A rib­bon of urine twisted along the axis of its arc as it splashed into the bowl. Stand­ing thus he blinked, fad­ed, woke. The gates of sleep stood open and he was through them, un­cleansed, as soon as he lay down. [pg63]

Six

Gath­ered be­fore dawn the crowd set out for the main gate, to be met by po­lice as later ar­rivals swelled it fur­ther, un­til Lab work­ers be­gan to show up in their ve­hi­cles and county and city po­lice were called to di­vert traffic to the north gate against the columns of peo­ple still com­ing, and the south road was closed to ve­hi­cles and state po­lice sum­moned, and still the spec­ta­cle slowed to walk­ing speed, so that Quine was late to High­et’s office. Highet stared out his win­dow at the south road.

–Those peo­ple out there will never un­der­stand. It could be so much worse. On the other side, , en­tire re­gions have no civil­ian in­dus­try at all, it’s all mil­i­tary. Here we cut our deals as needed but we still do real sci­ence. We bring in peo­ple like you. We roll back the dark­ness.

–There’s a prob­lem.

Highet turned. –What.

–The beryl­lium and hy­dro­gen re­flec­tors were ca­bled sep­a­rate­ly. Thor­pe’s analy­sis at the ranch used only the beryl­li­um. I looked at the hy­dro­gen data yes­ter­day. Noth­ing. No bright­ness. No beam.

Highet turned again to the win­dow. –I see. The hy­dro­gen re­flec­tors which I asked you not to use. You know, I al­most stopped that work or­der, came that close. But I wanted to see what you had in mind.

–As su­per­vi­sor it was my de­ci­sion.

–Yes it was. So where’s your quan­ti­ta­tive agree­ment now?

–You saw at the ranch. The beryl­lium shows it. Spec­trum peaks here, as pre­dict­ed. But that’s not an x-ray, that’s oxy­gen in the beryl­lium [pg64] glow­ing at just the right wave­length. It looks ex­actly like the new mod­el’s pre­dic­tions for fo­cus.

–And where did this new model come from?

–Thorpe has been mod­i­fy­ing my code. I found a rou­tine of his where just this set of fre­quen­cies is am­pli­fied.

Highet came from the win­dow, pac­ing past the pho­tos of Pres­i­dents and artists’ ren­der­ings, touch­ing the length of ca­ble.

–So it’s all Thor­pe’s fault! That’s your sto­ry?

–The CASE sys­tem shows all his mod­i­fi­ca­tions.

–I see. Well, it’s bad for him, then. Es­pe­cially after Fish and Him­mel­hoch. He has a his­to­ry.

–I would­n’t call it in­ten­tion­al. The ideas he brought were good. I worked with him, I did­n’t see this, it could have hap­pened to any­one.

–It does­n’t mat­ter. He has a his­to­ry, voice sharp­en­ing, –quack­ery or care­less­ness, you think it mat­ters? You think you can ever walk away from your his­to­ry?

Quine said noth­ing.

–Now those hy­dro­gen re­flec­tors, let’s talk about the­se, you pig­gy­backed your own lit­tle test onto the pig­gy­back, that was very cute. Did Thorpe know about that?

–You saw the work or­ders.

–He knew he was get­ting feed from the beryl­lium on­ly?

–It was his de­mo.

–Yes, you saw to that. All right. We’ll keep him on for a while. Then you’ll write him a let­ter of rec­om­men­da­tion. Down the road we’ll is­sue a re­port on the false bright­ness. You’ll be group leader on that.

–You want me to…

High­et’s voice was tight with con­trolled fury. –I want you to take some re­spon­si­bil­i­ty. Show you’re se­ri­ous about this. It’s about time you moved up or got out.

–Okay.

–You be­gin to in­ter­est me, Philip. I thought I knew what to ex­pect from you.

–At least we caught this now.

–Okay. I lis­tened to your sto­ry. Now you lis­ten to me. We haven’t caught a thing yet. What we need now is an­other test. [pg65]

–I don’t want to sound naive, but you’re not go­ing to men­tion this at the pre­sen­ta­tion?

–To­day? I think not. I think I will not at this mo­ment give the en­e­mies of rea­son grounds suffi­cient to bury our pro­ject, our knowl­edge, our as­pi­ra­tions. Highet lifted from his desk a small de­vice etched with a craft un­dreamed of even a decade be­fore, rais­ing it be­fore him like a tal­is­man, weigh­ing it in his hand. –I be­lieve not.

Nolan came through the door bear­ing a red fold­er, ac­knowl­edged Quine with a minute change of ex­pres­sion, as the phone rang and Highet lifted it, –No I can’t see any­one right now.

–Very clean data from your shot, Philip, Nolan said.

–no damn it I can’t Chase is com­ing in an hour

–Oh, you’ve seen it?

–what, what do you mean he’s here now

–We pre­pared the over­heads. A match with the­ory un­par­al­leled since Mendel’s peas.45 Kid’s a barn burner is he?

–well damn it keep him down there

–He’d like to be.

–fuck­ing hero of the peo­ple can just wait

–Y­ou’re tak­ing him un­der your wing.

–don’t care! Do what­ever it takes! Have to do every­one’s job, what’s this Bran?

–Over­heads of the Tal­iesin da­ta.

–Fine, leave them. Bernd there you are find the rest of the team will you get them up where we have a lit­tle prob­lem god damn sen­a­tor ar­rived just a lit­tle ahead of sched­ule he’s down­sta, Den­nis where the hell have you b… Nolan–!

–Oh! I just, sor­ry, did­n’t see your foot

–Sorry Den­nis let me help you up…

–Nolan will you get the hell

–my slides! here don’t step on

–Nolan!

–just put these back in or­der, with the ah in­te­grated an­i­ma­tions and mu­sic in stan­dard files

–Den­nis

–lit­tle prob­lem with the syn­the­sizer all the in­stru­ments stuck on [pg66] the patch so when we played the Apoc­a­lypse Now mu­sic, I mean the Wag­ner Valk, rather in­trigu­ing ac­tu­ally but hardly

–Den­nis will you

–then our ma­chine could­n’t read the TGIFs so we had to con­vert them to Video but some­how they came out black and white one inch square so

–Den­nis will you please

–go low tech in­stead, keep it sim­ple, four syn­chro­nized over­heads

–Den­nis, get up! Leave the, will you leave the slides on the floor. Go to the lob­by. Keep Sen­a­tor Chase busy down there.

–But I

–Go! and pac­ing to the win­dow, part­ing the blind, –Fuck’s this go­ing to play like, must be hun­dreds of them in the road.

–The news said a thou­sand, said Di­etz.

–Bull­shit. Sup­posed to keep these ass­holes away from the main gate put them up in the north cor­ner, I want to know how word of this got out! glar­ing at Quine, –I want to know who’s been talk­ing to these peo­ple, who let them know Chase was com­ing to­day. Who do we have out there? Fed­eral pro­tec­tive, lo­cal po­lice, I want county I want the , bring out the god­damn tran­sit cops if we have to!

–Leo, it’s sym­bol­ic. To­day’s , you know?

–Shit on that, it’s to em­bar­rass us. All for Chase. Man keeps call­ing me up about twenty ki­los of plu­to­nium gone miss­ing46, I keep telling him we don’t stock­pile plu­to­nium here.

–But we do, Leo.

–Well, Bernd, Chase does­n’t have the clear­ance to know that, and pick­ing up the phone midring, –Yes? Damn it Den­nis just, look, take him to the down­stairs con­fer­ence room think you can do that? …no will you for­get the fuck­ing slides, thumb­ing the phone’s but­ton, –Where’s Sz­abo? You all go down, I’m right be­hind you.

–Se­n­a­tor, glad you could make it. This all? Ex­pected to see more of your col­leagues…

–Doc­tor High­et. These two gen­tle­men are from the . You’ll be see­ing more of them. [pg67]

–Why don’t you all take a seat and we’ll be­gin.

–I have just one ques­tion, Doc­tor High­et. Is the Su­per­bright go­ing to work?

–I be­lieve our pre­sen­ta­tion will ad­dress any

–I don’t want a pre­sen­ta­tion, I want a yes or no. At the present mo­ment, judg­ing from every­thing you have to date, is it a vi­able sys­tem, within the bud­get and time­frame we have?

–Be­yond ques­tion. In fact we have new re­sults that show

–A new Su­per­bright test? When?

–I can’t dis­cuss that in open ses­sion.

–Then maybe you can dis­cuss claims of ex­ag­ger­a­tion and fraud from War­ren Slater.

–Those are lies. Slater sab­o­taged my teams re­peat­ed­ly. He had rea­sons of his own to de­rail this pro­gram.

–Such as?

–I can’t dis­cuss that in open ses­sion.

–S­later’s not the only crit­ic. Some of your own peo­ple

–Those are not my peo­ple. Those are peo­ple who’ve made up their minds that cer­tain tech­ni­cal prob­lems are too hard to solve. They’re wrong. They could be mak­ing a con­tri­bu­tion, but in­stead they find fault.

–So why are you be­hind sched­ule?

–We’re not.

–Ac­cord­ing to your own timetable

–Se­n­a­tor, we have bril­liant, cre­ative peo­ple to­gether here do­ing im­por­tant work. Leave them alone and they ac­com­plish mir­a­cles. But if you put lim­its on them…

–Y­ou’re not an­swer­ing me. I did­n’t ask about mir­a­cles.

–I am an­swer­ing you if you’ll let me. You can­not nickel and dime a pro­gram like this in the re­search phase, not if you exp

–Re­search? I thought you were en­gi­neer­ing phase.

–Very near­ly.

–You sent the pres­i­dent a let­ter claim­ing en­gi­neer­ing phase.

–I do not ac­knowl­edge that. If such a let­ter were to ex­ist it would be top se­cret, and you lack the clear­ance to see it or the com­pe­tence to eval­u­ate it. [pg68]

–Doc­tor Highet I’m tired of this, you have put in mo­tion a pro­gram that all told has squan­dered thirty bil­lio

–Se­n­a­tor

–you have stonewalled, you have de­fied

–Se­n­a­tor

–gress, you have hid­den be­hind clas­si­fica

–Se­n­a­tor, you’re an ass­hole. You might even be a trai­tor.

–I will not take that from you, sir!

–You don’t have a clue what’s at stake here, one look at those hip­pies out front you’re ready to cave, sell out this na­tion’s se­cu­rity its tech­no­log­i­cal edge its, break­ing off for the fig­ure in the door­way who bowed his head in apol­o­gy.

–Gentle­men, we have a bomb threat. We need to clear the build­ing.

–Good God.

–Y­our peacenik con­stituents, Chase. Good work.

–I’m not through with you, High­et.

–Fine, I’m will­ing to sit right here play Russ­ian roulette.

–Gentle­men please, se­cu­rity is com­ing through, you’ll have to move to Build­ing 101.

Clipped sta­tic blurted in the hall­way. Gal­lop of many feet ap­proached.

–Clear this area!

Out­side in the sun­light a se­cu­rity squad came run­ning in a wedge, hel­meted and vi­sored, black gloves hold­ing ba­tons at port arms. Leather creak­ing, heels clat­ter­ing, ra­dios jab­ber­ing, they broke through the ex­it­ing crowd and Quine was swept the wrong way, out past an un­manned check­point be­fore he cleared the surge of peo­ple onto a lawn where men in jump­suits trailed strips of CAUTION tape on two then three sides of him and he dashed through the open space as be­hind him shouts were raised. Be­tween win­dow­less walls he took a stair­way down to where two work­men round­ing a cor­ner dealt him a blow with the plank they car­ried, –Je­sus watch it! hurl­ing him to his knees against a chain­link fence trem­bling at the lip of a great pit. In this ex­ca­va­tion five, sev­en, ten ve­hi­cles la­bored grind­ing and roar­ing in des­per­ate in­ten­si­ty, beep­ing hol­lowly as they re­versed or clank­ing fu­ri­ously for­ward over a ter­rain of pale mud. Vast as the pit was it would not bury a mil­lionth of the dead the bombs could kill. Quine
[pg69]

pulled free of the fence with a tear­ing of fab­ric and went over a walk­way of ply­wood sheets, paus­ing be­fore a trailer CREDNE CONSTRUCTION in which door­way two t-shirted men eat­ing lunch re­garded him with dis­pas­sion as with a hand­ker­chief he rubbed dirt and blood from his palms and the knee vis­i­ble through ripped pants, then went down an­other stair of raw wood stained with mud, glanc­ing back at con­cen­tric ter­races gouged from the hill­side. The city is built on two lev­els, lords and palaces above, com­mon work­ers be­low.47 He rounded a cor­ner to where a stream of peo­ple hur­ried past guards at a check­point.

–Look I need to

–Move on, there’s been a bomb threat.

–Yes but I’m in an im­por­tant meet­ing I need to get back to

–You can’t come this way, this is a se­cure area.

–I’m cleared dammit! clap­ping his breast where no photo ID, but a torn flap of pocket de­pend­ed, –oh Christ, look my name’s Philip Quine can’t you call

–Move away! The guard shoved him back into a stream of peo­ple ad­vanc­ing slowly to­ward the main gate. He made his way through and broke into a job on a path that led to the perime­ter road, where he dou­bled back to the en­try kiosk from its far side pass­ing and pass­ing close on his left the un­end­ing mass of pro­test­ers just be­yond the fence. He stopped short of the en­trance gate where cars were blocked by the lead­ing edge of the crowd cours­ing out and around them like a stream around rocks, while bull­horns blared –per­son­nel, do not exit by this gate re­peat do not, and out­side the gate pro­test­ers swirled in place like de­bris at a con­flu­ence of cataracts, held back by a skir­mish line of county po­lice vainly try­ing to keep them sep­a­rate from Lab per­son­nel. Quine stood sweat­ing and pant­ing un­til four cars slewed to a stop on the perime­ter road and dis­charged Lab se­cu­ri­ty, one of whom lev­eled his club at Quine, not clearly part of ei­ther crowd, and cried, –Y­ou!

Quine ran for the kiosk. More Lab po­lice had ar­rived there, form­ing a wedge to di­vert Lab per­son­nel from the gate. Quine was sud­denly be­fore two of them who linked arms to bar his pas­sage. Their vi­sors, opaque and bronze, mir­rored twin Quines, elon­gated and dis­mayed. He pointed past them. [pg70]

–I be­long in­side.

Then he was seized and pushed through the gate into the street. A he­li­copter swept over­head. He crouched un­der its roar, hands against his ears.

Let us now speak the truth as we know it. Say that the sun is round, and bright, and hot. Say that it fires its acolytes, dark­ens their skins, el­e­vates their worm­rid­den souls. It rises in our birth and it sets in our death. Its prints upon our flesh the spots that adorn its face. It is in us whether we la­bor un­der it, or hide away from it. It strikes through our souls, it ig­nites the light of our be­ing, it limns the shadow of our de­nial.48

In the crowd he saw Lynn, her dark head ap­pear­ing and van­ish­ing among oth­ers, nape and shoul­ders bare and tanned be­low the cropped marge of hair, sun blaz­ing on the straps and back of a white top.

Light is a wave and we are car­ried upon it. Light is a par­ti­cle to pierce us with rev­e­la­tion. Light is the sun or the moon, a heat that tem­pers or a gen­tle­ness that sil­vers with love.

He pushed to­ward her. At the end of its cir­cuit the he­li­copter turned and came again.

Say what you know, that love is lost. That light is ex­tin­guished. But see, love­less our souls still blaze. Our sun has not gone out, for fire comes to those who go not the way of light. See, we blaze and are not con­sumed.

He called her name and the call was lost in noise. The crowd shoved them to­gether and she turned to him, eyes sur­prised. It was not Lynn. Pressed by the crowd they un­will­ingly em­braced. He clung to her un­til an­other surge felled him. The cut on his knees opened and he bent to stanch it. When he rose he was among fig­ures wear­ing skulls of pa­pier-mâché and skele­tons painted on black tights. Tam­bourines jan­gled, clat­tered. Around him peo­ple tied ker­chiefs over their faces. The he­li­copter roared. Its belly glis­tened like a spi­der’s, then it rocked and moved off leav­ing a sil­ver mist that fell gen­tly onto the crowd like a spring rain. Tears leapt to Quine’s face and he dropped to his knees gasp­ing and blind­ed, cling­ing to the near­est fig­ure, say­ing over and over, –I be­long in­side. [pg71]

II. Dual Use

[pg73] Past the toll plaza the bridge stretched into morn­ing fog and low clouds that ob­scured bay and sky alike un­til the cen­ter span climbed out of this gray limbo into a bril­liant haze through which sun smote the dri­ver’s win­dow and cur­dled the hori­zons to brown smutch, while a jet poised like a rap­tor over­head and thun­dered in falling as Highet pressed A/C MAX and turned up the ra­dio to, –first day of spring in the record highs ex­pect, punch­ing over to the oro­tund tones of, –, your host ladies and gen­tle­men, the con­ser­v­a­tive voice of truth, pros­per­i­ty, and fun, back in a mo­ment, and hur­tled down the span’s far side through Red­wood City where the only trees to be seen were blue gum eu­ca­lyp­tus and sycamore, past Your Com­pany Name Here 415-282-0110 and SINATRA 4th Show Added Mar 31, tap­ping the brake as tail­lights red­dened in all lanes ahead, swerv­ing from be­hind SQUANDR to thread be­tween and , punch­ing the ra­dio to – low­est prices guar­an­teed at Com­puter Ad­dict Sun­ny­vale, down­shift­ing to third then sec­ond as Ver­sant, , Hex­cel, In­formix, and Fail­ure Analy­sis As­so­ciates went by, cut­ting in front of to brake sharply un­der a small black bill­board in white italic SAVE US FROM WHAT WE WANT as the ra­dio con­tin­ued, – on the scene 101 south­bound at Moffett three lanes closed, and stab­bing the se­lec­tor again, as if a more con­ge­nial re­al­ity awaited on an­other chan­nel, –my friends, I am ex­pound­ing and com­ment­ing on a cul­tural de­cay hap­pen­ing in this [pg74] cul­ture, his hand trav­el­ing on to pick up the cel­lu­lar phone, –Dan Root49, please, this is Leo High­et, as traffic locked to a dead stop.

–Dan, it’s Leo. I’m stuck in traffic, 101’s a park­ing lot. I’ll meet you at the restau­rant soon as I can, pulling as he hung up onto the shoul­der, ac­cel­er­at­ing past the stopped cars, punch­ing brakes and horn to­gether and slid­ing his win­dow down to shout –Ass­hole! at an­other dri­ver also edg­ing onto the shoul­der, and to swerve up the offramp where again he jammed brakes to join two lanes merg­ing un­der a stand of bloom­ing aca­ci­as, as the ra­dio warned, –Friends it’s alarm­ing but peo­ple do judge you by the words you use. Se­man­tech Dy­namic Lan­guage Cas­settes give you the es­sen­tial power words you need to dom­i­nate any, itch ris­ing in his gorge to trig­ger a vi­o­lent sneeze con­tort­ing his face and leav­ing it a mask of sus­pi­cion un­til he spied the high cas­cades of yel­low blooms tossed in the ca­ress of a warm breeze, –ah shit! and jammed the win­dow but­ton to slide the glass un­hur­riedly shut, other hand reach­ing for the glove box, eyes stream­ing as he reached for his in­haler and again punched A/C MAX, re­mov­ing sun­glasses to dab at his tear­ing left eye, glimps­ing in the mir­ror an­gry red skin un­der a pale brow as horns blared be­hind him and the ra­dio asked, –Have you ever won­dered if are for you? and eased the clutch to inch for­ward from the offramp onto a six lane di­vided thor­ough­fare where he chose his op­por­tu­ni­ties to ad­vance through gaps and open­ings among cars stream­ing in a sem­blance of pur­pose com­plex to the past two miles of low fea­ture­less office parks and con­do­mini­ums shrouded by olive and eu­ca­lyp­tus un­til SOON YET loomed and, cut­ting across two lanes, he glimpsed his left eye swol­len, his nose red­dened and en­larged. –Great, just great.

Near the restau­rant door DISABLED PARKING ONLY. Highet parked, the car alarm yelp­ing as he pressed key­chain to arm it, and paused in the foyer to ask of an im­pas­sive Chi­ne­se, –Dan Root? and fol­lowed the point­ing hand to a bel­low of laugh­ter ris­ing over the clat­ter and din of plates flat­ware talk and the plume of smoke curled there above the mas­sive fig­ure in white Stet­son and black shit with red and white em­broi­dery across the yoke, and he edged down a nar­row cor­ri­dor past a pot­ted fi­cus and a woman laugh­ing into a pay phone and en­tered the men’s room where a mir­ror set upon mauve and av­o­cado [pg75] tile showed him a face di­vid­ed, right half nor­mal, left half an­gry with welts and dis­tended into a de­spair­ing ex­pres­sion of for­saken­ness and mis­ery, the eye a furtive and evil bead in swollen flesh, the lip lifted to ex­pose teeth, as though pre­sent­ing a threat while the rest of his face apol­o­gized for it. He cranked a chrome lever to reel yards of pa­per tow­el­ing into a basin un­der a faucet that every few sec­onds pinched off its flow like a pro­sta­titic ure­thra un­til he banged the springloaded tap to restart it. The last of the tow­el­ing tailed into the sink and he lifted the soaked pa­per to his face and held it there cov­er­ing the welts, re­gard­ing stolidly the un­afflicted yet still unlovely right side un­til he re­coiled –Damn! from mois­ture seep­ing at his shoul­der, col­lar, and hair, and flung the tow­el­ing onto the floor, turn­ing in vain for an­other towel dis­penser, shak­ing his wet hands in the air in a des­per­ate of fury, run­ning them through his thin­ning and awry black hair be­fore reen­ter­ing the din­ing room where the mas­sive fig­ure at ta­ble six craned his broad neck around and ex­haled smoke in greet­ing.

–Why, you look like sumpin the cat’s all done with.

–And a good morn­ing to you too, Dan. You’re in form.

–Oh, I am. , a dou­ble , and tech­nol­ogy trans­fer. It’s all a man re­ally needs to be hap­py. Leo, you know Or­rin Gate. Or­r’s chair­man of Gate Cel­lu­lar. He was out to the ranch after your last shot. I think you met there.

–Yes, good to, par­don my, no tow­els in the men’s, cut off by an ob­streper­ous fit of cough­ing at the ta­ble be­hind him, –en­joy­ing the cell phone you sent, very clear sig­nal, never a prob­lem even in the car.

–I’m glad. We are very good at what we do.

–Pull up a pew, boy, here on my right, said Root, hand­ing him as he sat a nap­kin to dry his face.

–These al­ler­gies will kill me yet.

–He’ll have two of these and two of those, Root said, tak­ing from a pass­ing cart four small plates.

–What’s this?

, and these are jel­lied.

–Ex­cuse me, came a sharp voice, as Highet turned his bad eye winc­ing into Root’s ex­ha­la­tion of cigar smoke, –This is the non-smok­ing sec­tion. [pg76]

Root shifted his bulk and thrust his shoul­ders back in thun­der­struck dis­be­lief. –What did you say, son­ny?

–Y­our smoke is ru­in­ing other peo­ple’s en­joy­ment of their meals.

Root’s pale blue eyes nar­rowed in the fat ruddy face framed by lank gray hair and beard. The tooled ivory clasp on his red string tie rose gen­tly and gen­tly fell on the placket of his black shirt, and a slight smile widened his mouth.

–I’m Dan Root. And you are? ex­tend­ing a hand which the other man took re­flex­ive­ly.

–It does­n’t mat, an­noy­ance turn­ing to con­cern as he flinched in Root’s grip.

–Ru­in, is it. I guess you don’t know what ru­ina­tion is.

Root touched the coal of his cigar against the base of the thumb gripped in his hand.

–Je­sus…! as for a frac­tion of a sec­ond the hand writhed in Root’s grip be­neath the coal, then was snatched back and cra­dled like a wounded pet.

–You best put some ice on that.

–Y­ou’re crazy! The man backed to his ta­ble star­ing at Root, face lit as with the fire of rev­e­la­tion. Root turned back to the ta­ble and set the cigar in an ash­tray.

–I sheerly love to take the right­eous down a peg. It’s al­most worth a spoiled ash.

–Some­day one of your vic­tims will call a cop, Highet said.

–That man won’t call a cop. Why, un­til now, he thought he was .

At his ta­ble the man up­ended a wa­ter glass and wrapped ice in a nap­kin. His com­pan­ions bent for­ward in earnest dis­cus­sion while the man stub­bornly shook his head.

–Try the parch­ment wrapped chick­en, Orr. No no, un­wrap it first. Now, Leo, what’s all this crap I’m hear­ing about Su­per­bright prob­lems?

Highet looked dis­taste­fully from Root to Gate and back. –Dan, I know what an om­ni­scient view you have from your ranch in the moun­tains, but some of us down in the trenches

–I just want to know if we get trou­ble. [pg77]

–This is a clas­si­fied pro­gram, Dan, I’m not go­ing to start talk­ing tech­ni­cal de­tails to the un­sanc­ti­fied.

–Un­sanc­ti­fied? asked Gate.

–Se­cu­ri­ty, Orr, he’s wor­ried about se­cu­ri­ty.

–That’s right, Dan. We’re not all free­lancers like you.

–Sim­mer down son.

Gate cleared his throat. –Per­haps I can start. I’ll ex­press our in­ter­est in gen­eral terms, so that any in­ad­ver­tent clas­si­fi­ca­tions breaches won’t jeop­ar­dize you gen­tle­men. As I un­der­stand it, the Su­per­bright com­po­nent of the Ra­di­ance project is not com­ing on­line as quickly as an­tic­i­pat­ed. Con­se­quent­ly, a sec­ond­line com­po­nent of Ra­di­ance may be front­burnered. This sec­ond pro­gram has as­pects of in­ter­est to us out­side its pur­po­sive an­timis­sile en­ve­lope. Fair enough?

–Go on.

–Gate Cel­lu­lar is ea­ger to en­ter the grow­ing dig­i­tal in­for­ma­tion mar­ket50. To play in this mar­ket re­quires vast amounts of ca­ble. That or satel­lites. The larger play­ers have a for­mi­da­ble lead in the ca­ble mar­ket, but there are parts of the globe where, for po­lit­i­cal or ge­o­graphic rea­sons, ca­ble can’t be laid. Some com­pa­nies pro­pose to serve these ar­eas with a small num­ber of geo­syn­chro­nous satel­lites in high or­bit. We think there’s a bet­ter way: a few hun­dred small, cheap, mov­able satel­lites in low or­bit. Re­search and de­vel­op­ment costs are high, so we’re look­ing for strate­gic part­ners.

Root pulled from a shirt pocket some pa­pers and un­folded them. –Long as we’re bein so cir­cum­spect… This is from . “The Sling­shot or­bit­ing in­ter­cep­tors kill in­com­ing en­emy mis­siles by im­pact. Sim­ple and small enough to be de­ployed by the thou­sands, they are lit­tle more than a , a guid­ance com­put­er, and thrusters.” Put a high speed switch­ing net­work on­board, what’ve you got.

–S­ling­shot? asked Gate.

–That’s what we’re call­ing them now, said High­et. –A David and Go­liath thing. Lit­tle peb­ble of a mis­sile knock­ing out an ICBM by ki­netic force.

–Or any other tar­get, said Root.

–Dan…, Highet warned. [pg78]

–As I un­der­stand it, Doc­tor High­et, the Lab wishes to move into more com­mer­cial ap­pli­ca­tions.

–Wish has noth­ing to do with it, it’s a De­part­ment of En­ergy man­date.

–In any case, they’re en­cour­ag­ing with in­dus­try, cor­rect?

–Yes, said High­et. –But Sling­shot is­n’t a can­di­date for a CRADA. It has clas­si­fied com­po­nents.

–Or­r’s ap­pli­ca­tion is out­side the de­fense en­velope, said Root, fold­ing the pa­pers. –I say it’s dual use.

–Looked at the right way al­most any­thing’s dual use. But DOE won’t open a CRADA on this, I guar­an­tee you.

CRADA, who wants a CRADA, I’d sooner have can­cer. You’re get­ting prissy in your old age, Leo. You did­n’t talk this way back in the days of Trans­fi­nite Poly­go­nics.

–Did­n’t have a sen­a­tor on Ap­pro­pri­a­tions out to hang me then.

–Shit, Leo, you re­mem­ber when you and Réti and me came up with these or­biters, called em Bal­durs then.

–Dan…

–Re­mem­ber? That week­end at the ranch? Hell, I got patents that over­lap all this stuff. You say­ing I don’t have a right?

–Look, last thing we need right now’s even the ap­pear­ance of im­prop

–What’s your damn trou­ble, Leo? Those Su­per­bright tests?

–Dan, will you shut up be­fore you

–Gentle­men, per­mit me. The press has sug­gest­ed, with what­ever truth, that de­lays with Su­per­bright may jeop­ar­dize the en­tire Ra­di­ance pro­ject, in­clud­ing the Sling­shot in­ter­cep­tors. Now it seems to me, if the de­fense value of Sling­shot is se­ri­ously ques­tioned, a par­al­lel com­mer­cial mis­sion could save it. It would seem wise to have that com­mer­cial mis­sion in place be­fore such ques­tions arise.

–Lis­ten to Orr, Leo. He knows his stuff. Orr went to school with Un­der­sec­re­tary Rip Whip­ple51.

Highet dipped a cor­ner of his nap­kin into his wa­ter glass and held it to his swollen face. –Can we get some more tea?

–Doc­tor High­et, the men’s room is, where? Past that fi­cus? Thank you. Par­don me. [pg79]

Root watched Gate’s de­par­ture, then turned on High­et. –What the hel­l’s wrong with you? Why the hissy fit?

–Whip­ple’s about to re­sign, Dan.

–What? How come?

–His Ra­di­ance Li­ai­son Office at the Pen­ta­gon handed out half a bil­lion in con­tracts last year, all ap­proved and over­seen by the same four peo­ple. Turned out all four used to work for him.

–Shit­fire. What’s he gone do?

–Back to pri­vate in­dus­try where he can make five times what he made at De­fense.

–And they won­der why they can’t keep good men. But so what, that’s not your prob­lem. What is?

–Got all those patents, Dan, you don’t need me.

–We need , that’s Orr, and we need the Belt­way, that’s you.

–I’m not ex­actly Belt­way Bob these days.

–Did those test re­sults get leaked? That shot with the sen­sor prob­lems?

–Je­sus Dan let’s, a lit­tle loud­er, let’s call CNN why don’t we. You haven’t seen it in the pa­pers, have you?

–That’s it, is­n’t it, that’s why you’re sweat­ing.

–Those re­sults are clas­si­fied.

–Is there a trail back to Null? You have to tell me that.

–There’s no trail. We’re writ­ing a re­port to make our own trail.

–Who’s do­ing the re­port?

–Quine.

–Who?

–He wrote the x-ray fo­cus­ing code. And he su­per­vised the shot, along with Di­etz. That kid we fired, Thor­pe, the scape­goat, he was work­ing un­der Quine.

–What’s Quine like?

–He’s a fuck­up.

–So why are you let­ting him write this re­port?

–He and Di­etz su­per­vised the test. You know Di­etz. So I tapped Quine. I bumped him up to deputy as­so­ciate di­rec­tor.

–You crazy? Deputy as­so­ciate of what? [pg80]

–Of enough rope.

–S­later’s old post.

–I think peo­ple will get the mes­sage.

–I don’t trust Sz­abo, he’d use this to get a leg up on me.

–Thought you had that de­gree thing on him.52

–Why waste it? Any­way Quine pulled a fast one on that test, he set up that kid, Thor­pe. Very down and dirty. I want to see how he writes it up. His head may yet end up on a stick.

–Bet­ter his than mine or yours.

–What do you want with Sling­shot, Dan? You know how to do comm sats.

–We want those thrusters of yours, boy. Mine could­n’t keep a bird in low or­bit for a year53. You’re claim­ing ten years? Is that for re­al? With those dinky lit­tle fuel tanks?

–Clas­si­fied.

–Fuck you too. What’s our lead time?

–First tests in Au­gust. Next round of CRADAs in No­vem­ber.

–These birds re­ally gonna work?

–Je­sus Chr, you sound like Sen­a­tor Samuel Fitz­fuck Chase, are they go­ing to work, they’re tests, Dan, that’s why we do them, be­cause we don’t fuck­ing know. If we knew it’d save us all a lot of time would­n’t it now.

–Boy, you’re on edge. You need a va­ca­tion. Whyn’t you come up the ranch? Take us a cou­ple horses up to Steel­head Lake, catch some trout. Not much snow this year, gonna be an early sum­mer. What do you say?

–Com­ing up Sun­day for those Hertz re­cruits, aren’t I.

–I mean a real va­ca­tion.

–I’m fine.

–Why’s Chase wor­ryin you? Our bud Howie Bangerter chairs that com­mit­tee.

–Howie and his Mor­mon butt boys.

–Don’t say that to Orr, he’s LDS.

–Y­ou’re kid­ding.

–I mean it. He’s a or some­thing. [pg81]

Highet turned to see the black­suited fig­ure re­turn­ing past the fi­cus in the hall.

–Gate know what he’s do­ing?

–Five years from now he should own this mar­ket. We’re talkin bil­lions, boy.

–If the crick don’t rise.

–There you go. That’s my Leo. Don’t you worry now.

–Gentle­men.

–You know, you’re not the only in­ter­ested par­ty, Dan. I heard from Stone last week…

–S­tone! You’re not se­ri­ous. Any man who’ll play for nick­els can’t be trust­ed.

–Mis­ter Gate, ques­tion for you, why do you want a low Earth or­bit for comm sats?

–Please, call me Orr. A big rea­son to go LEO is sig­nal de­lay. Geo-syn­chro­nous sats have a peri­gree of twenty thou­sand miles. By the time you’ve bounced your sig­nal off them there’s a per­cep­ti­ble de­lay. That’s not ac­cept­able for time crit­i­cal us­es.

–Is­n’t on this turf?

–Yes, they are. But they plan to or­bit fewer satel­lites quite a bit high­er.

–This seems, I’m just free­wheel­ing here, a sys­tem this size seems like a risky com­mit­ment for an un­proved mar­ket and a small com­pa­ny.

–That’s why we’re look­ing for al­lies. But the mar­ket’s there. If not for cel­lu­lar, for some­thing else. As I was say­ing to the , and Root shot Highet a glance while Highet looked bored, –we think of the satel­lites as de­liv­ery sys­tems. We’re still look­ing for con­tent providers.

–There’s a ques­tion in my mind what we get out of this.

–We bring to the ta­ble high speed high ca­pac­ity packet switch­ing and rout­ing tech­nolo­gies. Link­ing the Sling­shots in a net­worked sys­tem could make them vi­able for a wide range of ap­pli­ca­tions. Weather mon­i­tor­ing, pol­lu­tion track­ing, global po­si­tion­ing…

–Okay, I think I can pack­age that.

–Now let me ask you this. I un­der­stand that a Co­op­er­a­tive Re­search And De­vel­op­ment Agree­ment grants an ex­emp­tion from [pg82] the .

–Our work­ing model gives a five year FOIA ex­emp­tion.

–Good.

–But get­ting DOE to sign off won’t be easy. Sling­shot is a de­fense pro­gram, they’re sticky about that.

–Shit, Leo…

–Sure­ly, par­don me Dan, surely the De­part­ment of En­ergy can be made to see the ben­e­fit. Their CRADA pro­gram is, from what I hear, un­suc­cess­ful so far. This ven­ture could be a show­piece for them, would­n’t you say? And I un­der­stand that Sling­shot it­self has a shall we say clouded fu­ture.

–Can’t speak for DOE, they have trou­ble see­ing the sun on a clear day, but I’ll do what I can. We’ll draft a let­ter of agree­ment, see where we go from there.

–Ex­cel­lent. I’ll fax you our lat­est .

Root raised his hand in a scrib­bling ges­ture and across the room the man­ager left the man clutch­ing his wrapped hand and darted over to slide the check un­der Root’s hand free­ing from a gold clip three hun­dred-dol­lar bills. Root winked at the man­ag­er. –Some­thin for the help.

The three men rose and walked leisurely to the door. Gate said to Root, –I’m sorry could­n’t make it.

–Mis­ter Kim? said High­et.

–Oh, an­other po­ten­tial in­vestor, said Root. –He’s kind of a recluse.

–Mis­ter Kim. That Sand Hill Road, Dan? Or Seoul?

–Py­ongyang. He he, see his face, Orr? See it. Had him go­ing.

In the vestibule they threaded through a crowd com­ing and go­ing, past the phone booth where a wrapped hand rose ges­tic­u­lat­ing above the par­ti­tion and snatches of talk emerged from the back­ground din like com­plex­i­ties at the sur­face of chaotic sys­tems, –got to get back I’m about to slit a cat stem to ster­num, and –soon’s I quit I get two offers not even look­ing, and –Christ it’s hot for March, and two small boys dart­ing ei­ther side of them, one shout­ing, –I win! I’m king of the world! as the three men emerged into sun­light and Root pushed up the brim of his Stet­son and dropped the stub of his cigar to the [pg83] pave­ment where he ground it to smol­der­ing pulp be­neath his boot­sole.

–Got you a love note there, Leo.

Highet fol­lowed Root’s de­lib­er­a­tive gaze from the curve of a horse­tail cloud slip­ping across sky’s pale dome be­tween a stately pair of eu­ca­lyp­tus, leaves shim­mer­ing like un­heeded sem­a­phores, flank­ing a squat white sav­ings and loan 11:30 82F 28C and fi­nally down to SFORZA and the black vinyl bib stretched across the snout of the red hood into which was tucked a park­ing tick­et.

–Well gents, as the great said, Go you for­ward and faith will come to you.54

–Thank you for your time, Doc­tor High­et.

–Mis­ter Gate, we’ll be in touch. Dan, al­ways a plea­sure.

The car yelped as Highet dis­armed it, Gate flinch­ing from the sound as Root cast an arm around him, say­ing, –Leo’ll eat any­thing that don’t eat him.

On the bridge, hurtling down the far span, the ticket flut­tered like a trapped bird till it tore free as the car boomed past named for whose tale of Lit­tle Brother, so sim­i­lar to that of and , did not pun­ish but re­warded its hero with wis­dom and re­spect for his snar­ing of the sun, and raced mere feet above the bay, ac­cel­er­at­ing past NO TOLL THIS DIRECTION and the leach­ing pools and the in­dus­trial parks, one hand scan­ning past –it’s your con­sti­tu­tional right! to an oro­tund voice that had –noth­ing to be ashamed for! as the free­way broad­ened to eight lanes sprawled like a flat­tened snake up green hill­sides turn­ing gold so early in the year after –sev­enth year of drought for Cali, while else­where, –flood wa­ters so sev­ere, seemed to demon­strate the chaotic ex­trema of a global cli­mate un­der as­sault by the efflu­via of –traffic and weather to­geth, un­til, sat­is­fied for the mo­ment that no news, of him­self at least, was good news, Highet si­lenced the ra­dio and slipped a sil­ver disk into the slot of the CD player to let the doomed gui­tar of carry him back to Codor­nic s EXIT NLY and past the city’s cen­tral mall, cut­ting across a cho­rus of horns and around Es­tancia Es­tates, where CREDNE CONSTRUCTION earth­movers pushed back still fur­ther the be­hind the open frames of iden­ti­cal [pg84] un­fin­ished hous­es, and ban­ners flapped in the hot wind STARTING AT $150,000.

Com­ing then to the main gate of the Lab, fortress city of ten thou­sand souls be­hind ra­zor­wire, slow­ing past the demon­stra­tors in their , with their hand­made signs FRAUD DECEPTION STOP NOW, the dark­haired woman ab­sent to­day, the woman he’d first sin­gled out for heck­ling be­cause of her beau­ty, Highet swerved to flat­ten a rolling pa­per cup un­der his wheel, stop­ping at the kiosk to show ID, –Morn­ing, Jake, and con­tin­u­ing through the dou­bly fenced desert of bro­ken rock and mo­tion sen­sors, into Build­ing 101’s park­ing lot, RESERVED DIRECTOR, not­ing with dis­taste Philip Quine’s bat­tered white Sub­aru parked at the far end near a yel­low back­hoe <<ULTRA-DIG>> be­yond which rose the ter­raced ad­um­bra­tion of a build­ing, its south­ern fa­cade cloaked in mauve and av­o­cado tile while the north­ern half, an un­fin­ished cliff of raw con­crete spat­tered with pale mud, fell away to a ter­rain of rut­ted earth and pools of bright green flux, all en­closed by chain­link and ply­wood sheets sten­ciled ADOBE LUMBER and CREDNE, the half­made bul­wark oddly de­serted by its builders al­though the work­day was at its height.

–Morn­ing, Do­lores, as he en­tered the outer office, frown­ing at the ra­dio de­claim­ing in care­fully mod­u­lated out­rage, –typ­i­cal libur­rul modis op­erendy. He calls my logic cheap and my facts hazy and my rea­son­ing fel­la­tious, un­til Do­lores reached the knob to si­lence it, and Highet plucked the Ohlone Val­ley Her­ald55 from a box of mail in which a smaller car­ton held two and a half dough­nuts, –Think we can keep the jelly off the cor­re­spon­dence? round­ing the desk to come –Ow! hard against heavy boxes sealed with a gray cover sheet Fi­nal En­vi­ron­men­tal Im­pact State­ments and Re­port For Con­tin­ued Op­er­a­tion of Lab­o­ra­to­ries.

–Geez, you look just aw­ful. Take a dough­nut if you want.

–Thanks so much Do­lores. Might as well, there’s most of one on the news­pa­per al­ready. What’s all this junk?

–That’s the EIS back from the print­ers, you wanted three copies.

–Three? Looks like a flat of phone books, prod­ding one box with a foot.

–It’s seven vol­umes, six thou­sand pages. You have calls

–How many of these things did we print? [pg85]

–Two thou­sand sets. You have

–I love it, we’re clearcut­ting the Pa­cific North­west to print en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ments. Is Conor here?

–He was. Your new com­puter ar­rived. You have

–At least some­thing went right while I was gone.

–You have calls from EPA, DOE, DoD, the office, Philip Quine, Bernd Di­etz, Doc­tor Réti, Sen­a­tor Chase, the vice pres­i­dent

–Of what?

–Of the United States.

–God, I love to hear those words. You put all this on the mo­jo?

–No the net­work is down, that’s why I’m telling you. Also William Ven­ham, your sis­ter Thea, and Cedars-Sin

–Why’s the net­work down? Conor! Get him in here.

–and you have a one o’­clock

–Don’t re­mind me, as he pushed open the in­ner office door and the voice rose up again be­hind him, –my friends, it’s demon­stra­tive that, and the door swing­ing wide banged a tower of car­tons, –Fuck! top­pling them in a spill of bub­blewrap, sty­ro­foam, spi­ral­bound man­u­als, war­ranty cards, and ca­bles bagged in plas­tic across the floor to where a black box 56 with match­ing mon­i­tor, key­board, and printer sat on his desk. Highet put down the news­pa­per and the dough­nut and his blunt fin­gers touched its matte sur­face, which took briefly their sweaty im­print then swal­lowed it like mist57, as Conor en­tered yawn­ing, slim to frailty in a black t-shirt C10H12N2O, fine black hair in a pony­tail, trim mus­tache and beard, a re­li­ably com­plaisant wit­ness to High­et’s plea­sure or dis­plea­sure.

–Sorry about the mess, boss, I’ll clean it up. I did­n’t know if you wanted to keep the box­es. What’s wrong with your face?

–My face? Not a thing. Feel good about your­self, Conor, the world will love you. Is this thing sexy or what?

–It rocks. Conor stooped to gather ca­bles, deftly mat­ing socket to plug, snug­ging key­board and mouse. The ma­chine gave out a suave chord and the screen lit with chis­eled icons bright along its bor­der.

–The op­er­at­ing sys­tem was writ­ten for aXon by grad stu­dents at . They got chump change, and the aXon ex­ecs are all dri­ving [pg86] Fer­raris. What is it about you stu­dents, you’re sup­posed to be so smart.

–We are Zen mind.

–Is that why you took the net­work down so I have to col­lect my mes­sages by ?

, o mas­ter. We had a lit­tle in­ci­dent. Some­body put some porno­graphic files up on an open serv­er. We had to take it offline. Un­for­tu­nately it was also a mail serv­er.

Highet gri­maced. –Christ, don’t peo­ple have any­thing bet­ter to do with them­selves? How long were the files there?

–The cre­ation dates vary. Days, months, don’t know.

–This was on an open server? Save the files, I want to know what’s go­ing on there. Now what about my mail?

–Be­hold the lit­tle mail­box. Every time you boot, he knows to check for spooled mail on the server, and there, lean­ing in to smartly tap the black teardrop mouse, –you are.

–Are those my mes­sages from Do­lores? Okay, you can keep your job. But get rid of these empty box­es.

–Do you want to store them?

–You kid­ding? Shit­can them.

–And the man­u­als?

–We don’t need no stinkin man­u­als, piv­ot­ing with one hand to type in his pass­word - - - - - - and burst open the iconic mail­box as Conor hov­ered nosi­ly.

–Chaos on the edge of com­plex­i­ty?

–Just the usual noise. Now clear out of here and let me start tak­ing out the trash. Come by at four and we’ll talk about your pro­ject.

–Cool.

As the door closed Highet slumped back in his chair. His breath came harshly and with sus­pen­sions. In his bow­els dim sum moved rest­less­ly. Open­ing his eyes he stared blankly at a slick card aXon War­ranty Tell Us About Your­self, picked it up, and flipped it spin­ning to ric­o­chet from the lip of the trash can to the car­pet.

He took the Ohlone Val­ley Her­ald and cel­lu­lar phone into his pri­vate bath­room, rest­ing the news­pa­per on the sink­top while he un­folded [pg87] the phone, loos­ened his belt, low­ered his pants, set­tled sigh­ing onto the seat, and then punched SEND. –Do­lores? Get me an hour in the gym at four. Yes I know, don’t re­mind me, punch­ing END, rais­ing the news­pa­per to , Es­tancia Ex­pan­sion Given Green Light, turn­ing to the ed­i­to­r­ial page where, –Son of a! welts on his face red­dened as he took the phone, se­lected a num­ber from its dis­play, punched SEND and wait­ed. –Doc­tor Réti please. It’s Leo High­et, and scanned the text, post-Cold War era, need­less ex­pense, en­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ards, . –Aron, have you seen to­day’s Her­ald? What? Oh, that went fine, I think Gate’s on board. But the Her­ald, lis­ten to this, lead ed­i­to­ri­al, Stop Nu­clear Test­ing Now. What is this crap? We em­ploy ten thou­sand peo­ple, we made this fuck­ing cow town, where does he get off? No, don’t pla­cate me! I don’t care about the ed­i­to­ri­al, pa­per’s a joke and every­body but Greer knows it, I just want to know why he’s get­ting feisty. And it’s not just him, I’ve got calls in from Chase, DoD, DOE, the vice pres­i­dent I mean what’s go­ing on? Who’s talk­ing to who? Yes I’ll be here the rest of, wait, got a meet­ing at one but I’ll have Do­lores put you through. Find out what you can, press­ing END, and the phone in­stantly trilled in his hand and he shifted his nates, sigh­ing. –High­et. What is it, Do­lores. Tell her, no, never mind, I’ll take it. Hello Thea, how’s moth­er. Uh huh. Yes I did. Well, they’ve done what they can. If it’s chron­ic, there’s noth­ing… no, I, look, Thea, she’s sev­en­ty-eight years old, she’s had a full life. No. No I can’t poss. Well, you do what you like but I. Thea, are you lis­ten­ing? I just said I can’t. I run a bil­lion dol­lar lab­o­ra­tory here, I can’t just take a week off and come to Lan­cast­er, it’s out of the. Look, don’t start. Call Mark and has­sle him why don’t you. Uh huh. Thea, lis, Thea, lis­ten to me. I’m hang­ing up. I don’t have time for this. I’ll call you when you’ve got mother home. Good­bye, Thea, press­ing END, –Je­sus suffer­ing Christ, and di­al­ing again to wait through, –Thank you for call­ing the Ohlone Val­ley Her­ald, if you know the ex­ten­sion of, and punched 4 3 1, re­fold­ing the news­pa­per and spool­ing off a length of toi­let pa­per while wait­ing through –J Frank Greer is not in his office right now. If you would like to leave a mes­sage, please wait for the tone.

–J Frank, it’s Leo High­et. You know, out at the lab, where your [pg88] son works, I’m in a small room with funny fur­ni­ture. Your ed­i­to­r­ial is in front of me. Highet rus­tled toi­let pa­per at the mouth­piece. –Now it’s be­hind me. He snapped shut the phone.

He rose then, wiped and flushed, gaz­ing like a at the spi­ral arms of the swirl as the au­guries were swept away. Red pep­per, sausage, pas­ta. Frag­ments rose in the ebb un­flushed and he flushed again. In the mi­asma was a faint scent of as­para­gus. he washed his hands. At the door­way, hitch­ing his belt, he thumbed on a fan and shut the door be­hind him as both desk phone and cel­lu­lar phone trilled to­geth­er.

–Al­ready? Thank you Do­lores. He glanced at his watch, and took a folder from the desk draw­er, open­ing it to con­firm its con­tents and stepped over the thresh­old where the toe of his loafer came down on aXon War­ranty Tell Us skid­ding him past Do­lores star­tled from YOUR IMAGE YOUR SUCCESS How To Pol­ish Your Man­age­ment Style to turn down –friends, I am the epit­ome of, as he caught his bal­ance to stride out and down the hall, paus­ing out­side the con­fer­ence room just long enough to hear, –ther­fucker can’t imag­ine any­one do­ing any­thing for de­cent rea­sons, he thinks every­body has an agend, si­lenced by his en­trance into air sti­fling as a bunker un­der high sealed win­dows like em­bra­sures.

–Morn­ing Leo.

Di­etz, Sz­abo, Karp, Quine, sit­ting there, swel­ter­ing, jack­ets over their chairs, shirts spot­ted with sweat. Look­ing at his swollen face. No one say­ing what they thought. Highet laid down his pa­pers, put on half­glass­es, and re­mained stand­ing.

–Like an in­ferno in here, what’s the prob­lem?

–I called phys­i­cal plant. They say the air con­di­tion­er’s screwed up.

–That’s re­ally great, we need phys­i­cal plant to tell us that?

–They say they’re work­ing on it.

–What about the other con­fer­ence room?

–They’re paint­ing it.

–I thought we painted it last year. Oh, I re­mem­ber, one of those id­i­otic use it or lose it bud­get items. Speak­ing of which, where’s Ki­hara? I asked him to be here.

–He, ah, said he had a brush fire to put out. [pg89]

–He say what it was?

–Some­thing about an EIS.

–Frank, did you take that meet­ing with Je­remy this morn­ing?

–Yes, sir. Him and two other fed­er­al-look­ing gen­tle­men from the Gen­eral Ac­count­ing Office.

–And?

–They’ll be back.

–Okay, let’s start with­out Ki­hara. Yes, what is it, Bernd?

Di­etz rose and held out a white en­velope, its end trem­bling. –I must tell you. I can­not con­tinue here. For a long time I have known this. I hear rum­blings, it is like a great build­ing with a bad foun­da­tion, a few cracks ap­pear, the col­lapse be­gins, no, I can­not stay on, this is my res­ig­na­tion.

–Bernd, sit down…

–Last night some­one from CNN calls my home, to ask about charges of fraud.

–Did this some­one iden­tify him­self?

–Ar­mand Stera­di­an.

–Was­n’t he that PBS guy used to hang around here, Leo?

–Ex-PBS. After that back­stab­bing spe­cial of his I made some calls. He’ll never work for them again. What did you tell him, Bernd?

–Noth­ing! But I can read the writ­ing.

–Bernd, you’re over­re­act­ing. This is noth­ing more than our friend Chase leak­ing ru­mors. If he had any­thing re­al, he would­n’t be phon­ing in anony­mous tips to Chicken Noo­dle News. Show some nerve. He’s just wait­ing for some­one to bolt.

–But I tell you I can­not

–Bernd. Do me a fa­vor. Put that en­ve­lope back in your pock­et. Keep it there over the week­end. If you still feel this way on Mon­day, we’ll talk.

Highet looked around at the rest of them. Not say­ing what they thought. Sweat ran down his ribs.

–I’m glad Bernd brought this up. It’s stress­ful but it’s noth­ing new. The Ra­di­ance pro­gram has some un­re­solved is­sues, we know this. We also know that we can re­solve them. But in the mean­time our [pg90] crit­ics are get­ting vo­cal. Is there any­one here who can’t take the heat?

Di­etz glanced at Quine. The oth­ers held their poker faces.

–Okay. Let’s move on to busi­ness. You all know how DOE is talk­ing up dual use tech­nolo­gies. We hear this so often, the old plow­share pol­ka.

–D­ual use tech­nolo­gies, said Sz­abo. –I’ve got one of those in my pants.

–Thanks Frank, I’m sure we all

–Looked so nice out this morn­ing I’d thought I’d

–ap­pre­ci­ate your wit. Here’s my point. This is an op­por­tu­ni­ty. We can start mov­ing Ra­di­ance tech­nolo­gies un­der the dual use en­ve­lope.

–What about the GAO in­ves­ti­ga­tion? asked Karp.

–I’m not wor­ried. The re­port is­n’t due for a few months. You’ve all given your in­ter­views, right?

Quine was ready­ing to speak. That ha­bit­ual wounded look. Al­ways about to flinch. As Quine’s mouth opened, Highet spoke.

–Philip, you were re­view­ing the re­cent Su­per­bright tests. Where are you on that?

–I’m fin­ished, pulling sev­eral spi­ral­bound xe­roxes from a black ny­lon car­ryall.

Highet stared in dis­be­lief. –I thought your time­frame was longer.

–I’m done.

–Well, hold those. It’s not ap­pro­pri­ate to dis­cuss them now. Not till we’ve all seen them.

The wounded re­proach in Quine’s eyes did not flinch but hard­ened. –I thought I’d dis­trib­ute them now.

–I said hold them.

Some­thing like rage there now. But no fol­lowup. Highet held his gaze for a sec­ond longer as Quine fin­gered the bind­ings.

–So, fu­ture di­rec­tions. We’ve got CRADAs in x-ray lith­o­g­ra­phy. Fu­sion re­search can cover a lot of pro­grams. Frank, talk with P Sec­tion and see what all we can get un­der their um­brel­la. We’re look­ing at re­duced un­der­ground test­ing, very pos­si­bly a full ban. Bit­ter as that is, it’s an op­por­tu­nity for com­puter sci­ence, sim­u­la­tion codes, and for hy­dro­dy­namic and hy­dronu­clear test­ing. What else, peo­ple? What else can we pack­age?
[pg91]

–There’s the tool­mak­ing code we gave GM a few years back.

–A lot of as­tron­omy stuff could fall out of our adap­tive op­tics work.

–As­tro­physics is al­ways good cov­er.

–We have fab­ri­ca­tion tech­niques that could prove adapt­able to com­mer­cial man­u­fac­tur­ing.

–Very good, thank you, Bernd.

–All this is more like a garage sale than tech­nol­ogy trans­fer, said Sz­abo. –What about the Sling­shot or­biters? Plenty of po­ten­tial there.

Highet looked thought­ful as sweat slicked his in­ner thighs. –Re­al­ly. What kind of po­ten­tial?

–Well, lots of things. They’re just or­bital plat­forms. Off the top of my head, as­tron­o­my, weather mon­i­tor­ing, comm sats…

–What about the clas­si­fied el­e­ments?

–Most of the Sling­shot tech is off-the-shelf. It’s a mat­ter of what you put on them. Differ­ent hard­ware, differ­ent soft­ware, that’s all.

–Can you write a white pa­per on this, Frank? Iden­ti­fy­ing ar­eas out­side the se­cu­rity en­velope?

–Kind of busy right now. But yeah, I could.

–Do it. The rest of you, I want some­thing in writ­ing about pro­grams in your ar­eas.

–Ah, be­fore we, can I just bridge in here? What’s our ad­van­tage go­ing after this stuff? Karp leaned crossly for­ward, bare fore­arms rest­ing on the con­fer­ence table’s oak ve­neer.

–Why, Hen­ry, said High­et, –we get the sat­is­fac­tion of en­hanc­ing Amer­i­ca’s global com­pet­i­tive­ness.

–So we go from na­tional se­cu­rity to ap­pli­ances? I’m not very ex­cited about that. I re­mem­ber the last time we did this crap, de­sign­ing wind tur­bines in the sev­en­ties. About as sexy as bell bot­toms.

–I was there, Hen­ry. La­bels change, the work goes on. You all know I’ve got the en­tire Lab to con­sid­er, but you also know this is where my heart and his­tory is. Nu­clear de­sign, , mis­sile de­fense, this is our work, the work of the age. I won’t let any­one cut the heart out of our mis­sion.

–I hate this shuffle, com­plained Karp. –We’ll have crack­pot re­al­ists com­ing down off the wood­work to get on the gravy train. [pg92]

–If we don’t get it the pick­pock­ets will.

–That’s right, Frank, said High­et. –I know it’s a pain in the neck. It’s mean­ing­less and it dis­tracts. But rise to the chal­lenge, peo­ple. Think of it as di­ver­si­fy­ing our port­fo­lio. Any­thing else? Then let’s get out of this fuck­ing sauna. Philip, in my office.

And like Vir­gil quit­ting the un­der­world, damp thighs chafing, he led Quine to his office paus­ing to hold the in­ner door for the younger man to pass in first, then fol­low­ing him in with a slam. Quine flinched.

–Don’t you ever try that again. Make an end run around me.

–End run? You as­signed me this re­port, you

–Don’t tell me what I did!

Quine dropped the bound xe­roxes on High­et’s desk, An Analy­sis of False Bright­ness Read­ings in “Tal­iesin” Test of Ra­di­ance “Su­per­bright” X-Ray Laser Com­po­nent.

–This is my draft re­port, sub­mit­ted for com­ments ex­actly ac­cord­ing to pro­to­col, exac

–Pro­to­col! Don’t give me pro­toc, break­ing off to grab from the desk an in­haler, glar­ing over its bar­rel as he pumped it, then, after in­hal­ing nois­i­ly, –Where, just where do you get off, re­turn­ing this fa­vor I did you, the great fa­vor of let­ting you head this group, of pro­mot­ing you to di­rec­tor lev­el, you re­pay me with this bull­shit? I’m speech­less. It is un­der­stood that you run this kind of re­port by me pri­vate­ly, first as a cour­tesy and just in­ci­den­tally so you don’t make an ass of your­self.

–I’ll risk that.

–No you won’t, you’ll sit down this minute and we’ll go over it line by line. Do­lores will clear your after­noon, reach­ing for the phone which trilled stop­ping his hand mo­men­tar­ily be­fore he lifted it. –High­et. Yes, Aron, what have you got? EIS? What’s that got to do with. No, it’s just back from the print­ers I haven’t even opened, it’s six enor­mous vol. Oh Christ, not those jerks again. All right, don’t wor­ry, I’ll. Yes I’ll deal with them. Don’t ex­cite your­self. Never mind the EIS, I need, never mind it, I need to know about the Tal­iesin test. The last Su­per­bright shot. Whether those re­sults were leaked. You haven’t said any­thing to any­one? Okay, I think some­one here is sell­ing us out, glar­ing at Quine. –No one’s called you? Okay. Well, you say no com­ment, [pg93] of course. Call me if you hear any­thing at all.

–I’m not go­ing to do this, said Quine.

–Ex­cuse me?

–I’m not go­ing over this doc­u­ment with you. I’ll put it through chan­nels.

–What do you think you’re play­ing at, Philip?

–Y­ou, you think this is some kind of game, win­ners and losers, the screw­ers and the screwed, think you can change re­al­ity by, by wish­ing, by ly­ing by

–Peo­ple like you, Philip, you suffer re­al­i­ty. I make it hap­pen. That’s not game. It’s se­ri­ous be­cause you win or you lose. It’s you fuck­ing am­a­teurs who screw things up.

The phone trilled again. –Do­lores, hold my calls. What? Tell him, no, send him in.

Den­nis Ki­hara en­tered bear­ing six hefty gray vol­umes cra­dled in his arms then skid­ded –Look out! across the car­pet, stum­bling to a stop at High­et’s desk where he de­posited his bur­den and bent to pick up, –What’s this, Tell Us About Your­self, looks like a war­ranty c

–I’ll take it, what’s your prob­lem Den­nis?

–The EIS, have you seen? well of course you have, here, page IV-C-238 let me, oh sorr

–Den­nis, just

–be­cause we wait, let me, Map of Planned Con­struc­tion, see, right next to Build­ing 101

–Yes, that’s us right where we’ve al­ways been.

–Well it’s, gosh, I re­viewed this map my­self, and I don’t know how it hap­pened but we have to is­sue an er­raticum.

–What’s the prob­lem?

–Well look!

–It’s a map, it

–No, there, out the win­dow! fol­low­ing the point of Ki­hara’s trem­bling fin­ger past the slat­ted blinds to a bleached sky half ob­scured by a mauve and av­o­cado fa­cade.

–Don’t like that tile, looks like a men’s room, but what are you

–It’s not there!

–Den­nis what are you [pg94]

–The build­ing, the new build­ing’s not on the map!

–That’s ridic, scan­ning the fold­out graphic and the text across from it dot­ted with gray over­print­ing des­ig­nat­ing changes from the Draft doc­u­ment, –well that’s un­for­tu­nate but hardly a ma­jor, we’ll just is­sue an er­rat­ic, I mean an er­ra­tum.

–We need to send it as­ap, I have a list, I tried to e-mail you but the net­work is down.

–List of what.

–Of peo­ple and places I con­tact­ed.

–You what?

–I just, I, I called some places to ad­vise them that there were prob­lems with the EIS, did­n’t go into de­tai

–Called what places.

–Well I started with our FedEx list. Con­gres­sional offices and cit­i­zens’ groups most­ly.

–Re­al­ly. Ink’s not dry and you’re on the horn telling CANT and Sen­a­tor Chase that we have some re­al­ity prob­lems, that’s just great, just in­cred­i­bly effi­cient Den­nis.

–Well thanks I just, you know, it’s my job

–Take the rest of the day off, let me han­dle this.

–Oh no, I could­n’t, it’s my mis­take.

–Yes it is, but you’ve done so much al­ready.

Ki­hara glanced from Highet to Quine un­easi­ly. –Well, I

–I’ll come back lat­er, said Quine.

–No you won’t. You stay right there, trans­fix­ing Quine with all the fury he kept from Ki­hara. –Den­nis, what I need from you right now is a list of every­one you called, push­ing a blank sheet of pa­per across the desk.

–Okay, I can email you

–I said now.

–Well, I think I can re­mem­ber most of… Fum­bling, he un­clipped from his shirt pocket a black­bar­reled pen, nest­ing bar­rel in cap as [pg95] Highet calmly waited and watched Quine.

–You know, Den­nis, no­body no­tices an over­sight like this in a doc­u­ment this size un­less you point it out to them. What you do is you wait a few months, and then you file an ap­pen­dix buried in a bunch of other doc­u­ments. Like a cat you hide your shit in the sand, you fol­low me?

–Um, yes, okay, I’ll, yes I think so. The pen hes­i­tated and con­tin­ued.

–But you don’t ever, ever tell the peo­ple who want to shut us down that we fucked up. These peo­ple are the en­e­my.

–Sor­ry, I, here… push­ing the sheet to Highet with one hand as the other re­turned pen to pock­et, clip­ping it in place.

–Don’t apol­o­gize, it makes you look weak. Just never do it again. If there’s ever a ques­tion in your mind, ask me. You’re sure that’s every­one?

–I, yes I think

–What about CalPIRG?

–Oh yes that’s right

–N­ever mind, I’ll add it. You get any call­backs?

–Yes, Lynn Ham­lin, and Highet saw Quine tense, so he did know her, –from Cit­i­zens Against Nu­clear Tech­nol­o­gy, she wants me to speak at a meet­ing tonight.

–No chance. For­get it. What time is this meet­ing?

–Six p m at the, ah, First Uni­tar­ian Church of Kent­wood, open fo­rum on, let me see, the role of the Lab in a post Cold War

–Yes, well, they can open it with­out you.

–They’ve in­vited a speak­er, Tony Luz.

–Luz? That prick. We went to to­geth­er. Makes him think he knows sci­ence.

–Well, he’s fairly well known, I thought an­other point of view

–Ad­man turned en­vi­ro. Don’t loan him cred­i­bil­i­ty. Got a lit­tle prob­lem there, Den­nis.

A round black stain had spread across Ki­hara’s shirt pocket where the pen was clipped.

–I, what?

–Y­our pen is leak­ing. [pg96]

–Oh? look­ing down in con­fu­sion to pluck it out with a snap, star­ing in cha­grin at the sil­ver clip on the cap top­ping the black bar­rel nar­row­ing to an ex­posed gold point. He dropped it –Damn! on the desk, touch­ing the stain fu­tilely with fin­ger­tips that came away dark­ened, as Highet pulled two tis­sues from a box. –Damn, damn… hold­ing the tis­sues as he gath­ered the vol­umes to his chest. Highet fol­lowed to push the door shut al­most on his heels.

Highet capped the pen and clipped it in his own pock­et. He looked at Quine in si­lence for a mo­ment. –I’m too good na­tured. I like to give peo­ple a chance. Guide them along. Like you, Philip. I pro­moted you, I gave you this op­por­tu­ni­ty, hand­picked you to man­age this re­port, told every­one to co­op­er­ate with you. You let months go by, you don’t talk to me, and now you drop this, this sack of shit on me.

–The, the whole point of an in­de­pen­dent

–In­de­pen­dent? The hell you think you’re do­ing! You want to go it alone? Like Slater? You want to see first­hand what hap­pened to him?

–S­later, yes, and Di­etz

–Di­etz, de­fect­ing in the mid­dle of the fuck­ing meet­ing, did you put him up to that?

–He’s been try­ing to see you all week, you don’t even an­swer his e-mail, and, and Slater, they knew, did­n’t they, that the com­puter model was rigged from the start, all the way back to Null.

–Now it’s Nul­l’s fault? Thought you were blam­ing young Thor­pe. Keep your scape­goats straight. The fact is it’s your mod­el, Philip, your com­puter code, and if any­one goes down for this

–but you put me on it, did­n’t you, gave me Nul­l’s code and the bad data from ear­lier tests, let me waste over a year on some­thing you knew could­n’t work un­til Thorpe tweaked it to give those bo­gus re­sults

–be­hind Thor­pe’s back, that stunt you pulled with the backup re­flec­tors, I should never have let you

–be­cause oth­er­wise no one would have known, that was the heart of it, was­n’t it, those beryl­lium re­flec­tors, they glowed ex­actly as the model pre­dict­ed, but they weren’t mea­sur­ing any­thing but their own ra­di­ance, the backup re­flec­tors showed just a spike in the back­ground noi

–Lis­ten to your­self, you’re say­ing that even your back­ups showed [pg97] bright­ness

–six or­ders of mag­ni­tude be­low what you claimed, six or­ders! a mil­lion times less! and twelve or­ders from what you promised, you over­stated the power by a bil­lion times! and you knew it all along, how did you think you could get away with, fake some­thing like that at the heart of this pro­gram?

–Watch what you say about what I did and did­n’t know, and be very care­ful about us­ing that f-word, be­cause it’s your prob­lem, you’re the one who could­n’t do your job! So don’t tell me what I know, I know it can be made to work, but you could­n’t do it!

–You think you can do sci­ence by PR, by

–Do you think this, pac­ing to the wall and tap­ping the framed fac­sim­ile of an an­cient let­ter in a small pre­cise hand, –was­n’t PR? “Item, I have a model of very strong but light bridges, Item, I also have mod­els of mor­tars, Item, in case of need I will make large , , and firethrow­ing en­gines of beau­ti­ful and prac­ti­cal de­sign, in short, what­ever the sit­u­a­tion, I can in­vent an in­fi­nite va­ri­ety of ma­chines for both at­tack and de­fense”, sure, think this was­n’t blow­ing smoke, think Leonardo had ever built any of the­se, think he had off the shelf hard­ware ready to go, no, but he got the job and he did it all, gave [Lu­dovi­co] Il Moro sat­is­fac­tion for nine­teen years did­n’t he

–bring up Leonardo you might talk about the string of projects he left un­fin­ished

–and Slater, don’t give me Slater, a fuckup and a sub­stance abuser, lit­tle les­son for you there

–and just who is this De­von Null? No­body in J Sec­tion has ever seen him, one day I’m shar­ing his office space, the next all his books pa­pers fold­ers xe­roxes are gone, cleared out, per­son­nel won’t even give me his em­ployee records

–Ask your girl­friend. I mean the one in per­son­nel, not the one in the an­ti­nuke group. Al­though with the in­for­ma­tion sieve around here the other one might have them too.

–What busi­ness of yours

–My busi­ness is to keep this place go­ing, you want to walk around here on mak­ing wild ac­cu­sa­tions re­mem­ber that.

–Now wait just a [pg98]

–You con­sider this re­port fin­ished, is that right?

–Yes.

–Fine. I’m ac­cept­ing it. You’re done. Your group’s dis­solved. You’re on leave. Now get out.

–Now wait a

–Did you hear me? Out, now!

For a mo­ment Quine stood, then zipped shut his empty car­ryall and went out past a slen­der young man car­ry­ing a calf­skin case who looked up from Do­lores and in at High­et.

–Oh, Doc­tor High­et, I just dropped by to set up a meet­ing.

–Why don’t you come in for a min­ute, Je­re­my, hold­ing the door as his eyes fol­lowed Quine into the cor­ri­dor.

–I don’t want to barge in…

–No, I’m glad to see you. Just one min­ute, as he went around the desk to lift the phone with one hand and with the other ca­su­ally pulled open a drawer and swept An Analy­sis of False Bright­ness into it. –Do­lores? I want drug tests im­me­di­ately for all em­ploy­ees in J Sec­tion. Yes, I mean this after­noon.

–I’m glad that’s not my in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the young man said, smil­ing.

–So, Je­re­my. How was the meet­ing this morn­ing? I’m sorry I missed it, you know how it is, com­plex­ity on the edge of chaos. Frank Sz­abo take care of you?

–It went well. There are one or two points I think we’ll take up in a fu­ture meet­ing.

–What points?

–Writ­ten state­ments from Doc­tor Réti to the pres­i­dent and the sec­re­tary of de­fense. They seem to over­state the Su­per­bright’s power by a sub­stan­tial amount.

–Doc­tor Réti is emer­i­tus here. He’s not in­volved in daily op­er­a­tions, so he may not be com­pletely up to speed on Su­per­bright de­tails. But he can still ex­press his opin­ions as a pri­vate cit­i­zen.

–Well, yes, but on Lab let­ter­head?

–He keeps an office here, it’s nat­ural he’d use the sta­tionery. I would­n’t make too much of it.

–Don’t you, ah, re­view his offi­cial let­ters? [pg99]

–No. Why should I?

–Well, you are the di­rec­tor.

–Je­re­my, put your­self in my place. Réti’s the founder. He’s a liv­ing leg­end. I can’t vet his cor­re­spon­dence.

–Yes, but, even com­pared to your own test re­sults, his es­ti­mates of the beam’s power are high by a fac­tor of um, a bil­lion? He says that the last test, Tal­iesin was it called? in­di­cates a ma­jor break­through?

–We saw sub­stan­tially in­creased bright­ness. A bil­lion times? No rea­son the beam could­n’t be made that bright.

–Doc­tor Réti used the words “en­gi­neer­ing phase”.

–Our bot­tle­neck is­n’t the sci­ence, it’s the fund­ing.

–Well, con­cerns have been raised, you don’t mean the GAO’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion hinges on a cou­ple of let­ters, do you?

–Well, but even your own num­bers from pre­vi­ous tests have been ques­tioned by some of your own peo­ple

–Not Slater again, is it, to­tally un­re­li­able

–Sz­abo said this last test, Tal­iesin, is un­der in­ter­nal re­view by uh, who is it, Philip Quine?

–That’s purely a tech­ni­cal re­view. We tried out a new de­tec­tor arrange­ment. But the old de­tec­tors worked fine, they gave us all the data we need­ed. Ac­tu­al­ly, Quine’s been drag­ging his feet on that re­port. I’ll have him fin­ish it and get a copy to you, but frankly any prob­lems there are tech­ni­cal and not sub­stan­tive.

–One last thing. What do you know about uh, Trans­fi­nite Poly­go­nics?

–That some kind of non-Euclid­ean geom­e­try? Nu­clear chem­istry’s my field.

–It’s a hold­ing com­pa­ny, or pos­si­bly a con­sult­ing firm. Doc­tor Réti seems to own quite a lot of their stock.

–And?

–Cer­tain tech­nolo­gies li­censed through Trans­fi­nite orig­i­nated in the Lab. There might be a con­flict of in­ter­est.

–We often waive com­mer­cial rights.

–Well, if he’s ad­vis­ing the gov­ern­ment on mat­ters in which he has a fi­nan­cial stake [pg100]

–Oh look, Réti’s no sharp­shoot­er. Some of our peo­ple go into pri­vate in­dus­try, it was prob­a­bly some for­mer stu­dent he wanted to help out, I’ll bet he’s for­got­ten all about this stock. Is there any­thing else?

–No, that cov­ers it. But the is­sue of the tests and the al­leged over­selling. I would­n’t take those too light­ly.

–Thanks for com­ing by, Je­re­my.

Highet flipped open his phone, ar­rowed down un­til its dis­play showed ROOT DAN, and pressed SEND to hear, –The Gate Cel­lu­lar cus­tomer you have called is un­avail­able or has trav­eled out­side the cov­er­age area. Please try your call again lat­er.

The gray face of his watch blinked 3:55. From un­der the desk he took a black gym bag bla­zoned aX­on, un­zip­ping it for the hand that opened the drawer to trans­fer An Analy­sis of False Bright­ness, as the desk phone trilled and, –High­et. Yes, Bernd. No, that’s all right… fin­gers drum­ming, he checked his watch for 3:56, and tapped the phone’s cradle, –Hold on, Bernd, that’s my other line, at once hang­ing up and pass­ing into the outer office –I’m gone, Do­lores, wav­ing off her –But the Vice Pres, as round­ing a cor­ner be­hind him a black t-shirt SEROTONIN stopped to watch his back van­ish into the warmth of the after­noon sun and pass briskly into the shadow of the un­fin­ished fa­cade, still oddly de­sert­ed, past ply­wood and chain­link where yel­low CAUTION CUIDADO tape now stretched taut be­tween stakes around a ter­rain of ruts and pools of bright green flux.

On a ma­chine of matte black steel and padded vinyl, Highet pumped and ped­aled, pale pudgy thighs kiss­ing and re­leas­ing the damp seat, and in­haled the stink of his wet cling­ing shirt. All around him, the creak, clank, huff of ex­er­tion, the small of work, the tithe that flesh ex­acts from mind. Three times a week, since a spell of had scared him to an emer­gency room, he forced him­self through this hour of pain, seething at every pump of calk, every stab of out­raged quad. At thirty min­utes he quit and went through the lock room, paus­ing at a foun­tain to gulp from the weak qua­ver­ing arc of wa­ter brought forth by his thumb on its chrome but­ton, then peeled off sod­den t-shirt and shorts for swim briefs, and headed past PLEASE SHOWER BEFORE ENTERING POOL into air cool on his moist flesh and sun­light glint­ing on black cot­ton­woods bur­nish­ing a golden [pg101] haunch clad in bright span­dex, tin­gling with rus­set black hair that van­ished into a white cap. He freed from his gym bag dropped on a red­wood bench a pair of smoked plas­tic gog­gles, and sat at pooledge, legs im­mersed, and rinsed spit from the gog­gles be­fore fix­ing them in his or­bits, wait­ing for the white cap to at the wall by his feet be­fore plung­ing to breast­stroke a few lengths be­hind the scis­sor of golden legs, the wink of bright span­dex.

After ten laps he pushed up out of the wa­ter, tow­eled, brushed fallen cot­ton­wood catkins from the bench, and sat. Nearby a pair of gar­den­ers glanced at him then re­turned their at­ten­tion to the trees. –¿­Porqué los álamos no sueltan semi­l­las? –Hace dos años re­ba­jamos las hem­bras. El jefe tiene las alé­gias. –¡Ay! En­tonces los hom­bres álamos ya no difru­tan mas58. He opened An Analy­sis Of to beryl­lium ex­cited by the trig­ger glowed at pre­cisely the wave­length of the pre­dicted laser light, blink­ing away from the bright page for his sun­glass­es, see­ing across the pool a thin pale man in blue trunks, suede hat, and hik­ing boots watch a trim woman pass­ing, his eyes slid­ing in a lean hu­mor­less face. The woman en­tered the pool and a mo­ment later the thin man re­moved his boots and hat and low­ered into the same lane to swim breast­stroke a few lengths be­hind the woman. Highet called to the life­guard.

–Why don’t you tell him to move to a slower lane?

–Who?

–The blue suit. He’s in the way.

–Looks fine to me.

–Don’t tell me! I’ve been sit­ting here watch­ing him for ten min­utes, you haven’t even been look­ing.

After a hes­i­ta­tion the guard went to pooledge and thrust a blue kick­board in front of the man as he came to his turn. Highet flipped pages to de­fec­tive re­flec­tors du­pli­cated and there­fore con­firmed the bright­ness pre­dicted by the com­puter model. Like a child prob­ing a scab he skimmed to throw­ing all pre­vi­ous test re­sults into ques­tion, whis­per­ing –Fuck­er, and plung­ing a hand into the gym bag feel­ing for the spi­ral edges, did I get all his copies? Of course not, he’ll have a back­up, glanc­ing up to see Quine’s girl, the one in per­son­nel, talk­ing warmly with a wiry man darkly tanned. What was her name, he’d looked it up just last week. Should have seen this a few hours ago, [pg102] be­fore deal­ing with Quine. Drive the knife deep­er. A white cap ap­peared at pooledge and golden arms straight­ened and a golden leg came up to vault glis­ten­ing span­dex from the lane and rus­set hair tum­bled free from the white cap, cool blue eyes meet­ing High­et’s shielded gaze as he shook free of revery, zipped his gym bag and strode back into the dim­ness of the locker room, sun­glasses fog­ging as he passed the steam­ing show­ers, de­tour­ing to a row of uri­nals where he dropped the bag and sprad­dled tug­ging aside the crotch of his briefs, star­ing ahead at tile, as on his cool­ing back damp­ness dried and his stream rang in the bowl, mist­ing faintly the hand hold­ing his stub of flesh. On the porce­lain shelf was a small un­capped vial. While right thumb and in­dex shook and tucked his flesh into his briefs, he turned the empty vial be­tween in­dex and left thumb, –Son of a, to dis­play URINE LUCK59 - Ter­so­lene - Di­rec­tions: Add con­tents of the vial to eight ounces (8 oz.) of urine. Mix slight­ly.

Near chain­link now wrapped with CAUTION CUIDADO, in the shadow of the fa­cade, Bran Nolan, sat­ur­nine and gaunt, stood wear­ing the look of his name­sake, son of Febal, upon his re­turn from the magic year of so­journ that spanned mun­dane cen­turies, to learn that the shore of home had be­come fa­tal to him.

–Evening, Bran.

–I hear Ki­hara screwed up the EIS.

–That’s the truth.

–Do you know what’s go­ing on here? No­body’s work­ing.

–It’s five-thir­ty, Bran.

–No­body’s been here all after­noon. The cau­tion tape, who put that up?

–I don’t know. Bran, have a min­ute? Step in­side, would you?

Highet led in­side and down the hall, through the empty outer office, kick­ing aside in pass­ing aXon Tell Us About, ges­tur­ing Nolan to a chair near the black matte com­put­er.

–You put your guests in the death seat, I see.

–What?

–The back end of your mon­i­tor’s pointed at me. That’s where the emis­sions are high­est.

ELF, elf is right, that crap’s about as real as lep­rechauns. While [pg103] you’re here, your draft re­sponse to this GAO thing, I have a lan­guage ques­tion, skim­ming through pages to where a yel­low high­light stopped him.

–Which GAO thing? We’ve got five pend­ing.

–The prop­erty man­age­ment one. You say here, “sig­nals an ac­count­ing dis­crep­ancy”. Is­n’t that a bit strong?

Nolan put on glasses and stud­ied the page, lips pursed. –Our De­cem­ber state­ment said, “ex­cel­lent se­cu­rity man­age­ment of sen­si­tive ma­te­ri­als.” The same month an in­ter­nal au­dit re­ported ten kilo­grams of plu­to­nium miss­ing. That sig­nals, you might even say high­lights, a dis­crep­an­cy.

–Sug­gests.

–What?

–Sug­gests a dis­crep­an­cy.

–Oh no, not at all. An off-record com­ment in the cafe­te­ria sug­gests. A heav­ily edited and re­viewed doc­u­ment sig­nals. Or de­notes. Or even high­lights.

–Some­thing soft­er.

–This is soft.

–Soft­er.

Nolan crooked a fin­ger. –Indi­cates. It in­di­cates a dis­crep­an­cy.

–That’s ac­cept­able. Highet moved a pen­cil across the page. –Thank you. What’s the story on the build­ing.

–I heard that Ki­hara tripped some alarms. I thought I’d see if they un­earthed any bod­ies out there.

–I don’t know if you re­mem­ber, but in the plan­ning stage we had two con­sult­ing firms pre­pare en­vi­ron­men­tal re­ports on that site for us. Chi­vian-Har­ris found soil tox­i­c­ity well above EPA ac­tion level

–I re­mem­ber.

–which they blamed on leaky re­ten­tion tanks and a faulty sewage sys­tem. So we call in a sec­ond firm, Boole & Clay

–Er­ic’s com­pany

–cor­rect, who sug­gested cleanup pro­ce­dures and gave us a more for­giv­ing re­port on the tanks. So we cited Boole in the EIS. Their find­ings sug­gested that the soil could be treated as low-level waste. Then [pg104] the re­port­ed.

–Soil en­gi­neer?

–Be­fore the con­trac­tor can pour con­crete the en­gi­neer has to cer­tify that the soil is dense enough to hold a foun­da­tion. They use a , it’s a small ra­dioac­tive source and a coun­ter, like a smoke de­tec­tor. The de­sign orig­i­nated here in the Lab. You put soil in the tester and it blocks ra­di­a­tion from the source, and from the ab­sorp­tion you can in­fer the soil den­si­ty. Well, the tester went off the scale. Cred­ne, the con­trac­tor, came down on the en­gi­neer, said his ma­chine was out of align­ment, they got him to give a vi­sual ap­proval. Then Credne trucked the soil away, and Chi­vian tested again and this time we came up clean. So we cited the clean re­port in the EIS.

–So what’s the prob­lem?

–Why do you think the tester went off the scale? The soil was­n’t ab­sorbing, it was emit­ting ra­di­a­tion.

–How hot was it?

–Not low lev­el.

–Where did that soil go?

–We don’t know.

–We don’t know?

–Prob­a­bly to an­other Credne site. They have some com­pli­cated scheme with a truck­ing sub­sidiary. Their records aren’t so good.

–That’s Cred­ne’s re­spon­si­bil­i­ty, is­n’t it?

–I’m not a lawyer, I can’t an­swer that. Point is, both Boole and Chi­vian are cited in the EIS. The two re­ports are on file, any­one can look them up, and if they do, they’ll see the soil en­gi­neer’s read­ings.

–How likely is that?

–Some group like CANT might won­der why Ki­hara’s so fran­tic about his mis­take with the map. They might get cu­ri­ous about the pa­per­work.

–What’s the worst case sce­nar­io?

–Well, this is­n’t Site Al­pha. We can’t just fence it off and call it a tox­ics mit­i­ga­tion pro­gram. It’s in the mid­dle of our plant. Oh, and about Site Al­pha. The wine­mak­er’s been talk­ing to CANT. He’s su­ing.

–Christ, we bought his land, what more does he want? [pg105]

–Dam­ages. Loss of liveli­hood.

–Shit, thought that was all wrapped up.

–Funny thing about PR, it bumps into re­al­ity once in a while.

–Keep telling you, re­al­i­ty’s what you can get away with. Write him a check, see how fast his re­al­ity changes.

–Where does the money come from?

–We have a spe­cial ac­cess fund, use it.

–You know… the plume keeps spread­ing.

–What does that mean?

–The toxic plume. Un­der Site Al­pha. It’s not con­tained. We can’t keep buy­ing up land around it.

For a mo­ment the plume was ap­par­ent to High­et, clear as a com­puter sim­u­la­tion, a sub­ter­ranean cloud of false col­ors, arms ex­tend­ed, breach­ing the bound­aries of the Lab, which ex­panded to fol­low and en­close it.

–You say CANT is be­hind this suit?

–That’s what I hear.

–I never cease to be amazed, Bran, at how much you hear.

–It’s my job.

–You go above and be­yond it some­times. You know, Bran, I tried to get the search com­mit­tee to pro­mote you in­stead of that young id­iot Ki­hara.

–Thanks for look­ing out for me. But I’m sure you’re bet­ter served by Ki­hara. Jour­nal­ists can’t be trust­ed, every­one knows that.

Highet looked at him. –Y­ou’re a real hard case, Bran. You won’t give me an inch.

–Is there any­thing else?

–Take down that cau­tion tape out there.

Out­side as the light slanted to­ward dusk he slowed near the hand­ful of demon­stra­tors just be­yond the gate, alert to a cam­era crew in­ter­view­ing a wom­an, her full face ra­di­ant in sun, in­tense black eyes be­neath black hair tinged with rus­set, her beauty a thorn in his heart, lift­ing his sun­glasses as he passed to blink twice at her daz­zling flesh, as if to cap­ture not an im­age but an essence through which de­sire might be grat­i­fied, in­ti­macy pos­sessed, and re­demp­tion grasped. As her eyes tracked his pas­sage the head of the re­porter turned, and [pg106] Highet ac­cel­er­ated away onto the main road see­ing in the hol­low after­im­age of his blink not an essence but its neg­a­tive. Traffic thick­ened into town, and un­der a white on green sign Mari­posa he turned too sharply into the wake of a bus pulling away from the curb to trap him be­hind its tailpipe and rear plac­ard ad­mon­ish­ing Po­lice Rec­om­mended Don’t Park Your Car With­out as the traffic above him changed and on­com­ing ve­hi­cles edged honk­ing around his rear un­til he gunned around the bus be­fore cut­ting back in and slam­ming brakes shorts of a truck back­ing slowly into his path, beep­ing in dis­con­certed with High­et’s horn as he jammed the gearshift to R only to see the bus’s head­light fill his rearview mir­ror as the truck’s step How Am I Dri­ving? 1-800-328-7448 scraped loudly across the red hood.

–Stop! You son of a bitch stop! It lurched a yard short of his wind­shield as a head leaned down from the dri­ver’s cab.

–Where’d you come from?

–Just, just, move it, you im­be­cile! Pull it for­ward!

In a blast of smoke it pulled away, as he re­versed the car, ar­rested by a blare of bus horn where its glassy eye loomed in his rear win­dow. Shift­ing to 1, Highet went in a squeal of tires around the truck, left arm held high out the win­dow in pro­fane salute, wind boom­ing through the open win­dow street after street un­til at last he slowed at First Uni­tar­ian Church of Kent­wood turn­ing into a park­ing lot half full, not­ing with less sur­prise than dis­dain the bat­tered white Sub­aru with Lab sticker on its rear bumper.

Pa­per signs taped to walls CANT MEETING → led to a side room FELLOWSHIP HALL de­press­ing as all child­hood mem­o­ries of church, where the after-ser­vice klatches in the base­ment, fold­ing ta­bles laden with cakes and pas­tries too cloy­ing, smell of burned coffee in chrome urns, fad­ing sun aslant through blink­ered win­dows to fall in ex­hausted lines on a scuffed linoleum floor, the empty chat­ter, the waste of time, had never failed to fill him with a meta­phys­i­cal nau­sea. Fifty or more peo­ple sat now in fold­ing chairs, lis­ten­ing to –the easy avail­abil­ity of du­al-use tech­nolo­gies makes it al­most im­pos­si­ble to con­strain nu­clear pro­grams in other coun­tries and raises se­ri­ous ques­tions, as just in­side the door, Quine started back from High­et’s, –Y­ou. [pg107] What are you do­ing here?

–I have a right

–If I find out you’ve been deal­ing with these peo­ple

–What will you do, put me on leave?

Highet stared at him for a mo­ment, then went on around the edge of the room, where, near the plat­form, a rus­set tone in night­black hair snared his eye and sped his heart. The ser­pent of in­ven­tion en­tered him and he stepped up next to her, as if bet­ter to hear the speak­er, –Next ques­tion, yes, and turned to gaze at her strong pro­file, see­ing her aware­ness of his gaze in the faint throb in her neck. He mur­mured , –Are you afraid of me? Is it fear makes your heart beat? Or ex­cite­ment? while be­yond her stony pro­file Quine glared with con­cern or was it panic as Highet went on in a mild un­der­tone, –Are you afraid of get­ting what you want? I’ve seen you out by the gate, hat­ing us. Her eyes nar­rowed but re­mained locked ahead while Luz said, –other coun­tries with or near nu­clear ca­pa­bil­i­ties look skep­ti­cally at our own com­mit­ment to non­pro­lif­er­a­tion, and across the room Quine paced and glared, his dis­tress a goad to High­et’s in­ven­tion. He leaned still closer to her, say­ing, –It’s not fear you feel. It’s wild­ness. The wild­ness of want­i­ng. What is it you want? When you know, tak­ing it is easy.

–Is it, she said, fierce black eyes lock­ing on him.

–Yes. Yes it is.

–I want to talk to you some­time.

Now his heart was wild. –Name the time.

–Now? Arms folded un­der her breasts.

–Right now?

–If you’re se­ri­ous. There’s a café in the cen­tral mall, Café De­sa­pare­ci­dos. I can meet you there when I’m done here. Sev­en-thir­ty?

–That’s a deal.

Scat­tered ap­plause died and peo­ple milled around. Tony Luz came for­ward. –Well, the Prince of Dark­ness him­self. Last place I ex­pected to see you, Leo. What’s wrong with your face?

–Nice line of talk, Tony. Won any late­ly?

–Same old Leo. Smil­ing, Luz raised a fist and lightly pressed it to High­et’s shoul­der. –Peo­ple, this is Leo High­et, di­rec­tor of the Lab. I [pg108] feel like I owe him . How about a lit­tle in­for­mal Q and A, Leo?

–Mat­ter of fact I’ve got a plane to catch.

–Five min­utes. Five min­utes, Leo? You don’t want to run from us, do you?

–Yeah, I do. Most point­less thing in world, ar­gu­ing with you guys.

–Five min­utes.

Her hard black eyes stud­ied him. He raised his wrist­watch and touched but­tons. –Five min­utes.

–Why do you clas­sify haz­ardous waste by the build­ing it’s stored in? Why not by the pro­gram that gen­er­ates it?

Slo­gan t-shirt buz­z­cut three day beard. Cheap shill pumped full of cit­i­zen­group da­ta. An­swer in kind. –Ac­count­ing for ma­te­ri­als and wastes is done by build­ing to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion for emer­gency re­sponse ser­vices and to as­sure that the build­ings meet safety re­quire­ments.

–Does­n’t that just make it eas­ier to hide the fact that the weapons pro­grams gen­er­ate most of the haz­ardous waste?

Cocky am­a­teur. Give him what he thinks he wants. –Good point. Maybe we should track that in­for­ma­tion, but we can’t. Our pro­ce­dures are dic­tated by fed­eral reg­u­la­tions. Talk to the feds about it.

He stopped pay­ing at­ten­tion, these were just the old nev­er­land ar­gu­ments he could han­dle on au­topi­lot, the un­in­hab­it­able utopias of good will to brought about by some wish­ful con­ver­gence of nice­ness, the very word nice, ne sci­ent, not know­ing, ig­no­rant, he stressed it like a se­cret in­sult. –Yes, I agree, it would be nice, very nice, if the world could be saved by re­cy­cling, and so on, she was at the door now, talk­ing to Quine while Luz asked an­other ques­tion, and Highet par­ried it with his own, –Tony, why are you so down on dual use? Is­n’t that what you want, get us out of weapons?

Luz shifted his weight slightly back, dis­en­gag­ing, as Highet watched Quine and Lynn go out the door to­geth­er. –Don’t see that hap­pen­ing, Leo. Dual use poli­cies have weak­ened ex­port con­trols on rocket tech­nol­o­gy, we’re sell­ing mis­siles over­seas, last year the US ac­counted for fifty-seven per­cent of world weapon sales. Some of these sys­tems are be­ing turned back on us. [pg109]

–Good thing we know their vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties.

–Leo, as long as we keep de­sign­ing and sell­ing these weapons

–Y­ou’ve got that , you’ve got twenty thou­sand war­heads float­ing loose in the so-called re­publics, you think how’s the time to cut an­timis­sile pro­grams?

–It’s wel­fare for the de­fense in­dus­try.

–free mar­ket, what have you got against cap­i­tal­ism, Tony, cap­i­tal­is­m’s been good to you. Drum­ming the fin­gers of one hand against the back of the oth­er, trapped by his ego, cen­ter of the sit­u­a­tion while she moved off with­out him. He tapped a but­ton on his watch. The watch beeped and he held it high for all to see, touch­ing it to si­lence, –That’s five min­utes. Now I have a ques­tion for you. Any­one here read H G Wells? The Time Ma­chine? No? You’re Eloi60. Look it up.

In the lot, Quine’s white Sub­aru was gone. he passed SFIST as ac­cel­er­a­tion spilled warn evening air through the car, cut­ting back across two lanes to Codor­nic s EXIT NLY, turn­ing smoothly with­out slow­ing past STOP onto a com­mer­cial strip that looped be­hind the cen­tral mall, where stains of rain and rust on a colon­naded and ped­i­mented fa­cade stood stark as un­der sodium light. He parked un­der the red and white glare of SMART & FINAL, and his car alarm yelped as he strode un­der a por­tico through smoked glass doors into the oa­sis of an atrium ringed with Clothes­time , fix­ing on Café, where, vis­i­ble through the broad en­trance, black hair with rus­set tones was bent for­ward over some pa­pers, the skin of her neck taut against ver­te­brae, and pale where it touched the fringe of her hair.

Highet sat down, say­ing, –Thought you might have stood me up, leav­ing that way. With him.

–He offered me a ride. She swept up the pa­pers and tucked them away.

–What does that mean, in­di­cat­ing the sign, –de­sa­pare­ci­dos? The café of des­per­a­tion? Aban­don all hope?

. Those taken by .

–Oh, of course. In El Sal­vador. Or is it Guatemala? Part of the profits from every lat­té. Have you eat­en? Thai place around the cor­ner makes great . [pg110]

–I ate be­fore the meet­ing.

–I haven’t eaten since this morn­ing, I’m starved.

–She’s wait­ing.

–What? Oh, give me a mint tea. And a, what have you got, a blue­berry muffin?

–Quisiera un espresso por fa­vor.

–Saw a woman out­side the gate this evening, looked like you, talk­ing to CNN.

–That was me. I saw you drive by.

He played to her amused tone, ex­am­ined her crit­i­cal­ly. –That was you? Did you cut your hair? How’d you beat me to the church?

–I got a ride. I saw you turn right at Mari­posa. That’s the long way around. You’ve been watch­ing me?

–Know your en­e­mies. Le­gal ob­server at CANT demon­stra­tions, Stan­ford grad, good grades, nice fam­i­ly. You want to close down my Lab. That’s what I know about you. What do you know about me?

–I know that you sold the pres­i­dent an un­work­able and ru­inously ex­pen­sive an­timis­sile pro­gram.

–But, he raised, ru­inously ex­pen­sive for whom?

–Do you know that the Cold War has cost five tril­lion dol

–You know what? The Rus­sians wish they had our deficit. They wish they could run up a debt. You fol­low me?

–Is that what you’re, gra­ci­as, what you’re telling the GAO?

–The GAO, right? Talk about your waste of mon­ey, as he leaned for­ward to bite into the muffin.

–But, is that re­ally your line? That you knew all along it would­n’t work, but you made the So­vi­ets think it would?

–That would be a pol­icy de­ci­sion. DOE sets pol­i­cy. I’m a sim­ple sci­en­tist. Not even that, re­al­ly. I ad­min­is­trate. The sci­ence is done by peo­ple like your friend Philip. Where do you meet him?

–He gave me a ride once.

–You don’t own a car. For eco­log­i­cal rea­sons.

–The more you drive the less in­tel­li­gent you are.

61. I love that movie.

–I would­n’t call Philip a friend.

–You like him. [pg111]

–I don’t dis­like him.

–He tell you he’s a bomb geek?

–A what?

–That’s what they call us, the, how should I say, pure sci­en­tists who work at the Lab and take our money but want to show that they, you know, dis­ap­prove of bombs. They call us bomb geeks. Did Quine tell you he’s one or did he pre­tend to be pure?

–He told me that he works on weapons. He’s torn about it.

–Torn. That’s good. It’s good to have scru­ples. With­out them we’re no bet­ter than the beasts.

–His work is all he has, and he said to me, you don’t know what’s hap­pen­ing there, what I’m up against right now…

–Did he. That’s very in­ter­est­ing. He go into de­tails? Sit­ting back and smil­ing, eyes on hers, Highet un­zipped his case to take from an up­per pocket a sheaf of pages, slyly tip­ping the pages to­ward her to re­veal in un­adorned Courier font “TALIESINRESULTS PRELIMINARY SECRET. –Give you this, may­be? Or this? and like a con­juror fanned to An Analy­sis of False Bright­ness, as her full cheeks red­dened and a pulse twitched where vein crossed col­lar­bone un­der down­cast eyes, thick lash­es, and the fine black hair of her brows.

–No.

–No. But you have seen them be­fore, he said in a tone al­most ca­ress­ing.

–What if I have? Dark eyes locked on his.

–Oh, well, break­ing the gaze, sit­ting back, still smil­ing, re­plac­ing the sheaf in his case. –It’s noth­ing to me. Old news. Your peo­ple talk to Sen­a­tor Chase’s office.

–Of course we do.

–Ever con­vey doc­u­ments?

–What does that mean?

–You know Bran Nolan. One of our press offi­cers. He’s dealt with your group be­fore.

–I know the name.

–He passed these to you. No? Then who? Philip him­self?

–Y­ou’ve got some imag­i­na­tion. Dry voice, but a tremor in it.

Lean­ing for­ward, hands clasped around his teacup, sin­cere gaze. –All [pg112] I want to know is, how long you’ve had it. And if Chase has it too.

–I don’t know any­thing about that.

Hard­ness bit­ing through her tremor. Stand­ing up to him. His heart sped. –You know, it’s not as though your side does­n’t have enough ar­gu­ments with­out re­sort­ing to this. It does­n’t serve your pur­pose. You should­n’t an­tag­o­nize us, be­cause no wait, now lis­ten to me, be­cause we’re on the same side, yes we are, and I’ll tell you why. You want the bomb work to stop, and I don’t agree, but you know what? I can live with that, re­ally I can, so long as we stay cut­ting edge on other fronts.

–It’s weapons work that gives you your lock on fed­eral mon­ey.

–That’s chang­ing. We’re mov­ing away from that.

–Oh, that’s right. Dual use will change every­thing.

–Is­n’t that what you want?

–Y­ou’re good at this, I’m al­most be­liev­ing you.

–Have some muffin.

–No thanks.

–I can be per­sua­sive. If you let me. Why don’t you come around? Let me give you a tour.

She low­ered her eyes to sip her espres­so. –Where do you know Tony from?

–Luz? We were class­mates at Cal­tech.

–I did­n’t know he went to Cal­tech.

–Lousy sci­en­tist, but he al­ways could work a crowd. You know he was in ad­ver­tis­ing?

–Y­ou’re still friends?

–Sure, why not. We’re use­ful to each oth­er.

–But, is that what you call friend­ship? Use?

–Friend­ship. Is that when we all sit around, like, hold­ing hands? I’d rather have al­lies. Friends, you know, sym­pa­tha­size with you. Al­lies help you get things done. I’d like to be your al­ly.

–That sounds too lonely for me.

–Oh, I could be friend­lier. But let me ask. Quine, your Philip, you think he has­n’t used you? To get things done? Think he has­n’t ma­neu­vered as much as any­one? I could tell you about that shifty lit­tle shit. Luz and I, you may won­der at that, but we know what the other is. Quine, though, you never know what he’s do­ing. [pg113]

She stud­ied him for a mo­ment. –In some ways you’re very like him.

–Like who?

–Philip.

Which warmed him un­til he saw the pointed cold­ness of her eyes. He laughed. –I don’t think so.

In the atri­um, a metal gate thun­dered down be­neath Clothes­time. Highet re­garded her. –Y­ou’d be quite at­trac­tive if you’d use a lit­tle make­up, fix your hair, shave your legs.

She looked away, across the café, smil­ing and shak­ing her head. –What you’re do­ing now, it’s so…62

–I know, he said, get­ting to his feet. –Y­ou’ve got me all fig­ured out and it does­n’t help a bit.

She rose, face dark­en­ing. –I do day care. I see this in chil­dren, they want to own every sit­u­a­tion. I don’t need this in my adult life.

His heart seethed. –Adult life? You’re so young. Those kids at your protests, that re­bel­lion does­n’t age well. You’ll see.

–Some of those pro­test­ers are your age. Or old­er. There’s a sev­enty year old Epis­co­palian bish­op. There’s a sin­gle mother with three chil­dren who works forty hours a week then an­other twenty do­ing this. They’re the finest peo­ple I know. She opened her purse.

He dropped a bill on the table. –This is my treat. I in­sist. Call me if you want that tour.

And went with bal­loon­ing heart into the lot, free as the pa­per bag KFC skip­ping across as­phalt in the warm night wind flat­tened by his front wheel as the va­cant moon­less sky trem­bled un­seen past the glare of light poles, a glare that bright­ened and dimmed, dimmed and bright­ened as he drove, arous­ing a frus­tra­tion that would not be calmed, an urge that could not be chan­neled, a lust to abase him­self be­fore her and thus abase her, un­til, cued by the car’s ap­proach, lights snapped on over the garage and the door rolled open. He stilled, shut, and locked the car, red light blink­ing on the dash un­der teal 8:45, garage door rum­bling shut as he en­tered through the kitchen si­lenc­ing the alar­m’s squeal with as the light went from red ARMED to green SAFE, pass­ing and ig­nor­ing the blink­ing MESSAGES on his an­swer­ing ma­chine, as kitchen lights came on for him [pg114] to lean against the open re­frig­er­a­tor door, drum­ming fin­gers, stoop­ing to come up with a greasy box Pa­paGeno Piz­za, punch­ing the mi­crowave START and pluck­ing from be­tween Fines Herbes and Ital­ian Sea­son­ing a small bot­tle Lac­tAid, shak­ing out two pills and swal­low­ing them with Peach Iced Tea from a cold and glis­ten­ing can while thumb­ing the small tele­vi­sion where CNN drew a bale­ful glare for –on­go­ing probe of Ra­di­ance mis­sile de­fense pro­gram, and the oven chimed and the phone trilled. He turned off the phone and ze­roed the an­swer­ing ma­chine’s vol­ume, touch­ing the CD player for –got a kind­hearted woman do any­thing in the world for me63, and crossed back for his piz­za, steam­ing and suc­cu­lent, paus­ing to jab his thumb against ant after ant stream­ing across the counter in braided lines, then car­ried plate to ta­ble and as he ate skimmed the news­pa­per, , , State Bud­get Short­fall, Why Gate Cel­lu­lar Is Forg­ing Al­liances, Shine In Train­ing, the edges of the newsprint soak­ing up a smear of grease from his fin­gers as the pizza di­min­ished, his eyes at last drift­ing to 24 HRS OUTCALL above a sullen pout and fore­head cir­cleted with dark hair wild as if fresh risen from the sea, and he un­folded the phone, clear­ing his throat, for –Lom­bard Es­corts, while Robert John­son sang on for­lorn in the empty liv­ing room against the rush of a show­er, in­ter­rupted by the chime and the quick stride of mus­cled calves be­neath a belted robe open­ing to, –Hi, I’m Daw­na, run­ning a hand through hair not dark or wild but bright as a car­rot un­der the porch light, be­yond which a sky as empty of stars as of fol­ly, er­ror, sin, and avarice turned through empty hours car­ry­ing a sliver of wan­ing moon, thin as a nail par­ing, in pur­suit of Venus through a bright­en­ing sky in flight from the sun ris­ing to flood the bed­room deck with morn­ing light on slim white legs stretched from red satin briefs barely cov­ered by the fall of a translu­cent shift.

–Do you mind? Highet called out. –I have neigh­bors.

–Don’t we all, hon­ey, as she came in slid­ing the door shut be­hind her, tak­ing from be­tween his out­stretched fin­gers three tightly folded bills. She sat on the bed and pulled on hose. He stepped into the bath­room to dress. When he emerged she was pick­ing hairs from her brush and drop­ping them into a waste can. The brush went into her bag with [pg115] a snap and she smiled brightly at Highet as she turned and went out.

As he shut the front door be­hind her, he saw the light on the an­swer­ing ma­chine. He pressed PLAY for, –Leo, it’s Dan, some son of a bitch hacked my cell phone, and walked to the sink where he jammed the lever to blast hot wa­ter across a tide of ants twined from the pizza crust lodged in the sink drain across counter and linoleum to a garbage pail, re­turn­ing to, –ran up eight thou in calls to Bo­gotá, new num­ber’s 326-7668, give me a, paus­ing the ma­chine to punch the seven dig­its.

–Dan, it’s me. Yeah, does­n’t say much for Gate’s se­cu­ri­ty, does it. What? Chase? That son of a bitch, what’s he try­ing to. My per­for­mance re­view com­mit­tee? as steam bil­lowed from the sink. –Okay, give me the run­down. Dullard Quack and Log­jam, they’re on our side… what? Well that’s Quick’s own fault, if he had­n’t been a year late and ten mil­lion over with the last main­frame we or­dered he’d still have the con­tract, now what’s Logue’s prob­lem? Well again, that’s his, if he had­n’t talked to the press, I told him you can­not win play­ing with the press, you’re al­ways go­ing to lose. Okay. Okay, Dan, cut to the, what do you mean prob­a­bly? You mean Dil­lard’s our only sure vote? How can that be? What, to­mor­row? They’re meet­ing on a Sun­day? Christ, as if I did­n’t have enough… Why. Why should I. No I don’t see what be­ing there in the flesh does for me. It’s only a rec­om­men­da­tion, what do the re­gents care, the uni­ver­sity gets their money no mat­ter who’s di­rec­tor. What do you mean cuts both, of course it does, but we have enough friends on the re­gents to over­ride, don’t we? A new re­gent, what do you mean, who? A non­ame, oh that’s great, lit­tle bit of Monte Carlo in the mix. What else, Dan? shut­ting off the hot wa­ter and walk­ing to the win­dow.

–Christ Dan that was years ago, I was still out in the trail­ers. And if you want to know whose bright idea it was to , ask War­ren Slater, that prick. Any­way, you know what? The only test of four that worked was the one they did­n’t rig.

Out­side a city truck moved slowly past as two men in its bed de­posited TOW-AWAY NO PARKING plac­ards at the curb.

–What else. Who… oh come on, Stera­dian could­n’t find his dick [pg116] if you held it for him. Yes he called me, he called Di­etz too, for­get it, he’s fish­ing.

He flipped yel­low pages for Ex­ter­mi­na­tors stop­ping at a dis­play ad, Nekrotek 24 Hour Pest Con­trol.

–Dan, Bill Ven­ham64 is a troglodyte. Yes I know, rich and pow­er­ful, so’s the vice pres­i­dent, I don’t re­turn his calls ei­ther. What? Oh he calls be­cause went into some tele­com ven­ture after that , maybe he’s try­ing to weasel in on our Gate deal. But Ven­ham, there’s no way I’m go­ing to his fuck­ing fundrais­er. I know Réti’s go­ing, ask me it’s pa­thetic how he hangs around these rightwing creeps. Oh yeah, you know how long I’ve been just show­ing up at these things. Uh huh. Uh huh. All right, Dan. I said all right, I’ll do it! That, and the re­view com­mit­tee on Sun­day, quite the itin­er­ary you’ve got lined up for me. What about the Hertz kids, does that have to be Sun­day night? Oh, the shot, of course, I for­got. Yes I’ll make it. One of the few things I still en­joy. I’ll be ex­hausted but I’ll be there.

Read­ing and punch­ing dig­its for, –Nekrotek, he gave his name and ad­dress, jab­bing his thumb against ant after ant braid­ing on­ward across the coun­ter, –Ants, yes. Well look, I’m leav­ing town can you fax me the pa­per­work? I’ll sign it and leave it with a key in the mail­box, okay? Yes you’ll take a credit card…? and hung up, turn­ing to the an­swer­ing ma­chine MESSAGES and touch­ing >> for a beep and –tor High­et, this is Ar­mand Stera­dian of CNN. I’d like to talk to you as soon as pos­si­ble. I’m fin­ish­ing a story on al­le­ga­tions of rigged tests in the Ra­di­ance pro­gram, my num­ber is –Fuck you, and touch­ing >> for the beep and –Frank Greer re­turn­ing your, –can’t be­lieve this twerp calls me at home, and touch­ing >> for the beep and –Y­ork Times, if you’d care to com­ment, then lean­ing in to read the dis­play, –fifteen mes­sages! punch­ing >> for –al­leged vi­o­la­tions, and >>, –ques­tions about your en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact statem, and >> –call at your ear­li­est, and fi­nally STOP for a peremp­tory knock at the door sound­ing with the chime. For a mo­ment he stood frozen, then walked lightly to the bed­room. From its win­dow he saw in the street a van bear­ing a dish an­ten­na. The bell and knock sounded again. After a third try, two men, one shoul­der­ing a video cam­era, re­turned to the van. [pg117]

From the closet he took a gar­ment bag and checked its con­tents: his im­pres­sion-man­age­ment suit, a tie, two clean shirts, socks, a pair of , a per­sonal kit. Again he lifted the phone. His left eye­lid be­gan to twitch. Phon in hand he pressed a fin­ger against it. With the other hand he punched 276-7384. Be­hind him his fax ma­chine purred.

–Aron, it’s Leo. I need your help. Please call me. It’s ur­gent. I hope to see you tonight in Bur­bank at the Ven­ham din­ner. I’ll be on the road till then, you can reach me by cell phone at 544-4438.

Out­side, the van had gone. Pages had fallen on the floor be­hind him. He picked them up and scrib­bled his sig­na­ture. He zipped his lap­top com­puter into its ny­lon car­ry. From the dresser he took a spare house key and five hun­dred dol­lar bills. At the front door he checked the fish­eye lens for an empty street be­fore swing­ing it wide and drop­ping the spare key and the faxes into the mail­box. On the way back through the kitchen to the garage he un­plugged the an­swer­ing ma­chine and again picked up the phone.

–Thea, it’s me, looks like I can shake some time loose after all. When is mother get­ting home? Uh huh. No, if I leave right away I can be there in. No, not a prob­lem. I can take care of some other busi­ness at the same. I’ll be glad to see her too. Okay, look, don’t go to any trou­ble. See you about three.

The gar­ment bag fell on the pas­sen­ger seat as the garage door rum­bled open, and he was on his way.

The dead seabed, the broad val­ley, sun­dered the state top to bot­tom. Speed En­forced By Air­craft. Power lines fell and rose in to cross the road’s dead places as a crescendo buzz rose to bury –would­n’t stand a prayer, and fell away be­hind, –here we are in the quick of it, as the ra­dio scanned to –an­other anointed mes­sage from the Re­veal Christ To The World Min­istries65, to –with sig­nifi­cant tax de­fer­ral ben­e­fits, to –this, also from the Wash­ing­ton Times, to –In­land Em­pire checks in ac­ci­dent free, to –Je­sus was never im­pressed with size, the size of your or­gan, as the sun reached zenith and de­clined glint­ing on the lake at Elev 4819 where he turned off the free­way to de­scend into ten­der green hills and an or­ange dust of pop­pies bloom­ing, and sil­ver vi­o­let sage trem­bling palely in the re­lent­less wind, lead­ing the eye out over an im­men­sity to dis­tant moun­tains naked and wrin­kled as an­cient [pg118] skin. From above fell a hol­low roar. Two banked against blue empti­ness.

Tum­bling from the edge of his vi­sion some­thing dim and gray crossed the road and splin­ter­ing tin­der sheared from the wind­shield as the tail of the car shim­mied and sta­bi­lized with one branch of the tum­ble­weed lodged in the hood trem­bling in the slip­stream. His heart slowed and his at­ten­tion came back to the road where the works of man now came more thick­ly, Joshua Es­tates bla­zoned over a brick drive flanked by ban­ners snap­ping and New Town­houses From $59,999 We’re Leas­ing Come See Why, Spa­cious Skies Se­nior Liv­ing Small Pets OK, then City Limit Elev 2376 and a grid of va­cant dirt roads, W 280 ave W 270 Ave W 260 Ave, then mini malls and LANCASTER FACTORY STORES, iden­ti­cal red tile roofs and beige walls and empty park­ing lots re­prov­ing the im­men­sity in which they lay.

The house, once at de­sert’s edge, was now deep in a tract of oth­ers like it. Lo­cust trees shaded the street, their roots heav­ing the side­walk. Forty years ago the saplings were slen­der and staked, no taller than him­self. His eyes and mind, in­apt ten­ants of time, still ex­pected to find them thus, con­tin­ued to seek in a place, a face, what first they had found there.

Sun glared on the con­crete walk. He was sweat­ing be­fore he reached the house. No an­swer to the bell. Neigh­bor­hood Watch Armed Re­sponse. Key un­der the rock as it had been for years. The un­locked door stuck un­til he thrust his weight against it.

Stale air of home. Anx­i­ety of pass­ing time. This place he had al­ways wanted to es­cape. On the bare din­ing room ta­ble lay a note. He read it, then lifted the phone and di­aled. Through the hand­set came unan­swered chirrs. As he counted them, Thea’s car pulled into the dri­ve­way. Her key turned in the lock. The door stuck, then flew wide.

–Oh, you’re here.

In one hand Highet held out the chirring hand­set, in the other her note. –Y­our an­swer­ing ma­chine’s turned off. I don’t be­lieve this Thea, you could­n’t have called me? When did you find out?

–They want to do just one more se­ries of tests be­fore they re­lease her.

–Great. Just great. I’m go­ing home. [pg119]

–Oh, Leo… that’s ab­surd.

–I’m not wait­ing around in this house.

–Why don’t you go into town for a while? You know, your high school re­union’s tonight.

–My what? Is this one of your air­ball agen­das, Thea? If I need that level of ex­cite­ment I’ll sit in a Mo­tel Six and watch the Weather Chan­nel.

–Fine, do what you want, you al­ways do.

–Y­ou’ve got that right.

–I have to be sure every­thing’s ready. I still need an IV stand, to hang a drip from. I’m sure we can rig some­thing up, it just has to be tall.

–Rig some­thing. Sure, I know, let’s use the coat rack. Dress it up with some Christ­mas lights, a lit­tle tin­sel, there you are.

–Leo, don’t be sar­cas­tic.

–I’ll buy the damn thing, okay? Where’s the store, give me some­thing to do.

–The hos­pi­tal gave me some ad­dress­es. There’s one in Pasade­na.

–Per­fect, I’ll stop in at Cal­tech on my way to the high school, make a clean sweep.

–Oh, is there a Cal­tech re­union?

–Jok­ing, Thea, just a lit­tle joke, check­ing his watch, –How late is this place open?

–Leo, it’s all the way in Pasade­na!

–I’ll leave now. Make sure the hos­pi­tal gets their kick­back from the re­fer­ral. Got to go down that way any­way for

–Y­ou’ve just dri­ven seven hours. You

–Five hours.

–must be ex­haust­ed, Mark and I will stop on the way back from the hos­pi­tal with Moth­er.

–Stop on the, yeah good, let Mother sit in the back seat star­ing at the crutches and bed­pans in the win­dow while you shop around. Come on Thea, there’s got to be some­place near­by, where’s the phone book.

–Leo, will you just, just stop it!

–Thea, you’re the one wants every­thing ready, only you want to do it on the cheap at the last min­ute, like al­ways, you’ve had, what, six [pg120] weeks to get this stuff, you knew you’d need it

–Do you think you can come down here for a few days while I’ve been deal­ing with this for months, and you think

–Who said any­thing about a few days.

–What?

–I never said a few days.

–How long are you go­ing to stay?

–Told you, ex­pected Mother to be here al­ready, thought I’d stay overnight, hit the road in the morn­ing.

–Oh, I see. I get it. You want to buy your way out of spend­ing any time with her.

–Buy my way, Je­sus, Thea, who’s pay­ing the hos­pi­tal bills? –Moth­er’s Med­ica

–I mean the rest of it, after the de­ductibles and every­thing Doc­tor Said won’t ac­cept as­sign­ment for, you know how much that comes to? Buy my way, Christ that’s good, not with a lousy IV stand, if she had to rely on you for mon­ey, she’d be dead al­ready.

–Oh that’s rot­ten Leo, I don’t care about the mon­ey, she needs to see you, did you think of her feel­ings, it may be the last time, did you think of that!

–Well you’re the ex­pert on feel­ings, I can’t com­pete there.

She looked at him dul­ly, then rum­maged in a gray wo­ven car­ryall bla­zoned with a cross-stitched man­dala. –I don’t know why I thought this time would be any differ­ent.

He looked away, around the room. –How’s busi­ness? Sell any houses re­cent­ly?

She stared into space for some sec­onds be­fore reach­ing, as it seemed, less an ac­cep­tance of his ques­tion than a res­ig­na­tion to it. –The mar­ket’s flat. I got into it at the wrong time, at the end of the last boom­let.

–Uphold­ing the Highet real es­tate tra­di­tion. Ever sell that land of Dad’s?

–No.

–What’s the house worth now?

She looked around, ap­prais­ing it. –I could ask one fifty, I might get one thir­ty.

–You go­ing to sell? [pg121]

–You mean after Moth­er? I sup­pose so. I haven’t re­ally thought about it. Oh, I wanted to ask you. The mar­ket’s bet­ter in your area. How would you feel about me mov­ing up there?

–Up to you. Where are you look­ing?

–Ohlone Val­ley. There’s a de­vel­op­ment called Es­tancia Es­tates, units start­ing at one fifty…

–Es­tanci­a…? I would­n’t live there.

–Why not?

–You can do bet­ter.

–For two hun­dred I could, but I don’t have it.

–Any time you want a loan, Thea.

–It would be a busi­ness move for me. I have no rea­son to stay here once Moth­er’s gone. With­out Bob. Mark has his fam­i­ly, I don’t see much of him. Leo, what­ever hap­pened to that girl you were see­ing last year, Jan? I liked her, I thought she was good for you.

–That’s over.

–Are you see­ing any­one now?

–Yes, as a mat­ter of fact.

–Well, what’s her name?

–Dawn. Her name’s Dawn.

She looked at him skep­ti­cal­ly. –Are you think­ing of set­tling down?

–Mar­ried to my job, you know that. How’s Mark?

–Y­ou’ll see him tonight. I thought we’d all have din­ner at my place.

–Lit­tle prob­lem there, I’ve got some­thing this evening.

She stopped in her rum­mag­ing, looked at him bit­ter­ly. –Can’t you, can’t you ever

–Look, I’d rather not go to this thing, it’s

–ever just

–one of those things

–do any­thing for some­one else

–It’s to honor Réti, told you I’m ob­lig­ated

–Leo, this is your moth­er!

–I’m here, all right? When I said I’d be! Don’t lay this on me Thea, it’s not my fault you got your sig­nals crossed.

Abruptly she rose. –All right. I don’t want to dis­cuss it. Here’s the key. [pg122]

–When are you leav­ing for the hos­pi­tal?

–Now. We should be back by eight.

–Christ, how did she end up at a hos­pi­tal two hours down be­low?

–Leo, you know how she trusts Doc­tor Said. He rec­om­mended a man at Cedars.

–Don’t want to be, you know, un­feel­ing here, but it’s ter­mi­nal is­n’t it, how good does he have to be.

–Leo, I’m go­ing. There are tow­els in the guest room.

–I’ll be back tonight. Will Mother be here?

–I ex­pect so. I’ll see you in the morn­ing.

The front door shut, grunt­ing. He flipped through the phone book. An­te­lope Val­ley Med­ical Sup­ply. Medi-Mart. Mid-Val­ley Sur­gi­cal. Free de­liv­ery. Typ­i­cal Thea, did­n’t even look. He picked one, wan­der­ing into the kitchen as he talked, –Ex­pires six ninety three. Can you hold de­liv­ery till nine p m?

The clock on the stove was bro­ken, hands frozen at 2:10, though a stub of a sec­ond hand ground and scraped on. Out­side the kitchen win­dow the old fig tree nod­ded in the wind. On the ta­ble was a news­pa­per. He un­folded it to AF Base Has Clouds With Its Sil­ver Lin­ing and its side­bar Cold War Relics, then put it aside. From the liv­ing room he car­ried gar­ment bag and lap­top to the guest room, past the sam­pler hang­ing in the hall, Bless This House O Lord We Pray, pulling back the drapes to see the long view of his child­hood, the dis­tant an­cient moun­tains, now en­chased by hedges, fences, light poles, power lines, re­turn­ing to the liv­ing room where he snapped on the tele­vi­sion in pass­ing to his moth­er’s room. A new chrome walker stood by the bed. Back in the liv­ing room he punched chan­nels to –Head­line News, and stood watch­ing, the fin­gers of one hand drum­ming against a thigh, one foot tap­ping. After sev­eral min­utes he switched it off.

At the end of the hall he went down six steps to the base­ment study, where a dispir­it­ing smell of mildew hung. He sat at the small desk with its brass lamp and blot­ter, the framed pho­tos of his mother and fa­ther, Thea, Mark, him­self, Dad in uni­form, Dad be­tween two high school play­ers in his sweat­shirt LANCASTER COACH BOMBERS. Shelves of teak ve­neer sag­ging on metal wall brack­ets held what [p123] passed for a li­brary with ten years’ worth of Na­tional Ge­o­graphic propped against Patent It Your­self, En­cy­clo­pe­dia of Es­tate Plan­ning, The Book of Busi­ness Knowl­edge, Se­crets of Su­per Sell­ing, Every­day Health Tips 2000 Prac­ti­cal Tips, and How To Avoid Pro­bate! abut­ting the fifteen brown vol­umes of , their gilt bands touch­ing and and slanted against and the sober dun book­cloth of and Lan­caster High School 1960 1961 1962, the se­quence end­ing as abruptly as Ger­ald Hunter High­et’s ca­reer there. He took down 1962, blow­ing soot from its top edge. A strip of pa­per marked a page. On the trip, his moth­er’s loop­ing hand: some­times I won­der why I spend the lonely night.

Tenor voice on the phono­graph. Mom and Dad danc­ing. Leo dar­ling, your fa­ther and I have been mar­ried ten years. Dad smil­ing. Not a smil­ing man, but a col­lec­tor of jokes. Son, you know what a ball bear­ing mouse­trap is? Leo tried to pic­ture the mech­a­nism. It’s a cat, son. The lined face, gray­ing crew­cut, bleak eyes, tight mouth, jowls un­der the square jaw. Jerry to some friends, Hunt to oth­ers, Cap­tain (ret.) to the rest, de­pend­ing on how they’d met. Petty hus­tlers, most of them, from his Army days, his years at Lock­heed, his boot­less dab­bling in real es­tate. Then the high school for three years, chem­istry and coach­ing. Un­til the scan­dal. Noth­ing proved. What do you think I am? I never touched a one of them. It’s po­lit­i­cal, the su­per­in­ten­dent has it in for me. Left un­der a shad­ow, as they said. Then fail­ure after fail­ure. The real es­tate. The or­chards. The tele­mar­ket­ing. His run for drew a visit from the lo­cal Re­pub­li­can offi­cials: best for all con­cerned that you with­draw. But you would­n’t. Leo had been proud then of his fa­ther’s stub­born­ness. Later he saw it was des­per­a­tion. A de­ba­cle: thirty votes out of three thou­sand cast. Then the can­cer.

From the marked page Leo’s photo at age six­teen looked war­ily out over Math Club, Sci­ence Club, Chess Club, Honor So­ci­ety. Young gawky prig thinks he’s on his way to a No­bel Prize.

On the op­po­site page was Chazz Hol­lis, his best friend. Curly blond hair, open smile. Or­ches­tra, Band, Swim Team, Track, Lan­guage Club[pg124], . Sum­mer days in Chaz­z’s cool base­ment. Leo used his fa­ther’s keys to swipe chem­i­cals from the high school lab. . Out­side the sun bleached, the hot wind scoured the world. They bi­cy­cled to the edge of town to set off bombs, out where tank tracks re­mained from Pat­ton’s army train­ing to fight Rom­mel. Or they drove out to Ed­wards to watch pi­lots rack up flight time with touch-and-go land­ings. Once in a while some­thing se­cret would be test­ed. If some­body’s fa­ther was in­volved in the pro­ject, you might hear about it. One night he and Chazz drove on dirt roads to the eroded hills be­hind the rocket lab. They lay on their bel­lies over­look­ing tar­mac where a rocket en­gine on its side thun­dered and spewed flame, a hard white foun­tain that filled the night with noise, light, pow­er.

Spring hike through Death Val­ley with a dozen other boys. His fa­ther’s idea. Toughen you up. Chazz is go­ing, you like Chazz. Un­spo­ken was the ex­pense, noth­ing to Chaz­z’s fam­i­ly, to theirs a sac­ri­fice. So he went. Hat­ing every minute and hid­ing it. Bone tired every night, al­ways the last one into camp. Weak boy, can’t hike, can’t climb. Nights dark as the void, desert sky lus­trous with stars, me­te­ors, and the oc­ca­sional wan­der­er, Sput­nik could it be? Even Chazz mocked him, best friend Chazz, golden Chazz, whose fa­ther was a state sen­a­tor, Chazz who never worked for any­thing, who al­ways had a new bike, new mi­cro­scope, new drum set, new ra­dio, new girl­friend. That day on the cliff, twelve of them shout­ing and climb­ing, Leo last, fifty feet from the ground, ten feet from the top, sud­denly empty and weak, rock bit­ing his palms. Chazz lean­ing over the edge, tongue out, drib­bling spit on him. Be­ing beat­en, be­ing sec­ond, be­ing mocked. Never again. He clapped shut the book and reshelved it.

In the shower he prod­ded with blunt fin­gers the roll of fat at his hips. Soap­ing un­der his arms he probed lymph glands. Wip­ing mist from the mir­ror he leaned to ex­am­ine his broad nose, the creases around his eyes, the stub­ble sprout­ing more white than black, the nascent , the thin­ning hair. His swollen cheek had sub­sid­ed, leav­ing only a slight puffi­ness. He shaved. In the guest room he un­zipped the gar­ment bag, think­ing ahead to his dri­ve, the 14 to the 5, low sun in his eyes, an hour if traffic did­n’t thicken through the val­ley. Waste [pg125] of time, this whole week­end. Never mind. Just show up. In the hall mir­ror, be­hind sun­glass­es, was no trace of the young gawky prig but a sober har­ried face in late mid­dle age, its sour­ness fixed by habits of mis­trust and anger and just show­ing up.

The sun was set­ting. A/C MIN, he low­ered win­dows for the spill of cool air as the car crested the pass above the lights of San Fer­nan­do, a splen­dor as in­tri­cate and baffling as the brain’s net of cells, as brighter stars rose to break free of the net and bank in the air above HOLLYWOOD-BURBANK AIRPORT where he turned at Con­ven­tion Cen­ter into a knot of cars wait­ing for Valet Park­ing be­hind a fa­mil­iar white Mer­cedes NKB3 just pulling away as un­der the awning an el­derly fig­ure, limp­ing, was es­corted in­side where High­et, a few min­utes lat­er, fol­lowed, past MULTIMEDIA EXPO to a smaller ball­room ARETE FOUNDATION66 Tonight Guest Speak­ers Tuck Eu­banks Dr Aron Réti and a con­cen­trated dis­play of wealth sapi­ent of lit­tle but it­self, ob­ject of its own de­sire and scion of its own beget­ting, de­murely await­ing some in­tel­li­gence to pos­sess and shape it, to cher­ish and obey it, and find­ing no lack of sup­pli­cants: me­dia con­sul­tants be­tween jobs, econ post­docs, free­lance his­to­ri­ans, so­ci­ol­o­gists, en­gi­neers, fu­tur­ists, grant writ­ers, lob­by­ists, in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty lawyers, wiz­ards, men, Ponzi schemers, and free mar­ket ide­o­logues who, like the pi­ous of an ear­lier age, would have been hor­ri­fied equally at hav­ing their faith doubted or at see­ing it prac­ticed, pro­duc­ers and providers and pan­ders of one con­tent or an­oth­er, as­pi­rants to this bridal al­tar, charged with an ex­cite­ment sex­ual but not car­nal in the face of such dumb boun­ty, ea­ger to court and preen and fawn and pos­sess and find them­selves, in turn, pos­sessed un­til in this happy con­sum­ma­tion it could not be told who was us­ing whom or even that use could be sep­a­rate from be­ing.

In tai­lored pin­stripe, at the cen­ter of a cap­ti­vated group, an obese and blus­ter­ing fig­ure held forth in oro­tund tones with an an­i­ma­tion that danced be­tween bel­liger­ence and def­er­ence, choler and comi­ty, feint­ing ag­gres­sively then falling back in sub­mis­sive at­ten­tion to the flat­tered fig­ures of the vice pres­i­dent, eyes dull as his lus­ter­less blue suit, William Ven­ham in black mo­hair, and, a lit­tle apart from them, Aron Réti, wiz­ened and rum­pled as ex­iled aris­toc­ra­cy, wear­ing on his [pg126] rav­aged fea­tures a thin for­bear­ing smile that might have masked a dis­plea­sure not with hi­er­ar­chy it­self but with its cur­rent oc­cu­pants.

–My friends, I un­der­stand the Pres­i­dent, I truly do. I had an en­counter with him that was re­ally pro­found on me. He’s a good guy but he just does­n’t get it about taxes that it’s your money

With his ear for pub­lic affect, Highet judged Eu­bank’s voice so near to ex­cel­lent that its laps­es, at least those that were not cal­cu­lat­ed, offend­ed. Vul­gar­ity and lazi­ness mixed in its up­per reach­es, where an ugly hard re­sent­ment was slurred with ve­nal­ity and easy con­tempt. Groomed fer­ret on a leash. Suck­ing up to the vice pres­i­dent.

–What we truly need in this com­ing elec­tion is a truly con­ser­v­a­tive can­di­date, a man like your­self, sir…

Highet ap­proached Réti, only to be caught by an arm in black mo­hair. –We-hell! The man him­self!

–Lis­ten Bill, give me a minute with Aron would you, I need t

–Bad time, Leo, our guest of hon­or’s pretty busy.

–This is im­por­tant.

–Man’s plead­ing your case to the vice pres­i­dent and the as­sem­bled mass­es, what could be more im­por­tant?

–My, plead­ing my what? turn­ing quickly as from be­hind him came Réti’s voice, rum­bling and de­lib­er­ate. Off bal­ance, he bumped the man be­hind him, who put hands out to steady him. It was Or­rin Gate. Gate’s mild face showed only mild con­cern, un­less that faint smile hid more than recog­ni­tion. But Gate had come from a blind spot off his radar. Here in the very lap of power and in­flu­ence, where he needed to be alive to every cur­rent, he was miss­ing cues. He glared malev­o­lently at Eu­banks, still at the cen­ter of the group but silent at last, small eyes glit­ter­ing in the pig­gish face, while Réti in his orac­u­lar mode stood lean­ing on his cane. The vice pres­i­dent lis­tened, mouth slightly agape.

–So I ask you. We de­ploy to de­fend Tel Aviv. Should we not so pro­tect our own bor­ders?

–Well, I can’t, ah, speak for the pres­i­dent, but I would think, that we, that is, it does look like some­thing, ah, we would want to look at…

–I am cer­tain that the pres­i­dent un­der­stands the im­por­tance of mis­sile de­fense. But he must ex­press that sup­port! With con­vic­tion! [pg127]

While, frus­trated at the at­ten­tion with­drawn from him, the obese fig­ure again struck its oro­tund tones, so fa­mil­iar to so many whose pur­suit of truth stopped at the near­est ra­dio. –He’s right! Folks, the rea­son con­ser­v­a­tives are win­ning is that mod­er­ates don’t have con­vic­tion. If you ask peo­ple what’s wrong with the pres­i­dent they’ll say he is­n’t con­vict­ed!

Highet turned to Ven­ham, who was, he saw now, ob­serv­ing him.

–Y­our case, is it? Ven­ham’s eyes glit­tered.

–You said that, Bill, not me.

–I meant that Aron’s ar­gu­ing the Lab’s case.

–be­cause I think the pres­i­dent dis­cred­ited him­self when

–Bill, I need to talk to you about this re­gents’ meet­ing com­ing up.

–Not now, Leo, too much hap­pen­ing.

–Hel­lo, it’s Doc­tor Hite, is­n’t it?

–Leo, you know Stan Flack? Stan, Leo High­et.

–Sure, we’ve met, hello Doct

Ven­ham leaned in, low­er­ing his voice to con­fide, –You wor­ried about re­gents, Leo, Stan’s the man to talk to.

–Oh? But, you must be the new reg, turn­ing, off bal­ance again, to take the ex­tended hand, which vig­or­ously pumped his, –sor­ry, missed your name

–Aron! let’s

–Flack, Stan Flack. Won’t you join me at my table, Doc­tor Hite?

–Yes, sure, just let me, free­ing my hand, –Aron! as the el­der sci­en­tist’s ice blue eyes fixed on him briefly then re­turned to Eu­banks.

–Catch us later Leo, said Ven­ham as the vice pres­i­dent and Réti joined in Eu­banks’s pro­fes­sional laugh­ter. –Got to get things rolling here.

A snub? He’d nev­er. Like a son to him. Get a few min­utes with him lat­er. Mean­while the re­gent went for­ward through a press of peo­ple, Highet a few steps be­hind, dodg­ing past, –de­stroy Amer­ica with­out fir­ing a shot, and –no in­jus­tice, their ex­ter­nal cir­cum­stances fit their level of de­vel­op­ment, and –sell them all to pri­vate op­er­a­tors, while a nasal voice cut through, –steal a man’s style, about the low­est, and Highet turned to [pg128] faced the back of a scuffed brown leather jacket lined with a red silk scarf nes­tled un­der curly blond hair past which a stun­ning woman in a white silk blouse said, –C­hazz, I think he con­sid­ers it homage, –Homage? Maybe he’d like to come rob my house, call that homage too, the nasal voice lost un­der, –just love Tuck’s show, all his, his down home spun­nisms, and –Here we are Doc­tor Hite, won’t you sit here? ush­ered by the ea­ger voice to a ta­ble at the far edge of things where a queru­lous old man in a wheel­chair was soothed and set­tled at ta­ble by an at­ten­dant to the glares of a chubby young man whose lapels bore one a gold cross and the other an enamel pin of Old Glo­ry, as does –dees n jel­men, burst from a podium hung with a ban­ner azure par­ti­tioned by the chevron of moun­tain peak over the leg­end ἀρετε en­cir­cled by the motto SCIENCE LIBERTY COMMERCE. A klaxon of feed­back swelled and war­bled be­fore it damped back to, –ten­tion please.

–so glad I ran into you Doc­tor Hite, we need to talk

–Yes we do, about this up­com­ing re­gents’ meet­ing

–be­cause my peo­ple are ready to move on this mul­ti­pli­ca­tion thing

–pleased to have with us tonight

–…­mul­ti­pli­ca­tion…?

–one of those black in­tel­lec­tual con­ser­v­a­tives when there weren’t too many and now more have come out of the wood­pile

–fol­low up on our dis­cus­sion out at

–Wait a minute. Aren’t you the new UC re­gent?

–No no, we met

–Y­ou’re not a re­gent?

–out at Bil­l’s ranch a while back, drowned by ap­plause ris­ing to meet the obese fig­ure as­cend­ing to the podi­um, as Highet mut­tered, –That ly­ing sack of

–Thank yew! You know my friends, this is a thrill for me, be­cause my whole life I’ve al­ways tried to meet peo­ple who are the best at what they do

–may re­mem­ber, Doc­tor Hite, that we had es­tab­lished a pri­or­ity claim for the op­er­a­tion of mul­ti­pli­ca­tion

–ah, you’re the, yes, I re­mem­ber you now

–peo­ple whose en­ergy and en­tre­pre­neurism and in­spi­ra­tion de­fine [pg129] Amer­i­ca, with the ideas that are in­spi­ra­tional on Amer­i­can life

–know this guy, came the queru­lous voice, used to in­sult peo­ple on the ra­dio in Sacra­mento

–in­spir­ing peo­ple to be more than they can be

–hey do you mind, I’m try­ing to lis­ten to Tuck

–in the free mar­ket­place of ideas, my friends, where the truth al­ways wills out

–hard to be­lieve a mind that small has a mouth that big

–ideas like fam­i­ly, ex­cel­lence, com­pe­ti­tion, and self­-re­liance

–if you don’t like it go party with and her elite

–peo­ple we need in this bat­tle for ideas, peo­ple with a lot of pas­sion for their ideas, be­cause by gosh pas­sion is key

–S­pan­ish In­qui­si­tion had a lot of pas­sion too, did­n’t it

–will you, just

–ck­ing mod­er­ate

–way things ought to be, be­cause peo­ple are at their best when they look out for them­selves

–bring you up to speed on our patent ap­pli­ca­tion

–look

–folks, I was just talk­ing with our bril­liant guest of honor Doc­tor Réti, the fa­ther of the

–prior art con­sist­ing of al-Qarizmi’s book

–but this is sim­ple, you don’t need to be a ge­nius. Let’s put the dots to­geth­er. Mis­sile de­fense is not rocket sci­en­tol­ogy

–where’s the food

–it’s not E M C equals, it’s not time travel

–ex­press­ing the mul­ti­pli­ca­tion op­er­a­tion as

–look what­ever your name is there’s been a mis­un­der­stand­ing, I re­ally don’t

–hos­tile world, and just be­cause the So­viet Union’s gone dunt mean we’re home scot free

–ask a man to din­ner, feed him ma­la­propisms

–just good sense that we need to be com­pet­i­tive in this arena

A young wait­er, goa­teed and smug, came round High­et’s right hold­ing a tray. –Do you want the chicken 67 or the ? [pg130]

–I’ll have the chick­en.

–Good, we’re out of the salmon.

–soul of brevity my friends and as Shake­speare said, brevity is the soul of wit. That means, the least amount of words you take to say some­thing, equals the more power that it will have. So with­out fur­ther

–don’t know what’s hap­pen­ing to the Grand Old Par­ty, these rude young up­starts, re­li­gious fa­nat­ics

–and fi­nally thank you for in­cit­ing I mean invit­ing me to host a pogrom with so many pres­tidi­gious names. Our first speaker

–so now we’re prepar­ing a sum­mary of every ex­ist­ing com­puter al­go­rithm for mul­ti­pli­ca­tion so we know who to go after in­fringem

–a man the elite lib­eral me­dia love to hate

–man who can’t spell his own name

–the most unique in­di­vid­ual I have ever met

–say young fel­low, how much salt is in this chick­en?

–Vice Pres­i­dent of the Yewnited

–nk you tuc, and the mi­cro­phone cut out as the deer eyes flick­ered be­tween podium and au­di­ence, –k you all. Like you, I am here tonight to founder, er, honor the foun­da­tion of the Arete, ah, all right, Foun­da­tion, named after, uh, the Lat­in, ah Greek word for ah virtue. Coined by that great Greek, uh, soph, so­phis­ti­cate Pro, Pro­to, goras who said, ah, Man is the mea­sur­er, and I think that is clear, and clearly the les­son of that is, uh, that man is the one who mea­sures, just as we, ah, as men, or women of course, owe it to our fel­low man to make sure that he, or she, ah, mea­sures up, as I am sure all the mem­bers in this room would like to be mea­sured…

–Dear God, some­one put him out of his

–so what we need from you Doc­tor Hite is a list of com­puter mul­ti­pli­ca­tion al­go­rithms that might be in­fring­ing on our

–What I need is a chance to eat my chicken pec­ca­ta, you mind?

–honor for me to in­tro­duce a man we all ah, hon­or, I mean, a man to whom this great and beau­ti­ful count, the mi­cro­phone again skip­ping, –deep debt of ah, skip­ping again, –Réti, ap­plause ris­ing as the old man limped to the podi­um, scan­ning the au­di­ence with ice blue eyes as he pushed the mi­cro­phone back an inch. [pg131]

–To­day the Arete Foun­da­tion, in­deed the na­tion, has a spe­cial chal­lenge be­fore it. For we stand on the thresh­old of a new era, a turn­ing point in his­to­ry. To­day, nu­clear weapons are ob­so­lete.

–not try­ing to claim ex­clu­sive rights, just a mod­est li­cens­ing fee

–If I promise to look at it, will you leave me alone?

–thank my young col­leagues at the Lab, for de­vel­op­ing the Su­per­bright laser, cor­ner­stone of the Ra­di­ance an­timis­sile de­fense. For se­cu­rity rea­sons we can­not re­veal the ac­tual in­ten­si­ties we have achieved with this re­mark­able de­vice. But I as­sure you that the skep­tics will be con­found­ed.

–just a small frac­tion of a cent per op­er­a­tion68

–yes fine here, here’s my card, call me, just

–But our work does not stop here. Tonight I will tell you of a re­mark­able new de­vel­op­ment. A sys­tem of fast, small in­ter­cep­tors that hurl them­selves like stones against mis­siles. Thou­sands of these de­vices in low or­bit will con­stantly mon­i­tor the globe for threats. If a mis­sile is launched, an in­ter­cep­tor will spot it and knock it down. To­day, thanks to star­tling ad­vances in minia­tur­iza­tion, this sys­tem is prac­ti­cal and even cheap.

A sud­den crash of dish­ware from the back of the hall brought the ice blue eyes up and glar­ing.

–Crit­ics now ask, who is our en­e­my? The So­vi­ets are gone, should we not di­vert this money to peace­ful us­es? I will not an­swer this dan­ger­ously naive crit­i­cism. Ex­cept to say that the prospect of bal­lis­tic mis­siles, in the hands of twenty differ­ent gov­ern­ments, makes an effec­tive de­fense manda­tory.

Réti’s voice, slow and heavy with a ac­cent un­re­lin­quished after sixty years in Amer­i­ca, was the aris­to­crat to Eu­banks’s plebe. A sales talk all the same, and so what? From Plato to Planck, sci­ence was per­sua­sion. of Sim­p­li­cio, Sagre­do, and Salviati was writ­ten to per­suade, not to prove.

–But this is not all. The Sling­shot or­biters per­fectly fit the new man­date for dual use. In ad­di­tion to de­fend­ing against man­made threats, they can pro­tect us from nat­ural calami­ties.

–not just a

–will you shut [pg132]

–ex­tinc­tion of the di­nosaurs caused by an enor­mous me­teor im­pact. Such an im­pact, if it oc­curred to­day, would cost busi­ness over eight quadrillion dol­lars. And these im­pacts do oc­cur, about once every hun­dred thou­sand years. Thus, sim­ple di­vi­sion shows that cost us eighty bil­lion per year, against which our pro­posed re­search bud­get of two bil­lion per year is if any­thing too mod­est.69

–n­ever thought of it that way, amor­tize the apoc­a­lypse

–Arete’s par­ent or­ga­ni­za­tion, the re­spected think tank NOUS, the Nexus for Op­ti­mal Use of Sci­ence70, has en­dorsed Sling­shot. They have pro­vided Con­gress and the pres­i­dent with the sci­en­tific analy­sis they need to make in­formed pol­icy de­ci­sions. But sci­ence, though nec­es­sary, is not suffi­cient. The Arete Foun­da­tion will pro­vide the po­lit­i­cal will to make the cor­rect choic­es. For as Ein­stein once said to me, “All the wis­dom on this earth re­mains with­out suc­cess if force does not en­ter into its ser­vice.”71 May that be the watch­word of the Arete Foun­da­tion as well.

–Coffee?

–No, push­ing away from the ta­ble as ap­plause rose to bury –Wait, Doc­tor Hite…!, as Réti limped from the podium and was lost from sight. Highet skirted ta­bles as peo­ple stood, block­ing his way, com­ing against –Did him­self in with that read my lips, wait and see, and edg­ing past –bil­lion acres of so-called wilder­ness ought to be in pri­vate hands, as chairs were backed into his path, past –im­pos­si­ble to get re­li­able help, as the crowd thick­ened and he pressed through –what with the deficit, we can’t afford not to sell off some as­sets, sight­ing Ven­ham near an exit with the vice pres­i­dent and Eu­banks and Réti smil­ing and shak­ing hands with a burly man in blue serge, as the nasal voice nearby again nagged, –drive six hun­dred miles a week, get home I have a right to some peace, while Réti turned laugh­ing to Ven­ham, and black mo­hair fell across the stooped shoul­ders, –want to build in the mid­dle of Alaska, one point seven gi­gawatts beamed straight into the , where he lost sight of them, –told Vi­cente to pull out the olive trees, the fruit was stain­ing the pave­ment, re­place them with , as black mo­hair hove briefly into sight again un­der EXIT, –turns out the pro­posal came from an sci­en­tist, they just hap­pen to have thirty tril­lion cu­bic feet of Alaskan nat­ural gas they’d like to [pg133] sell on site in­stead of hav­ing to pipe it, break­ing through to reach­ing the exit just as two Se­cret Ser­vice agents pulled the door shut and moved to block him.

–Sor­ry, sir, no exit here.

In fury he turned and was blocked again by the back of a curly blond head, red scarf, scuffed leather jack­et, the nasal voice nag­ging, –go­ing all week long, but when I get back Fri­day at six there he is with up­rooted stumps and dirt all over the dri­ve, it looked like a clearcut, with his Sal­vado­ran friends back­ing a pickup through my rhodo­den­drons, as Highet was jos­tled and the blond curls turned to face him, an­noy­ance on the snub fea­tures turn­ing to sur­prise and sly plea­sure.

–Leo High­et! Is it you? My God, what are you do­ing here?

–C­hazz? Chazz Hol­lis?

–Bar­bara, this is my best friend from high school.

–Hel­lo. Her warm hand in his. Beau­ti­ful smile. Sheer silk sheath. Her eyes quickly shift­ing from his. –C­hazz, I’m go­ing to talk to Re­na­ta.

–All right. We’ll leave soon.

–Last place I ex­pected to see you, Chazz.

–I’m so em­bar­rassed. I had no idea this would be so po­lit­i­cal. Do you know Bill Ven­ham? He in­vited me. He’s been a real friend to the Phil­har­mon­ic.

–We’ve met. A lit­tle con­ser­vatism won’t hurt you, Chazz.

–What did you think of Eu­banks?

–Not much.

–His ra­dio show is enor­mously pop­u­lar.

–Is it re­al­ly.

–Some peo­ple say he could run for pres­i­dent.

–Any id­iot can run for pres­i­dent.

–How long has it been, Leo? Twen­ti­eth Lan­caster High re­union, was­n’t it?

Ten years ago. Out in the trail­ers lick­ing my wounds. Mer­cedes lib­eral look­ing down his nose at me. Still build­ing bombs? he’d said.

–That’s right. You’d just put out a new age al­bum un­der the name Pro­teus.

–Oh my gosh, that’s right. You know, I did that as a lark, but they [pg134] turned out to be my cash cow, those Pro­teus al­bums.72 You’re where now?

–I’m di­rec­tor of the Lab now.

–So you’ve done pretty well for your­self there.

–And you?

–Oh, I’m jug­gling about four ca­reers. There’s a new com­puter mu­sic re­search cen­ter at the uni­ver­si­ty, they’ve cre­ated a chair for me, en­dowed by a re­cently de­ceased film com­pos­er. Quite a good com­poser re­al­ly. All his life in ad­di­tion to his film work he wrote sym­phonies, cham­ber works, an amaz­ing out­put, but they were never per­formed. I’m con­duct­ing an evening of his quote se­ri­ous mu­sic at the Hol­ly­wood Bowl this sum­mer.

–Did­n’t know you con­duct­ed, Chazz.

–Oh, yes. An­other cash cow. And I have a Pro­teus al­bum due out in No­vem­ber, though I’m mov­ing away from that. Oh, and Leo, you’ll be in­ter­ested in this. At the re­search cen­ter we’re de­sign­ing some AI soft­ware.

–All that and AI soft­ware, too, you’re a ver­sa­tile guy, Chazz. How’d you get to be so smart?

–Oh, my as­sis­tant, he’s here some­where, he’s quite bril­liant, he works at the . It’s ironic to be adapt­ing his work to mu­sic, but I think it makes a state­ment, con­vert­ing mil­i­tary tech­nolo­gies to cul­tural us­es. Of course, I use a Mac­in­tosh for my own com­pos­ing, but the re­search at the Cen­ter is much more ad­vanced. We’re work­ing on a pro­gram that can be trained to write in any mu­si­cal style. It’s a chal­lenge. One knows very well how Mozart differs from Haydn, but to get from that rather in­tu­itive knowl­edge to a work­ing pro­gram is quite diffi­cult. The uni­ver­sity has an in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty in­ter­est in it. They want to patent al­go­rithms that em­body com­po­si­tional styles. They’ve trade­marked a dozen ma­jor names, Mozart, Bach, Beeth

–Trade­marked?

–For mar­ket­ing new works in the style. Of course we have no idea if this will pan out, but it does­n’t hurt to stake a claim.

–S­peak­ing of tech­nol­ogy trans­fer, we might be able to help you. We’ve done a lot of AI re­search in house. The al­go­rithm works how, [pg135] ex­act­ly?

–Oh, I can’t tell you ex­act­ly, some sort of chaos the­o­ry, chaos on the edge of com­plex­i­ty, you should talk to, there he is, Jef! Jef Thor­pe, this is Leo Hi

–Y­ou.

–Oh you, you know each…?

–Jef used to work for us at the Lab.

–Oh is that where…? What a co­in­ci­dence.

–S­mall world.

–Ah, you two, ah, must have some catch­ing up to do, I’ll, head swivel­ing as it tracked the crowd past High­et, dis­pens­ing a smile here, a nod there, hand grop­ing in an in­ner pocket for –my card, Leo, the home phone’s chang­ing next week, I’m mov­ing to Pa­los Verde, ac­tu­ally that’s why I’m, ah ha, I see my re­al­tor over there, glad I ran into you, Leo, we’ll talk again. Jef, see you Mon­day…

–Thor­pe, black­jack­eted arms crossed over red t-shirt, said, –Some­one told me, the fish rots from the head.

–Let me ex­plain some­thing to you, Jef…

–No need, I un­der­stand.

–Do you re­al­ly? Do you un­der­stand how Quine screwed you? With those sec­ondary re­flec­tors?

–Yeah. I also know the pri­maries were giv­ing bad data all along. That’s what got me jig­ging the code in the first place. Be­cause I trusted the data and I saw how to make the sim­u­la­tion cor­re­spond.

–You think I wanted to blame you? Quine was group lead­er, you were his as­sis­tant. Your fin­ger­prints were on the code. And you had a his­to­ry.

–What does that mean, a hist

–Fish and Him­mel­hoch.

–That’s to­tally un­fair! I had noth­ing to do with

–What’s fair got to do with it? Quine was my man, I pro­tected him. Even though I de­spise him. He’s gone now, if it makes you feel bet­ter.

–Well, so am I, gone.

–Learn from this, Jef. Pro­tect your­self. Be ruth­less.

–Man… shak­ing his head, –I’m not sorry I’m gone. [pg136]

–En­joy your hon­ey­moon at Com­plex­i­ty. But stay in touch. That Richt­my­er-Meshkov work you were do­ing is hot, we can use that.

–This, what, this is un­be­liev­able. Why should I share any­thing with you?

–Be­cause in the long run we’re on the same side. I won’t for­get that and I’m bet­ting you won’t.

–Man, there it is. The Highet Effect. That re­al­ity dis­tor­tion field. It’s amaz­ing. You’ll say any­thing, won’t you.

–You heard Réti’s speech. Knowl­edge and force.

–I heard it. Ein­stein my ass.

And turned from Thor­pe, go­ing into the cor­ri­dor to­wards MEN, where a ho­tel em­ployee blocked him with a mop held like a quar­ter­staff, –Closed, there’s an­other down the hall, and on past Space Re­al­ity Space Fan­tasy Art Expo where or­biters and bat­tle sta­tions and shut­tles and star­ships were clus­tered in promis­cu­ous con­gress against air­bushed starscapes no tele­scopes had ever viewed, past a booth where a woman in hot pink jog­ging bra and satin shorts, wool socks, heavy boots, and back­pack walked a tread­mill, face hid­den in a hel­met sten­ciled VIRTUAL WILDERNESS above a smile fixed in Cheshire Cat de­tach­ment at the moun­tain land­scape pro­jected on screens for the spec­ta­tors’ ben­e­fit be­hind her pump­ing legs, and went on past CodeWin, where the pres­sure of his blad­der led him into a dim al­cove lit by a screen with the im­age of hair not dark or wild but bright as a car­rot, lips pout­ing and slim, white legs raised for –! as a ca­coph­ony burst from an­other booth where one boy urged an­other fac­ing a bar­rage of in­com­ing graphs, –Fire! Fire! Fire! and on past AMNESTY INTERACTIVE where high res­o­lu­tion graph­ics and dig­i­tal au­dio lent the prison cell and repet­i­tive screams a gritty chic, fi­nally at­tain­ing the rel­a­tive peace of MEN where two fig­ures at uri­nals, one in black mo­hair, one in black mo­hair, one in blue serge, backs stiff and legs sprad­dled to pro­duce in porce­lain tones an in­ter­mit­tent tenor aria and a pro­founder chim­ing , over which serge was say­ing –agen­tur­naya razvedka, in­for­ma­tion com­ing through net­work of un­der­cover case offi­cers. Co­de­name Star wished that his in­for­ma­tion may not be trace­able to any­one on Man­hat­tan Project staff73, and Bill Ven­ham turn­ing slightly saw High­et, the tenor flow stut­ter­ing and ceas­ing, –Leo! [pg1367] Pull up a pew. Say hi to my new friend Vas­sili.

–Can’t get away from you, can I, Bill. Thanks for set­ting me up with old Stan there.

–S­tan?

–S­tan, Stan Flack, re­mem­ber? Of course, not be­ing a re­gent, he did­n’t know a hell of a lot about my sit­u­a­tion.

–Oh hell, that’s all over, Leo, you should be look­ing for new pos­si­bil­i­ties, that’s why I hooked you up with Stan there.

–What do you mean, that’s all over?

Ven­ham shook, tucked, and came to the sink, while serge con­tin­ued his re­lent­less basso un­der the so­prano and alto of two faucets.

–Re­gents, DOE, that’s the old or­der, Leo. Give us a cou­ple years and we’ll close down DOE74, move it all into the pri­vate sec­tor. We’ve got a po­si­tion pa­per on this, I’ll send you a copy.

The chim­ing in the Rus­sian’s bowl ta­pered off, then be­gan again.

–Who’s he?

–Vas­sil­i’s in from Moscow. With some very hot info about a cer­tain Man­hat­tan Project sci­en­tist who passed atomic se­crets to the NKVD dur­ing the war.

–Not Aron, I hope.

–Ha ha! Oh, Vas­sil­i’s a gold mine of in­for­ma­tion on the Stalin era, I’m offer­ing him a po­si­tion at NOUS. Say, that re­minds me, did you get my let­ter?

–Been a lit­tle busy, I’ll ask my girl.

–We’re keep­ing a pew warm. There’s a place for you any­time you want it.

The basso con­tinuo at last di­min­ished, re­tard­ed, and ceased with a heart­felt sigh. –Bozhe moi. [My god.]

–Got to be go­ing, Bill, stopped by a hand pluck­ing his lapel, tuck­ing a light green vel­lum en­ve­lope into his in­ner jacket pock­et, then smooth­ing the fab­ric.

–Give it some thought, Leo.

–Where can I find Aron?

–Aron? He’s long gone. Lis­ten Leo, about this cold fu­sion thing… but Highet like­wise was gone, out past MULTIMEDIA and the air-brushed in­fini­ties, past aban­doned mop and bucket by Out Of Or­der, [pg138] paus­ing only in the lobby for MEN and the re­lief he had not ear­lier tak­en.

Did­n’t even get to talk to him. Call him to­mor­row. Might be too late. Dri­ving up from the bow­els of the garage, sur­fac­ing to wait for the flash and shriek of ƎƆИA⅃UᙠMA pass­ing and in its wake traffic stream­ing then thin­ning as the city fell away be­hind him. Stars above thin cloud. In the val­ley a misty rain be­gan and his wipers switched them­selves on. The syn­co­pated rhythm lulled him over the pass. Wasted trip. Down to a bright grid flat against void, and off at J Street.

Thea looked up from read­ing as the door stuck then flew open to strike the IV stand that fell clat­ter­ing.

–How was your din­ner?

–Did­n’t ex­pect to find you still here.

–I was­n’t sure you were com­ing back. I did­n’t want to leave Mother alone.

–I see the stand ar­rived. Place right here in town Thea, they even de­liv­er, if you’d look in the yel­low pages.

–Well now we have two.

–Oh for Christ’s sake.

–Well, you did­n’t tell me you were go­ing to buy one.

–Okay, so re­turn it. How is she?

–She went to bed a lit­tle while ago. She was wait­ing up for you, but she tires eas­i­ly. Her light’s still on. You might say good night.

–Lis­ten, about din­ner. I told you I had things to do while I was here.

–I know, Leo. I know no­body’s go­ing to change. Mark is com­ing to­mor­row morn­ing for break­fast. Is that all right? Do you have some­thing else? Just so I know.

–I need to be in West­wood by noon. Break­fast is fine.

–I’ll be here about eight. Will you say good night to Moth­er?

–Of course. See you to­mor­row.

Light un­der the closed door. He stood by it for a mo­ment, then went in.

–Leo, dear. It’s so good to see you.

–Hello Moth­er. He stood by the IV, not look­ing at her. Hang­ing plas­tic sack, D5 Half-Nor­mal Saline Dex­trose 55 1000 mL OSMOLARITY [pg139] 273 mOsmol/L (CALC) STERILE NONPYROGENIC SINGLE DOSE CONTAINER. Blue plas­tic gauze pads on the bed­side table. Brown plas­tic pill bot­tles. . Small milky plas­tic cup hold­ing a ta­ble­spoon of clear liq­uid. Spot of dried blood on the pil­low­case.

–Leo, I’m so glad you came. Her thin gray hand reach­ing for him.

–How are you?

–Oh, Leo. I’m so tired.

–Moth­er, can I ask you some­thing about Dad?

She looked away, then turned back bright­ly. –Do you re­mem­ber, when your fa­ther taught you to shoot? You’d go after jackrab­bits, you two, and come home hun­gry as hunters, and I’d have din­ner wait­ing and I’d say, Home are the hunters. Do you re­mem­ber, Leo? Oh, you loved that. Be­cause it was your mid­dle name, Hunter, yours and your fa­ther’s. After your grand­pa. But you would­n’t eat the rab­bits.

–Yes, I re­mem­ber. Moth­er, lis­ten, when Dad lost the elec­tion

Her eyes plead­ing. –Leo. All I ever wanted from your fa­ther was a body to hug and a soul to cher­ish. He was such a dis­tant man.

He pat­ted the thin gray hand.

–I need to take my med­i­cine. Hand me that lit­tle cup, dear.

–Here. What is it?

–Mor­phine. She swal­lowed. –And then he put him­self be­yond me for­ev­er.

–I’ll be down the hall if you need any­thing.

In the hall ghost voices chat­tered and nagged. Her ra­dio, con­stant ir­ri­tant of his child­hood, her dis­trac­tion and de­fense, all day and all night, one in every room. To drown that mem­ory now he shut his door and switched on the ra­dio on the night table, whence sprung a voice rich with the false res­o­nance of dig­i­tal sig­nal pro­cess­ing, –space mu­sic, re­flect­ing the nat­ural cy­cle, of birth, life, and death. For the next hour, space trav­el­ers, Earth Jour­ney… the voice fad­ing to a mix of bells, flute, rat­tles, , bass gui­tar, and the nasal whine of syn­the­siz­er. He un­packed lap­top and cell phone and plugged them into their charg­ers. Grop­ing be­hind the night ta­ble for the out­let he saw a cor­ner of faded blue in the dust and cob­webs. A small cot­ton sack filled with cat­nip. Lancelot. Or­ange and white tom butting his head against your leg, loud growl­ing purr. Thir­ty, forty years ago. Toy can’t have [pg140] been back there that long. No, of course, Mother had that skinny Siamese died last year. Pel­let of pa­per back there in the dust. Smooth­ing it open to her loop­ing hand: you are not my keeper.

–Je­sus, he mut­tered, kick­ing off his shoes. No­body’s go­ing to change. He turned off the light and re­clined on the cov­er­let star­ing at the ceil­ing, hold­ing the cat toy. Lancelot would climb onto his chest to sleep. Purring hum at his breast. He missed it now.

–space mu­sic, cel­e­brat­ing the, nat­ural cy­cle, by the, Los An­ge­les based com­poser, Pro­teus. For a playlist, ask for pro­gram, three thirty nine, Earth Journ, and snapped it off.

The nat­ural cy­cle: homage to cru­elty and waste. What use heaven makes of its be­ings. Sets them to strive and build un­der in­com­mutable sen­tence of death. If he were younger he might pit all his force and re­solve against this en­e­my, this face­less min­ion of haven, if not to beat death at least to put it off. Why should­n’t peo­ple live for cen­turies? What could they not ac­com­plish?

All I re­ally wanted was to do physics. The struc­ture of the uni­verse. The na­ture of mat­ter. Mem­bers of the Acad­e­my, ladies and gen­tle­men. And what have I ac­com­plished? Chemist of peo­ple, cat­a­lyst, hold­ing the place to­gether so oth­ers can do the real work. Like young Quine, that pa­per he coau­thored with Sorokin years ago, that was the real thing. Still know it when I see it. Well, he’ll never get back to it now. Bit­ter sat­is­fac­tion there. Re­duced to liv­ing on oth­ers’ fail­ures.

It’s com­ing apart. Di­et­z’s build­ing, falling. Hang­ing on to the cliff, look­ing for the next hand­hold. Rock bit­ing his palms. No one tells you what you need to live.

Leo had to pee. In the hall he saw light un­der the base­ment door. Leo opened the door and went down the stairs hold­ing the rail tight. Come here boy. Light glowed am­ber in the shot­glass. Pa­pers and maps over­flowed the desk. These are streets, see. Pla­cen­tia, Palm, Pi­o­neer. We live here. The new streets will be here. Va­cant parcels in A-17. Land’s cheap now, but it’ll be valu­able. The sharp smell as Dad sipped from the shot­glass.

Dad yelling at mother be­cause Gramp would­n’t loan him the money to buy prop­er­ty. Worth­less patch of desert. Short­sighted old fool, it’ll dou­ble in three years! Fi­nally he forged the old fool’s name on a check. [pg141] What a stink over that.

Vast echo­ing dim­ness. End­less rows of lock­ers and bench­es. Blurred voic­es, the smell of sweat and mildew. Leo comes to an arena of light and steam. All the show­ers are run­ning. There his fa­ther stands naked with a sullen young man. Fa­ther pulls at the play­er’s swelling pe­nis and looks up un­smil­ing at Leo.

Abruptly awake. A sigh al­most a moan es­caped him. Best for all con­cerned that you.

Fuck them. Fuck them all. Let them try it. They can’t do this to me, they don’t have the votes. He rose and crossed the hall. He stood void­ing. The flood­light out­side dimly lit the bowl. In its light noise­less rain drifted down a fath­om­less sky. On the dis­tant high­way, trucks whined, wheels hissed on wet road. As he re­turned to his room and lay down, he felt a wave of weak­ness, al­most the body’s dis­gust with it­self. I have noth­ing left for this fight.

Leo at the back door snapped on the flood­light. In its glare, half hid­den by a cre­osote bush, stood a long slim ca­nine with the slink­ing frame of a scav­enger and a bushy tail up­right. Its eyes were golden coals and in its nar­row jaws it held the neck of an or­ange and white cat with head and paws dan­gling, tail curled un­der. Lancelot turned his head into the light and his pink mouth opened in a silent mewl. The coy­ote bolted into dark­ness with the cat.

Get up. Get dressed. Are you an­gry with that coy­ote? We’ll get him. In the dawn halflight his fa­ther stood. Dumb with sor­row and sleep Leo dressed. He took the ri­fle his fa­ther thrust at him. The sky gew light and they hiked into the sandy hills be­hind the house. Noth­ing moved for miles in that pale un­giv­ing light. Leo wanted to ask if Lancelot might have got­ten away, if they might still find him, but the ques­tion died in his throat.

Eyes wide, he lis­tened to the hol­low cease­less hiss of the uni­verse. He reached for the in­haler, cylin­der cold in his hand’s warmth, an ex­al­ta­tion like freefall as the spray struck his si­nus­es.

Dad. Tell me what I need to live. Read to me like you did.

Once there was a man, a rocket man, in his coal­black uni­form coated with star­dust, a man alone in the night of space. A proud man, and brave. On his shoul­ders lay the fate of the world. His rocket ship left [pg142] the Earth on a pil­lar of fire. It climbed up and out of the grav­ity well. Spew­ing a hard white foun­tain of flame. Be­hind it the Earth dwin­dled, and all he had ever known dwin­dled with it: his fam­i­ly, his friends, his past. The Earth dwin­dled to the size of a bas­ket­ball, a grape­fruit, a blood or­ange, a lemon. A ball bear­ing. Lancelot…! And deep in the void waited a sick­ness and a dis­ease, and it came upon the man, and it was called the Lone­li­ness75. Deep, lus­trous desert sky, still as death, and in its dark­ness waits the hid­den en­e­my, Sput­nik could it be? A strong man took the lead­er­ship in war, one who had once blinked at the sun and dreamt that per­haps he might snare it, and was roused to con­vey to his broth­ers that in­deed he had done so76, and had thus led them out of the caves and fi­nally into space it­self. There! And there! Points of flight. The en­e­my. Deep in space, cru­ci­form in a ship no larger than a body­suit he fin­gered con­trols in his gloves, he darted and fired at his op­po­nents. Fire. Fire. Fire.

And the sky gath­ered color as a sun still un­risen scat­tered rays across a serene pale­ness cut by a blunt black tri­an­gle out­rac­ing its own hol­low roar, as though to as­sert that the day alone did not suffice, its beauty a goad and a chal­lenge to the dis­con­tent spir­it. A key scratched in the front door which gave its grunt of re­sis­tance and pa­per bags rus­tled to the kitchen and wa­ter ran in the mas­ter bath­room through pipes singing be­neath the house, the dirges of child­hood, as he stared at the same ceil­ing he had forty years ago. Highet thrust him­self out of bed.

At the din­ing room ta­ble sat Thea, read­ing a news­pa­per. –Good morn­ing.

–Thea, what are the­se? fetch­ing from a pocket and flat­ten­ing some­times I won­der why I spend the lonely night, and you are not my keeper.

She sighed. –Oh, the for­tune cook­ies.

–For­tune cook­ies?

–It’s what Mark and I call them. She’s been leav­ing them around the house for years. I find them un­der sofa cush­ions.

–These were down­stairs and in the guest room.

–We think they’re her way of deal­ing with Fa­ther’s death.

–That’s twen­ty-five years ago, Thea.

–Well, she has­n’t ever wanted to ad­mit… you know. [pg143]

–Twen­ty-five years and she still thinks he just dozed off with the mo­tor run­ning in the gar

–Leo, hush. Please. I hear her com­ing. The pipes stopped singing. Then, ris­ing, her voice brisk, –I’ll start break­fast. Mark will be here soon. You see if Mother needs help.

–Not the kind I can give her, sweep­ing the pa­per strips into his pock­et. –Y­ou’re up on this pop psych stuff, you know the word de­nial? Dad with the booze, Mark with the sports, Mom with the ra­dio, you

–You with the sci­ence, Leo. Would you please

–Fine, all right. Moth­er! Do you need help?

She was in a house­coat and slip­pers lean­ing against the chrome walker at the bed­side.

–Do you need help with that, Moth­er?

–I hate this hor­rid thing. If I could lean on you, dar­ling.

–Here. He ex­tended a crooked el­bow.

–I’m sorry to be a both­er, dear.

–It’s no both­er.

–You look so hand­some in your suit. Like your fa­ther when he ran for office.

–Hope I do a lit­tle bet­ter here than he did.

–He would have won, dear, but the lo­cal ma­chine was against him. A lit­tle slow­er, dar­ling. her fin­gers dug into his fore­arm.

–Y­ou’re a tough old bird, Moth­er, you’ll out­live us all.

–Sit there, Moth­er, I’ll bring you some juice. Mark will be here soon.

–Thank you, Thea. Leo, dar­ling, would you turn on the ra­dio?

–Oh Christ.

–Tuck Eu­banks is on.

–How can you lis­ten to that crap?

–Now, I don’t agree with every­thing he says, but he makes some very good points.

–Leo? Can I see you in the kitchen?

He turned from the skull so vis­i­ble un­der the thin white hair, as the oro­tund voice sprung from the ra­dio, –this at­tempt to tug peo­ple’s heart­strings has wrung dry, and strode into the kitchen where his sis­ter wait­ed, arms fold­ed. [pg144]

–What, Thea. You mean I should just shut up and let her lis­ten to that poi­so­nous buffoon?

In a tense whis­per, –Yes, that’s ex­actly what I mean. And keep your voice down. You’re act­ing like a spoiled child.

His voice fell like­wise. –She does that to me, she al­ways has, you know that. This is a mis­take, me be­ing here.

–Y­ou’re mak­ing it one. You’re mak­ing it one so that you can avoid deal­ing with it, as usu­al. You are so un­giv­ing.

–Right, got about fifty ur­gent things need do­ing, went out of my way to clear some time drove three hun­dred miles but that’s not enough, you know what it is Thea, noth­ing’s enough, you turn every­thing into some kind of drama and if peo­ple don’t play their part they’re un­giv­ing. If you want to know, that’s why Bob fi­nally left you, your con­stant dra­ma­tiz­ing, and he tried to go along with it all, play­ing a dozen differ­ent parts, kept giv­ing till there was noth­ing left to give.

–Leave Bob out of this.

–There you go, Bob’s not in your script any more, so leave him out.

–Y­ou’re the last one to talk about re­la­tion­ships.

–Oh, no doubt, but I’m talk­ing about you, Thea, how you’ve got zero tol­er­ance for any­thing not in your movie.

–You al­ways have to win, Leo. I know that so well, but it al­ways sur­prises me. Every­thing’s a con­flict to you. No won­der you’re good at your job.

–Just look around some­time Thea if you don’t think every­thing’s a con­flict, just look around you for one god­damn min

–Thea, dear? I think Mark is here.

–Thank you, Moth­er. All right, Leo, could we have peace for, for just one hour? Just through break­fast?

He went out the kitchen door into the back yard. The fig tree, bar­ren of bloom, bur­dened with the weight of its own branch­es, swayed stiffly in a warm and steady wind. A heavy dry scent from some un­seen flower itched his nose, heavy with mu­cus, and he blew to clear it. The door­bell turned him back in­side.

–Y­ou’re look­ing more and more like Dad, Mark. [pg145]

–New car, Leo? Very sporty. Pity about the scratch on the hood.

–How’s life in the trades?

–Lo­cal­ly, it sucks. But we’ve got enough work out Newhall way.

–How are Mary and the chil­dren, dear?

–Good good, they’re good, Mom. Gary just started Lit­tle League, he’s real ex­cited about that. How’s with you, Leo?

–Com­plex­ity on the edge of chaos. Had to run off last night to a din­ner.

–I heard.

–How do you all want your eggs? Moth­er, I know you want poached. Leo? Mark?

–Scram­bled, Thea, thanks.

–Just coffee.

–You don’t want any­thing, Leo?

–No, got some­thing else at noon down be­low.

–Sit, sit down, all of you.

–Say, Mark, got a con­struc­tion ques­tion for you. When you truck fill away from a site

–Away? Usu­ally you truck it in.

–Well say you’ve got too much of it. What would you do with it?

–Well, if it’s good fill, non­ex­pan­sive, you’d take it to an­other site that needs it.

–One of your own sites?

–If you’ve got one that needs it.

–You ever hear of Credne Con­struc­tion?

–The statewide low bid kings. They’ve cost me work. Why?

–Just cu­ri­ous. They’re do­ing some work at the Lab. I pass their trucks every day.

–They do in­dus­trial work and tract homes. Those new de­vel­op­ments about by Ade­lan­to? That kind of thing. I don’t know about their in­dus­tri­al, but their tract work­ers get paid by the piece, not hourly. That’s in­cen­tive to cut cor­ners.

–Thea, you hear this? Cred­ne’s the con­trac­tor out at Es­tancia. Tell her she does­n’t want to live there, Mark.

–What the hell do you care where she lives, Leo?

–Just want to keep her out of my neigh­bor­hood. [pg146]

–Well, don’t ask my help.

–I’m POed, Thea. He’s been do­ing this since I came in, how’s life in the trades, I look like Dad… I don’t need this from a guy we see once every five years.

–Okay, don’t let it get to you, Mark, I’m leav­ing.

–Oh Leo. Mark why did you have to

–Me? He’s blow­ing us off, and it’s my fault?

–No­body’s fault, sit down Thea, just got to run, some things I have to

–Leo, please sit down. Fin­ish your coffee…

–Thea, I don’t need this any more than he does.

–Please, dear…

–He’s great at this, al­ways has been. Toss a stink bomb, get every­one fight­ing, and he’s out the door.

–Please, let’s not fight.

–Mark. Moth­er’s right.

Mark looked at Thea, then at Moth­er. His nos­trils flared, his mouth tight. Like their fa­ther. Then it passed. Mark rose and held out his hand. –Sor­ry, Leo. If you have to go, you have to go. Stay in touch, will you?

–It was good of you to come, dear. We are all so proud of you. Thin arms reach­ing for him. Smell of med­i­cine. He ac­cepted her hug.

–Take care of your­self, moth­er. I’ll call.

Thea came to hug hum. –Good­bye. I’ll call you about Es­tancia.

–Yes, all right I, hes­i­tat­ing at the front door as it stick, –seems, …seems like I’m for­get­ting some­thing. Turn­ing back to the three pairs of eyes fixed on him as he raised sun­glasses in a half­hearted to­ken of farewell, don­ning them against the glare that broke in shards on the con­crete walk and as­phalt and again on the dis­tant glit­ter of tall build­ings and again on the peb­bled glass un­der his parked wheels by the yel­low tape CAUTION CUIDADO knot­ted like some of dis­tress and dis­rup­tion through the world, reach­ing it seemed from the Lab to West­wood, as he fol­lowed the shards past boarded win­dows as two rollerblades zipped by in t-shirts NO FEAR trail­ing a sound newly in the world, a sly hiss from their wheels, an­other spin­off [pg147] of a Lab project in com­pos­ite ma­te­ri­als, its in­ge­nu­ity knot­ted through­out the world, his mark, putting res­o­lu­tion into his step as he went un­der a gran­ite ar­chi­trave FIAT LUX and down an echo­ing hall to pause at an oak door, hand stilled on knob by the pa­tri­cian voice from with­in, –s­trate­gic de­cep­tion, that’s what Whip­ple called it. He claimed that the en­tire point of the [SDI] pro­gram was to force the So­vi­ets to spend77

Cool light through slat­ted shades, dark con­fer­ence lus­trous as old coin. He rec­og­nized some of the faces.

–Sir, this meet­ing is closed… Doc­tor High­et?

–I be­lieve you’re dis­cussing my con­tract.

–This, this is, your pres­ence here is most in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

–I­nap­pro­pri­ate? And him? point­ing to the fig­ure who upon his en­trance had gone silent as a pall­bear­er, –He’s just giv­ing a lit­tle im­par­tial ad­vice?

–Se­n­a­tor Chase is here at our in­vi­ta­tion.

–The sen­a­tor wants my head. I know this. You know this. I’d like to de­fend my­self.

–Doc­tor High­et, you know how per­for­mance re­views work. When we’ve gath­ered enough data

–E­nough rope, you mean.

–We re­ally can­not have

–This is just the sort of an­tic he’s

–Hell, Charles, let the man sit in, what harm can it do? Sen­a­tor?

–Fine with me.

–Well it’s ir­reg­u­lar and I want it noted that I don’t ap­prove.

–So not­ed.

He seated him­self at the far end of the table, fac­ing Chase, two chairs away from any re­gent.

–Doc­tor High­et, one of our con­cerns is your ev­i­dent lack of sup­port for the post-Cold War mis­sion DOE has de­fined for the Lab, specifi­cally tech­nol­ogy trans­fer. The per­cep­tion is that you are heav­ily in­vested in the Ra­di­ance an­timis­sile pro­gram.

–I’ve long been an ad­vo­cate of tech­nol­ogy trans­fer. I’ve spear­headed many col­lab­o­ra­tions with in­dus­try. We’ve just made an agree­ment with Gate Cel­lu­lar that will dou­ble the net worth of our dual use tech­nolo­gies. [pg148]

–Some eval­u­a­tions of your per­for­mance… well, here, un­der­es­ti­mates diffi­cul­ties and time frames, more con­cerned with pub­lic per­cep­tions than re­al­i­ties, com­bat­ive style, pro­fane and tact­less, abra­sive some­times abu­sive, se­ri­ous prob­lems ac­cept­ing crit­i­cism, ten bad ideas for every good one…

–Who wrote that?

–and re­cent ar­ti­cles in the press about Ra­di­ance tend to sup­port a view of, well, here, nu­mer­ous in­ac­cu­ra­cies, mis­lead­ing state­ments, un­re­solved is­sues, out of con­trol, emerg­ing pic­ture of mis­man­age­ment and im­pro­pri­ety, does the com­pe­tent and hon­est sci­en­tists at the Lab a dis­ser­vice…

–I should get the name of your . Don’t tell me you take that se­ri­ous­ly?

–The uni­ver­sity takes these ac­cu­sa­tions very se­ri­ous­ly. They re­flect on our over­sight.

–Press gets hold of a few ru­mors, plays right into the pop­u­lar mis­trust of sci­ence and gov­ern­ment, pretty soon you’ve got a feed­ing fren­zy.

–Well, you’ve got five on­go­ing GAO in­ves­ti­ga­tions, two DOE, six con­gres­sional

–Well Doc­tor Beck­man half of those aren’t us, they’re you, it’s the uni­ver­si­ty’s over­sight be­ing ques­tioned.

–with­out lay­ing blame, Doc­tor High­et, it does seem that the Ra­di­ance pro­gram and all its ah un­re­solved is­sues are as­so­ci­ated rightly or wrongly with your per­son­al­i­ty.

–Maybe you don’t want a sci­en­tist at the helm. Maybe you want a sales­man.

–It seems to me we have that al­ready, said Chase. –Thirty bil­lion dol­lars wasted on a fraud, a de­cep­tion

–Se­n­a­tor, you got your mon­ey’s worth. Ra­di­ance spent the So­viet Union into obliv­ion. Noth­ing fraud­u­lent about that.

–Do you deny that you de­ceived, mis­led

–War is de­cep­tion.78

–Do you hear that? That’s ex­actly what Whip­ple said to me. Are you ad­mit­ting that this pro­gram is a de­cep­tion?

–Not at all.

–Please, Doc­tor High­et, Sen­a­tor Chase, we’re not go­ing to re­solve [pg149] the larger is­sues, I re­ally think

–Yes, let’s cut the, to the, bot­tom line, what hap­pens to me? Got that fig­ured out yet?

–I don’t think it’s ap­prop

–Com on, I’m here, let’s have it.

Hum of over­head lights. Sun slant­ing through dust. Jet scrap­ing past far over­head.

–We think it best for all con­cerned that you re­sign.

–My con­tract has over a year to run.

–Ab­sent a res­ig­na­tion, we will rec­om­mend that the re­gents ter­mi­nate your con­tract.

–Res­ig­na­tion to be effec­tive when.

–In one month.

–Then you have a re­place­ment in mind.

–For the short term you will ap­point an in­terim di­rec­tor.

–It’s, you know, ap­pro­pri­ate to con­sult with an out­go­ing di­rec­tor about his suc­ces­sor.

–It’s pre­ma­ture at this time.

–Come on, who’s on your short list, Ware? Sz­abo? Karp?

Glances ex­changed. Chase sat back, his face blank, un­til after a pause Beck­man spoke up, –We’re im­pressed by Doc­tor Philip Quine.

–Quine!

–Doc­tor Quine ad­dressed the prob­lems of the Ra­di­ance pro­gram with can­dor and re­solve.

–Quine!

–Doc­tor High­et, we

–You know that he’s been put on leave?

–Yes, for writ­ing a re­port crit­i­cal of Su­per­bright, I gath­er, said Chase.

–If you’d read that re­port, you’d learn that he had a ma­jor role in what you’re call­ing this de­cep­tion.

–That’s what I mean by can­dor, said Chase.

–The can­dor was mine. I or­dered that re­port.

–I ah, for one, I think that is wholly to Doc­tor High­et’s cred­it.

–Ordered it and then sup­pressed it, said Chase.

–You can’t jump a man from deputy as­so­ciate to di­rec­tor. [pg150]

–Can’t, Doc­tor High­et?

–There are ten as­so­ciate di­rec­tors with more se­nior­i­ty, there are scores of group lead­ers with twenty and thirty years ex­pe­ri­ence, you can’t just pass them over, es­pe­cially for

–Doc­tor High­et, I can’t say I ap­pre­ci­ate you telling us what we can or can’t do.

–Lis­ten to me. Philip Quine is the clas­sic bad hire. For eight years he did noth­ing. I fi­nally found some­thing I thought he could han­dle and he screwed it up and tried to as­sign blame.

Pages turned. –You hired him, did­n’t you? Kept him on? Pro­moted him?

–Yes I did. That was poor judg­ment on my part.

Highet caught Chase’s faint smile at that. –I’m warn­ing you not to make the same mis­take. Quine has no ex­pe­ri­ence, no stature, no lead­er­ship. He’s in­ca­pable of mak­ing pub­lic state­ments.

–That’s a plus, said Chase, still with his calm tor­toise smile.

–He’s er­ratic and un­re­li­able, and he has a drug prob­lem.

That in­ter­ested Logue. –Re­al­ly? We have no ev­i­dence of

At last Chase was an­noyed. –Oh come on, he’s do­ing it again, don’t get drawn into

–Know some­thing Sen­a­tor? You’re gone. Next elec­tion. Wait and see.

–Why, are your rightwing friends go­ing to tar­get me?

–Please, Sen­a­tor, Doct

–Think you can use this na­tion’s se­cu­rity as a po­lit­i­cal foot­ball you’ll find oth­er­wise pretty damn quic

–Se­cu­rity is ex­actly what wor­ried me, High­et. I want you and your mouth gone be­fore the en­tire Lab is tainted by your com­mit­ment to this dis­as­trous pro­gram.

–And if I won’t re­sign?

–Do I have to spell it out? Ly­ing to Con­gress, mis­ap­pro­pri­ate of funds, con­flict of in­ter­est…

–Con­flic

–If you think I don’t know what you’ve been up to with your shell com­pa­nies and your job shops, sell­ing knowl­edge and tech­nolo­gies
[pg151]

de­vel­oped with pub­lic funds

–Come off it, there’s noth­ing il­le­gal about spin­offs, and be­sides

–Do you want to go through a hear­ing? I think you re­mem­ber what that’s like.

He had a pic­ture of him­self then. Twenty years ago in Gene­va. The So­viet del­e­gate look­ing at him in dis­be­lief as he said what every­one there knew: that the be­ing offered as a bar­gain­ing chip was made worth­less by the new Amer­i­can . And then the aw­ful si­lence in which he knew that he had ru­ined him­self. In that si­lence he had learned how dis­liked he was. No one stood up for him, no one at­tempted to cover for him. That si­lence fol­lowed him as he walked after­ward by the lake, with the swans glid­ing by, fol­lowed him through his years of penance and ob­scu­rity in the Lab’s tem­po­rary trail­ers as he slowly re­con­structed his ca­reer, work­ing on dead­wood projects no one want­ed, through years of swal­lowed pride and cagey ma­neu­ver­ing, the si­lence that could be cov­ered only by do­ing and more do­ing, and it was here now, as they all looked at him, say­ing noth­ing. He was as alone and un­pro­tected as he had ever been, like his fa­ther when the ham­mer had fallen on him. And in that si­lence he heard that temp­ta­tion of a still­ness in which do­ing might cease.

–Please, gen­tle­men, no one wants… this.

–Think you’re God’s gift to the re­pub­lic, don’t you Chase, scourge of the mil­i­tary in­dus­trial com­plex

–That’s not what this is about.

–What, then? Why do you have it in for me, Chase?

Chase squared his pa­pers in an ob­long of sun. He took off his glass­es. –Last au­tumn, when I vis­ited the Lab, you called me a trai­tor79. I don’t take that from any­one.

–You hear? said Highet hoarse­ly. –It’s per­son­al. He has it in for me.

–Y­our judg­ment is the is­sue, said Chase. –That showed ex­tremely poor judge­ment.

Dil­lard cleared his throat. –Do you have any­thing more to say, Doc­tor High­et?

–No. But this is not over.

And went out un­der FIAT LUX into sun hazed by high cloud ridged [pg152] and swirled, light con­gealed there in strange and lovely tu­mult, as if some an­gel of chaos had passed through the air. Not un­til he was on the free­way did he open his phone and ar­row to Réti’s num­ber. Six times it trilled in his ear. When the an­swer­ing ma­chine picked up, Highet held for a mo­ment, then pressed END. He must suc­cor him­self. Set­tling sun­glasses he was soon through the sub­urbs and out of the val­ley, climb­ing past FAR-GO Mini Mart and IN-N-OUT BURGER, and on past El­e­va­tion 2000 Ft to Agua Dulce Air­port, then de­scend­ing past the sand­stone-red rooftops of new de­vel­op­ments, Wil­low Creek Vil­lage from 459,900 to An­te­lope Val­ley Ur­gent Care, Best Buy, Tar­get, K Mart, Grace Chris­t­ian Su­per­store, on past As­sem­bly of God, NO MAN COME IN THE FATHER BUT BY ME NOT BY MIGHT NOT BY POWER BUT BY MY SPIRIT, while he thumbed the ra­dio for –the Lord com­mended the un­just stew­ard, for the chil­dren of this world are wiser than the chil­dren of light80,and si­lenced it at a flash­ing in the hills out be­yond Mo­jave, syn­chro­nized points of light, hid­den as the road wound up among slabs ribbed ver­ti­cally by ero­sion, tilted lay­ers and stony hum­mocks of si­en­na, brick, and chalk­green, and on this sandy pale­ness dark clumps of sage, ju­niper, joshua, ris­ing to a plateau stitched by power lines, where colonies of wind­mills flashed in the dull sun­light on both sides of the road.

At the crest he stopped. He stilled the en­gine and stepped out. Wind whipped at his hair and clothes, and he felt a strange peace. He watched the wind­mills flash, the two and three vaned pro­pellers, the egg­beat­ers. After Geneva, in the tem­po­rary trail­ers, he had worked on all these de­signs81. Though dis­graced, he re­al­ized, he had been happy then82. He had noth­ing to do but rise.

He pulled on a cot­ton jacket and be­gan walk­ing. A dirt road led up the near­est hill. Cloud moved in the wind and its mot­tled shadow hur­ried across the val­ley be­low. Even in the lee of the hill the wind was strong. Above him blades flashed and sang. He hiked fol­low­ing a chain­link fence, his soles slip­ping on the long dry grass, un­til the fence gave way to barbed wire, where, hand on a weath­ered post for bal­ance, wire shak­ing un­der his shoe, he vaulted over.

He stopped near a twovaned ro­tor. The Lab had waived com­mer­cial rights. His first De­von Null spin­off. On a twenty me­ter pole sat a [pg153] white na­celle, sur­face mot­tled with rust, blades blurred in the wind. Up there a hawk beat against a cross­wind, stalled in a cloud­break of sun bla­zon­ing its broad tail. Its shrill whis­tle fell, and a gust hur­ried it on to­ward the tow­er, wings taut and swerv­ing, but the , and their songs trem­bled as the hawk struck and trav­eled on, ris­ing and falling away in a long arc like a tossed stone.

He found it fallen in some sage. Big dun body striped with black bands. Head lolling from the bro­ken neck’s ruff, eye half open, a drop of blood at the beak. Strong horny claws grasp­ing noth­ing. Al­ready an ant moved across the feath­ers. Bit­ter smell of bro­ken sage. In the sun ro­tors flashed like piti­less clock­work. Against the wind he walked back to the car.

They’ll do it. They’ll take Quine be­cause he’s a good gray drone, never done any­thing worth do­ing, but he looks clean to them. They’ll give him a year or so, let the place run on au­topi­lot till the sink of scan­dal clears, and there’s a new sec­re­tary of en­er­gy, and he’ll be out. But I’ll be long gone.

Un­der a sky gone flat gray the car shud­dered in a gust past 83 and IS A han­dlet­tered and flanked by two crudely painted Amer­i­can flags, and the mourn­ful voice of Robert John­son –s­tones in my pass­way and my road seems dark at n, n, n84, the disk skip­ping with a cold dig­i­tal chat­ter, a sound newly in the world, –ne­mies have be­trayed me, have over­taken poor Bob at last, and with a fin­ger he stilled the player which ex­truded its disk like a sil­ver tongue, as a small town passed in a blur of FRYING RABBITS & BABY BUNNIES, Very LA Cel­lu­lar & Pager, PICK & PULL SELF SERVE AUTO PARTS above two fenced lots be­neath high ten­sion lines stretch­ing on past sage­brush and joshua trees, Fed­eral Prison Camp, Liv­ing Ghost Town, Lit­ter Re­moved Next 2 Miles , fea­ture­less acres of Mit­subishi Ce­ment rolling by while the cate­nar­ies of power lines rose and fell be­tween tow­ers, rhyth­mic as the hand that ab­sently be­gan to press the firm­ness in his lap ris­ing less from de­sire than from bore­dom, from the body’s in­scrutable tyran­nies, even as the on the dash chirped and flashed the pres­ence of radar bring­ing both hands back to the wheel and the speedome­ter nee­dle drop­ping be­low 80, 70, to hover at 65 for the [pg154] on­com­ing black and white cruis­er’s U turn across the di­vider to fol­low at a dis­tance, as his eyes trav­eled from mir­ror to road to dash­board to mir­ror un­til the cruis­er’s abrupt turn back across the di­vider to re­cede, lights, flash­ing, in pur­suit of a less at­ten­tive speeder head­ing south, and the nee­dle rose again past 70, 80, 90, wheels con­sum­ing the stripe of road that led north to a hori­zon jagged as some graph, while to the west the nearer peaks van­ished into a tur­bu­lent mist, and wind whipped across a dry lake bed to lift al­kali in twist­ing columns white as chalk in sud­den sun­light mov­ing like smoke across the dap­pled plain to­ward the arid east­ern range wrin­kled and dark un­der dense flow­ing from the west­ern crest across the val­ley and trail­ing dark stream­ers.

The high­way climbed into that dark­ness, past Elev 6000, un­til he reached his turnoff and snow flurred into the bit­ter evening halflight. Flakes had be­gun to col­lect in the ruts of the dirt road PRIVATE Posted No Tres­pass­ing at the end of which was parked a van De­part­ment of En­ergy Offi­cial Use Only with three inches of snow on its roof. Lights shone in the win­dows of the ranch.

In the en­trance­way, duffels car­ryalls and lap­tops were piled. Highet re­moved his coat, and from a wallpeg lifted and jaun­tily donned a billed cap , hang­ing his cot­ton jacket on the freed peg. Within sat Dan Root on the large sofa with five young men on has­socks and chairs, reach­ing to the low cir­cu­lar ta­ble for bowls of chips, sal­sa, pop­corn, so­das, beers. They wore jeans and t-shirts , , , Highet knew them only by their tran­scripts and their e-mail names: , n8, , thomx­en, .

–Gentle­men, wel­come to the ad­vanced Re­search In­sti­tute of the Easter Sier­ra.

–Leo, you made it! Pull up a pew. We just mi­crowaved some tamales.

He sat glow­ing and glo­ri­fied in the light of his ad­mir­ers, young knight­s-er­rant hun­gry for the award mon­ey, for an in­tern­ship, for a ca­reer, for a world they could­n’t yet imag­ine.

–Give me some of that healthy hacker food. I haven’t eaten since the rub­ber chicken last night.

–Leo was out hob­nob­bin with the vice pres­i­dent.

–I saw him al­most com­plete a sen­tence. It was scary. Looks like [pg155] you hit some snow, Dan.

–Had to put the chains on. The boys did, I mean. I just sat in­side keepin warm. You get any comin north?

–The last few miles.

–Doc­tor High­et…

–Leo. Call me Leo, and he’s Dan. We’re all col­leagues here.

–What is this place? D, Dan would­n’t say. He called it the cas­tle of, what was it?

–Don’t know your ? Mon­sal­vat, that’s the Grail cas­tle. Can’t tell you what it re­ally is, y’all don’t have your clear­ances yet.85

–That’s right, you should have blind­folded them.

–It’s a cool place. I’ve gone rock climb­ing near here.

–Tom, you want to toss an­other long on the…

–We bring you guys out here so you don’t think it’s all work and no play. You’ll work hard. but trust me, you’re go­ing to love it. The re­sources are in­cred­i­ble. so I want you to think big. If you could work on any­thing, any­thing at all, what would it be? Let’s hear your wildest dreams.

Sit­ting back on the so­fa, arms crossed, eyes nar­rowed and shaded un­der the cap brim, the rhythm of travel still in his body was dis­tract­ing him. He lis­tened not for what they said but their say­ing of it. The dreams them­selves were al­ways puerile vari­a­tions on the same themes: es­cape, pow­er, re­venge for in­jus­tice. He lis­tened for how their voices han­dled, and how their minds har­nessed these raw en­er­gies.

–I want to build a star­ship. Get off the planet be­fore we de­stroy it.

–Bar­ry?

–I guess I’m with Mike about the plan­et. But get­ting off it seems like, well, like it’s okay to use up this planet be­cause we’ll just get an­oth­er.

–Use it up how?

–Over­pop­u­la­tion, pol­lu­tion, re­source de­ple­tion…

–But Bar­ry, . When you in­crease the pop­u­la­tion you get more sci­en­tists, hence more so­lu­tions.

–Yeah Bar­ry, go­ing into space is all about en­vi­ron­ments, life sup­port, . I mean, it’s go­ing to hap­pen, so let’s get good at it.86

–any­way the of the planet [pg156]

–Plan­et’s here to be used, is­n’t it?

–any­way we won’t be able to get every­one off the plan­et, we can’t afford it. So who de­cides

–Most peo­ple are just ex­cess bag­gage, that’s what Hume thought.

–any­way why do we have to trans­port bod­ies? The im­por­tant thing about hu­mans is their in­tel­li­gence, not their meat pack­ages. You can move that soft­ware to a more durable chas­sis. See that’s what I want, back­ups, copies of my­self, lots of in­stan­ti­a­tions, dozens of lit­tle Nate- surfing the Net and do­ing sci­ence.

–Hey, if my in­stan­ti­a­tion can’t go climb­ing I don’t want it.

–Yeah but see your dae­mon could be do­ing physics while you’re climb­ing, and if you had an ac­ci­dent it could keep on do­ing physics

–Hey Barry could be the first posthu­mous No­bel Prize win­ner. Or hey Bar­ry, net­work your dae­mon to one of those Vir­tual Wilder­ness sys­tems, let it solo the while you’re

–don’t want to knock hu­man be­ings too much, but should we re­strict our­selves to hu­man in­tel­li­gence? I have no spe­cial loy­alty to DNA.

–If a per­son is , you can record and store that pat­tern. You could raise the dead. Res­ur­rect New­ton from the thoughts recorded in his works.

–A com­poser friend of mine is do­ing ex­actly that. Cre­at­ing new works by dead Eu­ro­pean white males. Beethoven’s Tenth and so forth.

–Wow, I’d like to talk to him.

–I can make that hap­pen.

–But who de­cides who’s to be res­ur­rect­ed? You think we have an over­pop­u­la­tion prob­lem now

–Big­ger hard disks!

–Well, the ones who haven’t con­tribut­ed, who’ve left no trace, there’s noth­ing to res­ur­rect…

Logs burned to em­bers, con­firm­ing even as Tom was say­ing, –Time ma­chines are easy, you just

–no but the mat­ter you spin has to be in­fi­nitely long

–any­way once you have a work­ing time ma­chine you could

–Leo, it’s get­tin time. [pg157]

–Okay, Dan, I’ll wrap it up. Why did I want to hear this stuff? I wanted to hear it be­cause we deal in fu­tures. If we’re smart enough and our ideas are good enough and we con­vince enough peo­ple to in­vest their time, their mon­ey, their tal­ents, above all their be­lief, we can bring some of these fu­tures into be­ing. Noth­ing we’ve said is re­ally im­pos­si­ble, just diffi­cult and ex­pen­sive. I look at things from the point of view of some in­fi­nitely ad­vanced civ­i­liza­tion lim­ited only by the laws of physics, not by lack of time or tal­ent or fund­ing. Only if you think that way do you have a chance of hav­ing the ideas that can truly ad­vance civ­i­liza­tion. Give you just one in­stance, Mike, you can use this for your star­ship. We’re close, very close, to breakeven from . We need more fund­ing, bet­ter fa­cil­i­ties, but it’s go­ing to hap­pen. And then there are no lim­its. Then mankind has all the cheap clean power it wants. And then we go to the stars, Mike.

A lozenge of light flashed across the ceil­ing, as Root’s thick fin­gers dropped a sil­ver disk in a player for ele­giac vi­o­lins sus­pended over the hushed growl of cel­los and an oboe melody. –Lit­tle sound­track. Could be the last time we get to see that nee­dle jump.

–Last time…?

–A hun­dred miles east of here in the desert we some­times en­gage in highly clas­si­fied events that can­not be dis­cussed with the un­sanc­ti­fied. But whether or not those events are or aren’t hap­pen­ing, you can watch the seis­mo­graph, where you might see some effects, which are un­clas­si­fied.

Grin­ning, Barry said, –But can we trust the effects? is in­dis­tin­guish­able from a rigged de­mo.

Highet gave him a sharp look. –Bar­ry, we don’t even joke about that.

The nee­dle traced a trem­bling path of ink on the turn­ing drum. A bari­tone voice leapt and feinted to stretch the syl­la­bles of –Kar… frei… tags… za­ub… er87. Then the nee­dle leapt.

Yes. Spirit is loosed from rock, freed of mat­ter’s tyran­ny. We open a crack through which light blazes, wak­ing the life in every mote. Once more , the wise Lord, de­feats . A world with­out this ra­di­ance at the heart of things would be nul­li­parous88, with­out man [pg158] or mind. Yet no life awakes save through hu­man mind and will. In the wak­ened world, agents of will move and col­lide, co­op­er­ate or bat­tle. The great work of con­scious­ness is to form and di­rect al­liances among the agents in one­self and in oth­ers, and so to per­fect the world. To pro­tect and nur­ture this spark in the sea of night.

–This is what it’s about, gen­tle­men. Bring­ing light into the world. Sign­ing your name on a tongue of fire.

–Man, that’s…

–What is it, Bar­ry?

–It’s maybe this is a bad time but I feel weird about this. I have kind of a prob­lem with weapons work.

–Oh man…

–Come on Bar­ry, give the man a break.

–No, it’s okay. Bar­ry, no­body’s go­ing to make you work on weapons.

–But to be in a place where

–Lis­ten, for nine­teen years Leonardo worked for the Duke of Mi­lan. He was hired to de­sign ar­ma­ments. He also painted and sculpt­ed. You think he fret­ted over that? Think the soul can split it­self? Think you can have the Last Sup­per with­out the ?89 The hu­man spirit is fire. No light with­out heat.

Highet paced to the fire­place and drew back the steel cur­tain.

–What if you wish away ura­ni­um. Set the ini­tial con­di­tions of the big bang so the par­ti­cle soup’s less dense, you don’t get fast neu­tron cap­ture, noth­ing heav­ier than bis­muth forms. Noth­ing fis­sion­able. Do you get ? Do you get in­tel­li­gence? I don’t think so. I think you get cold rocks spin­ning in a waste.90

He picked up a log from the bin and tossed it on the low blaze.

–Rea­son has to be built, fought for, spread. You think knowl­edge al­ways ad­vances? For every Leonardo there’s a . For every Mendel a . Dark­ness fol­lows our every step.

The log caught flame as air pulled past it and up the flue. He drew shut the cur­tain. –You have to un­der­stand that it’s win or die out there. And if your ideas are good, you have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to put them into the world.

–Bar­ry, said Mike. –I don’t like the weapons stuff ei­ther. But I want to get to the stars. I don’t care whose back I do it on. They can [pg159] have their bombs if I get a fu­sion drive out of it.

What he owed these kids. To grind them in the mor­tar of ne­ces­sity so that their tal­ent, in the grind­ing, could emit its ra­di­ance.

–Lis­ten to me. We’re just ves­sels. Sci­ence is a godly force that works through us. Honor the god wher­ever it ap­pears, in your­selves, in oth­ers. Make friends and be loyal to them. Al­ways stand up and speak your mind. Take up space, be­cause timid­ity gets no re­spect, the meek in­herit noth­ing. Make en­e­mies by choice, not by ac­ci­dent. That’s my ad­vice to you.

A bit­ter ex­al­ta­tion en­tered him, near enough to love for their bright faces ad­mir­ing not him but what was in him, his joy em­bit­tered by the knowl­edge that he would not be there to see them through. Yet they would come to him, some of them, re­gard­less.

–Y’all scat now. Leo and I got to talk. Down­stairs there’s a game room, a bil­liard table, some work­sta­tions, and the ARIES col­lec­tion of old tech. If you ever wanted to play Space­war on a now’s your chance.

–Cool! as Root went with them to the stair­way. The mu­sic had changed to a moody es­say in winds and strings. Highet switched it off. When Root re­turned he car­ried a green bot­tle and two glass­es. –Bit over the top, weren’t you? That honor the god stuff.

–Don’t be­lieve in God, Dan?

–You want to be care­ful feed­ing that hunger.

–You don’t say.

–Y­ou’re so con­cerned about ra­tio­nal­i­ty. About the light. Up­set by Howie Bangerter and his know noth­ing cre­ation­ists. But you know how many of your he­roes were washed in the blood of the lamb? The great wrote com­men­tary on Rev­e­la­tions. was a fun­da­men­tal­ist. wrote out daily prayers.

–You left out and . Differ­ent times, Dan. Pro­tec­tive col­or­ing.

–Thing about God is, he ain’t around much, and it’s got to be some­one look­ing out for the chick­ens.

–Don’t pour me any of that.

Root poured a glass for him­self. –Coy­ote bap­tizes the chick­ens, you know that sto­ry? [pg160]

–Wish you’d lay off the, the down home spun­nisms.

–Seems one day went call­ing on a hen. He says to her, these chicks of yours, they’re fine chicks, but why don’t you bap­tize them? Bap­tize, she says, what’s that? Says Coy­ote, Bap­tiz­ing makes them big and strong, you leave it to me, and he takes one chick away. Next day he’s back, says, your chick’s do­ing real well, but he’s lone­ly. So Coy­ote takes an­other chick and

–eats them all, so what’s your point.

Root grinned. –You do lead em on.

–With­out a lit­tle re­li­gion they’ll end up jar­wipes in D Sec­tion. That ?

–It surely is. You want one?

–God no. Just won­dered if you’re still sup­port­ing the cor­rupt regime.

–Long as they keep rollin these on the thighs of vir­gins.

–Y­ou’re a piece of work.

–And . Root turned the cigar slowly in the flame of a match, watch­ing Highet as smoke rose. –How’d it go in LA? How’s your moth­er?

–Dy­ing.

–I’m sorry to hear that.

–What’s that sup­posed to mean?

–Christ, Leo, bite my head off why don’t you. Just tryin to be a de­cent hu­man be­ing.

–Don’t strain your­self.

Root stud­ied him. –What hap­pened?

–I’m out, Dan. Out on my ass.

–What?

–If I don’t re­sign, Chase says he’ll pros­e­cute.

–Pros­e­cute!

–He won’t do it. But they let him say it. They let him say it.

–Who they gone re­place you with?

–Quine.

–Quine! The deputy as­so­ci­ate. I warned you, Leo.

–They’ll re­gret it. He’s a pure fool.91

–God looks out for them, I hear.

–I’m glad God’s got work.

–Well, what the fuck, they can’t do that. They can’t raise him up like that. There’s a peck­ing or­der.

–I gave him the Tal­iesin re­port to write, so he’s whistle­blower of the hour. Every other can­di­date has deep roots in weapons, in Ra­di­ance. Quine looks clean to them, but not too clean since he’s been muck­ing in J Sec­tion. Maybe they think he knows where the bod­ies are buried. From their point of view it’s an easy sell, the new broom.

–Chase must have some re­gents by the balls. Well shit, the gov­er­nor has to ap­prove it, he’s still a Re­pub­li­can. You can fight this, Leo. It ain’t right.

–Y­ou’re the one who said the re­gents are de­sert­ing us, Dan, think the gov­er­nor’s go­ing to sec­ond guess them on this?

–Some­thin stinks here.

–Chase is putting pres­sure, I don’t know how.

–What about that GAO re­port? Is­n’t that au­di­tor fel­low Rec­tor a friend? That could change some minds.

–Months, that’s months away.

–You can hang tough that long. Did you talk to Bill Ven­ham?

–I asked Ven­ham for help with the re­gents and he seated me with some schmuck who wants to patent mul­ti­pli­ca­tion.

Root smiled. –S­tan Flack. What’s Bill got to do with him?

–Oh, Bil­l’s got lots of in­ter­est­ing friends. Last I saw he was hold­ing some Rus­sian’s dick for him. Some ex- try­ing to sell the line that Un­cle Julius was a Sov spy.

–Op­pen­heimer? He was, he was. Who was this Rus­sian?

–Vas­sili some­thing. So, what, they suck up to some KGB thug just for a pay­back? Christ Dan, they re­minded me of Stalin and Ly­senko.

–L­y­senko was­n’t so dumb. Got him­self a sinecure.

Highet held out a folded page of light green vel­lum wa­ter­marked Cranes Crest Old Mon­ey, with νουσ de­bossed over small wide­spaced type Nexus for Op­ti­mal Use of Sci­ence.

–There’s your sinecure.

Root took the let­ter and read it. –That’s a nice offer. You gone take it?

–Sit with a bunch of burnouts writ­ing white pa­pers? How does [pg162] Réti stand them, those god damned con­sul­tants with their valet think­ing?

NOUS is re­spectable.

–Used to be, be­fore Ven­ham stocked it with his used sci­en­tists his dis­tressed in­tel­lec­tu­als his right-think­ing gigo­los. Man has more money than God, but that’s not enough, is it, has to buy a think tank buy a broad­caster that stalk­ing­horse Eu­banks on the ra­dio, you ever lis­ten to him? Rat­fucker ought to be sell­ing used cars or sling­ing in­sult com­edy in a Tahoe lounge, but there he is chat­ting with good old Bill and the vice pres­i­dent.

–Cut it out, Leo, we owe Bill. Where’d this ranch come from? Think we’d have sold Ra­di­ance to the pres­i­dent with­out him?

–You re­mem­ber when Ven­ham wanted me to start a sec­tion at the Lab for ?

Root chuck­led. –You coulda spun it to DOE as al­ter­nate par­a­digm re­search.

High­et’s mouth twist­ed. –Christ, you’re shame­less. You’ll say any­thing.

–Think your man Leonardo did­n’t have to hold his gorge every day?

–We’re not talk­ing Sforza here. Half these no­necks think the di­nosaurs died in the Flood be­cause they could­n’t fit on the Ark92.

–These are our al­lies, boy.

–They’re thugs, Dan. They’re en­e­mies of rea­son.

–Com­mon cause, Leo. You don’t have to share a pew with them.

–Com­mon cause? What cause?

–Pow­er, mon­ey, in­flu­ence. Com­mon­est causes there are. Who gives a shit what they be­lieve?

–You re­mem­ber when won his No­bel? A year later he was .

–What are you get­tin at, Leo?

–Just be­cause you’re smart don’t think you can’t be stu­pid. Give them an inch and see what they take. Ven­ham and his buds want to shut down DOE now.

–He’s just makin a point.

–A point? What point, he and his cronies aren’t happy with [pg163] the deals they get now?

–The en­tire DOE bud­get’s what, seven bil­lion? Chump change. Why suck a dry tit? Move the weapons to DoD where they be­long, hand over the rest to the pri­vate sec­tor. That’s their thinkin.

–And you think DoD is that stu­pid? Don’t you re­mem­ber that the wanted no part of Ra­di­ance? Said it would never work, rec­om­mended against it?

–But they took the money now did­n’t they?

–The whole de­fense in­dus­try’s ready to im­plode Dan, you know that.

–So­viet Union im­plod­ed. Nice op­por­tu­nity for some busi­ness­men.

–You talk­ing about Vas­sili? What is he re­al­ly, KGB or some goon?

–I don’t ask less I need to know.

–You know, you can keep your busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties, Dan, be­cause if all the nu­clear pro­grams go to DoD that’s the end of the Lab.

–Come on, Leo. The play­ers change, the game goes on. Any­way, since when you got any use for DOE? As I re­call they put you into wind­mill de­sign.

–They did. And I learned how to play them. Learned how to get my peo­ple what they need. I’m not go­ing to stand by while these thugs steal that.

–See, this is why we set up Trans­fi­nite and Null­point, boy. Get our­selves paid even if the feds give it away.

–I owe some­thing to those kids down­stairs.

Root snort­ed, then stood look­ing into the fire. The hand hold­ing his cigar rested on the man­tel­piece. –You want my ad­vice, Leo, you take Réti’s cue. Nothin wrong with con­sult­ing.

–Think I want to end up like Réti?

–One of the most pow­er­ful sci­en­tists in the world? I think you do.

–If it’s about sci­ence, Dan, Réti has­n’t done any since the War.

–Well, it has­n’t been about sci­ence since the War, now has it.

–Then what is it about? What do you get out of it, Dan?

–Me? A good time. Son, there’s peo­ple out there write fat checks just to scratch an itch. Way you or me want a beer, they want a sum­mer [pg164] house, a yacht, a non­profit foun­da­tion. A fel­low can live pretty good off the fall­out. I don’t need to own a ranch my­self when I got the run of this place.

–Some peo­ple call that leech­ing.

–“Make to your­selves friends of the mam­mon of un­right­eous­ness; that, when ye fail, they may re­ceive you into ever­last­ing habi­ta­tions.”93 If it’s good enough for Our Lord…

–Turn­ing de­vout, Dan?

–Dammit Leo, it’s our moral duty to skin these pig­gies. Cap­i­tal’s like blood, it’s gotta flow. Like Leonar­do, we can di­vert rivers, rivers of gold… You re­mem­ber that in ? The launch site on the ? Did­n’t you visit there when you were a post­doc? let us push out ten thou­sand Bush­men. Up on that plateau, I felt like an­other . I might still be there if that con­sor­tium had­n’t gone broke. Still, we put a few items into or­bit, yes we did.

–That’s it, then? Smoke a good cig­ar, put a few items into or­bit…

–You think any of us gone win a No­bel Prize? Got some­thing bet­ter, we do. Those thugs of yours, to them we’re wiz­ards. Nu­clear weapons, mis­sile de­fense, cold fu­sion… just say the magic words, and the vaults open. Oh, the world’s a wicked place, Leo, and free­dom ain’t free. If you want free­dom, some­body’s got to fuck a rat. So let the thugs do it. While we run free.

–And sci­ence? Knowl­edge?

–You think peo­ple want knowl­edge? Last thing they want. They don’t want to know. They want to be saved. And the only sal­va­tion… is to for­get. With­out for­get­ting, there’s noth­ing but loss and re­gret.

A log fell and fire leapt in the grate. Ash swirled in the up­draft. Root gazed as at the ap­pari­tion of a thing long past hope, then shrugged and drew on his cig­ar.

–Any­way, what else you gone do? Tech physics at South Bung­hole State?

–Maybe I’ll dis­ap­pear. Like the reclu­sive De­von Null. [pg165]

Root looked sharply up. –I don’t want to hear that. Some­body has to take the heat. That’s why you’re di­rec­tor, so there’s a scape­goat.

A gust swept moan­ing down the flue, and the fire­place spat sparks against the hang­ing metal cur­tain.

–I was bring­ing in a bil­lion dol­lars a year, Dan. I though I was in­vul­ner­a­ble. I let my guard down.

–Crap, Leo, you’re the most guarded man I know.

–What else could I have done? I went as far as I could with­out killing Ra­di­ance out­right. Call it dual use, coun­ter­pro­lif­er­a­tion, , just get it off the weapons menu. I’m tired of this shell game.

–Come on, son. Ra­di­ance is­n’t dead. This stuff never dies, cause good sol­diers like you and me keep the faith alive dur­ing these long win­ters. Don’t give up now. The play­ers change, but the work goes on.

–Does it? I mean shit Dan, what’s next, pri­va­tized mis­sile de­fense…?

In the dy­ing fire­light Root’s face was stone. Woe, like wind in the flue, the mer­est tongue of a gale, stirred in High­et.

–What does Gate want with those or­biters, Dan?

–Like the man said, he’s still lookin for a con­tent provider.

–Shit, that’s it, is­n’t it? Gate does­n’t want comm sats. Why, you son of a bitch. Seoul or Py­ongyang, which is it?

Root stud­ied his cig­ar. –Afraid you’re out of the loop on that.

–The play­ers change.

–Yes, they do.

–Saw this com­ing, did you Dan? Made to your­self some friends?

–Take that job at NOUS. We’ll do busi­ness again.

–But for now you’ll work with Quine.

–If he be­comes di­rec­tor I got to, don’t I.

–I warn you, Dan. Don’t do it.

Root looked up from his cig­ar, in­credulity on his fea­tures. –You warn me?

A pale face ap­peared in the stair­way. –Doc­tor High­et? Doc­tor Root? There’s some­thing on CNN you should see.

Down­stairs the other stu­dents watched a mis­sile chased to de­struc­tion while the nag­ging voice of Ar­mand Stera­dian rode over, –test man­agers in­stalled a hom­ing bea­con on the tar­get to guide the in­ter­cep­tor [pg166] Un­der­sec­re­tary Whip­ple de­fended the rigged tests on grounds that the de­cep­tion was part of a so-called spe­cial ac­cess pro­gram de­voted to dis­in­for­ma­tion.

Whip­ple’s hag­gard face ap­peared. –At that time there was no oblig­a­tion to in­form Con­gress. Of course Con­gress is now be­ing in­formed of all spe­cial ac­cess progr

Film of the mis­sile looped again. Into the room’s stricken si­lence Highet said, –An­cient his­to­ry. DoD ran those tests years ago94. He’s try­ing to make this sound like it’s our do­ing.

–series of scan­dals. The pro­gram’s cen­ter­piece, the Su­per­bright laser, is un­der crit­i­cism from with­out and with­in. An in­ter­nal re­view is said to dis­pute the ex­trav­a­gant claims made by di­rec­tor Leo Hi

–That prick! I should never have talked to him.

–Mean­while, Lab­o­ra­tory founder and an­timis­sile pro­po­nent Aron Réti is in sta­ble con­di­tion fol­low­ing a stroke.

–Oh my god. Dan–!

–It’s news to me.

–per­haps the most con­tro­ver­sial physi­cist of the twen­ti­eth

–Come on, dim­bulb, tell us the hos­pi­tal.

–Likely Stan­ford. Root un­folded a phone.

–fi­nan­cial in­ter­est in Trans­fi­nite Poly­go­nics, a firm that has profited from tech­nolo­gies de­vel­oped at the Lab, ac­cord­ing to the Gen­eral Ac­count­ing Off

–Did Aron know about that GAO probe, Leo?

–He knew all right, knew it was with­out mer­it, but this pub­lic­ity would have been a blow.

–for CNN this is Ar­mand Stera­dian

–Fuck­ing vul­ture, I’ll tear his heart out. Changed the chan­nel, who else has it, skip­ping past, –Rot­tweil­ers ter­ror­ize church­go­ers at eleven, to a man hold­ing a mi­cro­phone be­fore a gate where mot­ley fig­ures waved signs FRAUD WASTE STOP NOW as a red sports car SFORZA sped out of frame, –au­dit found wide­spread ev­i­dence of fi­nan­cial malfea­sance and gross in­com­pe­tence and con­cluded that the lab­o­ra­tory can no longer be trusted to po­lice it­self, cut­ting to a full face ra­di­ant in sun, dark eyes in­tense be­neath black hair tinged with rus­set, –Our con­cern is [pg167]

–Turn it off. Did you get the hos­pi­tal?

Root closed his phone. –He’s there. Sta­ble. No calls. Vis­i­tors two to six to­mor­row.

–I’ll go see him then.

Root’s heavy steps fol­lowed Highet up­stairs.

–Well, it don’t rain but it shit­storms.

–It was bound to break. Al­most a re­lief it has.

–What’s this about an in­ter­nal re­view?

–Told you, Quine’s re­port. Chase was wav­ing a copy around this morn­ing.

–Where’d he get it? From Quine?

–Quine has­n’t got the balls to leak

–Had the balls to write it, did­n’t he?

The plume still spread­ing, like the bit­ter mi­asma of Root’s breath now close on him, the glit­ter of his eyes.

–You said Quine was un­der con­trol.

–Who am I, Dan, Rasputin?

–What’s wrong with you, boy? Ain’t you learned yet? Root’s hand squeezed his shoul­ders. Highet shook them off.

–What, Dan? Learned what? How to stay ahead of every last ass­hole who wants a piece of me and sell out the ones who don’t?

–How to man­age your peo­ple!

–Who the fuck are my peo­ple, Dan? Quine? Di­etz? Sz­abo? Ven­ham and Eu­banks? Mis­ter Kim? You? I’d re­ally like to know who the fuck my peo­ple are!

–Take it easy.

–Screw you. I’m go­ing.

–What? Where?

–Tra­cy.

–What, you mean Trans­finite? You crazy? Six hour drive in the snow, you got chains?

–I’ll man­age.

Root stood. His body moved be­tween Highet and the door, the stub of his cigar held aloft. –What are you up to, Leo?

–Afraid you’re out of the loop on that Dan, turn­ing for his jacket draped on the wallpeg. [pg168]

–Hold on, now hold on here.

–Got to get my re­sumé to­geth­er, don’t I? Chase gets his way Ra­di­ance is dead, Gate and Ven­ham get their way every­thing’s for sale to the first bid­der, Luz and that woman get their way we’re all out on the street with clap­pers and bells. So I’d bet­ter make to my­self some friends. Bet­ter be­come a, what did Gate say, a con­tent provider.

–I got pri­vate pa­pers there in Tra­cy.

Highet pulled his jacket on, ad­justed the brim of e=hf. –I mean, fuck a rat, Dan, I need some­thing to sell like every­body else, need to come out of this with a lit­tle con­tent. Don’t want to end up host­ing mul­ti­me­dia con­ven­tions or in­fomer­cials, don’t want to be left be­hind on Mike’s dy­ing plan­et, do I.

Root’s big hands came up. Highet flinched from them, then held his ground. They closed around his head, the thick fin­gers cra­dled his skull, thumbs pressed painfully on the hinges of his jaw. Be­tween two fin­gers the cigar stub smol­dered. Smoke and heat brought tears to High­et’s eyes.

–Don’t trust me Dan?

–Don’t you sell me out.

–Is that even pos­si­ble?

Root’s grip tight­ened. He crooned, –Don’t you know that I love you like a son? Like you love those kids?

–Let go of me, Dan. You’re an ass­hole.

Slowly Root smiled. His breath stank. His teeth were yel­lowed and stained with to­bac­co. His gums were white and puffy. In the depths of his mouth gold gleamed. –That’s right. I’m the ass­hole that shits on the world. Do you see the god in me? Do you honor it?

–I see it.

–What? What do you see?

–What’s in you… is in me.

The grip re­laxed. Highet stepped back. Root whis­pered, –Go you for­ward.

Past Car­son City and CHAINS REQUIRED he climbed into cloud, as a voice bat­tle drifts of sta­t­ic, –Lord I knew that thou art a hard man95, and flakes fell faster and thicker in the cones of light the car pro­jected as it gained Elev 7120, where the voice re­turned, –and cast ye [pg169] the un­profitable ser­vant into outer dark, the road now white in his head­lights as he down­shifted and skid­ded side­ways, sta­tic on the ra­dio like a held breath as he straight­ened and snow clumped to be swept away by groan­ing wipers down past Elev 6000 at last to be plowed and glis­ten­ing black streets re­flect­ing the neon glare of casi­nos and mo­tels, the voice ris­ing ur­gently out of sta­t­ic, –in mankind’s dark­est days my friends? God’s Word tells us that one gen­er­a­tion of be­liev­ers will never know death, but they will be lifted from the earth in a rap­ture be­fore the great tribu­la­tion, be­fore the end time, be­fore that ghastly epoch of pesti­lence and famine and the fire and the blood. When the fire falls, where will you be my friends? Will you be lifted from the Earth to meet your Lord and Mas­ter Je­sus Christ in eter­nal life, or will you drown in the blood and burn in the flood of the nu­cu­lar fire and starve with the sin­ners and the un­be­liev­ers in the great tribul, and he punched to a fa­mil­iar nasal voice –well Ter­ry, I think it makes a state­ment, con­vert­ing mil­i­tary tech­nolo­gies for cul­tural us­es. In my Con­certo for Horn and Elec­tri­fied Con­duc­tor the ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence ac­tu­ally com­poses an ac­com­pa­ni­ment as the con­duc­tor beats off, si­lenc­ing it as the road dropped into chap­ar­ral, an fur­ther down the slope cities on the an­cient seabed sent their light up to a heaven stained with thin­ning cloud no longer damp­en­ing the high­way or the pot­holed ac­cess road to DA-NITE SELF-STOR 24 HRS, be­hind ra­zor­wire and lights stark as low suns on some lu­nar hori­zon. He rolled to a stop at a stan­chion and punched the key­pad 3 1 4 1 6 # for the gate rolling open on an al­ley be­tween cor­ru­gated tin walls dull in the lu­nar light, un­til, still­ing the car near a scuffed door, he stepped out into the hu­mid stench of chem­i­cals from a nearby slough and the free­way’s whine just over a con­crete , above which the sky was a dark void where an un­seen jet passed scream­ing be­tween land­falls.

Up­stairs was a war­ren of cor­ri­dors. At each turn was a black plas­tic wedge POISON on the floor, gray pel­lets in its re­cess­es. At 211 he hefted the pad­lock in its hasp and in­serted a cylin­dri­cal key. He threw a switch and a bare bulb in a wire cage came on over­head to light a nar­row walk­space be­tween car­tons stacked to the ceil­ing, AR-KIV, STOR-ALL, DESTROY AFTER, BERING GREY RIESLING, and hasty scrib­bles in black mark­er, ~Trans­fi­nite~ Null­point, ~Bal­dur~ Sling­shot, LHH Per­son­al, LHH Pa­pers, DR, HR, boxes seam­split and over­flow­ing with xe­rox­es, print­outs, books and man­u­als stuffed into the gaps be­tween them, Rings Fields and Groups, Nu­mer­i­cal Meth­ods in Rat­for, How To Sell Your Ideas, Note­books of Leonardo96, on across the floor to a spill of pro­cure­ment doc­u­ments, patent ap­pli­ca­tions, source code print­outs, spools of data tape, boxes of floppy disks, note­books, con­fer­ence pro­ceed­ings, ad­vi­sory re­ports, ex­pired ra­di­a­tion badges, cas­settes of Réti’s speech­es, fundraiser menus (veal marsala, purée of win­ter roots, braised Bel­gian en­di­ve, 1975 Robert Mon­davi Caber­net Sauvi­gnon), min­utes of meet­ings, draw­ings of space sta­tions and , a plan for us­ing sub­ways as civil de­fense shel­ters, a plan for us­ing nu­clear bombs to dig canals and har­bors, a plan for space­ships pro­pelled by fu­sion bombs, for (with and with­out sex or­gan­s), for ma­chines that travel faster than light and ma­chines that travel through time, for psy­choki­ne­sis and com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the dead, plans for the end­less mort­gag­ing of an un­ten­able present to fi­nance an im­pos­si­ble fu­ture, all to an­swer the night’s se­cret hope, un­tem­pered by ex­pe­ri­ence, that morn­ing will bring re­newal, though morn­ing has never re­newed any­thing but yes­ter­day’s con­flict and chaos where it left off.

Light glinted in a re­cess from the green of Laphroaig, which he grasped, brush­ing off cob­webs to un­screw the cap, tip­ping it to his mouth, then rest­ing it among the de­tri­tus on the floor as he pulled down boxes one after an­other to look for a sal­va­tion not in for­get­ting the painful con­vic­tion of what one might have been or had meant to be, but in the hard coin of what one has be­come.

LHH Per­son­al. Record of every ac­com­plish­ment and de­ba­cle. Here was the tran­script of the hear­ing after Gene­va. Here was the offi­cial rep­ri­mand and re­as­sign­ment, and the let­ter from Réti that had saved him from dis­missal. Here were dossiers on each of his Hertz re­cruits, and doc­u­ments from J Sec­tion as it grew. Stubs of pay­checks at each new salary lev­el. Clip­pings an­nounc­ing his di­rec­tor­ship. The Pres­i­den­t’s speech of com­mit­ment to Ra­di­ance. and here, out of or­der, was the dossier he’d as­sem­bled on Quine for the Hertz board dur­ing the first days of J Sec­tion. Here was the pa­per that first brought Quine to [pg171] his at­ten­tion. A wave/particle ex­per­i­ment with orig­i­nal in­sights and metic­u­lous de­sign. What Réti had said: –This is first rate. This shows real imag­i­na­tion.

–Oh, you can pick them all right, Highet mut­tered, push­ing aside the opened box to make room for ~Trans­fi­nite~ Null­point. Sal­vage part of it at least. Throw a bone to the GAO and get Chase off the trail. That hint about shell com­pa­nies. How much does he know? Come out of it with a clean bill for Trans­fi­nite and Null­point. All the rest, all the Lab busi­ness, the EIS, Cred­ne, the plume, the in­ves­ti­ga­tions, can go hang. Leave some sur­prises for Quine. See how he likes it.

He sat on the floor among the box­es. He found a clean folder and pluck­ing a pen from his pocket wrote on its tongue Trans­fi­nite Sys­tems: Tech­nol­ogy Trans­fers. He be­gan to sort pages, the dam­ag­ing from the damn­ing. Root and his schemes. Sup­posed to make us all rich. Help our em­ploy­ees. Do­ing well by do­ing good. Never should have lis­tened to him. Into the folder went a waiver of com­mer­cial rights to a wind tur­bine de­sign. Never saw a dime from it, the wind power mar­ket just died. Back into the chaos of un­sorted pa­pers went a trans­fer of laser tech­nol­ogy to a re­tir­ing em­ployee rep­re­sented by Trans­fi­nite. That blue-green laser the Navy want­ed, we moved it out­side the Lab into a spin­off and all we got out of it was an in­ves­ti­ga­tion97. Réti bought their stock, the Times got wind of it, he did­n’t speak to me for months. Into the folder went 3D mod­el­ing soft­ware given to a mo­tor com­pa­ny. Back into outer dark went a com­puter ar­chi­tec­ture, de­vel­oped at the Lab and re­leased to Trans­finite, that had made a Hertz kid rich when it was sold back to the Lab by Quick Data Sys­tems, the kid’s new em­ploy­er.98 No good deed. So it went un­til the folder was a sheaf, and the level of Laphroaig had dropped by half, and he re­placed the pen in his shirt pock­et.

First rate. Shows real imag­i­na­tion. Who’d ever said the same of him? He pulled down LHH Pa­pers, the record of his own life in sci­ence, the in which all base­ness was to be re­deemed, all im­pu­rity to drop out like pre­cip­i­tate, leav­ing knowl­edge pure. Yet it seemed now, as he turned those pages, tip­ping Laphroaig to his mouth, hemmed in by AR-KIV STOR-ALL DESTROY BY, that these pa­pers, [pg172] whether they pro­posed weapons or de­fens­es, fan­tasies or fix­es, no mat­ter how tech­ni­cally sweet their ar­gu­ments, were all made for trade rather than for truth, were made for the trade in truth.

The ris­ing bile of pity and loathing for the life and work so baldly laid out there be­fore him was ar­rested by Laser Com­pres­sion Of Mat­ter For Ther­monu­clear Fu­sion. 1974. Réti, High­et, Sz­abo, 99. When he was the Lab’s newest wun­derkind. The old man would drop an idea, a hint, and he’d work all night on it. The whole thing took months. Here it was, boiled down to three pages in Phys­i­cal Re­view Let­ters. He read it through. A cer­tain amount of hand­wav­ing, of course. The full pa­per was twenty pages, but it could­n’t be pub­lished, too much of the ma­te­r­ial was clas­si­fied. What was here was a fan dance for a pre­sumed au­di­ence of non­clas­si­fied fu­sion sci­en­tists, So­vi­ets, and US fund­ing sources. The full pa­per was more ex­i­gent, and at this re­move he could barely fol­low the rea­son­ing through its pages, but he turned to the crux it had taken him a month to work out. Yes. Light pres­sure and mo­men­tum flux got you just so far. Much higher pres­sures could be gen­er­ated by shaped laser puls­es, by im­plod­ing the fuel sphere and ab­lat­ing the outer lay­ers like rocket ex­haust. Sz­abo and he had writ­ten com­puter codes to sim­u­late the process. Those cranky old main­frames. The al­l-night runs of da­ta. The short­cuts and hacks. Tweak and squeak. But they got there. They showed you could start a breakeven ther­monu­clear burn with only a thou­sand joules of en­er­gy. In the­o­ry. It was bril­liant. Bet­ter than Quine. Not just the sci­ence, but the im­pli­ca­tions. Fu­sion pow­er. Pure fu­sion weapons with­out fis­sion trig­gers. Best of all, they could build it. The vaults would open to them.

They did. They built . But the fu­sion ex­per­i­ment failed. They rewrote the sim­u­la­tion codes, , got more fund­ing. The laser pro­gram took on its own life, as more and more pow­er­ful and ex­pen­sive ma­chines passed in suc­ces­sion, but by then Highet had moved on, be­come a group lead­er, a sec­tion chief, was more and more ab­stracted from the work that had started it all for him.

–Still, some damn clever stuff here, pag­ing faster through the rest of the box, –yes, we put a few items into or­bit, ris­ing un­steadily [pg173] to deal a vi­cious kick to the low­est box in a stack –fuck! that crum­pled it, –a! and brought down the boxes above it, –rat! burst­ing like a leaf­s­torm across the floor, and knocked him to one bruised knee scoop­ing pa­pers wildly with both arms. –But is­n’t this what they want? Is­n’t it? Bridges very strong but light, mor­tars and bom­bards and firethrow­ing en­gi­nes, cheap light­ing, un­lim­ited en­er­gy, cure us of cer­tain dis­agree­able things, of can­cer, con­sump­tion, and death, but don’t in­flict vi­sion upon us, give us sal­va­tion but not knowl­edge, magic but not imag­i­na­tion, pa­pers fly­ing around him now like a vor­tex of bad ideas, of wish­ful think­ing, of and , of per­pet­ual mo­tion and phlo­gis­ton, of , , and , wishes that would not die but re­turned again and again like Neme­sis, re­clothed in the style and rhetoric of the day, those palaces of time, space, and power be­di­zened by , , , , , , , or , as for in­stance , , A Ap­proach to Phys­i­cal Law, How To Pre­vent , : A Novel Ap­proach To Data Hid­ing, and fallen across them a dozen musty pa­per­backs un­opened since high school, brit­tle tea-col­ored pages bro­ken from their bind­ings like spilled cards, lurid cov­ers flak­ing at their edges, , From the Earth to the Moon, The Shape of Things To Come, he bent to read “hith­erto Power had come to men by chance, but now were those Seek­ers, seek­ing, seek­ing among rare and cu­ri­ous and per­plex­ing ob­jects, some­times find­ing some odd uti­liz­able thing, some­times de­ceiv­ing them­selves with fan­cied dis­cov­ery, some­times pre­tend­ing to find”100, and again, vi­o­lent­ly, he scooped through more pa­pers, seek­ing as if for a last change to turn back his­tory and take an­other track, , phys­i­cal law is , no idea how this will pan out, but it does­n’t hurt to stake a claim does it, as an itch rose in his throat and nose, –Ah ah ah, and a vi­o­lent sneeze spat­tered mu­cus across the cover of Ar­ti­fi­cial Life101, –Shit! fum­bling for the in­haler as his eyes filled and streamed, chest heav­ing with coughs, grad­u­ally sub­si­diz­ing un­til he tipped Laphroaig for the last drops of its aqua­vi­tae, its promise of timestop and for­get­ting, then lurched to vomit the re­flux [pg174] over and Per­pet­ual Mo­tion of the , and As Pro­jec­tile Weapon.

He dabbed at the mois­ture at his chest. On his shirt­front –Damn! a black stain had spread, and he plucked out the pen, flipped it away, its gold point glint­ing as it spun up­wards end over end to­ward the globe of the light102, the tip slip­ping through the wire cage to pen­e­trate the bulb which with a last flash went dark. He sub­sided then onto the pa­pers, curl­ing up where enough light yet sifted through a mesh tran­som to guide his hand to but­tons on his watch, sifted and fell across the progress of dig­its and the beep on his wrist chas­ing off dream im­ages of the beep from de­fen­sive con­soles track­ing the beep of en­e­mies ap­proach­ing the beep si­lenced by his fin­ger on watch, show­ing 7:00 in seg­ments swal­lowed in­ex­orably by 7:01 as he sat up cough­ing in the mi­asma of dust and am­mo­nia.

–Pull your­self to­geth­er, he told him­self. Mu­cus and vomit had dried on his swollen face. He wiped at the crust. He set empty Laphroaig into a re­cess and crum­pled to a wad In­flat­able, Per­pet­u­al, Dark. He opened the neat folder Trans­fi­nite and in the cu­bi­cle’s halflight dou­blechecked its pages, find­ing much that tan­ta­lized but noth­ing that damned. At last he closed it and went limp­ing into the gath­er­ing predawn, un­der harsh lights rak­ing a truck where two men rolled a cart loaded with can­is­ters CFC-12 and looked up in furtive alarm103 at the yelp from the red sports car SFORZA soon join­ing the dawn traffic al­ready thick­en­ing past sumps and leach­ing pools and in­dus­trial waste ponds, one car among thou­sands stream­ing in lines twined like the in­vo­lute treach­ery of the heart across flat empty land as in­fe­cund as it was in­ter­minable, this pro­ces­sion climb­ing more slowly to where wind whipped past tur­bines and tore apart the morn­ing fog at An­abase Pass Elev 1835, and far off in the val­ley be­low, at the edge of town, di­min­ished by dis­tance, the fortress city of the Lab stood as ever, ad­um­brat­ing some new fron­tier.

De­scend­ing to­ward it, Highet opened his phone and ar­rowed to RECTOR J. –Je­re­my? Leo High­et. Hope I’m not call­ing too ear­ly. I have some pa­pers to help you clear up this Trans­fi­nite Poly­go­nics busi­ness. You free for brunch? Good. Dim sum place in Moun­tain [pg175] View, I’ll give you the ad­dress.

Sun warm on his face, he lifted sun­glasses from the dash, put them on, punched an­other num­ber, wait­ed, and said, –I’d like to speak to Mis­ter Ven­ham. This is Leo High­et. Yes, he has my num­ber. Yes, he’ll know what it’s re­gard­ing.

Coy­ote, First An­gry, en­emy of all law, wan­der­er, desert mind, out­law, spoil­er, loser, clown, glut­ton, lecher, thief, cheat, prag­ma­tist, sur­vivor, , sil­ver-tongued , lat­ter­day Leonar­do, usurper Sforza, adul­terer , tell, wily one, by any means, of the man with two hearts, of knowl­edge and de­sire safely hid­den from each oth­er. Did not Paracel­sus com­mand us to fal­sify and dis­sim­u­late so that ig­no­rant men might not look upon our mys­ter­ies104? Did not the no­ble da Vinci hide the mean­ing of his thought by the man­ner of ? What man has not two mas­ters, two minds, two hearts? Tell of the man so wounded in him­self that he tore his sec­ond heart from him and cast it out, nam­ing it the world, and swore to wound it as it had wounded him.

In the val­ley he turned at Codor­nic s EXIT NLY, the stale smell of his sweat heavy in the car de­spite A/C MAX, a chafing un­der his arms and at his groin, socks stiff on his feet, as he turned past TOW-AWAY NO PARKING to an abrupt stop at ROAD CLOSED UNEVEN ROAD SURFACE where the roadbed dropped six inches to dirt and bro­ken as­phalt as fur­ther down the road an chat­tered in the shadow of an im­mense shroud NEKROTEK se­cured by thick ropes around his house, and fum­bling for the phone, un­fold­ing it, –Hel­lo! You peo­ple were sup­posed to come and kill some ants for me on Sat­ur­day, here it’s Mon­day and my house is tent­ed, what? High­et, H I G, no I can’t hold! hel­lo? as the airham­mer re­newed its as­sault at a more pen­e­trat­ing pitch and then fell silent, –Yes I’m here, what’s. No, not Hite, it’s H I G, G as in George… no! that’s not my first name, it’s… what? No! It’s ants, not ter­mites! What do you mean tox… A week? I’ve got to get into my house right now! hel­lo? hel, as work­ers gath­ered around the si­lenced airham­mer re­mov­ing hard­hats to peer into the dam­aged earth, –I’ll give you en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact you f, the phone splin­ter­ing in two against the ra­dio which leapt to stri­dent life with, –throw them off the bridge and let them sink or [pg176] swim! How far longer is this sub­hu­man un­civ­i­lized con­duct to be tol­er­at­ed? this ca­coph­ony of, slam­ming the gearshift into R, then 1, 2, 3, weav­ing onto the free­way, 4, 5, –re­lent­less pur­suit of the truth which al­ways wills out, stab­bing again and again in search of a more con­ge­nial re­al­i­ty, which the ra­dio, now locked by its trauma onto one sta­tion, de­clined to provide, as the cen­ter span car­ried him high above the bay and the oro­tund voice ripened, –Folks, I ha a great time. I met the vice pres­i­dent, and on past Data Gen­er­al, Ver­sant, Fail­ure Analy­sis As­so­ci­ates, tap­ping brakes at a small black bill­board in white Fu­tura italic DISTRACT US FROM WHAT WE KNOW as the voice rolled on, –heh, not run­ning or Pres­i­dent, you peo­ple can just for­get about that, al­though you know, if I did run, I would win, Highet mut­ter­ing, –don’t agree with every­thing he says but he makes some god damned good points, swerv­ing up the offramp where he jammed brakes to join two lanes merg­ing be­neath a stand of aca­ci­as, rolling the win­dow shut de­spite his own stink against the yel­low blooms tossed in a warm and fra­grant breeze, again punch­ing A/C MAX, as the ra­dio in­formed him, –Some­thing ex­cit­ing is go­ing on in Amer­i­ca’s bath­rooms, and he un­zipped the gar­ment bag with one hand for the elec­tric ra­zor hum­ming against his jaws as he joined the six lane thor­ough­fare and cut across two lanes of com­plex­ity to SOON YET where a black In­finiti pulled past him into the last free park­ing space, DISABLED PARKING ONLY, its dri­ving set­ting a blue and white plaque on the dash­board be­fore slam­ming the door and walk­ing smartly away.

He found an un­marked space near the garbage dump­sters, checked his watch against the sav­ings and loan 10:32 84F 29C, and walked in the rich­ness of his own stink to Open Visa Mas­ter­card Push, paus­ing in the crowded foyer to flag down an im­pas­sive Chi­nese and press into his hand a folded bill, –Table for two in about ten min­utes, go­ing on down a nar­row hall past a pot­ted fi­cus into the men’s room where a mir­ror set upon mauve and av­o­cado tile showed him a face stunned and swollen. Push­ing open a stall he low­ered the toi­let lid and placed his folder and clean shirt on it, re­moved his jacket and slung it over the open door, not­ing a deep black stain on the lin­ing, and, turn­ing back to the mir­ror, see­ing its du­pli­cate on his shirt pock­et. He stripped off the [pg177] shirt and the t-shirt with its own copy of the stain, the reek of his un­washed flesh ris­ing, and stuffed both shirts into the trash bin be­low the empty pa­per towel dis­penser, grab­bing from the stall a roll of thin gray toi­let pa­per, bang­ing the tap to re­lease a flow of wa­ter that every few sec­onds pinched off un­til he banged again, wet­ting gray wads of pa­per in the spo­radic flow to scrub fu­tilely at the stained flesh over his heart as he pumped the spigot of the soap dis­penser yield­ing noth­ing, then rubbed his wet hands over its scummed chrome sur­face as if pe­ti­tion­ing a mir­a­cle, and with the thin lather thus coaxed laved his face, chest, un­der­arms, hold­ing the tap with one el­bow while rins­ing with both hands. Toi­let pa­per pilled in his body hair as he scrubbed and pat­ted dry his arms, sides, and tor­so, its shreds float­ing in a basin of cloudy gray wa­ter. He shook open the folded shirt and pulled it on. The jacket smelled not too bad. He straight­ened its lapels and ran a wet hand through his thin­ning and awry hair, turn­ing away from the pools of wa­ter on the floor, the wads clog­ging the bas­in, the scraps on the mir­ror, to reen­ter the din­ing room where a young man in blue pin­stripe stood, scan­ning the room.

–Je­re­my! There you are, offer­ing a wet hand, –Par­don my, some slob messed up the men’s room, no tow­els left. Here’s our table, fol­low­ing the im­pas­sive Chi­nese to a cor­ner where at once a cart rolled up.

–Pull up a pew, Je­re­my. He’ll have two of these and two of these.

–Ah, what’s

–These are duck’s feet, and this is parch­ment wrapped chick­en.

–Uh…

–Y­ou’ll love them. Now, I brought all the doc­u­ments I could find re­lat­ing to Trans­fi­nite Poly­go­nics. You’re right that Réti holds an in­ter­est, but it does­n’t amount to much, a few patents about to ex­pire, noth­ing that ever came to mar­ket. Com­pa­ny’s been in­ac­tive for many years.

–Ah, may I? reach­ing for the fold­er. High­et’s hand re­mained on it.

–You know that Doc­tor Réti’s in the hos­pi­tal?

–I heard some­thing about it.

–I’m on my way to see him. Je­re­my, I’m con­vinced that the pub­lic­ity of this thing brought on his stroke. He’s a gen­tle­man of the old school, he can’t stand pub­lic­i­ty. Any­thing you can do to keep this out [pg178] of the press…

–I as­sure you that I don’t talk to re­porters, Rec­tor said cool­ly.

–I’m sure you don’t. Ever have duck’s feet?

–No, I… and while Rec­tor’s at­ten­tion was on the plates, Highet slid the folder across and re­moved his hand.

–Y­ou’ll see a cou­ple items in here that might be poor judge­ment, but noth­ing il­le­gal, I think. It’s an in­ter­est­ing field, in­tel­lec­tual prop­er­ty. Did you know that in ’34 Szi­lard tried to 105?

–I’ll look at this lat­er, tuck­ing it un­der the Ohlone Val­ley Her­ald open on the table, where Highet read as Rec­tor watched him read, Lab Con­sul­tants Charged With Fraud, Au­dit Re­veals Con­tract Abus­es, –You do have your share of trou­bles. I saw on the news last night

–You know, there’s lies, damn lies, and CNN. With these witch hunts go­ing on, I can barely do my job. I’m think­ing of re­sign­ing. Réti’s stroke made me re­al­ize, life is too short. We never know. At any mo­ment, and Highet snapped his fin­gers.

–Yes, well, I un­der­stand. Of course these new charges don’t bear on my in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

–I’m im­pressed by your thor­ough­ness, Je­re­my. By the time this busi­ness is over you’ll know more about the Lab than I know my­self. Have you ever thought about leav­ing civil ser­vice?

–Well, you know, the ben­e­fits, the se­cu­ri­ty…

–May I ask how much you make?

–Well…

–You should look at our job de­scrip­tions for man­age­ment an­a­lysts. Salary starts at fifty k. Maybe more for some­body with your ex­pe­ri­ence. We’re al­ways look­ing. We could ex­pe­dite it, get it done within the month.

–Re­al­ly? Of course the tim­ing, the ap­pear­ance of im­prop

A mo­men­tary hish fell on the room, and then a short sharp shock rat­tled crock­ery, rip­pled wa­ter in glass­es, and set over­head lights sway­ing. In its wake was a sec­ond of si­lence, and then, out­side, car alarms ig­nited in pe­ri­odic blasts of horn, sirens ramp­ing up and sweep­ing down, a buzzing and war­bling com­plex­ity on the edge of chaos, as con­ver­sa­tion ten­ta­tively re­sumed and phones were un­folded and some [pg179] pa­trons rose and went out into the lot as Je­remy Rec­tor closely ex­am­ined a duck’s foot, say­ing, –I’ll give your offer some thought.

–Try the parch­ment wrapped chick­en, no, un­wrap it first…

The work goes on. The great work goes on.

III. Stewardship

One

[pg183]

Be­neath the jet, as it dropped like a rap­tor in a thun­der of falling glis­sandi through low clouds, the line of the bridge di­vided bay­wa­ter scuffed by chop and the wakes of sail­boats near the far shore, where salt leach­ing ponds fit one into the next like puz­zle pieces of green­stone and jade and cinnabar slip­ping from sight as the jet closed on white­caps spray­ing a verge of crushed rock. Then the sud­den blur of run­way. The jet touched, bounced set­tled, re­versed en­gines with a roar. Quine reached un­der the seat for his case. When he came up the win­dow framed a view of iden­ti­cal houses on the flanks of brown hills, dis­solv­ing the charm of dis­tance into the rude im­me­di­acy of the mun­dane. The jet halt­ed. Eyes shut, Quine waited for the aisle to clear, then stood and reached his suit­case from the over­head. Stale air dis­persed as Cal­i­for­nia win­ter, only slightly cooler an mixed with ex­haust, made its ten­ta­tive way in past and Sim­ply Books and News­Port into the open cav­ern of a men’s room, where Quine sur­prised in the mir­ror a pale and dis­tress­ful face hard to call his own yet un­de­ni­ably fa­mil­iar from some other place and time. He set both cases be­tween his feet, held his hands un­der a tap, splashed his face, turned to an empty towel dis­penser.

–Pag­ing Amer­i­can pas­sen­ger? J? Pow­ers? Please re­port to the in­for­ma­tion desk, where a slid­ing con­veyor dou­bled his walk­ing speed to Ground Trans­porta­tion → and through slid­ing glass doors to the round­about where Bay­Porter was cut­ting off Avis Shut­tle be­fore ram­ming the back of Mount Ex­treme Va­ca­tion Bible School. A white [pg184] sedan E108637 came for­ward with Conor lean­ing across the pas­sen­ger seat to open the door DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY OFFICIAL USE ONLY.

–Per­fect tim­ing, said Conor.

–Sorry to spoil your morn­ing. Quine handed in his larger case and Conor wres­tled it over the seat into the back as Quine sat and fum­bled for the belt.

–No prob­le­mo, jefe. I ex­ist to serve.

A white­gloved po­lice­man waved them around Bay­Porter and Mount Ex­treme where a short dark man in a tur­ban and beard ges­tured and ar­gued with a stolid white man in a black suit and tie.

–You look tired.

–Got up at four to catch the flight.

–Sleep on the plane?

–Not re­al­ly.

–So how’d it go? Are we still open?

–For a while. ’s set­ting up a task force.

–What do you think that means?

–I re­ally can’t say.

Conor’s hand moved to the ra­dio for –when there is a clamor across the land, who turns a tin ear? My friends, lib­beruls may ask for equal time, but I, Tuck Eu­banks, am equal time

–Conor, do we have to lis­ten to this, this id­iot?

–Sor­ry, jefe. Just try­ing to get the traffic.

Quine half closed his eyes. Leav­ing the air­port they drove through a maze of con­struc­tion. Ramps ended in air. Cranes and gantries sur­rounded con­crete py­lons crowed with re­bar. Through his drowsi­ness the world came and went harm­less­ly. Fail­ure Analy­sis As­so­ci­ates, In­formix, Hex­cel, Data Gen­er­al, Ver­sant. RAGS2AU. They sped up the ap­proach to , named after that gospeller who re­counted the para­ble of the tal­ents. A faint smell of burn­ing, re­mote and dry, as if some­thing be­neath the sur­face of the world smol­dered.

In­er­tia woke him as the car turned. Past Codor­nic s EXIT NLY, the hills were green at last with the first win­ter rains, fresh growth vivid al­most to ten­der­ness over the black­ened mem­ory of last sum­mer’s burns, cut by a sud­den lat­tice of steel beams and open floors, the shell [pg185] of an office build­ing gone up since last he’d looked, ex­tend­ing the hege­mony of the for­mer out­liers AmeriSuites Effi­ciency Stu­dios Open­ing Soon and R G L C N M S M X. Then the Lab lay ahead of them like a city on the plain, some new At­lantis fenced by TRESPASSING LOITERING For­bid­den By Law Cal­i­for­nia Pe­nal Code 602. They drove more slowly past the half mile of chain­link and ra­zor­wire to the west gate. Conor slowed for the se­cu­rity check, slowed again for the in­ner check­point, and parked at Build­ing 101, dull un­der sun­light now hazed by high cloud and a wind out of nowhere that cut through Quine’s jacket as he opened the car door.

–By the way, your car’s in your space.

–Oh, you picked it up, thank you. Did they fix the CD play­er?

–No, they said you’d have to take it to the in­staller.

–But the last own­er… oh, never mind. Thanks for the ride. Lis­ten, can you… and a muffled boom from some­where be­yond a chain­link fence CREDNE CONSTRUCTION jolted him, –can you stop by later and take a look at my com­put­er? It’s crash­ing a lot.

–Sure thing, jefe. Around six?

–I’m go­ing to try to leave ear­ly. Call me around three.

As he went through the door he caught a glimpse of a fig­ure mov­ing deep in glass, car­ry­ing a case, his stride fast yet un­bal­anced, as if he might at any mo­ment veer in a new di­rec­tion. Not a calm cell in that body. That baffled fury in his stride. He went through the en­trance­way in ex­ag­ger­ated haste and pre­oc­cu­pa­tion, past a cou­ple of faces he knew and sev­eral he did­n’t. A poor photo of him ap­peared each month over the Di­rec­tor’s News col­umn in Cen­tury 21, but few of the Lab’s em­ploy­ees, he hoped, paid enough at­ten­tion to spot him in the hall­ways. Still his guard was up un­til he reached the fifth floor and en­tered the outer office where an oro­tund voice de­claimed, –these peo­ple are noth­ing but a bunch of pe­biscites! and was cut off a mo­ment ahead of his –Do­lores would you pl

–Calls from Paul Zal­man of aXon Com­put­er, Sen­a­tor Chase’s office, Lynn Ham­lin of CANT, and Frank Sz­abo. Or­rin Gate will be a half hour later for his two o’­clock. Je­remy Rec­tor wants an ap­point­ment. Ar­mand Stera­dian from PBS wants you to call him. And Doc­tor Réti wants to see you in his office. [pg186]

–What, is he here to­day? I thought he was in, in

–He’s back ear­ly.

–Well, I don’t have time to­day, Do­lores. Tell him, is he here to­mor­row?

–No, to­mor­row and the next day he’s at NOUS. Then next week he’s in Wash­ing­ton.

–It’ll have to be after that. I’ll see Sz­abo at the meet­ing. Chase, that was his office?

–That’s right.

–Okay thanks, and get me Rec­tor’s per­son­nel file, will you? I’ll… leav­ing un­spo­ken just what he in­tended as he passed to the in­ner office, drop­ping his suit­case on a bare ex­panse of car­pet be­tween bare walls keep­ing their dis­tance from a nearly bare desk where he paused to open his case and draw from it a sheaf of pa­pers and a yel­low le­gal pad, pages turned back. The suave startup chord of the com­puter ush­ered him into the bath­room where he stood for sev­eral sec­onds with eyes shut, hands on sink, breath­ing deeply. He turned a tap and let it run, rais­ing his eyes to a face not wholly un­fa­mil­iar, but still sus­pi­cious and fear­ful of what it might fin there. Open­ing the mir­ror, he reached for Ex­tract, shook out two cap­sules, filled a cup, swal­lowed, did the same with , then shut off the tap. Wa­ter stood in the basin inches deep and the drain gur­gled once.

At his desk he tapped a com­puter key, then opened his case, frown­ing at the pa­pers there. From out­side came a din of con­struc­tion, a tat­too of warn­ing beeps, a wail like lamen­ta­tion. Quine turned to stare through po­lar­ized glass down on earth­movers, any one of which de­ployed the power of a pharaoh and all his slaves, roar­ing and lurch­ing with a pur­pose hard to dis­cern over pale rut­ted ter­rain, in the mid­dle of which the cab of a crane piv­oted slow­ly, its der­rick level with him, a chain reach­ing from its apex al­most to the ground where a thick metal plate swung and ro­tated as the chain wailed. Work­ers waved the plate over an ex­ca­va­tion in which lay cylin­dri­cal tanks sten­ciled COMPOSIT PLASTEEL CONTAINMENT DO NOT. One side of the plate came to rest against the ground and the wail­ing ceased. The work­ers stepped back and the plate dropped to earth with a boom Quine felt in his feet. He yanked a cord and blinds fell rat­tling, cut­ting [pg187] off his view of the pit, the crane, and the mauve and av­o­cado fa­cade of the new build­ing op­po­site, com­pleted but not yet oc­cu­pied.

He lifted the phone, punched 0 0 0 1 #, then 1 2 3 4 #, for –You have, twelve, new mes­sages. He lis­tened through them with­out ex­pres­sion, oc­ca­sion­ally mak­ing a note on his pad, un­til reach­ing the cool con­tralto of –Philip. It’s me. Wel­come back. Will I see you tonight? Call me.

Turn­ing to the com­puter he scanned his e-mail, the trace of a smile on his face giv­ing ground to trep­i­da­tion at

Date: Wed, 6 Jan 1994 14:51 -0800
To: quine@lu­cin­da.ban­l.­gov
From: sforza­@­nous.­com
Subject: Or­rin Gate’s CRADA

De­lay Gate’s CRADA. Or­biters pur­posed for some­thing other than tele­com. For­eign part­ners. Ex­port con­trol vi­o­la­tion.

Highet

Still stand­ing, he paged through his ad­dress book, slow­ing rais­ing the hand­set to his ear only to hear voice al­ready in con­verse, –so he says, trust but ver­i­fy, –oh, his wife’s hav­ing an affair, tap­ping the hook for an­other line and –l­lo? Who’s, tap­ping once more for –Do­lores? Are we hav­ing phone prob­lems again? Can you get me an out­side line?

–not sure of him­self

–won’t last long you can be sure

Slam­ming down the phone, face red­dened by some­thing he could barely name, he drew from his case an­other sheaf of pa­pers, looked at them briefly, pushed them aside and lifted the phone again. He di­aled and waited through two rings for –Nexus for Op­ti­mal Use of Sci­ence. How may I di­rect your call?

–Leo Highet please.

–May I say who’s call­ing?

–Philip Quine.

–One mo­ment.

He looked at his watch. The wall clock. The pa­pers be­fore him. Staff meet­ing at noon. Make sure you know every­one’s name.

–Doc­tor Highet is not in his office. Would you like his voice­mail?

–No, and he tapped the hook for a new dial tone and touched [pg188] MEM 1, turn­ing to face the win­dow, his ex­pres­sion grad­u­ally soft­en­ing as he waited through four rings.

–This is Lynn Ham­lin. I’m not at home right now, but if you’ll

He tapped MEM 2 and wait­ed. –Y­ou’ve reached the offices of Cit­i­zens Against Nu­clear Tech­nol­o­gy. If you know your par­ty’s, punch­ing 303 for –Lynn Ham­lin. Is not in her office. Please

He re­placed the hand­set and sat down, scan­ning the pages be­fore him. Core com­pe­ten­cies of the Lab­o­ra­to­ry. Our mis­sion in a post-Cold War. Ex­e­cute in ac­cor­dance with best busi­ness prac­tices. . Suc­cess­ful in­te­gra­tion of spir­it, mar­ket­place, and pol­i­tics. He paused now and then to mark some­thing with a high­lighter, star­ing past the in­scrutable words, as if mean­ing resided lit­er­ally be­tween the lines. He glanced at the com­put­er, and reached to swing the mouse, caus­ing the speaker to chime as the sail­ing cur­sor froze de­spite his jig­gling hand.

–Oh for, lift­ing the phone and press­ing 2666 for

–lo?

–Conor? Is that you? This is Philip from my office. Can you hear me?

–Conor I can’t hear you, there’s some­thing wrong

–’re ving a ltt roubl ith th pho

–Can you come up here?

–ca

–Conor? Can you

He dropped the phone into its cradle, glanced at his watch, an swept pa­pers into his case, rush­ing out past –some­thing called cap­i­tal­ism which has as its di­vine right some­thing called sup­ply and de­mand, his stride down the hall fast yet un­bal­anced, slow­ing at a cor­ri­dor to veer in a new di­rec­tion up to E-501 WET PAINT where the door was shut and the knob with all the equa­nim­ity of the inan­i­mate frus­trated all his tri­als, un­til he saw taped to the wall Staff Meet­ing In E-533 and went more quickly down the hall glanc­ing at his watch, turn­ing left at E-525 full tilt to a cor­ner where he slowed in con­fu­sion at a sil­ver sign E-530 → which he fol­lowed to an­other turn­ing, slowed [pg189] at E-550, turned again, and burst fi­nally into E0533 where a waspish voice, –thought I’d leave it out, fell abruptly silent.

Ten of them at the long table. Deputy and as­so­ciate di­rec­tors, group lead­ers, every one with more se­nior­ity than he had. Tak­ing it for granted that he would last a year at most. As he sat he gripped the table. On the un­der­side wood ve­neer gave way to some rough com­pos­ite of saw­dust and plas­tic. Frank Sz­abo sat be­side him with a yel­low le­gal pad and a sty­ro­foam box.

–Sorry I’m, did­n’t know the other room was. How’s every­one?

–Morn­ing Phil, came Sz­abo’s waspish voice. –Good flight?

–Frank, would you mind very much call­ing me Philip… what’s that?

–This? Szechuan egg­plant. Want some?

–No, I just, yes ah David?

–It’s aw­fully cold in here. Is there some rea­son the air con­di­tion­ing’s on in the mid­dle of win­ter?

–Frank? Any idea?

Sz­abo shrugged. –I could call phys­i­cal plant.

–Would you please?

Again Sz­abo shrugged, took out a phone and un­folded it.

–Okay. I know you’re all cu­ri­ous so I’ll get right to it. I met with the sec­re­tary. I met with un­ders and deputies and as­sis­tants. You re­mem­ber Reese , he was here through nine­ty-one, he’s now un­der for DP, de­fense pro­grams, so we have an ad­vo­cate there. We talked about our mis­sion in a post cold wa

–Plant says they’re hav­ing a lit­tle trou­ble.

–Did they say whe

–No ETA.

–Thank you Frank. So I pre­sented all your con­cerns. I think I put across our ah core com­pe­ten­cies. I ac­knowl­edged that in light of some ah past prob­lems we need a bet­ter man­age­ment mod­el. I said we’re com­mit­ted to, to ex­e­cut­ing in ac­cor­dance with best busi­ness prac­tices to serve DOE’s cus­tomers who are of course the Pres­i­dent and the De­part­ment of De­fense.

–A cor­po­rate man­age­ment mod­el? You re­ally think that works for us? [pg190]

–Arn, the sec­re­tary is set­ting up a com­mis­sion. They have a year to write a re­port on the fu­ture of all the gov­ern­ment labs. There are cor­po­rate peo­ple on the com­mis­sion. The sec­re­tary comes from that world. We have to act as if we’re lis­ten­ing.

–Are we?

–Yes we are, Bill. Be­cause the al­ter­na­tive could be dis­as­trous. So our im­me­di­ate mis­sion is, let me just… shift­ing pa­pers on the ta­ble be­fore him and try­ing to fo­cus not on the words or their evaded im­pli­ca­tions but on the yel­low high­lighter marks, –“to as­sure the safety and re­li­a­bil­ity of the nu­clear weapons stock­pile in the ab­sence of un­der­ground test­ing”.

–Ab­sence of test­ing?

–The up­com­ing se­ries of fifteen tests is can­celed.

–Canceled? And you went along with this, Phil?

–It was­n’t up for dis­cus­sion, Frank.

–But Phil, you’re sup­posed to look out for our in­ter­ests. You’re sup­posed to make it a dis­cus­sion.

–She’d al­ready talked to the joint chiefs. They agreed the se­ries was un­nec­es­sary. The ad­min­is­tra­tion wants a . Talks start in Geneva this mon­th, and test­ing would jeop­ar­dize that.

–We em­ploy three thou­sand peo­ple out at Aguas Se­cas.

–No­body wants to close the site. Sub­crit­i­cal tests are still on the menu, pend­ing the treaty.

–Give up test­ing, I do not be­lieve this.

–Frank, we’re al­ready not test­ing.

–When Leo was here

–Leo’s not here.

–No, he sure is­n’t.

–You don’t un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion. You should see the bills be­ing in­tro­duced in Con­gress. Cut our work­force by one third. Close us down en­tire­ly. Elim­i­nate the De­part­ment of En­er­gy.

–All of that is such par­don me Phil bull­shit. Do the rest of you re­mem­ber the video DOE sent when was ap­point­ed? What she said? “The most im­por­tant chal­lenge fac­ing the Lab in the com­ing decade is di­ver­si­ty.” Ten thou­sand nukes loose in the for­mer So­viet [pg191] Union, pro­lif­er­a­tion in rogue states around the globe, de­cay­ing war­heads in our stock­pile, but first things first: hire more His­pan­ics.

–Well what do you ex­pect she used to be a util­ity exec

–Okay, now look

–take any­thing she says se­riou

–ever get a real sci­en­tist in that office

–canceled that test se­ries just be­fore Leo left, you know her rea­sons then? “I can’t ex­plain this to my grand­moth­er.”

–Okay, look every­one, can we get back on tra

–guess now we’re in the el­der care busi­ness

–All right! Let’s cut the, cut to the, I mean we’ve got a lot to do here.

–My point, Phil, is that our des­tiny is in our own hands, and these pro­pos­als from these out of touch jerkoffs don’t mean squat.

–I’m telling you what we have to work with. They un­der­stand the diffi­culty of do­ing this with­out test­ing.

–Do they un­der­stand the diffi­culty of cer­ti­fy­ing new de­signs with­out test­ing?

–There are to be no new de­signs.

–Well, blow me.

–That’s the offi­cial ah po­si­tion, no new de­signs un­less, let me see, supreme

–Oh, okay, you had me wor­ried for a minute.

–What do you mean?

–Supreme na­tional in­ter­est means this state­ment is op­er­a­tive un­til it’s not.106

–So frank, you’re say­ing that DOE is hold­ing open an op­tion to de­sign new weapons, and any as­ser­tion to the con­trary is just pub­lic in­for­ma­tion.

–I thought you talked to Reese.

–He told me no new weapons.

–Not the same thing as no new de­signs. Okay, so we can’t test. What can we do?

–Any­thing sort of a chain re­ac­tion. Sub­crit­i­cal burns. Hy­dronu­clear tests. Hen­ry?

–There’s some de­bate whether those will be al­lowed un­der the [pg192] pro­posed treaty. Some coun­tries are in­sist­ing on a ze­ro-yield de­fi­n­i­tion. They say any­thing us­ing nu­clear ma­te­ri­als is a nu­clear test.

–Well, that’s just fool­ish. No way we’re giv­ing up hy­dronu­clear.

–Frank, please… I think that’s a mat­ter for the treaty ne­go­tia­tors.

–The hell it is.

–Just what does that mean, “safety and re­li­a­bil­ity”?

again his eyes sought high­lighter marks as he paged for­ward to, –“as­sur­ance that the pri­mary will achieve ninety per­cent of its de­sign yield, and ah pre­dict with high cer­tainty the be­hav­ior of full weapons sys­tems in com­plex ac­ci­dent sce­nar­ios.”

–And how are we sup­posed to as­sure and pre­dict if we can’t blow things up?

–That’s our job, Arn. Find a way. What’s on the ta­ble is some­thing called sci­ence-based stock­pile stew­ard­ship.

–As op­posed to what, the­ol­o­gy-based stew­ard­ship?

–Frank…

–Phil, do these mo­rons even know what the fuck they’re talk­ing about? When Leo was here

–All right, Frank, that’s re­ally enough, we can do with­out the, the Leonid me­teor show­er.

–Just try­ing to help us out here, Phil. Some­body should.

–The other ap­proach as you all prob­a­bly know is en­gi­neer­ing base. Mean­ing, turned by a loud squeak from the sty­ro­foam box as Sz­abo sawed at its con­tents with a white plas­tic fork and knife.

–Low blood sug­ar. Go on, lis­ten­ing.

–I wish you’d

–Do you have to file an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ment to eat lunch?

–Just do it qui­et­ly. Mean­ing we just re­man­u­fac­ture de­cay­ing war­heads. So that’s an op­tion. Dave?

–Well, we al­ready do that. But we can’t keep do­ing it in­defi­nite­ly. Too much of this stuff is only in peo­ple’s heads. What we’ve got now is highly skilled physi­cists work­ing as li­brar­i­ans, just doc­u­ment­ing what they did years ago.

–This was­n’t doc­u­mented at the time? Bombs were built with­out plans? [pg193]

–No no, of course there are plans, but, but, you never worked di­rectly in weapons, did you, Doc­tor Quine?

–J Sec­tion.

–Yes well, let me ah try to ex­plain. You can dis­man­tle two de­vices of the ex­act same mark and rev but with differ­ent se­r­ial num­bers, and the in­sides differ. I don’t mean the physics pack­age, al­though some­times you have differ­ences there too, but just, you know, the glue, the hard­ware, there are thou­sands of parts and when a part be­comes un­avail­able you sub­sti­tute, so even if we had com­plete plans, some sub­con­trac­tors are gone, some parts or processes are un­avail­able. The only way to do it, re­al­ly, is to have peo­ple around who know how to do it, not just tech­ni­cians who can fol­low plans.107 I mean, par­don me Bernd, I have the great­est re­spect for tech­ni­cians, but the de­sign and con­struc­tion of these things is re­ally very in­tri­cate in­deed. And we do pe­ri­od­i­cally up­grade a de­sign, make a new rev, and that re­quires a good deal more than, than re­man­u­fac­tur­ing skills.

–And any­thing, as Dave says, we do that al­ready, re­man­u­fac­tur­ing gets us noth­ing new.

–Yes okay so to main­tain core com­pe­ten­cies…

–Well, we have to keep peo­ple in­ter­est­ed. At­tract new peo­ple. In other words, base it in sci­ence, not en­gi­neer­ing.

–Hen­ry?

–I agree, but our first pri­or­ity should be archiv­ing and knowl­edge cap­ture ac­tiv­i­ties.

–You mean talk to the old guys.

–Well yes Frank, ex­act­ly, our knowl­edge base is ag­ing, we have to archive and cap­ture be­fore all our de­sign­ers re­tire.

–Talk about your el­der care…

–But for the long term, on an on­go­ing ba­sis, we need to at­tract a new gen­er­a­tion of ah stew­ards if we’re to ah main­tain core com­pe­ten­cy.

–Dave, in your opin­ion does “core com­pe­tency” in­clude the abil­ity to de­sign new weapons?

–Well, of course if you’ve truly got the abil­ity to at stew­ard in the full sense that would in­clude that abil­i­ty, yes.

–How does that square with the de­part­men­t’s pub­lic in­for­ma­tion?

–Well, hav­ing the abil­ity does­n’t nec­es­sar­ily mean us­ing it. I per­son­ally [pg194] sep­a­rate the act of de­sign­ing a new weapon from phys­i­cally build­ing it. I ad­vo­cate main­tain­ing the ca­pa­bil­ity to de­sign by ex­er­cis­ing it, not by cut­ting new met­al.

–Yes Frank?

–How the hell do we at­tract good peo­ple if all we have is main­te­nance and cleanup? Want­ed, nu­clear jan­i­tors, I don’t think so.

–Well, that’s where comes in, said Ware, spread­ing his hands.

–Avalon will at­tract new tal­ent?

–The most pow­er­ful laser in the world? Oh, I think so. That’s a draw.

Sz­abo’s plas­tic knife squeaked against the sty­ro­foam. Held aloft on his fork was a limp spear of egg­plant. –So this is the deal? We give up test­ing and we get Aval­on?

–Not in so many words, but that seems to be what’s on the table, said Quine.

–But they’re com­mit­ted to Avalon any­way, aren’t they?I mean key de­ci­sion zero went through…

Quine looked again for high­light­ing. –“Ap­proval of Mis­sion Need”, yes, but key de­ci­sion one is the im­por­tant step. That ap­proves the base­line bud­get and the site.

–You know, this thing is go­ing to get built one way or an­oth­er. Since the SSC was can­celed, DOE needs a long term big ticket project to keep their bud­get up and we de­serve to have it.

–The SS, I’m sor­ry, Bill, I’m not up on

–The ? The sci­en­tists thought they could find the , the man­agers thought they could write off Texas style par­ties. They got de­funded after dig­ging a two bil­lion dol­lar ditch out­side Austin.

–Doc­tor Quine, I agree with Bill. You may not re­al­ize it, but we’ve pushed for Avalon for years now. The par­tic­i­pat­ing ICF labs signed on last year.

ICF, that’s in­er­tial con­fine­ment fu­sion, Phil.

–Thanks very much, Frank, I know what it is.

–Bill, you laser guys have wanted Avalon for years, but why should I care? What does the weapons side get out of this? [pg185]

–You get to go on liv­ing, Frank.

–Oh, that’s cold, Bill.

–Come on Frank, re­mem­ber what Leo used to say, al­ways think dual use. You get high en­ergy den­si­ties, ra­di­a­tion flow, hy­dro­dy­nam­ics, equa­tion of state, opac­i­ty, and even some­thing that should in­ter­est you Doc­tor Quine, x-ray las

–Lis­ten you know, I’d like to stop us­ing that phrase, dual use. How about ben­e­fit? Can we start say­ing dual ben­e­fit?

–Je­sus, Phil, if it’s such a prob­lem for you, we can call it du­el­ing ban­jos.

–Any­way my point is, Frank, this ma­chine is great for weapons sci­ence.

–Ex­cept that if we sign on, test­ing’s gone for good.

–Frank, have you been lis­ten­ing? Test­ing’s gone any­way.

–It’s a huge mis­take to ac­cept that. We can out­last this ad­min­is­tra­tion. We should hold our ground.

–We heard you Frank, said Quine.

Sz­abo turned his at­ten­tion to Szechuan egg­plant, white plas­tic knife squeak­ing.

–All right then. The sec­re­tary wants a full con­cep­tual de­sign re­port. If you’ll look at these sheets, as the room’s sta­sis was bro­ken by the creak of chairs, rus­tle of pa­pers be­ing passed, of bod­ies lean­ing for­ward.

–Je­sus.

–All this by May?

–That’s the time frame. Let’s look at, at what else do we need for this pro­gram. Mar­shall?

–Com­puter sim­u­la­tions. A sort of nu­mer­i­cal test site.

–Sim­u­la­tions never cap­ture all the de­tails you need. This is how we got into so much trou­ble with Su­per­bright, if you’ll re­call.

–Not the same thing, you were try­ing to model some­thing that did­n’t ex­ist yet, but we’ve got data from ac­tual shots to test our mod­els against. Over a thou­sand tests, go­ing back forty years. If we can’t shoot off new stuff we can look at the old tests again. Archive and rein­ter­pret.

–Are we call­ing this sci­ence? Sift­ing through our archives? [pg196]

–Frank…

–Also faster com­put­ers. I mean much faster. I meant . If not petaflops. The great dome of Mar­shall ’s in­clined to a pad. –We’re talk­ing at least a three times ten to the sev­enth prob­lem with some por­tions run­ning for more than ten to the fifth cy­cles. Even with op­ti­miza­tion, sim­u­la­tions will re­quire say hun­dred ter­aflop com­put­ing speeds and tens of ter­abytes of mem­o­ry. We’re look­ing at ar­bi­trary La­grangian-Eu­ler­ian and . We’re look­ing at end-to-end first-prin­ci­ples sim­u­la­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties based on high res­o­lu­tion adap­tive nu­mer­i­cal meth­ods. We’re look­ing at mas­sively par­al­lel ar­chi­tec­tures. Ful­l-sys­tem ful­l-physics 3-D sim­u­la­tions val­i­dated us­ing AGEX [above-ground-ex­per­i­men­ta­tion] fa­cil­i­ties and past un­der­ground test da­ta. We’re talk­ing scal­a­bil­i­ty. Fig­ure we’ll need to in­crease every­thing by a fac­tor of ten by the time we’re done. The bald head came up and the gleam in Mos­fet’s eye seemed to fol­low ter­aflops and petaflops up into some cy­ber­netic empyre­an. –We’ve been talk­ing to aXon about pro­to­typ­ing. They al­ready sup­ply work­sta­tions to the physics groups.

–Still with us, Phil?

–Sure I, just a lit­tle jet lagged. So is this all pos­si­ble.

–Just give us the fund­ing… the fund­ing which, as the politi­cian once re­marked about a few bil­lion here and a few bil­lion there, started to look, with the ad­di­tion of each new ball­park fig­ure on the white­board, like real mon­ey, a re­al­ity it gen­er­ously ex­tended on credit to the stil­l-prospec­tive pro­gram names along­side the fig­ures: Avalon Laser Fa­cil­ity $1.1B, DARHT $120M, ADAPT Ad­vanced Pro­duc­tion and De­sign Tech­nol­ogy Pro­gram, ASCI $122M, APPF At­las Pulsed Power Fa­cil­ity $43M, AHF Ad­vanced Hy­drotest Fa­cil­ity $422M, MESA Mi­crosys­tems En­gi­neer­ing and Sci­ences Ap­pli­ca­tion $400M, HEAF High­-Ex­plo­sives Ap­pli­ca­tions Fa­cil­ity $45M, FXR Flash X-Ray lin­ear in­duc­tion ac­cel­er­a­tor $85M, CFF Con­tained Fir­ing Fa­cil­ity $48M, ARS Ad­vanced Ra­di­a­tion Source $240M, ECF Ex­plo­sive Com­po­nents Fa­cil­ity $28M, BEEF Big Ex­plo­sives Ex­per­i­men­tal Fa­cil­ity, all with –goals and mile­stones, start draw­ing them up, sti­fling a yawn. –Okay? Any­thing else? Are we done? Yes Arn? [pg197]

–We’re rush­ing to get the sen­sors ready for the Perse­phone shot.

–Shot? There are no tests…

–Moon shot, Phil. A joint NASA-DoD pro­ject. We’re sup­ply­ing the in­stru­men­ta­tion and guid­ance.108

–Oh, that. I just had­n’t heard the, the name.

–It’s on the cover of this mon­th’s Cen­tury 21, Phil. Some­body wrote a Di­rec­tor’s News col­umn about it un­der your name.

–Yes all right, I know the pro­ject, I just don’t have time to, to keep up with all the cute names.

–Y­our ah col­umn has it en­ter­ing lu­nar or­bit in early Feb­ru­ary. It’ll ac­tu­ally be March.

–Four weeks from launch to lu­nar or­bit? Why so long?

–It’ll be in earth or­bit for a while.

–Do­ing what?

–I ah, I don’t think every­one here needs to know that. Al­so, there’s an added leg after the moon, a ren­dezvous with a near-earth as­ter­oid…

–And?

–Just want you to be clear on the en­tire mis­sion.

–Okay, now are we…? when a sud­den damp­ness on his thigh drew his eyes down to a dark stain spread­ing from a drip off the edge of the ta­ble where black tamari [soy sauce] had pooled un­der Sz­abo’s sty­ro­foam.

–Frank…

Sz­abo fol­lowed Quine’s gaze, and the prac­ticed an­noy­ance on his fea­tures flick­ered into gen­uine cha­grin for a mo­ment be­fore he pushed the box aside and stabbed at the pool with a nap­kin. –God, I’m sorry Philip. I must have cut through the, I’m ter­ri­bly sor­ry, I’ll pay for the clean­ing…

–It’s okay, Frank. Look, why don’t we call it a, yes Glenn?

–We do have one lit­tle prob­lem I’d like to bring up. This ah crack­pot group, CANT, they’re su­ing us. They claim we did­n’t list new con­struc­tion on an EIS and that we’re hid­ing waste dis­posal in­for­ma­tion re­lated to the site.

Quine looked guard­edly around the room, where only blank masks looked back.

–Yes Glenn, I think I know what that’s about. Coun­sel’s al­ready on it. Bring what you have to my office. Oh, ah, while I’ve got you all, [pg198] is any­one else hav­ing trou­ble with their phones?

–Phone fax eth­er­net you name it, they’re pulling new ca­ble, sup­posed to give us T3 lines in every office but mean­while it’s a mess, I’m get­ting other peo­ple’s voice­mail and I don’t know what.

–Frank?

Sz­abo looked up from fold­ing the soiled nap­kin to say, –Afraid there’s no help­ing it, we’re up­grad­ing all the lines be­cause of the net­work in­te­gra­tion, se­cure wide band­width fiber op­tics, bound to be some grow­ing pains.

–Okay, are we, are we done? See you all la… while at the back of the room be­hind the ris­ing fig­ures a door opened as Quine glanced up to see –Den­nis, is that you? I thought you were on leave.

–En­tre­pre­neur­ial leave of ab­sence, yes, but see I’m work­ing on some­thing, and I wanted to show y

–Den­nis, this meet­ing is for sec­tion heads onl

–I know, that’s why I thought you should all have a look at this, see I was vis­it­ing CERN in Geneva where this guy came up with some re­ally neat stu

–Look Den­nis, we’re fin

–sort of plus pic­tures, call it the

–Aren’t they do­ing this at SLAC? Con­vert­ing their high­-en­ergy physics data­base. Wee­nies.

–Well see I thought we might want to get in­volved at some lev­el, I brought my lap­top so I could show any­one who

–I’ll have a look, Den­nis, said Sz­abo. –Let these other mach­ers get on with their day, as some drifted out into the hall, mut­ter­ing, –go­ing to get crit­i­cism that Avalon has weapons ap­pli­ca­tions, –well of course it has weapons ap­pli­ca­tions, who are we, ? –good thing it’s a con­struc­tion pro­ject, al­ways good for the lo­cal econ­o­my, prob­a­bly get the sup­port of the Her­ald, –geez, we al­ways get the Her­ald, ed­i­tor’s son works here for Chr, –ex­cept when he’s been talk­ing to that CANT group and he for­gets which side his

–Is that a 109?

–Okay you all, I’m

–Just so we don’t waste a lot of time here, Den­nis, be­lieve it or not we’ve heard of the World Wide Web. [pg199]

–Oh, good, so you see the com­mer­cial po­ten­tial.

–Com­mer­cial…?

–This is called a brows

–That’s .

–Oh you know about it.

.

–Right, Na­tional Cen­ter for Su­per­com­put­ing, this guy there showed it to me, see you can, as FILE NOT FOUND ap­peared, –oops, let me just, as the screen filled very slow­ly, top to bot­tom, one line at a time, with a pro­file of car­rot red hair, a young wom­an’s arched brow and sul­try eye.

–See they’re let­ting An­dreessen take the code and turn it into a com­mer­cial pro­duct, he’s look­ing for in­vesto

–How many megs RAM you got?

–Why the hell would any­body want to sit around wait­ing for pic­tures over some crappy twen­ty-four hun­dred

–De­pends on the pic­ture does­n’t it, as the young wom­an’s snub nose fell fetch­ingly to a sug­ges­tion of rosy pursed lips just be­gin­ning to ap­pear.

–Nine­ty-six hun­dred is here, four­teen four is just around the cor­ner and even­tu­ally

–even­tu­ally we’ll all

–com­mer­cial? I don’t think

–But see if you could browse a cat­a­log and just click on items you want to buy

–And this would be for who, peo­ple who find too chal­leng­ing?

–What’s she suck­ing on?

–Ah, these are some graph­ics files from a Lab ma­chine, the sparta node

–Je­sus Christ, that’s gotta be nine inches long.

Ki­hara’s face flushed as he stabbed at ESC, –Um, let me just, sys­tem’s a lit­tle slow re­spond­ing, let’s go to an­other

–thought we purged those files months ago

–Got to hand it to you Den­nis, you give good de­mo.

–Okay, every­one, I’m go [pg200]

–What’s this now?

–Wow, right be­tween the

–This one from our dig­i­tal mam­mog­ra­phy pro­gram?

–Sorry sor­ry, I don’t know where these came from but any­way you get the ide

–Hey Den­nis can I try? In a mo­ment the screen blanked to col­lec­tive groans while be­low the win­dow­bar ANDREW’S OFFICE110 a va­cant room slowly ac­cret­ed, flu­o­res­cent lights, file cab­i­net, wall posters, com­put­er, chair. –This is live from my friend’s office at CERN, he’s got a hooked up to his com­put­er, up­dates the im­age every two min­utes. Is this cool or what?

–Okay every

–Wait, slows­can… Ki­hara poked at with a sty­lus the size of golf pen­cil. –What’s his URL?

–ev­ery­one, I’m go­ing. See you… as no head turned to fol­low Quine out the door and into the hall­way where the mach­ers had dis­persed leav­ing the way to his office clear ex­cept for –Bran! Have you got a min­ute? Walk with me, and Nolan, hag­gard, fell in step. Past the open door­ways where count­less man­agers sat be­mused by their com­put­ers111 and past a con­fer­ence room where a point made too em­phat­i­cally sent a dry marker skat­ing out across the hall­way.

–Philip. Check your e-mail to­day? Our sis­ter lab in New Mex­ico [Los Alamos Na­tional Lab (LANL)] is offer­ing five hun­dred dol­lars each for the in­ter­nal or­gans of work­ers like our­selves. After one’s demise, of course. The tis­sue analy­sis group stud­ies them for ra­di­a­tion effects. They have quite a col­lec­tion. Some of bones, relics wor­thy of pil­grim­age. No pre­mium for man­age­ment or­gans, I’m afraid. Have you heard the one about the dean’s brain?

–Bran, is it com­mon knowl­edge that you’re ghost­ing the Di­rec­tor’s News col­umn for me?

–If any­one thinks about it at all I think it’s nat­u­rally as­sumed that you have more im­por­tant things to do.

–Sz­abo nee­dled me about it.

–Sz­abo nee­dles every­one. How was the meet­ing?

–Well, apart from Sz­abo in­ter­rup

–No, I mean Wash­ing­ton. [pg201]

–Wash­ing­ton? Oh. We met in the SCIF, you know what that is?

, we’ve got one. Base­ment room with no win­dows, EM shield­ing in the walls. And what did you come up with down in the bunker? If I may ask?

–Science-based stock­pile stew­ard­ship.

–D­iffi­cile est non satirum scribere.112

–What…?

–Who came up with that lovely word stew­ard­ship?

–The sec­re­tary. I think she got it from some man­age­ment con­sul­tant.

–What hap­pened to your pants leg?

–What? Oh, it’s just a, a spill, I should… but his in­tent went un­stated as they came into range of an oro­tund voice raised in rap­tur­ous self­-ap­praisals, –Pres­i­dent Eu­banks, it just has a nice al­lit­er­a­tion to it does­n’t it? and –Do­lores? Please… as the voice faded com­pletely be­hind the clos­ing door.

–Guy’s run­ning for Con­gress, did you know that?

–What guy?

–On the ra­dio.

–Quine came out of the bath­room dab­bing at his pants with a hand towel dis­col­ored by tamari. –Glenn Boni­face brought up some­thing we need to look at, law­suit from CANT, some­thing about an EIS?

–How much do you know about that?

–Noth­ing, re­al­ly. We should go over it but I don’t have time now. To­mor­row?

–I’ll check with Do­lores.

–Thanks Bran, as the phone rang, –Yes? Al­ready? Okay, just a min, cov­er­ing the mouth­piece, –See you to­mor­row, to Nolan’s nod and ex­it, passed on his way out by a clean­cut younger man on his way in, suit coiffed and to a stan­dard some­what higher than the lab mean as Quine came around the desk towel still in his hand.

–Or­rin Gate.

–Right, pleased to, ex­cuse me, my hand’s wet, let me

–I’m very glad to meet you, Doc­tor Quine.

–just get some things to­geth­er, open­ing then shut­ting his case, open­ing then shut­ting one drawer and an­oth­er, –here, sorry about [pg202] this, just back from Wash­ing­ton, a lit­tle dis­or­ga­nized…

–Take your time. Did you get the phone I sent? The ac­count is ac­ti­vat­ed, just go ahead and use it.

–Yes well, it’s not some­thing I re­ally need.

–Y­ou’ll come to rely on it. I promise you, five years from now every­one will have one. Moms, dads, kids, one in every car.

–Y­ou’re in­ter­ested in our or­biters, said Quine.

–Our satel­lites need a low earth or­bit for min­i­mum la­tency time. We’re think­ing of a con­stel­la­tion of a few hun­dred, though that may change.

–The prob­lem here is that this CRADA ba­si­cally asks for ac­cess to sub­sys­tems of our Sling­shot an­timis­sile in­ter­cep­tors, which is a clas­si­fied pro­ject.

–Doc­tor Highet as­sured me that it fell un­der dual use. You can put in place any fire­walls you need to.

–We’re call­ing it dual ben­e­fit now. The Sling­shot thrusters, why are those of in­ter­est?

–Low earth or­bits tend to de­cay quick­ly. My un­der­stand­ing is that these thrusters per­mit sta­ble or­bits for a longer time frame.

–Can I ask what this means, in ah Ap­pen­dix A, the State­ment of Work, “to es­tab­lish the op­ti­mal topolo­gies of a re­con­fig­urable con­stel­la­tion of low earth or­bit satel­lites un­der a va­ri­ety of con­di­tions”

–Be­cause of la­tency and band­width is­sues we may need to fine tune the con­stel­la­tion once it’s in place. You see

–You want to put satel­lites in or­bit and then move them around? I’ve never heard of that.

–It gives us flex­i­bil­ity our com­peti­tors lack.

–And these are civil­ian comm sats.

–Civil­ian, mil­i­tary, pos­si­bly both.

–You don’t know?

–At this point in time, we’re not sure what our con­tent will look like. A con­stel­la­tion of satel­lites might have to be re­con­fig­ured quickly to take ad­van­tage of rapidly chang­ing mar­kets. We need to main­tain flu­ence and mod­u­lar­i­ty. We need to han­dle mul­ti­ple chan­nel rates, pro­to­cols, and ser­vice pri­or­i­ties and to sup­port a wide range of ap­pli­ca­tions in­clud­ing the In­ter­net, in­tranets, mul­ti­me­dia com­mu­ni­ca­tion, [pg203] LAN in­ter­con­nect, colo­ca­tion, wire­less back­haul, et cetera. Many of the ap­pli­ca­tions and pro­to­cols we’ll serve in the fu­ture haven’t been con­ceived yet.

–Well in that case how can you, I mean, that’s not the busi­ness plan I read.

–Well, no, what you have must be half a year old. And I must say, this slow­ness is dis­cour­ag­ing and cost­ly.

–Yes well, I have to run this by the book.

–At other labs, I un­der­stand, NASA labs for in­stance, di­rec­tors can ap­prove CRADAs di­rect­ly.

–Yes, that’s true of the GOGO113 labs but we’re a GOCO114

–Con­trac­tor op­er­at­ed, yes, but NASA labs are GOGO. Now this Sling­shot tech­nol­ogy is be­ing used on an up­com­ing joint NASA-DoD mis­sion, lu­nar map­ping, is that right?

–Where did you get that in­for­ma­tion?

–Avi­a­tion Week. I was hop­ing to gain ac­cess to the thruster per­for­mance data from that mis­sion. And the sen­sor per­for­mance da­ta.

–The sen­sors? Why?

–As I say, our con­tent is still flu­ent. Weath­er, en­vi­ron­men­tal track­ing, sur­veil­lance, all are pos­si­ble mis­sions for these plat­forms.

–Look, this is ex­tremely broad. We can’t share clas­si­fied DoD da­ta.

–Part­ners. What part­ners.

–If the CRADA were in effect and you were prop­erly nondis­closed I’d be more will­ing to share that in­for­ma­tion.

–Are your part­ners de­fense con­trac­tors?

–No, at least not for the US.

–Not for the US? They’re for­eign part­ners?

–One is.

–Then we can’t pos­si­bly share this da­ta. It raises all sorts of, of is­sues. Any­way, you see here, where is it, here, Ar­ti­cle 22, “US Com­pet­i­tive­ness, prod­ucts em­body­ing in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty de­vel­oped un­der this CRADA shall be sub­stan­tially man­u­fac­tured in the United States.”115

–I think I see the prob­lem. This is about Mis­ter Kim, is­n’t it? Doc­tor [pg204] Highet was sus­pi­cious of him. Mis­ter Kim is head of the at 116. If all goes well they’ll be as­sem­bling the sats for us. I tell you this in strict con­fi­dence.

–These plat­forms were de­signed to be ki­netic kill ve­hi­cles. You’re not in­ter­ested in that part of their mis­sion?

Gate stared at him for a mo­ment, then laughed. –Well that’s… Was that Doc­tor High­et’s idea? But then, he’s known for his flam­boy­ant imag­i­na­tion. No, we just want ma­neu­ver­able, low or­bit plat­forms.

–What you want them for seems ah flu­ent.

–Doc­tor Quine, I’m a vi­sion­ary. In my in­dus­try you have to be. That does­n’t mean I have a sin­gle vi­sion, I have many vi­sions, con­stantly ad­just­ing to the mar­ket. I thrive on chaos, When other peo­ple run in fear, I see an op­por­tu­ni­ty.

Quine touched a throb in his tem­ple and shut his eyes while out­side some en­gine un­seen went on with its build­ing, then he re­fo­cused on the pages be­fore him.

–How do you plan to launch the­se?

–We’re invit­ing bids from in­ter­na­tional in­clud­ing the US, Rus­sia, Chi­na, and Ko­rea. Can­di­date rock­ets in­clude the , the , the , the

–No Dong? Is­n’t that a North Ko­rean mis­sile?

–I’ve talked to Sen­a­tor Chase about this, and he’s ea­ger to move things along. I re­ally need to ex­pe­dite this be­fore the Perse­phone launch.

–That’s in two weeks.

–That’s why I’m here. Can we go for­ward?

Quine stood and ex­tended his hand. –I’ll be in touch.

–Se­ri­ous­ly, Doc­tor Quine.

–I’ll re­view this ma­te­r­ial with the Sling­shot team and let you know.

–Let me know when?

–When we’re done.

Gate leaned slightly for­ward and clasped Quine’s hand briefly. –Thanks for your time.

In the va­cant office Quine glanced at his watch, then the wall clock, then lifted the phone to hear a waspish voice, –ter­ri­ble ad­min­is­tra­tor, lost con­trol of the meet­ing, and re­placed the hand­set, face burn­ing, the heat diffus­ing into a kind of de­spair as he stuffed pa­pers into his case [pg205] and snapped it shut.

–Do­lores? He stepped into the outer office where, –no no no, heh heh heh, a bully pul­pit is not a pul­pit used by a, as Do­lores stilled the ra­dio and looked up. –Is this, is this guy ever off the air?

–Sacra­mento re­runs the show three hours lat­er.

–Okay look, I’m leav­ing ear­ly. I had al­most no sleep and, and, what?

–Y­our ap­point­ment with Je­remy Rec­tor?

–Oh Je­sus. Can you, oh never mind, let’s get it over with, and he re­treated to the in­ner office, where the noise of jack­ham­mers rode over the din of some com­pres­sor as he went into the bath­room for 220 mg and saw as he turned the tap an inch of wa­ter still stand­ing in the sink. He swal­lowed the tablets, then jig­gled the drain lever re­peat­edly un­til a few small bub­bles emerged and the wa­ter slurped away. He sat at the desk and opened a folder Je­remy Rec­tor Prin­ci­pal Man­age­ment An­a­lyst, and frowned at the in­side for a minute be­fore slap­ping it shut. The jack­ham­mers fell silent.

Rec­tor en­tered, clothed in a brown wool suit, swing­ing a calf­skin case.

–Je­re­my, sit down.

–Thank you Doc­tor Quine, as the calf­skin case clicked open with a snap and a stack of fold­ers came out onto the desk.

–Can we, be­fore we start, I’ve been look­ing at your vi­tae…

–Oh, is there a prob­lem?

–No but, I mean, you came here straight from the Gen­eral Ac­count­ing Office, is that right?

–Yes, I was look­ing for a change.

–Highet hired you?

–No, it was after he left.

–But you talked to him at some point?

–We, ah, had a dis­cus­sion, yes, brief, in­for­mal. Why?

–Be­cause it seems, I mean, Highet is im­pli­cated in some of these in­ves­ti­ga­tions, it could ap­pear im­proper that you were hired at a time when…

–I went over this with Lab coun­sel. You know, IRS agents some­times go into pri­vate prac­tice, you can hire them to rep­re­sent you if [pg206] you’re au­dit­ed. To me this is sim­i­lar, an au­dit just goes eas­ier if you have some­one who knows the ropes, who can clar­ify is­sues for the au­di­tors. I think Doc­tor Highet un­der­stood that, he cer­tainly never said I was sup­posed to, well, cover any­thing up.

–No no I’m not sug­gest­ing, just want to, to clar­i­fy…

–What?

–Well, my po­si­tion. That I’m not con­don­ing any­thing but full co­op­er­a­tion in any on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

–Of course.

–Then if we can, I want to look at this buffer zone busi­ness.

Rec­tor opened a fold­er. –Right. Well, it seems that the tox­ics mit­i­ga­tion pi­lot pro­gram, Site Al­pha, you know, the vine­yard over the toxic plume, needs to be ex­pand­ed.

–Ex­pand­ed? Why?

–Well, the plume is spread­ing off­site. The ex­pan­sion brings it on­site again. Any­way, some peo­ple in E Sec­tion got wind of this, rec­om­mended it ac­tu­al­ly, and they bought land in the ex­pan­sion zone.

–They thought they could make a profit sell­ing the land back to the Lab? But that’s, what’s wrong with these peo­ple, don’t we pay them enough, that they have to pull this crap?

–I think we can con­vince GAO to drop the in­ves­ti­ga­tion if the peo­ple in­volved make resti­tu­tion.

–Is that enough?

–If you want to rep­ri­mand them in some way, that’s your choice. But in the in­ter­ests of the Lab’s on­go­ing sit­u­a­tion, I’d say set­tle it and move on. Now we have the miss­ing prop­erty and the unas­signed over­head costs… as Rec­tor shifted the first folder to the bot­tom of his stack re­veal­ing the next, one inch thick.

–Look, Je­re­my, I’m sor­ry, but is this ur­gent? I meant twen­ty-four hour ur­gent?

–Well, no, I mean we have months to re­spond, but there’s a lot to get through and I thought

–I know, I just, I’m just kind of jet lagged and I can’t re­ally con­cen­trate, so if you don’t mind…

–Fine, and the calf­skin case clicked to­gether with the chirm of the phone. [pg207]

–Hel­lo?

–En­joy your week­end, Doc­tor Quine.

–je­fe?

–Conor? Is that you?

–old me to cal

–Conor, I can’t, the phones are still. can you hear me?

–ay?

–Look I, if you can hear me, I, I, let’s not meet to­day, I’m go­ing to leave ear­ly. Okay? Okay?

–k

He dropped the hand­set on the cradle, mut­tered and swept pa­pers into his case, latched it, and strode into the outer office where –a grass roots bot­toms up effort, was sup­pressed as he en­tered.

–Okay Do­lores, I’m

–Doc­tor Réti is on his way up.

–Christ! Did­n’t I tell you, as a knock sound­ed. His eyes darted around the room for an es­cape he knew was­n’t there from the in­evitable he’d been putting off for months by cau­tious sched­ul­ing.

Mo­rose, limp­ing, Réti en­tered. He bore a gnarled staff taller than him­self, and the ex­pres­sion of a man who’d spent too much time with fools.

–Doc­tor Réti, it’s good to see you. Come, come in… and Quine let the way into the in­ner office as Réti glanced dis­pas­sion­ately around the room.

–So. How is our young di­rec­tor get­ting on?

–Not so young. Forty.

–Be­fore I was forty, we had dropped atomic bombs on Hi­roshima and Na­gasa­ki. Just a few years lat­er, I ar­gued to build a lab­o­ra­to­ry, this one, to learn every­thing we could learn about nu­clear weapons. So you are right. Forty is not so young. And now, al­most half a cen­tury after the first bombs, we go on learn­ing.

Quine said noth­ing. Réti stared past him at the drawn blinds, be­yond which a jack­ham­mer opened fire.

–May I sit? Réti ges­tured at a chair.

–For­give me, of course, please.

Réti limped slowly to the chair and low­ered him­self into it. The [pg208] staff leaned against it like a limb of . –But that his­tory is not im­por­tant now. What is im­por­tant now is to keep the Ra­di­ance pro­gram alive.

–Doc­tor Réti, the ad­min­is­tra­tion and the De­part­ment of En­ergy have de­cided that our work on Ra­di­ance is over.

Réti pointed at him. –This im­por­tant knowl­edge, for which you and so many oth­ers fought so hard, must not be lost.

–The knowl­edge gained was not, in my view, pri­mar­ily sci­en­tific.

–You do not yet un­der­stand, there are ways to keep pro­grams alive, to re­or­ga­nize their com­po­nent parts. I will tell you how.

–Yes, but

The point­ing fin­ger raised. –One mo­ment. Many years ago, when I was for one se­mes­ter a vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor at your uni­ver­si­ty, and on your doc­toral com­mit­tee, I read your dis­ser­ta­tion and I thought, here is a young man who un­der­stands physics. And when your pa­per on quanta was pub­lished with Sorokin, I knew that it was so. I lob­bied strongly that you should have a Hein­rich Hertz fel­low­ship to come here. And you did ex­cel­lent work. Now you are di­rec­tor, a rise of me­te­oric speed, and I wish to put at your dis­posal some of my ex­pe­ri­ence.

–You flat­ter me. My un­der­stand­ing of physics is not that deep. And the work I did on Ra­di­ance was deeply flawed. It led to a scan­dal.

–The work is not flawed. The scan­dal is in the po­lit­i­cal ne­ces­si­ties.

–Doc­tor Réti, per­haps you for­get. I worked on the Su­per­bright x-ray laser for years. It did­n’t work and we pre­tended it did. And we suffered the con­se­quences.

–May I re­mind you that de­spite your own highly crit­i­cal, one might al­most say self­-lac­er­at­ing re­port, our en­tire team was ex­on­er­ated by the Gen­eral Ac­count­ing Office. The idea is still a good one. And that is why we must pro­ceed with it on differ­ent terms. Now lis­ten to me. I will tell you what we must do.

–Sir, with all due re­spect. I am di­rec­tor, and I am re­spon­si­ble to the De­part­ment of En­er­gy. It is my de­ci­sion.

Réti’s brows came to­geth­er. He breathed heav­i­ly. –You are not like High­et.

–No, sir, I am not. I be­lieve that’s why I was ap­point­ed.

Réti sat for­ward in his chair. His hands met be­tween his knees. [pg209]

–Look. My friend Leo Highet is an en­thu­si­ast for new ideas. Like me, he is an op­ti­mist. There is noth­ing wrong with that.

–In this case op­ti­mism be­came fraud.

–I spoke well of you to the re­gents. I sup­ported your can­di­da­cy. De­spite that Leo Highet was my friend, and in my opin­ion ousted un­fair­ly, I did so for the good of the Lab.

–I ap­pre­ci­ate that, sir.

–I re­mem­ber too that you vis­ited me in the hos­pi­tal. I should like to think of you as a friend.

–You do me too much hon­or.

–My friend Leo Highet has his weak­ness­es, I do not deny it. But what­ever else, he has pas­sion. And he un­der­stand the po­lit­i­cal ne­ces­sity of fund­ing.

Lean­ing for­ward, Réti grasped the staff and stamped it upon the floor. –Fund­ing comes from the threat. Now, this ad­min­is­tra­tion does not think that Rus­sia is a threat. I say they are wrong. But even so, there is no short­age of threats. There is an­other great threat, and I do not mean the threat from north Africa to south­ern Eu­rope. There is a threat of be­ing hit by a comet, or as­ter­oid. The last time it hap­pened was in .117

–In nine­teen hun­dred and eight, said Quine. He had heard this be­fore. It was part of Réti’s road show. Fol­low­ing Tun­guska he brought up (Mayan, some said, for dev­il’s ass­hole) where dur­ing the Cre­ta­ceous Pe­ri­od, a me­teor had hurled enough de­bris aloft to darken the earth, change its cli­mate, and cause plan­etwide ex­tinc­tions.

–Yes, in nine­teen hun­dred and eight. I was then five months old. It was an above­ground ex­plo­sion of ten mil­lion tons equiv­a­lent. Had it hap­pened near a pop­u­lated re­gion, it would have been the biggest dis­as­ter, and we have ex­cel­lent rea­son to be­lieve that this dis­as­ter with ap­pro­pri­ate no­ti­fi­ca­tion can be avert­ed. Here is a threat that is less prob­a­ble than most other threats, but when it hap­pens, it can be­come so big that, you know, it wiped out six­ty-five mil­lion years ago the di­nosaurs. That I think is a very in­ter­est­ing threat.

–Ac­cord­ing to the sec­re­tary of en­er­gy, said Quine, –the Lab’s mis­sion is now stock­pile stew­ard­ship and man­age­ment.

Réti fixed his eyes on Quine. –I un­der­stand you held a meet­ing. I [pg210] would have liked to at­tend.

–I’m sor­ry, I thought you were out of town. It was ur­gent that we move for­ward.

–I have no offi­cial du­ties. It is your pre­rog­a­tive to in­clude me or not. But I will say that other di­rec­tors have profited from my ex­pe­ri­ence. I will say that I have al­ways been no­ti­fied of meet­ings.

–I’ll see that you get com­plete min­utes. It was a dis­cus­sion of the stew­ard­ship pro­gram. We

Again the staff struck the floor. –Stew­ard­ship. Do you know what that word means? It means you are warder of the sty. A keeper of pigs. Is that what you wish?

–The stew­ard­ship pro­gram has in­ter­est­ing el­e­ments. For ex­am­ple, the Avalon laser.

–Yes, Aval­on, do you think I don’t know? Avalon is ours by right. We have planned it for years. Since the very be­gin­ning of this Lab we have pur­sued in­er­tial con­fine­ment fu­sion. I wrote the first pa­pers on it. Now, this new ad­min­is­tra­tion wants a test ban treaty, which is im­pos­si­ble be­cause Rus­sia will cheat118. And they think to buy our com­pli­ance with Aval­on. I say we should have Avalon plus Ra­di­ance!

–That’s im­pos­si­ble. All mis­sile de­fense work is now run by the Pen­ta­gon.

–The Pen­ta­gon will not con­tinue the x-ray laser.

–Per­haps not.

–On which you worked so hard, gave so much.

–You could look on Avalon as a way of con­tin­u­ing and vin­di­cat­ing Ra­di­ance’s x-ray laser work.

–What will hap­pen to J Sec­tion?

–I can’t say at this time. There will be cuts.

–Lis­ten to me. You must make a project to in­ves­ti­gate the pos­si­ble re­sults of an as­ter­oid im­pact. And the pos­si­bil­i­ties of pro­tect­ing us from such an im­pact. And then you will find that much of Ra­di­ance, in­clud­ing Su­per­bright and Sling­shot, is also good for as­ter­oid de­fense. Lasers, or­bit­ing in­ter­cep­tors, nu­clear weapons, all this can be re­pur­chased. There is time to get all this into the bud­get re­quest. There is sup­port in Con­gress. We must have this!

–Frankly, sir, I’m not sorry to see this mis­sile de­fense work gone. [pg211] Many feel it’s a vi­o­la­tion of the an­tibal­lis­tic mis­sile treaty.

–That treaty is no longer valid be­cause the So­viet Union no longer ex­ists. In any case, this work will never stop, be­cause it has many pow­er­ful al­lies.

–What do you mean?

–You will see what I mean. And you will be sorry you let it slip away from you.

–Doc­tor Réti, our bud­get may be down this year but

–It is not just the mon­ey! They can­not be al­lowed to tell us what to do. And in our work there must al­ways be a nu­clear com­po­nent. Do you know why? Be­cause they fear the nu­cle­us. They re­spect it. And we are its mas­ters. But now they would re­duce us to sim­u­la­tions. This must not be. This would be our end.

–We have no choice.

–Do you un­der­stand some­thing, when Ra­di­ance start­ed, I could go di­rectly to the pres­i­dent and ask for funds. On one oc­ca­sion I se­cured a hun­dred mil­lion dol­lars, just by ask­ing. On an­oth­er, sixty mil­lion. Just like that, and gnarled fin­gers rose and met but did not snap, –From black bud­gets. Now we have a new pres­i­dent. I can­not do that with this new pres­i­dent. So you must.

–I can’t.

–You must! Why do you re­sist this?

–Sir. Ra­di­ance cost us cred­i­bil­i­ty, we lost good peo­ple over it, we lost the trust of our own­ers. We’ll have noth­ing fur­ther to do with it, in name or in fact. That’s fi­nal.

Réti looked up sharply. Pale pierc­ing eyes sunk in sag­ging flesh. He thrust him­self for­ward, try­ing to stand. The head of his staff swipe the air. –You must not! Must not! Per­mit such an end to our ex­per­i­ment. We must find the next en­e­my.

–Please! Quine stood at the mo­ment Réti sank back into his chair, eyes cast to the floor, mouth open, lower lip pen­du­lous. –Don’t ex­cite your­self.

At last Réti looked up at Quine, eye­lids trem­bling. –I am stu­pid, I am emo­tion­al, I am old. I had such hopes for you. Why do you not ask me? Months you have been here. You do not come to me, you do not ask me for ad­vice, for coun­sel, for any­thing. This is not right. [pg212]

–I apol­o­gize. I, I’ve been busy, and you’re often not here.

–Or per­haps you be­lieve, as out­siders do, that I am some kind of mon­ster? But you know bet­ter. In the old man’s eyes was an en­treaty, in his voice a bel­liger­ence. –Do you know that I ar­gued for a demon­stra­tion? To drop one atomic bomb over Tokyo Bay, or on an un­in­hab­ited is­land119. There was not time enough, they said. It would be too diffi­cult and ex­pen­sive, they said, to build an­other bomb. That was the last time I at­tempted to in­flu­ence pol­i­cy. It is not a sci­en­tist’s place. But! I am not afraid to ex­press my opin­ion as a pri­vate cit­i­zen! And for a mo­ment Réti was silent, re­flect­ing no doubt on the many times he had ex­pressed, some­times on Lab let­ter­head, his opin­ion as a pri­vate cit­i­zen, but the mem­o­ries were per­haps not uni­formly hap­py, for his eyes nar­rowed and when he went on his tone was con­fi­den­tial, as if he were un­fold­ing some elab­o­rate mys­tery.

–Now I will tell you some­thing. Dur­ing the War, we all worked to­geth­er, we all knew that the Bomb was im­por­tant sci­ence and it was im­por­tant to the world. We all felt that. When the War was over it changed. We were no longer to­geth­er. There were two camps: make more, bet­ter bombs, or stop there. You would think that men so smart, so ex­cel­lent in their field, could agree. It was ob­vi­ous the Rus­sians would build one. But no. And the strange thing was this. We were all ex­cel­lent, all first rate, but even so, some were a bit above the rest, yes? And the very best, these were the men who did not want to go on mak­ing bombs. So when this Lab start­ed, I be­came di­rec­tor, be­cause I had no com­pe­ti­tion. I was the best of those who re­mained. The best of not the very best, do you see? I had won by a for­feit. My friends were no longer my friends. Now I talked with gen­er­als and sen­a­tors, to whom physics was a magic trick. To whom I was a ma­gus. That was my com­pen­sa­tion. No­bel prizes for , , , , , , , , . For me, the ear of gen­er­als and Pres­i­dents. Now you know some­thing I never told even my good friend Leo High­et. Some­thing I am maybe a lit­tle ashamed of. So that you will un­der­stand what this place is to me.

He ex­tended the staff. –But I will tell you fur­ther. I am right and they are wrong. The age of the heroic in­di­vid­ual sci­en­tist is over. The bomb changed every­thing for­ev­er. From then on we work al­ways in [pg213] teams, al­ways funded by gov­ern­ment. And gov­ern­ment is not in­ter­ested in ph­ysis, in sci­en­tia, they want techne. I saw this sooner and more clearly than any. So we give them what they want! And in re­turn they per­mit us to go on with our work. And we are not, and Quine shrank from the fury and loathing he saw in Réti’s eyes, we are not owned.

Lean­ing on his staff, Réti got to his feet, shak­ing off Quine’s hand. When he had left, Quine sat trem­bling. He cleared his throat as if he would speak but said noth­ing. He rose and went to the bath­room where he ran wa­ter into a glass and reached for 500 mg when the shrill of the phone turned him. He glanced at the mir­ror to find some­thing vi­cious in the face there, some­thing that hid it­self as quickly as it had ap­peared.

–Yes Do­lores? All right, tell Conor I can’t see him this evening. I’m leav­ing now.

By the time he reached the road an an­tic­i­pa­tion of night stood in the east where the sun’s last rays raked ten­der green hills, an is­land of seren­ity be­neath the ridge’s stub­ble of wind­mills, relics of a time be­fore his time at the Lab when, how­ever briefly, its mis­sion has en­com­passed the pas­sive gen­er­a­tion of en­ergy as well as its ex­plo­sive de­ploy­ment. The en­e­my? Where now is the en­e­my? His dis­tracted gaze moved over the stopped traffic and the un­fin­ished py­lons of a free­way over­pass sep­a­rat­ing on the one side a lighted plinth of signs , , , , , from its coun­ter­part on the other side pro­claim­ing , , , , , and past those to the redtiled roofs of Es­tancia Es­tates which re­called an era so by­gone it had never ex­ist­ed, a dream of Cal­i­for­nia be­gun when Cortez’s men landed on the which they mis­took for the set­ting of the ro­mance , whose au­thor averred that some­where here­abouts was an en­chanted isle of gold and pearls and griffins where Queen Cal­i­fi­a’s black ama­zons dwelled and wel­comed men once a year for pur­poses of pro­cre­ation, and Cortez’s men in their hope (two girls for every boy!) or dis­ap­point­ment, or irony, gave the penin­sula that em­pire’s name, whence the name trav­eled north to the Alta main­land and into a fur­ther dream [pg214] of gra­cious ca­balleros and señori­tas kept ever fresh to ame­lio­rate the zeal of the fri­ars and , who in their ex­i­gent grace con­verted nearly as many na­tives as they en­slaved, leav­ing the land va­cant for the newest dream of Gra­cious Liv­ing in The Val­ley Start­ing in the $150,000 The Vine­yard Start­ing in the $250,000 and The Glen Start­ing in the $350,000, where the only vis­i­ble gold and pearl were the head­lights and tail­lights of in­nu­mer­able cars crawl­ing past that green is­land of seren­ity dot­ted with the frames of new homes ris­ing in the sun’s last rays like a tide of wrack up the hill­sides. His eyes darted like an­i­mals in the cage of his anx­ious face, leapt from the dark­en­ing ground of na­ture to the lighted fig­ures of man’s im­prove­ments upon it and back as if some­where in this vast scrib­ble and sprawl were signs to un­lock the mean­ing of his slow un­steady pro­gress, but the sign be­fore him said EXIT NLY, and led only to more of the same.

As he en­tered the house he called out, –Lynn? com­ing into the kitchen and glanc­ing to the re­frig­er­a­tor where the cal­en­dar JANUARY was marked 6 PHILIP BACK and a red line crossed 24 through 31 LYNN IN GENEVA CTBT CONF and un­der 25 LAUNCH, and then to the sink, where apron strings were drawn tight across the trim back and flat shoul­der blades up to close­cropped black hair touched with rus­set. His shoes squeaked cross­ing the blue and white vinyl. She turned to him shak­ing wa­ter from her hands, smil­ing, wip­ing them on the apron. –Wel­come home.

–I’m glad to see you. God I’m tired. What a day.

–I knew you would­n’t call me back. So I just showed up.

–I did call, I called you at home and at work.

–But no mes­sage.

–I don’t like talk­ing to ma­chines.

–And you don’t want to be over­heard talk­ing to me.

–Oh, come on, I

–Ev­ery­one knows about us any­way.

–Do you think so?

–You don’t sound very happy about it. She put her wiry arms around his neck.

–I’m very hap­py. [pg215]

–Thank you, so am I.

–It’s not a prob­lem at work? No­body’s mad?

–No, they think I’m go­ing to con­vert you. And I will, too. Ex­cept Tony Luz is mad at me.

–He wants you for him­self.

–Too bad for him.

As he leaned in to kiss her a weight in him shifted but did­n’t set­tle. Her lips smiled un­der his.

–Now let me cook. Here. She handed him a glass of wine, golden and heavy.

–Thanks. What’s this about a law­suit? I hear you’re su­ing us?

She bent to the oven, its door protest­ing as it opened. –Who, me? You must mean that peacenik out­fit I work for.

–They’re the ones.

–It seems you’ve been care­less with your EISes.

–You don’t mean that over­sight in the build­ing plans, do you? We is­sued an er­ra­ta.

–Need to know? She looked up, black eyes glint­ing.

–Okay, sor­ry. I won’t ask. What are we hav­ing?

–Grilled , alla mi­lane­se, sal­ad. Into the oven she slid a bak­ing sheet bear­ing two mush­room caps big as ham­burg­ers.

–You spoil me.

–I do in­deed. Will you set the table?

On its sur­face was a vase of shed­ding striped petals into a bowl hold­ing two and two green ap­ples, and onto a strew of news­pa­per clip­pings, US Forms Ra­di­a­tion Task Force, In­ex­cus­able Ex­per­i­ments, 33 Hos­pi­tals Were In­volved In Cold War Ra­di­a­tion Ex­per­i­ments, Were Wide­spread, Pris­oner Ir­ra­di­a­tion Probed.

–What’s all this?

She turned to him, a shal­lot in one hand, a par­ing knife in the oth­er. –You haven’t seen?

–I’ve been busy.

–Philip, this is a huge sto­ry. Doc­tors in­jected can­cer pa­tients with plu­to­ni­um, they ir­ra­di­ated pris­on­ers’ tes­ti­cles, they fed preg­nant [pg216] women ra­dioac­tive iron, all with­out their knowl­edge or con­sent. It re­ally has the Auschwitz touch. And it’s not just them. It’s the , the

–Down what?

–The peo­ple who live down­wind from the test site. All through the fifties when the bombs were go­ing off, and they had no warn­ing, no pre­cau­tions, no com­pen­sa­tion, the can­cer rates are un­be­liev­able, if you could hear these peo­ple talk, Philip. It’s heart­break­ing. Can you hand me the salad bowl?

–Well, but, with test­ing stopped…

–That’s not the point. This is the de­part­men­t’s his­to­ry. You can’t bury his­to­ry.

–I thought you were prepar­ing for the treaty talks.

–I am. I’m fol­low­ing this be­cause Ja­nine, the re­porter, has worked with us. You could­n’t have a bet­ter ex­am­ple of why peo­ple don’t trust DOE. They stonewalled Ja­nine at every turn. Some of the doc­u­ments were al­most fifty years old and they still won’t come clean.

–The new sec­re­tary wants to change things.

–She did the stonewalling.

–But, she ex­tended the ban on test­ing, she’s de­clas­si­fy­ing, and she did ad­mit to these ex­per­i­ments, you saw her open­ness press conf

–She had no choice after the ar­ti­cles ap­peared. Any­way, she’s only ad­mit­ted to eigh­teen vic­tims, there are prob­a­bly thou­sands. Now they’ll form a task force and in a year or two they’ll still be ar­gu­ing over com­pen­sa­tion.

Out­side, be­yond the black glass of the kitchen win­dow, the yard went sud­denly bright in the wind bend­ing a tree trip­ping a mo­tion sen­sor. He looked out at the toss­ing of the hedge some ten feet away, a wild mo­tion con­strained, chaos on the edge of com­plex­i­ty, un­til the flood­light snapped off. Then he re­turned to the clip­pings, Aguas Se­cas Desert Wit­ness No More Bombs No More Tests.

–Did you go to this? Were you at the test site?

–Oh, that. No, I stayed home this year. You show up, you lis­ten to the usual hom­i­lies about peace, you get ar­rested and re­leased. You spend three days val­i­dat­ing each oth­ers’ right­eous­ness and at the end of it all noth­ing has changed. I al­ways come home tired and grouchy. [pg217] Any­way I had too much to do get­ting ready for the CTBT. Are you chang­ing the sub­ject?

–No, I just…

–Philip? Our agree­ment?

–You don’t need to know any­thing about it. Re­al­ly.

She scru­ti­nized him. –All right. I trust you. Sit. Eat. You look ex­haust­ed. Hold­ing a bak­ing sheet in an oven mitt she raised a mush­room on a spat­ula and placed it be­fore him.

–What a day. First the flight. Then a ter­ri­ble, long meet­ing. Then Réti came to see me.

–Réti?

–I’d been dread­ing it. He went on and on about this as­ter­oid de­fense stuff, still try­ing to keep Ra­di­ance alive through it. He won’t give it up.

–But surely after all the scan­dals…

–He thinks we’ve been ex­on­er­at­ed. He thinks it’s a great suc­cess that we spent the So­vi­ets into obliv­ion. Maybe he thinks we can out­spend the as­ter­oid belt too.

–He can’t keep that pro­gram alive, can he?

–I don’t know. Not as it was any­way.

–Y­ou’re un­der a lot of pres­sure.

–You won’t be­lieve what Highet did. Our new prin­ci­pal man­age­ment an­a­lyst is one of the guys who wrote the GAO re­port on Ra­di­ance.

–Are you re­ally telling me this?

–What do you mean? Of course. It’s so High­et, I thought you’d ap­pre­ci­ate it.

–So are you go­ing to fire this guy?

–Why? He’s been vet­ted, and any­way he may be able to tell me some­thing about High­et.

–Y­ou’ve re­ally got it in for High­et, don’t you?

–You don’t?

–Could we, I just want to not talk about it.

–I al­ways won­dered where you got that re­port on Su­per­bright. You had a copy even be­fore I turned it in.120

–Philip, you know I can’t tell you that. [pg218]

–Was it Bran? Bran Nolan?121

–Please, I can’t tell you. Have some sal­ad… Arugu­la, wa­ter­cress, sliced pears, hazel­nuts, wal­nut oil, rasp­berry vine­gar, rins­ing it with the last of the Chardon­nay, and then, –I have to look at some pa­pers, here let me… He rose to clear the ta­ble as, across the last of her wine, turn­ing the glass by the stem, she watched him cross to the sink with dishes and re­turn to the clip­pings bunched un­der the al­stroe­me­ria, paus­ing at Aguas Se­cas Desert Wit­ness fi­nally to say, –Is it nec­es­sary to call us s in your lit­er­a­ture?

–That’s not ours, Philip. That’s an­other group.

–Well…

–It is strange that I love you, don’t you think? In her eyes some­thing wor­ried, then fled. She stood up and pressed her mouth to his. Her breath to his. After a mo­ment she broke it off. –But I do love you, Philip.

–Yes, I… I know. But…

–Do you re­mem­ber the first time we made love? I came over and told you to take my clothes off.

–I re­mem­ber.

–I did­n’t want to be car­ried away by the mo­ment, I wanted to de­cide it. For so long I thought that get­ting in­volved with you was a ter­ri­ble idea.

–But you kept call­ing. I won­dered if you wanted to use me.

–There was a lit­tle of that. But you, you wanted to be used.

–Yes, I did. By you.

–You look, some­times, you look so frus­trated and dis­ap­point­ed, but un­der it there’s some­thing else. Like you’re still look­ing for some­thing. You haven’t given up. You did­n’t just walk away from it all.

–Are you sorry now that you have me?

She looked al­most smil­ing up at him. –No.

They passed through the liv­ing room where the dead eye of tele­vi­sion re­flected the en­trance to a side room. –I don’t want to keep you from work­ing, she said, a hand poised at her blouse, soon held in his, mov­ing to ca­ress and hold, as breaths quick­ened, hands moved and plucked more ur­gently where limbs stirred and came down in dark­ness on the bed as her heat en­closed him hun­gri­ly, her legs drawn back [pg219] for the swell of his en­trance, her arms raised in a kind of sup­pli­ca­tion, the pale light from the street sketch­ing her smooth­ness and firm­ness no longer an in­sti­ga­tion but a re­proach to his hag­gard flesh as he rolled onto his side and she came nestling after to em­brace him and press the fronts of her warm thighs against the backs of his.

–You poor. You’re so tired. Just sleep.

–I’m sor­ry. I…

–It does­n’t mat­ter. Just sleep.

As his eyes closed his face slack­ened to a re­pose al­most like its child­hood, some mock­ing sem­blance of an in­no­cence he’d in­ad­ver­tently held through the pass­ing of time and buffet­ing of ex­pe­ri­ence that had turned it into this lined and sunken par­o­dy.

Some­where within this stricken coun­te­nance he wan­dered in hall­ways that turned one into an­oth­er, past WET PAINT and cu­ri­ous fig­ures turn­ing to watch, the cor­ri­dor nar­row­ing to a closed door where the knob turned and turned un­avail­ing and a waspish voice said, –a ter­ri­ble ad­min­is­tra­tor, lost con­trol of the meet­ing, thinks you can bury the past, and –Philip!

–Huh, what!

–You were hav­ing a bad dream. It’s all right.

He shiv­ered as she held him. In the street­light the line of her lip was ar­chaic, with­out sym­pa­thy or flaw, more un­for­giv­ing than her youth. He thought of Nan and his heart quailed.

Two

[pg220] Rain­less Jan­u­ary gave way to win­ter storms that blew in one after an­other with no break, stacked like over the Paci­fic, dri­ven to land­fall by a jet­stream which, satel­lite pho­tos showed, thrashed like an un­man­aged fire­hose yet some­how kept its busi­ness end trained on the Bay Area, so that as the new year wore on what had been the direst win­ter on record threat­ened to be­come the wettest, said the news­pa­per Quine shook free of its yel­low sheath, wa­ter falling on the seat be­side him, and turned brak­ing for or­ange cones around a truck EBMUD at a bro­ken hy­drant lav­ing the flooded street as booted work­men in or­ange slick­ers waved him to DETOUR the wrong way down Codor­nices, onto a curv­ing road at the edge of town head­ing into a rain that ob­scured any land­marks. He fid­geted the ra­dio on to –widely ex­panded al­co­hol and drug testi, still­ing it for the slap of wipers barely clear­ing the sheets of wa­ter that rip­pled over vague­ness un­til the Lab gates loomed and he parked un­der RESERVED DIRECTOR. He dashed through the outer door and in the hall­way still rush­ing over­took two men who did­n’t glance up from, –Thou shalt not piss on a col­league’s fund­ing… as he turned a cor­ner into –Bran!

–Morn­ing Philip. Slow down you’ll live longer.

–Lis­ten I need to talk to y

–I’m on my way to a di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion sem­i­nar, can it wait?

–Well sure but

–Too bad, I’d like to miss this thing. [pg221]

–Well come by my office lat­er, will you…? as he jabbed an un­yield­ing 5 for the blessed but tem­po­rary soli­tude of brushed stain­less steel, pulling Ohlone Val from its plas­tic sheath and un­fold­ing it to Lab Hir­ing Crit­i­cized By An­ti­nuke Group, for a stunned mo­ment –Damn her! and a trail of wa­ter track­ing him to his office where the ra­dio was –wor­ried he was do­ing to do dan­ger to him­self, un­til he closed the in­ner door and stopped short of his desk where –Conor? sat.

–Think I found your prob­lem. Disk is all messed up, you should have a lot more free space than it says here. Looks like a was re­moved but not erased, I’m try­ing to re­cover it… come on now, give me a break here, as Quine came around to peer at the screen.

–What’s this, thirty eight di­rec­to­ries thir­teen thou­sand files three point one gi­gab

–Looks like he never threw any­thing away.

–High­et?

–I’d’ve thought he’d en­crypt every­thing, look at these di­rec­to­ries, docs, con­tacts, 4th­gen, xxx, what’s xxx? Thou­sands of files here, as the screen filled with a face framed in car­rot red hair and lips pouted to kiss, –What, Conor, what is this?

–Well it’s not a Pol­ish sausage is it. Looks like one of those GIF files they found on the sparta node back when. Want me to delete them?

–Thought we did that, yes Do­lores what…? turn­ing to fol­low her stare back to the screen be­yond them. –Some old files of High­et’s, we were just

–Y­ou’re due in the con­fer­ence room at ten.

–Right, just one, as the door swung shut. –Why that woman does­n’t knock… Conor, can we get back to this lat­er?

–Yeah sure, just let me, uh huh, here we go, I thought so, as down the screen spilled122

Type Bits/KeyID   Date     User ID
pub 2048/0276B74D 1993/05/10 Leo Highet <highet@styx.banl.gov>
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[pg222]

–That’s High­et’s pub­lic key. You know, , en­cryp­tion soft­ware? The feds call strong en­cryp­tion a mu­ni­tion, they’re pros­e­cut­ing Zim­mer­man for ex­port­ing mu­ni­tions.

–I thought, I mean, is­n’t the fed­eral en­cryp­tion stan­dard?123

–Guess he did­n’t trust it enough to use on his per­sonal files.

–Can this PGP be cracked?

–In the­o­ry, any­thing can be cracked. In re­al­i­ty, this is a two thou­sand forty-eight bit key. DES, that’s only fifty-six bits. Give me a week on our fastest com­puter and maybe I could crack DES for you, but this, for­get about it. Un­less you can guess his pass­word.

–Did you ever see him use it?

PGP? Nope. But his mail pass­word had six char­ac­ters, all low­er-case let­ters.124

–How do you know that?

–Watched him log in often enough.

The door opened again for –Do­lores, would you very much mind knock­ing, my open door pol­icy does­n’t mean I want peo­ple just walk­ing in every, yes I know I’m late, Conor could you

–Oh lis­ten, the P Sec­tion codes prob­lem. Ap­par­ently it’s a hard­ware er­ror.

In the new aX­ons? [pg223]

–Some­thing’s wrong with the math chip. Every one of them gives the ex­act same er­ror, for just one pair of operands. Weird huh?

–Well tell them we want a fix.

–They won’t talk to me, they want you. We put out an ad­vi­sory on the In­ter­net. About a mil­lion users want that fix now.

–I don’t have time to han­dle every lit­tle thing like this, this should be a, a war­ranty re­pair.

–Be­lieve me, I tried.

–All right, I’ll call. Now I re­ally have to… but as soon as Conor was out the door he paused at Lab Hir­ing Crit­i­cized, frown­ing as if it were some ver­min that unchecked would spread.

–J Frank Greer, please. Philip Quine, tell him it’s ur­gent… Wait­ing with the phone to his ear he tapped a com­puter key.

From: lham­lin@igc.­capc.org
To: quine@lu­cin­da.lab.­gov
Subject: CTBT
Date: 4 Feb 1994, 10:30 (-0000)

I love you, I miss you. Geneva is in­cred­i­ble. I think this treaty has a real chance. Won­der­ful news in the pa­per that the US test­ing mora­to­rium is con­tin­ue. You did­n’t tell me! You’re so bad. See you soon.

xoxo
Lynn

For a mo­ment a smile flick­ered there un­der the set brow and his hand on the mouse fid­geted up a win­dow Re­ply only to Can­cel a mo­ment later at a voice in his ear, drop­ping his eyes to Lab Hir­ing Crit­i­cized.

–Frank, it’s Philip Quine. I just saw your page one ar­ti­cle about our au­di­tor I mean an­a­lyst. Would you mind, in the fu­ture, would you min very much run­ning this kind of thing by me or my press offi­cer? What? Yes of course he spoke to me. No. No I don’t have a prob­lem with the. My point is I did­n’t think it would run. Off the rec, no I did­n’t say that be­cause. Be­cause it. Yes all right but. No I’m not say­ing that. I think we need to stay on good terms. But some­times there’s no good rea­son to, to stir up shit, you know? No I’m not ask­ing for, just a friendly call, okay? Just so I know when an ar­ti­cle’s go­ing to. Yes. Yes I will.

He dropped the hand­set and strode through Do­lores’s office, Val­ley Her­ald folded un­der his arm, ha­rassed by an oro­tund voice, –both of them [pg224] run­ning on the man­tle of re­form, into the cor­ri­dor where he turned left full tilt past E-530 → to bust into E-533, –Sorry I’m la… va­cant but for the long table. –Oh for… and back around three bends to E-501 and the smell of fresh paint.

–Christ…! he ex­horted the empty ta­ble and chairs. He headed back to his office, way­laid by a plac­ard Di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion and Strate­gic Man­age­ment of Lab­o­ra­tory R&D Port­fo­lio, step­ping un­cer­tainly into a dim con­fer­ence room where a small group sat fac­ing a view­graph har­ried by the red dot of a laser point­er.

–’ve got your stars, your cows, your dogs, your ques­tion marks, you want to op­ti­mize the cy­cle so that your ques­tion marks be­come your stars and your stars be­come your cash cows that can be milked to nur­ture new ques­tion marks be­fore they be­come use­less dogs that have to be put to slee

–Ex­cuse me. Is Bran Nolan here? Bran, can I see you?

Nolan came to the door as the con­sul­tant re­sumed, –Now we turn our at­ten­tion to op­ti­miz­ing our di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion. The model that we use con­sists of two func­tions. The first is the to­tal re­turn, and Quine had a glimpse of

be­fore Bran guided him into the hall and the door swung to be­hind them.

–Thanks for the res­cue, thought I was get­ting the fifty- course.

–Bran is this the, the what?

, a , sells his skills with lan­guage125. I thought this ace was go­ing to start us­ing to fig­ure mar­ket share. Our share of the nu­clear weapons mar­ket is pretty nearly a hun­dred per­cent is­n’t it?

–Bran, should I be in there?

–I don’t think any­one should be in there.

–No I mean, I’m sup­posed to be in some meet­ing some­where, but the two main con­fer­ence rooms are emp­ty.

–I would­n’t worry about it.

–I’m go­ing back to ask Do­lores. Did you see this? Quine un­folded [pg225] Lab Hir­ing Crit­i­cized for Nolan’s out­stretched hand. He read it im­pas­sive­ly.

–In fu­ture why don’t you re­fer calls like that to me? Any­time you say some­thing to a re­porter you can ex­pect to see an un­rea­son­able fac­sim­ile in print next day.

–But I thought, you know, a few months ago they did that flat­ter­ing pro­file of the new di­rec­tor, I thought we had a rap­port…

–Greer’s run that pa­per since we were the biggest em­ployer in the area. Every so often he just has to kick the com­pany store. It’ll blow over.

–Well, I’ve spo­ken to him, I made it clear that we want to be no­ti­fied of some­thing like this.

–Why don’t you leave him to me? Highet tried to mi­cro­man­age press re­la­tions. Did more harm tha

–Doc­tor Quine!

–Den­nis, are you still, I mean, how can we miss you if you won’t go away?

–Hi Bran, I’m glad I ran into you both, have you got a min­ute?

–Not re­al­ly.

–Den­nis, I’m late, can we

–No you’re not, we’re just start­ing.

–What, is this the…?

–Yes, come on in… to where a half dozen men, two or three of them man­agers whose names es­caped him, sat at a ta­ble fac­ing a pale lined pro­jec­tion of a com­puter screen lit­tered with icons.

–This is Jerry Seller CFO, Jerry this is Philip Quine di­rec­tor…

–Please sir. So how you know Den­nis?

–Den­nis was ah our me­dia guru here. He’s on leave but we still seem to see a lot of him.

–Yes I’m moon­light­ing I guess you could say. Now be­fore we get started I hope you don’t mind I need you all to sign this, purely a for­mal­i­ty, this form just a stan­dard

–nondis­clo­sure agree­ment, whereas 3Vid pos­sesses cer­tain busi­ness, pro­duct, tech­ni­cal, mar­ket­ing and strate­gic in­for

–so if you could, yes there, and on the next page, and the rid­er, and ini­tial here… [pg226]

–What’s so hush-hush Den­nis, a per­sonal mis­sile de­fense?

–Sorry I just, my clients need to pro­tect their in­tel­lec­tual prop­er­ty, yes thank you, ah, and, is this every­one? Every­one has signed? as he turned to the lap­top and the ar­row cur­sor danced ner­vously across the pro­jec­tion. –Now if you’d all just put on the­se… as he handed around card­board eye­glasses with red and green cel­lo­phane lens­es. –Even­tu­ally we’ll mar­ket this as a stand­alone flat panel dis­play you can hang on any wall, but we coded it as a as a sort of proof of con­cept…

–We go­ing to watch , Den­nis?

–No let me just, I have to switch modes here, as the screen dis­play frac­tured into a tan­gle of green and red im­ages.

–Okay now every­one if you’ll put these on… un­til they re­sem­bled a crew of dis­solute arc­tic ex­plor­ers, –s­tand about here, ah, you may have to squint a lit­tle…

–What’s that, ?

–Um, here, if you op­tion-click on the up­per left, oops, I mean the up­per right you get

–A copy­right no­tice? You copy­righted Bosch?

–We li­censed the en­tire , they own the in­di­vid­ual copy­rights, but our col­lec­tion of them is um pro­pri­etary126, yes and here, the up­per left, you get the ti­tle, um,

–It changed.

–Right, see that’s the whole thing, it keeps chang­ing so you don’t get bored, and you can set the cy­cle time or ran­dom­ize…

–Sure, don’t want to be stuck look­ing at the same paint­ing for more than a min­ute, what’s this?

–lit­tle glitch there, some­times the screen does­n’t clear com­plete­ly, ah, we seem to have part of mixed with, ah

? I like .

–press con­trol F1 for a re­fresh, oops, oh see, this is an­other fea­ture, pass­word pro­tec­tion, just let me ah

–That an ?

–but what’s that in her um [pg227]

–An­other of those GIF files, not ex­actly an im­mac­u­late con­cep­tion is it

–Seems to come right out of the screen at you.

–don’t know how this got into our data­base, some kind of mis­take, as he jabbed des­per­ately at con­trol F1.

–What’s that an­noy­ing mu­sic?

–Oh, that’s Mozart.

–Mozart? Sounds like on the , that re­lent­less dee­dle deedle…

–Um well here, you can al­t-shift-click on this uh squig­gle, this lit­tle icon here…?

–That’s a .

–and see, here’s the help file, Mi­cro­Muse ver­sion 1.4, trade­mark, Smart Au­tonomous Re­com­bi­nant Melody gen­er­a­tor, patents pend

–What’s the mat­ter, could­n’t li­cense the real thing from the ?

–The, the who…?

–N­ever mind.

–See, here in this popup here you can pick any style or com­poser, Franz Lisp127, 128,

–Think you’re in­fring­ing there on a Lin­coln Cen­ter trade­mark there.

–Oh re­al­ly? Ki­hara made a note on his tablet. –And here, in­stru­ment se­lec­tion, choose your or­ches­tra, some of the Gen­eral MIDI in­stru­ments are a lit­tle rough but when we get bet­ter sam­ples, as the dee­dle dee­dle changed to the tune­less clan­gor of – that’s not right, let me just, even­tu­ally we’ll have world class sam­ples, we’re try­ing to li­cense vi­o­lin…

–He’s a cel­list. But maybe he moon­lights.

–Den­nis, I’m, why are you show­ing us this?

–I thought we might want to get in­volved at some lev

–Den­nis, I’ve got to, walk with me will you… as he guided the ea­ger young man down the hall­way for –This is a gov­ern­ment lab­o­ra­to­ry, not a mul­ti­me­dia start­up.

–Well yes, Mis­ter Seller is the startup but I just thought be­cause [pg228] flat panel dis­plays are in our port­fo­lio we could

–Denn

–get in­volved at some level in a part­ner­shi

–Den­nis!

–…what?

–Look, I ap­pre­ci­ate your ah en­thu­si­asm, but we’re not, I mean, could you con­cen­trate on, on some­thing a lit­tle more rel­e­vant to our mis­sion here?

–Well but see I thought this could be pack­aged as a se­cu­rity en­hance­ment, you know how X Sec­tion leaves their com­put­ers on all the time, even when they’re away from their desks and this could be a se­cure screen­saver also a kind of bat­tle­space dis­play for the strate­gic mod­el­ing that X Sec

–Look Den­nis, why don’t you get back to your de­mo, we’ll talk about this lat­er.

–But Doc­tor Quine… flinch­ing from a raised hand that came away hold­ing green and red lenses no longer con­found­ing the eye but up­set­ting afresh the mind that had adapted to them, un­til it came through a fa­mil­iar door­way to –Do­lores, get ah, what’s his name, of aXon Com­put­ing for me. I’m re­turn­ing his ah, what is it Conor?

–Here’s that .

–Okay, thanks, and close the door would you. He sat down as the phone blurt­ed. –Hel­lo. No Do­lores I won’t hold, get him on the line then call me back, his eyes go­ing blank for a mo­ment in which it seemed he might al­most re­lax be­fore they tensed again to fall on the sheet Conor had left as the phone chirped.

–Yes this is Philip Quine. Yes I know about the prob­lem, I don’t know why you want to talk to me, this should be a sim­pl, what? Stan who? Flack? Law­suit? Patent pend­ing on mul­ti­plic, wait, what are you talk­ing about? What do you mean he got us on board? CRADA? With who? Sys­tems Con­cepts And Meth­ods? No, look, this is the first I’ve heard of. Any­way what does this have to do with the er­rors, I called be­cause our physics group is get­ting mul­ti­plic, okay now wait will you. Will you please just. What do you mean not an er­ror. There’s one pair of operands that re­turns the same er­ror every time you mul­ti­ply [pg229] them, the same er­ror every time, so, so… what? On pur­pose? You built a math er­ror into the chip on pur­pose? But what do you mean a differ­ent al­go­rithm, a mis­take’s a mis­take. In­fringe on what. Look this is, I re­ally don’t know how this whole mess I don’t even know this Stan Flack, but we’re com­mit­ted here to build­ing a mas­sively par­al­lel su­per­com­puter with these chips and this is just un­ac­cep. In­ter­net? Users scream­ing for a fix, well of course they are, what did you ex­pe, what do you mean they’d never have no­ticed if we had­n’t, we, we put the word out? How? Well sure, some­one here might have posted to a news­group it’s still your mis­take! Soft­ware fix, yes, we’d like that as soon as poss, I, I re­ally don’t care how much it’s go­ing to cost you, no I don’t care about your first quar­ter earn­ings we have our, our own prob. We are not to blame for the whole thing! All right. All right then fine. Fine then. See you in court, tap­ping the cra­dle for a dial tone but get­ting in­stead a waspish voice, –Who, Mis­ter Dial Tone up there? Just won­der how long he’s go­ing to last.

He dropped the phone and touched a vein be­gin­ning to throb in his tem­ple, Quine brought fore­most a win­dow he’d opened that morn­ing:

/highet/contacts

-Fi 'null' address_book
>Nullpoint Systems, PO Box 314, Tracy, CA, 95378129

as the phone rang again and –Send him in, and through the door came Je­remy Rec­tor, smoothly swing­ing a calf­skin case.

–Good after­noon Doc­tor Quine. We missed you at the meet­ing this morn­ing.

–Yes, there was some, some con­fu­sion…

Rec­tor sat and his case came open with a snap. –Y­ou’ve seen this? pass­ing him a re­port in blue cov­ers, Adopt­ing New Mis­sions And Man­ag­ing Effec­tively Pose Sig­nifi­cant Chal­lenges GAO/T-RCED-94-113. Quine opened to the ex­ec­u­tive sum­mary where Ex­perts and agency offi­cials agree that the lab­o­ra­to­ry’s new mis­sions need to be clar­i­fied if their re­sources are to be used most effec­tively be­fore he closed it.

–Yes I, I tes­ti­fied that, that the lab’s new mis­sions have to be clar­ifi

–That’s one down. Now about this miss­ing prop­er­ty…

–Je­re­my, you’ve seen this? push­ing Ohlone Val­ley Her­ald into [pg230] Rec­tor’s gaze. –When we talked about your hir­ing you did­n’t tell me you’d worked on the GAO Su­per­bright re­port.

–I as­sumed you knew. My name’s on it.

–Of course I read it, but that was be­fore I knew your name. Is there some rea­son your re­port failed to men­tion my re­port…? Quine opened a drawer and drew out An Analy­sis of False Bright­ness in the “Tal­iesin” Test of Ra­di­ance “Su­per­bright” X-Ray Laser Com­po­nent. Rec­tor ex­am­ined it.

–I never saw this.

–Highet did­n’t give you a copy?

–No. There were var­i­ous clas­si­fied ma­te­ri­als which were sum­ma­rized for me, but I did­n’t have ac­cess to them.

–Be­cause I have to agree with the Her­ald here, given my own in­volve­ment, that GAO re­port on Su­per­bright read to me like a white­wash.

–As I knew the facts it was an ac­cu­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tion of what was pro­vid­ed.

–It came out shortly after you hired on here, did­n’t it?

–Let me think. Oc­to­ber? After Doc­tor Highet had left at any rate.

–It ex­on­er­ated High­et.

–Too late to save his job.

–W­eren’t there some other mat­ters un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion? Some­thing about a shell com­pa­ny.

–As I re­call there was­n’t enough to in­ves­ti­gate.

—Was the com­pany called Null­point?

–I don’t re­call. Look, Doc­tor Quine, if you have some prob­lem with my work…

–No no, I just, you know, we’ll just hope this… blows over. Now where are we with this miss­ing prop­er­ty?

Where they were, after an hour, was in a quag­mire of miss­ing pa­pers, un­filed req­ui­si­tions, and slipped cogs of bu­reau­cracy bur­dened with ir­rel­e­vances to the point of, if not break­down, at least a deficit of some forty mil­lion dol­lars.

–What does this mean, sen­si­tive prop­erty? Clas­si­fied?

–No no, in this con­text sen­si­tive means items sus­cep­ti­ble to be­ing ap­pro­pri­ated for per­sonal use or read­ily con­vert­ible to cash. Cam­eras, [pg231] tape recorders, tools, that kind of thing.

–I checked out some clas­si­fied pa­pers this week­end, if the sig­nout sheets for prop­erty are as badly man­aged it’s no won­der, I had to go look­ing for the guy on du­ty. Why can’t peo­ple just, just do what they’re sup­posed to do?

–It’s not as bad as it looks.

–What do you mean, we don’t have a clue where any of this stuff went, or how it dis­ap­peared.

–The way I’d deal with this is to say that you’re fol­low­ing DOE pro­ce­dure

–But we’re clearly not.

–as well as you un­der­stand it, and point out that other DOE labs have sim­i­lar prob­lems, or worse. When they broaden the in­quiry the pres­sure will come off you. Now the next thing are these unas­signed over­head costs… as a folder over an inch thick came to the top of the pile.

–Yes but

–Y­ou’ve looked this over, right? Out of an op­er­at­ing bud­get of one bil­lion dol­lars, four hun­dred mil­lion are in unas­signed costs

–Four hun, forty per­cent?

–Yes, and some in­ter­est­ing lib­er­ties were taken with what is ac­counted for, let’s see, ten mil­lion in de­fense pro­grams charged to over­head as, ah, Emer­gency Meal Chits…

–But this is, what year was that?

nine­ty-one.

–But that’s, I was­n’t even, I don’t see how

–Well we still have to ad­dress it.

–Yes okay Je­remy but I’m out of time now, I have to… though what­ever ne­ces­sity was press­ing him van­ished with the clos­ing of the door onto a mo­ment of still­ness that brought not peace but a void, as if some paral­y­sis of the spirit com­manded in its train a paral­y­sis of the mind. When his at­ten­tion re­turned, it was to the items on his desk. I love you, I miss you. Lab Hir­ing Crit­i­cized. How could she? In his mind’s eye the line of her mouth, the flare of her lips were set against him, and then they gave way sud­denly to an­oth­er’s, Nan’s lips, soft and open­ing to speak, so present that his breath came short, a taste [pg232] al­most was in his mouth, of san­dal­wood, bit­ter­sweet as a pang of long­ing, or of con­science, her ab­sence from his life now as per­ma­nent and ir­rev­o­ca­ble as the clos­ing of those lips. The er­rancy of his heart stunned him, and he sat in the after­shock of its protest, not un­der­stand­ing, un­able to re­treat from its need to pay in full some debt he’d for­got­ten.

He held his breath through the ring for her voice, its fa­mil­iar qua­ver, –Nan Adams, and through an­other tract of si­lence al­most to hang up on the new voice, flat and bored, –is not avail­able. Please leave a mes­sage at the tone. Or en­ter an­other ex­ten­sion num­ber.

–Nan… this is, this is Philip. I, ah, well, would you… look some­thing up for me? Em­ployee records for a De­von Null. He was in J Sec­tion a few years ago. Thanks. I’ll… ah, I’ll talk to you lat­er, re­turn­ing the hand­set to its base then stand­ing in ag­i­ta­tion to pace the room. He raised the blinds to stare down on the flooded con­struc­tion pit un­til in the outer office a voice rose, –Hell, Do­lores, you know me, mo­ments be­fore the in­ter­com buzzed.

–Who? No Do­lores I can’t spare a minute not even half a, but al­ready a man filled the door­way, black shirt em­broi­dered red and white in West­ern fash­ion held closed by mother of pearl snaps and a string tie in a tooled ivory clasp, over which loomed a ruddy face framed by lank gray­ing hair and a smile that held some­where in its depths the glint of gold. In one fat hand was a Stet­son hat, and the other he held forth like a ham.

–Dan Root. Plea­sure to meet you.

–Y­ou’ll have to make an ap­point­ment.

–I just this minute did.

–I’m sorry but

–Not as sorry as you might be. Root dropped his han and took a step for­ward, still smil­ing. –Set­tle down, you’ll make me think you’re not sure of your­self. Got an ash­tray?

Quine’s hand checked it­self on its way to the phone as Root took from his shirt pocket a cigar and a clip­per. –I’d pre­fer you did­n’t smoke, said Quine.

–And I’d pre­fer the pres­i­dent [Clin­ton] go back to Arkansas. Root smiled and sat, lean­ing to drag over a trash can by its rim as he placed the [pg233] Stet­son the desk. He trimmed the cigar and dropped the tip in the trash can.

–You kept High­et’s peo­ple on. Do­lores and Conor.

–They’re good at their jobs.

–Quite a blood­bath I heard. Was it three as­so­ciate di­rec­tors went down with High­et?

–I had noth­ing to do with that. They weren’t fired, just re­as­signed.

–Si­beria. I know. Root struck a match and held it in the air be­tween them. He raised the cigar to its flame and rolled it there un­til the tip glowed, then leaned back and looked around the room. –You want to get some pho­tos up on the wall. Your­self with the Vice Pres­i­dent. That sort of thing. Make the place yours. Or don’t you care about things like that, as his eyes ceased their prowl around the room and came to rest on Quine. –No, I guess you don’t.

–Please put that out.

–This? Smoke rose in gauzy ropes from the coal of the cigar held at ar­m’s length un­til Root re­turned it to his mouth and the smoke flurred in a com­plex­ity al­most chaos130. –Hear you gave Réti what for. Want my ad­vice, course you don’t, but here it is. He may be push­ing ninety but he’s not weak. Give him that as­ter­oid crap. Keep him in the loop on that moon shot. That way you pro­tect your­self, and any­way it’s the right thing to do. He did real ser­vice for this place.

–Don’t you think I know that, he’s prac­ti­cally wor­shiped here.

–So should he be, he’s the cre­ator. What you callin that moon shoot?

.

Root shook his head in silent laugh­ter.

–I did­n’t name it. Some­thing about go­ing into the dark­ness for­ev­er.

–E­d­u­ca­tion is a damned ex­pen­sive way to hide from your­self, if you ask me.

–This ad­vice. Why do you care?

–About you? I don’t. But I got some projects on and I’d rather have you in that chair than Sz­abo.

–And you think my po­si­tion’s that weak.

–I surely hope not.

–It’s an in­terim ap­point­ment. I’m un­der no il­lu­sions. [pg234]

–Are you not. Root re­garded him for a long mo­ment, then mashed the cigar end against the in­side of the trash can. –I apol­o­gize for the smoke. Filthy habit. See, here’s the thing. Mis­ter Or­rin Gate is a bud of mine, I in­tro­duced him to Leo. Fig­ured to set them both up with a good thing.

–Set them both up?

–D­ual use, give Leo’s Sling­shot some civvy cred, get Orr some tech he could use.

–Y­ou’re a friend of High­et’s?

–A col­league. A spon­sor. One of his an­gels. Root drew out a card and leaned to push it across the desk, DANIEL J ROOT Aero­space Con­sul­tant dj­root@xfin.­com. –Leo got some crazy no­tion about Gate work­ing with North Ko­re­ans. So he kind of held things up on the CRADA and now it’s in your hands, is that right?

–I need to have some as­pects of it clar­i­fied be­fore I can move for­ward.

Root spread his hands in the air. –I am here to clar­i­fy.

–Are you one of Gate’s part­ners? This, this xfin, is that your com­pa­ny?

–Doc­tor Quine, Den­nis Ki­hara wants to see you.

–Do­lores, just, don’t in­ter­rupt me here, tell him to see Bran Nolan.

–Good for you, you’re del­e­gatin. Highet del­e­gated a hell of a lot to you.

–What’s that to you?

–I like to see the cat­tle bite back.

–Okay now look, Gate’s al­ready been in to see me, we’ve gone over this, and I don’t care if his part­ner’s from North Ko­rea or South Ko­rea or, or Canada, he’s not get­ting data from that shot.

–A word from you to DOE would ease our way. But we can go with­out you.

–How would you do that?

–The head of a NASA lab can ap­prove a CRADA.

NASA does­n’t own this tech­nol­o­gy.

–Right now we just want the data, son. What can I clar­ify for you?

–You could tell me what Gate wants with those or­biters.

–See, I don’t think he knows him­self. A wire­less satel­lite net looks [pg235] good to share­hold­ers. But rea­sons are a dime a dozen, and every­body fools them­self. Now Gate, he’s a . A Lat­ter Day Saint. Who be­lieves that was once a man liv­ing on an­other plan­et. And that men will be­come gods pop­u­lat­ing other worlds.

–What does that have to do wi

–See, that’s the heart of it. The un­rea­son be­hind his rea­sons. You want to know why a man does what he does, look to his un­rea­son, to what­ever he fol­lows de­spite all ev­i­dence and dis­cour­age­ment. Gate be­lieves in ex­ter­nal pro­gres­sion. He wants to go into space be­cause he as­pires to the high­est places. Look at High­et, you would­n’t take him for a be­liev­er, but for all his worldly cyn­i­cism, he has no use for the mam­mon of un­right­eous­ness. He’s a child of light. It vexes him that Réti, a Hun­gar­ian Jew and a man of sci­ence, sups with fun­da­men­tal­ists. His faith in rea­son is his un­rea­son. Leo thinks re­li­gion is ig­no­rance, the en­emy of sci­ence. But he’s wrong. Sir Isaac New­ton, Fran­cis Ba­con, , Priest­ley, Boyle, Fara­day, James Clerk Maxwell, these were de­vout and prayer­ful men who looked for the apoc­a­lyp­tic com­ing of Christ. There’s no con­tra­dic­tion. They all wanted to bend cre­ation to man’s will. To find if the fury in their hearts was God’s or some oth­er’s. Why, you have quite a few of the saved right here within your walls131. And what bet­ter place for them? Are they not stew­ards?

–Y­ou’re a re­li­gious man?

–I am not. That clap­trap makes me puke. And you?

–I don’t have an opin­ion.

–Ag­nos­tic? Look­ing for proof? Do you think what Ba­con thought, that God left his fin­ger­prints on the cre­ation? Then hid them from us like some ? Like Leonar­do’s mir­ror writ­ing?

–No opin­ion.

–I’m not say­ing He did­n’t. But if He did hide the sign of His be­ing, would it not be in the atom? The nu­clear re­ac­tion is the source of light, of en­er­gy, of the uni­verse it­self. Is­n’t that why we study it? But Leo never un­der­stood that light can’t con­quer dark­ness. It only pushes it back for a time. Who wants to live in that light? That’s why we build hous­es. That’s why we build church­es. That’s why we build labs.

–Okay look, I’m

–But what do you be­lieve? What’s your pur­pose here? [pg236]

–Here? I’m here to serve the na­tional in­ter­est.

–The na­tional in­ter­est! Why, that’s unas­sail­able. Can you tell me what it is?

–Ac­cord­ing to DOE it’s stock­pile stew­ard­ship and non­pro­lif­er­a­tion.

–That’s quite a job of work. You got the for­mer So­viet re­publics bein loot­ed, you got Kazakh nu­clear sci­en­tists gone un­paid for two years, you got four hun­dred re­ac­tors in the world that by the time they shut down they’ll have pro­duced a mil­lion ki­los of plu­to­ni­um. Some­body kicked over the anthill and you’re gonna keep track of every last ant? You can mess with your sen­sors and analy­sis tech­niques and in­ven­to­ries, but that’s just playin keep away. Few more years we’ll all be nos­tal­gic for two player mu­tual as­sured de­struc­tion, know what I mean? So there’s all the more need now for mis­sile de­fense, it’s a peren­ni­al, you’d do well to re­mem­ber that. Ever since the hit Lon­don. Time after time the mil­i­tary stud­ies it and gives it up. But you can hit a bul­let with a bul­let. To hit a hun­dred bul­lets, among a thou­sand de­coys, not to miss a one, that’s diffi­cult and ex­pen­sive. But it is pos­si­ble. The man in the street don’t care what it costs, he just wants to feel safe. There’s na­tional in­ter­est for you. Any­way we have as­sets in space. Put as­sets in space you have to pro­tect them now don’t you.

–I don’t think any­one’s re­ally asked the man in the street what he wants.

–You truly want democ­racy on a thing like this? When every­body’s so ha­rassed by daily life they can’t think straight even if they’d ever learned how? Mom and dad both work­ing fifty hour weeks to pay down the credit cards while the kids play it’s no won­der you got all those sub­ur­ban mus­cle trucks on the road, cor­ner a wounded an­i­mal he’ll make a face looks just like that. Democ­ra­cy? It’s a mir­a­cle they don’t kill each oth­er. Mean­time they just want to feel safe, what­ever it costs in the long run, fuck the long run, they’re liv­ing on usury so why not make them feel safe and help your­self to the float? The beauty part is, you don’t have to de­liver the safe­ty, so long as they have some­one to blame but them­selves.

–So mon­ey, that’s your rea­son? [pg237]

–Money in­ter­ests me as a force. You know, this fel­low with his talk about 132, the tri­umph of , I got news for him, he ain’t even seen cap­i­tal­ism yet. Till now we’ve had the playschool ver­sion. Real cap­i­tal­ism is just warmin up. Just you wait. Mon­ey? Tril­lions gone be flyin in the air up for grabs. But I’m only in­ter­ested as a stu­dent of the world. If money was my thing I’d buy real es­tate. Course I want a de­cent re­turn on my in­vest­ment, like every­body else.

–I have to get on with my day.

–Course you do. You’re a busy man. Root gri­maced as he pushed his bulk up from the chair. –One more thing. De­von Null left some pa­pers here.

–What do you know about Null?

–You shared office space he told me. Though you might know what be­come of them pa­pers.

–Do you know, I never once saw De­von Null.

–Did you not?

–Not in all the time we were sup­posed to share an office.

–See, De­v’s a friend. He asked could I get those pa­pers back.

–They’re Lab prop­er­ty.

–No they’re not. Dev had an arrange­ment. You can look it up.

–Why does­n’t he come him­self?

–He’s not lo­cal.

–I thought he owned a busi­ness in Tra­cy.

Root’s eyes glit­tered. –Did Highet tell you that? He knew Null pretty well. Maybe you should ask him.

–Where’s Null now?

–He’s a man al­ways had good ideas. Hear you’ve had a few your­self. Ever want to take them out­side the en­velope? You know, com­mer­cial spin­offs. Lot of good ideas here get put on the shelf. De­fense con­trac­tors im­plodin right and left, it might be a good plan to look for the next thing, hedge a lit­tle.

–Is that what this, this xfin is, your com­pa­ny…?

–We han­dle in­tel­lec­tual prop­er­ty, if that’s a ser­vice you need.

–What is that, ex­act­ly, in­tel­lec­tual prop­er­ty?

–Any­thing you can’t fence, eat, or fuck. Root smiled and took his [pg238] Stet­son from the desk. –Let you get on with your day. Take good care.

Quine rose as Root left. He car­ried the trash can by its rim to the bath­room, up­ended it into the toi­let, flushed. The cigar bobbed to the sur­face and he flushed again, then with toi­let pa­per wiped the rim where ash had stuck. He watched the set­tling wa­ter then flushed once more. As its wheeze faded he lis­tened as if for some other voice, but noth­ing rose over the in­sen­tient drone of the build­ing. In the office he scanned his day­book and lifted the phone for a waspish voice al­ready in con­ver­sa­tion, –num­ber one the lead­er­ship is­sue, –and how long till he’s gone, –clas­sic , hel­lo? hel? and dropped the hand­set, face burn­ing, heat co­ag­u­lat­ing into rage as he picked up again for –Do­lores? Tell Frank Sz­abo to come by in an hour. I’ll be in the laser bay till then.

In the hall­way he averted his eyes from pass­ing faces so ev­i­dently oc­cu­pied by mat­ters be­yond hu­man frailty that they seemed at once strained and slack. He’d planned to walk, to shake some of that numb­ness from his own be­ing, but when he came squint­ing into the cold wind rip­pling pud­dles on con­crete all around the dry foun­tains, he gazed up­ward as if to con­firm the source of this in­clemency133 and in that mo­ment stepped –Damn! into a cold flood up his left foot, his weight on it as if trapped in a mire un­til a slim fig­ure hur­ried past him against wind dri­ven drops, –Nan! Nan, wait…!

–Hel­lo, Philip.

–Did you get my ah…

–Y­our mes­sage, yes. I sent you e-mail. There are no em­ployee records for De­von Null.

–No records? But that’s imp, I mean he worked there, he worked in my office, don’t you, don’t you re­mem

–There’s a file for him, but noth­ing in it. Just a .

–Un­der­stand­ing? Un­der­stand­ing about what?

–Philip, it’s rain­ing. If you want the file I’ll send it to your office. If you want to talk to me, say so.

–Well, I do, I just thought

–I have an ap­point­ment now, but I’ll be free in an hour.

–Well okay, good, I could [pg239]

–In the mall, there’s a place that used to be called Café De­sa­pare­ci­dos.

–Yes I know.

–It’s a Star­bucks now. I’ll see you there at five, all right?

–Yes, I… but she had gone. An­other gust of wind hur­ried him on to his car, his foot squelch­ing with each step. He drove to a se­cu­rity kiosk, showed his ID, crossed a bar­ren of shat­tered rock and mo­tion sen­sors, turned and slowed, anx­iously peer­ing down a non­de­script stretch of road, con­tin­u­ing slowly on un­til the edge of a large build­ing as­serted it­self above a nearby roof. He cir­cled around, found its lot, and parked.

It rose to five sto­ries in places. In the lob­by, a of lasers led from the first ruby mil­li­watts down a broad­en­ing high­way of progress to Aval­on, re­splen­dent in artist’s cut­away wire­frame per­spec­tive, a mil­lion times more pow­er­ful than its re­mote an­ces­tor, though, like so much else elab­o­rated into ap­pli­ca­tion here, the ba­sic sci­ence had . At the door to the bay he put on a dust coat and boots, and went into a cav­ern of white steel­work sup­ports and the sky­blue pipes of beam­lines. Bernd Di­etz, dwarfed un­der them, looked up from a clip­board as Quine ap­proached. Bill Snell raised a hand.

–Wanted you to see this, said Snell as Quine reached them. –We’re play­ing around with de­signs for the new beast. I think it’ll go.

–But, said Di­etz, turn­ing to draw out a thick glass panel two feet on a side, as some­where a vac­uum pump started up and Quine strained to hear, –for one thing, we need much bet­ter glass. These edge claddings ab­sorb spon­ta­neous emis­sions, and when these heat up about a third of the glass near the edge is un­us­able. There are also im­pu­ri­ties in the glass, mostly plat­inum from the cast­ing ves­sel. They ab­sorb en­ergy and lower the dam­age thresh­old. Di­etz tipped the panel and light glanced from it. –See? For the new laser this glass will be big­ger and will have there­fore more im­pu­ri­ties. We will need three­-omega dam­age thresh­olds of four­teen joules per square cen­time­ter. That is far more de­mand­ing than what we have here. And you see here, yes? where this glass is al­ready fail­ing.

–Should­n’t be a prob­lem, said Snell. –Each beam­line has flu­ence [pg240] near eight joules per square cen­time­ter at the third har­mon­ic. Plenty of mar­gin for er­ror in the specs.

–And the fi­nal fo­cus lenses will be ex­posed to gamma rays and to neu­tron en­er­gies at four­teen KeV, we have no idea how long they will last. Tests on fused quartz show

–Doc­tor Quine, we’ve spec­i­fied type FS one fused sil­i­ca, and we’re test­ing the Corn­ing sev­enty nine eighty

–Yes, at low en­ergies, around one KeV. The scal­ing fac­tor I would guess at about two hun­dred times. At three­-omega wave­lengths you will see fused sil­ica dam­age at four joules per square cen­time­ter. Then too the Pock­els cell and fre­quency con­vert re­quire very large KDP crys­tals, both deuter­ated and un­deuter­at­ed. Prob­a­bly three times the size of our cur­rent crys­tals. These crys­tals may take two years or more to grow. Any of the typ­i­cal im­pu­ri­ties, ar­senic or alu­minum or chromium or lead, these will in­ter­act with gamma rays even at parts per mil­lion…

–Well, we’ve got what, seven years to get on­line? You worry too much, Bernd. That’s why we’ll start by build­ing one beam­line.

–And when we get that one right, we need to du­pli­cate it one hun­dred nine­ty-one times with­out er­rors, bal­ance them all to within a few per­cent, with an aim­ing ac­cu­racy of fifty mi­crons in fifty me­ters, and I don’t know what else.

–As you see, Doc­tor Quine, Bernd is a pes­simist.

–Ac­tu­al­ly, Bill, I’ve found Bernd’s re­al­ity checks to be in­valu­able.

–Well of course, but we’ve barely be­gun…

–Re­al­ly? I thought Avalon had been on your wish list for sev­eral years. What other prob­lems, Bernd?

–There is very much more. But one thing at a time. Be­cause the op­tics coat­ings are not per­fect we get re­flec­tions, and these ghost beams prop­a­gate through the sys­tem, po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing it. Our next ac­tiv­ity will be ghost man­age­ment so­lu­tions.

–Bill, your lat­est cost es­ti­mates are al­ready higher than what we dis­cussed in the meet­ing.

–Well, that’s what things cost. See this? Snell held on his palm a small gold cylin­der. –That’s a . Ten thou­sand dol­lars. I could pay off my car with that. But there’s a de­fect in it too small to see, so [pg241] it’s worth­less. Here, take it as a sou­venir… and it went into his pocket to clink against change and keys un­til his hand found it again to worry as he rounded the door­way into Do­lores’s outer office where Frank Sz­abo rose to fol­low Quine in­side.

–Frank, are we still work­ing on mis­sile de­fense?

–We have sup­port con­tracts with DoD.

–Is this sup­port com­ing out of J Sec­tion?

–I don’t mi­cro­man­age, I mean, if my peo­ple bring in DoD con­tracts I’m all for

–Just tell me we’re not re­mar­ket­ing any Ra­di­ance pro­jects.

–What gave you that idea?

–Do you know a Dan Root?

–Root? Years ago we worked to­gether in a group here. Heard he con­sults for NSA and now.

–He worked in J Sec­tion?

–No, that was be­fore J Sec­tion ex­ist­ed. He and Leo and I worked on some fu­sion con­cepts. Laser-plasma in­ter­ac­tions.

–He came by. He sug­gested that Ra­di­ance work was on­go­ing in J Sec­tion.

–Look Philip num­ber one Dan Root is­n’t re­li­able. He did­n’t last a year here. He

–Like what? What are we do­ing for DoD?

–I don’t re­al­ly, I’d have to, prob­a­bly some laser work…

–X-ray lasers?

–No no, high en­ergy lasers of some other de

–Space based?

–You put as­sets in space you have to pro­tect them.

–I want to see pa­per­work on every­thing we’re do­ing for DoD.

–Ev­ery­thing…?

–Ev­ery­thing J Sec­tion is do­ing.

–Philip I re­ally don’t think

–Then I want every ac­tive con­tract trans­ferred to X Sec­tion. Sus­pend all other work pend­ing a re­view. Then shut down J Sec­tion.

–What? Philip that’s not fair, a lot of these peo­ple are long term

–Fair? Since when are we do­ing fair, Frank? Look, grab­bing pa­pers from the desk, –do you see what I’m deal­ing with here? Twenty [pg242] thou­sand in­ven­tory items miss­ing worth forty mil­lion dol­lars. Com­put­ers, VCRs, test pho­tos, look at this, four hun­dred mil­lion dol­lars in uniden­ti­fied over­head costs on no par­tic­u­lar pro­gram, that’s forty per­cent of our en­tire bud­get, and do you know, I’m out of pa­tience. I’m try­ing to, to clean this up and every time I turn around an­other skele­ton falls out of some clos­et, so what hap­pens to a few J Sec­tion em­ploy­ees is not a high pri­or­ity for me, I just want it gone, I want that whole cul­ture of de­cep­tion and ex­ag­ger­a­tion dis­man­tled in spirit and in fact.

–They’re still good peo­ple, I mean, you were one of them.

–And an­other thing. No more Hein­rich Hertz fel­low­ships. I don’t want them re­cruit­ing for us any­more.

–We can’t tell a in­de­pen­dent en­tity not to give grad stu­dents mon­ey.

–We can stop us­ing them as a re­cruit­ment tool. We can make it against pol­icy for any of our peo­ple to sit on their board.

–Réti’s on their board.

–He should de­cide whether he’s on staff here or with that think tank on the penin­su­la. If he’s here he’ll abide by our rules.

–You sure you know what you’re

–Just do it Frank!

–Then what’s my re­as­sign­ment? I know we don’t do fair here, but I’d rather not be head of ad­vanced noth­ing in X Sec­tion.

–All right. Quine took a con­scious breath. –How would you like to be the Avalon project man­ager? I’ll cre­ate the post. As­so­ciate di­rec­tor lev­el.

–What about Bill Snell?

–He’ll still be head of L Sec­tion. Avalon needs its own leader.

–And you want me? For a mo­ment Sz­abo’s hunger and mis­trust and re­sent­ment stood in a vis­i­ble equi­lib­ri­um, and a kind of ter­ror rose in Quine at his own dar­ing.134

–We’ve had our differ­ences, Frank, but you’re a ca­pa­ble sci­en­tist and man­ager, as he straight­ened pa­pers on the desk and then looked up sud­denly as if to am­bush the sus­pi­cion and hope at war in Sz­abo’s face.

–I’d want to talk to Bill about it, he said.

–It’s not up to Bill. Quine glanced at his watch and picked up the [pg243] phone. –I’ll talk to you to­mor­row, Frank.

After the door closed he put down the phone and stood gaz­ing out the win­dow, past the torn and lakeleted pit, past the dry foun­tains, to where the sun broke for a mo­ment through clouds, its bril­liance sur­pris­ing the white ram­parts of Build­ing 101 and il­lu­mi­nat­ing the peo­ple be­fore it as though had risen from the and with it these elite and stain­less an­gels of pro­gress, lam­bent in their mo­ment of in­stau­ra­tion, only to be swal­lowed again in the sullen shadow of a cloud, like a bless­ing glimpsed then with­drawn, a grace fickle as the air that sus­tained it and sent the vi­sion’s acolytes now scur­ry­ing for shel­ter ahead of its chill, doors slammed and heater punched to HI as he waited through two changes of the light for cars in the turn lane inch­ing for­ward fi­nally to per­mit him into the park­ing lot, where he crept over yel­low and black speed bumps past Zany Brainy and REG L C NEM S M X and Linda Evans and Dry Clean­ers and ψ Psy­chother­apy As­so­ci­ates, un­til at Star­bucks a heavy truck VANITY dri­ven by a blonde with a phone to one ear backed smartly out of a space, HONOR ROLE PARENT ALISAL ELEMENTARY loom­ing closer and closer be­tween the tires’ inch-thick tread un­til be abruptly geared into re­verse and lurched back three feet to the sound of a horn be­hind him and his en­gine’s sud­den stall. The horn blared twice more as he turned the ig­ni­tion key, and the offended dri­ver shot around him turn­ing sharply into the va­cated space. When his en­gine caught he eased the car an­other hun­dred feet to an­other space and walked back to Star­bucks Grand Open­ing where a line of peo­ple stretched out the door.

Up in the gray sky fleeted a ghost of blue. At the door of the café he paused, watch­ing her just in­side in a kind of half light be­fore the dim­ness, the back of her neck aglow where a veil of fine auburn hair traced with gray fell across its pale­ness. As if sens­ing his gaze there her hand came up to brush the hair aside, ex­pos­ing the vo­lu­tions of her ear be­fore it fell back and she stepped for­ward into the dim­ness. When she took her seat he came to­ward her. There was strain in her face when she looked up.

–Here, slid­ing across the ta­ble a thin manila folder bor­dered in red and white strips. –Do you have a need to know this? Or are you [pg244] just cu­ri­ous?

–I just want to, as he opened the folder and scanned the sin­gle page with­in, Mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing Be­tween Lab­o­ra­tory and Con­trac­tor, se­cu­rity clear­ance, right and ti­tle to in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty to be ne­go­ti­ated case by case, glanc­ing up to find her eyes steady on him.

–What are you look­ing for, Philip?

His eyes moved down the sin­gle page and back up it in a vain search for he was­n’t sure—What? Oh. The uni­ver­sity has all em­ploy­ees sign an agree­ment, a patent agree­ment, every­one signs it, you have to, but see if De­von Null was only a con­trac­tor he could have had a waiver he could just walk out the door with what­ever work he’s

–I was­n’t ask­ing about Null.

–But you see if he never worked here…

She sighed and closed her purse. –Philip, I have things to do.

–No wait, I…

–This file is­n’t what you want to talk about. Be­cause you could have called any­one for it, had it sent to your office.

–But yes, it is, I mean

–You won’t give me an inch, will you? Philip, it’s been over a year. I thought you would at least call me. Or even come back, on­ce, to say good­bye. But you did­n’t. And I gave up wait­ing. Why are we here now? Be­cause you want em­ployee records?

Her voice had opened fur­ther per­haps than she’d in­tend­ed, and her mouth showed its dis­tress at this be­trayal of her de­fenses by the very tremor of those words try­ing not to say all of what she meant.

–Yes, but it was, it was also a rea­son to see you, Nan…

–How lit­tle you must think of me, Philip.

–To say I’m sor­ry.

Sud­denly his eyes filled. Hers in turn dropped their guard. After a mo­ment she reached for his hand. They sat in si­lence for a mo­ment as she re­garded him, wait­ing per­haps for the more that, she seemed now to re­mem­ber, never came. She with­drew her hand and looked down at it, as if sur­prised and not par­tic­u­larly pleased at its boni­ness, the lines in the knuck­les, the pale skin creased near a ring.

–And now you’re act­ing di­rec­tor. I would­n’t have guessed it. I [pg245] thought you were ready to have a break­down or quit. And it turns out that you were ma­neu­ver­ing.

–That’s not what hap­pened.

–You stepped over so many peo­ple. What a change in you.

–But I, it was­n’t, have I re­ally changed so much?

Again she re­garded him with level cu­rios­i­ty.

–No, Philip, you haven’t re­ally changed. You never gave any­one an inch. I just never thought… but she shook off what­ever it was she had­n’t wanted to think.

–But no, I, that was Highet who

–I worked for Leo Highet once. He was a jerk, but you knew where you stood with him. With you I al­ways had to guess. When I guessed wrong, you took it out on me.

–Nan…

–You were such a, an ar­ti­choke, Philip. I could never find your heart.

He glanced away, as if un­will­ing to en­counter in those gray eyes what he’d failed to see in him­self. –Are you well? How are things?

She con­tin­ued to re­gard him with that watch­ful un­cer­tain­ty. –I’m fine. I’m short on sleep. There’s new con­struc­tion be­hind my house, it’s very an­noy­ing, it used to be open space, you re­mem­ber. Trucks come in at six a m dump­ing dirt.135 You know what a poor sleeper I am. Philip, why are we here?

He looked in agony around the café. –I never knew what you wanted of me. What you ex­pect­ed.

Her face soft­ened. –Oh, Philip, I nev­er… I just wanted you to be, to be what you some­times can be, just now for such a brief mo­ment, just to be happy in your skin. To be con­tent with, with things.

–I was, I was con­tent with us. As best I could be. I was con­tent and not con­tent, don’t you see… As he spoke he leaned slowly for­ward and opened his hands. But she seemed re­solved now to re­sist con­tact. With­out mov­ing she drew her­self back.

–Philip, I’m get­ting mar­ried.

A stone fell in him. –Y­ou’re, but I, but who…

–You re­mem­ber Ben. You used him as an ex­cuse to break up with me. [pg246]

–Nan…

–The wed­ding is in Ju­ly. I’ll send you an in­vi­ta­tion.

–Nan, I… He blinked in fury, then pressed fin­gers to his eyes.

–Philip. Her hand touched his fore­arm and he flinched from it.

–I’m sor­ry, Nan. I have no right. I treated you very bad­ly.

–Yes, you did. But I know you were in pain. Over your work, and more. I could have tried hard­er. To al­low for that.

–Were you, sor­ry, when I left?

She seemed to con­sid­er. –No, not at first. At first I was re­lieved. Not to have to deal with it any­more. What­ever was eat­ing you up. Then I was lone­ly, very lone­ly. For months. I hated you then. Hated that you did­n’t call, that you could just walk away like that.

–I was hurt­ing, too.

–Yes, I sup­pose you were. I told my­self that you were. That you’d get through it and then you’d call me.

–I still hurt. The truth of it went through his body like a shock.

–But you’re see­ing some­one.

–Yes.

–That young an­ti-nu­clear ac­tivist.

–How did you

She drew back. –Oh, Philip, every­one in the Lab knows. Any­way, you were look­ing for some­one else even when we were to­geth­er.

–But I, no, I

–Did you think I could­n’t tell? That was what hurt most. She’s much younger, is­n’t she.

–Not so much.

Her hand clasped her cup. She said with bit­ter­ness, –Does she make you feel younger, is that it?

–Nan, please…

–I swore to my­self that if you ever talked to me again I would­n’t… She looked away and sat stiffly in a kind of ab­stracted mis­ery un­til she could face him again. –Did you ever re­ally love me?

–Nan…

–Be­cause I did love you. I felt, all that time, de­spite every­thing, all our differ­ences, the dis­tance you wanted to keep, that we held each other in trust. [pg247]

–I, and he swal­lowed with diffi­cul­ty, his breath was short, his eyes burned. –I wanted to give you my heart.

She sat look­ing at his face. –You had a funny way of show­ing it. No, I’m sor­ry. I’m sure you did want that. She rose and bent to­ward him, pressed her soft lips to the hinge of his jaw.

–Good­bye, Philip.

The sun dimmed, bled whitely into opal sky. Every­thing seemed to lose it­self in the mid­dle of time. He’d sat like this, here in this lot, so long ago, when Kate had told him, not un­kind­ly, oh Philip, it’s too late for us. The mo­men­t’s passed. The same sun dimmed in cloud, the same hol­low­ness. He wanted the pain of it again. Any­thing but this mid­dle.

Seek­ing an exit his car heaved over one yel­low­striped loma after an­oth­er, past Linens ’N Things, Blenz­ers, Leather For Le$$$, Ha­cienda House, Mat­tress Dis­coun­ters, Dent Re­movers, head­ing to­ward the main road but reach­ing a curb that cut him off from it, turn­ing par­al­lel to the curb past the back of Cir­cuit City where bar­ri­ers turned him back from fur­ther con­struc­tion to a blank wall and dump­sters where he turned sharply to brake at DO NOT ENTER SEVERE TIRE DAMAGE forc­ing him into a smaller lot where Ah-dór-no Hair Sa­lon, En-De­v’R Com­put­ers, Try Us ush­ered him out upon First Amer­i­can Ti­tle and to the promise of an EXIT and NO LEFT TURN. As he stared in that fore­closed di­rec­tion wait­ing for a break in the traffic, a woe be­yond pain rose in him, at what he’d never val­ued enough to feel the loss of, it came to him now, the pent and de­nied long­ings of his baffled heart ris­ing briefly to an ap­pre­hen­sion of the true scale of his grief, be­fore sub­merg­ing again into the re­morse­less­ness of the every­day and the free­way to Codor­nic s XIT NLY, and into his dri­ve­way where he stilled the car and sat in gath­er­ing dark­ness lis­ten­ing for he did­n’t know what. On some road out of sight was some ob­struc­tion, a metal plate or a loose man­hole cov­er, and from it came a hol­low thump that echoed briefly as ve­hi­cles passed over and were gone, echoed through him like a toc­sin of loss. As he opened the car door, wind har­ried the pa­pers on the seat be­neath his hand which clamped them and tucked them firmly un­der one arm be­fore he dashed through a blus­ter of rain flung from the sky against [pg248] the door slammed hard on fully gath­ered night, as he wan­dered from one room to the next, into the kitchen where it seemed a voice mut­tered, masked by the re­frig­er­a­tor’s mo­tor, ris­ing from time to time al­most high enough to make it­self un­der­stood, un­til the mo­tor shut off, and in its shadow came the mur­murous drip of wa­ter in the sink, buried then by the whine of the mi­crowave heat­ing din­ner, car­ried with a glass of golden wine to the sofa where at last he set­tled pa­pers be­fore him, the mut­ter­ings of the house sub­merged in the un­at­tended flicker of .

Sat­ur­day morn­ing came com­pla­cently into the house, lin­ger­ing in the nearly bare rooms, touch­ing blond wood and pale fab­ric, chrome and glass, brows­ing at the lam­i­nate book­shelf where leaned in to touch and Prin­ci­ple-Cen­tered Lead­er­ship stood up to Man­ag­ing At the Speed of Change and Stew­ard­ship: Choos­ing Ser­vice Over Self In­ter­est had given over its strug­gle to hold back Thriv­ing On Chaos which sat heav­ily upon Par­si­fal’s Brief­case up­held by cas­sette tapes Re­mem­ber To Breathe, pass­ing all by to fol­low the path sick sor­row took, find­ing Quine out in the kitchen for coffee and or­anges by a sunny chair, only to lose him again in the one room that showed, in its dim dis­or­der, any­thing like life, what Lynn called his mess room, a desk with pa­pers strewn like leaves across its sur­face, a com­puter mon­i­tor topped by a seam­split card­board car­ton sag­ging like a heavy bough and be­side the desk a banker’s box DESTROY AFTER and D NULL up­ended now for a flood of pa­pers fold­ers xe­roxes and a cu­ri­ous small white stone fig­ure crudely carved, some kind of dog per­haps, put aside while he sorted print­outs, some of them ten years old or more, ac­cor­dion fold , perf edges gone brit­tle, and some faint per­va­sive burn­ing smell com­ing from some­where, not from the pa­pers, not from the house, not from the air, that edge of burn­ing, the halo­gen lamp was it? but though he wan­dered out into the fad­ing sun an­gling through the outer rooms he kept re­turn­ing to the dim room like a dog to its vom­it, search­ing com­pul­sively for what he could­n’t name, some en­e­my, what­ever but him­self that had brought him to this pass, sort­ing through the box of pa­pers he’d checked out of the vault, Su­per­bright ma­te­ri­als, the same he’d been im­mersed in dur­ing the worst year of [pg249] his life, drawn again into that in­ten­si­ty, into a sense that he was still a part of all that he might have been, while the yel­low le­gal pad Stew­ard­ship Notes he’d set out to map the Lab’s fu­ture and his own was grad­u­ally cov­ered over by the past, while out­side the drone of rain, the chirp­ing of some bird, the hiss of pass­ing tires went mostly un­no­ticed un­til the drone im­per­cep­ti­bly ta­pered off into a si­lence more in­differ­ent than ac­cus­ing yet he looked up in alarm from his pre­oc­cu­pa­tion out to where shafts of set­ting sun pinned a tan­bark oak, green and shot through with red­ness, against a slategray sky, pin­ning too his dis­tanced gaze to this off­hand splen­dor in a kind of pan­ic, so he felt like some­one moved from his proper time and place, as though this un­looked for ap­pear­ance and im­mi­nent flee­ing of sun­light, like that ca­sual flock of pi­geons sink­ing in the iso­la­tion of the sky, were a threat as pal­pa­ble as the wine­glass in his hand com­ing down golden and heavy and re­fract­ing cusps of lamp­light onto Null­point Sys­tems, an , share­hold­ers Aron Réti Daniel J Root Leo H High­et.

He woke on the sofa in dim­ness threaded with rain sound, from a dream of Nan stand­ing in halflight be­fore some darker in­te­ri­or, her hand com­ing up slowly to brush aside a veil of auburn hair as she turned to face him, a smell of san­dal­wood from her mouth soft and open­ing to speak: –I love only you. A sweet bit­ter­ness pierced him, as if he’d never be­fore seen this face, this ca­pac­i­ty, her­self in her full­ness: but time and the lim­pid­ity of dream made it clearer than the truth he’d never grasped, a truth that slipped from him even as he came into the grav­ity of wake­ful­ness, to the room where pa­pers still waited for his sort­ing, as if any truth could be found there, un­til he looked up in alarm at the dark­ness which again had gath­ered un­her­alded and un­heeded around his reach for the lamp­light which sent cusps danc­ing through the golden con­tents of the wine­glass now rest­ing on Stew­ard­ship Notes with its scrib­bled lines, its bul­lets and ques­tion marks not yet evolved into cows nor dogs, some five and a half pages of pos­si­bil­i­ties and ques­tions that were not yet as clear as the truth he turned from in frus­tra­tion, re­treat­ing to the liv­ing room where the sofa grudg­ingly took his weight as he clicked on the tele­vi­sion and thumbed away from the on­slaught of cued laugh­ter at –So what was that all about? to a [pg250] mu­sic lugubri­ous with men­ace, –she will likely be his next meal, on to a tense, –photo tor­pe­does on my mark, thumb re­flex­ively press­ing as he set­tled into that stu­por of abused at­ten­tion which promised, with­out de­liv­er­ing, respite from the next salvo of cued laugh­ter at –thought I’d leave it ou

–y­ou’d ex­pect to pay

–Great Amer­i­can Broad­cast­ing now on tele­vi­sion my friends your host Tuck Eu­banks do­ing every­thing per­fec

–ght, now you can use this life-trans­form­ing sys­tem to be hap­pier, fit­ter, health­ier, to have more mon­ey, to

–like the way you look, I guar­an­tee

–ru­ins are mute tes­ti­mony to the daunt­less vi­tal­ity of this once prou

–view­ers like you

–beau­ti­ful knives Jack just look at this twelve inch Bowie

–we have prayer staff that pray for us seven days a

–re­lent­less pur­suit of the

–per­sonal power to break through the bar­ri­ers that hold you back

–from the de­struc­tion that over­too

–seven days a week in Fairf

–dou­ble riv­eted full tang con­struc­tion ti­ta­nium blade with ser­rated edge and blood groove

–can do know how

–when you feel pow­er­ful, money is at­tracted to you

–if it does­n’t say Jiffy Lube it can’t be Jif

–and by the Ven­ham Foun­da­tion, en­hanc­ing the well­be­ing of the Bay Area by sup­port­ing

–ma­te­r­ial and spir­i­tual abun­dance

–on easy pay to­day but it won’t be on easy pay past midn

–in­spire peo­ple to be more than they can be

–three kinds of as­sets, phys­i­cal fi­nan­cial and

–the emo­tional bank ac­count is the essence of win-win

–train­ing you need to land a high pay­ing job in com­put

–pledge at the sixty dol­lar level you’ll get

–there we go for ya

–all you have to do is put God where he be­longs [pg251]

–in a Three Tenors at Snow­mass tote bag

–an­other anony­mous clump of flot­sam in the flood

School of

–A­cad­emy of Art Coll

–cap­i­tal flows to the bar­rier of least re­sis­tance

–and the Lord com­mended the un­just stew­ard, be­cau

–Ma­har­ishi Uni­ver­sity of Man­age­ment

–the end­time trans­fer of wealth

–not avail­able in stores

–within that range of democ­racy that we can afford

–what we’re gonna do right now for ya is we get a lot of ques­tions

–and re­mem­ber, net worth is self worth

–tire col­lec­tion of thir­teen blades yours for the low lo

–plete set of wealth build­ing sem­i­nars on video­cass

–ev­ery­thing you’ve ever wanted right here right n

–1-800-ENDTIME or reach us on the In­ter­net end­time at end­time dot com

–if there­fore ye have not been faith­ful in the un­right­eous mam­mon, who will com­mit to your trust the true rich­es? And if ye have not been faith­ful in that which is an­other man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?136

–y­ou’d ex­pect to pay… for such surcease of thought, for respite not re­treat, har­ried at every step in pur­suit of what can’t be bought, to pay and pay again only to be roused from slum­ber by this voice stri­dent and orac­u­lar, –Then he which had re­ceived the one tal­ent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reap­ing where thou hast not sown, and gath­er­ing where thou hast not strewn. And I was afraid, and went and hid they tal­ent in the earth: and lo, here thou hast that which is thine! and if some­thing in Quine were buried in some for­got­ten place, it would be his heart now grop­ing vainly for what it had missed, but when his eyes filled it was at noth­ing he could name, it was at the flick­er­ing signs that ap­peared and fled on the screen. –Take there­fore the tal­ent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten tal­ents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abun­dance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the un­profitable ser­vant in­to… an [pg252] outer dark­ness that came promptly upon his press OFF to bring that de­sired, if tem­po­rary, surcease.


–Thought… which re­turned re­lent­lessly as the sun, climb­ing now over the un­fin­ished fa­cade for a day or at least a morn­ing free of rain, rose strug­gling above the cease­less growl­ing and grind­ing and crash­ing be­low with its des­cant of ham­mer­ing and beep­ing as Quine held a tis­sue to his nose and re­peat­ed, –…­phones get­ting fixed? –Thought they were, mine’s okay, you still hav­ing trou­ble…? as Bran Nolan edged round around some boxes just in­side the door and Quine picked up for a waspish voice –is­ter Dial Tone? seems to have come out of neu­tral, beat­ing every­body up over this thing, real pas­sive ag­gr, with his face red­den­ing for –What’s all this? as Quine hung up, –Oh, I asked Frank Sz­abo for some doc­u­ments, he seems to have dumped a load on me… and Nolan dropped a sheet onto the desk, –Sor­ry, don’t mean to dump any more on you, but… as Quine loudly blew his nose. –Hav­ing trou­ble since I took over and the noise out­side is­n’t help­ing it’s a won­der I get any­thing done.

–I won’t keep you long, just won­dered where Den­nis got that tune gen­er­a­tor of his, thought it was a lit­tle too so­phis­ti­cated for him, turns out to be some friend of High­et’s, “Al­go­rith­mic Com­po­si­tion by Rule-Based AI”, by Leo Highet Charles Hol­lis and Jeffrey Thor­pe, look at the fine print, “funded in whole or part by De­fense Ad­vanced Re­search Projects Agency or­der 4796 un­der Con­tract F33615-87-C-1499, US patent and cor­re­spond­ing over­seas con­ven­tions pend­ing.” Nice to know DARPA’s look­ing out for the arts, I won­der if they know they’re fund­ing a start­up.

–Do you think this came out of the Lab? Is there a prob­lem there?

–I don’t re­ally care about that, I just think the paten­t’s cute. World’s run­ning out of real re­sources to ex­ploit, so let’s com­mod­ify the in­tan­gi­ble and the un­speak­able. Do­ing a damn fine job of it so far too as far as I can, speak of the dev­il, hello Den­nis.

–Den­nis? Are you, are you still here?

–It’s my en­tre­pre­neur­ial leave.

–But you haven’t left.

–I have, but I signed back on free­lance to help the Lab di­ver­sify [pg253] and man­age its post-Cold War R&D port­fo­lio, kind of in­trapre­neur­ing. I thought I should talk to you abou

–Not now Den­nis, I’m

–be­cause I’ve iden­ti­fied some sci­en­tific project ar­eas I think you should

–n’t you see I’m busy with Bran, just send me e-mail or make an ap­point­ment with Dol

–rep­re­sent­ing cus­tomers at DOJ and they’re look­ing for partne

–…Jus­tice?

–to de­velop law en­force­ment tech­nolo­gies for drug in­ter­dic­tion, an­titer­ror­ism, crowd con­trol, sur­veil­lance, it’s quite a menu of pro­grams, I could give you a brief, I’ve talked to sev­eral group lead­ers and there’s a high level of in­teres

–Look Den­nis, I would­n’t, I mean, peo­ple here are fright­ened for their lives right now so of course they’ll look in­ter­ested in any­thing that has fund­ing at­tached, but it’s not a good time to be… reach­ing for an­other tis­sue to stanch the tear­ing of his eye.

–But this is ex­actly what we need, more mil­i­tary-to-civil­ian tech­nol­ogy trans­fers, see I have a list here, ah mul­ti­ple mi­cro­phones as with or with­out track­ing sur­veil­lance cam­eras and re­turn-fire weapons, there’s a chief of po­lice down on the penin­sula ready to buy that as soon as it’s avail­able, what else, a way to shut down auto en­gines with mi­crowaves, got some real in­ter­est from the CHP there, and a that can’t be fired if it’s stolen, crowd-con­trol de­vices, strobe light grenades, sticky foam can­nons, sub­sonic can

–This is what, a DOJ wish list or things we’re al­ready work­ing on?

–A lit­tle of each, you know just some talk­ing points to help find com­mon groun

–Den­nis I wish you’d, you know I’m try­ing to keep the sci­ence sep­a­rate from the fic­tion here and

–Oh this is­n’t fic­tion, just ah sci­ence PR, you know, when some­thing has to be clearer than the truth…

–Clearer than the

–I’m try­ing to be proac­tive you know, put first things first, think win-win, syn­er­gize… [pg254]

–Yes well syn­er, per­haps you can syn­er­gize some­where else

–Well but this is re­ally what we need

–Den­nis, what I re­ally need’s an an­tibi­otic for this cold, would you

–Cold’s a virus, would­n’t help, said Nolan.

–Oh I see, but an

–Den­nis, please…?

–What about Jus­tice?

–Later as through the swing­ing office door an oro­tund voice slipped in, –let’s put the dots to­geth­er, and

–What’s the other thing, Bran?

–We need to talk about tox­ics mit­i­ga­tion.

–At Site Al­pha? I thought we’d ex­panded that area.

–We can’t keep buy­ing up buffer zones in­defi­nite­ly. The plume’s about two miles long now, but given the com­plex hy­dro­ge­ol­ogy of the site it’s im­pos­si­ble to pre­dict how far it might go.

–We’re mod­el­ing nu­clear ex­plo­sions and we can’t model this?

–We don’t have quite the bud­get for en­vi­ron­men­tal re­me­di­a­tion that we have for blow­ing things up. But Site Al­pha’s not the is­sue. It’s the new build­ing, as Quine turned to take in its fa­cade swept by a ray of sun against a slate sky.

–What?

–I brought this up a few months ago, you may re­call. Do you still have the files I sent up?

–Yes, I think, just let me, he rum­maged through draw­ers, open­ing and partly clos­ing them, com­ing at last upon a fold­er, En­vi­ron­men­tal Re­port New Con­struc­tion L-301-92. –Chi­vian-Har­ris, Soil Analy­sis, ac­tion lev­els, iodine, , , , , , , , , ,

–Look at the next re­port.

–That, ah, who is it, Boole and Clay, trace lev­els of, ap­proved and ac­cept­ed… what hap­pened, did we clean it up?

–No.

–Then this does­n’t make sense… Quine paged to the next fold­er. –Soil en­gi­neer, I can’t make this out, nu­clear den­sity tester mis­aligned, neg­a­tive read­ings, vi­sual ap­proval on­ly, signed T Kuhn En­gi­neer [pg255], well this does­n’t seem very im­por­tant, but why the two re­ports?

–It’s a dis­crep­an­cy, is­n’t it. I thought you should be aware of it.

–Well, but Bran, this stuff is two years old, I mean the build­ing’s up, what am I sup­posed to do about it?

–See, the thing is, a lot of soil was trucked off­site.

–So?

–A good guess would be that it went to other Credne job sites to be used as fill.

–What are you say­ing? Is that soil con­t­a­m­i­nated or not?

Nolan shrugged. –Maybe you should take the files home with you, look at them close­ly.

–I re­al­ly, you know I’ve got enough on my pl

–These re­ports are a mat­ter of pub­lic record. Any­body who both­ered to look them up would see some­thing’s fishy. The CANT suit is tac­ti­cal, it’s about our EIS be­ing de­fec­tive be­cause we screwed up on some maps. So that’s the lever they use to slow us down, but it could also lead to dis­cov­ery of ma­te­r­ial we’d rather not let out.

–Like these re­ports.

–I re­al­ize the last thing you want is to, ah, dig this stuff up. De­spite what the sec­re­tary’s say­ing about open­ness. But you re­al­ize, this con­t­a­m­i­na­tion could be out in the com­mu­ni­ty.

–We don’t know that, or, or how bad it is, and even if we did, we don’t know where it is.

–That’s true.

–So what are you sug­gest­ing.

–Me? I’m not sug­gest­ing any­thing.

–I mean it’s Boni­face’s job to han­dle this stuff, is­n’t it?

–Well, Boni­face is usu­ally con­tent to let a press re­lease be his um­brel­la. But if that’s what you want… as Nolan went out the door past, –lies be­ing per­petat­ed, and Quine fol­lowed to pause at Do­lores’s desk for her quizzi­cal look over God Wants You To Be Rich137 while she turned down –to er­ror is hu­man…

–When’s my next ap­point­ment, Do­lores?

–Je­remy Rec­tor at two.

–Fine, un­til then see that I’m not dis­turbed, and that es­pe­cially in­cludes Den­nis Ki­hara, re­turn­ing to, as she turned up –his own petty [pg256] fief­dom… or if not that at least a tem­po­rary sanc­tum, where he sat heav­i­ly, un­fold­ing Ohlone Val­ley her­ald to his name strik­ing at him like a ven­omous barb, In­terim di­rec­tor Philip Quine de­fended the hir­ing of Je­remy Rec­tor, for­mer au­di­tor with the Gen­eral Ac­count­ing Office. Rec­tor su­per­vised a re­port that crit­ics down­played the Lab’s ex­ag­ger­ated claims for the Su­per­bright x-ray laser. Quine said he did not hire Rec­tor but said he was “the most qual­i­fied per­son” for the Lab job and had “no con­flict of in­ter­est”.

He tapped MEM 2 for, –Y­ou’ve reached the offices of Cit­i­zens Against Nu­clear Tech­nol­o­gy. If you know your par­ty’s, press­ing 303 for –Lynn Ham­lin. Is not in her office. Please, hang­ing up just as the phone buzzed for Do­lores’s voice, –Se­n­a­tor Chase is here.

–What?

–He says he’s sorry to come by with­out an ap­point­ment, but do you have time

–Je­sus Chr, yes, all right, give me, just one, one… as he held the phone away for the gath­er­ing force of a sneeze, –Damn! and smat­ters of mu­cus on the mouth­piece, the Her­ald, his right palm, as he blot­ted fran­ti­cally with a tat­tered tis­sue the pa­pers he swept into a half opened draw­er, drop­ping the her­ald in the trash can as he wiped his palm on its edge, leav­ing the desk bare ex­cept for 1994–1999 In­sti­tu­tional Plan and a small gold cylin­der just as the in­ner door opened to a gray suit, crisply pressed, navy and red striped tie the only color be­low a pa­tri­cian face clean as a scraped parch­ment, sharp nose and ta­pered chin at the point of a wide jaw, gray hair as im­pec­ca­ble as the suit, eyes that same color of a worn coin, tak­ing in Quine’s worth as the thin mouth al­most smiled. With Chase was a young aide, tall and sal­low.

–Doc­tor Quine, it’s a plea­sure. Hard to be­lieve you’ve been here all these months and I haven’t vis­it­ed.

–Se­n­a­tor its it’s quite a, a… as he came around the desk half ex­tended a hand then feint­ing and ges­tur­ing with it.

–Please sit down.

–Sorry to pop in like this, but I had a gap in my sched­ule so I thought I’d pay my re­spects. See how you’re get­ting on.

–Well, it’s, as you know, it’s a chal­leng­ing job.

–That’s what staff is for, right, Kev­in? turn­ing not at all to the [pg257] blankeyed aide. Chase walked to the win­dow and looked out on the un­fin­ished build­ing, cur­rently in shadow against vividly green hills swept with dap­ples of sun­light. –Quite a view. All the way to Mount Ohlone.

–Yes, I, it’s quite some­thing.

–I re­mem­ber when this was all open space. When I was a kid I used to ride out by Camp Jep­son. Be­fore the Lab. A long time ago. A differ­ent world. Chase con­tin­ued star­ing out. –I care about this re­gion. I care about the Lab. I’ve watched both grow all my life. I think the Lab is good for the re­gion, the re­gion needs… al­though the co­in­col­ored eyes nar­rowed on the scene they’d once em­braced with glad­ness and trust, a scene now hard to make out un­der the decades of growth and the striv­ing after some good also hard to iden­tify un­der its ac­cu­mu­lated ne­ces­si­ties. Chase gave it up and turned back to the room. –But not the Lab as it’s been run late­ly. My top pri­or­ity now is to re­store trust in the Lab’s cred­i­bil­i­ty. Kev­in?

The aide came to life. –The sec­re­tary of en­ergy is go­ing to an­nounce sci­ence based stock­pile stew­ard­ship as part of the FY nine­ty-five bud­get. Next month the Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee is go­ing to hear tes­ti­mony about the pro­gram and non­pro­lif­er­a­tion. The sen­a­tor would like you to tes­tify about the need for cer­tain pro­gram el­e­ments, par­tic­u­larly the Avalon laser and its im­por­tance in the con­tin­ued ab­sence of test­ing.

–I just got back from Wash­ing­ton, Sen­a­tor. I have a, a lot on my, my… Quine reached for a tis­sue.

–Yes, I know it’s a pain in the neck. How’s every­thing go­ing for you here?

–Well, quite well. we’re do­ing quite, quite well with our, our civil­ian mis­sions, with our CRADAs, we have quite a few suc­cess sto­ries…

–D­ual use.

–We’re call­ing it dual ben­e­fit now.

–There’s a fac­tion in Con­gress go­ing after fed­eral pro­grams with a meat axe. They’re zealots. They want to abol­ish whole de­part­ments. Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, Ed­u­ca­tion, En­er­gy.

–They, they can’t be se­ri­ous, can they? En­er­gy? Who would man­age the weapons? [pg258]

–De­part­ment of De­fense. We don’t want that. We want the uni­ver­sity to con­tinue man­ag­ing the Lab be­cause it at­tracts top tal­ent and it pro­vides an at­mos­phere of in­tel­lec­tual hon­esty. Your pre­de­ces­sor did a lot to dam­age the Lab’s cred­i­bil­ity on the Hill. As long as the Lab is per­ceived as some poorly man­aged ves­tige of an ear­lier time, it’s vul­ner­a­ble to these at­tacks. If, how­ev­er, we present a vig­or­ous new Lab with a new post-Cold War mis­sion that re­quires its sci­en­tific ex­per­tise, we can re­sist these at­tacks. Are we on the same page?

–Well, I think that’s, I mean yes, I would sup­port…

–So my ques­tion is, is Avalon and sci­ence-based stew­ard­ship the best way to ac­com­plish the goal of safe­guard­ing our nu­clear stock­pile?

–Well, of course we’ve dis­cussed other op­tions, sam­pling, re­man­u­fac­tur­ing, but in terms of, of at­tract­ing tal­ent, ex­per­tise, of keep­ing our sci­en­tists in­ter­est­ed, I think, in light of what you’ve said, I think it’s clear that the Lab, the Lab’s fu­ture re­quires Aval­on.

–Good. Then you’ll say as much in Wash­ing­ton?

–If that’s what, yes, sure, I, and I, I ought to ex­plain the dual ben­e­fit el­e­ment…

–The what?

–The du­al, you know, in­er­tial con­fine­ment fu­sion…? Quine looked at the gold cylin­der on his desk, as if at a tal­is­man or totem. Chase fol­lowed his gaze in­cu­ri­ously for a sec­ond. –We’ll be ig­nit­ing deu­terium and tri­tium in a fu­sion re­ac­tion. That’s es­sen­tial to stew­ard­ship, be­cause only that pro­duces the same high en­ergy physics regime as a ther­monu­clear blast, and it’s re­ally the, the only way to do it with­out test­ing.

–Good. That’s ex­actly what I want to

–But it could also lead to com­mer­cial fu­sion pow­er…

–Of course I don’t want to tell you what to say. Men­tion that if you like, but we’ve been fund­ing that since the fifties and I’m not hold­ing my breath wait­ing for the lights to come on.

–Yes but, but there’ve been sub­stan­tial ad­vances, and of course it may re­as­sure those who see only weapons app, oops, ex­cuse me, let me get, as Quine picked up the phone for, –Miss Ham­lin is down­stairs with a vis­i­tor’s pass.

To Quine’s help­less look, Chase offered, –I won’t keep you much longer. [pg259]

–Ah, all right Do­lores, tell them, just, send her up. Sor­ry, you were…

–I as­sume there are peo­ple here up­set about the end of test­ing.

–Well…

–Can you man­age them?

–What do you mean?

–Y­ou’re the clean break. Do you have a prob­lem be­ing the bad guy? Be­cause that’s not the im­pres­sion I got from your Tal­iesin re­port.

–I can do it if I have to. It’s not some­thing i en­joy.

–Good. That was a prob­lem with your pre­de­ces­sor, he en­joyed it.

The office door swung open and Chase’s pale eyes went to Lynn for a mo­ment, then back to Quine. Chase turned and ex­tended his hand to –Lynn, what a sur­prise. I never thought I’d see you in­side the gates.

–You know each oth­er? said Quine.

–Oh, Lynn and I are old cam­paign­ers.

–Se­n­a­tor. Her face had red­dened. Chase for a mo­ment in­dulged the ghost of a smile.

–Doc­tor Quine and I are do­ing a lit­tle horse trad­ing.

She shot Quine a look. –I’ll leave you then. Sorry to in­ter­rupt.

–No, please, stay, said Chase. –It saves me a trip. I was go­ing straight to your office after this.

–Yes I, I was plan­ning to meet you there.

–Lynn, here’s what I have for you. The sec­re­tary is al­most surely go­ing to ap­prove the Avalon fa­cil­i­ty. The pres­i­dent thinks it’s our best shot at get­ting the com­pre­hen­sive test ban treaty rat­i­fied.

–But no. Any sig­nal that the US is­n’t se­ri­ous about re­duc­ing its ar­se­nal will jeop­ar­dize both the CTBT and the non­pro­lif­er­a­tion treaty re­newal next year138. I’ve been to Geneva, you should talk to the In­dian del­e­ga­tion or the Pak­ista­nis or even the Is­raelis, be­cause it’s crys­tal clear to them, they see the stew­ard­ship pro­gram as bad faith, as a way for the de­clared nu­clear states to go right on de­vel­op­ing new weapons. They know we’re shar­ing tech­nol­ogy with the French and British, tech­nol­ogy we won’t share with them. They see that stew­ard­ship is about con­tin­u­ing US nu­clear dom­i­nance. The pres­i­dent might as well come out and say we plan to keep our nu­clear ar­se­nal forever, treaty or not. I’ve ex­plained all this to your staff… [pg260]

–Re­peat­ed­ly.

–Then what don’t you un­der­stand?

–What don’t you un­der­stand, Lynn? The Cold War’s over. We’ll be down to lev­els within ten years. You should be cel­e­brat­ing.

START II is still thou­sands of bombs. I want to see zero bombs.

–Lynn, you know why we can’t go to ze­ro. The Nu­clear Pos­ture Re­view di­rects the De­part­ment of En­ergy to main­tain the abil­ity to de­sign, fab­ri­cate, and cer­tify new nu­clear war­heads if nec­es­sary.

–Can I re­mind you what Ar­ti­cle Six of the NPT says? “Each of the par­ties to the Treaty un­der­takes to pur­sue ne­go­ti­a­tions in good faith on effec­tive mea­sures re­lat­ing to ces­sa­tion of the nu­clear arms race at an early date and to nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment, and on a Treaty on gen­eral and com­plete dis­ar­ma­ment un­der strict and effec­tive in­ter­na­tional con­trol.”

–You know it by heart.

–“Good faith, effec­tive mea­sures, com­plete dis­ar­ma­ment.”

–There’s no timetable.

–So the US is go­ing to con­tinue to say one thing and do an­oth­er. That’s not just bad tac­tics, sen­a­tor, it’s im­moral.

Chase glanced at his watch. –Lynn, you know what you get when you mix moral­ity and pol­i­tics? You get . Nice man, de­cent man, very hard work­er. He came to Wash­ing­ton com­mit­ted to elim­i­nat­ing nu­clear weapons. He said two hun­dred war­heads was enough for de­ter­rence. He meant it, too. And what did he get? He got the , the , the , the , and Ronald Rea­gan as a suc­ces­sor. Chase looked again at his watch. –I’ve got to go.

–Se­n­a­tor, at the very least there should be pub­lic hear­ings about the pro­lif­er­a­tion is­sue.

Chase was again look­ing out the win­dow to­ward Mount Ohlone. –Talk to my staff, Lynn. Maybe we can arrange some­thing. You re­al­ize Lyn­n’s try­ing to make more work for you, Doc­tor Quine.

–It’s what she does. [pg261]

–Okay, see you in DC.

–Thank you for stop­ping by, sen­a­tor…

–Kev­in? The aide came to life and opened the door, let­ting in, –the bat­tle­field of the po­lit­i­cal are­na, if I may be po­et­ic, be­fore it swung to and Lynn turned to Quine.

–What did that mean, see you in DC?

–I have to tes­ti­fy.

–About?

–Aspects of stew­ard­ship.

–What’s wrong, are you an­noyed with me?

–I just… Quine held a tis­sue to his nose and blew. –I just wish you’d told me you were com­ing.

–You don’t want peo­ple to see us to­geth­er.

–Are you wor­ried the FBI’s go­ing to pull your clear­ance or some­thing?

–It could hap­pen.

–Where are we go­ing, Philip?

–Go­ing?

She picked up In­sti­tu­tional Plan 1994–1999 Draft and dropped it. –This there a five year plan for us? The time we’ve been to­geth­er, I’d ex­pect a lit­tle more con­sid­er­a­tion, not this act that you and I are, are just two op­po­site ends of a bar­gain­ing table. She turned and paced to the win­dow and he fol­lowed, look­ing down at the flooded foun­tain where Chase and his aide were get­ting into a black car un­der a sky dense with the men­ace of rain. Quine abruptly turned and sneezed and she paced away and picked up the small golden cylin­der on his desk. –What is this?

–That? It’s called a hohlraum. It’s a, a ves­sel, for in­di­rect drive fu­sion. It holds the tar­get for the laser.

–It looks like gold.

–It is. Laser strike it evenly from all sides and it ra­di­ates x-rays. They heat and com­press the tar­get in­side. It has to heat to one hun­dred mil­lion de­grees Cel­sius in or­der to ig­nite. The trick is get­ting the outer lay­ers of the tar­get to, to, do you re­ally want to hear this? [pg262]

–Yes. What’s the tar­get?

–A frozen cap­sule of deu­teri­um-tri­tium. Small, about a mil­lime­ter. See, you heat it so that the outer lay­ers boil away like rocket fuel and com­press the cen­ter. You want the in­creased pres­sure so you don’t have to heat the en­tire tar­get to ig­ni­tion tem­per­a­ture. But the heat­ing has to be uni­form, if the tar­get does­n’t stay spher­i­cal, it’ll fly apart. The hohlraum helps even out the ra­di­a­tion, but there’s al­ways some leak­age and nonuni­for­mi­ty, so the lasers have to be aimed pre­cise­ly. A hot spot forms at the cen­ter of the tar­get, the im­plod­ing fuel ig­nites there, and the burn prop­a­gates out­ward. You have to time and shape the laser pulses to pull this off. Nanosec­onds. And there are hy­dro­dy­namic in­sta­bil­i­ties that can dis­tort the sphere and break up the hot spot be­fore, be­fore… this must be bor­ing.

–No, it’s… you make it very clear. Her fin­gers turned the hohlraum.

–The aim is to get more en­ergy out than we put in. That’s called breakeven. That tells us it can be done. It’s beau­ti­ful, is­n’t it?

She put it down. –This is your work, is­n’t it. I’m sorry that I for­get that.

–Will I see you tonight?

Her eyes lost the edge of cal­cu­la­tion they’d had since she walked in on Chase. –Do you want to?

–We haven’t spent a night to­gether since you got back.

–I have to work, I’m still catch­ing up.

–I do too. And I have this rot­ten cold.

–Come to my place. Bring your work.

–No. You come to mine.

The skin of his neck jumped at her touch. Her mouth opened on his. The length of her body pressed against him to turn from his clos­ing arms and quick­en­ing pulse with a coy smile and, –Later… when the light from out­side had ceased to chal­lenge the halo­gen glow on his desk and his eyes and back turned up­ward as if he could see al­ready the dim­ming of the sky over the line of traffic join­ing the free­way be­hind the smoke from a de­crepit pickup haul­ing yard tools, the sound of horns and mo­tors of one car after an­other pass­ing him trapped by their pass­ing be­hind it, cran­ing anx­iously past the click­ing of his left [pg262] turn sig­nal and the sting of his tear­ing eye for an open­ing that did­n’t come be­fore or­ange cones forced him onto a banked curve and a va­cant road stretch­ing like the last av­enue to­ward a wall of cloud dark as slate be­hind ra­di­ant green hills. He slowed be­fore this dire splen­dor, light tan­gi­ble as a thick plasma hold­ing its en­ergy for the act of per­cep­tion that could free it, and he stared dumbly for a minute be­fore turn­ing back into the fierce eye of sun­set peer­ing through cloud at a lat­tice of steel beams now half clad in traver­tine and bot­tle­green glass en­croach­ing on the open land be­yond it, past Ex­tended StayAmer­ica Now Rent­ing and , past those ex­pand­ing edges of a con­sen­sual eco­nomic re­al­ity that had only an es­tranged and grudg­ing re­la­tion­ship with its nat­ural coun­ter­part, till he re­joined the line of tail­lights flow­ing across the over­pass, he had­n’t thought there could be so many cars, ner­vously twitch­ing the ra­dio to, – is a death sen­tence on Nevada that we can­not live with, si­lenc­ing it as he pulled into the dri­ve­way be­hind Lyn­n’s Toy­ota for a sec­ond of JAM blink­ing blue be­fore cut­ting the ig­ni­tion with a dead sound. Com­ing in­side, he saw Lynn on the so­fa, pa­pers spread on the ta­ble be­fore her, a wine­glass weigh­ing them down, an empty plate crossed by flat­ware.

–I ate al­ready, I hope you don’t mind, I was rav­en­ous, I still haven’t ad­justed to the time change.

–No, it’s okay…

–Take­out lasagna in the fridge, you can heat it in the mi­crowave.

–Yes, okay, lat­er, I will.

–In Geneva I met some­one who knew you. An­drew Sorokin? He was sur­prised to learn what you do now. He said you wrote a pa­per to­gether on­ce, is that right?

–Sorokin…? In Geneva?

–He works at CERN, as Quine came for­ward to take from her a thick sheaf and to hold the hand. –You should read it, it’s about the pro­lif­er­a­tion risks of stew­ard­ship.

He glanced at and the fa­mil­iar name, the twinge it brought.

–Yes well, I’m kind of un­der the gun with, pag­ing quickly to Ex­ec­u­tive Sum­ma­ry, where The con­struc­tion of large ICF mi­croex­plo­sion fa­cil­i­ties in both nu­clear-weapon and non-nu­clear-weapon States will give the arms race a fresh boost. –I’ll, you know, look at it when I get a chance but I think he’s got the wrong idea here, Avalon is­n’t to de­sign new weapons.

–No? Look at this… at the fall of a print­out headed De­part­ment of En­ergy Office of Re­search and In­er­tial Fu­sion, –Lynn please I get this all day at work, can’t we…

–Just where I high­light­ed, and he scanned down the page past Core R&AT Pro­gram El­e­ments (De­tail), flipped to Con­cept De­sign and As­sess­ment where, un­der a yel­low high­light, he read Con­cepts un­der con­sid­er­a­tion in this Pro­gram El­e­ment range in com­plex­ity from rel­a­tively mi­nor mod­i­fi­ca­tions in the com­po­nents of ex­ist­ing weapons to ma­jor changes in war­head sub­sys­tems, or to en­tirely new physics de­signs for a pro­posed or can­di­date weapon.

–Look at the next page.

He turned to new ideas needed to evolve and im­prove the stock­pile, looked down at her set fea­tures, –Keep go­ing, and scanned ahead to Con­cept De­sign Stud­ies, aris­ing out of the ex­pe­ri­ences dur­ing and after the Gulf War that in­di­cated po­ten­tial mil­i­tary util­ity for types of nu­clear weapons not cur­rently in the stock­pile.

–Lynn, look, I’m not up to speed with ah, as he went pag­ing past Physics, Com­pu­ta­tion and Mod­el­ing, Sys­tems En­gi­neer­ing, High Ex­plo­sives, Spe­cial Nu­clear Ma­te­ri­als, Tri­tium, –ah with all the de­tails here but

–Why not? Is­n’t it your job?

–I’m work­ing twelve hours a day but my God there’s hun­dreds of thou­sands of pages of this stuff, I read what I have to but my God

–What’s so diffi­cult to un­der­stand, they’re say­ing one thing in pub­lic and here they’re say­ing an­oth­er, “en­tirely new physics de­signs”, did you see that?

–Yes but look these are con­cept de­signs, it, here, it says right here a con­cept is sup­ported by the Pro­gram El­e­ment only through a proof of prin­ci­ple demon­stra­tion, and, and at such time that a new con­cept ma­tures to the point of in­clu­sion in a for­mal di­rected study, see, what it means is

–Philip I can read I know what it means, it means they’re play­ing a [pg265] shell game and not in­clud­ing new weapons un­der stew­ard­ship prop­er. But they’re still do­ing it and re­serv­ing the right to trans­fer it at any time.

–Well but con­cept stud­ies are

–It’s a pro­gram el­e­ment! It’s core re­search!

–Where did you get this, any­way?

–It’s on the DOE’s pub­lic serv­er.

–So how in­crim­i­nat­ing is that? Out in the open, why would they put it on the server if… as he flipped the pages shut, read­ing in the up­per cor­ner ftp://dp.doe.gov/dp-10/dp-11/detail.11.

–I’m sure it’s there by mis­take. They’re shov­el­ing doc­u­ments on­line to com­ply with the vice pres­i­den­t’s Na­tional In­for­ma­tion In­fra­struc­ture pro­gram. But we have it now and it shows what DOE re­ally means by stew­ard­ship.

–You ah, you did­n’t use the word stew­ard­ship in Geneva, did you? Be­cause it’s still, you know, the pro­gram has­n’t been an­nounced…

–Oh Philip, every­one knows, even Chase said it, you’ve been shar­ing data with the , it’s prac­ti­cally iden­ti­cal to Aval­on.

–Where did you hear that?

–It’s com­mon knowl­edge. Why, what is it, is some­thing wrong? You look up­set.

–I’m just, Lynn, I want to be able to tell you things, but not, not if you leak them to the press.

–Leak? What are you, I never

–The Ohlone Val­ley Her­ald is run­ning ar­ti­cles about Je­remy Rec­tor. Did you tell them?

–No! But her face turned from him and she frowned at the floor be­fore look­ing back, her brow dark­ened by some­thing be­tween anger and cha­grin. –I told Tony.

–Lynn, how could you?

For a mo­ment an­guish rose in her face, tossed there in a brief tu­mult of con­science, and sub­sided in a blush more shamed than chas­tened over the stub­born down­turn of her lips. –I asked you, don’t you re­mem­ber, I asked if you were telling me. If you want me to keep things to my­self you have to tell me, you have to be clear, I can’t read [pg266] your mind.

–Lynn, this kind of thing, it’s in­ter­nal Lab busi­ness, I don’t want to have to watch every­thing I say to you, you just, just need to ex­er­cise a lit­tle judge­ment when you

–I’m sor­ry, Philip, but this kind of thing, your hir­ing records, they’re not se­cret, and Rec­tor, you were dis­gusted by his Su­per­bright re­port, weren’t you?

–But now I’m tak­ing the heat, and I did­n’t even hire this guy!

–So fire him.

–No, I can’t.

–Why not? Why back some sleazy de­ci­sion of High­et’s?

–Be­cause don’t you see it’s my de­ci­sion now! I can’t back away from what I said to the Her­ald. If only you’d let it be I could have

Again the an­guish rose in her face, crest­ing this time into anger. –Don’t make it my fault! If fir­ing him’s the right thing to do, don’t say I’ve made it po­lit­i­cally in­ex­pe­di­ent for you.

–Poli­ti, do you have to make every­thing, it’s not, this is, there’s noth­ing wrong here, it’s, he just knows the, the ropes, you know, it’s like if you, you can hire an ex-IRS agent to take along to an IRS au­dit it’s, it’s the same thing, it just helps to clarif

–Make things clearer than the truth?

–That’s not what I’m do­ing! God Lynn do we have to, please, can’t we just, please, I missed you…

She turned from his out­stretched arm, fold­ing hers to­geth­er, look­ing away for a mo­ment, as if try­ing to sep­a­rate what she felt from what she’d done. –Okay, let’s, I’m jet lagged, and I have a lot to process from the con­fer­ence. I don’t want to fight. I should­n’t have told Tony about your au­di­tor. It’s not my fault he called the Her­ald, but I should have guessed he would. You just have to be very clear with me when you tell me some­thing, okay? Okay? Will you? In her ur­gency she took both his hands in hers, and that pres­sure seemed to ask more than her words.

–All right, I’ll, I’ll try, you… what is it?

She piv­oted away from him wip­ing an eye with a palm, slump­ing for­ward with the col­lar of her blouse fallen loose and the weight of her breast a pale curve there with­in. –I can’t, I can’t do this, keep the parts [pg267] of things sep­a­rate.

–Lynn, I’ll, I’ll try to be clear­er, I will…

–Could we just go to bed? Please?

–Yes, all right… wait­ing then in the dark­ness for the gur­gle of wa­ter in the sink to sub­side, for her sil­hou­ette briefly against the light in the door­way be­fore it went dark and the fait sheen of white briefs and chemise against the dusk of her flesh come against him like a fur­nace, tak­ing his breath first un­der seek­ing lips then un­der her weight sit­ting his hips while she gripped the hem of her chemise to pull it off over her head and drop it pool­ing on the floor as he craned for­ward, his mouth seek­ing to con­sume the pale soft­ness offered there, hands ea­ger as hers slip­ping close to the ris­ing heat and clois­tered moist­ness open­ing like petals, and her breath on his neck, chest, bel­ly, –wait, just lie there while I… un­til his gasp as she swung a leg over to set­tle against the search of tongues com­ing free in an inar­tic­u­late moan sharp­ened to a cry at the first plunge quick­ened by her in­sis­tence, where the mir­ror caught the pale blade of her foot clamped around his clenched thighs dri­ving them up the bed to where one hand flung back gripped the bedrail by the air that fresh­ened from the win­dow to a crescendo of rain drum­ming hard on the roof till its re­lease faded to a mur­mur to a trickle to a whis­per to noth­ing but the air mov­ing to cool their spent forms in deep­en­ing still­ness un­til –What! her leg spasmed against him and he came up on one el­bow to still her with a hand on her bare shoul­der lurch­ing up­ward against it.

–Lynn! What is it?

–Huh!

–You were dream­ing.

She sat and drew her knees to her chest, look­ing out into dark­ness.

–Are you all right?

She shook her head and her voice, when it came, was plain­tive as a child’s. –I could­n’t think the things you need to think to make it go away.

He wait­ed, then said, –Do you want to tell me?

–I was in a city, some strange city at night, and I could­n’t re­mem­ber where my car was, I kept walk­ing around look­ing for it, and, and I knew some­one was watch­ing me. And I knew I was dream­ing, but… [pg258]

–Okay, it’s okay now, but her face in the street­light was still and stricken by some­thing dis­tant.

–That’s not what scared me. She turned to look at him. –Do you ever dream about nu­clear war?

–No… But un­bid­den came the im­age of slen­der rods piv­ot­ing to point into the black hol­low of a cres­cent earth, where mis­siles rose in a sil­ver swarm.

–I used to. I’d be at a win­dow look­ing at the city. at night. The lights and the bridges. Then a flash and I knew it had hap­pened. Some­times the dream stopped there, some­times it went on. A roar. A hur­ri­cane of fire. I haven’t had that dream since I was…

Out­side, be­yond black glass, sud­den light froze the yard in an ap­pre­hen­sion of wind­tossed hedge and trees, a mo­ment that for all any­one knew might be their last, un­til what­ever had moved out there stilled and the flood­light snapped off.

–My mother was ar­rested in nine­teen eighty-three, demon­strat­ing. I was six­teen then. Do you re­mem­ber that?

–I’d just started at the Lab. I re­mem­ber a lot of peo­ple block­ing the gates.

–Over a thou­sand. There was­n’t room for them all in jail. The county put up tents at Camp Jep­son. It took four days to process every­one. My mother said, even with the over­crowd­ing, the dirty la­tri­nes, not enough food, every­one there was pos­i­tive and car­ing, she said it felt like a fam­i­ly, like the be­gin­ning of a world she wanted to live in.

His hand idled at her hip, glid­ing across the rise of bone to a soft­ness at the verge of hair where she met and held it with her own, turn­ing her face so that the warmth of her brow lay against his, so that her voice vi­brated there.

–I re­mem­ber the day I met you, I got up very early to drive to the Lab for the de­mo. It was still dark, the free­way was al­most emp­ty. I took the Lab exit and the car in front of me did and the one be­hind me did too, and on the ac­cess road there was a string of lights ahead of me and be­hind me and I thought, every sin­gle per­son on this road is here for the de­mo. It felt so right. Then we passed the mus­ter­ing area for the po­lice. City, coun­ty, state, CHP, , there were so many, I thought how can we win, how can we ever win? Abruptly she [pg269] re­leased his hand and pulled back her head to look at him. –This is what I can’t tell any­one but you. How hope­less it seems. The reach of his hand fell short as the bed jounced to her sit­ting up­right, her ex­pres­sion re­mote in the dim­ness. –My fa­ther was a lawyer. He did a lot of pro bono work, and he used to say, you never win. I think he got some grim sat­is­fac­tion from that. From fight­ing the same bat­tles over and over. He thought demos were fu­tile, he did­n’t like my mother go­ing. I started go­ing just to bug him. But he’d left us by then, he went off with an­other woman when I was twelve. I was so an­gry at him. I saw him only twice after that, once he took me to the zoo, a few years later to din­ner, and he looked so, I don’t know, so tor­tured. So em­bar­rassed. I was­n’t easy on him. Now I think he was a de­cent man who knew he’d done a thing he could­n’t make up.

She came down on her side, lean­ing in to him, clutch­ing his prob­ing hand with both of hers, rais­ing it from her warmth into the air. –I think of him when I see you an­gry, when you don’t want to talk to me. I’m afraid of that, Philip, I don’t un­der­stand it, why peo­ple do that, break pre­cious things they’ve worked so hard to make. She clutched his prob­ing hand with both of hers, rais­ing it from her warmth into air.

–Do you, and he cleared mu­cus from his throat, –do you ever see him now?

–He died three years ago. Philip? She re­leased his hand. –You never talk about your fam­i­ly.

Her leg came slew­ing over his and her arm crossed his chest as he rolled from her onto his side, back to her front, eyes seek­ing in dark­ness some­thing not vis­i­ble at the win­dow where cir­cling planes out­shone the few stars strug­gling through the low clouds, lis­ten­ing for some­thing be­yond that drone of dis­tant en­gines but pur­sued only by the warmth of her voice.

–Philip?

–We’re not close. I don’t talk to my fa­ther.

–What about your moth­er?

–She died. I was ten.

–I’m sor­ry. That must have been hard.

–I don’t re­mem­ber much of it. She was in the hos­pi­tal, then she was sick in bed at home for a long time. [pg270]

–What was it?

–Leukemia.

The fronts of her thighs pressed hotly against the cold backs of his, and her warm bi­cep draped over his as out in the dark­ness 11:38 con­sumed 11:37.

–How old was she?

–She was thirty eight when she died.

–Oh, my dear. Her em­brace tight­ened around him. They lay in si­lence for sec­onds. –What about your fa­ther?

–He was, he was ten years old­er. He did­n’t. He nev­er. He just, he hired house­keep­ers. One after an­oth­er. He went to work, he worked for the state, or he stayed down­stairs sit­ting in his red leather Mor­ris chair.

–You sound so bit­ter. Is he alive?

–As far as I know.

She came up on one el­bow. –You don’t know? Where does he live?

–Out­side Sacra­men­to. Un­less he’s moved.

–So near? How long have you been out of touch?

–S­ince I grad­u­ated high school.

She came down off her el­bow and em­braced him again, pressed to his back. –You make things very hard on your­self, don’t you. My ar­ti­choke.

His hand came off her. –I’m, what?

–Philip! What’s wrong? I mean you’re, you’re prick­ly, and you have many lay­ers, but, but your heart is sweet. What is it, have I hurt you?

–No, I…

–What’s wrong?

–Noth­ing. Noth­ing.

–There is. I said some­thing wrong, I’m sor­ry. Come back! as the mat­tress re­bounded in a sud­den flurry of sheets.

–It’s noth­ing. I have to…

–Where are you go­ing?

–Just to, to the bath­room.

He stood in the dark void­ing. Out­side a pale light fled across the sky. Through a break in the clouds, the moon ap­peared full and rac­ing [pg271] like a ship through foam. The view from Perse­phone look­ing back to­ward Earth at that mo­ment would have shown, clus­tered like jew­els in a hands­breath of , the Sun and cres­cent Earth set against the di­a­dem of Venus, Mars, Mer­cury, and Sat­urn, but its cam­eras pointed the other way, down­ward, like a man look­ing for dropped change on the Moon’s bright and bar­ren sur­face.

Three

[pg272] Though the equinox bore down, win­ter hung on, brack­et­ing days of sun with down­pours, re­lent­ing for a week then re­turn­ing in force, break­ing the banks of rivers, un­der­min­ing cliff­side roads and homes, cov­er­ing the moun­tains in for­get­ful snow. Sun, when it ap­peared, pen­e­trated his office from un­ac­cus­tomed an­gles, strik­ing the cor­ner where twen­ty-five vol­umes of Fund­ing Re­quest FY95 were stacked on the floor in piles of vary­ing height as from time to time he car­ried one to his desk, con­sulted it, left it open for the drift of pa­pers and fold­ers across it till a chance thaw ex­posed it to be shut and re­turned to the pile. Pa­pers ac­cu­mu­lated in wire bas­kets, on the desk, they fell into half opened draw­ers and onto the car­pet, where he bent to re­cover Core R&AT Pro­gram El­e­ments (De­tail)139 as the shadow of a frown passed over his fea­tures at Char­ac­ter­is­tics Of Prin­ci­ple-Cen­tered Lead­ers, See your­self each morn­ing yok­ing up, putting on the har­ness of ser­vice in your var­i­ous stew­ard­ships, see your­self tak­ing the straps and con­nect­ing them around your shoul­ders as you lift the phone for –Yes? Thank you Do­lores, put him through. Hello Reese I, I, wait who is this? Well get off the line! Do­lores? Did you say se­cure line, some­body was just, oh all right, yes I’ll. Yes just let me, hel­lo? Oh hello Reese. Yes i, just fine. Oh well, you know, the usual glitch­es, but over­all things are. Yes I do, wait just a… scan­ning the desk and jab­bing the hold but­ton to call, –Do­lores! Where’s that courier pack­age! as she en­tered with a vinyl pouch and tossed it on his desk for un­zip­ping and the can­dys­triped bor­der on the folder with­in, –okay I have [pg273] it, mis­sion need, earth pen­e­trat­ing, re­duced yield. Uh huh. I’ll pass this on to oh you did, okay then. My ap­proval? Sure, give me a minute to just look over the, uh huh, okay, I see it now, in light of Gulf War lessons, seek new op­tions for hard­ened nu­clear, at­tack and de­stroy un­der­ground bunkers, earth­-cou­pled shock waves, uh huh, …1987? Rea­gan ad­min, yes I see it, ca­pa­bil­ity against deeply buried tar­gets, B fifty three un­suit­able for, that’s a, the B fifty three is a, a nine mega­ton de­vice? What they used to call a city buster? What? Crowd pleaser? Oh re­al­ly? I did­n’t know the in­di­vid­ual bombs had nick­names. Yes, I can see it’s overkill for a bunker. Won’t fit in a Stealth B two. Di­al-a-yield now that’s… oh, there’s ac­tu­ally a di­al? Uh huh. Ten to three hun­dred kilo­tons. And that’s the ex­ist­ing mark, the, the B sixty one rev sev­en. Uh huh. I mean we’re not, this is a mod­i­fi­ca­tion right, not a new weapon. No change to the physics pack­age? Uh huh. Okay. Yes, I will. Oh, and Reese, one thing, as the rest­less stir of his fin­gers found Core R&AT Pro­gram El­e­ments (De­tail), –We’ve been say­ing in our pub­lic in­for­ma­tion that we won’t de­sign new weapons. Nu­clear, yes, nu­clear weapon de­signs, that’s what I mean. But let me read this to you, ah… “con­cepts un­der con­sid­er­a­tion range from rel­a­tively mi­nor mod­i­fi­ca­tions in the com­po­nents of ex­ist­ing weapons to en­tirely new physics de­signs for a pro­posed or can­di­date weapon”. Yes. That’s from a DOE doc­u­ment on a pub­lic serv­er. Also this… “con­cept de­sign stud­ies aris­ing out of ex­pe­ri­ences dur­ing and after the Gulf War in­di­cated po­ten­tial mil­i­tary util­ity for types of nu­clear weapons not cur­rently in the stock­pile”. Yes well, our pub­lic in­for­ma­tion office asked me to, to clar­ify it. Be­cause all this might sound like new de­signs to some­one who, who is­n’t. Con­cepts, yes of course I un­der­stand, I just worry that some­one else who, who, might, might. Yes but if, I mean it’s on an open server! Any­one could. Yes I do, right here. It’s, hold on, FTP colon slash slash DP dot DOE dot GOV slash DP hy­phen ten slash DP hy­phen eleven slash de­tail dot D eleven. And just, just one more thing, re­search on pure fu­sion weapons140 is still clas­si­fied, cor­rect? I thought so, but, as pa­pers flur­ried off the edge of the desk to set­tle on the car­pet, –here it is, six­teen A, un­clas­si­fied, fact of re­search on pure fu­sion weapons, do you know about that? On the same serv­er. Uh huh. I see. Fact of re­search but no de­tails. Well, I ask be­cause of Avalon and [pg274] the non­pro­lif­er­a­tion is­sues, I mean we have a pub­lic hear­ing com­ing up don’t we? Yes, the one Chase asked for. You’ve sched­uled it for, when, May? Yes we’ll have the con­cep­tual De­sign Re­port done by then. Yes, just so, so we’re on the same… as the next page was un­cov­ered by the brusque sweep of his hand, push­ing aside DOE Per­for­mance Agree­ment, The De­part­ment has changed its pri­or­i­ties, so that we con­tribute to the restor­ing of the Amer­i­can Dream, im­proved com­mu­ni­ca­tions and trust, a safe and re­ward­ing work­place that is re­sult­s-ori­ented and fun, and DOE Open­ness Ini­tia­tive Up­date: Ap­point­ment of the Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee on Hu­man Ra­di­a­tion Ex­per­i­ments has en­abled the De­part­ment to re­gain con­trol of the con­tro­versy and to slow down pub­lic, for URL-ID-120738 Avalon Sys­tem De­sign Re­quire­ments, fold­ing it firmly back to X-Ray Laser Ex­per­i­ments, needed to pre­serve our com­pe­tency in non-LTE de­sign and to de­velop short­-wave­length x-ray lasers for du­al-ben­e­fit ap­pli­ca­tions.

The days length­ened, ex­tend­ing the near per­pet­ual twi­light of wind and rain that stip­pled the con­struc­tion area, the park­ing lot, the free­way, the dri­ve­way of his house, most often emp­ty, with Lynn prepar­ing for the hear­ing, or away on some re­treat. Twice in the month they were to­gether for a night, a bub­ble of time out­side nor­mal suc­ces­sion, a pocket utopia whose bound­aries, for that mo­ment, ex­cluded the greater world, but al­ways that world re­turned, omi­nous as the dark tower of cloud be­hind Mount Ohlone as he dropped the blinds and sat frown­ing at

At­ten: Dr. Philip Quine, di­rec­tor
From: Den­nis Ki­hara
Re: DOJ re­quest
To effec­tu­al­ize a De­part­ment of Jus­tice re­quest, E Sec­tion per­formed ex­per­i­ments on stop­ping au­to­mo­bile en­gines with mi­crowave beams. Us­ing Lab­o­ra­tory equip­ment, we beamed mi­crowaves onto an en­gine. The en­gine, which was idling, stopped within a cou­ple of sec­onds.
Be­cause our equip­ment could only gen­er­ate mod­est amounts of pow­er, the hood was opened to max­i­mize the ex­po­sure. Our au­to­mo­bile [pg275] was a stan­dard gov­ern­ment is­sue sedan. We be­lieve that the mi­crowave con­fused the com­put­er. A sen­sor was up­set and gave the com­puter a too lean read­ing, caus­ing the en­gine to stall. After the ex­per­i­ment, we drove the au­to­mo­bile back to our office 15 miles away. After hun­dreds of ex­po­sures un­der var­i­ous stress­ing con­di­tions, the sen­sor did quit.
We will present our data in a clas­si­fied talk and tell our story about how the me­dia changed our sto­ry.
Work per­formed un­der Con­tract W-7405-Eng-48.141

–Just the kind of high qual­ity first-prin­ci­ples re­search we want to effec­tu­al­ize around here… he mut­tered, as it van­ished un­der Ohlone Val­ley Her­ald, Crit­ics Charge, and he lifted the phone for –Do­lores, tell Den­nis Ki­hara I want to see him in here right aw… who? Put him on. Je­re­my, how’s Wash­ing­ton? Yes fine, the Her­ald seems to have, at least your hir­ing’s no longer… what? No I did­n’t. Okay, I’ll look into it. Lis­ten, those Null­point pa­pers I gave you, did you, did you show… what do you mean you al­ready, Highet gave them to you? Be­fore he? But, to clar­ify that he had­n’t, but you mean he, no now look you mean, waiv­ing com­mer­cial rights, spin­ning off shell com­pa­nies you, you mean all that’s legal? Yes I know DOE was en­cour­ag­ing tech­nol­ogy trans­fer but that’s what CRADAs are for you can’t just… Yes I do want to bring it up again, there’s, there’s what do you mean more im­port, no but look this is im­por­tant the prin­ci­ple is im­por­tant! He can’t get away with… Me? How can it bite me? I had noth­ing to do with it! Yes I see that but, but and what? Four hun­dred mill, that has noth­ing to do with me, how can you even… a, a his­to­ry? Well it’s not my his­to­ry! but, with­hold un­til a full ac­count­ing, who… Bangert­er? Who’s he? Armed Serv, and and where did he hear…? Well it’s none of his busi­ness who I, I, I, what my per­sonal life is or what her pol­i­tics are, who does he think he… well if he thinks he can use any of this to stop Avalon he’s wrong be­cause I’m go­ing to do what I think is best for the Lab no mat­ter wh… well fine then you just deal with that! He dropped the hand­set and leaned back in the chair, eyes shut, open­ing at last to a fly or­bit­ing his head to land on the com­puter screen, where he came for­ward for [pg276] mQEPAzlqPx0AAAEIALEPWTHRLZ6x0n75VZkUwjpOFI3coOOvmB35xXcwgym+Du8biuNgKrK+KwkHvJxdaywtkixRZkl/IEKEktWviruj520c1tuy5DNV+MR0pZUDKZbbj1I2PscuTS9D4qFRXQ/hNKbTtFjQD9RavfBr2kTHEFqzqnmJY9KOlm2bK312Wz05 and squan­dered a minute try­ing six let­ter per­mu­ta­tions at Pass­word: ------, as the fly lighted on Coun­ter­pro­lif­er­a­tion in the New World Or­der and he qui­etly raised Ohlone Val poised to come crash­ing down on a white stone dog142 un­cov­ered by the force of his blow as the fly en­tered a new or­bit ec­cen­tric as any as­ter­oid’s. Eyes nar­rowed on it he lifted the phone for, –Do­lores? Where’s Den­nis Ki­hara? He’s not? First day he’s been gone since his leave start­ed… as the sun broke briefly upon his desk, find­ing him un­will­ing to turn for long from the on­go­ing dis­trac­tion of the present to the eter­nal re­proach of the past or the fu­ture’s capri­cious threats, ad­dressed in gory de­tail by STRATCOM 2010 Po­ten­tial Uses For Low-Yield Nu­clear Weapons In The New World Or­der143, We doubt that any pres­i­dent would au­tho­rize the use of nu­clear weapons in our present ar­se­nal against Third World na­tions. It is pre­cisely this doubt that leads us to ar­gue for the de­vel­op­ment of sub­kilo­ton nu­clear weapons, weapons whose power is effec­tive but not ab­hor­ren­t…An earth pen­e­tra­tor with a yield of just ten tons could hold buried lead­er­ship and C3 at risk while keep­ing col­lat­eral dam­age very lo­cal­ized…The most ap­peal­ing con­cepts fo­cus on nu­clear war­heads with very small yields and with de­sign and de­liv­ery tech­niques that min­i­mize fall­out, resid­ual ra­di­a­tion, and col­lat­eral dam­age, offer­ing a wider range of tar­get­ing op­tions for main­tain­ing a cred­i­ble nu­clear de­ter­rence in the new world or­der. His head lifted for the sharp rat­tle of rain against the win­dow, only to lower again to That the US may be­come ir­ra­tional and vin­dic­tive if its vi­tal in­ter­ests are at­tacked should be part of the na­tional per­sona we project to all ad­ver­saries… as he looked up into Nolan’s sat­ur­nine face, col­or­less and fixed in the rain­light. –Bran?

–Did you look at those en­vi­ron­men­tal re­ports yet?

–The, I’m sor­ry, the what?

–Last month I gave you a cou­ple of files con­cern­ing tox­i­cs?

–Oh yes, I, I meant to, but you, you can see what I’m up against here, ges­tur­ing vaguely at the clut­ter around him, sur­prised as Nolan se­ri­ously fol­lowed his gaze across FY95, Sys­tem De­sign Re­quire­ments [pg277], FUDGE: A Fu­sion Di­ag­nos­tic for Aval­on, to the edge of the desk where some­thing hid­den be­hind The 7 Habits of Hi seemed to catch Nolan’s eye, –not, not even sure where those files are now…

–What’s this?

–The, what…? his baffled gaze ris­ing to the white stone dog in Nolan’s hand, its snout pointed sky­ward, its mouth a blue dart back to where haunches were more im­plied than in­cised.

–Oh it’s, I think Highet left it be­hind. Do you know what it is?

–Coy­ote fetish. Nava­jo, maybe Zu­ni. He could have got it on a visit to our sis­ter lab in the South­west [Los Alam­os]. Ten bucks at a road­side stand. So you’re not do­ing any­thing about those tox­ics re­ports?

–I’ll look at them, but, what with the Con­cep­tual De­sign Re­port and I’ve re­ally got to fin­ish re­view­ing the Sys­tem De­sign Re­quire­ments oh and the bud­get stuff… any­way is­n’t Boni­face in charge of

–Okay, I can see you’re busy, I’ll han­dle it some other way.

–Thanks, I… as the coy­ote fetish went back on the desk, to hold down a turned-back page, The mon­e­tary and de­ferred main­te­nance costs of more than fifty years of the nu­clear arms race rise like a crest­ing wave to shadow present and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. The cost of build­ing our present stock­pile was ap­prox­i­mately five tril­lion dol­lars, and the cost of man­ag­ing it will be far higher144, glow­ing more brightly un­der the halo­gen lamp as night came on and Quine paused over Ohlone Val­ley Her­ald to tear out Re­spect Fades For Ac­tivists, moved some pa­pers aside from Sys­tem De­sign Re­quire­ments Part V X-Ray Laser Re­search, eyes falling on The Quest For Fourth Gen­er­a­tion Nu­clear Weapons, An­drew Sorokin, 1211 Geneva 12 Switzer­land. The fa­mil­iar name lashed out from a past that, like so many of these pa­pers, re­fused to stay buried.

First gen­er­a­tion nu­clear weapons (NW) are ura­nium or plu­to­nium fis­sion bombs, such as the Hi­roshima and Na­gasaki weapons. They are rel­a­tively sim­ple, re­li­able, rugged and com­pact.

Sec­ond gen­er­a­tion NWs are two-stage ther­monu­clear de­vices, com­monly called hy­dro­gen bombs. A tri­tium-boosted fis­sion bomb is used to im­plode and ig­nite a sec­ondary fu­sion re­ac­tion which pro­duces most of the yield.

Third gen­er­a­tion NWs are “tai­lored” or “en­hanced” to in­crease or [pg278] de­crease cer­tain effects such as de­gree of ra­dioac­tive fall­out. A typ­i­cal ex­am­ple is the so-called neu­tron bomb.

Fourth gen­er­a­tion nu­clear weapons are based on atomic or nu­clear processes that are not re­stricted by the CTBT. Their de­vel­op­ment will be es­sen­tially sci­ence based. It is likely that the first fourth gen­er­a­tion nu­clear weapons will be minia­tur­ized ex­plo­sives with yields in the range of 1 to 100 ton equiv­a­lent TNT, i.e., in the gap which to­day sep­a­rates con­ven­tional weapons from nu­clear weapons. These rel­a­tively low yield nu­clear ex­plo­sives would not qual­ify as weapons of mass de­struc­tion.

Con­sid­er­able re­search is un­der­way in all five nu­clear-weapon states into in­er­tial con­fine­ment fu­sion (ICF) and other phys­i­cal processes nec­es­sary to de­velop fourth-gen­er­a­tion NWs. A ma­jor arms con­trol of fourth gen­er­a­tion weapons is that their de­vel­op­ment is very closely re­lated to pure sci­en­tific re­search. The chief pur­pose of the CTBT is to freeze the tech­nol­ogy of nu­clear weapons as a first step to­ward gen­eral and com­plete nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment. In or­der to archive that, it is nec­es­sary to im­ple­ment effec­tive mea­sures of pre­ven­tive arms con­trol, such as in­ter­na­tion­ally bind­ing re­stric­tions in all rel­e­vant ar­eas of R&D whether they are claimed to be for mil­i­tary or civil­ian pur­pos­es.

–Easy for you to say… as he raised blinds to a night sky the blacker for flood­lights glar­ing be­low it and the bro­ken grid of lights where some had stayed late work­ing to sketch against that black­ness, as it were, some fore­see­able fu­ture, some ex­ten­sion of these lines of light past the bound­aries of the Lab and into a world bod­ied forth in those pages he re­turned to, a world in which High En­ergy Laser (HEL) sys­tems offer the po­ten­tial to main­tain an asym­met­ric edge over ad­ver­saries for the fore­see­able fu­ture. Fund­ing for HEL Sci­ence & Tech­nol­ogy pro­grams should be in­creased to sup­port pri­or­ity ac­qui­si­tion pro­grams and to de­velop new tech­nolo­gies for fu­ture ap­pli­ca­tions. The HEL in­dus­trial sup­plier base is frag­ile and lacks ad­e­quate in­cen­tive to make the large in­vest­ments re­quired to sup­port an­tic­i­pated DoD needs. The DoD should lever­age HEL rel­e­vant re­search be­ing sup­ported by the De­part­ment of En­ergy (DOE), as he mut­tered, –Put as­sets in space you have to pro­tect them, let’s sow a [pg279] few while we’re at it… in­dus­trial sup­plier base a lit­tle frag­ile let’s pump up the de­mand… what time is it any­way…?

Rain in the early hours abated only for the blus­ter of wind and a rush of dap­pled light across the torn and lakeleted pit be­low, the glis­ten­ing black piles of gravel and mounds of dun earth cradling sky col­ored pools like a model sier­ra, as day made its ten­ta­tive way into the empty office, as­sert­ing it­self across Types of fourth gen­er­a­tion weapons un­til the blind was dropped to close it out, and the chair creaked un­der his weight set­tling back to

  1. Sub­crit­i­cal and mi­crofis­sion ex­plo­sives. With 1 kg of high ex­plo­sive and un­der 1 gram of Pu, it is the­o­ret­i­cally pos­si­ble to pro­duce a highly com­pact weapon with a yield of sev­eral tons TNT equiv­a­lent.
  2. Transplu­tonic and su­per­heavy el­e­ments. These el­e­ments are in gen­eral fis­sile, and their crit­i­cal masses are much smaller than that of Pu, po­ten­tially in the range of grams rather than kilo­grams. The goal is to find a long-lived su­per­heavy el­e­ment with a crit­i­cal mass of 1 g or less. 267108 was syn­the­sized at Dubna last year with a halflife of 19 msec, and 265106 and 265107 with halflives of about 10 sec­onds, con­firm­ing Nix’s the­ory about sta­bil­i­ty, sug­gest­ing that close to 400 sta­ble su­per­heavy nu­clei may be found be­tween el­e­ments 106 and 136 and that at least a dozen of them should have halflives longer than 25,000 years.
  3. An­ti­mat­ter. Re­leases 275 times more en­ergy per unit mass than any other re­ac­tion. An­tipro­tons have been cap­tured and con­fined in mag­netic traps. CERN is build­ing an an­tipro­ton de­cel­er­a­tor. Could be used to ig­nite sub­crit­i­cal burn of fis­sile ma­te­r­i­al.
  4. Nu­clear iso­mers. High ex­plo­sives have en­ergy con­tents ≈ 5 kJ/g. Nu­clear iso­mers yield ≈ 1 GJ/g. Fis­sion yield ≈ 80 GJ/g. Long-lived iso­mers in the re­gion of in­ter­est have not yet been ob­served.
  5. Super­ex­plo­sives and metal­lic hy­dro­gen. Could be used to greatly re­duce size of fis­sion trig­ger.
  6. Pure fu­sion. The chal­lenge is to build a com­pact sin­gle-use de­vice that can re­place the huge ac­cel­er­a­tor, laser, ca­pac­i­tor bank, or mag­net that is nec­es­sary for lab­o­ra­tory ig­ni­tion of fis­sion or fu­sion cap­sules. Whether or not a fu­sion dri­ver such as a com­pact laser can be de­signed, ICF ex­per­i­ments with lab­o­ra­tory lasers will en­able the [pg280] de­vel­op­ment of mini-sec­on­daries.
  7. Su­per­lasers. There is no fun­da­men­tal ob­sta­cle to reach­ing the the­o­ret­i­cal max­i­mum in­ten­sity of 1024 W/cm2. Such de­vices could be made com­pact enough to have nu­mer­ous weapons ap­pli­ca­tions, from fu­sion dri­vers to par­ti­cle beam col­li­ma­tors. Their civil­ian ap­pli­ca­tions are so nu­mer­ous that con­tain­ing such de­vel­op­ments will be nearly im­pos­si­ble

…and the blind lifted onto an­other twi­light over­borne by the flicker of the over­head flu­o­res­cents, their me­an­der­ing buzz grat­ing against his ris­ing panic at an­other day so quickly slipped away, and he rose to snap them off, the evening light at that mo­ment per­versely swelling as the sun found space to swim be­neath the leaden over­cast into del­i­cate bands of salmon and sil­ver cloud fig­ured on the dark­ness like float­ing mead­ows, till it ig­nited in them like a jewel and sent shafts of fire across the wide air and into the office, wash­ing the wall with rosy light, a quickly gath­ered promise that as quickly faded as if sor­rowed that its lu­mi­nos­ity had­n’t been seized, but was over­looked for The Avalon Fa­cil­ity And The Is­sue Of Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion DRAFT,

This sec­tion will ex­plore, within clas­si­fi­ca­tion guide­li­nes, what weapons sci­ence is tech­ni­cally pos­si­ble at Aval­on.

  1. Ra­di­a­tion flow
  2. Prop­er­ties of mat­ter
  3. Mix and hy­dro­dy­nam­ics
  4. Us­ing ig­ni­tion for weapons sci­ence
  5. X-ray laser re­search

For two rea­sons, Avalon would not be suffi­cient to de­velop a pure fu­sion weapon: (1) its tar­gets are much too small to be a weapon; and (2) the dri­ving mech­a­nisms and con­di­tions that would be re­quired for a weapon are en­tirely differ­ent than those re­quired for ICF.

But that… over­looked and for­got­ten ra­di­ance re­turned soon enough through slats in the blind aligned so that it glazed the white stone coy­ote, still at at­ten­tion, hold­ing down Or­ga­ni­za­tion For The Cre­ative Per­son, as his hand reached for it but was checked by, –Hel­lo? Reese? Oh, yes… you did? Okay, let me… turn­ing to the com­puter for

> ftp dp.­doe.­gov

Connected to dp.doe.gov
220 Welcome to the Department of Energy FTP Server. [pg281]
220 Unauthorized or illegal use of this archive is prohibited.
Name: anony­mous
331 Guest login ok, send your complete e-mail address as password.
Password: quine@lu­cin­da.lab.­gov
230 Welcome to the Department of Energy FTP Server.
230 Guest login ok, access restrictions apply.
ftp> cd /dp-10/dp-11
250 CWD command successful.
ftp> get de­tail.d11
550 detail.d11: Permission denied.

then lift­ing the hand­set, –Yes, I just checked, it’s, it’s gone. What? Yes it’s, I’m just fin­ish­ing it, the state­ment of work, I’ll e-mail it to you right away… bring­ing up a new win­dow on the screen to type quick­ly, The B61 rev 11 will be de­signed with the help of com­puter sim­u­la­tions. Hy­drotest Shot 3574 will be the ba­sis for cer­ti­fy­ing the B61 rev 11. Full scale pen­e­tra­tion tests will be con­ducted at Aguas Se­cas Test Site, fill­ing in To: reeset@­doe.­gov and click­ing SEND. The stone dog snared his eye again and in an­noy­ance he reached to move it, but once it was in his hand his eyes nar­rowed and he held it. After a mo­ment he re­placed it on the desk, turned to the com­puter and /highet/pgp/ and typed Pass­word: coy­ote for a flood of files open­ing one over an­other un­til win­dows too many to count were over­lapped with arched brows and sul­try eyes and splayed limbs and grasp­ing hands and pout­ing lips, where lovely Ly­ca, tanned in the face by shin­ing suns and blow­ing winds, lay with Rose and Sharon and Lily and their val­leys and the hinds of their fields putting forth what might have been green figs hang­ing from every man with his sword upon his thigh, while in de­sart wild the vir­gin view’d loos’d her slen­der dress for the threat’n­ing horn blush’d fiery red, seek­ing only it­self to please, naked in the sunny beam’s de­light, press­ing with slow rude mus­cle to de­posit the fruits of the gush­ing show­ers from pen­t-up aching rivers, his eyes fixed on the lin­ea­ments of grat­i­fied de­sire as he mut­tered, –What, more of the­se? and the phone blurt­ed. –Yes. Oh! No yes I’m glad you. Yes I miss you too. Yes me too, but I can’t, can’t come, I mean, no I don’t mean it’s just I’m kind of chained, to, to my I mean… yes but it’s hard, no I mean, hard to, lis­ten, can you hold it for just a…? as he put down the hand­set [pg282] and clicked QUIT to col­lapse the win­dows as he mut­tered –Hun­dreds more megabytes of smut, what was he think­ing? pick­ing up the hand­set again for –Lynn I’m sorry it’s, I just… yes I know I said that I’d, that we’d, but I’m just go­ing have to stay tonight… how about Thurs­day? Oh. Well why did­n’t you tell me? Good Fri­day, yes you did say, I did know that but, but is it Easter al­ready…? as the office door swung wide and Do­lores de­posited two more boxes of pa­pers just in­side –What, what about this week­end then? Re­treat from what? Oh. I see. Yes okay then I’ll, I’ll be home Mon­day by six. I promise. I do? Well yes, things are work­ing out there I think I see some light at the end of… Yes, me too… hang­ing up as on the field now cleared of ven­ery new di­rec­to­ries ap­peared, /4thgen/, /icf/, /papers/, and he browsed the scanned im­ages of pa­pers Highet had writ­ten or, more often, cowrit­ten, or in which he’d sim­ply got­ten a cite or ac­knowl­edg­ment, –Zero Point Quan­tum Dy­namic En­er­gy, In­flat­able Kevlar Space Sta­tion, Steganog­ra­phy: A Novel Ap­proach To Data Hid­ing, Per­pet­ual Mo­tion of the Third Kind, typ­i­cal, not a bit of real sci­ence in sight… un­til he opened Laser Com­pres­sion Of Mat­ter For Ther­monu­clear Fu­sion A. Réti F. Sz­abo L. Highet 1974 and his mut­ter­ing ceased and after a while he reached for a pen­cil and pa­per while his eyes re­mained fixed on the screen.

Cal­cu­la­tions show that one kilo­joule of light en­ergy is suffi­cient to gen­er­ate an equal quan­tity of ther­monu­clear en­er­gy. –But, one kilo­joule…? …s­tar­ing at his own scrib­bles that, im­pos­si­bly, seemed to con­firm it, un­til he went on brows­ing into 1976, Cal­cu­la­tions show that ten kilo­joules should be suffi­cient to, and 1979, One hun­dred kilo­joules should pro­vide suffi­cient en­ergy, and Fund­ing for the laser up­grade will as­sure lead­er­ship in in­er­tial con­fine­ment fu­sion re­search, and Fund­ing for val­i­da­tion tests of our com­puter mod­els, fol­low­ing the trail of in­creas­ing en­er­gies and en­tic­ing pre­dic­tions and fis­cal years to an ap­par­ent ter­mi­nus in LANCET 1979–1991, Overview: The Lancet se­ries of un­der­ground tests has been un­der­taken to val­i­date and re­fine x-ray laser codes as well as codes re­lated to the ther­mo­dy­namic ig­ni­tion of deu­teri­um-tri­tium (DT) cap­sules. The tests in this se­ries are: Alder, Wil­low, Rowan, Plumtree, Prim­rose, Rasp­ber­ry, Hon­ey­suck­le, Cher­ry, Gold­en­rod, Hawthorn, Ap­ple­tree, and Tal­iesin. [pg283]

And within this di­rec­tory was an­oth­er, /data/, where he found 1013 TALIESIN DOE 911107 ASTS SHAFT P8 80 KT. Columns of num­bers. T SYMM PULSE TEMP BURN… It was the x-ray laser data he’d spent months try­ing to square with sim­u­la­tion codes. This was his. What he’d bled over. But there were columns of un­fa­mil­iar num­bers, . As he’d pig­gy­backed his re­flec­tors, some­one had added some­thing else. Every other test in the se­ries the same. Dual use. At­tempts to ig­nite fu­sion cap­sules. And these were the roots of Aval­on, go­ing back twenty years and more. He stared out the win­dow at flood­lights and dark­ness. A lone fig­ure crossed down there near the dry foun­tains, his shadow be­hind him.145 Quine kicked off his shoes, moved vol­umes of FY95 from the couch to the floor. He stretched out and shut his eyes for just a mo­ment. Panic flick­ered there, in the last mo­ment be­fore sleep rose like a crest­ing wave to shadow present and fu­ture con­cerns.

Four

[pg284]

Damp skin against damp sheets. The ra­dio sang soft­ly, –öd und leer das Meer…146

He raised him­self on an el­bow to press the light. He opened Va­ler­ian 500 mg and shook out two cap­sules. Stink of gravesoil.

Ladies and gen­tle­men, madam sec­re­tary, mis­ter Pres­i­dent, this solemn re­spon­si­bil­i­ty, this , this , I throw it back in your faces.

Sorry I’m sorry

Child­hood house. Cit­rus way. Predawn win­dow. Cobalt blue sky, high pink horse­tail clouds. White dust on the lawn. Snow? Some pow­der or lime. In the neigh­bor’s yard a young woman sits in the bushes play­ing a gui­tar. Moth­er?

But I

Again the smell of burn­ing, pun­gent as a halo­gen lamp.

Her face in the mir­ror, in­tent upon it­self, as she combed her long auburn hair traced with gray, falling away from the vo­lu­tions of her ear. Her se­ri­ous gaze on him.

I

Dawn light gray in the room, creep­ing with its chill into the bed. He drew in his limbs and lay for a mo­ment gath­er­ing him­self as on the ra­dio a bari­tone voice lept and feinted over a mut­ter of and a sin­gle horn, stretch­ing the syl­la­bles of –Kar, frei, tags, za­ub, er…147 and he groped for OFF find­ing in­stead –il­lions of gal­lons of crude oil have spilled from, stab­bing it to si­lence as he stared dully at the leaves, buds, [pg285] and blooms so mildly and ten­derly scent­ing the air out­side his win­dow, no less than the air out­side the gates where, sun risen but ab­sent be­hind a shroud of gray, pro­test­ers in a ragged and dispir­ited group clus­tered by the road­way bear­ing signs AVALON BOONDOGGLE and ZERO NOW as Quine, dri­ving past, glimpsed a young woman in the crowd, el­bow raised to rest one hand in the rus­set gleam of her dark hair while the other hand was up in a ges­ture per­haps meant to rally the oth­ers, though she passed from his sight be­fore she com­pleted it.

–Morn­ing, Philip, said Sz­abo, sud­denly at Quine’s side as they en­tered the con­fer­ence room. –I see Good Fri­day is April Fool’s Day this year. It’s like the an­ar­chists’ con­ven­tion out there. How many have they got, fifteen, twen­ty? What’s that, coffee? Not your usual

–How are you all? I just want to quickly go over our ba­sics, get a kind of progress re­port from each of you, make sure we’re on the, the same page as we go into the home stretch on this Con­cep­tual De­sign Re­port. I know some of you think the, the lan­guage we use is unim­por­tant, but I want to, to fine tune this mis­sion state­ment based on DOE’s ex­pec­ta­tions. First, and I’ve seen most of your drafts, you all know, you should know that we no longer use the word nu­clear in our pub­lic in­for­ma­tion. We say na­tional se­cu­ri­ty, spe­cial pro­grams, threat re­duc­tion, or NBC.

–What’s that, guided pea­cocks?

–You know what it is, Frank. Nu­clear bi­o­log­i­cal chem­i­cal.

–Maybe we should get nu­clear out of the acronyms too.

–There’s an al­ter­na­tive, WMD. Weapons of mass de­struc­tion.

–Sure, what­ev­er.

–Frank, please don’t take this light­ly. Now if you’d all turn to… the pages folded back as sighs, short and in­fre­quent, were ex­haled, and each man fixed his eyes there, on the ex­i­gen­cies of words try­ing not to say what they meant.

–“abil­ity to de­sign, test, man­u­fac­ture, and cer­tify new weapons should the CTBT end.”

–Make that “col­lapse”, should the CTBT col­lapse.

–Don’t start out with new weapons, start with “main­tain­ing the ar­se­nal”.

–“main­tain­ing the ar­se­nal and the abil­ity” [pg286]

–make that ex­per­tise

–“main­tain­ing the ar­se­nal and the ex­per­tise needed to de­sign, test, man­u­fac­ture, and cer­tify new nu­clear weapons should the CTBT col­lapse”

–We still have new weapons in there.

–How about “main­tain­ing ex­per­tise and de­vel­op­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties that would be use­ful if the CTBT col­lapsed”?

–Okay, and ad­dress, you know, the safety and re­li­a­bil­ity is­sues…

–David, just, just as a mat­ter of in­for­ma­tion, would you call a pure fu­sion weapon a “sig­nifi­cant safety im­prove­ment”?

–I cer­tainly would. Ther­monu­clear ig­ni­tion with­out a fis­sion pri­mary would be a clear win. Much small­er, more com­pact bombs, with­out the plu­to­ni­um. I hate plu­to­ni­um. It’s , its halflife is twenty four thou­sand years, and you’ve ever seen. I’d love to get rid of it. Of course, since Con­gress found out about ply­wood we’re not sup­posed to be work­ing on

–Ply­wood?

–Pre­ci­sion Low Yield Weapons De­vel­op­ment. An Air Force ini­tia­tive. Too bad, we had to put a lot of neat ideas back on the shelf for now.

–Is there, is there any more coffee? Yes, could you, thank you. Okay, let’s go over the Avalon el­e­ments from the, from the top. I’m look­ing for, for show stop­pers. Any­thing that might pre­vent us from de­liv­er­ing ig­ni­tion.

–Cap­sule de­sign and man­u­fac­ture. If the fuel cap­sule dis­torts un­der pres­sure, loses its spheric­ity

–or if it is­n’t per­fectly spher­i­cal in fab­ri­ca­tion

–…what kind of tol­er­ances?

–It’s hard to get good data on non­lin­ear­i­ties, but in scaled down tests on ex­ist­ing beam­li­nes, we’re say­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties should be smaller than a mi­crom­e­ter

–and uni­form heat­ing of the tar­get from all di­rec­tions, within say a few per­cent. We can over­lap beams to smooth the il­lu­mi­na­tion, but

–hohlraum cou­pling at about ten to fifteen per­cent, think we can get it up to twen­ty, twenty five

–con­fi­dent we can get power in the five hun­dred ter­awatt range [pg287]

–not just the power you know, it’s the ter­awatts plus the ter­aflops.

–Could you say that again in Eng­lish, Mar­shall?

–The codes have to val­i­date the ex­per­i­men­tal da­ta.

–Don’t you mean the data have to val­i­date the codes?

–Could we, could we pos­si­bly use a differ­ent word?

–A differ­ent word, what do you mean?

–Ter­aflops sounds like fail­ure. We’re sell­ing this to Con­gress.

–But, but, that’s the word for it. Tril­lions of float­ing point op­er­a­tions per sec­ond.

–I’m wor­ried about how it sounds. How about teraops?

–Sounds like a di­nosaur.

–No, it sounds op­ti­mistic. Now, is one point eight mega­joules enough? Be­cause with­out ig­ni­tion, the case for Avalon as a stew­ard­ship el­e­ment is weak.

–Je­sus Phil, the case for Avalon as a stew­ard­ship el­e­ment is al­most nonex­is­tent, it’s just the hoop we have to jump through.

–I hope you’re not shar­ing those sen­ti­ments out­side this room, Frank. The fact is, we’re sell­ing ig­ni­tion. Is one point eight mega­joules enough?

–De­tailed nu­mer­i­cal sim­u­la­tions pre­dict

–Any ac­tual data?

A pause, a look, went across the room. –Well, yes, said Mos­fet. –We did a test se­ries that put to rest fun­da­men­tal ques­tions about the ba­sic fea­si­bil­ity of high gain and ah con­firms…

–Those would be the, the Lancet un­der­ground tests?

Again a look. –Yes, that’s right. We, while Ra­di­ance was on­go­ing, as part of the un­der­ground tests then, we ig­nited some DT cap­sules. Us­ing the blast as an en­ergy dri­ver. We got very use­ful data on

–I’ve seen some of that da­ta. What I want to know is, did the cap­sules ig­nite?

–Well… yes.

–And the codes cor­rectly pre­dicted the con­di­tions for ig­ni­tion?

–Well, these were one and two di­men­sional codes, that’s what we’ll re­fine with the data from Avalon and the new com­put­ers. But yes they pre­dict­ed…

–Wait. In the sev­en­ties our codes pre­dicted ig­ni­tion with one [pg288] thou­sand joules, is­n’t that right? And we built a thou­sand joule laser and it was­n’t enough. Then we raised our es­ti­mate and it still was­n’t enough. Now we’re up to one point eight mil­lion. Are you sure, Mar­shall, that our codes cap­ture the physics?

–Not all of the physics, but, you know, those early codes, they un­der­es­ti­mated the rate at which in­sta­bil­i­ties in the cap­sule could ex­pand, but we’re con­fi­dent now, I mean, our mod­els con­firm very well to the ex­per­i­ments we’ve done.

–It sounds like you’ve been talk­ing to the skep­tics, Philip.

–I want to sell this pro­gram, David, I don’t want to over­sell it. Mar­shall?

–We’ve been us­ing these codes to post­dict be­hav­ior from tests, in­clud­ing the ones you’ve al­luded to, and

–Post­dict? How about just as­sur­ing me that ig­ni­tion at one point eight mega­joules is­n’t wish­ful think­ing?

–Philip, we’ve al­ready spent our forty days and nights in the desert on this one. There are never guar­an­tees. But un­der the cir­cum­stances, to pro­tect our sci­en­tific in­ter­ests un­der the con­straints we’ve been given, we’re con­vinced that we have to have Avalon and that we can do this. You’re the team cap­tain. Don’t tell us not to fight.

There was a si­lence while Quine looked at Ware, then at Sz­abo, who looked blandly back. –Any­thing else?

–Does any­one know what’s go­ing on with the new build­ing? I haven’t seen a crew out there for weeks. If Credne wants to bid on Aval­on, I mean they’re what, a year be­hind?

–They claim it’s be­cause of the tox­ics mit­i­ga­tion work DOE re­quired.

–I thought it was those In­dian re­mains they found un­der the re­ten­tion tanks.

–N­ever know what you’re go­ing to dig u

–tribal coun­cil in court with the state now, might as well make that pit a per­ma­nent fea­ture.

–but the tox­i­cs, I mean that was a sep­a­rate con­tract, did­n’t they start up a sub­sidiary to han­dle the waste, Glenn?

–It may have hap­pened about the same time. Any­way, it’s on­go­ing.

–Oh one other thing Doc­tor Quine, we’re get­ting data from the [pg289] last leg of Perse­phone’s mis­sion as she leaves lu­nar or­bit to ren­dezvous with a near earth as­ter­oid. That could give us proof of prin­ci­ple on as­ter­oid de­fense and we should be ready to ex­ploi

–Wait, as­ter­oid def, are you talk­ing about Sling­shot….? I thought we were through with all that.

–We have con­tracts. DoD’s a cus­tomer, , and na­tional de­fense are very ac­tive pro­grams at Army, Navy, and Air Force labs.

–I thought Perse­phone was for lu­nar map­ping.

–Ah, right, the cover sto­ry. The map­ping was an after­thought, kind of a lol­lipop for NASA. We’ve got twelve fla­vors of in­frared sen­sors on­board, the kind that track mis­sile plumes and so forth. And we’re tak­ing a side trip to im­pact an as­ter­oid at high speed.

–Im­pact?

–That’s the plan.

–So we’re still work­ing on this even though J Sec­tion is closed.

–These things have a life of their own, Philip.

–Was I un­clear, Frank? About shut­ting these pro­grams down?

–We have con­tracts. Any­way, I don’t think this is the

–Fine, I’ll talk to you about this lat­er. What else?

–What about this pub­lic hear­ing? Do we have prob­lems there?

–It’s just an an­noy­ance. DOE’s look­ing to park the bil­lions from the Texas Su­per­col­lider be­fore Con­gress wakes up and takes back the mon­ey. Avalon is made for them, the fu­sion sci­ence makes it palat­able and the weapons apps make it bul­let­proof. If we fin­ish the Con­cep­tual De­sign Re­port on sched­ule it should be a slam dunk.

–Yes but the weapons part, this, ah, this an­ti­nuke group CANT, they’ve done their home­work, they’re go­ing to raise real is­sues there.

–Tell you what, Philip. I can get some Avalon sup­port­ers to come out for this meet­ing so it’s not, you know, to­tally onesided. There are con­cerned par­ties in­side the Lab and out.

–Will you be there, Frank?

–Only if I have to be.

–You do. Any­thing else that I need to know about? Any­one…? Okay, are we done? Frank, walk with me. Quine stood last and Sz­abo lagged to fol­low. [pg290]

–Are you hid­ing projects from me, Frank? Why don’t I know about these con­tracts?

–Be­cause you haven’t looked? For God’s sake Philip, there are thou­sands of projects and con­tracts, do you want a daily up­date on every one of them? I shut down J Sec­tion, is­n’t that enough for you, do you want to get sued by DoD, too? You know Philip, you’re break­ing every­body’s balls in there, and for what? DOE thinks you’re Mis­ter Gold­en. Not long ago they al­most had us all up on charges, and now they’re wav­ing bil­lions in the scented air. Take the money and screw them.

–Well maybe if I’m, if I’m Mis­ter Gold­en, maybe I’ like to keep it that way and not be­come known as Highet the Sec­ond. Do you know what I heard in Wash­ing­ton, what some­body said to my face? Some sen­a­tor said, there’s lies, damn lies, and what Lab peo­ple tell you. Okay?

–Je­sus, Philip, do me a fa­vor, talk to Réti, will you. He knows how this game is played, he in­vented it. Re­search is ex­pected to lose mon­ey. You just have to go about it the right way.

–Frank, if Avalon is ap­proved, we’re only two years from ground-break­ing. Not re­search, not en­gi­neer­ing, but ac­tual con­struc­tion. When con­struc­tion is com­plete we have de­liv­er­ables. I don’t want to be sit­ting here won­der­ing how to de­liv­er.

–Philip. I’ve run big R&D projects be­fore. If we don’t come in on sched­ule, on bud­get, if we don’t achieve ig­ni­tion right off, these are man­age­able prob­lems. You amend, you re­base­line. It’s R&D. This is­n’t the Su­per­col­lid­er, it is­n’t a snipe hunt for some the­o­ret­i­cal par­ti­cle148, it’s na­tional de­fense. Trust me on this.

–And where was Bill Snell?

–Not re­ally his job since you made me head.

–L Sec­tion is still in­volved and I want him at these meet­ings.

–Okay, frankly he’s a lit­tle sore but I’m mend­ing fences. Told him to work on that fast ig­ni­tor con­cept, some nice po­ten­tial spin­offs from that in the area of

–Doc­tor Quine! Do­lores said you

–Oh for

–Catch you lat­er, Philip. [pg291]

–Doc­tor Sz­abo are you, ah, well, I can catch up with him lat­er, but I won­der if you re­mem­ber the demo I gave back in Janu

–The, which one was that, the screen­saver?

–No, the, you know, this Marc An­dreessen guy, he started up a com­pany to mar­ket that Web browser, I just won­dered if you had any in­ter­est, he’s call it

–Den­nis, I have more im­por­tant

–Also there’s an M Sec­tion ini­tia­tive I’d like to

–Look Den­nis you seem to have all these friends in in­dus­try, at Jus­tice, why don’t you just take a fly

–and did you get my re­port on the DOJ pro

–a flyer on what­ever looks in­ter­est­ing to you okay, and just leave your re­ports in my in box okay, and I’ll read them when I can.

–Well sure but we should talk about this M Sec­tion ini­tia

–Den­nis! Ei­ther do it or don’t do it but stop bug­ging me about it…! as the office at least qui­eted for his de­ferred at­ten­tion to GAO/NSIAD-94-119 Nu­clear Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion: Ex­port Li­cens­ing Pro­ce­dures for Dual Use Items Need To Be Strength­ened, –Wait a min­ute, this is­n’t… lift­ing it to re­veal Li­brary Copy GAO/RCED-91-65 Nu­clear Se­cu­ri­ty: Ac­count­abil­ity For Lab’s Se­cret Clas­si­fied Doc­u­ments Is In­ad­e­quate, be­mused for a mo­ment by –twelve thou­sand miss­ing doc­u­ments? Weapons de­signs, x-ray laser plans, pho­tos of weapons and tests… what the hell is, nine­teen ninety one, that’s Highet all right, won­der how much of this stuff De­von Null walked out with… mov­ing on to – des­ig­nated a “low use seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion” by the dur­ing open air test, what is this, some­thing of Lyn­n’s, Je­sus I wish she’d, where’s the… fi­nally find­ing Laser Per­for­mance Re­quire­ments, as his high­lighter moved through length­en­ing stripes of sun­light un­til –What time is it…? toss­ing pa­pers into his case, pass­ing through the outer office where Do­lores had al­ready left for the day, forg­ing around a cor­ner al­most head­long into three young men pass­ing him obliv­i­ous in jeans and t-shirts NO FEAR, ℵ0, _And God Said .

–Dude, did you hear? Perse­phone found .

–Wa­ter?

–Wa­ter ice, at the south pole. You know what this means? [pg292]

–Dude! …! And Quine could see them al­most, the domes couched in ut­ter si­lence at the rim of a crater, near the still point of the turn­ing globe, so that in its fort­nightly ro­ta­tion the sun would hug the hori­zon, never ris­ing or set­ting, brush­ing the jagged moun­tain­tops in that air­less clar­i­ty, acres of so­lar pan­els slowly track­ing it, while down be­low, in the per­pet­ual night of the crater, the bil­lion year old ice is mined for wa­ter, oxy­gen, hy­dro­gen, deu­teri­um, to fuel the re­ac­tors that pro­vide heat, pow­er, propul­sion. With­out the nu­cleus there is no way out, no way off the plan­et, no way to leave be­hind the mis­takes, the re­fuse, the his­to­ry, no way to tran­scend the his­to­ry, what we’ve done to be­come what we are, no way to for­get the mire held aloft in the jaws of <<ULTRADIG>> where some­thing white and round tum­bled free be­fore he turned through the gates to­ward a last smear of sun dy­ing be­hind a veil of gray that closed over a vi­o­let zenith. He hur­ried up the walk to where a light al­ready glowed within the house.

–Lyn­n…? Sorry I’m, los­ing and re­gain­ing his bal­ance as she came hard against him in the hall­way.

–Oh, I’ve missed you.

–Hey, hi, just let me…

– I’m com­ing on too strong, sorry I’ll… back­ing away to let him pass into the liv­ing room, where he set his brief­case on the coffee table.

–No no, I’m, I’m glad to, that you… sub­mit­ting to an em­brace less em­phatic but as firm.

–I came straight over, I did­n’t bring din­ner, are you hun­gry?

–No no, that’s okay, I had a late

–I want to turn on the TV to see our cov­er­age.

–Of, of the de­mo? Yes sure, any­way I, there’s some­thing I want to see too, some PBS guy, Ar­mand Stera­di­an, came to the Lab in Jan­u­ary, some­thing on post-Cold W

–He talked to me for over an hour, I think he was re­ally in­ter­ested in… trail­ing off at the sight of a ragged group on the screen, ZERO NOW and a dark­haired wom­an’s arm held out in a ges­ture per­haps meant to rally the oth­ers but cut off for a well groomed woman hold­ing [pg293] a mi­cro­phone, –ac­tivists con­tinue their lonely vig­il, Pe­te?

–Well there’s my two sec­onds of fame, I hope Stera­dian did bet­ter by you.

–Can I, can I change this now…? and he thumbed to where or­di­nary cit­i­zens were hav­ing their heir­looms ap­praised, all well sat­is­fied that a mar­ket ex­isted fo the turn­ing of per­sonal his­tory into hard cash; and al­though some his­to­ries were, by the na­ture of the mar­ket, worth more than oth­ers, there were no hard losers.

–A lot of peo­ple did­n’t show up. The Her­ald re­porter was snotty about how few we were.

–That re­minds me did, did you see this? I saved it in case you… rum­mag­ing through Sys­tem De­sign Re­quire­ments, Con­cep­tual De­sign Re­port Pref­ace, The 7 Habits Of, com­ing up at last with Re­spect Fades For Ac­tivists, –“Given the dra­matic changes in the world, even some of the ac­tivists’ sym­pa­thiz­ers are ques­tion­ing re­cent an­ti-nu­clear tac­tics and po­si­tions.”

–I read it. It’s all we talked about at the re­treat. Tony wants to, what did he say, broaden our fo­cus, find a larger au­di­ence. We should add arms sales eco­nomic jus­tice and so­cial wel­fare to our menu if it’ll help our fund­ing. Speaks the ad man.

–As Réti says, fund­ing comes from the threat.

–I’ll tell Tony. He never met a tac­tic he did­n’t like. She crossed and re­crossed the room, car­ry­ing the clip­ping, set­ting it down, glanc­ing at the screen, sit­ting by him only to get up again.

–Is some­thing wrong?

–Do you have any­thing to drink?

–I think some, some Chardon­nay? But wait, it’s al­most… as he set­tled onto the sofa for the newly merged cre­at­ing an in­stant his­tory for it­self as –the proud spon­sor for twenty five years of sci­ence broad­cast­ing, and Lynn re­turned to sit cradling the bowl of the wine­glass in her thin long fin­gers.

–And I thought Stera­dian was on our side. When he was a stringer for CNN he talked to us, but now he’s do­ing this Mac­Neil-Lehrer rou­tine, that bal­anced point of view where you get the sec­re­tary of de­fense and a for­mer sec­re­tary of de­fense. I mean, I’m sure Stera­dian thinks he’s do­ing the right thing and all. But every­body thinks that, [pg294] don’t they. I think I’m do­ing my job so well and twenty peo­ple show up Fri­day and the Her­ald disses us and our fund­ing’s down and every­body’s on my case at the re­treat. Tony said I was de­mor­al­iz­ing oth­ers. Philip, tell me… and he looked to her with an ap­pre­hen­sion of dis­tress, –Am I fool­ing my­self about you?

–What do you mean?

–About what you want.

–Lynn… his eyes came up from an F-22 bank­ing against the dun back­drop of a desert floor.

–es­ti­mated

–But the rest of it. You told me you wanted to make a differ­ence at the Lab.

His eyes, rov­ing for an an­swer, came back to the screen where a hawk­faced man, –Colonel “Rip” Whip­ple, as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of de­fense for ac­qui­si��tions and de­vel­op­ment, en­vi­sions a day when the mil­i­tary sub­con­tracts in­for­ma­tion and ser­vices from the pri­vate sec

–Philip, are you lis­ten­ing…

–Just a min­ute…

–Cold War over, ex­pect con­strained mil­i­tary spend­ing, reap ben­e­fits in re­duced R&D and main­te­nance costs by out­sourc­ing to civil and com­mer­cial providers and global part­ners. Mil­i­tary can no longer rely solely on DoD owned and op­er­ated as­sets in or­der to

–Philip…

–He’s but wait, he’s say­ing the mil­i­tary will buy ser­vices from pri­vate com­pa­nies…

–So? They do that now, they sub­con­tract.

–No but not just weapons, he means all kinds of

–launch ve­hi­cles, satel­lites, space as­sets, we can out­source these func­tions

–But, but that’s just what Gate wants, it would be a per­fect setup to get

–fund­ing from both sec­tors, spin-offs, spin-ons, and fu­ture op­por­tu­ni­ties, let me tell you a suc­cess story

–Philip would you please…

–Just one

–of our part­ners, 3Vid, de­vel­oped a three di­men­sional [pg295] dis­play, spun it off into lap­top com­put­ers, won the Best of ninety three award, and I guar­an­tee you we’ll all have 3D lap­tops by the year

–Philip, I’m try­ing to talk to you!

–What?

–I want to know if you’re se­ri­ous about chang­ing the Lab. Be­cause there’s an op­por­tu­ni­ty. I’ve lined up peo­ple will­ing to com­ment at this pub­lic hear­ing, to chal­lenge the way DOE is scop­ing stock­pile stew­ard­ship and Aval­on.

–And you want me to, to do what?

–To com­ment. To tell DOE that they need to ex­plore other op­tions be­sides Aval­on.

–Oh but Lynn

–You would­n’t be alone. We have a for­mer head of SAC, a for­mer joint chief, a for­mer bomb de­signer

–Former, well that’s the word is­n’t it. If I signed on to this I would­n’t last five min­utes. What good is a for­mer act­ing di­rec­tor? Any­way, you talk as if it’s up to me. It’s not. My job’s to im­ple­ment DOE de­ci­sions.

–What good is be­ing cur­rent if you don’t do any­thing? Your job’s also to ad­vise. If you tell them there’s an­oth­er, bet­ter way…

–I can’t take a po­lit­i­cal stand on this.

–You al­ready have! The Lab’s a po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tion! You play a ma­jor role in di­rect­ing weapons pol­i­cy!

–Lynn, we carry out pol­i­cy. DoD tells DOE what they need to ful­fill their, their goals, and we ex­e­cute for DOE us­ing best busi­ness prac

–Highet and every di­rec­tory be­fore him lob­bied. You got the neu­tron bomb in the sev­en­ties, Ra­di­ance in the eight­ies, and now Aval­on. You’ve al­ways op­posed arms con­trol treaties, you

–Would you stop, don’t com­pare me to High­et, and any­way treaties, that’s ex­actly what we, why they want Aval­on, so that the CTBT will be ratif

–When Chase, did you even hear what I said to him?

–Lynn, please, can’t we, I think about this stuff all day long can we just pl

–Lis­ten to your own peo­ple, you can re­man­u­fac­ture from blue­prints, you can [p296]

–but to main­tain com­pe­tence, to keep our sci­en­tists in­ter­ested

–In­ter­est­ed? Do they have a short at­ten­tion span?

–Lynn it’s just not go­ing to, I can’t do this, it would be a to­tal fail­ure.

–But is­n’t that, I mean, that’s all we ever get is the chance to, to fail at some­thing worth­while! I just want you to take the chance.

–na­tional lab­o­ra­tory where cold war­riors re­tool

–oh but, but wait

–Philip don’t you see you have this op­por­tu­ni­ty, this sin­gu­lar mo­ment when nearly every­one agrees that these weapons are use­less and ob­so­lete, don’t let it

–wait I, I may be on now, as the cam­era panned past a bank of equip­ment and fol­lowed a fig­ure walk­ing –Who is that, is­n’t that…? among the sky­blue beam­lines of the laser bay. –Frank Sz­abo, but what’s he, he was­n’t even in that sec­tion then, what’s he think he… as the waspish voice was say­ing, –build­ing on twenty years’ ex­per­tise in laser tech­nol­o­gy, this could be the most im­por­tant thing the Lab does this decade

–What’s he, Stera­di­an’s act­ing like Sz­abo’s the di­rec, as Quine’s own voice came up to cut him off, his face squint­ing in the lights, queru­lous, put up­on, –You can’t wish these weapons away. It’s Lud­dite phi­los­o­phy to think so, as the cam­era went quickly back to Sz­abo, stand­ing in­side the laser bay.

–That’s it? he talked to me for over an hour and that’s, as Sz­abo went on, –ac­tivists may iron­i­cally be a greater dan­ger to a test ban than Avalo

–Lud­dite phi­los­o­phy? Is that what you think of me?

–What? No I did­n’t mean

–Wish? Does it look to you like I spend my time wish­ing? I’m work­ing my tail off! This is so, so dis­re­spect­ful Philip…

–Lynn no no it’s not, I was­n’t talk­ing about you, I don’t even re­mem­ber say­ing that, they, they cut me down to noth­ing, what am I sup­posed to

–You could say we have a differ­ence of opin­ion! You could say we’re hon­or­able peo­ple, not know-noth­ing crack­pots! Do you think I’ve spent all these hours read­ing up on the sci­ence be­cause I’m a, a Lud­dite? [pg297]

–And Sz­abo, they treated him like he’s the di­rec… Lyn­n…? He fol­lowed her into the kitchen, where she was paused with her wine-glass over The One Minute and 7 Habits look­ing at his pa­pers.

–Can I, can I see that be­fore you

–Why, is it clas­si­fied?

–Well I don’t know, that’s why I want to

–Our arrange­ment is that any­thing you leave out is open.

–Yes but since you haven’t been here I, I mean I know it’s my fault but could I please… tak­ing from her poised hand Avalon Sys­tem De­sign Re­quire­ments For Nu­clear Weapon Physics Ex­per­i­ments, –See, no it’s not clas­si­fied but it’s not ex­actly pub­lic…

–I guess not, since the ti­tle alone seems to con­tra­dict DOE’s stated pol­i­cy.

–But no, it does­n’t, this is­n’t about new weapons, it’s about un­der­stand­ing the physics of

–Just tell me that Avalon can’t be used for new weapons de­sign.

–Well of course it can, but

–But what? Trust you that it won’t? Trust you like with the B sixty one rev eleven, is­n’t that a new weapon?149

–It’s, that’s an up­grade, we’re per­mit­ted to, but where did you hear about

–Trust you? Like with Ra­di­ance, with Rocky Flats, with the hu­man ra­di­a­tion ex­per­i­ments?

–Lynn please stop say­ing, but where did

–Both Turner and Sorokin say you’re try­ing to make pure fu­sion bombs.

–Oh, Turn­er. Turner has­n’t worked in a lab for thirty years.

–Oh Philip that’s so, don’t dis­credit him, that’s what you al­ways do is­n’t it, how can any­one trust you!

–Will you stop say­ing you! That you don’t trust me!

–I’m sor­ry, you know I mean the Lab. But

–And, and you’ve al­ready thrown Sorokin up to me, his fourth gen, you know he’s guess­ing about that, he does­n’t have the data he needs to draw those con­clu­sions, and you know some­thing, if it had­n’t been for the Lab that ex­per­i­ment of ours would never have come off, did he tell you that? If I had­n’t come on that Hertz fel­low­ship… [pg298]

–Hertz? You were a Hertz fel­low?

–It was Réti’s idea, he was my ad­vi­sor.

–I never knew that. And I thought you weren’t in the in­ner cir­cle, but you are aren’t you, this is how it hap­pens. De­nial by de­grees so small you don’t see it hap­pen­ing… She picked up an­other pa­per.

–Can I, can I see

–What’s this, an­other of your suc­cess sto­ries, hope it’s not clas­si­fied, “In ad­di­tion to mam­mog­ra­phy the sys­tem can be used for in­spec­tion and qual­ity con­trol of ma­te­ri­als com­monly used in the man­u­fac­ture of mod­ern con­ven­tional and nu­clear weapons.” There’s dual use for you. Is the mam­mog­ra­phy part sup­posed to com­fort all the women in the breast can­cer clus­ter around the Lab? Shew threw down the pa­pers. –But it’s been dual use since day one, since , dual use and du­plic­i­ty, plu­to­nium for the bombs but it’s a power plant too, atoms for peace, elec­tric­ity too cheap to me­ter, never mind the can­cers down­wind, never mind the tril­lions we’ll need to clean up the mess, for­get all that his­tory be­cause there’s some­thing new called fu­sion…

–Lynn will you… paus­ing a mo­ment to shut and lock his case be­fore fol­low­ing her back into the liv­ing room, –Why are you so… what’s wrong with you tonight…? where she dropped onto the so­fa. The only light now came from the hall­way and from where, in the in­ter­val be­tween pro­grams, non­com­mer­cial tele­vi­sion ad­ver­tised in plain white type LINCOLN, AMERICAN LUXURY, beg­ging the ques­tion of whether that slain Pres­i­dent had been a friv­o­lous in­dul­gence of the na­tion or some­thing it could ill afford now that grinned and prowled like a pan­ther be­fore a plac­ard that ex­horted her un­seen but vo­cif­er­ous au­di­ence to Dare To Be Rich, be­fore Lynn lev­eled the re­mote and with a cocked thumb squashed OFF. In the dark she sat star­ing at the bleak­ness of the dead screen. When she turned to him he could­n’t see her fea­tures. An air of des­o­la­tion set­tled like some tox­in.

–I’m so tired of fight­ing.

–Lynn, I don’t want to fight.

She looked up at him. –I may not be funded again.

–What do you mean?

–If do­na­tions don’t go up, CANT’s go­ing to cut staff. I’ll be back to [pg299] part time. That’s what Tony was telling me. I need this money to go back to school and pass the bar. If they cut me, I’ll have to work at some cor­po­rate firm in the city. No­body else will pay me to do this stuff. I al­ready know as much case law as our lead at­tor­neys but I can’t prac­tice, I need a place to work…

–Okay, … He came for­ward un­easi­ly, fur­ther into the dark­ness where she sat.

–No, it’s not okay! She seemed to draw her­self to­gether and set down the glass. –It’s not okay, but I will be.

–Is this hap­pen­ing be­cause you’re see­ing me?

–No. Tony would­n’t be so in­tol­er­ant. Philip… could we go to my place?

–But why? We’re here.

–We al­ways come here. I know my place is small and the street is noisy but I need, I haven’t been home since Fri­day morn­ing, I need to… I just need to be home.

–Lynn, please, I’m tired, it’s so far…

–Do you smell that?

–What?

–It’s, I don’t know, like a burn­ing.

–What? No, I don’t smell any­thing…

–Oh this is crazy, but do you ever feel like there’s some­thing in the air? Some­thing tox­ic?

A chill went up his neck, as if some­thing had stirred in the dim­ness be­hind him. If he stood un­mov­ing it might pass him over.

–I’m cold. Will you turn up the heat? It feels like some­thing died in here.

He turned on a light. The chill of des­o­la­tion re­ceded but stood by. The ther­mo­stat baffled him for a mo­ment, its gray panel blink­ing 10:22 68F, un­til he thumbed ^ for a dis­tant rum­ble lost in a rush of air.

–I’m sor­ry. I’m in such a mood. Come sit here. Re­lax with me. You’re al­ways on guard.

–Okay, let me… She leaned against him.

–It’s been a hard month for me.

–I know.

–Do you re­mem­ber when I first came over here? All those times [pg300] we’d gone out, and you nev­er… and then I came in and asked you to take my clothes off. I was so shame­less.

–I could­n’t be­lieve that you wanted me. He shifted so that her el­bow came away from his ribs. –Lis­ten, Lynn, if you’re wor­ried about a job, I could see what’s open in N Sec­tion, that’s the Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Di­rec­torate…

She pulled away. –What? You mean, me, work at the Lab?

–I’m just say­ing, if you wanted to ap­ply for some­thing I’m sure… but what­ever cer­tainty he might have had van­ished in her laugh.

–I can’t be­lieve you said that.

–I mean, you have the ex­per­tise…

She was on her feet, some­thing be­tween amuse­ment and in­credulity claim­ing her face. –Y­ou’re not jok­ing, are you.

–Well, but, if you re­ally want to change things…

She walked away and turned back to him un­der the hall light shin­ing rus­set in her hair, shad­ow­ing the hol­lows of her dark eyes and the deep bones of her cheeks. –I’m go­ing to take a bath. Will you come up in a lit­tle while?

–Yes I, in a while… turn­ing from the stairs when her feet had van­ished to the open brief­case on the coffee table, where En­vi­ron­men­tal Re­port New Con­struc­tion L-301-92, Chi­vian-Har­ris Soil Analy­sis, Boole & Clay En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­sul­tants were pushed aside for a list of Credne Con­struc­tion Job Sites that failed to claim more of his at­ten­tion than the tele­vi­sion re­turned to life with –mega­dit­tos from a real Amer­i­can woman who, in­ci­den­tal­ly, is­n’t a les­bian or a fem­i­nist.

–Hey hey hey. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!

–How any­one can watch this id­iot… mut­ter­ing as his thumb held still for the obese fig­ure as­sert­ing, –that means you find me at­trac­tive then. See, women who don’t find me at­trac­tive have to be les­bian or fem­i­ni, as his thumb fi­nally re­belled to move on to –car­bon steel blade with Zy­tel han­dle, and his at­ten­tion went back to the list con­tin­u­ing with Credne Waste Man­age­ment Con­tract Sites, a few dozen Lab lo­ca­tions, and then, strik­ing at his heart, Es­tancia Es­tates.

–Are you com­ing to bed?

–What? Oh, oh yes, in, in just a min­ute, I was just… look­ing back in sur­prise at the pa­pers in his lap, –I just… [pg301]

–Philip, I’m cry­ing.

–What…? The hall light be­hind her slim fig­ure, slouched there in white briefs and chemise, rush­ing him with re­gret, for Nan, for Kate, for Sorokin, for every­thing in his life that was or would be­come ir­re­triev­able.

–Philip… as some­thing new swam into her eyes to re­gard him from an ap­prais­ing depth.

–What?

–Are you see­ing some­one else?

–What? No, that’s, no cer­tainly not. Why would you think that?

–I don’t know. You’re dis­tant. I’m afraid for us.

–It’s just work… you know I…

–We have some­thing, you know. It’s real to me. Is it to you?

–Lynn… He rose, but she did­n’t move, stood with her arms pulled close around her and stared as if at some fu­ture she could pull into be­ing or ban­ish with her next words. But abruptly she shook her head.

–I’m sorry Philip, I know I come on too strong, it scares peo­ple, I don’t want to scare you.

He em­braced her warmth. Her tongue filled the empti­ness of his mouth. What we want from an­other is so sim­ple. Al­most any­one will do. For a time at least the heart bonds as if it’s found its oth­er, cloven half. Is this il­lu­sion? Some­thing nei­ther com­manded nor freely given? If the heart can be so need­ful and so in­dis­crim­i­nate, how trust it?

–Please come up­stairs.

–Yes okay… I just want to brush my teeth… Wa­ter en­tered a whirlpool, ris­ing and falling around the rim of the drain.

–Will you shave for me?

–H­m…? The chalky wa­ter cleared.

–Do you mind?

–No, of course, I’ll… as he peered closer than he liked at where gray had ad­vanced down his tem­ples to gar­ri­son the stub­ble he now shaved from his face and neck, look­ing past the re­flec­tion to where she gazed back frankly from her seat on the toi­let. She smiled as she rose tuck­ing a square of pa­per be­tween her legs to drop into the bowl. He touched the flesh over his hips, as past their re­flec­tion came the lithe mus­cles of her lean thighs. –I re­ally should, there’s a gym at the Lab, [pg302] I re­ally should, I just never seem to have time…

–I was just think­ing how at­trac­tive you are. She em­braced him from be­hind, star­ing in the mir­ror at the rise he turned to trap be­tween them. –Come to bed… where she ex­tended one arm to raise the sheets for the fall of his weight onto bed­springs, their cramp and creak lost in a sud­den drum­ming of rain on the roof.

–Philip, your skin is al­ways so cold.

–Y­ou’re al­ways like a fur­nace, a lit­tle fur­nace… His hand moved to stoke what grew warmer un­der it, as if in­crease of ap­petite had grown by what it fed on. Her breath harshened. Hot in his ear her gasp at his touch. Her hand turned on the length of him mov­ing against her and he slid one thigh across the ten­der swell of her pelvis and paused as a de­spair­ing sigh left her.

–Yes…?

She loosed her slen­der dress as though in de­sart wild, her face tanned by shin­ing suns, half in shad­ow, toss­ing and trou­bled, as, seek­ing only him­self to please, he pressed down with slow rude mus­cle, see­ing her neck naked and pale in the street­light’s beam where it met the vo­lu­tions of her ear, the strain in her face when she looked up at him be­fore it fell back into dim­ness. Lightly his hands cra­dled her head. Deep in­side him some­thing drove home and he writhed as pen­t-up aching rivers, asked for plea­sure first, then ex­cused from pain. A dim­ness like a fog wrapped his con­scious­ness, a lan­guor more sua­sive than the wet­ness on his face.

–Philip… you’re cry­ing. He shook her hand away. Bone by bone he re­turned to that loathed self, which could not rec­ol­lect when it be­gan, which had no fu­ture but it­self, abyss cov­ered with trance.

–Please tell me, what’s the mat­ter?

The street­light was diffused in mist which sent its glow the stronger into the room.

–…ev­ery day it’s like, like wak­ing up from a, a long sleep, to a world where things have, have gone on with­out me and I don’t know how I got here, what day it is, how much time has passed, every­thing I’ll nev­er, never re­cov­er, all that loss, every day I wake up that way and every day the hope for, for some­thing else gets small­er, and I have noth­ing, just noth­ing… [pg303]

–Philip, look at me. You have me.

He turned to her but did­n’t look, as if an open eye would drop him. –I don’t know why.

–But it’s true. Oh, what is it? You look so wound­ed…

–After I, after I left Nan I’d some­times walk on the moun­tain. You know, where you took me that night we walked in the moon­light. One day I heard, I don’t know, it sounded like a lost cat cry­ing. cry­ing with des­per­ate force. It pierced me through. I, I did­n’t know who I was sor­rier for, Nan or my­self. We aban­doned each oth­er…

She cra­dled him to her breast.

–No but lis­ten. A month later I was walk­ing there again and I heard it again in the same place, and I thought, that can’t be a pet, it would­n’t still be there alive. And it was­n’t a cat, you know, it was­n’t at all. It was a bird call­ing, some kind of . So you see I’d been liv­ing in this, this yes this myth you see, this utopia of loss while things, things had gone on, but in a way it was bet­ter to be­lieve in loss than, than in this mud­dle… See, the past, you can carry your past and let it drag you un­der, or you can let it go but then you’re adrift, the present just, just car­ries you… oh my God, what am I go­ing to do?

She did­n’t an­swer at once. Fi­nally she said, –You have to quit, Philip. This is de­stroy­ing you.

–It’s all I have.

She held him. When she spoke her voice was dry. –Will you do one thing for me? I’m sorry I asked you to com­ment at the hear­ing, that was­n’t fair of me. But will you please come? To hear what our peo­ple have to say.

–If you want. If I don’t have to, to speak.

A mur­mur of rain had started again. He lay there in the abyss of his thoughts as her breath­ing be­side him stead­ied and deep­ened. Al­most a voice stirred in him. It starts be­fore Han­ford, it al­most said. It starts with , with the piece of glow­ing in the path of in­vis­i­ble rays, strik­ing out the fire that God had put there. It starts with his wife’s hand on the pho­to­graphic plate, its trans­parence there, the ashen bones vis­i­ble within the milky flesh. Who could imag­ine that this ra­di­ance at the heart of mat­ter could be ma­lign? That with its light came fire? (Yet from the first the ashen bones were there to see [pg304] within the flesh.) It starts with car­ry­ing the in his pocket that burned his skin, and dark­ened the un­ex­posed film. It starts with poi­son­ing her­self in that pale un­canny glow. With guess­ing at this new alche­my, guess­ing that mat­ter, giv­ing up its glow, trans­formed it­self one el­e­ment into an­oth­er. With the min­ers at , deep un­der the , in­hal­ing the dust of ura­nium and dy­ing of . With who by the thou­sands in watch fac­to­ries tipped their brushes with that glow150, touched it to their tongues be­fore paint­ing the dial face, women who only much lat­er, when the watch­es’ glow had fad­ed, sick­ened and died from that ra­di­ance taken into their bones. It be­gins with rush­ing across the Berke­ley cam­pus, the idea of a un­con­tain­able in his mind, call­ing out, I’m go­ing to be fa­mous! With Op­pen­heimer at Jor­nada del Muerte that morn­ing of Trin­i­ty. With the sci­en­tists who had prised open the gates to that blaz­ing realm past heaven or hell. What were they now at the Lab in all their thou­sands, but the colo­nial bu­reau­crats of that realm, the fol­low­ers and func­tionar­ies, the clerks and com­mis­sars? Mere gate­keep­ers of that pow­er. Or in its keep­ing. It goes of its own mo­men­tum be­yond Han­ford, to Trin­i­ty, to Hi­roshi­ma, to the pris­on­ers, the can­cer pa­tients, the re­tarded chil­dren, the preg­nant women in­jected or fed this gob­lin mat­ter to see would it bring health or sick­ness, the sol­diers hud­dled in trenches against the flash, bones vis­i­ble in their arms through closed eyes, star­ing up at the roil­ing cloudrise, the sheep­herders, the farms, the homes, the gar­dens down­wind. And in his sleep the voice long stilled spoke once more. It starts with Sforza; in case of need I will make bom­bards, mor­tars, and firethrow­ing en­gines of beau­ti­ful and prac­ti­cal de­sign. It starts with Archimedes fo­cus­ing the sun’s rays upon the fleet at Syra­cuse, it starts with the first rock hurled by the first grasp­ing hand. It starts where we start. It is mind, it is hunger, it is greed, it is de­fense, it is mis­chief, it is the dev­il, it is the god; it is life.

Five

[pg305] Then, all at once it seemed, the sky cleared and the world lay open to the scrutiny of heav­en, that skin of blue air be­yond which was mere vac­u­um, be­low which a scat­ter of birds turned in­com­plete spi­rals, now black, now white, bank­ing into and out of the wind above the pit where CREDNE Waste Man­age­ment trucks took on their bur­dens and la­bored away to parts un­known or at least undis­closed, while from the other di­rec­tion came a cart trail­ing two pal­lets of chrome can­is­ters and turn­ing wide enough to clip the bumper of a parked car, jounc­ing once as the can­is­ters chimed, and con­tin­u­ing on its way to some project or projects sep­a­rated from Quine by at least five floors of man­age­ment pass­ing one at a time un­til the brushed stain­less steel door opened to a vista of iden­ti­cal doors re­ced­ing in three di­rec­tion, and he reached the an­te­room where an oro­tund voice pro­claimed –it’s a straw dog ar­gum

–Do­lores, would you pl… what’s that smell?

–I don’t smell any­thing.

–Like, like a burn­ing…?

–I don’t smell any­thing. Have a donut?

–What?

–A creme donut. Have one. They’re lite.

–Light…?

–They’re lo fat. She laid down Nanopre­neur­ing and held out a thin­walled box, where a stressed tab and slot threat­ened to give way un­til Quine grabbed the sag­ging edge. –Bernd Di­etz wants to see you.

–Tell him I’m busy. Tell him Mon­day. [pg306]

The box pushed pa­pers across the desk, ex­pos­ing, like a thorn he could­n’t pluck out, Nancy Ju­lia Adams and Ben­jamin Daniel Stern still await­ing the plea­sure of is com­pa­ny, or at least the earnest of it, on 16 July 1994 RSVP. He hid them un­der Sys­tem Re­quire­ments, but they emerged un­abashed min­utes later from Laser Com­pres­sion of Mat­ter, as he held aloft the dough­nut to lose them again be­neath Steganog­ra­phy: A Novel Method of Data Hid­ing. On the com­puter screen was an­other thorn still await­ing a re­sponse he was as un­ready to give as to forego.

Date: Fri, 6 May 1994 16:20 -0700
To: quine@lucinda.banl.gov
From: sforza@nous.com
Subject: Gate URGENT!
WE HAVE TO TALK.
Highet

He clicked to dis­miss the win­dow but as he reached a gob­bet of cream fell onto RSVP and Earth Pro­tec­tion, and he glared at what was left of the dough­nut, grabbed the near­est pa­per Theodore Turner Com­ment Preprint to blot the card and wrap the dough­nut for the trash, an­grily sweep­ing in after it the stained card­board box, RSVP, and Earth, com­ing up then to what, even in the sun glare on the screen, was clearly not his mail­box, pout­ing lips parted to meet the thrust of his legs up from the chair to the win­dows to drop blinds against the bright­ness out there. as the un­fin­ished mauve and av­o­cado façade op­po­site van­ished be­hind the clat­ter he had an ap­pre­hen­sion of the hun­dreds of offices there wait­ing for their ten­ants, clos­eted against the world, of the hun­dreds upon thou­sands of offices al­ready oc­cu­pied, stretch­ing out to Wash­ing­ton, in every one of which de­ci­sions were taken in the ab­solute vac­uum of pro­ce­dure and con­tin­gen­cy, and he stood in a kind of paral­y­sis un­til his phone went off and his door opened.

–Yes? Hel

–prob­lem with these civil lib­erty types, we have to the cam­era res­o­lu­tion so you can’t read the li­cense plates, but

–Damn it! Who’s… slam­ming down to click and col­lapse the win­dows on that which men in women most de­sire, as his eyes came up to [pg307] Di­et­z’s white beard, his blocky anx­ious face, the strands of gray­ing hair fallen for­ward from the thinned ranks of a moist and mostly bar­ren pate. In hands rest­less and seem­ingly for­got­ten by their own­er, some pa­pers were clutched.

–I am sor­ry, but this is ur­gent.

–What is it, Bernd?

–Aval­on. The Con­cep­tual De­sign re­view. The bud­get and time line. There are grave un­cer­tain­ties here.

–Yes, I know but

–This will be the world’s largest op­ti­cal in­stru­ment. Seven thou­sand large and twenty thou­sand small glass com­po­nents. The en­tire US op­tics in­dus­try can pro­duce only two hun­dred me­ter-class op­tics in a year. That is ten times too low for our time frame. So, to meet our dead­line we must de­velop en­tirely new fab­ri­ca­tion tech­niques which will take an un­known amount of time and which are not bud­get­ed. Al­so, the beam­lines must op­er­ate near the dam­age thresh­old of the glass. Even if the glass can be made pure and in quan­ti­ty, even if it does not fail un­der pow­er, we must then in­te­grate and as­sem­ble the parts. One hun­dred ninety two beam­lines must fo­cus to the mi­crom­e­ter with a uni­for­mity of one per­cent. We build these in a room the size of sta­di­um, so how will you keep dust out of the glass? No one has yet an­swered for me this sim­ple ques­tion.

–Bernd…

–Then, di­ag­nos­tics. We need new kinds of sen­sors and new com­puter codes to fine tune the ar­ray be­fore ex­per­i­ments can even start. Then, tar­gets. Frozen cap­sules of deu­teri­um-tri­tium must be made per­fectly spher­i­cal to tol­er­ance of ten bil­lionths of a me­ter.

–Bernd, are you say­ing it can’t be done?

–I say only that there are great hur­dles and our time frame and bud­get per­mit no er­rors at all.

Quine pressed one hand to a throb in his tem­ple, glanc­ing at Non­pro­lif. –Bernd, let me be com­pletely frank with you. We’re los­ing fund­ing, jobs, tal­ent. We have to stop the bleed­ing. If we don’t com­plete Avalon right on sched­ule, if we don’t achieve ig­ni­tion right off, those are, are man­age­able prob­lems that we can ad­dress in their time. [pg308]

–But it is my name, not yours, on the Laser De­sign Cost Ba­sis doc­u­ment. Thirty thou­sand pieces of glass, do you un­der­stand? I will not put my head on that block.

–Bernd, none of our groups raised red flags. You’re the only one.

–Be­cause they re­mem­ber what hap­pened to Slater and the oth­ers. Have you for­got­ten Ra­di­ance? High­et’s ex­trav­a­gant claims?

–Of course not. You res­cued me. That’s why you’re on the pro­ject.

–But Sz­abo is head.

–Is that what this is about? Be­cause if you want more re­spon­sib

–I do not! But Sz­abo, he thinks, if this laser does not work out as planned, it is no prob­lem for him. In fact, one point eight mega­joules, as­sum­ing we at­tain that fig­ure, which I do not promise, is prob­a­bly not even enough. But that is not my con­cern. I am say­ing the con­struc­tion. That is my prob­lem.

–Why do you say it’s not enough?

Di­etz stared at him with some­thing be­tween dis­may and offense. –You know why.

–I don’t.

Di­etz looked down at the pa­pers in his hand. He stared at them in si­lence as Quine wait­ed. At last he glanced up and as he placed them on the desk he barely spoke. –Tal­iesin.

Quine glanced at the pa­pers. Dear Madam Sec­re­tary. A fin­ger of un­ease un­curled in his bow­els. –What are you say­ing?

–I have said too much. I will not sign the Cost Ba­sis Doc­u­ment un­less these ob­jec­tions are at­tached.

–But… Bernd, you’re putting me in an im­pos­si­ble po­si­tion. The Con­cep­tual De­sign Re­port has been turned in. If you had these con­cerns

–I told you my con­cerns! Weeks ago!

–What would you agree to? There’s a fifteen per­cent con­tin­gency. I can bud­get twenty per­cent more for the op­tics if you can certi

–Fifteen, twen­ty, fifty per­cent is not the point! There are too many un­cer­tain­ties, we must study more, run more ex­per­i­ments on the lasers we have…

–We can do that after Key De­ci­sion One. [pg309]

–Too late. Then the bud­get is fixed. We are say­ing one bil­lion?

–One point one.

–Three, four times that, is my es­ti­mate.151 To solve only the prob­lems that I can see from here. I have put my con­cerns in writ­ing, so there can be no mis­un­der­stand­ing.

The fin­ger in­side him pressed hard­er. –Bernd, you have to sign this.

–Or what? What will you do? Fire me? I will go pub­lic!

Quine got up and paced to the win­dow. The pres­sure in his bow­els was des­per­ate. –If I, if I ac­cept your protest, make it an ad­den­dum to the re­port, will that sat­isfy you?

–It will go to the sec­re­tary with the re­port?

–Yes yes.

–All right. Then I will leave it with you.

–Is that all? Are we done?

–For now.

As the door closed he rushed hob­bling to the wash­room. He had barely sat when he re­leased a tor­rent into the bowl. He low­ered his head onto folded arms as the spasms sub­sided and a weak­ness swept his legs. After a minute he rose to wipe him­self and flush away a wa­tery yel­low , leav­ing be­hind a stink more sul­furous than fe­cal. The fan la­bored as he washed his hands, and he glimpsed in the mir­ror as he went out a face paler than nor­mal turn­ing to Frank Sz­abo pe­rus­ing the pa­pers on his desk.

–What’s that smell? Like a burn­ing?

–Frank…?

–Sorry to barge in, but I saw Bernd. He leave this for you? in­di­cat­ing Dear Madam Sec­re­tary.

–Yes he, he thinks the Avalon op­tics won’t work.

–He’s full of crap. You’re not send­ing this, are you?

–I said I’d in­clude it if he signed off on the Cost Ba­sis Doc­u­ment.

–Clas­sify it and bury it. It’s an in­ter­nal memo with sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion.

–Can I do that?

–Ask Bran how, he’s been study­ing the new clas­si­fi­ca­tion guide­lines. Lis­ten what about this Earth Pro­tec­tion Sem­i­nar, are you on [pg310] board for that?

–What, I haven’t had a chance to

–Space thing we’re host­ing in Ju­ly, in­ter­na­tional com­mu­ni­ty, blah blah. Can you give the keynote?

–Talk to Do­lores… who looked up from How To Profit From the Com­ing Chaos.

–Do­lores, those dough­nuts… did you eat… I mean, are they okay?

–Do you like them? My cousin works for a food com­pa­ny. They’re test­ing .

–Sub­sti­tute?

–It does­n’t get di­gested or some­thing. But it tastes like the real thing.

–Do you know where Bran Nolan is?

–Some sem­i­nar I think.

–Right, okay, I’ll… hur­ry­ing down the hall to pass a cou­ple of men, –go­ing to launch these things on their mis­sile or what­ever the hell it’s… try­ing E-233 which opened onto a small group watch­ing a coat­less man with tie askew and sleeves rolled up prowl­ing back and forth be­fore a plac­ard Mo­ti­vat­ing Faster Fail­ure With Pe­ter Paul Thomas, –the great Swedish play­wright Hen­drick Ib­sen and his great play En­ema of the Peo­ple, where Dean Stock­well goes up against the grain of his com­mu­nity to save them from them­selves and the toxic plume of dis­trust cor­rod­ing the fab­ric of their so­ci­ety where his news is un­wel­come at first un­til the towns­folk see that it’s in their own in­ter­est to be self­-in­ter­est­ed, the point be­ing is that they152

–Ex­cuse me, Bran…? who rose from a seat in the back in the back and fol­lowed Quine out the door mut­ter­ing, –Must be the hun­dred drachma course, all this time I thought was the guy who , won a prize for it did­n’t he?

–How do I clas­sify an in­ter­nal re­port?

–What sec­tion?

–L Sec­tion.

–Those used to be born clas­si­fied, but un­der the new open­ness regime I’ll have to look it up.

–Some­thing Bernd Di­etz wrote. I want it put through an in­ter­nal [pg311] re­view.

–Fax it to me. Do I have your com­ments?

–My what?

–The doc­u­ment for the pub­lic hear­ing tonight? I know how you like to work over the lan­guage, but it goes out at four.

–Oh, the non­prof, I mean the non­pro­lif­er­a­tion thing. That’s right, just thought I’d get a, a, a lit­tle breather after the De­sign Re­port. Okay I’ll

–Just send it to my office.

–Yes okay… as a hand went deep into the trash press­ing aside a stained card­board box ALESTRO Test Prod­uct S to come up hold­ing be­tween two fin­gers RSVP and Earth Pro­tec­tion. A gob­bet of cream still clung to the hand trav­el­ing to in­ter­cept the phone’s bleat, paus­ing only to ward off, in­effec­tu­al­ly, the open­ing door.

–Yes? Hold, hold on Conor I’ll be right with, no hello go ahead… out of, of gas? Course cor­rec, is­n’t that NASA’s… But I mean after the lu­nar, why are we cal­cu­lat­ing the course cor­rec. Uh huh… as Conor waved for his at­ten­tion and wrote some­thing on a scrap of pa­per. –Okay. I’m still not clear why we were do­ing those cal­cu­la­tions at all but maybe you can ex­plain that to me when we meet. Quine put down the phone and pushed aside RSVP, Earth pro­tec­tion, seek­ing the more ab­sorbent Ohlone Val­ley Her­ald Crit­ics Charge, with which he wiped the heel of his hand and the tele­phone.

–That was about Perse­phone, right? On the scrap in Conor’s hand was writ­ten aX­on.

–That was Tom Young. He said that .

–Miles? Who uses miles any­more?

–Le­gacy codes? Run­ning on aX­ons? I don’t think so. I know what hap­pened there. Those guys did­n’t fix their math chips. So their re­sults put Perse­phone’s thrusters on full burn and de­pleted the fu­el.

–Yes well, I’ll have to, to deal with it lat­er. Come here a sec­ond, as Conor leaned into the screen while Quine clicked LANCET 1979–1991 to open TALIESIN. –I know you have some ex­per­tise with Rayleigh-Tay­lor in­sta­bil­i­ties… [pg312]

–Wow, ig­ni­tion, burn rate, this is DT fu­sion, right?

–These codes model ra­di­a­tion trans­fer, hy­dro­dy­namic evo­lu­tion of the plas­ma…

–This is great, whose work is this?

–Some of this I worked on but not, not this side of it… see, x-ray en­ergy is pumped into the cap­sule here…

–I did­n’t know you did fu­sion.

–I, I did­n’t. This is… just started to look at this re­al­ly, see, these are the data sets for the DT burn… here, look at the rho-r val­ues, for the first twenty nanosec­onds they’re go­ing up and with these en­er­gies you’d ex­pect burn to take off, but

–Yeah I see. In­sta­bil­i­ties cool­ing off the hot spot?

–That should be ac­counted for in the un­der­ly­ing code li­braries… as he pushed Steganog­ra­phy aside for Laser Com­pres­sion of Mat­ter.

–The clas­sic pa­per.

–Yeah well, they pre­dicted ig­ni­tion with one kilo­joule and un­der­es­ti­mat­ing the Rayleigh-Tay­lor in­sta­bil­i­ties put them so far off. But the cur­rent codes should have fixed that. So I want to know what’s go­ing on.

–Should­n’t you, I mean Sz­abo ac­tu­ally worked on this all along, he’d be the guy to ah

–Frank’s got a lot on his plate right now. Any­way this is a long term kind of pro­ject, and I’ve heard great things about your ex­per­tise in this field, just thought it’s some­thing you could sink your teeth in­to…

–Well defi­nite­ly, I’d love to, I just, you know, don’t want to step on any­body’s

–Let me worry about that.

–It’s bet­ter that you don’t know the source of the da­ta.

–Lis­ten I know it’s late but, have you had lunch? Maybe we could grab some­thing, if you’re not too busy, I can show you the Rayleigh-Tay­lor work I did last year…

–Feel­ing a lit­tle queasy ac­tu­ally but maybe to­mor­row I mean Mon­day we could, I mean after you’ve had a chance to look at [pg313]

–This is re­ally great of you, I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate… lin­ger­ing to pick up Steganog­ra­phy a Novel Method of Data Hid­ing. –Hey cool. You know I did some stuff for Highet on this, did you ever see

–Philip where the hell is your sum­ma­ry?

–My, my what?

–Hey Bran, how’s it

–Mes­sen­ger’s wait­ing in my office.

–Oh yes that page I, I, I’m sorry I’ll, tell him I’ll, ten min­utes, I’ll fax it down to you in, in five… sorry Conor, I have to… push­ing a stained and shop­worn Earth Pro­tec­tion and RSVP un­der the fall of Steganog­ra­phy to re­trieve Avalon And The Is­sue of Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion, where Part V X-ray Laser Re­search re­minded him that Ex­per­i­ments on nu­clear di­rected en­ergy weapon con­cepts, while tech­ni­cally pos­si­ble, are not planned. He read on to X-ray lasers have mil­i­tary ap­pli­ca­tions as well as peace­ful ones. The re­sults of Avalon ex­per­i­ments could pro­vide data for com­par­i­son with codes and could be used to fur­ther in­ter­pret the re­sults of past un­der­ground ex­per­i­ments on nu­clear-pumped x-ray lasers.

For a mo­ment he was back in the office he’d shared with Null in those de­spised years of Su­per­bright. The loss and waste of it were a hook through his heart. He lifted the phone to press MEM 1 but hung up be­fore it rang. After a mo­ment he pressed an­other num­ber.

–Reese? Sorry to bother you. Just want to check some­thing. The x-ray lasers or, or sim­i­lar Ra­di­ance com­po­nents, are those con­sid­ered pro­lif­er­a­tion risks? I mean for pur­poses of. No this is for, for a pos­si­ble Avalon ap­pli­ca­tion. No, Ti­tle One phase, the con­cep­tual De­sign Re­port is al­ready, it’s at the print­er, yes you should have it any day now. Re­al­ly? She has? A, a done deal, well that’s good news. So, on the x-ray laser, we can pretty much do what­ev­er… okay then.

He walked to the win­dow and stood in what might have been mo­tion­less­ness ex­cept that it brought no still­ness, no else­where, no im­men­si­ty, it brought only a sti­fling anx­i­ety at the stub­born pro­gres­sion of all he was en­meshed in, so he turned from it as some­thing in him hard­ened and at the same time gave way, as it might have been the un­pro­voked slide of dirt down one wall of the pit there be­low him.

He strode to the desk and wrote: [pg314]

Re­search on x-ray lasers has mul­ti­ple ap­pli­ca­tions. There­fore, it would be un­wise to re­strict peace­ful re­search in this area in the in­ter­est of pre­vent­ing weapon de­vel­op­ment.

–Do­lores, fax this down to Bran Nolan… oh, is that the time? I have to go.

–Will you be back to­day?

–I don’t know. Is our voice­mail back up yet?

–No, they’re still work­ing on that virus.

–Virus, how can voice­mail have a virus? Never mind, I’ll call in lat­er… rac­ing down the hall­way for the brushed steel of the el­e­va­tor door shut­ting against –Wait…! an en­treaty that was ig­nored then and there but per­versely an­swered at the exit gate, where two gon­do­las of CREDNE Waste Man­age­ment backed beep­ing across both lanes of the road, and at Mari­posa, where un­der the blunt bar­rel of the traffic cam­era the light flicked from yel­low to red at his ap­proach, and again at the plinth wel­com­ing car after wait­ing car to Cir­cuit City Toys “Я” Us Barnes & No­ble Star­bucks, and by car after creep­ing car search­ing and paus­ing for the hope, sel­dom met though often in­dulged, of a park­ing space about to be va­cat­ed, a hope at last in­ter­rupted by the blare of a horn which, Quine re­al­ized in an­gry sur­prise, was his own.

–Sorry I’m late, I

–I’m used to it. Can you be­lieve this line? stretch­ing from the side­walk through the door­way into halflight where, a few peo­ple ahead, at the thresh­old of dim­ness, a woman brushed a veil of auburn hair from the pale skin of her neck, re­veal­ing the vo­lu­tions of her ear. Quine felt sweat spring from him. –Lis­ten, maybe this is­n’t the

–Re­lax, we’re mov­ing, and the line surged for­ward, while a woman in red pushed to join the auburn­haired woman with just a glance at the peo­ple in line be­hind her.

–Some crowd, said Lynn as they en­tered the dim­ness. The boy be­hind the counter turned to the woman in red with an ex­pres­sion not quite a query, –Me? Oh no I’m not in line, I’m just talk­ing to my friend, but as long as I’m here, what kind of herbal teas do you have? and as the boy in­di­cated the menu board and the woman slowly took it in, –Is the hi­bis­cus tea sweet? I mean, is it sweet hi­bis­cus tea? and [pg315] the boy did­n’t know and as the auburn head turned Quine turned to Lynn.

–Maybe we should…

–Are you in a hur­ry?

–No but I, and the woman in red car­ried on, –well then, how about a de­caf mocha lat­tè, is that with foamed milk? Can I get low­fat? And low­fat, is that one or two per­cent, and the boy did­n’t know and turned to an­other boy while the woman in red re­sumed talk­ing to her auburn­haired friend.

–Lynn, re­ally I don’t want any­thing, why don’t we

–Nei­ther do I, but as long as we’re here.

–Yes but, and the boy an­swered one per­cent and the woman pulled from her con­ver­sa­tion looked vaguely an­noyed un­til, –oh, all right then, and can I get just a dol­lop of whipped cream? while the steam­ing noz­zle hissed and spat and the woman in­ter­rupt­ed, –oh, and can I get that in a mug? not a pa­per cup? and the boy dumped the con­tents of the cup and started over while the auburn head moved again.

–Lynn…

–Come on, we’re up. Espresso please.

–Ah, capp, no, make that just some steamed milk please, non­fat milk… as the auburn head be­gan to turn and Quine turned away to study two chromed ma­chines Gag­gia and Ran­cilio in full steam drown­ing out fur­ther talk.

–Grab that ta­ble if you can. I’ll bring the drinks.

Across the room the woman with auburn hair and the woman in red joined a wiry man, white teeth in a tanned face, his black­haired fore­arms rest­ing on the table. He glanced over as Lynn set a cup be­fore Quine and Quine looked down.

–I wanted to see up close who put my friends at Café De­sa­pare­ci­dos out of busi­ness. This espresso is ter­ri­ble. Have you seen this? She opened a folder and spread out pa­pers Chi­vian-Har­ris, Boole & Clay, Soil En­gi­neer.

–Where, where did you get…?

–From UC through the Cal­i­for­nia Pub­lic Records Act.

–But how did you, Lynn tell me, did you see these in my brief­case? [pg316]

–In your brief­case? Do you think I’d…

–Okay I’m sorry I just, I don’t know what to think…

–You don’t think you can trust me that far?

–No I’m sor­ry, Lynn, I do trust you.

–But, in your brief­case, so you do know about them.

–Bran Nolan wanted me to look, I did­n’t even have a chance…

–So you know what they mean.

–No, i just said I haven’t had a

–Then I’ll tell you. This first re­port showed EPA ac­tion lev­els of met­als and volatile or­ganic com­pounds. The sec­ond re­port is a white­wash, which in­ci­den­tally gave per­mis­sion to start con­struc­tion. Now this, this is a soil re­port, but the re­sults are non­sense, the soil den­sity me­ter was marked de­fec­tive. But when the in­stru­ment was tested lat­er, it worked fine. do you know how those me­ters work?

–No, how, how would I?

–They mea­sure how much ra­dioac­tiv­ity passes through a sam­ple of the soil.

–With what, a neu­tron source?

–I don’t know, I can find out. But if the me­ter was work­ing, this means the soil was ra­dioac­tive. And that soil went off­site.

–Where?

–Well, we don’t know. That’s the prob­lem. The near­est Credne job site is a res­i­den­tial com­mu­nity called Es­tancia Es­tates.

Quine turned to the ta­ble where the auburn­haired woman and the red dress and the dark fore­arms had left. Four teenagers sat there now. Lynn fol­lowed his stare.

–What is it? What are you look­ing at?

–Es­tancia Es­tates? You’re sure?

–No, of course not, that’s just a guess based on it be­ing near­by. the point is it could b

–Have you tested the soil there?

–We tried to in­ter­est the De­part­ment of Health Ser­vices, but they won’t do it.

–Well no won­der, you have no ev­i­dence…

–Philip, that soil is some­where. Maybe in peo­ple’s yards.

–Why don’t you go to the de­vel­op­er? Make them test it. [pg317]

–Cat­ul­lus De­vel­op­ment owns four thou­sand acres in this area. If we say a word about this they’ll sue us.

–Sue you? What for?

–Oh, with eco­nomic ad­van­tage, for in­stance. There’s a dozen ways to craft a suit. A whis­per of this could cost them mil­lions in lost prop­erty val­ue, they won’t sit still for that. The mayor and the coun­cil won’t sit still for it.

–S­lap…?

–S­trate­gic law­suit against pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion. For them it’s a cost of do­ing busi­ness, for us it’s dis­abling, the point is we don’t have a way to get this in­for­ma­tion out.

–In­for­ma­tion? it’s not even a ru­mor…

–But you could, Philip. You could pres­sure Credne. All that work at the Lab is worth a lot to them.

–Oh Lynn…

–Philip, dual tox­ics re­ports, that’s not good. You’re cov­er­ing someth

–are you threat

–a threat? Is that what you think this is?

–Well, what am I suppo

–It’s a chance to do the right thing! Tell Credne to test the soil! At Es­tancia, or wher­ever else it could have gone.

–And you think they’ll just, for God’s sake Lynn, they won’t like it any bet­ter com­ing from us!

–Tony said you would­n’t do it.

–Tony? Since when have you and Tony have been strate­giz­ing about me?

–Look, would it hurt to ask them?

–Yes, it would, it would dam­age a re­la­tion­ship that’s strained al­ready.

–s­trained how?

–You don’t need to know that.

She sat back. –All right.

–Look… will I, will I see you lat­er?

–Of course. At the hear­ing. She was putting the pa­pers away.

–Yes but I mean… it’s, where is it again? [pg318]

–First Uni­tar­ian Church of Kent­wood. Eight. I have to get go­ing, be­cause I need to talk to peo­ple be­fore it starts. You know how to get there?

–Yes, I… Kent­wood…?

When she’d gone he looked up from the flyer she’d left to the ta­ble op­po­site, now emp­ty. The sun, so bright and warm an hour be­fore, was now a mere glow within sullen bands of cloud climb­ing the west­ern sky, win­ter’s last ob­du­ra­cy. The pal­ing blue over­head was specked with gray puffs sail­ing steadily east. A bright con­trail arched above the sullen glow, scor­ing a straight line that wa­vered only at its end. In the vast­ness of the park­ing lot the sky’s ra­di­ance di­min­ished and a wind came up. The clut­ter of ψ Psy­chother­apy As­so­ci­ates, Zany Brainy, Taco Bell, Bed Bath & Be­yond, nearly blocked out the green of the dis­tant ridge where, halfway down and hardly vis­i­ble in the frame of Blenz­ers and Leather For Le$$, grass and earth had been torn by the or­ange dots of trucks now idle there. A blare of horn and a flicker of head­lamps just be­hind him brought his eyes up to the glare and mov­ing mouth of a dri­ver jab­bing a fin­ger at his space. His ra­dio came to life with, –in­jury ac­ci­dent at Christo­pher, as he rounded the clover­leaf ← Oak­land Sacra­mento → where a and glass build­ing, touched by the sun’s last rays, ig­nited in a red glow as he came down the on­ramp join­ing a myr­iad of red and white lights in a stream head­ing west and east past Codorn c s XIT NLY to Kent­wood RIGHT LANE as he searched the dash­board and the seat be­side him for the flyer left be­hind in the café, un­read­able in the last glim­mer of the dark­ling sky over a cul-de-sac among lighted homes. He turned his watch into the pool of a street­light, 8:20, then cir­cled back to the small sign he’d missed, First Uni­tar­i­an, and lurched onto a rut­ted dirt road.

So many cars were parked in the lot that for a mo­ment he lost his faith that this meet­ing was an ir­rel­e­van­cy, an ironic gen­u­flec­tion to a democ­racy that even the gov­erned no longer took se­ri­ous­ly. He scanned war­ily and in vain for a red Mi­ata SFORZA, past pick­ups SUVs Volvos Hon­das Acuras with their var­i­ous bla­zons ΙΧΘΥΣ, CARPENTERS UNION LOCAL 713, PLUMBERS STEAMFITTERS 342, SHEET METAL WORKERS 104, WWJD , [pg319] ETERNITY Smok­ing Or Non-Smok­ing, JESUS DIED 4U, , Got Cryp­to? POWERED BY , , DARWIN, 94.1 , No­body For Pres­i­dent, , U.S. Out Of North Amer­i­ca, If You Think Ed­u­ca­tion Is Ex­pen­sive Try Ig­no­rance, park­ing at last by a truck where sun had bleached the red from MY BELONGS TO DADDY. He walked back into the light from the en­trance­way and the spill of peo­ple there, voices la­bor­ing un­der the oblig­a­tions of a world grown too com­plex to com­pass ex­cept by tra­vers­ing from one likely story to the next, rest­ing the weight of pre­con­cep­tions upon them for only so long as each held. The crowd wedged him against a fold­ing ta­ble bear­ing any num­ber of avail­able fic­tions in pam­phlet form, The Chal­lenge Of Stock­pile Stew­ard­ship, What Would Gandhi Think?, Coun­ter­ing the Lies of the Lab, The Avalon Fa­cil­ity And The Is­sue Of Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Pre­lim­i­nary Draft Study, which he opened to On Feb­ru­ary 8 1994, Sen­a­tor Samuel Chase re­quested that the sec­re­tary of En­ergy re­solve the ques­tion of whether the Avalon fa­cil­ity will aid or hin­der US non­pro­lif­er­a­tion efforts.

He pressed through the crowd, un­able for the most part to tell Lab per­son­nel from civil­ians in their com­mon mot­ley of ny­lon wind­break­ers, jeans, poly­ester pants, her­ring­bone jack­ets, to the refuge of the far wall cov­ered with laser­printed signs ← OHLONE VALLEY QUILT GUILD, DOE PUBLIC HEARING →, CLOUDSTONE STORYTELLER

–sched­uled every­thing on the same damn night

–s­tand­ing room only in there must be two hund

–send­ing their sci­en­tists out to the lo­cal schools in ra­di­a­tion suits, hey kids even ba­nanas are ra­dioac­tive so don’t worry about plu­to­nium

–can’t get ar­rested to­mor­row I have to pick the kids up from sch

–six­ties scum­bag jerk

–my wife said peo­ple in Wash­ing­ton don’t wear beards

–says here they’re go­ing to host the

–Dali Lla­ma?

–him and Gandhi here could have a spelling bee

–peo­ple so stu­pid it’s a waste of time try­ing to rea­son with them

–see peo­ple have al­ways been stu­pid, prob­lem to­day is tech­nol­o­gy’s a kind of am­pli­fier [pg320]

–don’t wor­ry, they’ll end up eat­ing their young as usu­al.153

Through an open door BREAKOUT ROOM a dozen or so peo­ple sat winc­ing un­der the grate of an am­pli­fied voice.

–op­por­tu­nity to, to give you sort of a overview to stock­pile stew­ard­ship and a bit of an overview to the Avalon mis­sion re­quire­ments. As my view­graph in­di­cates, I’m deputy as­sis­tant sec­re­tary for re­search, de­vel­op­ment, and sim­ula

From the next door came a wom­an’s keen, a woman in a long white dress clasped at the waist, raven hair over her shoul­ders, a woman pac­ing, halt­ing, de­claim­ing, –When every­thing needed was brought into be­ing, when every­thing needed was prop­erly nour­ished, when heaven had moved away from earth and the name of man was fixed, gave his daugh­ter bless­ings, and she took them. He gave her truth, de­scent into the un­der­world, as­cent from the un­der­world, the art of love­mak­ing, the art of forth­right speech, the art of slan­der­ous speech, the art of treach­ery, the plun­der­ing of cities, de­ceit, kind­ness, the kin­dling of strife, the mak­ing of de­ci­sions… Quine pressed on to­ward PUBLIC HEARING → stopped by the crowd in the door­way, as within the room an elec­tronic whine rose and died at a raised podium vis­i­ble through a sea of heads.

–I want to start out with mak­ing, mak­ing sure that every­one un­der­stands. The stock­pile stew­ard­ship pro­gram is the pol­icy of the na­tion. Its, its, roots de­rive from the pres­i­den­tial di­rec­tive.

–From the great above she opened her ear to the great be­low. When she en­tered the first gate her crown was re­moved. Inanna asked, what is this? Qui­et, Inan­na. The ways of the un­der­world are per­fect. They may not be ques­tioned, as from near the podium he saw Lynn push­ing her way to him with fury in her eyes.

–The sec­re­tary of en­ergy reaffirmed the, the fol­low­ing reaffir­ma­tion by the Pres­i­dent that it’s the pol­icy of the na­tion to main­tain its no-test pol­i­cy. And the sec­re­tary is, has been very fore­front in, in main­tain­ing for that. It’s one of her most re­spon, most im­por­tant re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to en­sure that the US nu­clear stock­pile re­mains safe, se­cure, and re­li­able with­out nu­clear test­ing. The US nu­clear de­ter­rent re­mains a supreme na­tional in­ter­est, and those are very spe­cial words in treaties, the supreme na­tional in­ter­est clause. What we have to do is [pg321] while we’re go­ing along, main­tain the in­sti­tu­tional vi­a­bil­ity to re­spond to all parts of the, of the stock­pile mis­sion, in­clud­ing re­con­sti­tu­tion if we, if we are asked by the Pres­i­dent.

–When she en­tered the sev­enth gate from her body the royal robe was re­moved. She was naked. Inanna asked, What is this? Qui­et, Inan­na. No one as­cends from the un­der­world un­marked, said . If Inanna wishes to as­cend she must send some­one in her place. Take him! cried Inan­na, and the seized her hus­band , as she grasped Quine’s arm and drew him in­side the door­way. She led him to the far wall and edged them along it to the front of the room.

–This is a very com­pre­hen­sive fa­cil­i­ty. It serves a very wide spec­trum of, of user com­mu­ni­ties, all the way from very spe­cific bomb de­sign­ers, to some of the look, look­ing at some of the things you can read about in the news­pa­per about our, our as­tron­omy dis­cov­er­ies. This is a needed flag­ship high­-en­ergy den­sity fa­cil­ity for stock­pile stew­ard­ship. We, we need ig­ni­tion and nu­clear burn. We need im­plo­sion and ra­di­a­tion physics from this fa­cil­i­ty. It’s a mag­net for world class tal­ent. It pro­vides key val­i­da­tions of com­puter sim­u­la­tion. Ig­ni­tion in par­tic­u­lar is one that I am par­tic­u­larly fo­cused on be­cause it is a clear di­vid­ing line. This is go­ing to be a very, very large val­i­da­tion el­e­ment for val­i­da­tion. Sine qua non. I mean, this is es­sen­tial, ba­sic and ap­plied sci­ence ex­plo­ration. And we have to have that. This is where we are, we are seek­ing to reach the tem­per­a­tures of the stars, and, and also the same sim­i­lar to the tem­per­a­ture at the in­side of a nu­clear de­vice as, as it goes off.

Now he could see the podium a , thun­der­bolt in , on mid­dle an atom, chief a ra­di­ant of , in fess a der­rick and a wind­mill, on base a tur­bine, all of the sec­ond, the shield by a wreath of col­ors out of which an ea­gle’s head coupéd154 proper, the whole within a with of the field bear­ing the , DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, of the sec­ond.

Lyn­n’s whis­per was fierce. –There’s about a hun­dred peo­ple here from the con­struc­tion trades. They’re all signed up to speak, it’s go­ing to take all night. Did you call the unions, put them up to this?

–No of course not I, glanc­ing over to where Sz­abo stood like a post. [pg322]

–con­tinue now, our next com­men­tor

–I’m tempted to blow your cov­er, make you get up there and ex­plain a few things.

–hun­dreds of jobs

–Please Lynn, I’m, I came, did­n’t I.

–God they’re eat­ing into our time and they’re say­ing the same thing over and

–jobs over the next five years adding a hun­dred mil­lion dol­lars to the lo­cal econ

–That is so un­true, she mut­tered and as yet an­other man stood to take the wire­less mi­cro­phone passed to him, she waved her hand and called out –Ex­cuse me! Ex­cuse me, I don’t want to cut any­one off, but are we go­ing to hear the ex­act same thing from an­other fifty elec­tri­cians?

From next to them a voice growled, –Hey girly, wait your turn and don’t dis­re­spect the trades.

–I have the great­est re­spect for the con­struc­tion trades, but a lot of other peo­ple are wait­ing to speak. Could we sum­ma­rize please? and a stir be­hind the podium as –I think in light of the ad­vanc­ing hour…

–Got em, she mut­tered, and with­out a look back at Quine be­gan to make her way across the room.

–Doc­tor Quine, hel­lo, I saw you in the au­di­ence, was­n’t sure if I should in­tro­duce you or not.

–No no, I’m just, just stopped in to see how, how things were go­ing, I’m about ready to

–I saw you talk­ing to that rather well in­formed young la­dy.

–Un­der the pre­tense of main­tain­ing the safety and re­li­a­bil­ity of the stock­pile, stew­ard­ship is in­tended to pre­serve the ca­pac­ity to main­tain, test, mod­i­fy, de­sign and pro­duce nu­clear weapons, with or with­out un­der­ground test­ing.

–That is not the de­part­men­t’s stated po­si­tion. We are com­mit­ted

–Ah yes she’s, that is, we’re ac­quainted of course, her group is a, a kind of, kind of a watch­dog group, we hear, hear from them a lot, kind of a, our, ah, keep us hon­est… you’re, ah, I don’t be­lieve we’ve…

–Carl Schlecht. We met in DC, just after the New Year. But I’m sure you met dozens of peo­ple on that trip.

–Sure, yes, of course, I ah, good to [pg323]

–I work with Reese in DP. We’re on tour here, kind of a sideshow re­al­ly, but the chair­man of Ap­pro­pri­a­tions put pres­sure on the sec­re­tary. We’ve got ten of these things sched­uled this mon­th, from here we go to Amar­il­lo, Santa Fe, South Carol

–doc­u­ments posted on DOE’s own De­fense Pro­grams server state that the US will con­tinue to in­tro­duce new weapons, as per the B sixty one rev eleven

–Just a, just a mo­ment, what doc­u­ments?

–Core R and AT Pro­gram El­e­ments from the DOE Office of Re­search and In­er­tial Fu­sion, in the sec­tion headed Con­cept De­sign and

–Just a… The two DOE rep­re­sen­ta­tives hud­dled out of mi­cro­phone range.

–So you’re not go­ing to be speak­ing tonight, Doc­tor Quine?

–Yes, no, I mean I

–doc­u­ments have since been re­moved from the site, an ac­tion that we re­gard as highly sus­pi­cio

–I must say, Doc­tor Quine, this young lady has ex­cel­lent sources.

–Yes, we’re aware of those, of those, those doc­u­ments, and, and they were re­moved from the site be­cause they should­n’t have been there to start with. The

–Once you make some­thing pub­lic you can’t just with­draw it be­cause it’s em­bar­rass­ing.

–Those doc­u­ments were out­dated and had been su­per­seded.

–There’s no date on the doc­u­ment.

–Doc­tor Quine…?

–The on­line ver­sion may not, not be dat­ed, that’s an over­sight, but the doc­u­ment it­self is from nine­teen ninety two.

–What? No, no I won’t be speak­ing.

–But the lan­guage and the pro­grams listed are vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal to your F Y ninety five. These are clearly state­ments of in­tent to de­sign new weapons.

–The US pol­icy is to de­velop no new nu­clear weapons.

–Are you will­ing to stand here and say that there is no con­sid­er­a­tion in the labs, that no sci­en­tists are think­ing about pure fu­sion weapons?

–There is no pure fu­sion weapons pro­gram at any De­part­ment fa­cil­i­ty. [pg324]

–That was­n’t my ques­tion.

–We never tell sci­en­tists to stop think­ing, but there is no pro­gram.

–Then what are your sci­en­tists think­ing about? Can you be more speci­fic?

–As to specifics, we’re not at lib­erty to dis­cuss them.

–What about the B sixty one rev eleven? Is­n’t that a new weapon?

–The physics pack­age of the B sixty one has not been changed, there­fore it is not a new weapon.

–The mod­i­fi­ca­tion gives the weapon en­tirely new strate­gic us­es. Is it US pol­icy to up­grade ex­ist­ing weapons into what are, es­sen­tial­ly, new ap­pli­ca­tions?

–We will re­place or re­build ex­ist­ing de­signs as needed but we won’t be adding new marks.

–Just about any na­tion look­ing at this is go­ing to con­sider it a new weapon. It does­n’t mat­ter what your stated pol­icy is if your ac­tions con­tra­dict it.

–Thank you. I think five min­utes is, is our lim­it, if we can move to the next com­men­tor, ah

–Any­way Doc­tor Quine I just wanted to tell you how grate­ful we were for the, the heads, oh hello Miss, Miss Ham­lin is it? I was just say­ing how im­pressed I was with your pre­sen­ta­tion.

–I did­n’t feel I made much of an im­pres­sion.

–Oh, I think you may un­der­es­ti­mate, ah, just how se­ri­ously the de­part­ment takes ah your group. Any­way, what was I

–last ten years the num­ber of chron­i­cally hun­gry chil­dren grew from

–and Doc­tor Quine, wanted to thank you for the heads up, I know that Reese was, ah

–US should in­vest in peace, trust, and equal­ity

–Reese Tur­bot?

–Oh you know Reese, Miss ah Ham­lin?

–We’ve had deal­ings.

–money could be bet­ter spent on schools, hos­pi­tals, hous­ing

–think the, the com­men­tor might be con­fus­ing the De­part­ment of En­ergy with the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices

–I re­ally should get back up there, nice see­ing you again, Doc­tor [pg325] Quine. You too Miss ah… as Schlecht’s ex­tended hand fell back un­met by the hard re­solve in Lyn­n’s eyes that turned to Quine.

–Yes, give my, my best to, to, to Reese…

–Reese Tur­bot. At DP.

–Yes…

–Did you hap­pen to men­tion this ORIF doc­u­ment to him? Be­cause boy did it dis­ap­pear fast, like the day after I showed it to you.

–US is legally com­mit­ted to dis­ar­ma­ment as a signer of the non-pro­lif­er­a­tion trea

–Lynn, how can you, when you’ve been go­ing through my pa­pers for stuff like that B sixty one

–Go­ing through your, I did not!

–weapons pro­gram nec­es­sary to en­sure na­tional sec

–Keep your voice, well where did you get it then!

–jus­ti­fied by po­ten­tial for fu­sion en­ergy

–Did you think, lis­ten, we have plenty of sources, do you think for one minute that I

–Lynn please keep your v

–treaties de­pend upon Avalon

–If you can’t trust me that far, then keep your brief­case locked.

–kay I think if we can move along

–Do you mean that I need to?

She did­n’t an­swer, but stared grimly as a slen­der bearded man in caftan and san­dals stood to de­claim paci­fist cou­plets punc­tu­ated by arabesques on a flute while mur­murs and snick­ers ran through the au­di­ence. When he’d fin­ished she mut­tered, –Friends like these. As Quine turned to her he con­fronted a tanned face with a well man­aged smile, and a wiry tanned hand rest­ing on her shoul­der.

–Tony.

–Nice job, Lynn, you had them sweat­ing. You must be Philip. Thanks for com­ing out.

–Hon­estly Tony, could­n’t you have re­strained Bernie?

–Oh, his heart’s in the right place.

–I wish it’d check in with his brain once in a while.

–Look Lynn, I’m up next, are you in the office to­mor­row.

–Till noon. I’m at day care in the after­noon. [pg326]

–Lynn…

–I don’t get in till three. You see this on the hand­out table? He held up Avalon And the Is­sue of Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion.

–I haven’t looked at it yet.

–take a re­cess

–Lynn is this about

–Ex­cuse us a minute Tony…?

–Sure. Nice see­ing you Philip.

–What is it?

–My head, I just need to

–Did you see Turn­er? He’s here. Did you read the preprint I gave you?

–What? Look Lynn, I’ve got a ter­ri­ble headache. Can we go now?

–Go? You mean leave? Philip, I have to stay to the end.

–But you’ve had your say, you

–There’s a mem­ber of the In­dian CTBT ne­go­ti­at­ing team here, I met him at Geneva, we’re all go­ing out after­wards so we can talk

–But I thought after­wards you and I would… as the crowd took them into the hall­way, where –thanks to Ms ah Cloud­stone’s ah com­pelling per­for­mance, you can see that el­e­ments of the Inanna myth per­sist in that of Perse­phone, just as ah can be traced back to Celtic

–I want you to hear Turner give his com­ment, he’s very com­pelling, did you read the preprint?

–or even Russ­ian

–Ah no, I…

–how dan­ger­ous it is to al­low, as he was pushed against the wall by an­other surge ex­it­ing BREAKOUT ROOM.

–sur­rounded by a fence made of hu­man bones155

, lit­er­ally “house man­age­ment”, a very pow­er­ful word, Je­sus speaks of his fa­ther’s

–Lynn I just…

–house on chick­en’s legs, , the Bone Moth­er, breaks down the bound­aries of per­sonal

–you all right?

–forc­ing us to ex­am­ine our­selves in the dark mir­ror of [pg327]

–re­ally can’t take any more of this, can you please, can we go now?

–Go? I thought you un­der­stood that I was here for the evening.

–I did­n’t know it was go­ing to be the whole time.

–I, Gopal! Hello yes, you’ve seen Tony…?

The lot was half emp­ty. Un­der the full moon his car glowed white. He lurched onto the rut­ted road and drove past the free­way and up Crow Canyon Road. As he as­cended a mist gath­ered in the head­lights. A fear in his heart, that he’d be judged. That he would­n’t be. Soon he was at a closed gate. PARK HOURS 6AM-8PM. A build­ing was set back among the trees. In the sec­ond story win­dow a dim line flick­ered, a flu­o­res­cent tube nei­ther on nor off, stut­ter­ing be­tween states. A broad path rose wind­ing un­der black oak and bay. A deer came into the beam, the moist dark of its eyes on him, ears athwart, antlers forked like light­ning. It raised one hoof as if invit­ing chase, then with no sense of hurry bounded into a thick­et. Noth­ing more stirred but the mist, droplets bright­en­ing and thick­en­ing there, then van­ish­ing into the dark.


The morn­ing was clear. Eu­ca­lyp­tus blos­somed and a new warmth urged out its pun­gency. In among the sick­les of leath­ery green leaves were white blooms, each made up of thou­sands of twined fil­a­ments. In a breeze they drifted down like a sun­show­er. Just out­side the kitchen win­dow a live oak leaf spun like a coin, sus­pended in air by spi­der­silk that van­ished and reap­peared as it spun.

–Will you dri­ve?

–Sure, I…

–Y­our CD play­er’s jammed. She reached for, –No don’t touch, the sud­den growl of –who are you this time? un­der his –Damn it! I had that all… as he fid­geted the but­tons for si­lence re­turn­ing with the blue blink of JAM.

–You like ?

–No, it’s, the stereo is bro­ken, the eject but­ton does­n’t work and the last owner just left this disk stuck in here so I had to, to fig­ure out how to, to, what’s so fun­ny?

–Here I thought I was see­ing a new side of you, and it’s just some tech­ni­cal prob­lem you haven’t fixed yet. [pg328]

–Yes well the deal­er, it’s not a fac­tory in­stall so, so… well I’m glad you think it’s fun­ny, his hand pulling back from the but­tons when she stopped it with hers and held it.

–No you’re not, you’re an­noyed.

–Well…

–Philip, be­lieve it or not, I like you as you are. When you let your­self be.

–Well, but it is an­noy­ing, I ac­tu­ally can’t turn it off, just to play the ra­dio I have to, to, and as he held ^ to demon­strate the blue seg­ments of the dis­play flashed JAM be­fore the ra­dio boomed, –a fewer per­cent­age of

–Please turn it off.

–Can’t even do that, have to, what’s so, so damn fun­ny? as he pressed SRC to si­lence the voice and JAM flashed again.

–I’m in a good mood. It’s a beau­ti­ful day, Man­dela is pres­i­dent of South Africa, and I’m still work­ing for CANT.

–Tony’s keep­ing you on? You should get it in writ­ing.

–Gopal con­vinced him that I know what I’m do­ing. Slow down, this is it.

Off the road a gate EBMUD No Tres­pass­ing Day Use Per­mits opened on an un­paved cir­cle. He parked in dust and grav­el.

–Oh pooh. I’m not dri­ving to Lafayette for a damn day use per­mit.

An edge of the com­ing sum­mer heat lay half hid­den in the sun-roasted smell of sage. Hills still green were specked with the yel­low blos­soms of and and the pale blue spires of . Sky spilled over wa­ter held back by an earthen berm. On the dirt road over the berm was a va­cant alu­minum trailer . Red­winged black­birds darted in metal­lic song. The trail climbed through oak and bay. Even in the treesoft­ened sun­light he sweat­ed. She waited on a clear rise above the reser­voir. The sky was so empty there he dizzied al­most. On a day this warm and clear last sum­mer he’d touched her for the first time. They’d watched a red­tailed hawk bank and soar. Her dark eyes squint­ed, her lips parted in what was less a smile than de­light ar­rested and con­tained at the mo­ment it was born. Her head was tilted and sun­light moved glit­ter­ing through her [pg329] cropped black hair to the base of her neck. A mus­cle stood out where her jaw met her ear. His hand went out to touch the down of her neck and her head tipped back into it. The warmth of her hair and the weight of her head filled his hand.

Now a bird flock was scat­tered on the sky, white flashes that van­ished into blue, reap­peared black, van­ished again wheel­ing, flick­er­ing it seemed in and out of ex­is­tence. The glit­ter of light on wa­ter also moved in and out of be­ing. He was on the verge of some­thing, as if God, as ex­trav­a­gant with bounty as he was stingy with mean­ing, might have hid­den the clues to be­ing some­where in be­ing’s very abun­dance and su­per­fluity.

Lyn­n’s warm hand slipped into his. Star­tled, his thoughts fled. –I’m sorry about last night. It was crunch time for me.

–It’s all right. I was, just was­n’t feel­ing all that…

–Turner was good. I wish you’d stayed.

–How about here? Quine moved into the shadow of a bay tree.

–Look out! Poi­son oak. Rhus di­ver­silo­ba.

–Sa­cred to…?

She smiled. –It’s a New World plant, West­ern states on­ly. Coy­ote, I guess. It’s prob­a­bly sa­cred to Coy­ote.

–Coy­ote…?

–Trick­ster. It’s a tricky plant. Even the genus name was changed, from Rhus to Tox­i­co­den­dron. Its leaves can be dark green or bright red. Even the bare branches and the roots are tox­ic. Tricky plant.

She un­packed small plas­tic tubs of lentils and chevre, fen­nel and red onion, olives, pears, a baguette. Acorn and leaf trash lit­tered the hard dry ground. They sat in si­lence as he stared across the glit­ter­ing wa­ter.

–What is it?

–I was, I don’t know, I was think­ing about light. About en­er­gy. I just, I had an idea about some­thing. There’s this effect that hap­pens in, in plas­mas… do, do you know about ?

–No, tell me.

–The sky’s blue be­cause of it. Sun­light is scat­tered by air mol­e­cules, and the short wave­lengths like blue scat­ter most so that’s what we see the blue. dis­cov­ered the effect, ac­tu­ally he dis­cov­ered much more, an amaz­ing sci­en­tist, all the work he did [pg330] in the nine­teenth cen­tury on fluid dy­nam­ics, wave equa­tions, we’re still, I mean well, any­way… and, and you see near the hori­zon, how the blue shades into white? That’s , light bounc­ing off larger par­ti­cles, larger than a wave­length, so the light re­mains white but most of it comes for­ward, but see, these are both forms of elas­tic scat­ter­ing, they don’t ac­tu­ally change the wave­length of the light. But in plas­mas, and are in­elas­tic, the pho­tons gain or lose en­er­gy, they ac­tu­ally shift their fre­quen­cy, so it be­comes an is­sue in, es­pe­cially in laser-plasma in­ter­ac­tions. any­way I was just think­ing that at cer­tain en­er­gies you might get an­other kind of, of sort of a res­o­nance effect that might…

–Quine scat­ter­ing.

–Don’t joke, I’m just

–But no, why not? Why could­n’t you dis­cover an effect?

–But that’s, no I mean, it’s only an en­gi­neer­ing prob­lem. It’s still physics I guess, but not, not… A sud­den des­o­la­tion welled up in him, from that nowhere he could­n’t name or man­age, the warmth and the scent of the day re­ced­ing even as they came for­ward to over­whelm him, turned against them­selves in mock­ery of his anx­i­ety, some un­name­able bur­den that had just caught up with him sit­ting there in his vor­tex of van­ished peace.

–Not what?

–Not… not what I ever meant to do.

–You sound so re­signed.

An an­noy­ance came over him, but passed off into the depth of that nowhere. –If I’d had it in me to do, don’t you think I would have? That pa­per with Sorokin, maybe that was all I had.

–Oh Philip. If you feel this way why did you take the di­rec­tor’s job?

–It was a last chance for me. I just could­n’t be­lieve it when I was offered this… but I was a ter­ri­ble choice, don’t you think I, every­one in the Lab knows it, I know Sz­abo wants to get rid of me, but maybe Réti’s right, this is what sci­ence is now. Maybe my role is to en­able oth­ers.

–But to en­able them to what? Walk your path, from sci­ence to weapons? [pg331] She took his hand. –You re­mem­ber last sum­mer? Right here. We kissed for the first time. Noth­ing seemed im­pos­si­ble then.

–No.

–And now we’re so much closer!

–Closer…?

–To each oth­er. To what we want. You don’t have to go on with the bad choices of the past…

–But that’s just it, I’m sur­rounded by all these bad choic­es, bad ideas, relics of some past, there are whole groups, de­part­ments, sec­tions de­voted to them, we have con­tracts and de­liv­er­ables, it’s like a maze you have to run, there’s no time to, to re­flect on what di­rec­tion you should take just get to the next cor­ner and go on from there.

–Yes, I know. Some­times I think it’s im­pos­si­ble. That you can’t con­vert these en­trenched ideas. That noth­ing good can ever come of them. That we’d have to close down all the weapons labs. And even then it would­n’t end. It does seem im­pos­si­ble some­times. But

–But I mean, how do you keep on with it when you see how im­pos­si­ble it is?

–I can’t live with my­self if I don’t try.

–I just, some­times I just want to give up. But if you think it’s all so com­pro­mised, what about me? Why are you with me?

–Be­cause I trust you, Philip. That you want to do the right thing. And it’s so hard for you. Do you trust me?

–Trust? as some­thing fled across his face look­ing for a place to hide, and was trapped there. –Yes I, of course I, I mean…

–Be­cause that’s all there is fi­nal­ly, that frag­ile skein of trust. With­out it every­thing falls apart.

–Yes, I…

Her dark eyes en­gaged his. –And with it, you know, it’s not hope­less. We do have a chance. With Turn­er’s com­ment, the other com­ments from the hear­ing, we can con­vince DOE, to halt Avalon or scale it back. The Lab could

–To halt…? Oh but… some­thing like alarm rose in him. –But you know it al­ready went in. The Con­cep­tual De­sign Re­port. The sec­re­tary okayed it. The base­line bud­get was ac­cept­ed, I mean it won’t be for­mally ap­proved for a few months, but, but even Chase signed off. It [pg332] looks like a sure thing, even the x-ray laser, we… Lynn? She was on her feet, stand­ing against that flaw­less sky, fight­ing it seemed for breath.

–What? When did this. Did you.

–Lynn

–How long have you known?

–It just I just

–Even, go­ing into that meet­ing last night, you knew? And all my. You. You’d think. By now you’d think that I.

–Lynn… he scram­bled up to fol­low her pac­ing.

–You mean that every­thing we’ve talked about, Chase, Turn­er, Sorokin, the pub­lic hear­ing, you’re say­ing it’s all wasted be­cause this de­ci­sion was, was made. Like Tony said, it was a done deal. And I be­lieved that you re­ally wanted to to to

–Lynn, I did want, I do…

–All my ex­pe­ri­ence with politi­cians and I was­n’t ready for this. Damn!

–But… he reached for her.

–Don’t! Don’t you un­der­stand, my own fool­ish­ness that’s bad enough but how I’ve be­haved, used up fa­vors, cred­i­bil­i­ty, thrown CANT’s re­sources into this, be­cause damn it I trusted you, thought you were be­ing hon­est that there was a, a chance to turn it around… and now this, this makes me feel so stu­pid!

–Lynn, please, is­n’t there more be­tween us than… step­ping up to where she whirled in dap­pled sun to push him away, –Don’t! as his heel turned on a loose stone, gave un­der him, and top­pled him into the brush. Un­der his hand and against his face were the waxy green leaves and white berries of Rhus or Tox­i­co­den­dron.

–Oh God. Wait, let me, she bent to un­screw the cap from a wa­ter bot­tle as he thrashed up­ward. –Don’t touch me! I mean, wait, just lie there while I… as she wet a ker­chief he gazed at the burn­ing sky. She dabbed at his face.

–Shut your eyes. This is to get the plant oil off, the . Your skin oil will pro­tect you for an hour or two. When you get home, take a cool show­er. Don’t use soap or hot wa­ter, they’ll break down your skin oil be­fore the urush­i­ol. [pg333]

–Aren’t you com­ing home with me?

She dabbed in si­lence at his hands and fore­arms. She folded the ker­chief and poured wa­ter from the bot­tle over her hands one at a time, then threw ker­chief and bot­tle into her pack.

–Lynn…

–I’ll see you at the car.

She turned from him and went steadily into the sun, where, ruffled by a wind, her hair spread out in fiery points. The sun­light was so bright now it was hol­low, the re­al­ity leached from every­thing. It was a few min­utes be­fore he fol­lowed. She was wait­ing near the gate, across the cir­cle from the car, and came to­ward it only when he un­locked the doors.

They drove in si­lence down the wind­ing white road to the free­way.

–You weren’t such a bad choice. The x-ray laser, that’s the real kick­er, that you hated so much, now you’re pro­tect­ing it.

–Lynn it’s not the, the Su­per­bright it’s

–Maybe if you solve your Quine scat­ter­ing prob­lem all those un­dead Rea­gan ass­holes can bring their mis­sile de­fense back to life.

–That’s not what

–God I’m so mad at you! We’re keep­ing our bombs no mat­ter what so fuck you.

–Lynn, I said, you know, if you wanted to have an im­pact you should, you could have come on board with us, you say you’re try­ing to go to law school but

–Philip, don’t say any­thing more.

At a red light he looked away from the bar­rel of the traffic cam­era to FAST DIVORCE BANKRUPTCY on a bus stop bench.

–Lynn please, I did­n’t mean… will you let me…

CANT’s send­ing me back to Gene­va. For the sec­ond CTBT ses­sion. It starts May six­teenth. I’ll be gone six weeks.

–You did­n’t tell me.

–I was wait­ing for you to ask.

–But I did­n’t know, how could I…

–To ask about, I don’t know, about any­thing that’s im­por­tant to me.

He reached for her and she backed away. –I re­ally don’t want poi­son [pg334] oak.

After she’d gone in­side he watched a cloud of in­sects move in and out of sun. At home in the shower he turned the wa­ter as hot as pos­si­ble. He stood lav­ing and scrub­bing un­til his skin was red.

Six

[pg335] –ten min­utes we’ll bring you the world, which sud­denly loomed closer in the form of HOW AM I DRIVING? CALL 1-800-328-7448 as he braked and –North Ko­rea said it’s started with­draw­ing spent fuel from a nu­cu­lar re­ac­tor with­out in­ter­na­tional in­spec­tors pre­sent, an ac­tion that se­nior US offi­cials warned, press­ing ^ for the blue blink of JAM where a red Mi­ata SFORZA was parked be­tween a Mer­cedes and a dump­ster CREDNE Waste Man­age­ment. As he re­leased the seat belt he caught a glimpse of him­self in the rearview mir­ror, the left half of a face dis­tended in for­saken­ness and mis­ery, and swollen with welts now crust­ing and be­gin­ning to weep clear flu­id. He dabbed with a hand­ker­chief al­ready stiff and yel­lowed, hold­ing it there through Soon Yet OPEN Visa Mas­ter­card PUSH, from blind­ing heat into bone chill, a crowded foy­er, and up to an im­pas­sive Chi­ne­se, –Ex­cuse me, is Leo High­et, who pointed to a ta­ble be­hind a pot­ted fi­cus.

–Sorry I’m late, the traff

–What hap­pened to your face?

–Poi­son oak.

–You get a shot? good. Hot wa­ter re­leases the his­t­a­mi­nes, gives you some tem­po­rary re­lief. You know, this is what M Sec­tion should be work­ing on, al­ler­gies and au­toim­mune re­ac­tions, not that genome stuff. Try the jel­lied duck feet.

–I’m not hun­gry.

–Suit your­self. Highet speared a dumpling and brought it to his mouth. –How’s your girl­friend? Still speak­ing truth to pow­er? Is [pg336] power lis­ten­ing yet?

–Look, I did­n’t come for

–He’ll have two of these and two of these. Keep your strength up, it’s a stress­ful job.

–What is it you want?

–Right to busi­ness, wow. Some­how I thought we’d start out com­par­ing notes. How to get the wash­room sink to drain. Keep­ing Do­lores’s ra­dio down. Fig­ured every­thing out yet? Seems to me I had to file an en­vi­ron­men­tal imapct state­ment just to eat lunch.

–The new sec­re­tary of en­er­gy’s chang­ing that.

–Oh right, Lit­tle Miss Open­ness. How’s that work­ing out for you? You find that the Lab’s be­com­ing a “safe and re­ward­ing work­place that’s re­sult­s-ori­ented and fun”?

–Look, I don’t have time, what about Gate?

Highet pried opened a dumpling with his chop­sticks and ex­am­ined its in­te­ri­or. –He’s work­ing with North Ko­re­ans.

–I’ve been all through this with your friend Dan Root.

Highet looked up. –Dan’s not a friend. We worked to­gether once.

–Well I need to know just what

–I won’t for­get your needs, but there’s some­thing more press­ing. Eight thou­sand fuel rods sit­ting in a cool­ing pond near . That’s five bombs’ worth of plu­to­nium with­out even vi­o­lat­ing the NPT. If they’ve been pulling spent fuel since the re­ac­tor started up in eighty six they could have built five or six bombs in the fifty kilo­ton range. They’re on their way to a nice lit­tle ar­se­nal.156 All they need is a de­liv­ery sys­tem. The CIA thinks they’re fifteen years from an ICBM, but the CIA can’t find its ass with both hands. Any­way they don’t want an ICBM. They want satel­lites. With an­other stage, their No Dong could put things in or­bit.157

–Why are you so con­cerned about this?

–It’s what I do now. I’m a non­pro­lif­er­a­tion re­searcher at NOUS.

–You mean, what, you…

–We ad­vise NRO, CIA, DoD, that kind of thing.

–Good God.

–It’s not as glam­orous as it sounds.

–Glam­orous, it does­n’t sound, just, if you’re bring­ing the same, [pg337] the same level of truth you did to Ra­di­ance to this job, it sounds dan­ger­ous is what it sounds.

–World’s a dan­ger­ous place. But I’m wast­ing your valu­able time with all this his­to­ry. All I want to know’s if the Supreme Lead­er’s get­ting flight data from Perse­phone.

–I held up the CRADA. Root said he’d go to NASA to get the da­ta.

–Okay, I know who to call there. My guess is they’re get­ting the da­ta.

–This is ab­surd, Gate told me his Ko­rean part­ner is Hyundai, but even if, so what, what if they are get­ting some data?

–Hyundai, that’s cute. Sup­pose it’s true. How will Py­ongyang re­act when they hear that their neigh­bor to the south is check­ing out a mis­sile de­fense com­po­nent? Look, this data is the camel’s nose. If Gate’s CRADA goes through, the whole pack­age is out there, thrusters, sen­sors, every­thing. The North Ko­re­ans are very re­source­ful. Our in­tel keeps say­ing they’re on , yet some­how they hang on. Some­how they’ve built nu­clear re­ac­tors, mis­siles, sure they had Russ­ian and Chi­nese help but not late­ly, and they were al­ways smart enough to play the two off against each oth­er. You’ve got to ad­mire the feisty lit­tle fucks.

–And you’re wor­ried that they may launch a few satel­lites?

–Right, who cares about some piece of junk play­ing The Im­mor­tal Hymn Of Bum Suk Kim on the ten me­ter band un­til its bat­ter­ies run down. But have you looked closely at the Sling­shot tech­nol­o­gy?

–We’re no longer do­ing mis­sile de­fense.

–I see why Chase likes you so much. Do you know what Perse­phone is car­ry­ing?

—Sen­sors, we de­signed the sen­sors…

–Right, you’re an ex­ec­u­tive sum­mary kind of guy. The Sling­shot is a ki­netic kill ve­hi­cle that

–I know all

–that can carry a pay­load of up to a hun­dred ki­los. That’s ei­ther a di­et­ing en­gi­neer or a small nuke. You want five, ten, fifty of those things in low earth or­bit?

–What makes you think

–“States par­ties to the treaty un­der­take not to place in or­bit [pg337] around the Earth any ob­jects car­ry­ing nu­clear weapons.” Outer Space Treaty, nine­teen sixty sev­en. North Ko­rea never signed.158

–Well, so what, they’re a, a rogue state, you were al­ways so con­temp­tu­ous of treaties…

–Did you no­tice that they an­nounced their in­tent to with­draw from the NPT? They take those com­mit­ments se­ri­ous­ly. They have a sense of hon­or. The US has fucked them and helped Japan fuck them for fifty years. Now Pres­i­dent Bubba is yelling about sanc­tions over these fuel rods. How do you think they’ll take that?

–Look, even if they get the Sling­shot, even if they can launch those things, even if they do have bombs

–Sure, can track an ob­ject the size of a soft­ball, but how do you prove there are nukes on board? Are we go­ing to start shoot­ing down satel­lites on sus­pi­cion? And ?

–So this is your way to, to hit a bul­let with a bul­let, a Sling­shot with an­other Sling­shot, to keep that whole pro­gram alive? You’re go­ing to claim we need to de­ploy these things be­fore any­body else does.

–Me? I just pro­vide in­for­ma­tion. For ex­am­ple, a nuke dropped from an or­bit­ing plat­form takes un­der five min­utes to hit the ground. Or, you can set it off in low or­bit and the will take out mil­i­tary C3, com­put­ers, tele­phones, broad­cast­ing, bank­ing, toast­ers, , you name it.

–So you sell this fear, this, this far­fetched sto­ry, be­gin­ning mid­dle end, you’re still do­ing that, telling a story in­stead of, of the truth.

–Well, Philip, truth is a sto­ry. Or do you know bet­ter than that? Help me out here. What’s the truth of your sit­u­a­tion?

–Y­ou’ve got some some some… after you…

–After I what? Tried to keep my Lab go­ing in the face of im­pos­si­ble de­mands, in­co­her­ent pol­i­cy, and ig­no­rant pol­icy mak­ers? You get­ting a taste of that now? Ever had to ex­plain any­thing to a con­gress­man?

–Chase…

–Think Chase is your friend, the very first time you for­get to say mother may I he’ll be on you like a wolver­ine. No, be­lieve it or not I’m here to help you Philip. So don’t in­sult me. Don’t make your­self out to [pg339] be the vic­tim, sit­ting in that chair you pulled out from un­der me. Piss­ing me off will only make me ir­ra­tional and vin­dic­tive. Did­n’t you have some­thing to ask me?

–Who’s De­von Null?

–Tal­ented physi­cist. I think he’s on Wall Street now. Us­ing chaos the­ory to model fi­nan­cial trends.

–Records show he was never an em­ploy­ee.

–You don’t say.

–So giv­ing him an office was a lit­tle un­usu­al, was­n’t it?

–Ev­ery­body has to be some­where.

–It was my office. He was never there. Null­point, what is that?

–I have no idea.

–Conor re­cov­ered the deleted par­ti­tion on your com­put­er.

Highet set down his chop­sticks and touched a nap­kin to his mouth. He chewed in si­lence for a mo­ment, then looked around the room, as if some­one out there might be eas­ier to talk to. –What a great kid. Is­n’t he a great kid? Okay, about Null­point. You’ve prob­a­bly never read your con­tract, but ass an em­ployee of the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, you agreed to cer­tain things. “In the even that any such in­ven­tion shall be deemed by Uni­ver­sity to be patentable, I shall do all things nec­es­sary to as­sign to Uni­ver­sity all rights, ti­tle and in­ter­est there­in.” See, peo­ple at the Lab com­mit to an un­usual sci­en­tific ca­reer. They do clas­si­fied re­search that can’t be pub­lished. They in­vent things they can’t patent or sell. Oc­ca­sion­ally the Lab waives com­mer­cial rights, but it’s al­ways a pain in the ass, es­pe­cially now that the uni­ver­si­ty’s got­ten so . So we set up a shell com­pa­ny. To shel­ter in­tel­lec­tual prop­er­ty.

–It’s, it’s all about the money for you, is­n’t it?

–What’s it all about for you, Philip? Be­ing right? I could care less about the mon­ey. I did this for my peo­ple. If they feel they’re get­ting ripped off they’ll rip you off.

–That would ex­plain the forty mil­lion in miss­ing in­ven­to­ry. How many peo­ple have profited from this se­tup?

–Profit­ed. Maybe once in a great while some­body got enough to pay off a loan. Profit? That’s change that fell out on the car seat. Christ Philip you bought a house with the rise in your salary, you know [pg340] what’s be­ing tossed around. You want to talk real mon­ey, ask Dan Root. He’s the one with irons in the fire. I’m just a semi­-re­tired con­sul­tant with condo pay­ments to make and white pa­pers to write. Or ask Rec­tor, he’s al­ready looked into this.

–So every­body thinks they’re en­ti­tled, is that right? Em­ploy­ees run­ning in­sider land deals, walk­ing out the door with equip­ment, tak­ing kick­backs from patent agree­ments, you think that’s, that’s, there’s a GAO re­port on my desk about twelve thou­sand miss­ing doc­u­ments, nu­clear weapons de­signs, x-ray laser plans, pho­tos of tests, did any of those doc­u­ments pass through Null­point?

Highet shook his head again and low­ered it, as if tired of con­tend­ing with missed points, to push the re­mains of a dumpling through a dark sauce on his plate. Quine put the coy­ote fetish on the table.

–The thing about pass­words, you should use a ran­dom string, never a real word. Seven char­ac­ters min­i­mum. Put some num­bers and punc­tu­a­tion marks in it. And never write it down. But does any­one fol­low these sim­ple rules? Highet put aside his chop­sticks, then picked up the fetish and put it in his jacket pock­et, –You have any other ques­tions for me?

–You worked on fu­sion for quite a while.

–And many be­fore me. Sz­abo… Réti…

–You wrote that a thou­sand joules was suffi­cient for ig­ni­tion.

–Long ago.

–Y­our com­puter model was op­ti­mistic.

–It looked good at the time. Why are we talk­ing about twenty year old com­puter codes?

–Our codes still use many of the same as­sump­tions.

–When you sim­u­late a com­plex process on a com­put­er, you al­ways make as­sump­tions.

–You pig­gy­backed fu­sion cap­sules onto Su­per­bright tests, did­n’t you. [pg341]

–We did that all through the eight­ies.159 More buck for the bang, you know?

–The Lancet se­ries. Alder, Wil­low, Rowan…

–Keep it down, even those names are clas­si­fied.

–Tal­iesin.

–Right, your shot. You’re up­set we did­n’t tell you.

–Those shots were to ver­ify your codes?

–Those shots were a proof of prin­ci­ple. The ba­sis for Aval­on. You want Aval­on, I would­n’t look too closely at that test da­ta.

–Why not?

–I know how de­mand­ing you are. It might not meet your high stan­dards. Per­son­al­ly, I would­n’t have promised ig­ni­tion.160 I would have em­pha­sized the weapons as­pects. But I know you’re down on bombs.

–Well, we’ve got Aval­on. That’s for sure.

–Who’s head­ing it?

–Sz­abo.

–Ah. get your goats lined up. Let me give you a lit­tle ad­vice. Watch your back with him. If he gives you any trou­ble, check his school records.161

–Why do you care what

–What hap­pens to you? I don’t. I care about the Lab.

–Sure, you care so much you rigged those codes back in the sev­en­ties to show just what you want­ed, to get the fund­ing, so now the en­tire laser pro­gram is based on a de­cep­tion, that’s how much you care.

–You re­ally de­spise me, don’t you, Philip. You think I stole se­crets, you think I faked data, why don’t you call the fuck­ing FBI if you’re so sure. If you’ve read my laser fu­sion pa­pers you know the sci­ence is good. De­spite how you feel about me.

–You were al­ways after the mon­ey.

–You amaze me. Only some­one who does­n’t know what the fuck he’s talk­ing about could be so sure. You know Bill Ven­ham? No? Close friend of Dan Root. Ran di­rect mail for Gold­wa­ter. Claims he got Rea­gan elected gov­er­nor in sixty six162. Now he runs the Arete Foun­da­tion, heard of them? No? They own NOUS. They own broad­cast­ers. They fund right wing caus­es. That loud­mouth Eu­banks on the ra­dio? Ven­ham [pg341] started him out eight years ago on a Sacra­mento sta­tion. They want to shut down DOE, give all the nu­clear weapons work to the Pen­tagon, you think DOE’s fucked up talk to some am­bi­tious Air Force colonel’s read too much . Bill wants cre­ation­ism taught in the schools, he’s got Sen­a­tor Bangerter on board for that one. Oh, and Bill spon­sors the Hertz fel­low­ships. You’ve heard of those. At least I know where my money comes from.

Highet pushed back his chair. –If you’ve had the time to crack my PGP, you must have found those GIF files on my disk. Not my thing, but I won­dered why the hell they were on an open server, so I saved copies. Ask Conor about steganog­ra­phy. You’re so clev­er, you’ll work it out.

–That’s all?

–Yeah, I think so. Tell me Philip, you ever get any joy out of life?

–Joy…?

Highet re­garded him with the dour look of a man who’s missed a long-awaited chance. He dropped a few bills on the table. –This is my treat.

The red Mi­ata was gone when Quine emerged un­der a sky full of Mie scat­ter­ing, a haze that mag­ni­fied the sun­light by diffus­ing it into al­most an opac­ity set­tled over the bridge as an un­yield­ing glare while the bat­ter­ing of cross­winds tore free the flut­ter­ing Profit From Your Knowl­edge from un­der his wiper blade, and an oro­tund voice pro­posed that some­one or some­thing –would­n’t stand a prayer, be­fore be­ing si­lenced by a quick thumb jab­bing 5 for the tem­po­rary soli­tude of brushed steel doors and –The hel­l…? a breast­work of boxes stacked in the front office.

–The Con­cep­tual De­sign Re­port is back from the print­ers. They sent ten copies.

–Good God I can’t get by them, how did

–It’s twenty seven vol­umes.

–Well can’t we… ow! What’s

–That’s the new GAO re­port. Twenty copies I think? Je­remy Rec­tor called, he’ll be by to dis­cuss it.

–Do­lores, I can’t work with this stuff here, can’t we move it to the li­brary or some­thing? [pg343]

–They have copies al­ready. Oh you have a call from Ar­mand Stera­dian he wants to ask about Bernd Di­etz.

–…yes I’ll, lis­ten Do­lores can you get me Frank Sz­abo’s aca­d­e­mic tran­script from, from Yale I think… jam­ming the in­ner door against a stack of boxes that tot­tered but sta­bi­lized as Conor, face crim­soned, came up from his chair, –Je­fe! You’re back ear­ly, I mean, wow, like what hap­pened to your face?

–Poi­son oak, as he pushed around to where splayed limb and pout­ing lips held out a promise of, if not ful­fill­ment, at least dis­trac­tion.

–…oh uh lis­ten I was, I had a thought about these files, you prob­a­bly al­ready thought of this, I saw that pa­per on your desk but

–Could we please get rid of… he leaned in to close the win­dows open on that plain of ven­ery.

–ac­tu­ally Highet thought of it back when they found this stuff, you know, that it might be steganog­ra­phy?

–What?

–Data hid­ing? Goes back like cen­turies. There’s a fifteenth cen­tury man­u­script, the Steganographia by , about the sci­ence of knowl­edge, the , , it con­tains pas­sages on cryp­tog­ra­phy. Then there’s ’s book from six­teen sixty five163

–Lis­ten Conor, I’ve got

–and a four­teen ninety nine anony­mous work, the , pub­lished by , where the first let­ter of each chap­ter spells out in Latin “Brother pas­sion­ately loves Po­lia”, which is some­thing you defi­nitely don’t want your ab­bot to read.

–How do you know all this any­way?

–I read the .

–So this, this is just some ar­chaic method of

–Oh, not ar­cha­ic. Large com­puter files like graph­ics have slack space in them, re­dun­dan­cy. You can em­bed other in­for­ma­tion in that space and the file does­n’t even look en­crypt­ed. Highet asked me about it when they first found these files. I wrote a de­crypt­ing pro­gram for him, it might still be on his, I mean your disk, it’s called stego. [pg344]

–Yes thanks I’ll, be with you in a sec­ond Je­re­my, oh look out for… as the calf­skin case came up over the cor­ner of some boxes and banged against the door­frame. –Conor let’s do this an­other time, I have to

–And my Rayleigh-Tay­lor work, can we talk about…?

–Yes, later Conor, I’ll see you…

–in an hour or so…?

–see you haven’t opened, my good­ness, what hap­pened to your face?

–Just an, an al­ler­gy, it’s noth­ing. Opened what?

–The re­port, but there’s not much to worry about. We have to put a new prop­erty man­age­ment sys­tem in place, that’s about the worst of it. But I ah, may I, may I…? Yes if you’d just move that, thank you. I’m con­cerned about this Di­etz fel­low. Did you get some kind of a let­ter from him?

–I shut him down. That let­ter’s been clas­si­fied.

–That’s prob­a­bly why he’s up­set. He’s been telling every­one that his let­ter should go to the sec­re­tary. Not my busi­ness at this stage, but it might be best to let him make his point.

–No, I’m, I’ve re­ally had it with peo­ple tak­ing ad­van­tage of my, my good na­ture, Bernd is just go­ing to have to, to, to come to terms.

–Yes I’m sure he will. There’s one other thing I’m con­cerned about… push­ing aside Time Tac­tics Of Very Suc­cess­ful Peo­ple to make space for Chi­vian-Har­ris, Boole & Clay, Credne Waste Man­age­ment. –Have you seen the­se?

–…no.

–No?

–Well I’ve glanced, but not, not in the con­text of any ac­tion­able, I mean any ah proac­tive kind of ah ac­tion…

–Well, it could turn nasty. This CANT group, I have to say, they’re very adroit. You ah know some­one with them, don’t you…?

–Not re­al­ly.

–They set­tled their Site Al­pha suit, but there’s a num­ber of other toxic plumes. The efflu­viants are cov­ered in our doc­u­ments… as three more thick fold­ers came out of the calf­skin case and Rec­tor freed a sheet. –Volatile or­ganic com­pounds, poly­chlo­ri­nated biphenyls, eth­yl­ene di­bro­mide, ben­zene, tri­cholorethane, per­chlorothane, lead, [pg345] stron­tium, iodine, mer­c[ury]

–Look Je­remy is this, I mean you’re ba­si­cally say­ing that there’s no im­me­di­ate, I mean noth­ing’s wrong, right?

–Noth­ing’s wrong? But, we’re a Su­per­fund site. We’re get­ting fed­eral money to clean up th

–Yes but that’s, I mean that’s base­line right that’s not news, we’re deal­ing with…

Rec­tor squared doc­u­ments against the calf­skin case. –It could be made into news if it seems we’re not do­ing our part. The EPA took a base­line read­ing in a school­yard a half mile away and found plu­to­nium con­cen­tra­tions of one point th

–Plu­to­ni­um? A half mile away? How did that hap­pen?

–No one’s sure. It could have come from a smoke­stack with a bad scrub­ber, but the con­cen­tra­tion is lo­cal­ized. There was one in­ci­dent in sixty sev­en, some plu­to­nium re­leased into the off­site sew­ers. One EPA offi­cial guessed that con­t­a­m­i­nated sludge might have been col­lected and sold as fer­til­iz­er.

–But how could that hap­pen, aren’t there safe­guards?

–There are ra­di­a­tion gauges at our out­flow points, but they were often turned off be­cause of too many false pos­i­tives. The waste could have en­tered the city sew­ers.

–Okay, so peo­ple make mis­takes, but, but, nine­teen sixty sev­en? How is that news?

–It may have been there that long, it’s just the read­ings that are re­cent. Also there’s the two mile long tri­tium plume, well at least tri­tium has a fairly short halflife, un­likely to sur­prise you thirty years lat­er, but

–But this is, I mean…

–I’m just say­ing, with the new con­struc­tion and sus­pi­cions that might arise around these dual toxic re­ports, these older in­ci­dents could be used as a lev­er, you see?

–But no, I don’t see.

–Case by case these aren’t re­ally my con­cern, but a pat­tern and prac­tice of abuses is some­thing I need to be aware of, es­pe­cially if Su­per­fund monies have been mis­used.

–But, pat­tern and prac..? Rec­tor stood, snap­ping shut the calf­skin [pg346] case. –But what should I do?

–Se­n­a­tor Chase is still in your cor­ner, is­n’t he?

–As far as I, I, I mean I haven’t talked to him lately but

–Well, you might want to touch base there… as the door shut on the binders and spi­ral­back vol­umes of Con­cep­tual De­sign Re­port now laid out like a pa­tient on the table, di­a­grams and wire­frame per­spec­tives lit­ter­ing the floor where –Conor! came slid­ing –Look out! across the car­pet on the skid of 1..1.2 SYSTEM MANAGER APPROVAL Op­tics Bernd Di­etz, crum­pling it against the leg of Quine’s desk. –Yo dude! This place is like…

–What is it?

–Sor­ry, je­fe, but do you want to talk about my Rayleigh-Tay

–Just, is that? just leave it here, I’ll take it with me and read it tonight and maybe to­mor­row or I mean Fri­day we can

–Okay but this is like, some­thing I think you re­ally want to

–Hel­lo…? Sen­a­tor! Yes, thank you for. Well I’m very glad to hear th… Di­etz? He’s the man­ager of, of the… he did? Well yes, that’s why he’s man­ager of the op­tics and… well no but and you know the value I place on, on in­tel­lec­tual free­dom but I do think his crit­i­cisms are yes as you say un­time­ly. That, that’s why I’ve spo­ken to the project man­ager and told him to, to re­view… yes an in­ter­nal re­view there’s no rea­son this should be on, on any­one’s radar, and any­way Di­etz did sign the, the… go­ing down on hands and knees for the crum­pled page un­der Conor’s , –the Sys­tem Man­ager Ap­proval for Op­tics and the, the Cost Ba­sis Doc­u­ment so… yes I do know his con­cerns they’re well within the pa­ra­me­ters of ah… well, he’s been un­der some, some stress with our dead­lines and I think he just, just, yes ex­act­ly. Yes I’ll make sure he… and what? Hear­ing? En­vi­ron­men­tal man­age, what’s that got to do with… oh. Yes I. Well of course we are. Plan­ning for, for waste dis­posal sites, well but do you think that’s re­ally our, our… yes we do gen­er­ate… yes we do have tox­ics mit­i­ga­tion pro­gr… our ex­per­tise, yes I see, okay I’ll call Glenn Boni­face and… but, but me? But why? Uh huh. Yes, well I’ll have to, to get up to, to speed on… when is this…? reach­ing for a pen and turn­ing over 1.1.2 SYSTEM MANAGER for a blank sur­face. –Okay. Yes. Yes I will… tap­ping the phone for, –Glenn Boni­face please. [pg347]

–Je­fe…?

–Not, not now, Conor, I’ve got to…

–Okay, I’ll leave this on top of uh, is, is this your in bas­ket…? the door clos­ing on –Glenn, this is Philip. Can you get me some doc­u­ments…? and a minute later he was step­ping over Con­cep­tual De­sign Re­port and FUDGE and Ohlone Val An­ti-Nuke Group Brings Su­per­fund Suit to reach the sink, where he stared into the mir­ror at a face al­most healed of poi­son oak but look­ing no health­ier for it, rum­mag­ing through Va­ler­ian St Johns Wort Ginkgo Biloba for an un­marked am­ber bot­tle, some blue pills in­cised with tri­an­gle164 sit­ting in a residue of blue dust like a dio­rama of some dis­tant and peace­ful planet that offered a lan­guor of the life more im­mi­nent than LANCET 1979–1991, or Growth Rate of the Rayleigh-Tay­lor In­sta­bil­ity in an Ab­lat­ing Plas­ma, or DOE/RW-0184-R1 Char­ac­ter­is­tics of Po­ten­tial Repos­i­tory Wastes Vol­ume 4, a drowsi­ness diffus­ing a dim­ness like the ground fog thick­en­ing to oblit­er­ate the dis­tant ridges where <ULTRADIG> had slit the hills and was scoop­ing a new in­ter­change past Codorn c s XIT NLY, solid with un­mov­ing cars as some­where up ahead blue and red flashes stained the fog and ƎƆИA⅃UᙠMA came up the shoul­der in a blast of klax­on, but what­ever mis­for­tune or mor­tal­ity had man­i­fested there was gone with the fog next morn­ing, leav­ing be­hind only a lit­ter of bright glass peb­bles, an oil stain, a crum­pled strap of met­al. The snout of a presided over eight lanes of cars wait­ing then rush­ing at the pat­terned al­ter­na­tion of lights. Quine is his turn edged past FAST DIVORCE BANKRUPTCY with a pang more con­spic­u­ous for the singing of some bird, for the minute efful­gency of bus ex­haust blow­ing through the win­dow rolled quickly shut against the blue­bird’s tune which proved to be only the me­chan­i­cal chirp of the traffic sig­nal offer­ing to as­sist any blind passerby fool­ish enough to brave those eight grum­bling and irate lanes, chirp chang­ing to a cuckoo as he turned to brake for EBMUD rolling away a stone, or was it only a man­hole cov­er.

Back in the office he sat in what might have been si­lence but for the tin­ni­tus in his ears, the con­struc­tion com­ing to life out by the dry foun­tains, the in­ex­orable press of the daily round, the sound of peo­ple try­ing not to say what they meant, yet he went on lis­ten­ing for that [pg348] un­heard still­ness with­in, as if some clue to his heart or to its safe pas­sage through the world could be found in the world’s very ex­i­gen­cy, if only he could wait long enough.

But each pass­ing mo­ment brought its new ex­i­gen­cies, like crows com­ing to land among the sheaves and binders and Growth Rate of the Rayleigh-Tay­lor In­sta­bil­i­ty. He gazed out from his desk at Mount Ohlone, its slopes cov­ered with the long grasses now dried to dun and pale gold and am­ber and mauve and gray and vi­o­let. Cap­sules be­low a cer­tain en­ergy failed to ig­nite be­cause the hot spot will not achieve suffi­cient rho-r and tem­per­a­ture. Scotch broom and lupines, their flows fal­l­en, stretched out hard and hairy seed pods for the heat, or­ange pop­pies and pur­ple this­tles bloomed. Typ­i­cal­ly, the 165 is too coarse to re­solve steep, ho­mo­ge­neous plas­ma-den­sity struc­tures that might arise from un­even il­lu­mi­na­tion or hy­dro­dy­namic in­sta­bil­i­ties. High above ar­royos Cathartes aura soared. Be­cause we lacked ad­e­quate mod­els for cer­tain pieces of the physics, the leath­ery leaves of Rhus di­ver­siloba were dark green and shiny with resin, in­no­cently hold­ing forth their pale berries.

–See, Bill Snel­l’s group mea­sured the in­flight as­pect ra­tio of the cap­sule and here see these ra­dial li­ne­outs are Abel in­vert­ed, pro­vid­ing den­sity pro­files as a func­tion of t[ime]

–yes I see that’s great Conor

–doped and un­doped ab­la­tors

–re­ally great but could y

–ba­si­cally I think Bil­l’s group ma­jorly un­der­es­ti­mates in­sta­bil­ity growth. They’re get­ting their con­firm­ing data from flat foils. They as­sume ax­ial sym­me­tries, they as­sume lin­ear or weakly non­lin­ear regimes, but our cap­sules are spher­i­cal and this stuff is three-D and non­lin­ear out the yin yang. The codes don’t cap­ture that.

–Does the Lancet test data square with the codes?

–Eight out of ten Lancet test cap­sules fiz­zled. Ac­cord­ing to our codes they all should have ig­nit­ed. Of course the con­di­tions were differ­ent, I mean those were bomb tests that’s ob­vi­ous but still, some­thing like twenty mega­joules166 went into some cap­sules and that’s like over ten times what the codes predic… hey, you okay?

–Just a, a lit­tle headache. [pg349]

–kind of to be ex­pected re­al­ly, I mean you put a lit­tle droplet like that un­der that much pres­sure, the in­sta­bil­i­ties are go­ing to spin right out of con­trol. What do you want to do with my pa­per?

–Yes well I’m sure Bill Snell will want to, to re­view it, we’ll have a meet­ing soon, okay and Conor…?

–Yes?

–For now this is be­tween you and me.

–Yeah, okay. You should take an as­pirin or some­thing… bath­room he pushed aside Naproxen Va­ler­ian St. John’s Wort for the am­ber bot­tle and shook out the last of the blue tablets. Out­side the clamor of con­struc­tion was con­tin­u­ous. When Sz­abo en­tered he barely looked up.

–What’s with Di­etz, Frank?

–What, his protest? We clas­si­fied it.

–He called Sen­a­tor Chase, then he called a re­porter.

–Well, shit.

–Re­as­sign him. Re­veal­ing any­thing in that let­ter is a clas­si­fi­ca­tion breach.

–Philip, look, let me talk to him, I can man­age him.

–Do what I say!

–I’ll take care of it, okay? What’s the trou­ble?

–Trou­ble? Tell you what the trou­ble is… as he rum­maged through Waste Repos­i­tory Pre­lim­i­nary to come up with Growth of the Rayleigh-Tay­lor In­sta­bil­i­ty, –trou­ble is some tests done in the eight­ies the Lancet se­ries you’ve heard of it?

–Yes… as a kind of wari­ness came into Sz­abo’s voice. –I worked on those, they gave us our first proof of prin­ci­ple, kind of the ba­sis for Ava

–Proof? You call two out of ten cap­sules proof? You call that a ba­sis?

–I call two out of ten pretty damn good con­sid­er­ing.

–Con­sid­er­ing our codes pre­dicted ten out of ten?

–Philip you’ve seen the codes you’ve even worked with them you know we’re not cap­tur­ing all the physics but

–Lis­ten to me Frank con­struc­tion starts in two years Bernd is scream­ing that Avalon might not come up to spec and now I find out that even if it does we might not get ig­ni­tion, I don’t need this. Why [pg350] did I never see this data?

–Lancet? It’s been out there. It was gone over by re­view pan­els. I as­sumed you were up to speed.

–Okay. I see a prob­lem here that threat­ens our de­liv­er­ables. And that is not go­ing to hap­pen. I want you to write a full re­port on all the Lancet data, em­pha­siz­ing any un­cer­tainty in Aval­on’s ig­ni­tion thresh­old. I want this laid out for Reese in black and white.

–Philip, there’s no need. Reese knows. Talk to him. You sub­mit a re­port like that now it’s just a red flag, he’ll have to re­spond. He might even have to post­pone Key De­ci­sion One, no­body wants that. That hap­pens, then the elec­tions, who knows, we could lose this, to an­other lab, or al­to­geth­er. What do you want Philip, to blow the whis­tle on your­self? Reese knows there are no guar­an­tee, he’s fine with our un­knowns.

–You seem aw­fully damn sure of what Reese is fine with.

–We’ve worked to­geth­er. We un­der­stand each oth­er. I’ll talk to him if you want, get some as­sur­ances in terms you’re com­fort­able with if that

–I’ll talk to Reese. Mean­time, write the re­port, Frank. I want to see it when I get back from this damned waste meet­ing in DC.

–What, next week? I don’t have time to

–None of us has time… and the door had barely shut when his face hard­ened and the phone was in his hand for –Do­lores, did you get Frank Sz­abo’s aca­d­e­mic tran­script yet…? and lin­gered there for MEM 5 as, wait­ing, he opened GAO/RCED-91-65 to an or­ga­ni­za­tion sat­u­rated with cyn­i­cism, an ar­ro­gant dis­re­gard for au­thor­i­ty, and a stag­ger­ing pat­tern of de­nial, drop­ping it for –Reese…? I just won­dered if you’d talked to Frank Sz­abo re­cent­ly. He seems un­happy about some­thing… not sure what the prob­lem is, maybe he feels slighted be­cause he was passed over for di­rec­tor, but I can’t help that, I mean I pro­moted him to Aval­on, do­ing every­thing I can think of… not re­al­ly, just hard to work with, this Di­etz thing, you know? Thought he had that cov­ered and now Di­etz is call­ing every­one he can think of… And this re­port he’s writ­ing, about some test data from the eight­ies? Lancet? You’ve heard of it? No, I don’t know what he means to prove by it… just won­dered if he’d shared any­thing with you… don’t mean to trou­ble you with it, any­way I’ll see you next week, we [pg351] can talk then. Yes I’m, I have it here, Char­ac­ter­is­tics of Po­ten­tial Repos­i­tory Wastes, is that, no wait, Ra­dioac­tive Waste In­ven­to­ries Re­vi­sion Nine, is that…? Yes I’ll get up to, up to speed here…

Night had fallen again out there be­yond his no­tice, be­yond his open blinds, where 375,000 cu­bic me­ters high level waste awaited dis­pos­al, and the moon­lit slopes of Mount Ohlone seemed as though his win­dow gave upon the syl­van scene, 100,000 cu­bic me­ters transuranic waste, where an owl left the har­bor of a eu­ca­lyp­tus, 2.5 mil­lion cu­bic me­ters low level waste, where two rac­coons growled cir­cling a squir­rel car­cass, io­dine nep­tu­nium ce­sium ura­nium zir­co­nium half-lives of a mil­lion years, where a rat crept softly through the veg­e­ta­tion.

He pulled the blinds closed. To en­sure iso­la­tion from the bios­phere ma­te­ri­als are placed in a ge­o­logic repos­i­to­ry, buried un­der­ground in shal­low pits, dumped at sea, or dis­carded by hy­drofrac­ture in­jec­tion. Some planet set in the west. The lat­ter two tech­niques were past prac­tices and are no longer per­formed. Sat­urn by its col­or. This re­port does not re­port civil­ian nu­clear waste. A grove of live oak blocked all light ex­cept for shards of the moon fallen like leaves among them. This re­port also does not re­port in­ven­to­ries of ra­dioac­tive ma­te­ri­als not clas­si­fied as waste. Crick­ets chirred. Steel drums are cer­ti­fied for 300 years. Moon­light rinsed the open range land, and fur­ther off the val­ley was filled with glit­ter­ing points. Pre­treat­ment and im­mo­bi­liza­tion processes have not yet been fi­nal­ized. On a breath of warm air Um­bel­lu­laria broad­cast its waft of mint and resin. Es­ti­mates for cer­tain other waste cat­e­gories are not fully re­ported be­cause of the cur­rent un­avail­abil­ity of da­ta. –Artemisia tri­den­tata, Lynn said, break­ing from a sage­brush a twig of gray leaves, pun­gent in her cupped palm. The warmth of her came with it. And at the far verge of the syl­van scene was al­ways the flood­lit ter­rain of the Lab.

–Stop, he whis­pered. A nau­sea came over him and he pushed aside the pa­pers. A des­o­la­tion gaped, en­gulfed him. He started

To: lhamlin@lgc.apc.org
Subject: Avalon uncertain igniti

then col­lapsed it in fury. He delved into /highet/ seek­ing some re­minder or rev­e­la­tion to feed that which grew by it, halt­ing at /xxx/ where he brought up that anony­mous wilder­ness of flesh where heat [pg351] went un­suc­cored by warmth, where the most sin­u­ous in­ven­tion de­volved to the same pre­dictable end, rous­ing within him some­thing that sought a re­lease not offered by this im­age or the next, un­til he was star­ing at rus­set high­lights in cropped black hair fad­ing to a fringe of down where it met the neck bent to sup at what in the next im­age sought lithe thighs to nest be­tween un­til he pulled his at­ten­tion from the fig­ure to the ground, to the empty wine­glass on the bed­side table, the fallen shoe, the philo­den­dron wilt­ing in its tub there against the bare wall whose pix­els, when ex­am­ined close­ly, were sug­ges­tive as the brush­strokes of some se­cret writ­ing. Over these he opened a new win­dow for >stego a0001.gif At once a flaunt of tongue van­ished be­hind columns of num­bers sleet­ing down the screen to stop with ZULU_DATE 560527 ZULU_TIME 1756.00000 LAT 11.360000 LONG 165.230000 HOB 3M YLD 3530KT OPERATION REDWING EVENT ZUNI DEVICE BASSOON. His face wore a kind of stub­born de­nial be­lied by his fin­gers click­ing back up through mea­sure­ments of ra­di­a­tion, neu­tron flux, x-rays. As if re­fus­ing to learn what he did­n’t want to know, he com­manded his fin­gers to close the win­dow, but they be­trayed him with >stego *.gif, and one after an­other the en­tice­ments of parted lips and un­clad climbs were lost in a bliz­zard of num­bers that no rhythm of his fran­tic click­ing could halt.

The names crowded there like demons in­voked and im­pos­si­ble to put down, each with its date, time lat­i­tude, lon­gi­tude, height of blast, yield, weight di­am­e­ter, slant range, ground pres­sure, tem­per­a­ture, neu­tron flux, fifty years of it, every bit of data gath­ered at every test in the desert or on Pa­cific atolls, in shafts or tun­nels un­der col­lapse craters, the wealth of an em­pire trans­formed into blasts that re­turned in their ra­di­ance the promise of some greater em­pire, the names of Trin­i­ty, Cross­roads Able, Cross­roads Bak­er, Sand­stone X-ray, Sand­stone Yoke, Sand­stone Ze­bra, ranger Able, Ranger Bak­er-1, Ranger Easy, Ranger Bak­er-2, Ranger Fox, Green­house Dog, Green­house Easy, Green­house George, Green­house Item, Buster Able, Buster Bak­er, Buster Char­lie, Buster Dog, Buster Easy, Jan­gle Sug­ar, Jan­gle Un­cle, Tum­bler-S­nap­per Able, Tum­bler-S­nap­per Bak­er, Tum­bler-S­nap­per Char­lie, Tum­bler-S­nap­per Dog, Tum­bler-S­nap­per Easy, Tum­bler-S­nap­per Fox, Tum­bler-S­nap­per George, Tum­bler-S­nap­per How, Ivy Mike, Ivy King, Up­shot Knot­hole [pg353] An­nie, Nan­cy, Ruth, Dix­ie, Ray, Bad­ger, Si­mon, En­core, Har­ry, Grable, Cli­max, Cas­tle Bravo, Romeo, Koon, Union, Yan­kee, Nec­tar, Teapot Wasp, Moth, Tes­la, Turk, Hor­net, Bee, Ess, Ap­ple-1, Wasp Prime, HA,­Post, MET, Ap­ple-2, Zuc­chini, Wig­wam, Project 56-1, Project 56-2, Project 56-3, Project 56-4, Lacrosse, Chero­kee, Zu­ni, Yu­ma, Erie, Semi­nole, Flat­head, Black­foot, Kick­apoo, Os­age, In­ca, Dako­ta, Mo­hawk, Apache, Nava­jo, Tewa, Huron, Project 57-1, Boltz­mann, Franklin, Lassen, Wilson, Priscil­la, Coulom­b-A,­Hood, Di­a­blo, John, Ke­pler, Owens, Pas­cal-A, Stokes, Sat­urn, Shas­ta, Doppler, Pas­cal-B, Franklin Prime, Smoky, Galileo, Wheel­er, Coulom­b-B, Laplace, Fizeau, New­ton, Rainier, Whit­ney, Charleston, Mor­gan, Pas­cal-C, Coulom­b-C, Venus, Uranus, Yuc­ca, Cac­tus, Fir, But­ter­nut, Koa, Wa­hoo, Hol­ly, Nut­meg, Yel­low­wood, Mag­no­lia, To­bac­co, Sycamore, Rose, Um­brel­la, Maple, As­pen, Wal­nut, Lin­den, Red­wood, El­der, Oak, Hick­o­ry, Se­quoia, Cedar, Dog­wood, Poplar, Scav­e­o­la, Piso­nia, Ju­niper, Oliv­er, Pine, Teak, Quince, Or­ange, Fig, Ar­gus I, Ar­gus II, Ar­gus III, Otero, Bernalil­lo, Ed­dy, Lu­na, Mer­cury, Va­len­cia Mars, Mora, Col­fax, Hi­dal­go, Tamal­pais, Quay, Lea, Nep­tune, Hamil­ton, Lo­gan, Dona Ana, Ves­ta, Rio Ar­riba, San Juan, So­cor­ro, Wrangell, Rush­more, Oberon, Catron, Juno, Ceres, San­ford, De Ba­ca, Chavez, Evans, Hum­boldt, Maza­ma, Santa Fe, Blan­ca, Ganymede, Ti­ta­nia, Antler, Shrew, Boomer, Chena, Mink, Fish­er, Gnome, Mad Ring­tail, Feath­er, Stoat, Agouti, Dor­mouse, Still­wa­ter, Ar­madil­lo, Hard Hat, Chin­chilla I, Cod­saw, Cimar­ron, Platy­pus, Pam­pas, Danny Boy, Er­mine, Bra­zos, Hog­nose, Hoosic, Chin­chilla II, Dor­mouse Prime, Pas­saic, Hud­son, Plat­te, Dead, Adobe, Aztec, Black, Arkansas, Ques­ta, Frigate Bird, Paca Yukon, Mesil­la, Arika­ree, Muskegon, Sword­fish, En­ci­no, Aard­vark, Swa­nee, Eel, Chet­co, White, Tanana, Nam­be, Rac­coon, Pack­rat, Al­ma, Truc­k­ee, Yeso, Harlem, Des Moines, Rin­conada, Dul­c,e Pe­tit, Daman I, Otowi, Bighorn, Hay­mak­er, Marsh­mal­low, Blue­stone, Sacra­men­to, Sedan, Lit­tle Feller II, Starfish Prime, Sun­set, Pam­li­co, John­nie Boy, Mer­ri­mac, Small Boy, Lit­tle Feller I, Wi­chi­ta,Y­ork, Bobac, Rar­i­tan, Hyrax, Pe­ba, Al­legheny, An­droscog­gin, Mis­sis­sip­pi, Blump­ing, Roanoke, Wolver­ine, Chama, Tio­ga, Bandi­coot, Check­mate, Bluegill 3 Prime, San­tee, calami­ty, Housaton­ic, King­fish, Tightrope, St. Lawrence, gundi, ana­coss­tia, Taunton, Ten­drac, Madis­on, Num­bat, Man­a­tee, Cas­sel­man, Hatchie, Fer­ret, Acushi, Chip­munk, Kaweah, Carmel, Jer­boa, Toy­ah, Ger­bil, Fer­ret [pg353] Prime, Coy­pu, Cum­ber­land, Koote­nai, Paisano, Gundi Prime, Tejob, Har­kee, Stones, Pleas­ant, Yuba, Hutia, Ap­sha­pa, Mat­a­co, Ken­nebec, Peakan, Sat­sop, Ko­hoc­ton, Ah­tanum, Bil­by, Carp, Nar­ra­gau­gus, Grunion, Tornil­lo, Clear­wa­ter, Mul­let, An­chovy, Mus­tang, Greys, Sar­dine, Ea­gle, Tu­na, Fore, Ocon­to, Club, Solen­don, Bunker, Bone­fish, Mack­erel, Klick­i­tat, Hand­i­cap,Pike, Hook, Stur­geon, Bo­gey, Turf, Pipefish, Dri­ver, Back­swing, Min­now, Ace, Bit­ter­ling, Duffer, Fade, Dub, Bye, Cor­morant, Links, Tro­gon, Al­va, Can­vas­back, Play­er, Had­dock, Gua­nay, Spoon, Cours­er, Auk, Par, Bar­bel, Gar­den, Forest, Hand­car, Crepe, Drill, Cas­sowary, Par­rot, Mud­pack, Sulky, Wool, Tern, Cash­mere, Al­paca, Mer­lin, Wish­bone, Seer­suck­er, Wag­tail, Suede, Cup, Kestrel, Palangquin, Gum Drop, Che­nille, Mus­covy, Tee, Bu­teo, cam­bric, Scaup, Tweed, Pe­trel, Or­gandy, Di­luted Wa­ters, tiny Tot, Izzer, Pongee, Bronze, Mau­ve, Tick­ing, Cen­taur, Scream­er, Char­coal, Elkhart, Sepia, Ker­met, cor­duroy, Emer­son, Buff, Maxwell, Si­en­na, Lamp­black, Dovekie, Reo, Plaid 2, Rex, Red Hot, Fin­foot, Cly­mer, Pur­ple, Tem­plar, Lime, Stutz, Toma­to, Duryea, Fen­ton, Pin Stripe, Ochre, trav­el­er, Cy­cla­men, Char­treuse, Ta­pes­try, Pi­ran­ha, Du­mont, Dis­cus throw­er, Pile Dri­ver, Tan, Puce, Dou­ble Play, Kanka­kee, vul­can, Half­beak, sax­on, Rove­na, Tan­ger­ine, Der­ringer, Daiquiri, Newark, Khaki, Simms, Ajax, Cerise, Vig­il, Side­car, New Point, Gree­ley, Rivet I, Nash, Bour­bon, Rivet II, Ward, Per­sim­mon, Ag­ile, Rivet III, Mush­room, Fizz, Oak­land, Heil­man, Fawn, Choco­late, Effendi, Mick­ey, Com­modore, Scotch, Ab­sinthe, Knicker­bock­er, Switch, Midi Mist, Um­ber, Vi­to, Stan­ley, Gib­son, Wash­er, Bor­deaux, Lex­ing­ton, Door Mist, Yard, Gilroy, Mar­vel, Za­za, Lan­pher, Co­gnac, Saz­er­ac, Worth, Cob­bler, Polka, Stilt, Hup­mo­bile, Stac­ca­to, Brush, Cabri­o­let, Mal­let, Torch, Knox, Dor­sal Fin, rus­set, Bug­gy, Pm­mard, Stinger, Milk Shake, bevel, Noor, Shuffle, Scroll, Box­car, Hatch­et, Crock, Clarksmo­bile, Adze, Wem­b­ley, Tub, Rick­ey, Fun­nel, Sevil­la, Chateau­gay, Spud, Tanya, Imp, Rack, Di­ana Moon, Sled, Nog­gin, Knife A, Stod­dard, Hud­son Seal, Welder, Knife C, Vat, Hu­la, Bit, File, Crew, Auger, Knife B, Ming vase, Tin­der­box, Schooner, Bayleaf, Tyg, Scisors, Ben­ham, Packard, Wine­skin, Shave, vise, Big­gin, Winch, Nip­per, Cy­press, Valise, Chat­ty, Barsac, Coffer, Gourd, Blenton, Thistle, Purse, Al­i­ment, Ipecac, Tor­ri­do, Tap­per, Bowl, Ildrim, Hutch, Spi­der, Hore­hound, Pli­ers, Minute Steak, Jo­rum, Ky­ack, sea­weed, Pip­kin, Sea­weed [pg355] B, Cruet, Pod, Cal­abash, Scut­tle, Plan­er, Pic­calil­li, Diesel Train, Cu­lantro, Tun, Grape A, Lo­vage, Ter­rine, Fob, Ajo, Be­len, Grape B, Labis, Di­ana Mist, Cumar­in, Yan­ni­gan, Cy­athus, Ara­bis, Jal, Shaper, Han­d­ley, Snub­ber, Can, Bee­balm, Hod, Mint Leaf, Di­a­mond Dist, Cor­nice, Man­zanas, Mor­rones, Hud­son Moon, Flask, Piton, Piton A, Ar­ni­ca, Scree, Ti­jeras, Truchas, Abey­tas, Pe­nasco, cora­zon, Can­jilon, Arte­sia, cream, car­pet­bag, Baneber­ry, Em­bu­do, Dex­ter, La­gu­na, Hare­bell, cam­phor, Di­a­mond Mine, Mini­ata, Brack­en, Apo­da­ca, Bar­ran­ca, Na­ma, Baltic, Al­go­dones, Fri­joles, Ped­er­nal, Chan­til­ly, Cathay, La­goon, Di­ag­o­nal Line, Par­nas­sia, Chae­n­ac­tis, yer­ba, Hospah, Mescalero, cowles, Di­anthus, Sap­pho, On­a­ja, Longchamps, Ji­car­il­la, Misty North, Kara, Zin­nia, Mon­ero, Meri­da, Cap­i­tan, Tajique, Hap­lopap­pus, Di­a­mond Sculls, Atar­que, Cuchillo, Os­curo, Del­phini­um, Ak­bar, Ar­se­n­ate, Can­na, Tu­loso, Solanum, Flax, Alum­root, Miera, gazook, Natoma, An­gus, Col­mor, Star­wort, Mesi­ta, Cabresto, Kashan, Dido Queen, Al­men­dro, Potril­lo, Por­tu­la­ca, Silene, Poly­gon­um, Waller, Husky ace, Bernal, Pa­jara, Seafoam, Spar, El­i­da, Pine­drops, Latir, Hulea, Sapel­lo, Portrero, Plo­mo, Jib, Grove, Fal­lon, Jara, Ming Blade, Es­ca­bosa, Crest­lake, Puye, Port­man­teau, Pratt, Trum­bull, Stanyan, Es­ta­ca, Hy­bla Fair, Temescal, Pud­dle, keel, Por­to­la, Tele­me, Bil­ge, Top­gal­lant, Cabril­lo, Dinig car, Edam, Obar, Ty­bo, Stil­ton, Mizzen, Alvi­so, Fut­tock, Mast, Camem­bert, Marsh, Husky Pup, Kasseri, Deck, In­let, Ley­den, chib­er­ta, Muen­ster, keel­son, Es­rom, Fonti­na, cheshire, Shal­lows, Es­tu­ary, Col­by, Pool, Strait, Mighty Epic, Riv­o­li, Bil­let, Banon, Gouda, Sprit, Chevre, Red­mud, Asi­ago, Sut­ter, Rud­der, Oar­lock, Dofi­no, Mar­sil­ly, Bulk­head, Crew­line, Fore­foot, Car­nelian, Strake, Gruy­ere, Flo­to­st, Scup­per, Scant­ling, Ebbtide, Coulom­miers, Bob­stay, Hy­bla Gold, San­dreef, Seamount, Rib, far­al­lones, Cam­pos, Re­blo­chon, Karab, Top­mast, Ice­berg, Fon­dut­ta, Back­beach, As­co, Tran­som, Jack­pots, satz, Low­ball, Panir, Di­a­blo Hawk, Cremi­no, Cremi­no-Caer­philly, Draughts, Rum­my, Em­men­thal, Quargel, con­cen­tra­tion, Farm, Bac­carat, Quinel­la, Kloster, Mem­o­ry, Freeze­out, Pepa­to, Chess, Fa­jy, Burzet, Off­shore, Nes­sel, Hearts, Pera, Sheepshead, Backgam­mon, Azu­la, Tarko, Nor­bo, Lip­tauer, Pyra­mid, Col­wick, Can­field, Flo­ra, Kash, Huron King, Tafi, Verdel­lo, Bonar­da, Ri­o­la, Dutchess, Min­ers Iron, Dauphin, Ser­pa, Base­ball, Clairet­te, Seco, vide, Alig­ote, Harz­er, Niza, Pineau, Havar­ti, Is­lay, Tre­biano, [pg356] Cer­nada, Pal­iza, Tilci, Rou­san­ne, akavi, caboc, Jor­nada, Mol­bo, Hosta, Tena­ja, Gib­ne, Kry­d­dost, Bouschet, Kesti, Neb­bi­olo, Mon­terey, Atrisco, Que­so, cer­ro, Di­a­mond Ace, Huron Land­ing, Frisco, Bor­re­go, Sey­val, Man­te­ca, Coalo­ra, Cheedam, Cabra, Turquoise, Ar­mada, crowdie, Mini Jade, Fa­hada, Dan­ablu, La­ban, Sabado, Jarls­berg, Chan­cel­lor, Tom­me, Mid­night Zephyr, Bran­co, Bran­co-Herkimer, Techada, Na­vata, Mug­gins, Ro­mano, Gor­bea, Mi­das Myth, Mi­la­gro, Tor­tu­gas, Agrini, Mundo, Orkney, Bel­low, Caprock, Duoro, Nor­man­na, Kap­peli, Correo, Wex­ford, Dol­cet­to, Bre­ton, Ver­me­jo, Vil­li­ta, Egmont, Tier­ra, Minero, Vaughn, Cot­tage, Her­mosa, Misty Rain, Towan­da, Salut, Ville, Mari­bo, Ser­e­na, Ce­brero, Chami­ta, Ponil, Mill Yard, Di­a­mond Beech, Roque­fort, Abo, Kinibito, Gold­stone, Glen­coe, Mighty Oak, Mogol­lon, Jeffer­son, Panam­int, Tajo, Dar­win, Cy­bar, Cor­nu­copia, Galve­ston, Ale­man, Labquark, Bel­mont, Gas­con, Bod­ie, Haze­brook-E­mer­ald, Haze­brook-Checker­ber­ry, Haze­brook-Apri­cot, Tornero, Mid­dle Note, De­la­mar, Pre­sid­io, Hardin, Brie, Mis­sion Ghost, Panchue­la, Mid­land, Tahoka, Lock­ney, Bo­rate, Wa­co, Mis­sion Cy­ber, Kernville, Abilene, Schell­bourne, Lare­do, Com­stock, Rhy­o­lite, Nightin­gale, Alamo, Kearsarge, Har­lin­gen-A, Har­lin­gen-B, Bull­frog, Dal­hart, Mon­a­han­s-A, Mon­a­han­s-B, Kawich A-White, Kawich A-Blue, Misty Echo, Texarkana, Kawich, In­got, Pal­isade-1, Pal­isade-2, Pal­isade-3, Tu­lia, Con­tact, Amar­il­lo, Disko Elm, Hor­ni­tos, Muleshoe, Barn­well, White­face-A, White­face-B, Me­trop­o­lis, Bowie, Bul­lion, Austin, Min­eral Quar­ry, Rands­burg, Sun­down-A, Sun­down-B, Ledoux, Ten­abo, Hous­ton, Coso-Bronze, Coso-Gray, Coso-Sil­ver, Bexar, Mon­tel­lo, Floy­dada, Hoya, Dis­tant Zenith, Lub­bock, Bris­tol, Junc­tion, Di­a­mond For­tune, Vic­to­ria, Gale­na-Yel­low, Gale­na-O­r­ange, Gale­na-green, Hunters Tro­phy, Di­vider.167

He stared into the heart of that com­fort­less light he could not re­move from. every­thing had been re­vealed, all se­crets ex­posed, and yet noth­ing had changed; some­where his heart was cry­ing like an aban­doned pet, all was given up and given away, and the bur­den was still on him. In the dark­ness he pressed his fin­gers to his eyes, imag­in­ing what was out in the world now for the tak­ing by any who guessed the key, and sparks bloomed on his lids, like the wheel­ing of birds, now black, now white, against a blank sky. [pg357]

Seven

Morn­ing sun, in­sult­ing his sleep­less eyes, glared from three folded news­pa­pers each a day more dis­tressed than the last: ivory, wheat, urine. On the hand ex­tended to pick up Record Heat Wave More On Way, a mole he did­n’t re­call drew a blunt shadow over the ham of his thumb. In the house he paused long enough to drop his suit­case and pass the phone blink­ing 4, a clut­ter of sty­ro­foam car­tons in the kitchen, an empty box Pa­paGeno Pizza and a trail of ants mov­ing across it, and then he was back out un­der the heat of the sky, that molten blue shell be­yond which was mere vac­uum lit­tered with the stony threats of a ham­mer­ing that echoed the walls of Build­ing 101 where he turned the wheel to skirt Putzmeis­ter P30 growl­ing at the dry foun­tains where shot a halo of saw­dust into the air and turned again around a mo­tor­ized cart loaded with can­is­ters CFC-12 Freon while the ra­dio in­formed him that –the nu­clear weapon is ob­so­lete. I want to get rid of them all un­quote yet while ap­plaud­ing Gen­eral Horner’s sen­ti­ment the sec­re­tary of de­fense was skep, still­ing it as he set the brake un­der RESERVED DIRECTOR.

On me­dia vans CNN KNBR ABC mi­crowave dishes an­gled sky­ward. Ca­bles thick as fire­hose snaked through open doors and an ex­ha­la­tion of cool air met him two steps be­fore the en­trance. Just in­side stood plac­ards CAUTION UNCLEARED VISITORS UNDER ESCORT IN THIS AREA. A large man in a blue serge suit passed ut­ter­ing, –. At the el­e­va­tor a fed­eral pro­tec­tive [pg358] offi­cer glanced sul­lenly at Quine’s badge.

His outer office was va­cant and silent. He went through and sat heav­i­ly, push­ing aside with his case Earth Pro­tec­tion, FUDGE: A Fu­sion Di­ag­nos­tic and RSVP. As he let drop Ohlone val­ley Her­ald Sec­re­tary Steals Se­crets, a binder slid off the desk and hit the floor in a spray of pa­pers. He bent to re­trieve them but was un­able to fix his at­ten­tion for long on Idaho Rocky Flats Han­ford Sa­van­nah River 109 of the 144 sites un­der DOE’s care will re­quire long-term pro­tec­tive stew­ard­ship after re­me­di­a­tion end states of the sites are not re­li­ably known and the ac­tiv­i­ties that con­sti­tute stew­ard­ship are not yet de­fined long-term cen­turies mil­len­nia myr­i­aden­nia 36 mil­lion cu­bic me­ters legacy waste 1 bil­lion curi