Born Out of Due Time, The Think Tank Murders, by Ched P. Rayson, Chapter Four

Thomas Fleming

By

August 9, 2018

Chapter Four

Tuesday PM

Time will say nothing but I told you so.

Time only knows the price you have to pay.

If I could tell you, I would let you know.

W.H. Auden

A passing car honked, pulling him out of the dream.  Without looking at the watch he no longer carried, he realized it was time to head back to the office.  Opening his eyes, he became aware of a large shape  blacking out the sun: It was a large blond head stuck in front of his face.  It was not smiling.

“Buddy, if you need a place to sleep, go to a hotel.  This is a public park.”  As the policeman straightened up, Smith blinked in the sunlight and smiled.

“I’m sorry, officer, I’m sure you’re only doing your duty.  Do you really mean to say that someone working downtown can’t sit on a public bench and close his eyes for a few minutes?”

“Where are you working?”

“Veritas.”

The cop gave him the once over, noting the suit and necktie under the well-worn trench coat, and tried another tack.

“Sorry to bother you, mister, but the department is always riding me to crack down the on people who hang out in this park.  I seen you around before, ain’t I?  Maybe at Joey’s place?”

“Any friend of Joey’s…”

“Yeah, for sure.  You’re that guy Smith.   What I really wanted to tell you is there are some weird kids—teenagers—hanging out around here.  There’s a girl, maybe 16, 17, strawberry blond, nice-looking, with another girl—a plain Jane with dark hair.  There’s also a young guy—unshaven, wears a long dark coat.  Looks a little like a school-shooter.  We think maybe she’s soliciting or maybe they’re just high.  We don’t think they’re really dangerous, but these days you never know.”

Smith thanked the cop, promised him a drink next time at the Ice House, and got to his feet.  After two beers and a nap in the park, he needed to get cleaned up before meeting Macmillan Ross.  There was a public lavatory in the park, but it was neither clean nor safe.  He remembered a parking garage, attached to an office complex one block over toward the Lake.  It had a decent bathroom the bums never used because of the uniformed security that would never bother a “suit.”   

He walked into the immaculate men’s room: In the hard florescent light the abstract space glittered in white porcelain and stainless steel.  Serving the entire complex, the vast rectangular bathroom was more like a locker room in a men’s club.  All it lacked was a stack of white towels and a disinfecting canister full of combs.  As he came through the door, he noticed several young people in long coats, standing in front of the urinals.  Since two of them, even bundled up in oversized coats, looked remarkably like teenage girls, he made his way to the lockable stalls at the other end.  Had the transgender cult finally reached Nadir?  It was like that French play he had read recently—the one in which everyone turned into a rhinoceros.

Opening the door, as he got ready to leave, he saw an attractive strawberry blond standing in front of him and flashing open her long tan coat, first above, then below, then above… She was wearing nothing under the coat.  Smith said nothing and gave no sign of noticing her firm athletic flesh, as she flashed again, this time giggling, and walked back to her friends.  He thought of the statue of a dying Amazon he had seen somewhere.

Nothing venture, nothing win, he thought, and walked over to the three, who looked alarmed at his approach.

“Don’t panic, kids.  I’m not looking to make trouble.  I just want to ask a question—I’m doing some research for a think tank.  Could you please explain to me why an attractive girl would expose herself to a stranger in a men’s room?”  Getting no response, he added: “I mean is there some point I am not getting?”

The blond, giving him a smile somewhere between dewy innocence and leering imbecility, said in a taunting voice:

“We just wanted to see what sort of reaction we’d get.   You’re the first guy who didn’t lunge at me or start screaming.  You stayed calm.  What’s that all about?  You’re gay, ’n so?”

“I’m not easily disturbed.  So what’s the point?  You must know perfectly well what’s going to happen.  Your friend here—“ pointing at the frail young man with wispy blond hair and a two-day growth of down on his face—

“Couldn’t protect you from a computer nerd, if he were to get overheated.”  The boy shot him a dirty look and fumbled in his pocket.

“So what, then we’d have sex.  Big deal?  Want to?”

“For money?”

“For nothing.”

“For what?”

“For nothing I said.”

“I meant for what purpose.  You are—what?—seventeen?”

“Sixteen, you gonna report me?”

“No, I would like to understand where you think you are going with this.  You’re an attractive girl..”

“Glad you noticed..”

“Any man would notice, and some would do something about it, despite your bodyguard who looks as tough as Tinkerbell.”

The boy got a savage look on his face, and shouting, “I’ll show you who’s a faggot,” he lunged at Smith with a long sheath knife he had slipped into the sleeve of his coat.  Smith stepped aside, tripped the punk and brought his two fists down hard on the back of his neck.  Smith kicked the knife to the other end of the bathroom.  The little brunette screamed, throwing her hands up to her face.  The pretty blond barely flinched and looked questioningly at Smith, who spoke gently.

“You shouldn’t let him have sharp objects.  He won’t always run into someone as nice as I am.”

“What did you do to him?”

“Not much.  He’s not really hurt—he’s not moving because he just doesn’t want any more.”

“You know you’re sweet,” she said looking dreamy as if she was listening to music only she could hear.”

“Right, sweet.  Why don’t you go home to your parents and put some clothes on?  There’s only one way these stunts are going to end.”

“You mean I’m gonna be raped?”

“Much worse, you’re going to be old before you know it, drunk or drugged and living in a trailer park with four brats you’ll hate.”

“Who cares about ‘then’?  I’m alive now and that’s all that matters.  There’s nothing else in this shithole of a town.”

“You’re probably tired of hearing that life is what you make of it, even in Nadir.   Unfortunately, it’s as true as when your mother tells you, ‘Don’t go out in a blizzard without wearing your parka and choppers.’”

“Yeah, but then I could freeze to death.”

“There are worse things could happen—like never being alive.  I’ve been many places, but when I am here I am content with what I can do here.”

“That’s fine for you.  I’ve never made it as far as Chicago, only the Twins, and that wasn’t worth the trouble it took.  Minneapolis is just a lot of Nadirs crammed into one place, only the people aren’t as friendly.” 

“What did you expect?  They’re Minnesotans.  Think about it for about five seconds, and you’ll realize you’re getting older by the minute.  What you’ll be when you’re old, you already are.”

“Awesome. So you’re saying time doesn’t matter?”

“No, there’s no awe in this.  Of course time matters, but not in the way you think.  Some day this moment will be as real to you as it is right now, and that future of you feeling sorry for herself is the present of you right here and now.”

“That’s ‘heavy,’ man,” she said grinning the quotation marks.  “That’s what my mom always says, when she isn’t being the total bitch that she usually is.”

“Maybe you could try to get along with her better when you go home.”

“Oh yah.  You go tell her one time to listen.  Maybe I could just move in with you. You’ve got so much you could teach me.  What’s yer name?  You got a name, ’n so?”

“You don’t really need to know my name—it doesn’t mean much even to me—and you’d get bored with my company in about 15 minutes.  I’ve been your age—everyone lucky enough to escape adolescence  has been your age—and it can be like a long dark tunnel where nothing happens and nothing matters, but everything matters and everything is always happening.  It’s up to you, not to people you don’t like.  If you ever do need something from me, leave word with Big Joey or Darlene at the Ice House that you want to see the one they call “the man in black.”  They’ll know whom you mean.  I’ll help if I have to, but first go home.  Your mother’s probably been through all this herself twenty years ago.”

“Yeah, my mom got knocked up when she was seventeen.  So where did you hear about it?”

He shook his head.  He really had to quit caring what people did to themselves.  He wasn’t a priest—or even a good Catholic.  He had—putting it as mildly as he could—troubles of his own to take care of.   He was even more puzzled than ever by his own behavior   As he walked away, the boy sprang to his feet and bolted away.  The blond girl waved him a toodle-oo and called out, 

“My name’s Jessie—that’s for Jessica.”  

Her shy brown-haired friend whispered,
“Bye.”

Outside the parking lot he ran into the cop and told him he’d seen the kids, without telling him anything about what had happened.”

“They’re just dumb kids who think they want trouble.  Try to get the girls home.  The boy’s just a punk.  If they need a few bucks for a cab or whatever, just give it to them, and I’ll reimburse you.  It’s better they don’t know from whom it came.”

When Smith entered the Veritas building, he ran into Shawn, who was rapidly paging through his phone.  He was so intent on the tiny screen, he had not noticed Smith approaching.

“Finding the secrets of eternal youth or just the wisdom of the ages?”

“Funny.  No.  There’s a new set of TM exercises available on an ap.  It increases your powers of concentration and makes you immune to the radiation from cell towers.”

“Why not just put that damn thing away and count the black dots in the terrazzo?”

“What the Hell’s terrazzo and why should I count the dots?”

“The floor, kid, the floor.  It has more to teach you than all the computers in the world.”

“Why count the spots?”

“Then you’d learn something you’ll never know from your magic black box.”

“Like what?”

While Anterus said nothing, Shawn looked at him for a few seconds as if he were teacher dealing with a disturbed child and then took him to Ross’s office.  It was a large room with high windows and walls lined with books.  There were no family photographs, and the only furniture was a handsome desk, covered with neatly stacked piles of papers and books.  The neatness reflected a disciplined mind, but the piles of work—the Pléiade edition of Pascal, a Greek New Testament, a stack of tax documents, nautical charts of the Great Lakes—plus the volumes of the Latin Fathers on the shelves told the tale of a man who had never entirely settled down, but the variety of books and the several framed degrees on the wall, in philosophy, French literature, and theology all testified to the scholarly acumen, and even more to the diligence, of C. Macmillan Ross.

Shawn led the way to the president’s office, where they were greeted by his secretary, Mrs. Goodine.  Shawn had explained that Justin Wright wanted to give her a loftier title, like executive administrator, but she refused.  She was proud to be secretary to someone like Dr. Ross.  Mrs. Goodine knocked on a door without a sign and opened it.  

Shawn  introduced Smith to the boss, who, as he stood up from behind his desk, proved to be not just a great man but also a very large one, tall and with the burly frame of a retired football lineman that has gone far enough to fat to look comfortable without quite losing the appearance of enormous strength.  Macmillan Ross had silver-white hair cut long, a bit like an English schoolboy, and he had a somewhat florid complexion.  With a smile that was as vague as it was benign, he greeted his new consultant warmly but at a distance, rather as a great lord might welcome a distinguished scholar—Cangrande della Scala, for example, welcoming Dante to his palace in Verona.  If his manner was just a bit over the top, his age and apparent kindness made it all seem normal.

“Tell me something about yourself, Mr. Smith.  All I know is the little that Shawn has told me.” 

Anterus told him the usual story he told when he had to account for his life, trying not to sound as if he had it down too pat.  Born in the Middle West in a place much like Nadir, he had knocked around from school to school, picking up a good deal of Greek and Latin, Italian and French.  Preferring to study on his own and go when and where he wanted to, he had so far avoided any entangling academic connections: no scholarships, no degrees, no grants.  The present age did not interest him, and he did not own a television or follow the news.  In the early days, he had done odd jobs—washed dishes, worked on farms, and done some work on the boats without joining the union.  Later he taught here and there at classical academies where knowledge mattered more than titles, and for a time he had even headmastered a small school. He had left when he finally realized how little headway he could make with children, when their parents had not merely stumbled accidentally into ignorance but were steadfast in their resolve to take no interest in anything that would not put money in the bank.  In between jobs he sometimes took private tutoring positions. 

Some of the story was true, or at least bore some resemblance to things he vaguely remembered.  The rest was a reconstruction plausible enough for even Smith to begin to believe it.  

“Apart from books and travel, my needs have not been great, and, when I had to, I have made a living dealing in antiquities that I had picked up in my travels—back before the price of everything had been posted on the internet.  I’ve knocked about and developed an eye for old coins, jewelry, and curios…  Beyond doing what I am already doing, I have no ambitions.”

“Mr. Smith, we’ve only just met, and I probably shouldn’t be burdening you with my little troubles, but Shawn thinks you may be able to help us through a sort of crisis that may be developing here.  I think he explained at least part of it to you.  Have you formed any impressions or developed any thoughts you think worth sharing?”  

Listening to the formal cadences of Macmillan Ross, Smith found himself relaxing :  At last he could speak without the impudent nonchalance he usually had to assume. 

“Well, sir, I should say right off that there are two strange developments we have to elucidate.  The first is the apparent interest in taking over what is, after all, a rather small and somewhat eccentric organization located in the middle of nowhere… (Ross did not drop his smile)… and the second are the dreams that some members of the staff have been having.  I suspect that there are more dreamers than the one or two I know of.

“And they are?”

Smith gave him a succinct but full account of the alien dreams that had been haunting Shawn.  Ross seemed troubled by the account, as if he already knew something about the dreams but did not wish to speak of it.  He went on to broach the more difficult subject of what Shawn had referred to as “the coup.”  Ross responded with no sign of agitation.

“It may be coming to a head at the upcoming retreat.  I know you have just come to work, but Shawn has pretty much filled you in.  Do you have any thoughts whatsoever on what is going on?”

“I have more questions than answers.  For example, who do you think wants to get his hands on the VSET project?  I know very little about it, but it does not seem all that dangerous a program.  When Shawn talks about ‘weaponizing’ it, I’m not sure he is not being a little extreme and more than a little paranoid.”

“You’re right about Shawn.  He means well, but he has never really grown up and tends to see conspiracies everywhere.  He was that way as a student, always pretending to have some inside knowledge.  I had hoped marriage would make him more mature, bu so far..”

“That’s right, he mentioned he had been a student at Northwood.”

“Yes, and so were Corey and, though he is a good deal older, Justin Wright, though I did not know him very well.  He was already aiming at a career in business and left after his sophomore year.”

“Then you really are their mentor.  There was a time when that would count for something.  What about the project itself?”

“It started out as a harmless sort of notion that turned into something like an obsession:  My original intention, which had nothing to do with personnel evaluation or any kind of business application, was to find a way of teaching history that broke free from ideological clichés and got down to what I regard as the real nub of history.  And I am not referring to an economic analysis of special interests but to the moral choices that serious people sometimes have to make.  History is a process of finding out, but these days it is more like a form of indoctrination.”

“Wasn’t it always, more or less?”

“Yes, I suppose that’s true.  In the bad old days, every people had a story to tell about itself—the Children of Israel, the Athenians, the French, the Virginians.  Naturally, they celebrated themselves and denigrated others—though they often tried to be fair, like whoever wrote the book of Jonah.

“Don’t Marxist historians try to keep faith with their tradition?”

  “That’s true, but their tradition is revolution against the past, and that entails lies and distortions.  They are hardly singular in this: Most modern historians are loyal only to abstractions, whether to Class Struggle, Capitalism, women’s liberation, or the sacred text of the Constitution.  They can’t love this country or its traditions, because they don’t fit the model that was jammed into their heads when they were students.  “Patriotic narratives are not only not harmful—unless they are carried too far—but they are a reflection of the commandment to honor our fathers and mothers.  They are so infatuated by the idea of human improvement that they have to turn Athens into a paradigm for progressivism and religious skepticism, and if that approach is debunked, they view the city as a sewer of bigotry and male chauvinism.  It’s bad enough that historians poison each others’ minds, but with public education, they have the ability to poison everyone’s minds and make them incapable of learning anything real out of history, except ‘four legs good, two legs bad’.”

“And so your program is designed to crack engrained ideological attitudes?”

“Exactly.”

  “How did this become potentially dangerous?”

“It happened gradually, almost accidentally.  My plan was to find a way of combating the hate images that Americans are subjected to by schooling and the media.  During the French Revolution, ordinary people—tailors and shopkeepers—turned into wild beasts, torturing, raping, murdering people they had never met, simply because the revolutionaries had succeeded in demonizing the aristocrats.  That is more or less where we are today.”

Smith paused a moment before answering.

“You see this kind of hatred among Palestinians and Jews.  An American Jewish doctor in Israel was so unhinged that he went to a mosque and shot up people he had never met.  He thought he was doing the right thing.  Muslims are even more prone to violence against non-Muslim strangers, even against neighbors they see everyday or people they work with, and there are Christians who think it is right to attack abortion clinics and kill anyone who happens to be there, even if it is a delivery boy or some confused woman who has decided not to kill her baby.”

“Yes, that’s the sort of thinking I had in mind.  In the American case, the prejudices are all the more refractory, because these people believe they are purely rational and above all prejudice. We found we had a great deal to do to break down stereotypes of every kind.  They begin to regard themselves as avengers of some ancient crime against their race or religion.  They become the “sinister mirror in which the avenging Fury looks at herself.”

Smith treated his face to a Gallic squinch and assumed his long unused French voice: 

Je suis la plaie et le couteau!

Je suis le soufflet et la joue

Je suis les membres et la roue,

Et la victime et le bourreau.

  “Yes, that’s it.  If someone was going to understand resistance to the Nazis or the plot to assassinate Hitler, he first had to understand why Hitler was so effective, so popular.  Or, to take a less inflammatory case—say Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon and Cato’s suicide—you had to first understand what each side wanted and feared, both at their best and worst.”

“I’ve been looking at Mommsen’s history lately.  He insists that Julius was a great statesman, who saved the republic from moral bankruptcy and prepared Rome to resist the Germans?”

“I haven’t read Mommsen in so long.  Does he say that?  I would not go that far, but Julius and some of his better officers might well have thought so, at least when they were not scheming to murder their enemies and seize their property.  But that’s the sort of dilemma of which we would teach the subjects both sides. ”  He went on:

“Little by little we—or perhaps I should say I—became convinced that the first step had to be a breaking down of the indoctrination to which most people are subjected in American schools.”

“Couldn’t you have run seminars with contrasting readings:  Read Cicero, Sallust, and Caesar, then look at the opposing opinions of modern historians?”

“Mr. Smith, I admire your optimism, but I spent too many years as professor and academic administrator to expect Americans, even intelligent Americans with time on their hands, to read actual books, much less read them with the sort of active concentration you are proposing.  Wait till you meet some of my board members.  They claim to believe in what we are doing, but they certainly do not understand it.”

“And therein lies a good deal of your present problem?”

“To some extent.  At some point I began to think we had to find dramatic shortcuts.  We started with the situational games, but found we had to break down resistance to the nonsense that has filled everyone’s heads.  We tried sleep teaching and hypnosis and even psychotropic drugs.  We made considerable progress, but only up to a point, until we got in touch with neurologists, who explained some of the latest advances in electronic brain stimulation.  When we put it all together in a virtual reality package, we found it was alarmingly effective.”

“But couldn’t just anybody figure out something like your program, without going to the trouble of stealing the formula or taking over your foundation?”

“Probably anybody could, so long as they had the time but also the necessary point of view.  The men who run advertising companies and intelligence agencies are clever enough in their own way, but it is a brutish kind of intelligence, with no historical imagination or even consciousness.  They have no interest in ideological liberation, because they are so enslaved to the regime—whatever party they belong to—they do not even know they are slaves.  The regime has given them their career, their identity.  Ironically, it is the fact that I have spent my life on acquiring useless knowledge, that my staff could make discoveries that have profound implications for strengthening or overthrowing a system.  I almost think we could turn Calvin into a Thomist and Lenin into a capitalist.”

“I thought VSET was largely a means of analyzing personnel reliability.”

“That’s really a kind of spinoff, and it is mostly what I prefer talk about with outsiders, but it goes much deeper than that.”

“Who has the whole picture?  Shawn?  Justin Wright?”

“Shawn knows more than Justin.  Justin is most interested in the political potential and talks about how we could deliver a powerful weapon to use against the Left.  I suppose there would be some merit in that so long as we also used it against Republican capitalists.  Shawn knows more of the nuts and buts, but even he does not realize how far we have gone.  I blame myself for Shawn and Corey.  Why?  I should have either made sure they were being properly trained of flunked them out.  My hope is that some day they will be not quite perfectly useless.”

“What about Monsignor Villanova?”

“He does not understand any of the technology, but he is a a serious man who understands the purpose and grasps the potential.  He is very intrigued by the writings of Pico della Mirandola.  I’ve never studied him much, though a man I much admire, Russell Kirk, praised him very highly.”

“I don’t know anything about Russell Kirk, though I have heard him cited by people I respect.  I have read most of Pico’s work.  What interests the monsignor?”

“He often quotes from the ‘Oration on the Dignity of Man,’ which I have not read since my schooldays.  Do you share his enthusiasm for Pico?”

Smith answered carefully.  “He is a complicated person.  He was a great idealist, who ran great risks.  His conception of human dignity was perhaps too ambitious for ordinary people.”  He hesitated for a moment, searching for a formula that would be fair to Pico without encouraging an interest in the occult.    

At this point, Ross, getting up, remarked offhandedly that Veritas was certainly interested in restoring human dignity.  He seemed to be reciting a well-worn sentence, and, excusing himself, he got up to make sure the door was shut and the intercom was turned off.

“I can be terribly careless… But you see the potential danger.  Human soldiers could be turned into killer-robots, and the American citizenry into a lynch mob ready to rubber-stamp any atrocity.”

“We’re more than half way to that point already.  A tool like this… If you are right, then you are probably in some danger already.  Which reminds me:  Shawn told me about the break-in at your house.  Was anything stolen, destroyed, or disturbed””

“No, not a thing, so far as we could tell.”

“There must have been at least a window broken or a lock jimmied?  Perhaps the alarm system went off?”

“No, nothing.  We had left home at about 6:45 to go to an organ recital at the church and, when we returned a little after 9, everything was in order.  Then you are wondering how I discovered that someone had broken in?  That’s simple.  My wife noticed a few bits of red clay on the entryway carpet that she had vacuumed that afternoon.  I became suspicious, and checked the alarm system, which records entries.  Someone had come into the house at 7:35 and used the correct alarm code, which they reset at 7:41 when they left.”

“It sounds like a very professional job, either someone you know who had a key and the alarm code or else the police or FBI.”

“We did give the key and the alarm code to a neighbor, last year, when we spent a month in Oxford, but the key is one that locksmiths are not supposed to duplicate, and we changed the code when we returned.”

“What do you suppose they were after.”

“I imagine it has something to do with the VSET program, but they took none of my papers, and they were in the house for only six minutes.”  

Smith advised him to be careful about locking up both his office and house and to watch out for anything unusual.  He also urged him to change the alarm code.

“I don’t understand the system well enough to do it myself, but Shawn has promised to come out in a day or two.”

“Something is going on, and it may be more serious than just a case of stealing documents.  Anyone who goes to the trouble of breaking and entering and takes nothing may well be dangerous.”

Switching topics, Smith asked him to name the staff members who had taken part in VSET, apart from the volunteers.

“Shawn and Corey, of course, and Katie and a young research assistant—Stephanie.  Mrs. Goodine has also participated.  Initially Justin took part in a few experiments, but he has been too busy lately, though he helps out in supervising.  Naturally, as the architect of the project, I have gone through each of them at least once and most of them several times.” 

“Do you think your experiments have anything to do with Shawn’s dreams?”  Ross nodded yes.  

“Do you know if others have had them?  Miss Oriundi, for example?”  He nodded again.  

“Who else—Corey Todd?  He nodded again.  Smith decided to roll the dice.”

“And you?”

He nodded yes again, and, when he asked him who he was in the dreams, Ross looked away, then put his face gently into his hands, as if with resignation: “God help me, I’m Charles Manson.”

Ross recovered from his confession very quickly and laughed at his own show of weakness.  After a second’s hesitation he observed:

“The reference to Manson does not appear to shock you.”

“He was some sort of cult leader, wasn’t he?  They killed some people in California?”

“I see you really don’t pay much attention to the news, even the old news we now call history.”

Ross went on to explain that his Charles Manson was not yet the world-famous terrorist-killer, only Charlie, a guru to bewildered young runaways.  He preached to them of love and self-respect and denounced the evils of wealth and power.  Charlie’s kids were taught to be self-reliant—taking things the rich had was not stealing, only re-appropriating stolen property and wealth.  The Charlies of his dreams also taught them to despise the losers who longed for wealth and fame or sought the gold in the ground.  Prospectors were almost as wicked and even more useless than Hollywood moguls.

Like Muhammed in the early days of his career as prophet, Charlie had led the kids into the desert, to despoil rich campers and backpackers and raid the camps of the prospectors.  If one of the parasites caught them looting a  a trailer or tent, they were told to back out peacefully, but if the anyone tried to restrain them, they had a right to fight and kill in defense of their freedom.  

In the most recent episode, Charlie had begun to explain his revelation of Helter-Skelter, the race war he would trigger between the wealthy parasites and the black and colored  flunkeys who kept them in wealth and power.

“As I hear myself saying these things,”  Ross explained, “one part of me is horrified, but as Charlie I seem to be making perfect good sense—the sort of sense that commentators on FOX and CNN make to their listeners.  They can say the most preposterous things—sometimes they’re at least half true insofar as facts are concerned—but they are outrageously naive about the way the world actually works.”

“Is there a VSET program on Manson?”

“No.  We’ve talked about it, but so far as I know, no work has been done on it.”

“That may mean something.  Logically speaking, it is highly unlikely that our two problems are unrelated.  If someone can use VSET to trigger these disturbing dreams, then anyone on the make for wealth or power would want to control it.  That includes a large part of the human race.  We don’t know who is calling the shots in this game, but by focusing on the dreams, we can come find out who in this office is doing the dirty work.”

By now Ross was on his feet, and Anterus knew it was time to leave.

“Mr. Smith, I don’t know that there is anything you can do, but just talking this through has been helpful. At the very least,  I know, you will be able to contribute to our historical research.  As for this plot or whatever it is, I give you carte blanche to interview the staff.  If for any reason, you wish to speak with me, don’t hesitate or think you need an appointment.  Do you have any particular questions before we have to break up this interesting conversation?”

“Just one.  As an amateur philologist I am interested in names.  Would you object to telling me what the C. Stands for?”

“You mean, what is my first name?  It’s Cassian.  My father was a schoolmaster with a sense of humor.”

“As I recall…”

“Yes, more than a little ironic in view of my current predicament.

Before finally leaving, Smith explained he had no local library privileges and asked Ross MacMillan for an official letter authorizing him as a research historian at Veritas.With the poise of a born aristocrat, he took Anterus gently by the elbow and showed him out the door.

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

1 Response

  1. Ben says:

    There can be no doubt Rayson is Dr. Fleming. There are too many similarities in the writing style and details… this is too fun.