Chapter 54: Superiority complex
As planned, Lawson allowed himself only one call to Norway to get an update about the Castaways’ progress and to have a private conference call with Chrissy, who wanted to inform him of something. In his hotel room, he had setup his laptop and loaded a proprietary video conference encryption program, and linked it with the barracks in Norway.
“So, what you are saying is that you have stepped on the transporter and in there was the third Facility?” asked Lawson after lifting his eyes from the report on his desk.
“Aye, I just stepped on it to send something to Celina and there it was. Steven saw it too, but we didn’t have time to check anybody else because we were not sure of what it was really,” answered Chrissy, looking at the grass outside the barracks, thinking that she had returned to the surface only once before since they started.
“Have you told anybody else other than Steven?”
“No, we didn’t tell anyone yet.”
“Don’t, until I return to Norway. First, because it would be preferable to compartmentalize the information and the second reason is that I wouldn’t want anyone else to be whisked away to places unknown,” requested Lawson, thinking that he had enough problems as it is.
Chrissy nodded and got up.
Lawson saw her get up on the corner of his screen and instantly started missing the good old days of people waiting to be
dismissed before leaving his presence. He smiled and told her to sit down politely. “Miss O’Donnell, I have received an email from a member of the Council. He will be there with two others in the days following the completion of the ramp. He was wondering if you had managed to figure out how to increase levels. I think he can’t bear the shame of being refused access by the system in front of his colleagues.”
“I know the type,” replied Chrissy, thinking of her father. “But as much as I would like to be positive on this, a lot of those people analyzing our data seemed to unanimously agree that the access level system is an integral part of the Facility’s computer core and can’t be altered. Much like that of Internet Explorer being a part of Windows core program and can’t be removed.”
“Are you saying that you have given up?” asked Lawson with the look of an interviewer who had just trapped an interviewee.
Feeling a chill down her spine, Chrissy stuttered for the first time in her life, but only for a second and regained her composure and usual eloquence within the same sentence.
“We didn’t give up, but sir, you have to understand that there are multiple components to this job and one being the element of fear,” she said, pausing and looking at Lawson for a reaction, but she saw none. The Colonel already understood that point and wondered if he would be punished by the Facility for his present and future actions. “A lot of people fear that interfering with the levels, given the chance, could result in the system reducing their own access and by consequences, their status and ability to perform their jobs. We believe we already witnessed it. A few people have already complained that they had been unable to use the equipment previously accessible to them. Of course, the reason was not apparent, but Steven believes that he has a theory, although we didn’t have the chance to test that person on all equipment yet.”
“Who are you referring to?”
“His name is Davis, not sure of the first name, Albert or something like that. He replicated tools and tried to force his way into a room he didn’t have access to by attempting to destroy the control panel. He was cut by an employee and was reported to security,” Chrissy explained, letting out a short sigh. “Now he can only replicate nourishments and access his own room. Because of that, he is almost useless now.”
“I know of the incident. That will come as a shock to you, but he had reported his action in his log before he attempted to force the door open. So, although I’m not too thrilled of his deed, which forced me to post a memo against such actions, I can’t blame the guy for trying what a lot of us have thought of doing for weeks,” added Lawson. He saw that Chrissy wasn’t shocked with the revelation, but it was apparent that she didn’t understand the thoughts behind the action just yet. “Miss O’Donnell, you should place yourself in the man’s shoes. For those who don’t have complete access, it is a frustrating experience. Although most of us managed to accept that reality, others can’t. Rich and famous means nothing in the Facility; you can’t buy your levelling on eBay. I had the chance to have that very discussion with the King himself and he said that the only way for him to accept a denial of access from the Facility would be if he believed that a higher power had reasons to do so.”
“As in, God?” asked Chrissy, trying not to show contempt at the notion.
“I’m not sure if he meant it as a religious or divine force, or simply as a higher intelligence,” replied Lawson, trying to remember the conversation and his feeling at the time. “I have been in the presence of the President of the United States almost every day at one point. I have to admit that being in a meeting with a King is a different ballgame.”
“I have been in the presence of neither. Can you explain that, since I’ll have to be introduced to him?” asked Chrissy, not seeing the point.
“Well, I’m sure that if asked, Americans wouldn’t know and most would be shocked to find out. But the fact is, the protocol for most monarchy prohibits anyone to walk side by side with a King or a Queen unless they are royalty themselves. So for example, when the President visited the small nation of Tonga, a small group of islands in the South Pacific the size of New York City that has a population of barely one hundred thousand, he had to walk behind the king in public. Seeing the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful army in the world bowing to the will of a kingdom armed with bows and arrows, so to speak, made me realize the power of the Royals over the lives of their people. It was that image that I had in mind when I met the King for the first time and that’s mainly why I think that people of lineage, unless God himself came to Earth and talked to them, are not likely to be humbled by anything.”
“And if I remember my history, not even that,”
“Yes, if you are referring to all the emperors that believed they were gods themselves, then yep, not even that.” He laughed and nodded which Chrissy rightly understood as a sign of dismissal and thanked him. However, he had one more point to make first.
“Chrissy,” he said. Hearing the Colonel addressing her by her first name for the first time sent goose bumps along her milky skin. “You should follow your instincts a little more, but please don’t take any unnecessary risks. I would never hear the end of it.”
“Sure,” agreed Chrissy, thinking that for a Colonel, he was vaguer than a fortune teller whose success was directly proportional to the number of people a specific prediction applies to.
“Before I left, there were these row of rooms that people mentioned to me. I remember a report you wrote that said that they were empty for you and Steven. These rooms are not empty for the rest of us,” Lawson explained as she nodded; remembering her own logs. “Eirik said that when he first entered one of them, it was empty for a few seconds and then he was standing in the middle of a field. Then, a woman with a stick or some sort of farming tool slowly approached him, and he left the room running. Jack said he had a different experience in the same room, but neither figured out what those rooms were about.”
“I know them, and I have discussed them with Eirik at the beginning. It creates a different experience for each person that enters it, except for us as you mentioned,” said Chrissy. “Steven and I have theorized that they are some kind of classrooms. It is there to assess people’s levels and show them scenarios. It reminds me of the Scottish civic classes we make immigrants take. They are designed to teach them what is acceptable and what is not in our society.”
“With everything translated, now we know it is a classroom for a single student at the time. Can you see if that can be used to increase people’s level?” asked Lawson.
“Okay,” replied Chrissy.
“All I can conclude is that you are maxed out. Maybe you can write a rule book about it, sort of the do's and don’ts at the Facility. Thank you, Chrissy. That would be all.”
This time, she had understood that she had finally been dismissed and, after wishing him a good trip back, she left the barracks and returned to the shore to gear up for the return dive, not lingering to see the new arrival of materials for the tunnel and thinking the King’s visit would make for an interesting one.