Friday, August 12, 2011
FICTION: Genius or Insanity? by Rod Hamon
The vivid and terrifying memory from the past again invaded my mind just as it had done throughout my life. It was always exactly the same.
My mother is beating me relentlessly; tears are rolling down her face. She looks to my father sitting nearby, and cries, “That’s enough! He’s learned his lesson!”
“No!” my father shouts. “This is the only way to teach him. Beat him harder! Harder!”
I scream. ”Stop! I won’t do it again, Mom, I promise.”
My mother reluctantly continues.
Suddenly, I was jolted back to reality by the sound of a soft voice nearby. "Martin, the doctor will see you now!"
Startled, I looked up and gazed around. I was in the medical center, waiting for an appointment with my doctor. Sweat continued to cling to my face, in the same way the vision of my violent childhood continued to cling to my mind.
The doctor peered over his glasses: my weary expression told him what he needed to know. He completed his examination, then handed me a prescription. “Try these, Martin. I’ll see you again in a month.”
As I rose to leave, he spoke again but his voice had changed. He sounded – apologetic. “I recall you saying that you’re a mathematician, Martin?”
He coughed nervously. “You’re probably not interested, but a professor I met at a conference recently – Hungarian, I think he was – said he was looking for someone to assist him with his research. Something to do with math, I think he said.”
The doctor reached into a drawer and handed me an envelope, then shrugged his shoulders and said, “He’s asked if I’d pass this on to one of my patients. I thought perhaps you….”
I took the envelope, put it in my pocket, thanked him, and left. As I drove home, my mind was occupied with the math problem I’d been working on for months. Just a few more steps and I’ll have it solved. Although I was excited, I was frustrated at the same time by my inability to focus, my sleepless nights. Those childhood memories always occupied my thoughts; it was like trying to study in a room full of people when all of the people were demanding your attention.
I arrived home; my only companion, a small longhaired dog, Sam, greeted me and followed me to the kitchen to be fed. Once that was done, I sat down, intending to contemplate the doctor’s suggestions, but was soon joined by Sam who squeezed himself next to me. Remembering the letter, I reached into my pocket and began to read.
My name is Dmitri Paslov. I am a professor of neuroscience. For many years, I have been researching the human brain. I was close to completing my work, using a young man as the subject for my experiments, when he decided not to continue. In my disappointment, I have asked the kind doctor to seek another subject for me, someone with a good brain. It is important for my work that this person be intelligent.
I do not give the details of my research here, but just say this: it has been shown that the brain operates at only a minute fraction of its full capability. I have therefore set out to discover why it is so inefficient and to unlock this untapped reservoir.
I am now close to completing my work and with it, enabling humans to achieve IQ’s in the thousands.
If you are interested in helping me, please call.
At the bottom of the letter was a telephone number and the words: “See Daniel Tammet.”
The professor’s extravagant claims amused me; I chuckled, then shoved the letter into a drawer and forgot about it.
Some days later, while studying an article on math, I came across an editorial on Kim Ung-yong. At age five, Kim had amazed his teachers by solving complicated differential equations. It was then that my thoughts returned to the professor’s letter, so I Googled “Daniel Tammet.”
I discovered that Tammet, an autistic savant, was gifted in mathematics and spoke eleven languages. In a psychological test, he was asked to divide 13 by 97 in his head; his answer was checked by a computer. Within two seconds and without hesitation, Tammet began reciting the digits of the answer, one after the other.
When he’d reached seven decimal places, those conducting the test interrupted him and asked him how much further he could go. He replied, “At least a hundred or more.”
Intrigued, I looked up other references to Tammet and found consistencies in the various accounts of his abilities. I sat back and looked up at the ceiling, and wondered how it was that he could do this: the answers just flooded from his brain. Of particular interest was that he believed that everyone had the ability to do this.
I called Dmitri the next day.
The professor’s laboratory was in an old section of the university and was difficult to find. After climbing two flights of stairs, I finally located him: a short man in his mid-seventies with gray hair and bushy eyebrows. His frail shoulders were stooped, his eyes deep set into his head.
“Ah, you must be Martin. How pleased I am to see you,” he said in his strong accent. He shook my hand vigorously and invited me to sit down. “So, you didn’t believe what I had to say when you first read my letter, but now you do, yes?”
“Maybe there’s something in it,” I said, shrugging my shoulders.
Dmitri smiled, then in a high-pitched voice said. “Throughout history, we see the occasional flashes of brilliance: men like Einstein, da Vinci, Galileo, and Newton. But I ask you, are these men special?”
“I suppose they are,” I replied.
“No, they are not!” he cried. “They are the tip of an iceberg: mere glimpses of what humankind can achieve.”
His enthusiasm amused me, so I humored him. “You suggest in your letter that humans are capable of IQ’s in the thousands.” I smiled. “Do you really believe that?”
“I do!” He leaned forward in his chair, “Martin, you looked up the name I gave you in my letter, yes?”
“What did you think of Tammet’s methods?’
I paused for a moment and then replied, “As far as I can, see he doesn’t have a method. He just thinks about a problem and the answers pour out!”
“Exactly, and this process can be developed for all types of mental deduction. A famous philosopher once wrote, ‘The definition of genius is that it acts unconsciously; and those who have produced immortal works have done so without knowing how or why. The greatest power operates unseen.’”
Then, with excitement in his voice, he said, “What I am developing, Martin, is a way to tap into this vast unconscious realm.”
I said nothing for a few seconds and then replied, “Okay, Dmitri, so where do I fit in?”
Looking me straight in the eye, he said, “You, my friend, stand to become the most intelligent person who has ever lived.”
I tried not to laugh. He’s either a genius or totally insane! As the latter was more likely, I decided I must get out of there as quickly as possible, but without offending the man.
He stared at me oddly, as if he was reading my mind. I felt unnerved.
“But, of course, the work you will do for me is not easy,” he said and stood up. “Come, let me show you.”
I hesitated, struggling for an excuse to leave. Dmitri opened a nearby door. I looked in. Along the walls of the room computer consoles and monitors hummed with activity, flashing lights as they processed data. I switched my gaze to the center of the room where two metal cylindrical cubicles stood facing each other.
“You are curious, I see,” he said. “Come, have a look.”
The window-fronted cubicles were each about the height of a man. I gazed through the windows, but could see very little.
“I will show you,” he said, unfastening an electronic latch. The front opened to reveal a maze of complex equipment. Situated among the paraphernalia was a large chair.
Attempting humor, I commented, “I see you do a little dentistry in your spare time!”
He smiled. “It’s certainly comfortable enough. Try it.”
“Oh, I don’t think so.”
Dmitri looked at his watch. “Excuse me, Martin. I have an urgent call. I will only be about five minutes. Take a look around.”
I casually looked at the computer screens, then wandered back to the cubicle. I poked my head inside. More gadgets! The man’s either a fruitcake or a genius!
At that instant, the door slammed closed behind me, knocking me to my knees and thrusting my head forward into the seat. I struggled, but because of the cramped space, I was forced to turn and sit down. Two steel arms shot out from the sides of the chair – one clamping my feet, the other restraining my waist and arms.
“Hey, what’s going on? Let me out!”
Dmitri peered through the window, “Sorry, Martin, but I could see you’d changed your mind about assisting me.”
“You’re mad! Let me out, you lunatic!”
“You will soon see I am no lunatic,” he replied, then walked away.
Some minutes later, Dmitri’s controlled voice came over the loudspeaker. “In the next few minutes, Martin, you will become drowsy and fall asleep. Do not panic. This is just a temporary condition allowing me to prepare you.”
“Prepare me, for what?” I shouted.
It was then that I heard the hiss of gas and I struggled to free myself. I felt light-headed, my heart pounded in my chest. The hissing sound got louder and then I felt nothing.
When I came to, Dmitri was peering at me through the window as if examining a specimen of moth and trying to decide whether or not to insert a large pin through my abdomen. I tried to shout but my mouth was dry - nothing came out. My heart beat loudly in my eardrums. What’s happened to me?
I struggled to move, but my entire body was now even more firmly locked into position by the restraints. The only movement possible was with my eyes. I attempted to look to the right and the left, but my vision was severely limited. Because of the restraints, my breathing was reduced to just shallow movements; the resulting claustrophobia quickly turned to panic as I struggled to free myself.
Just within my peripheral vision, I noticed an intravenous drip that was feeding some unknown fluid into my veins. It was then that I became aware of a small computer monitor to one side of the cubicle. Although I strained, the limited movement of my head and eyes prevented me from seeing the screen clearly. With further effort and considerable exertion of my neck, I was able to see it a little more. The monitor seemed to be displaying information on my pulse and breathing, perhaps my alpha rhythms, maybe even my thoughts.
Curious for a way of escape, I strained to examine the interior of the cubicle. As I did so, I felt wires against the side of my face; they were coming from my head. I thought about the data displayed on the monitor. These wires are probably connected to electrodes inserted into my skull and are registering every pulse emitted from my brain. I was also in no doubt that, at that very moment, Dmitri was analyzing these data: the very depths of my psyche openly displayed to him and being clinically examined.
The words, “Yes, I can hear you,” appeared on the screen, then faded away and replaced by the words, “System status check– all physiological systems now hard-wired and operating.”
Dmitri’s voice boomed over the speaker, forceful and aggressive. “Understand this! I am your only life support. I will continue to keep you alive only as long as you are of value to me. Do you understand?” he screamed.
When he spoke again a few moments later, his anger had gone completely: his voice was calm, but still purposeful. “The system is about to scan your brain, Martin. It will take a few hours, and will be…unpleasant.”
The words, “Brain scan sequence commencing – one minute,” appeared on the monitor. My muscles tensed.
The brain scan struck me like an express train at full speed. The intense sensation continued for a few minutes and then turned to focus on my brain. It felt that every neuron and synapse in my cranium was being bombarded by high voltage alternating currents. I was convinced that I would not survive, that my brain would heat up, boil, and finally ignite. I begged for relief, but none came.
Then calmness – serenity and finally peace. There was no more pain. I breathed in deeply, glad to be alive.
I heard a click from the speaker, then Dmitri’s croaky voice. “The brain scan indicates severe obstructions to your neural pathways.”
Obstructions, what’s he talking about?
Dmitri picked up my thoughts. “It appears to be the result of some childhood trauma.”
“I think I understand,” I replied.
A new message appeared on the monitor, “Removal of obstructions to commence – one minute.” I waited for the pain that was sure to follow.
Suddenly, it seemed that my entire consciousness was being sucked into a vortex that delved deeper and deeper into my past. Familiar images appeared. I am now aged seven and reliving my childhood: every fear, emotion, and pain inflicted on me. My tearful mother is beating me, my father urging her on. When I go to bed that night, I’m determined not to wet the bed, but the next morning I know my agony will start again.
A new image appeared. I’m now nine and at school. Children taunt me. I keep to myself; I’m sensitive and cry easily. They enjoy bullying me; my reaction always predictable. I am so gullible.
More traumas passed through my consciousness and although each memory brought renewed pain, I felt a sense of relief. It was as if a heavy burden was gradually being lifted from me.
I returned to the present, realizing I was still trapped in the cubicle.
Dmitri spoke again. “Now that’s over, we can begin to unleash your real mental powers.”
I was confused but said nothing.
“The next stage will take longer, but you will feel no ill effects.”
I shouted. “There’s only one thing that’ll make me feel better – that’s getting out of here!”
“Sorry, Martin, that is not possible.” Then, in a matter of fact voice, he added, “You will be unable to contact me for a while. I have business elsewhere.”
My ability to think was noticeably easier now. I felt relaxed. Although I could still recall the events of my childhood, I felt somehow disconnected from it. However, this relief didn’t lessen my predicament: I was still totally under Dmitri’s control.
I gazed at the monitor and searched for patterns in the numbers as they scrolled across the screen. My thoughts returned to the math problem I’d been working on. Suddenly, in a flash and without effort, the solution came to me: so obvious and so truly beautiful in its simplicity. Amazed, I basked in my success. This problem has confounded mathematicians for centuries and I’ve solved it! My elation was short lived; like a sickening blow to the head, the reality of my predicament returned again.
I remembered that Dmitri had said that his previous assistant had decided not to continue and wondered why. How did he get away? Perhaps he didn’t escape, maybe he died. I was surer than ever that I had to find a way of escape.
I studied the interior of the cubicle again, moving my eyes from side to side and up and down and, for the first time, I began to gain some understanding of the equipment, including the purpose of the various cables. Nevertheless, the purpose of the two gray wires leading to some device just beyond my vision confused me. Although I couldn’t be sure, it seemed likely that these wires were part of some mechanism to prevent my escape – possibly an explosive device.
I gazed at the numbers streaming endlessly across the monitor, convinced that they were the electronic pulses going to and forth from my brain. I thought, If Dmitri’s theories are right, then these pulses are reconfiguring the structure of my mind and increasing my intelligence.
It was then that I noticed that the harder I looked at the monitor, the faster the numbers moved. Of course, since these pulses come from my own brain, I can influence them. With my mental powers focused on the monitor, I managed to speed up the enhancement process.
My brain continued to transform and so did its control over my body. By selecting each muscle and focusing on contracting and relaxing them, I developed significant improvements in my muscular coordination; I also felt it in my strong pulse.
If I can speed up this process, I may complete it before Dmitri returns, I thought.
That was the instant that I realized I had developed the ability to focus my mind on two or more complex tasks simultaneously. My entire thinking was more rapid and intuitive.
I wondered how high my IQ was now. My abilities were clearly beyond anything I had ever imagined. For example, with minimal effort, I could recall the words of every book, magazine and newspaper I’d ever read. I was also amused by the childish way textbook authors had laboriously explained principles that were really so simple.
My thoughts delved into an introspective analysis of the workings of my mind: examining the mechanism of my thinking, my real motives, my desires, and my ambitions. I recognized the nuances behind every decision, the undercurrents of greed, aggression, and self-gratification that influenced my actions. Again, I questioned my sanity, but somehow I was comforted by what I believed was the moral basis for my motivations.
I remember thinking, if this progress continues, my abilities will be limitless. I’ll be able to demystify the complexities of every branch of science: physics and cosmology. Then, depression struck again. These skills are useless if I remained trapped here. I must make a plan to escape before Dmitri returns.
Just as an idea was forming I heard a sound. It’s too late! He’s back! I knew I must prevent Dmitri from knowing that I’d sped up the mental enhancement process, so I relaxed my concentration on the monitor. The rapidly changing data slowed down to the rate it had been prior to his departure.
He peered through the window. “I must have been away longer than I thought: look at the progress you have made.”
He walked to the other cubicle, opened the door, and climbed in. His croaky voice came over the speakers. “Can you hear me, Martin?” His breathing was labored and noisy, his heartbeat rapid. It was obvious, as never before, that his body was frail and struggling to cope with even the smallest activity.
“It is now time for me to benefit from your increased intelligence,” he said and then paused to regain his breath. “I could say, Martin, that I am sorry to use you in this way, but I would be lying.”
“What d’you mean?”
“I mean, Martin, that I will be downloading your entire mental resources into my own brain. Maybe you think that immoral, but that’s life: cruel and selfish. Superior intellect means mastery, they say.”
Fear enveloped me as, in horror, I noticed changes to the data displayed on the monitor: increased heart rate, elevated stress levels, deeper breathing, and skyrocketing blood pressure.
I knew I must do something. Come on! Think! Think!
But it was too late – the assault on my brain had begun… numbness. The monitor went blank. Has my life-support system stopped? Will I die now?
For a while, I was unaware of what was happening to me. Then, as if a heavy burden had been lifted, I felt relaxed, but disinterested and resigned to accept my fate: like a drowning man despairing of rescue. Let’s just get this over with; it’s easier that way. Why fight it? Although the very essence of my conscious being was being sucked out of me and transferred to Dmitri, I didn’t care.
However, a feeble voice deep within me cried out for attention, pleading with me to fight this attack. You’ve got to do something! Fight it! You can’t just give in!
I continued to wrestle with these conflicting feelings for some time: one moment I was determined to fight for survival and then I would lapse back into feelings of submission and surrender to my fate.
Then, as if the decision had been made for me, I gathered every fiber of my strength and with the mental equivalent of a scream, I shouted, “Stop!!!”
Suddenly and with a jolt, I was alert again and fully conscious of everything around me.
There was complete silence. Dmitri said nothing, so I called out. Still nothing.
A message appeared on the screen: “Recipient life form expired – program terminated.”
As I was taking in the meaning, new words appeared: “Previous program recommencing.” The stream of numbers on the screen returned. Does this mean that Dmitri is dead and that somehow I’m responsible?– But how?
It didn’t take me long to figure out that Dmitri’s plan to regenerate his aging brain had been his downfall: it had struck his frailty like a lightning bolt. While I was relieved to be free of the man who had schemed to kill me, I was nevertheless saddened to have brought about his death.
My thoughts quickly returned to my own predicament. What will happen to me now? How long will this program continue without Dmitri? If the support system fails, I’ll be dead within seconds.
For hours I waited, listening nervously for some sound or a sign that the system was about to shut down. Then after what seemed like hours I detected that there was someone in the laboratory. First a shadow then a face appeared at my window: the gaunt face of a young man with cold and penetrating eyes.
“You must be Dmitri’s new assistant,” he said without emotion.
“By the way, my name’s Lucas.”
My now highly refined senses enabled me to analyze the intonation of his voice, to interpret his facial expressions, and to detect the microvolt waveforms emitted from his cerebral cortex; I knew for sure this was the assistant I had replaced.
He smiled and said, “Correct.”
“Lucas, whatever you do, don’t try to open the door. There may be an explosive device.”
“Thought he might do something like that, after I got away,” he replied and then added, “And by the way, I have no intention of opening the door for you.”
I was puzzled. Although I knew this man had no intention of helping me, I wondered why he had come here, so I asked, “Do you know where Dmitri’s gone?”
“You know exactly where he’s gone. He’s dead and you killed him!”
His fixed stare worried me: he was clearly trying to read my thoughts again, so I erected a mental defense shield. Lucas brought his face closer to the window and smiled broadly: a cruel smile. He paused before speaking. “We both know there’s only room for one of us in this world, don’t we? With the intelligence we possess, the universe is ours to do with as we want – but I have no intention of sharing it with you.”
“So, what do you intend to do?” I asked.
That cruel smile returned. “Nothing! Absolutely nothing! I’m out here, and you’re locked in there. The systems that are keeping you alive will cease soon, then you’ll be dead!” He added, “But, of course, in the unlikely event that you do figure a way out – I will know instantly.”
I considered appealing to his better nature, but it was obvious he didn’t have one.
“It was nice to have met you. Martin, isn’t it?” Lucas disappeared from my vision.
So, that’s why he came here. He found out he had a competitor and wanted to size me up.
Although I was in a race against time, I was still benefiting from Dmitri’s machine: my intelligence continued to improve. At about this time, my new intelligence had its first success. After some probing, I discovered that Dmitri had installed a safeguard in case of an emergency. If I had attempted to do anything against his wishes while he was away from the lab, the safeguard mechanism would have automatically sent an alert to his cell phone.
After some investigation, I gained access to this and called his phone by modifying certain cabling within my cubicle. No one answered, of course, but I was able to download his phone contacts. Penetrating his computer encryption was easy.
Ideas were now coming quickly.
Among Dmitri’s contacts, I discovered a computer technician, Chad, a young man with financial problems caused by gambling. I called him. As soon as I mentioned money, I got his attention. Using phone banking, I transferred $1000 to his account and promised more if he could come to the lab immediately. Half an hour later, I sensed that he was close.
An eager face appeared at my window. His disheveled hair made me smile: he fitted the profile exactly.
“Leave it to me,” he said. “Soon have you out of there.”
“Not so fast! You have to disarm the explosive device that is wired to the door mechanism first.”
His face disappeared from my window and soon I could hear his fingers pounding the keyboard and pictured him bent over the laboratory computer, his face inches from the screen.
“I think I’m getting it…yes, that’s it…should be disarmed any time now… No, that won’t work.” The tapping sound resumed. “That’s it… got it. I’ll try opening the door…Wait! There’s something else here…that’s clever.” There was a lengthy delay; then, with excitement in his voice, I heard, “OK, got it!”
I breathed in and out deeply as the door swung gently open. At the same time, the restraints that had held me so rigidly were released. Chad stood before me, grinning.
I wiped the perspiration from my brow as I stepped out, my legs shaking. I smiled. “You’re good, very good.”
“Glad to be of help,” he replied, then reminded me about the additional money and left. It was now essential that I go into hiding before Lucas had time to react to my escape.
Using false documents, I took on a new identity and relocated to a motel in a small country town. Just a few days later, I learned from the radio that fire had destroyed Dmitri’s laboratory. I had escaped just in time.
To avoid any chance of Lucas tracing me, I closed my bank account and cancelled my credit cards. After just two weeks in the town, I decided to move elsewhere, knowing that I must do everything possible to distance myself from my enemy.
As I travelled from one place to another, I never stopped being amused by the naive behaviors of the people I observed, like those I passed in the street. Their body language and demeanor exposed so clearly their primitive passions and motives. Their attempts to disguise these primordial instincts by shallow deception were laughable.
I continued to be amazed by my new abilities: to think intuitively now by visualizing concepts and organized patterns of experience, rather having to plod laboriously through information. It was as if my eyes had been opened to the real world where I had instant understanding of the things I was seeing. I recalled Daniel Tammet’s skill in performing complex calculations in his head – I could now do this with any task and I was eager to put my new abilities to real use. Nevertheless, I was well aware of my first priority: Lucas.
Since I knew the full workings of Dmitri’s brain-enhancing equipment, I decided to set up my own so that I could continue the transformation of my brain. After all, my intelligence would, in the end, be my most deployable weapon against Lucas. My only concern was that the enhancement process might ultimately cause damage to my brain. How will I know if this happens? Do the insane know they’ve gone mad?
Aware of the danger I faced, I decided it best to find out where Lucas was, rather than waiting for him to find me. However, the very next day, I was awakened by the phone.
“Martin, this is Lucas,” he said, as if addressing a close acquaintance.
“Where are you?” I responded, aware that he was unlikely to tell me.
He laughed. “What’s important, Martin, is that I know exactly where you are. By the way, if you’re thinking of tracking this call, don’t bother. You can’t.”
“I’m sure you wouldn’t make it that easy!” I replied.
“In a way, I am making it easy for you now by speaking to you, but this is where my benevolence ends. Goodbye, Martin.”
What’s he playing at? Is he preparing to strike? I thought.
It had now become even more urgent that I locate him quickly, but I was curious. Why didn’t he simply kill me, then? The only conclusion I could reach was that he was getting some cruel pleasure out of harassing me.
This new danger led me to take further protective measures. I hastily prepared new identity documents and dismantled my equipment. I packed my travel bag, collected essentials, and found a new hiding place.
My new motel was even more drab and depressing than the last, but I hoped my stay would be only temporary. A reputable cosmetic surgeon agreed to make changes to my appearance in exchange for valuable information on future trends in the stock market. At my request, he changed those characteristics that were most recognizable to computerized facial recognition software. Of course, I wasn’t ignorant of the fact that Lucas would be doing similarly.
Searching the Web for recent scientific discoveries seemed like a possible starting point for locating him. In particular, I was looking for research papers that revealed a fundamental step forward in human understanding – something that was clearly the work of a genius. Several research articles caught my attention, but I quickly dismissed them. Lucas’ projects would be truly outstanding – something way beyond the capability of a “normal” individual. I felt discouraged. This isn’t going to work.
Then, just as I was about to turn away from the computer, I noticed the article: “Spectacular advances in Gestalt higher order cognitive processes.” Although the article was authored by someone else, I knew it was Lucas’ work.
The next day, I made my way to the research institute referred to in the article. An inquiry at the entrance desk directed me to an office on the seventh floor.
When I arrived, I found the office door wide open. Inside, a man sat with his back to me, working at a desk. My attuned perceptions immediately recognized him: the radiant energy coming from a unique brain. It was Lucas.
He continued working, so I tapped on the open door. Without turning, he spoke calmly, but with amusement in his voice. “You’ve taken a long time finding me, Martin!”
I was speechless.
He rose to his feet and turned slowly, his cold gleaming eyes penetrating right through me. The message was clear: I was to be terminated.
As I focused my thoughts on him, I could sense that he was also probing the depths of my mind, but he was confused. Like every other psychopath, it was impossible for him even to begin to comprehend moral values like selflessness, generosity, empathy, and kindness. Nonetheless, it was clear that he was adept at manipulating others and would show no remorse for his actions; guilt was an attribute entirely foreign to him. Defending myself from this brilliant yet dangerous man would be a colossal task.
The battle of minds began. We communicated not verbally but by thought, ideas flowed backward and forward between us at light speed. Each of us listened to each other’s thought conversations while simultaneously replying to previous ones. At the same time, we analyzed each other’s response and motivations. There could be no surprises since we were each able to foresee where these conversations were leading and the final outcome.
In an attempt to protect myself, I tried to enact a thought barrier and was still considering this when an agonizing pain struck me between my temples. My vision became blurred and the light began to fade. What’s happening to me? What’s he done? Is he moving in for the kill? Lucas reveled in gaining strength out of my weakness.
What weapon has he used? I must find out before I lose consciousness. With strength rapidly draining away, I fought to maintain some control. An analysis of my physiological systems revealed that the major blood capillaries feeding my brain had become constricted. Although I had no idea how he’d done this, I used my biofeedback skills and hastily relaxed these capillaries to increase the flow of blood and oxygen to my brain. My recovery was immediate; I felt clear-headed again.
Lucas was plainly surprised that I had overcome his attack so easily and lowered his mind-shield like a defeated boxer dropping his guard. The steady flow of information coming to me from his brain told me that he was confused and almost childlike in his frustration as he searched for a new mode of attack. For a few moments, I gloated over my success. It had been so easy. I laughed.
Then, without warning, I felt excruciating pain again! Unable to breathe, I battled to remain conscious. I was powerless. Damn it, why was I so gullible! My life force was being drained from me – I was dying. In desperation, I focused on trying to stop the onslaught, but there was a wall of protection around his mind.
Instinctively, I fought to remove myself from his influence. “That won’t work, Martin,” I heard him say. His words reminded me that I was dealing with a psychopathic super-genius who would delight in seeing me suffer.
It occurred to me at that instant that if I failed, this man would become the most despotic ruler the Earth had ever experienced. No dictator in all history would compare with the terror this man would bring to humankind.
Although my power was sinking away fast, I knew I must align every fiber of my body, every neuron in my brain, into a laser-like beam and direct it at him.
“I suggest you stop doing that, Martin,” was his response.
While my body had become partially paralyzed, I knew I must not give in: failure would mean instant death. The fragile bones of my skull seemed ready to burst open as I concentrated like never before.
In my mind, I heard Lucas’ voice again, “Martin, that may have worked with Dmitri, but it won’t work with me.”
He spoke again, but I detected in the nuance of his words the hint of alarm, “If you continue with this, you will only harm yourself, Martin.”
In a muffled groan, I replied, “I’m moved by your concern, Lucas. Maybe you do have a heart after all!”
He laughed loudly. “Believe me, Martin, you and I are not that much different: our brains are wired exactly the same.”
I ignored this ridiculous idea. Then, to my surprise, he said, “Maybe there’s a… compromise, Martin.”
“Yes. We could divide the Earth into two dominions, with each of us rulers.”
I was amused. Does he seriously think he can become the ruler of the Earth? Nevertheless, the thought lingered. I reasoned that with his knowledge of medical science, he could probably sustain his life for millennia and, with that, gain financial dominance of the planet. If Bill Gates can, so can Lucas: he’s ambitious enough.
Though skeptical of his suggestion, I considered it wise to play along, so I replied, “Remove your force from me and I will do the same.”
Relief! The pain had ceased. I had control of my body and mind again. I relaxed my protective shield and at the same time probed into the recesses of his mind, searching for any indication that he may be planning to trick me again. I had learned my lesson and continued to scan his brain for signs of preparatory action. Nothing.
For some time, I continued my surveillance, and then I detected a small, but unusual, impulse being transmitted along a synapse joining two neurons. It didn’t cause me concern, but I remained attentive. A few moments later, I observed it again: a signal fired from one brain cell to another and I recognized it as the beginning of a sequence: the birth of a thought – a thought that would very likely result in another attack.
My own surprise attack on him was so sudden that he was caught off guard. I heard the crash of glass, followed by a scream, then I sensed that his life force had ceased.
I rushed to the gaping hole in the laboratory window and looked down. Lucas’s broken body lay on the road, seven floors below. No emotion stirred in me.
It was then that I felt something new in my veins. My thoughts surprised me. Ultimate power – control over every human on the planet. Should I feel guilty?
I laughed. Why should I? Who the hell’s going to stop me?