Bewildering Stories

Observation One
began in issue 122.
Chapter 5 appears
  in issue 124.

Observation One:
Singing of promises ...

by Michael E. Lloyd

Chapter 6: Missioning Sphere

Lay down and slumber
Mama’s boy is torn asunder
All the fields have gone grey
All the leaves are gone brown ...

Toni? ... Are you rested now? ... Toni ...?

‘I do feel a little more alert, thank you, Quo. I must have had a long, deep sleep.’

Only half an hour.

‘Was Paula trying to phone me?’

Do not worry about Paula, Toni. Paula is fine.

‘Oh ... that’s good. And Carla?’

Carla is still here with us. You know that, don’t you?

‘Yes, of course.’

And your music is still playing.

‘It sustains me, Quo ...’

Toni, I am going to reveal the first great role you can play in our exploration of your world, and tell you how you can meet up with Carla again and come to know her better.

Are you ready for this now?

‘I think so, Quo. But it’s hard to be sure ...’

All is well. Relax and listen carefully ...

Once was a magician ...

Firstly, Toni, the surveyors on the Mater have a very specific mission. They need to conduct, remotely, a high-precision mapping and modelling of your Earth.

But they begin this project with a complete lack of knowledge of your technologies and your scientific rules and standards. And they were not able to learn very much by listening in to your planet’s inscrutable radio emissions as we approached!

He promised us three favors
Said he was a savior ...

So, to get them started — and for one other important reason — we need to take some accurate “fixes” on the surface of the Earth.

However, we cannot achieve the accuracy we need just by monitoring the feedback from the radimote’s audio and visual channels. No, Toni, we need to use the radimote to provide us with some very precise three-dimensional position fixes. I will explain this in a moment.

‘But how can I possibly help you with that?’

Well, once we have taken a fix — and you do not realise it, but you have already seen us do this in Bilbao — we have then “learned” about one specific point on the Earth, in our terms. We know its exact distance from us, its position between your North and South Poles, and its distance around the Earth (we can base this on some point on your Equator that we choose at random at the start of the survey).

But we need to be able to calibrate this data against whatever scheme you use here on Earth. That is how you will be helping us, Toni. You will be taking your own corresponding fix for us. And to ensure the accuracy of our model, we shall need to do this not just once, but three times, in well-separated locations.

Meanwhile, in your role as our Illuminator, you can help us to seek out, in records that must be held on Earth, complete details of the precise locations of thousands of places of interest to us.

Then, after taking just those three sets of matching fixes, we shall be in a position to confidently make an initial model of the entire Earth within our own systems!

‘It sounds very neat, Quo. You make it seem easy and obvious. But I’m no scientist. Is that the simplest way to do it?’

It is, when we know nothing to begin with, and we are thousands of kilometres away! It is like lighting a fire with the spark from a stone. You are that spark, Toni.

By knowing you, we already know a little of your main system of world co-ordinates; lines of Latitude, based on your Equator of course, and circles of Longitude. You have at least recalled that from your schooling!

‘I thought I’d forgotten all about it, Quo. I’ve never done anything with that particular bit of learning!’

You have now.

And we shall soon learn the precise position used to define your own arbitrary reference point. It is “somewhere in London, England” in your recollection. That sets the base on your Equator for the longitude co-ordinates you use to identify any point around the Earth.

As for recording the heights of individual places, we are assuming you use the overall level of your oceans as your reference base ... but I can see that you are not clear on this either. History, as you said, but not Geography!

It does not matter; we shall both soon discover if we are right.

‘Give me another moment to think, Quo ...’

Certainly, Toni.

This is a lullabye ...

‘I wish I could take in everything you’re telling me. It’s all a bit of a mystery ...’

It is not really, Toni. You just suspect that it is. It is like your belief that you cannot draw or paint. That is what you believe, isn’t it?

‘Yes. I’ve never been able to draw. I wish I could. I adore great paintings.’

How do you know you cannot?

‘Because I tried over and over again when I was a child, and I always produced really stupid pictures. People made fun of them. It was very embarrassing.’

So you stopped trying. And nobody showed you how you could really draw well and with ease, did they?

‘No — and I’ve steered clear of it ever since, thank you, Quo!’

It’s all right, Toni. Be calm. If humans are in any way like ourselves, I suspect that some day you will discover how beautifully you can draw, simply by learning how to take control of the insensitive, over-clever part of your brain! Perhaps Carla will be able to teach you, one day ...

But enough of that for now. What I want you to realise is that you really can absorb all that I am about to tell you, with ease, if you will only admit to yourself that you have the capacity to do so. Will you try — for me and for Carla?

‘Quo, you have a way with words. You are very persuasive. I don’t think I would trust you if I met you in a bar and you invited me to join a poker game!

‘But we’re not in a bar, are we? We’re in my living room — and the album has started over again — and we’re also still somewhere else ...’

Toni, you are the perfect mate for Carla in this world. Now listen again ...

Would you like to learn to tango?

The first fix, which Carla the Handler took when your Carla was pretending to finish a phone call, tells us exactly where that table in that Bilbao café is situated on the surface of the Earth, from our point of view and using our measuring tools.

Very soon, we shall ask you to establish for us the location of that particular point, in terms of your own system of latitude and longitude co-ordinates. That will then allow us to calculate where your base longitude line is located; “somewhere in London”, as you have revealed.

‘How can I do that?’

Your harmony’s an open breeze
into my sheltered home ...

Ah, you are still ignoring the knowledge you hold inside and have shared with us!

Your Global Positioning System uses many satellites which have been placed in orbit around the Earth for the purpose of providing that information. And you, Toni, can use a simple device to establish your position via those satellites, precisely as we need you to.

You actually know all this already ... you have read of it in newspapers, and some of your friends possess such items. If you did not know of this, then we could not know it too. But you are simply not exploiting that knowledge actively.

‘All right, Quo — I give in. You obviously know me better than I know myself!’

Well, Toni, that is probably correct, but it is no triumph for me to acknowledge it. Everything you will do with Carla in the days to come will serve to open up your own self-knowledge, and resurrect much that you have learned but temporarily forgotten.

‘That is an attractive prospect, Quo.’

It is indeed ...

So, after you supply us with that first specific position, we shall in principle be able to locate any other place in the world whose co-ordinates we later come to know.

But, as I have said, it is not enough to make just one measurement. There will be minor errors in the accuracy of our own fixes and what you will capture. So, in places distant from Bilbao, we shall both need to measure again. As it happens, Toni, the next place will be Rome. In a few moments, I shall tell you why.

When you arrive there, we shall already be able to predict roughly where you and Carla are located. But then we shall receive further specific fixes from both of you. These will allow us to tune our systems much more finely.

Later, you will both travel again (though we know not where, at this time), and once you have provided us with your final GPS co-ordinates, we shall attempt to predict your position with great accuracy. Then, when Carla confirms this with her final fix, we shall have an extremely high level of confidence in our data, particularly if the three locations form a good wide-angled triangle. Our model and your system will be completely co-ordinated. And your initial task will be complete.

‘But how does Carla transmit these fixes, if she is nothing but ...?’ Toni’s voice trailed off at his recurring realisation of Carla’s virtuality.

Ah, you are alert again; you are back to asking good questions!

I shall need to explain this quite slowly for you. But before I start, are you perhaps a little thirsty? There are some bottles of beer in your parents’ refrigerator, you know ...

‘No, thank you, Quo.’

At the invisible core of the radimote’s image sphere, Toni, there is a great energy store. This is fully charged during that initial downward transmission. It is then kept continuously topped-up via the low-power radio beam coming from the Mater. Any excess energy is normally allowed to leak out of the radimote, completely unnoticed.

When Carla the Handler, in her studio, identifies the correct moment to take a fix, she simply reduces the level of that top-up feed to the radimote. This stops the energy leaking out of the image sphere, and it also causes an immediate switching of the internal flow, releasing much of the energy stored in the capacitor onto the Mater’s input beam in a fraction of a second.

The very high strength of this signal allows us to identify the exact position of the radimote at that instant in time. We see its precise distance from your Poles and from our own selected reference point on the Equator, and we record the time it takes to reach us, which gives us the exact distance to that surface elevation.

‘But doesn’t something like that affect the radimote itself?’

Yes, Toni. Very good thinking.

Each time we trigger a fix, Carla will appear quite exhausted for a short while, until the capacitor’s energy level is back to normal.

But fortunately this is the only situation in which the radimote needs to “generate” a signal of its own. All the other energy flows passing through the radimote — either received directly by it, or reflected back through it — originate from the low-power, disguiseable sources on the Mater ...

Incidentally, Toni ... both Carla and I think the song playing right now is particularly beautiful.

‘It’s called At Seventeen, Quo. It’s peerless. It gives you dreams for free.’

Now, that very high-powered burst of energy from the surface is, as we expected, easily recognised by detection equipment on Earth.

‘So this is another of the risks you have to take ...?’

Exactly, Toni. But we have a strategy to deal with it. A pretence will always be made that the radimote is using some sort of Earth-based signalling equipment. And this needs to be done in full public view, so that there will be witnesses.

This will cause any local investigation to consider it to have been some sort of suspicious human activity, but human activity nonetheless, rather than something “paranormal”, which could be the case if it simply happened out of the blue with no obvious explanation. We do not want to advertise our presence any more than necessary!

So, Toni, we decided yesterday that the radimote should always appear to be talking on a mobile phone, just before each fix transmission takes place.

Unfortunately, in her first attempt at that pretence today, Carla forgot to place the phone to her ear! After so many rehearsals last night! So the waiter thought it was a dictation machine — and then you were dragged into a police hunt which should have been focused from the start on an invisible woman.

‘I didn’t enjoy that at all, Quo.’

I can only apologise again.

That first fixing burst was commanded to be sent at great magnitude, because we could not know how strong it would need to be, to reach us through your atmosphere. We have now been able to carefully measure the signal we received, and we are sure that the energy release was much greater than we actually needed.

So, the next two bursts — in Rome and some other place — can both be at a much lower level than today’s. But they may still be quite noticeable — with the unavoidable risks which that entails.

I’m leaving by night
I’m leaving alone
Leaving it lie
When you waken I’ll be gone ...

‘OK, Quo. But you said there were two reasons for taking these fixes. I think I now understand how your surveyors can use them to start mapping the Earth. What’s the other reason?’

Well, Toni, a radimote can move, or rather can be moved, with great accuracy once this “triangulation of fixes” is completed. Carla the Handler will be using powerful systems which can exploit our developing model of the Earth, and the data we collect from your records, to send your Carla precisely where she wishes her to go. To put it more bluntly, Carla will become less and less dependent on following the sherpa.

‘And I am the sherpa?’

Exactly. We are all heavily reliant upon you in these early days. We know you will not disappoint us. But Carla’s increasing self-sufficiency will liberate you both ... for the good of your missions, and your knowledge of each other.

‘You have an answer for everything, Quo.’

I am doing my best for you. And I know you have two more big questions.

‘Yes, I do. First of all, how do you know so much about me?’

It is very straightforward, Toni. We have simply read all of your memory. This is another use of the Mater’s beams. When Carla knelt before you and reached out to you, apparently to take your head in her hands, she was in reality on the point of embracing your human mind and absorbing it into our own on-board systems.

And they’ll do their best
to keep you from the light ...

We can read your memory using a separate transferral circuit, which we establish just for that purpose, using specialised light sources.

The currents of light are sent down the Mater’s left beam and through the left hand of the radimote. They pass directly through your brain, then into the right hand of the radimote, and back up the other beam. Despite the immense complexity of your mind, it does not take us many of your minutes to read and analyse all that it holds stored.

And when we desire later to update or add to your memory, then the reverse direction is used. Information is sent from the Mater down the right-hand beam, and is stored into your brain. It then emerges through the left-hand beam, and passes back up to the Mater, confirming that the writing of all the new information has taken place successfully ...

‘Something tells me I shouldn’t like what I’ve just heard, Quo!’ Toni interrupted. He was frowning for the first time in hours.

That is a very natural reaction, Toni. But I think you already understand the great benefits that we can all reap from this. In particular, the enrichment that Carla can bring to you ...

‘Yes. I think that’s why I don’t feel particularly concerned — even though I know I should! But ... there’s still this business of the radimote only being made of light ...’

Toni, I give you my word that your fears will soon prove groundless.

Bright lights and promises
A pocket full of dreams ...

‘I have to believe you, Quo.’ Toni was briefly aware again of the sound of his own voice, and was not fully convinced of his own words.

Finally, Toni, reading and writing a subject’s memory uses up a very large amount of the energy in the radimote’s radio beams. So while this is happening, the Handler’s “vision” and “hearing” can be maintained, but no speech is attempted. And most importantly, the radimote often needs to be un-made for the duration of such an engagement. So the whole exercise should normally be done in private, to avoid the shocks to the surrounding population that would be caused by the radimote’s sudden disappearance!

‘All right, Quo. You have very neatly led me to my final question. Carla cannot speak to me at the moment, as you have just pointed out. So how on earth are you able to?’

On earth indeed! You even make bad jokes with style!

I am not speaking, Toni. I do not need to bend the waves of your air. And you know this. You can hear no sound, save that of your treasured music, which will play forever in your heart. You absorb my thoughts directly into your mind, as I pass this knowledge on to you.

Everywhere I hear
a ringing in my ears ...

‘Quo, I think there’s someone trying to phone me again.’

Do not worry. I am certain they will call back soon ...

‘Very well, Quo. I know I must accept all you have told me. But I have not forgotten my original questions — and you have so far ignored two of them ...’

I know this, Toni. You asked: “Why Bilbao?” and “Why me?”

‘That’s right.’

If you will again be patient, and wait until you soon meet up with Carla once more, she will answer those questions for you as well. The second of them, in particular, is very personal for her ... very personal indeed.

‘If this is what you wish, Quo.’

Thank you, Toni.

Now, to be able to take on your mission, you need to see the world as much from our point of view as from yours.

So we have revealed to you, Toni, far more than we shall tell the others. To play your part, you have a need to know all of this; but you will never divulge to anybody the information we have flagged as “secret” in your mind. And you will remember it only for as long as we wish, though most of it will now remain in your subconscious mind.

Overused and much-abused
promises of delight ...

In particular, when you begin your travels, with Carla at your side, you will not recall that she is merely a radimote. You will think of her instead as a maestra of disguise and illusion, who nonetheless needs the regular attentions of her charming assistant. She is and always will be, for you, the beautiful woman you chose to follow from that café.

Carla lives, Toni.

The anxiety and tension that had been steadily rising throughout Toni’s body evaporated in an instant. He grinned again at last.

‘Ah, Quo, that is wonderful news!’

To be continued ...

Copyright © 2003 by Michael E. Lloyd
Lyrics credits and copyrights

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