Sample Pages The trouble with the machine was that it gave
anyone who coupled into it, and who allowed their mind to dwell upon the matter,
a pretty good idea of what, generally, could be believed about the official pronouncements
that they were supposed to live with. Since the environment was a political one,
with misinformation and doubletalk having been the accepted management style for
years, this meant that nobody trusted anyone or believed anything that the machine
associated with negative feelings. Least of all did the powers in charge have
any trust in the loyalty of their employees. But the world situation was critical
and getting worse, and this research could provide the means for reversing it.
The work had to go on. Consequently, security assumed a more crucial importance
than was usual even for a classified program. The project's Security Officer,
who reported directly to Willard, the Laboratory's overall director, figured prominently
in all decision making. His name was Bruce Calom.
"I still have reservations about this
Dr. Brenner from Berkeley," he said, bringing a photo and evaluation summary
up on the conference room screen. "Several of the staff members at Berkeley
considered him irresponsible because he talks too freely with students about inter-departmental
affairs that are not generally considered to be undergraduates' business. His
reply is that enabling young people to practice making competent judgments is
what universities are supposed to be for. To me that spells risky."
The meeting was to review the new names recently
confirmed as recruited to the project. With Calom were Jesse Willard, executive
director, and Edward Kintner, Chief Scientist of the Octagon Project.
"I see you've added a personal endorsement,
Ed," Willard commented, looking at the requisition file.
"We need his expertise," Kintner
replied simply. "The work that he's done there is brilliant. Neville Ducaine
went over those designs of his and says they're as advanced conceptually as anything
we're using here."
"I still want it on record that I don't
like it," Calom said.
"Do you have something specific?"
"Just a gut-feel that comes after years
of experience. I don't need any machine to tell me." Calom had said the same
thing before the offer was made, but the scientists' arguments had prevailed.
He knew that Kintner used the machine to guide his decisions, which no doubt meant
that Kintner didn't trust half the things that Calom said. He himself had an antipathy
toward intellectuals, and scientists in particular-which didn't help matters.
Kintner regarded him equably through his gold-rimmed
bifocals. "If everybody at this establishment could be guaranteed to come
risk-free, you wouldn't have a job, Bruce," he said. "I'm sure we can
control the problematical aspects. In fact, if he possesses precisely the kind
of specialized knowledge that we don't want being spread around, this might be
the best place to keep an eye on him. We can put him under special surveillance."
Willard nodded at Calom. "Do it, effective
from his date of arrival. Get an extended background check on him too."
Kintner had known Calom's attitude, of course.
But Kintner's enhanced premonitions had been different. Evidently, what had sounded
warning bells for Calom wasn't necessarily bad news for everyone else. When Kintner
had coupled into the machine and contemplated future prospects, he had been gripped
by a sense of breathtaking possibilities that had excited the scientist part of
him. The certainty impressed itself that there could be new discoveries far beyond
anything glimpsed so far. But only in association with the option of hiring Brenner.
It vanished for every alternative. The machine could not be specific beyond that.
So Kintner had lodged his vote, and the others could reconcile themselves in whatever
way they chose.
Willard looked down at his file again. "Very
well, then, we need his expertise. And this Polish mathematician who's coming
with him-nothing further to report there?"
Calom shook his head. "Nobody's got much
on him either way. He and Brenner have worked together at Berkeley for four years
now. His professional and academic record is solid. Apart from that, he seems
to have discovered how to stay invisible to most of the system. We'll put him
under observation with Brenner."
The offer to Jantowitz had been on Kintner's
recommendation too. The man's theoretical knowledge was impressive. And why not
somebody with experience in biophysics? They already had people from just about
every other discipline on board. The project was a long way past being just research
into the strange side of basic physics, as it had begun. Now there didn't seem
to be an area of human thought, action, or humanity's very existence that didn't
stand to be affected.