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The Quantum Connection: Chapter Ten

       Last updated: Wednesday, January 12, 2005 00:14 EST



    When I had gone back to the office the next day Larry gave me a new task that was completely unrelated to the quantum connected computer project. He gave me a Chinese rocket computer operating system and wanted me to learn how to talk to it. It was boring, hum-drum stuff. It wasn’t much harder than Sequencing that old video game that I did for Larry so long ago. I would ask Larry about the project on a daily basis and it seemed to annoy him a bit. He would always tell me that I couldn’t be told anything and that I shouldn’t think about it anymore until the clearance comes through. So, of course, then I would ask, “Well when will my clearance come through?”

    “When it comes, Steven. That’s all I can tell you.”

    “Well, I thought they needed my help with the SuperAgent code?” I would ask.

    “I don’t know any more than you do.” He would fiddle with his tie and then change the subject. He would always seem irked that I wasn’t focused on the current busy work project he had given me.

    So, I worked on reverse engineering some of the most benign devices you could imagine by day and then go home and sit with Lazarus by night. The drugs had begun to diminish in effect against the depression again and occasionally I would wake up and not realize hours had passed. But, good ol’ Lazarus would always be there to help me through it. I would hug him and sob some and tell him that, “He was my buddy.” That seemed to help almost as much as the drugs did.

    Then in a morning depressed haze I would go into work for more run of the mill reverse engineering busy work. I reverse engineered a tank turret control computer, ejection code for a French fighter plane, the reaction control system of a recovered satellite (although I never figured out how the satellite had been recovered), and I was working on a radio jamming device found in North Korea nearly six months later. Don’t get me wrong; some of the work was challenging, but nothing like the reverse engineering of that magical green and orange quantum cube device. The biggest depressing fact was that after more than six months, there was still no clearance.

    One day I was so bored I thought I would go further out of my mind, so I sloughed off work and I went surfing on the Framework instead. My office hook-up wasn’t as fast as at home but I didn’t feel like measuring voltages on a Russian computer motherboard. So I logged on and started to look up that Dr. Who fellow. It didn’t take long for me to figure out the reason that Dr. Daniels had brought him up. That guy was some very old British television character who apparently lives in a phone booth, or whatever the British call it. On the outside it looks like a regular phone booth, but on the inside it is large enough for a very comfortable apartment. It is explained as some sort of space warp or something. Just like the “warped” RAM chips Dr. Daniels’s wife had theorized.

    I was still on the Framework when the phone rang. Finally, Larry called me into his office for a chat; I hoped every time the phone rang that it was about my clearance. This time it was.

    “Steve we need to talk.”

    “Yeah, what about,” I hoped this was it. After all, it had been nearly seven months since we had been to Washington D.C.

    “Sorry Steve but your advanced clearance has been declined,” he said and looked down at his feet for second. My heart fell to my shoes.

    “Why? I mean, I told the truth about everything. I…I…don’t understand, I’m a good American, aren’t I?”

    “Son, nobody really believes otherwise,” he paused, “Except that…” he stopped again.

    “Except what?”

    “Well son, as far as your background investigation is concerned, you just suddenly appeared in Dayton, Ohio at about the age of eighteen. There is no proof that you ever existed before that. No hospital records, not any living witnesses that can say you are the same kid that came out of your mother’s birth canal, nothing. In fact, the only proof to corroborate your life is that your parents tax records can be found and that they paid taxes on a dependent.”

    “So, there you go; I was their dependent.” I argued.

    “No son, there is no evidence that it was you. Oh sure they filed a social security number for you when you were nine, but there are no pictures, no birth certificates, no DNA samples, nothing.”

    “But…but I can’t help that. The Rain killed them! The rain killed them ALL! Don’t you understand? There is nothing I can do about that!” I was frantic.

    “Calm down, Steven! I understand. But you have to understand that this is the perfect approach for a mole or a spy to infiltrate our Nation’s Security. Conveniently all the records were erased and some guy moves in and becomes Steven Montana. How do we know that you were not killed during the meteors? People don’t realize this, because on the surface and in public, the world looks as though it is getting along famously and friendly now. We are all banning together after the disaster and gelling as one race. It looks that way on television, but in the real world espionage and counter-espionage is at an all-time high. The FBI, CIA, and Homeland Defense agents have caught literally hundreds of moles trying to take identities of victims from the meteor disaster.”

    “NO! I am me. I AM ME!”

    “Steven, calm down, son! I know you are you and that you are a good guy. But I can’t prove it. Nobody can. Since you passed the lie detector, you can maintain your current clearance level, but you can’t go any higher and you have to forget anything and everything you heard in D.C.” He pulled a form out of his desk and handed me a pin. “Read this and sign it.”

    I read it. It basically told me that I had never heard of quantum connected CPUs, funny colored cubes that data falls through, Air Force Group W-squared, SuperAgents, and anything else related to that CIA meeting. Then it said that I would suffer penalty of up to life imprisonment if I ever divulged any of it to anybody. “Are you telling me that I never invented my SuperAgent?”

    “Sorry son, your computer has just been confiscated and your machine at home is being cleaned.”

    “What! You can’t do that. I invented it; its mine! Do you hear me? Its mine!”

    “No son, the U.S. Department of Defense paid for it, so it is theirs. This is the way it has to go, Steven.”

    “No, but you don’t understand.” I was still no calmer; “I can’t just not work on it now that I know how to do it. I can’t!”

    “Steven, you can and you will, or you will go to jail. I want you to take a couple of days administrative leave and go home and think this through before you say or do anything harsh. But, you have to sign this form right now.”

    “And what if I don’t?” I defiantly suggested.

    “Steven, don’t do this. If you don’t sign this now, I have to notify DSS and in a matter of minutes there will be a warrant out for your arrest for violation of the National Security Act.”

    I was lost, cornered, screwed, stabbed in the back, and just generally fucked! I grabbed the pen from Larry and signed the form. “Larry, you can go to hell!” I turned and walked through his door and slammed it as hard as my two hundred forty pounds would muster. I heard pictures fall from the wall on the other side and fall to the floor and break with the clash of glass shattering.

    Then I turned back to the door, “I DIDN’T ASK FOR THE GODDAMNED METEORS TO KILL EVERYBODY I KNOW YOU SORRY SON OF A BITCH! YOU CAME TO ME, REMEMBER. I HELPED YOU! I’M A GOOD AMERICAN! ITS NOT FAIR…” Tears were flowing down my cheeks; I turned back toward the hall and rushed out. “It’s not fair,” I cried all the way home. It wasn’t fair goddamnit.

    They stole my SuperAgents. There, I thought about it, you bastards gonna come arrest me? Come on then! “SuperAgents, SuperAgents, SuperAgents, SuperAgents, quantum connected computer, quantum connected computer, SuperAgents,…Fuck you!” I screamed at the windshield and repeated the process several times over all the way home. “I’ll say SuperAgents if I want to, damnit!”

    I got to my apartment and there were cop cars, several black sedans, and an Animal Control vehicle. “Oh my God, Lazarus!” I ran up stairs and there were two cops standing at my door to block my way and I could see men in my apartment tearing it to pieces. There was also blood on the floor.

    “Hold it son. What is your business here?” one of the cops asked.

    “I’m not your son! And I live here. Lazarus, here boy.” I whistled for him and tried to push through the door. The cop that called me his son clubbed me in the head with his nightstick. I zoned out for a second and fell to my knees, but I could still hear.

    “Jesus Tony, what’d you hit him for?” the other cop asked.

    “Hey, you heard the Feds. Nobody gets in until they are done.”

    “Yeah but, did you have to hit him? He’s just worried about his poor dog.”

    I regained full awareness and consciousness a few seconds later. I rose up and the one cop that had clubbed me put his hand on his pistol, “Wait please officer. Please, I don’t want any trouble. I just want to see my dog. Where is he, please, tell me?”

    The other cop stepped in between us and gave his partner a stern look, “Come with me.” He led me downstairs to the Animal Control van. Then nodded to the man leaned up against the back door of the van smoking a cigarette.

    “Open it up Charlie,” the cop told him.

    The man held his cigarette between his lips and opened the door of the van. There was Lazarus. There…was… Lazarus…dead. He was lying there in the van in a black plastic bag. I had to pull the plastic back to look at him. I sobbed deeply and loudly. “Oh my God, Lazarus. Puppy what did they do to you?” I fell to my knees and bawled and hugged the puppy to my head and sobbed some more. It was more than I could take, and it wasn’t fair.

    “WHY! He’s just a dog.” I hugged him harder and cried deeper. “Why did you have to kill him?”

    “Hold it there. I didn’t kill him. The feds had to put him down because he attacked one of them and wouldn’t let go.” The Animal Control man explained and then stamped his cigarette butt out on the ground.

    “Of course he did, you dumbass! They broke into my apartment. He was just protecting our home!” I cried and held him to me. I cried a bit longer and then stood up. I pulled the bag out of the van and held its dead weight to my chest. “You can’t have him. He’s my dog…my friend… my… only family. I’m gonna take him home and bury him.”

    “Sorry son, city ordinance says we have to take him and dispose of his body safely.” The cop told me.

    “No! He’s my dog. I want to bury him with the rest of my family.”

    “Sorry about all this, I have a dog too,” the cop said. Then he sounded sincere, “I would be upset if some jerk shot my dog. Where is your vehicle?” He asked me.

    “That SUV over there in the parking lot.” I pointed to it.

    “Go.” He turned and walked away.

    “Hey wait a minute…” The Animal Control officer started to protest, but I looked at him in such a way so that he would know he was going to die if he said another word.

    Laz and I got in the SUV and drove home, as close to Bakersfield, California as we could get. It took two days and I cried and cursed and cried and cursed and cursed and cried all the way. I only stopped for gas and caffeine. I seldom ate. We had to take the long way since the interstates through both Cheyenne and Denver were gone from the first big impact of The Rain. We had to go way south and cut across below the southern border of Colorado. It added significant time to the drive. It didn’t matter though, because I was numb and nothing was going to stop me. Poor Lazarus. I wish I had never met that damned Larry Waterford and his piece of shit ancient game console. Poor Lazarus, I loved him so much…

    The clean-up crews that worked night and day after The Rain had made it inside the blast circumference about fifty miles, and the public was only allowed inward about forty miles. The roadside was covered with funeral bouquets and memorabilia and personal belongings of lost loved ones. Occasionally I would pass a few people on side of the road replacing a memorial symbol or decoration. Sometimes the people on the side of the road would just be sitting there, perhaps to feel close to all that they had lost. I understood what they were feeling.

    I went as far as I could go down the public road before I had to turn off the main construction road to a side trail. Fortunately I had bought the four-wheel drive SUV. I finally reached a point that I decided was as far as I could go inward and stopped in a small valley area. It looked like desert terrain with scrub brush growing here and there. There was rubble and debris strewn about, but the rubble was mostly covered by three and a half years of blown sand and desert overgrowth. It would have to do since I couldn’t get any further in.

    I carried Lazarus in my arms a good hundred meters from the trail end where I stopped the SUV and sat him down. I put together the little army shovel that I had picked up along the way and started digging. I dug for hours it seemed like, but I wanted to make sure that the hole was so deep that no scavengers would dig him up.

    “I love you, Lazarus,” I cried and sniffled. “You were the best friend I ever could have.” I covered him, crying the entire time. I packed down the spot good, stood up, and stuck the shovel in the ground for a head stone. I reached in my pocket and pulled out my bottle of “happy pills” and popped the top off of them.

    “I ain’t gonna cry no more buddy. It’s just me now. Oh God I miss you so much!” I sniffled and turned the bottle up and drank about four or five of the pills. “I ain’t gonna cry no more.” I took another two pills just for the hell of it and then stumbled back toward the SUV. “So long Lazarus ol’ buddy, I love you so much. God, if you’re up there, then you suck for letting this happen to such a sweet creature like Lazarus. I’ll miss you forever, Lazarus ol’ buddy…”

    I sat down in the SUV and turned on the air conditioner and chased down four more pills with some coke that was beginning to get warm bottled up and sitting in the front seat. I tried to stop crying, but I just couldn’t, I felt as though I needed to cry. I felt like dying wouldn’t even make the hurt stop. So I took another two pills. Maybe thirty minutes went by with me just sitting there staring out the window at Laz’s grave and bawling. Finally, the crying turned to light sobbing, and then a few more minutes later to just a frown with a sniffle here and there. Then I was beginning to feel a little more rational. Jesus, I had driven across the country in two days with my poor dead buddy. There was a slight red bloodstain on the passenger seat where I had put Lazarus’s body. Something in me had to bring him home to bury him with my past.

    Before I left Dayton with Lazarus’s body I had nearly committed something akin to treason. Was I thinking rationally? I don’t know, but I was at least beginning to think now. I was beginning to realize what I had done, but I had no regrets and I felt I was in the right. I had been royally screwed. My sadness was becoming anger. I was becoming more and more awake and so I started driving toward home. I was pissed off at what had been done to me and…to Laz.

    I had been up for two days straight and was now very much wide-awake and my heart was racing. Then, on top of the anger, rationality hit me a little harder; did I take too many pills? My heart was racing wildly and I didn’t recall exactly how many pills I had swallowed. It was such a long trip and my mind was so cluttered with grief and anger and loss I hadn’t paid attention to the number of pills I had taken. I’m a big guy and have developed quite a tolerance to the happy pills. After all, I had been taking the drug for a long time, but how many of them did I take anyway? I couldn’t recall exactly and my heart continued to race and my head was beginning to hurt as though my blood pressure was through the roof -- but I kept on driving toward Dayton. Soon, I started to feel numb all over. There was a bright flash of light in my eyes and I started to tunnel out. I was only out for a second -- or so I thought.

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