Chapter 18.6

Rachel was momentarily stunned by what had come out of her own mouth. She was too confused now to deal with Smith so she politely excused herself to go to the bathroom.

Smith, for his part, appeared downcast and, after a lingering gaze out the window at the beautiful city spread out below, he left. Once she heard the door close she timidly emerged from the bathroom but all was clear.

What the hell had happened? The man she feared and loathed had evidently attempted to make some kind of emotional connection with her, but far worse than that, he had correctly deduced her motivation for taking the Salt Lake City assignment. As if that wasn’t bad enough she had lied to cover up the truth. And then what was, unbelievably, worse of all, was that the lie was that she was in love with Carlton. What an idiot (although she wasn’t sure any more who the idiot was, herself or Carlton, hence the confusion). Carlton, of all people. The stupidest genius she had ever met.

In a daze she decided she wanted to be very drunk, very fast, so she turned on her heel and left again. On foot this time she wandered in the direction of a convenience store. The warm humid air was a relief and she began to relax. Look on the bright side, she reminded herself. For a while she thought that Smith was there to pull her out of Salt Lake City and back to DC. That would have been a disaster. Rachel had been walking with her head down and her brow furrowed in consternation, but now that it seemed the danger was past she looked up and brightened considerably. She looked up to the sky and breathed a sincere thank you. Then she just stopped walking and looked around at the majestic mountains that hemmed in the city. Breath taking.

With a deep sigh of satisfaction she moved on again in to the convenience store. She got to a liquor store first, which she hadn’t realized was so close by. Inside she spent a long time looking at the rows of Whiskey, Rum, Vodka and others. Some of the bottles were so attractive she wanted to buy them all, but she just kept looking. Some she picked up and considered. She felt much better now. Getting drunk really wasn’t what she wanted. She started thinking about how bad of a headache any liquor would give her. Several customers had come and go while Rachel pondered how to be drunk without having to get drunk and deal with the aftermath. The two clerks were chuckling and giving he funny looks. She wasn’t really mad anymore. She walked up to the checkout as the clerks snickered. “Hi,” she said brightly. “This was a routine quality assurance inspection. Your manager will be receiving my report shortly. Goodbye.” And she swept out the door as their faces fell.

Outside she began to question what she had just done. She was trying to be playful but she had in fact just told a lie. She looked heavenward again and wondered if she was ever going to be able to get this right. This human life so full of seemingly inconsequential interactions that could plague the conscience for a lifetime. She wanted to be drunk again. Really, really drunk so she could forget everything. She just didn’t much care for the process of getting drunk. Or the pounding thick head that she would have the next day. At the convenience store she looked at the wine first. Again, many very artfully designed and attractive bottles. One was black lettering on a black label on a bottle made of black glass that she carried around the store with her for 10 minutes before she realized that wine was the worst way to get drunk. With wine she would have a headache while she was drinking it. Where was the fun in that? Even a really cool bottle couldn’t change the inevitable headache. So she moved over to the beer section and looked for the highest alcohol content she could find. The problem with getting drunk on beer was the calories. She spent another 10 minutes contemplating beer, exercise, body odor and, of course, headaches, before finally choosing a quart of Vanilla Soy Milk and some Sweet Potato chips.

So much for getting drunk. Thankfully she remembered a Bible passage that exhorts Christians to be filled with the Holy Spirit, not drunk with wine, so she took another deep breath and contemplated her remarkable afternoon. Which reminded her of Carlton. What an idiot. And she had just told Smith that she loved him. “Oh God,” she breathed. What if Smith had some jealous rage and started to mess with Carlton? “Oh God,” she prayed. “When will this ever end?” And, looking up to heaven, “Take me now, please.” Of course, then she naturally thought about Elijah. He had wished to die but he had to pick himself up and get back into the fight. So would she. She would fight. Fight the urge to destroy herself with drink. Fight the urge to run away. Fight the fear that was trying to overwhelm her.

Her wandering had taken her to Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City, and there was a little hole in the wall Thai place that had been recommended to her so she stopped in. She immediately liked it. The food looked just right and the rice was in a little electric rice cooker behind the counter. It was very similar to the way the Myanmar refugee families her parents worked with in DC prepared and ate their food. Like family. Like a home. She chose Thai Green Curry with bamboo and sat outside to enjoy the evening. The food was so good she didn’t care about getting drunk any more. She was going to be fine with the Holy Spirit instead. All she had to do was make it to Friday.

Chapter 18.5

Rachel watched Dunning and Kruger leave, Kruger shot her a mischievous wink as he went out and closed the door, and she steeled herself before turning to face Agent Smith. When she did, though, he wasn’t staring at her in his unnerving way as she had expected, but had moved closer to and was looking out of the window. This was odd, but it gave her confidence so she moved in closer to where he was standing, so that she too could see what he was looking at out the window.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Smith said, almost wistfully.

“Yes. Very,” Rachel replied, barely able to conceal her surprise that she wasn’t currently being grilled, intimidated, harassed or belittled.

“Is this your first time in Salt Lake City?”

“Yes.”

“Impossible to not be impressed, isn’t it.” The view from the window included the downtown area, Temple Square and the mountains beyond.

“Definitely.”

“I’ve always enjoyed the time I’ve spent in this city.” Smith’s voice trailed off in a way that seemed out-of-place. It was as if he knew that he would never see the city again or that something was going to change.

“But, enough of that,” he said, suddenly businesslike, “have you been having fun playing cat and mouse with Dunning and Kruger?”

The question was abrupt, much more Smith’s usual style. Rachel dropped her eyes and blushed.

“Well,” but she got no further.

“Don’t worry about it. They need to be kept on their toes.”

Rachel looked up, surprised, and made eye contact with Smith, something that she had been dreading.

“That’s really nothing to do with why I am here.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. I actually came here because I have another assignment that I think you would be perfect for. Time sensitive. Interested?”

“Well,” Rachel was horrified. No, she didn’t want to be anywhere else but Salt Lake City right now. She had a plan to avoid registering for World Monetary Union so that she could escape to the Christian refugee camp in Southern Utah. ”What about the mission here? I thought that this was a high priority.”

“Sure, but baby sitting a computer could be done by any of several people I can bring in. It is your unique talents that I am in need of.” He gave her a knowing look. He attempted a kind smile.

Rachel frowned, “Really? Which unique talents?” she was confused now.

“Nevermind.” Smith seemed slightly frustrated that an attempt at innuendo has been completely missed, and he looked at Rachel sternly, “I’m offering you a chance to leave this assignment now, and take on one that is a higher priority.”

“But,” Rachel was completely out maneuvered and didn’t have a response. Smith turned back to his contemplation of the view out the window.

“You know, there are some who are convinced that you only requested this assignment because you are a Christian and you are planning join the refugees in Southern Utah.”

“That’s ridiculous,” she snorted, but was thankful that Smith hadn’t been looking at her when she said it.

“Ridiculous? Why do you say that? There have been several high-profile people defect to join that band of outcasts.” He turned to Rachel and raised his eyebrows. “There are even a few who suspect that our President may be about to.”

“You can’t be serious?”

“I’m always serious, Ms. Robbins.”

“True.”

“So. Back to my question. If you aren’t planning to defect to Southern Utah, and there is no other compelling reason for you to stay in Salt Lake City, why don’t you accept the opportunity I’m offering you?”

Rachel couldn’t answer. She was gutted and floundering for a way to respond.

“Unless there is a reason compelling you to stay here?” He said wryly, even though Rachel was hiding the fact that she was gasping for air and didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. She smiled weakly, just trying to breathe.

“Carlton Feathers?”

A large burst of air escaped her at last, which could have seemed like an explosive sigh. “Carlton?” she asked, completely confused.

“I know that this is none of my business, but are you romantically involved with Carlton?”

Rachel’s eyes widened in horror at the thought, and she squeaked slightly before turning quickly away and blushing red to the roots of her hair. Not only was the thought of a romantic relationship with Carlton utterly repugnant, but is was the last thing she had thought of in her decision to come to Salt Lake City.

“I’m sorry,” Smith droned on behind her, “I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”

Yet Smith had just given her the excuse she needed to give a plausible reason for staying in Salt Lake City. If she could keep a straight face and avoid wincing when she said it, she could admit to being in love with Carlton and get Smith off her back. She took a deep breath and turned to face Smith.

Smith’s expression was a shock to her. Gone was the placid, self assuredness that always disarmed her. It was replaced by an expectantly pleading look. It reminded Rachel of a puppy that wanted a home. For the first time in the entire history of her interaction with Agent Smith, Rachel realized that he had a crush on her.

So now was the real danger. Evidently Smith had come to Salt Lake City in anticipation of something big happening, as if World Monetary Union wasn’t big enough, to offer her a special assignment that may in fact be of a personal and possibly intimate nature, and Rachel’s only means of avoiding that outcome was to pretend to be in a relationship with Carlton. It was like the ninth grade all over again. To refuse Smith now was certainly the end of her career in the Clandestine Services. To have to act out a relationship with Carlton was her worst nightmare. Then she remembered: she only had to make it to Friday.

“I’m in love with Carlton!” she blurted out, with a confusing wince. Then she smiled apologetically. Her eye twitched.

Chapter 18

The next day was bright and clear with an almost endless blue sky. A low ridge of luminous clouds was just visible to the south of the city, but it wasn’t threatening. Carlton had been caught off guard by Rachel’s invitation to church. It bothered him. The woman he had craved for over a decade was here, in his life, but weighed down with a bunch of annoying religious baggage. Carlton dreaded the thought of having to play church in order to have Rachel. Still, it was Rachel. It would be worth it, right? But then, religion. He gave an involuntary shudder. Being Sunday Carlton figured on sleeping late, so that he could say he missed church by accident. Instead he woke up early and spent the morning fretting about going or not going. He shaved and tried three different outfits as he tormented himself over it. Eventually he wasted enough time to be able to say that he didn’t get up early enough.

When he was just starting to regret that he didn’t go he heard the sound of a delivery truck churning its way up the hill. The familiar brown vehicle was headed his way, though he wasn’t expecting anything. Carlton watched with mounting curiosity as the truck pulled up with a loud squeak in front of his house. The driver checked his list then dove back into the cargo area out of sight. A moment later the back of the truck opened up and the driver jumped out. He hit the controls for the lift gate. A few hydraulic whirrs later and there were two large heavy-looking boxes on a hand cart being wheeled up his drive. Carlton got up to meet the driver and sign for them.

“Beautiful day isn’t it?” beamed Carlton, hiding his confusion about the delivery.

“Sure is, just sign here please.”

“No problem. Could you set that stuff in the garage, please?”

Carlton waited for the driver to get back into the truck and leave before closing the garage door on his new stuff. “Frank?’ he called out, “Know anything about the boxes that just arrived?”

“Of course,” came the reply, “Those are the parts you told me to order.”

“Oh yes, the parts that YOU told ME you were going to order.” Carlton smiled and began to unpack the boxes. He was delighted by this distraction and didn’t want to get involved in petulant banter. The boxes were very well packed, and contained a bare bones computer kit. Someone had worked their but off to get them here so quickly, even if Frank had ordered them Saturday morning it was very impressive. The main component was a heavy-duty tower case, professional quality, that Frank said was the perfect size to fit into the space available in the android body. It would be coming later in the week. There were many other sundry items, screws, nuts, bolts and rolls of the fine tubing.

Carlton thought of Biblio, what a surprisingly capable system he had turned out to be, not even considering his primary function. He carried the components up to his living room area and laid them out on the table. He resolved to give this project his undivided attention and create something masterful.

This was the type of job that Carlton would normally procrastinate for weeks before starting, but not today. He made coffee and got to work.

Save

Chapter 17.5

As church wound down Rachel somehow got herself invited to lunch with the Pastor and his wife, along with the odd new-comer known only as K.D. She drove herself to the restaurant which was a cafeteria style place that was very popular with the Sunday after church crowd. When she got there it turned out that half of the church was there too: the Pastor and his wife brought K.D.; the Assistant Pastor, and his wife with their two children; one of the Deacons with his wife and an elderly widow; another elderly lady who hadn’t been in church but who evidently joined the group to eat; finally Kruger had gotten himself invited. Rachel narrowed her eyes at him threateningly but he mimed a yawn and rolled his eyes.

The restaurant staff were delighted to welcome the church members and guests. The falling away of church attendance as the deadline for World Monetary Union approached had been dramatic, and it had a big impact on the Sunday traffic. They made quick work of moving a few tables so the group could sit together, then enthusiastically ushered them all through the serving line. Rachel was very good at these kind of social events. It was second nature for her to smile, be polite, and engage in whatever conversation happened to strike up. She shared stories from her life, always being mindful of her cover and why she had just moved to Salt Lake City.

Kruger, on the other hand, looked ill-at-ease. Serve him right for not doing surveillance on her from the car with Dunning. She was fortunate to end up on the far end of the table from K.D., so she didn’t get to speak with him.

It was close to 3 O’clock before the party began to break apart, and Rachel excused herself with a promise that she would be at the Wednesday night service. She curtly told her car to be quiet and drove herself home, looking eagle-eyed for the unmarked sedan that was supposed to be following her. She began to get spooked when she thought she saw the same tinted-window black Mercedes pass her twice in a row. Dunning and Kruger were nowhere to be seen, but there was another black Mercedes drifting along effortlessly some way back. Something was not right. At her parking garage she caught a glimpse of movement on the roof of the building opposite. A sniper getting into position? There was an electrician’s panel van parked across the street too – on a Sunday? Not impossible, but weird. Then two deeply tanned women in Spandex sports gear jogged past, paying her a little too much attention. Where they checking her out, or another part of a security op that was happening around her? What else? What else would there be if this were a security op? She looked around for a surveillance camera. There it was, by the elevator, pointing right at her. Surprise, surprise. With all this going on there could only be one reason: Agent Smith was here.

In her experience Agent Smith was a misogynistic, leering, innuendo-laden pervert who had never quite crossed the line and done anything that could really hold the charge of sexual harassment, but which was close. Maybe today could be the day? “Look on the bright side,” she thought. Perhaps every cloud does have a silver lining? if he had come out here for an unscheduled visit it must be in response to something time sensitive, he might be really angry. He might be ready to pop and leave himself exposed, if not to a charge of sexual harassment, then at least some leverage to make him back off. She steeled herself and made her way to her apartment.

There was another new fragrance in the lobby. This one so expensive that she didn’t recognize it. Definitely Smith. She inhaled deeply but realized with a shock that she was already weaker than she thought, suddenly afraid. Her apartment door was open, normally that would be bad, but in this situation it was good because they would both be able to see the approach. It was intended to help put her at ease. It meant that he would be alone inside, with out any of his team of goons. That was good and bad, but Rachel could feel herself getting flustered already and the meeting hadn’t started yet. She hated the psychological chess game that this guy kept up. She resolved and breezed airily into the apartment as casually as possible. Smith was sitting in her favourite spot on her new couch, looking out the patio doors as she had last night. He stood up and turned to her with the warmest expression possible which stopped Rachel in her tracks.

“Rachel,” was all he said.

“Smith,” she looked away, unable to hold his gaze. “To what do I owe this pleasure?” In her peripheral vision she saw Dunning and Kruger move in behind her, cutting off her escape. “Drat,” she thought, “this is really bad.”

“The pleasure is all mine, I assure you,” the words dripped off Smith’s tongue.

A shiver went down Rachel’s spine. “That ought to be enough for sexual harassment right there,” she thought, knowing that it was not, and that Smith was too careful. He just somehow made her feel, dirty.

“I just wanted to check in with you. To make sure that you, the team,” he gestured to Dunning and Kruger, “are all on the same page.”

“You came out here from DC for that?”

“Not a special trip. I was,” he paused delicately, “somewhere close by. I am concerned that you are underestimating the seriousness of this situation?”

“No,” she replied boldly, “Whatever gave you that idea?”

He swept his had in the direction of Dunning and Kruger. “I heard that one of them had to spend time in a lingerie store yesterday?”

“Oh that!” Rachel took on a very friendly and sportsmanlike demeanour and moved in close between the two body guards. “Come on,” she playfully punched Dunning’s shoulder, “A girl has to get her, y’know, things somewhere.”

“You didn’t buy anything.” Kruger said flatly.

“Oh, come on, please. Boys,” she said playfully, grabbing both of their elbows. She looked at Smith, “We have a great time together, don’t we?” she looked at both of their hard faces, then back to Smith, “There is no way that you came all this way because I went to a panty store!”

“No indeed.” He dismissed the two men with a flick of his hand. They left immediately and closed the door. Rachel swallowed so hard she heard it, and closed her eyes for a momentary prayer.

Chapter 17

Carlton didn’t get far before he remembered that he had an appointment.  He had to make a service call on a unit at the University of Utah. He always enjoyed visiting campus.  Even though he had never been a student there he felt somehow connected to the youthful energy of the place.  That and the fact that from many parts of campus you could see Carlton’s neighborhood.

Every day when the library staff came to work they found that the computer was playing loud heavy metal music. Carlton recommended that his customers let their units listen to music, but rock ‘n’ roll, especially heavy metal, could be a problem. The units liked the pounding beat of rock because it increased performance.  The heavy vibrations generated so much electrical potential across the processor membranes that the speed was much faster. The problem was that the fast syncopated rhythms disrupted metabolic cycling rates. Chemical reactions that should run full course were continually interrupted, which caused hazardous by-products and free radicals to accumulate. These compounds wrought havoc on the membranes. Over time the units would become surly and uncooperative, just wanting to listen to more rock. It was like an addiction, plus unprofessional and embarrassing for Carlton.

This was the crux of Carlton’s innovation. The computer screen was the user interface, the lung, the power supply and a connection to other peripherals. It worked a bit like a speaker. The surface was a thin LED display. Layered behind this was the membrane that blood and water flowed on either side of. Sounds caused the whole structure to vibrate. This caused charged particles, sodium and other metal ions, to criss-cross the membrane, causing a change in electrical potential across it.  A host of other reactions then took place, it sped up the diffusion of oxygen and carbon dioxide, and it generated enough electrical current to charge a series of capacitors. In effect, when the terminal heard a sound, it powered the processor and charged the system.

The terminals not only heard sound, but could generate it. This was what the capacitors were for. In the opposite of what happened when the terminals heard sound, the capacitors charged the membrane to vibrate, and make sound. Information was input into the computer by simply having a conversation with it.

Behind each screen interface was another system, more like the synapses of nerves. This was also a membrane where electrically charged compounds, neurotransmitters, carried impulses from the user interface to a conventional computer and back. This could be any standard computer system connected to whatever hardware, peripherals and the bells and whistles that people needed. The whole structure was only 1/8 inch thick.  It was connected to a tower case which contained the artificial heart, liver and kidneys which kept the blood circulating.

Carlton set up a dialysis machine to clean the blood in the unit, administered a course of antioxidants, set up a music player to play soft classical music, and tried to console the customer.

“Classical music,” he was explaining, “not all, but most of it, is very helpful because of the ensembles of stringed instruments.” The customer was nodding appreciatively.

“Oh yes,” he went on, “sound complexity is very important.  A good symphony orchestra has so many violins and cellos going that there is much more stimulation to the membranes than with the heavy metal. But most importantly, the music is structured better, so you don’t get any build up of free radicals. Waltzes are the best. You know the one, two, three, one, two, three rhythm?  It’s like the beating of a heart.  Just let the unit have about a week of uninterrupted Strauss, and he’ll be good as new. Mendelssohn is pretty good, Fingal’s Cave, that sort of thing.” The customer was beaming.

“I’d stay away from Beethoven, though, it’s a short step from that to heavy metal. And definitely no Wagner. Call me if you need anything at all. I’ll check back in a couple of days.”

When Carlton left it was getting late. He had nothing to do though, so he drove south to check out the location of Rachel’s church.  It wasn’t much to look at, and he found himself instinctively driving to Salt City.  It was fully dark when he got there and checked in at the gate.  He figured on eating at a nice restaurant where he frequently ate lunch.  He would see what their dinner menu was like.  His route took him past the library. The lights on the ground floor were on. Someone was there, working. It bothered him that he didn’t know who it was or what was going on. What if Rachel were there doing something secret? He felt irritated and he knew he wouldn’t be able to enjoy a nice dinner out so he drove home via a fast food drive through.

The next day was bright and clear with an almost endless blue sky. A few clouds were moving in from the south but they were far away and not threatening. Being Sunday Carlton figured on sleeping late, so that he could say he missed church by accident. Instead he woke up early and spent the morning fretting about going or not going. His eagerness to have a chance to spend time with Rachel was equally balanced against his distaste for church. He shaved and tried three different outfits as he tormented himself over it. He dithered and fussed and preened and moped with his eye on the clock, until it was too late to get there on time. Eventually he wasted enough time to be able to say that he didn’t get up early enough. He hated the missed opportunity.

Chapter 16.5

The rest of the day was uneventful, though Dunning and Kruger were fuming over the mall escapade. That evening Rachel made a few phone calls to family, maintaining a facade of an easy-going life transition to a new job and home in Salt Lake City. She watched some TV but wasn’t interested in anything. She tried reading a book but it didn’t capture her imagination. Eventually she sat looking out the large balcony doors as the daylight faded and the city stretched out before her came alive with lights. Watching the activity of the city at night was vastly more interesting than TV, and before long she dozed off.

At some point later she woke up enough to put herself to bed.

Rachel was up again before the dawn arrived, wondering about her cat whom she had left with her mom and dad in Washington DC. She contemplated getting another one but that was pretty pointless given that she fully anticipated her life here in Utah to be either over or drastically different by the end of the week. She exercised, ate, showered and got ready for church.

Rachel went to Anchor Baptist Church in South Salt Lake, based on a recommendation from her Pastor in DC. It was only her second time going since she had only been in town for about a week. Sunday morning was usually a busy time at any church, but things were very different now with the looming deadline of World Monetary Union. The majority of Christians were convinced that this was indeed the Mark of the Beast as prophesied in the Bible, and this had led to a great falling away of people from the church. When it came right down to it, who in their right mind would give up the ability to function in society for the sake of dressing up and singing songs on a Sunday morning?

Still there were a faithful few, including the Pastor, Assistant Pastor, Piano Player and about a dozen others, including two deacons. They had been completely amazed when Rachel had shown up for a Wednesday evening service last week, dressed in her conservative professional attire, even more so when Dunning had arrived moments later pretending to be another completely random visitor. They sat far apart from each other, Rachel next to the Pastor’s wife, who had immediately adopted her, and Dunning in an aisle seat near the exit.

The tone had been very solemn as the Assistant Pastor welcomed them and began the service, but it picked up with the spirited singing and a rousing sermon from the tired old Pastor.

Today was much the same. There was some guarded chatter about who had renounced Jesus Christ and gotten their WMU tattoo, and who had renounced society and made their way to the refugee camp in Moab. The consensus was that everyone who was left in church would be making their way their shortly. The Pastor promising, like the Captain of a sinking ship, that he wouldn’t abandon his post in the pulpit until after the Wednesday night service.

This time it was Kruger who blundered in a minute before the service was about to start, making excuses about not knowing where to park, and avoiding any formal introductions as the Assistant Pastor got the service under way.

“Good morning everybody, and welcome to Anchor Baptist Church. It is great to see you in the house of the Lord today! I see our numbers are down again, I guess that’s not surprising, but we’re going to have a blessed time in the Lord. It’s very nice to see you here again, Miss?”

“Rachel,” she said, uncomfortable that now 12 pairs of eyes were all staring at her.

“Right, Rachel, thank you for coming back. And I see we have another visitor,”

Kruger simply raised his hand in greeting as all eyes turned to him.

“We can get to meet you later, sir. So, let’s all take a hymnal then and turn to page..”

Another visitor unexpectedly barged in at that moment, and Rachel and Kruger began reaching for their side arms. They both paused when they saw a very confused looking old man, standing blinking in the middle of the aisle. He shuffled to a seat mumbling that he was sorry about something, and the service continued.

Once the singing was over the Pastor got up and gave a full-throated blast through the  parts of the book of The Revelation that pertained to the present situation. He stumbled around the confusing technicalities regarding the timing. According to the scripture, the mark of the beast is something that takes place during the tribulation period. That was tricky because the tribulation is supposed to happen after something called the rapture, when all Christians are taken up into the sky by Jesus. Why is the mark of the beast here if the rapture hasn’t happened yet? And, is it really the mark of the beast? were serious questions. It gave everyone enough wiggle room to justify their decision about whether or not to receive the WMU tattoo, because if they did, it didn’t necessarily mean that they were going to hell. Right? A lot of people were very worried. Rachel was in the very small group that had decided not to take any chances on eternal damnation, preferring leave society and suffer whatever hardship it may bring.

Rachel listened as the Pastor fumbled on eschatology for a few minutes but soon enough he veered around to a Bible thumping condemnation of “the system,” and a rousing call for all lost souls to be saved. He did his job admirably, not in the least bit perturbed by the small crowd.

Once the service was over there was a lot of hugging and consoling to do, even for the visitors, since it was both terribly sad and very joyful that the prophesy of the Word of God was being fulfilled in their day. After all look on the bright side, was the conclusion, this meant that the Lord’s return was even more imminent than it had been at any time in the last 2,000 years! Everyone had so much to hope and be thankful for.

At some point Rachel got to shake hands with everyone, pretending to meet Kruger for the first time, and the old man who had blundered in late. He was introduced simply as “K. D.,” and he had the look of one who was in completely the wrong place at the wrong time.

Should I Apologize?

I have been writing about the scientific validity of the Bible and the error inherent in modern scientific thought for many years. For a long time before I knew that it was a branch of Christian apologetics. This name has always confused me, although I know its technical meaning. However, I want to tell you what it means to me:

I think I should apologize.

  1. I apologize that you are going to hell if you don’t repent and accept Jesus Christ as your savior (I don’t make the rules).
  2. I apologize that the modern scientific explanation of human origins (the dominant paradigm) is a fake designed to condemn you to hell.
  3. I apologize that the scientific method has been meticulously constructed for the express purpose of keeping you in spiritual darkness.
  4. I apologize for trying to save you from eternal torment.
  5. I apologize for destroying the dominant paradigm with simple logic.
  6. I apologize for showing you that the theoretical foundation of your paradigm is a house of cards built on circular reasoning.
  7. I apologize that everyone thinks that Galileo, Kepler, Newton and Einstein proved heliocentricity. They didn’t.
  8. I apologize that Stephen Hawking used science to validate science fiction, but that’s definitely not my fault.
  9. I apologize for showing you that even though the process of evolution can account for the present diversity on earth, it is not the origin of humanity.
  10. I apologize that science has a dual nature, and just because you can have an iPhone doesn’t mean that you aren’t in danger of hell.
  11. I apologize for attacking the dominant paradigm, instead of just apologizing for mine.
  12. I apologize for having fun while I’m doing it.

If my ministry in any way contributes to your conversion and you repent and put your faith in Jesus Christ, when I see you in heaven, don’t expect me to apologize.

Chapter 16

Carlton’s house was strange to say the least. More than strange really, disturbing. Anyone of delicate sensibility who saw it may have been shocked, even horrified, because of its macabre appearance.  Carlton’s way of life revolved around building computers which circulate human blood. Naturally Carlton engineered his home to be run by such a system. On the face of it that would not be a bad thing, but the problem was that all of the blood tanks, aerator, pumps, filters and miles of tubing were exposed throughout the house.

Carlton was a skilled engineer, a gifted mechanic and even quite a talented carpenter. But he would not touch any job that involved cutting out and replacing sections of sheet rock. He would never dream of hiring anybody to do that kind of work either. As a result there were bundles of tubes carrying blood around the ceilings of all of the rooms, in the hallway and from room to room. A fish tank full of blood that had streams of tiny bubbles in it, which would have been very suitable for a quiet spot in a closet somewhere, was on display in the main living area of the house.

Carlton also thought of himself as very artistic, in that silently suffering way of someone who knew that they were under appreciated. When he had built the computer connections to each room he had intentionally left all of the hardware exposed, but, to his mind, had done something very arty with it. He built the plastic blood vessels and their support frame to look like vines weaving around a ladder-like structure. He was quite delighted with the effect, but to the uninitiated it looked alarmingly like a mess of entrails, as if some gigantic creature had been disembowelled by large pieces of crane rigging.

Then there was the smell. The cloying, coppery odour that is unmistakably blood. The smell that you hope isn’t what it smells like, because if it is what it smells like, then something very bad must have happened.

Luckily for Carlton he did not have any friends who visited, and there was no reason for a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker to come anywhere near the house. If any of them had it would probably have been the beginning of an investigation and psychiatric evaluation of Mr. Carlton Feathers.

It was Saturday, and Carlton was going out for a leisurely brunch as usual. He was pondering Frank’s parting words and his thoughts came to Rachel. What was it she had said about going to church? He asked the car’s navigator for directions to Anchor Baptist Church, and found that it was in a southern suburb of Salt Lake City. It would take a while to get there. Still, it was a pretty day, with a sky so clear and blue that it looked like it went on forever. A ride into old town would be different, and it would be right about time for lunch when he got there. He would check out the location of the church, just in case.

He shook his head at his train of thoughts, and a flicker of concern warned him about going from contented bachelor to stalker in one leap. Forget Rachel, forget church, he should just stay out of it. Why was life so complicated? Why were even, what seemed like, little choices, now so laden with doubt? Whatever happened to the carefree days of youth? What was so bad about falling in love? These questions streamed through Carlton’s mind and he found himself driving to old town.

Get your Hell Computer to stop listening to Death Metal

If you find that every day your Hell Computer is playing loud heavy metal music a chemical imbalance could be the problem.

Our units like the pounding beat of rock because it increases performance.  The heavy vibrations generate so much electrical potential across the processor membranes that the speed is much faster. The problem, however, is that the fast syncopated rhythms disrupt metabolic cycling rates. Chemical reactions that should run full course are continually interrupted, which causes hazardous by-products and free radicals to accumulate.

These compounds will wreck havoc on the processor membranes. Over time the units will become surly and uncooperative, just wanting to listen to more rock music.

The Hell Computer screen is the user interface, the lung, the power supply and a connection to other peripherals. It works a bit like a speaker. The surface is a thin LED display. Layered behind this is the membrane that blood and water flows on either side of. Sounds cause the whole structure to vibrate. This causes charged particles, sodium and other metal ions, to criss-cross the membrane, causing a change in electrical potential across it.  A host of other reactions then takes place, it speeds up the diffusion of oxygen and carbon dioxide, and it generates enough electrical current to charge a series of capacitors. In effect, when the terminal hears a sound, it powers the processor and charges the system.

The terminals not only hear sound, but can generate it. This as what the capacitors are for. In the opposite of what happens when the terminals hear sound, the capacitors charge the membrane to vibrate, and make sound. Information is input into the computer by simply having a conversation with it.

Behind each screen interface is another system, more like the synapses of nerves. This is also a membrane where electrically charged compounds, neurotransmitters, carry impulses from the user interface to a conventional computer and back. This can be any standard computer system connected to whatever hardware, peripherals and the bells and whistles that you need. The whole structure is only 1/8 inch thick.  It is connected to a tower case which contains the artificial heart, liver and kidneys which keep the blood circulating.

Solving your Hell Computer’s Death Metal addiction will involve the use of a dialysis machine to clean the blood in the unit, the administration of a course of antioxidants, and the use of soft classical or “easy listening” music.

Classical music, not all, but most of it, is very helpful because of the ensembles of stringed instruments. Sound complexity is very important.  A good symphony orchestra has so many violins and cellos going that there is much more stimulation to the processor membranes than with the heavy metal. But most importantly, the music is structured better, so you don’t get any build up of free radicals. Waltzes are the best.

Stay away from Beethoven, though, it’s a short step from that to heavy metal. And definitely no Wagner.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact the service department at Hell Computers!