Chapter 53: Intrepid 2.0

Alexander Newman was sitting in his office reviewing the logs from the Norwegian Station which indicated that Chrissy had transferred documents to the African Facility, and they had also noticed that the pads on the receiving ends were almost out of power.  The security designed by the Builders to prevent personnel and equipment to be transported to the pads of a power-depleted station was starting to kick into gear.  The system had enough energy left in the combined pads for a few more transfers of small items, but it wouldn’t allow the transport of something as complex as a human being.  That report was filed in the system and it would be reviewed later by the next shift which was due in a few minutes as the second shift of the day ended.

The workload was like that of any organizational structure that monitored outside activities woven to the rhythm of the sector they were monitoring.  Since the project started in Norway, more people had been selected to follow the progress of the Facility itself, which now had a hundred and five people inside.  In the days when Eirik was roaming the vast complex on his own, an employee had taken over gathering the reports, which took a few minutes every morning while he enjoyed his coffee and croissant.  Nowadays, it was a full-time job for a group of four people who took turns with their duties on a twenty-four-hour period.

Like their colleagues’ top site, at least the ones that knew of the nearly four thousand people living underneath their feet, they also received radio and satellite transmissions of the outside world.  All the information relevant to the Facilities around the world was also analyzed by sections.  Everything else was separated by different sectors of activities:  Government, military, economics, environmental, and extraterrestrial, although the latter had more to do with astronomy than little green men despite its access into the SETI program.  There were a few more sectors that were covered and analyzed, but these were not known to everyone and the people selected to work with this sensitive information were doing so in another location within their station called the Core, or the Chamber as Steven and Chrissy called it when they discovered it in Norway a couple of days earlier.

The recruitment for workers in the Core had always been an easy one.  People either had access or not and very few did, despite training and decades of service.  The Stations had their rules and they couldn’t be violated.  Fortunately, they had managed to recruit the perfect candidate with the necessary skills and the access level for the job.  He had soon become the section chief and trained his people in the art of intelligence analysis.  He was known affectionately as Intrepid, after the most famous Canadian spy of all time, William Stephenson, who created the top-secret spy school attended by British and Americans.  It was referred to as Camp-X, located along the shores of Lake Ontario.  Stephenson had gotten his name during World War II while supplying crucial war documents to the British about the German war machine.  He then went on to become the head of the Office of British Security Cooperation.

Intrepid 2.0, a.k.a. John Sears, was not a spy like James Bond, although he had all the necessary trainings of a modern spy.  His love and talent lay in the art of intelligence gathering and predicting the actions of his “enemies.”  He generally worked alone in the Core since it afforded him all the time he needed to analyze and sort the massive amount of information received each day.

Today, however, Sears was not alone.  Gill had spent hours with him going over the information they had about the United States Elections and its impact on the world’s present and future.  He had already prepared his speech for Steven and Chrissy; it was not that hard for him.  He knew the presentation by heart as he had been giving it for years to newcomers.  But in the case of Steven or Chrissy, he was a little anxious.  It was so rare for him to meet Core-level people that he had never needed to introduce it to two people at the same time, simply because their survey had revealed no more than ninety of them in the entire world and twelve were already with him in the Station.

“Gill, you seem preoccupied?” Sears asked.

“I’m concerned a little with the fact that five of the Norway Station people have shown a total disregard for the authority of the commander of their project,” said Gill, referring to Colonel Lawson.  “I know that in the near future they will have all the reasons in the world to rebel, but at this point in time, I can’t understand why they have already done so.  As you know, they both started taking equipment from the station without permission or even informing their superiors.  The analogy I can think of would be for someone to get the job of a lifetime and within the first few weeks, start befriending four more honest people and, within hours, decide to rob the organization they had just started working for.”

“Um-hum,” Sears paused.  “Let me play devil’s advocate for a moment.  What have they stolen?”

Gill bent toward the desk to get a better contrast with his ocular implant and commanded his mind to display the list, but was immediately interrupted by Sears.  “What? I don’t know the list by heart, but it is on the system.  I can retrieve it for you.”

“Okay, but I have already looked it up,” answered John, indulging his friend.

Gill continued his search as the display came on and it made him feel like the Terminator.  The advance monitoring system had been listening to all the sounds in the room, including their conversation.  The artificial intelligence had already retrieved the file relevant to their discussion and displayed the list of all items including the quantity of gold, represented by its atomic symbol as Au:  183.46 kilograms.  “Damn, they even transferred more than 180 kilos of pure gold!”

“You still didn’t answer my question?”

“What are you talking about?  That’s more than 20 million dollars in gold!”  Gill objected, not understanding the gentle smile in his colleague’s face.  “That’s even more than the biggest bank robbery in the history of North America and that’s only the gold.  They have more than a billion worth in diamonds and have almost a hundred pieces of Builders’ equipment and—” John raised his hand to interrupt Gill’s heated tirade.

“Again, what have they stolen?” said John with the patience of a tutor handling a slow student.

“Well, it’s replicated stuff, but it was not theirs to begin with, right?” answered Gill, used to John’s style of discussions ultimately designed to open the mind.

“Please help me understand this, because I have no clue why the system is considering their behaviour acceptable.  I still see them at the same level they were when they first entered the place and I’m talking of course about Steven and Chrissy, because Celina has increased slightly in level.  Only Jack has lost about 18 points,” said Gill accurately as he reviewed their profiles through his implant.  If he was to sit down with them for hours, even days, he needed to know if he could trust them.  There was too much at stake and he still had time to abort everything if needed.

“Well, like I said, if you understand what they have stolen,” said John, as he gently made air quotes to drive his point, “you will see that the initial gold belonged to Eirik to begin with.  The rest of the stuff is all replicated equipment and the originals are back in their place, or maybe it is the copy, but in the end, there is no difference in the molecular structure, so who cares.”

“So, according to the system, nothing was stolen?”

“Unless you count the energy used to replicate the stuff, none, nothing was ever stolen.” John concurred, smiling and looking at Gill, the truth finally dawning on him and he started to relax.

“You are saying that unless you count the fact that they have not told anyone else about it, which is a hierarchy concept that the system rejects completely, then according to the system, nothing wrong happened?” asked Gill, wanting to clarify that point and comprehend fully.

“It’s not totally correct to say that the system rejects the concept of hierarchy.  The system actually is more respectful of authority than the strictest military organization in the world.  It restricts or grants access to people according to its sensors, core values, its adaptive programming, and not according to any hierarchical level established by humans, such as following the order of a leader elected by a group or forced upon a group.  So, in the case of Eirik, he was the highest level Norwegian that Alexander knew at that time, and that’s why he was selected in the first place.  Then Celina was rather close too, and then you have Steven and Chrissy at almost the highest level you can have in any Station.  As far as the system understands it, they are the king and queen of the castle and can do whatever they want, so long as it is within the parameters of what the system considers acceptable.  Jack, as you know, was there by pure chance, thanks to Eirik’s generosity.  Because our arrangements with the oil rig had to be precise and couldn’t be delayed, Alex had no choice but to let Jack discover the station.  But that’s okay, because we knew that the Norwegian Station’s security system would prevent him from doing anything wrong anyway.”

Gill stood up and shook John’s hand.  He was impressed with Sears’s ability to understand the system which had seemed difficult for Gill to grasp at first, mainly because of his education in political science, which had allowed him to learn the shocking truth that political enemies fought in public, but in private, had intercourse without condoms.  All his education had ingrained the notion of a chain of command to be the only way.  But his Station, like the others, operated on a principle more common to the North American First Nations which regarded everything in the clan as the common good of the community.  Anyone who needed something for the good of his household or the clan could take it and use it, knowing that if someone else needed it, he would simply come and take it in his turn.  Sears had understood Gill’s reticence with the bushy hippy concept.  It was only history repeating itself.  Sears knew the history and legend of his people, and it had also been the same reaction for the first French settlers and fur traders, who had often associated the Native Americans’ behaviour of taking equipment and food left unattended as thievery.

Gill had taken two hours to discuss the situation with Sears and realized that he still had time to go and have lunch.  Then he contacted Fisher, the real James Bond of the Station, and asked how close he was from completing his assignment.