The Intelligence Machine
by Rod Hamon
|part 2 of 3|
Then calmness, serenity and finally peace. There was no more pain. I breathed in deeply, glad to be alive.
I heard a click from the speaker, then Dmitri’s croaky voice. “The brain scan indicates severe obstructions to your neural pathways.”
Obstructions, what’s he talking about?
Dmitri picked up my thoughts. “It appears to be the result of some childhood trauma.”
“I think I understand,” I replied.
A new message appeared on the monitor, “Removal of obstructions to commence — one minute.” I waited for the pain that was sure to follow.
Suddenly, it seemed that my entire consciousness was being sucked into a vortex that delved deeper and deeper into my past. Familiar images appeared.
I am now aged seven and reliving my childhood: every fear, emotion, and pain inflicted on me. My tearful mother is beating me, my father urging her on. When I go to bed that night, I’m determined not to wet the bed, but the next morning I know my agony will start again.
A new image appeared. I’m now nine and at school. Children taunt me. I keep to myself; I’m sensitive and cry easily. They enjoy bullying me; my reaction always predictable. I am so gullible.
More traumas passed through my consciousness and although each memory brought renewed pain, I felt a sense of relief. It was as if a heavy burden was gradually being lifted from me.
* * *
I returned to the present, realizing I was still trapped in the cubicle.
Dmitri spoke again. “Now that’s over, we can begin to unleash your real mental powers.”
I was confused but said nothing.
“The next stage will take longer, but you will feel no ill effects.”
I shouted. “There’s only one thing that’ll make me feel better — that’s getting out of here!”
“Sorry, Martin, that is not possible.” Then, in a matter of fact voice, he added, “You will be unable to contact me for a while. I have business elsewhere.”
* * *
My ability to think was noticeably easier now. I felt relaxed. Although I could still recall the events of my childhood, I felt somehow disconnected from it. However, this relief didn’t lessen my predicament: I was still totally under Dmitri’s control.
I gazed at the monitor and searched for patterns in the numbers as they scrolled across the screen. My thoughts returned to the math problem I’d been working on. Suddenly, in a flash and without effort, the solution came to me: so obvious and so truly beautiful in its simplicity.
Amazed, I basked in my success. This problem has confounded mathematicians for centuries and I’ve solved it! My elation was short lived; like a sickening blow to the head, the reality of my predicament returned again.
I remembered that Dmitri had said that his previous assistant had decided not to continue and wondered why. How did he get away? Perhaps he didn’t escape, maybe he died. I was surer than ever that I had to find a way of escape.
I studied the interior of the cubicle again, moving my eyes from side to side and up and down and, for the first time, I began to gain some understanding of the equipment, including the purpose of the various cables. Nevertheless, the purpose of the two gray wires leading to some device just beyond my vision confused me. Although I couldn’t be sure, it seemed likely that these wires were part of some mechanism to prevent my escape — possibly an explosive device.
I gazed at the numbers streaming endlessly across the monitor, convinced that they were the electronic pulses going to and forth from my brain. I thought, If Dmitri’s theories are right, then these pulses are reconfiguring the structure of my mind and increasing my intelligence.
It was then that I noticed that the harder I looked at the monitor, the faster the numbers moved. Of course, since these pulses come from my own brain, I can influence them. With my mental powers focused on the monitor, I managed to speed up the enhancement process.
My brain continued to transform and so did its control over my body. By selecting each muscle and focusing on contracting and relaxing them, I developed significant improvements in my muscular coordination; I also felt it in my strong pulse.
If I can speed up this process, I may complete it before Dmitri returns, I thought.
That was the instant that I realized I had developed the ability to focus my mind on two or more complex tasks simultaneously. My entire thinking was more rapid and intuitive.
I wondered how high my IQ was now. My abilities were clearly beyond anything I had ever imagined. For example, with minimal effort, I could recall the words of every book, magazine and newspaper I’d ever read. I was also amused by the childish way textbook authors had laboriously explained principles that were really so simple.
My thoughts delved into an introspective analysis of the workings of my mind: examining the mechanism of my thinking, my real motives, my desires, and my ambitions. I recognized the nuances behind every decision, the undercurrents of greed, aggression, and self-gratification that influenced my actions. Again, I questioned my sanity, but somehow I was comforted by what I believed was the moral basis for my motivations.
I remember thinking, If this progress continues, my abilities will be limitless. I’ll be able to demystify the complexities of every branch of science: physics and cosmology. Then, depression struck again. These skills are useless if I remained trapped here. I must make a plan to escape before Dmitri returns.
Just as an idea was forming I heard a sound. It’s too late! He’s back! I knew I must prevent Dmitri from knowing that I’d sped up the mental enhancement process, so I relaxed my concentration on the monitor. The rapidly changing data slowed down to the rate it had been prior to his departure.
He peered through the window. “I must have been away longer than I thought: look at the progress you have made.”
He walked to the other cubicle, opened the door, and climbed in. His croaky voice came over the speakers. “Can you hear me, Martin?” His breathing was labored and noisy, his heartbeat rapid. It was obvious, as never before, that his body was frail and struggling to cope with even the smallest activity.
“It is now time for me to benefit from your increased intelligence,” he said and then paused to regain his breath. “I could say, Martin, that I am sorry to use you in this way, but I would be lying.”
“What d’you mean?”
“I mean, Martin, that I will be downloading your entire mental resources into my own brain. Maybe you think that immoral, but that’s life: cruel and selfish. Superior intellect means mastery, they say.”
Fear enveloped me as, in horror, I noticed changes to the data displayed on the monitor: increased heart rate, elevated stress levels, deeper breathing, and skyrocketing blood pressure.
I knew I must do something. Come on! Think! Think!
But it was too late — the assault on my brain had begun... numbness. The monitor went blank. Has my life-support system stopped? Will I die now?
* * *
For a while, I was unaware of what was happening to me. Then, as if a heavy burden had been lifted, I felt relaxed but disinterested and resigned to accept my fate: like a drowning man despairing of rescue. Let’s just get this over with; it’s easier that way. Why fight it? Although the very essence of my conscious being was being sucked out of me and transferred to Dmitri, I didn’t care.
However, a feeble voice deep within me cried out for attention, pleading with me to fight this attack. You’ve got to do something! Fight it! You can’t just give in!
I continued to wrestle with these conflicting feelings for some time: one moment I was determined to fight for survival and then I would lapse back into feelings of submission and surrender to my fate.
Then, as if the decision had been made for me, I gathered every fiber of my strength and with the mental equivalent of a scream, I shouted, “Stop!!!”
Suddenly and with a jolt, I was alert again and fully conscious of everything around me.
There was complete silence. Dmitri said nothing, so I called out. Still nothing.
A message appeared on the screen: “Recipient life form expired — program terminated.”
As I was taking in the meaning, new words appeared: “Previous program recommencing.” The stream of numbers on the screen returned. Does this mean that Dmitri is dead and that somehow I’m responsible? But how?
It didn’t take me long to figure out that Dmitri’s plan to regenerate his aging brain had been his downfall: it had struck his frailty like a lightning bolt. While I was relieved to be free of the man who had schemed to kill me, I was nevertheless saddened to have brought about his death.
My thoughts quickly returned to my own predicament. What will happen to me now? How long will this program continue without Dmitri? If the support system fails, I’ll be dead within seconds.
* * *
For hours I waited, listening nervously for some sound or a sign that the system was about to shut down. Then after what seemed like hours I detected that there was someone in the laboratory. First a shadow then a face appeared at my window: the gaunt face of a young man with cold and penetrating eyes.
“You must be Dmitri’s new assistant,” he said without emotion.
“By the way, my name’s Lucas.”
My now highly refined senses enabled me to analyze the intonation of his voice, to interpret his facial expressions, and to detect the microvolt waveforms emitted from his cerebral cortex; I knew for sure this was the assistant I had replaced.
He smiled and said, “Correct.”
“Lucas, whatever you do, don’t try to open the door. There may be an explosive device.”
“Thought he might do something like that, after I got away,” he replied and then added, “And by the way, I have no intention of opening the door for you.”
I was puzzled. Although I knew this man had no intention of helping me, I wondered why he had come here, so I asked, “Do you know where Dmitri’s gone?”
“You know exactly where he’s gone. He’s dead and you killed him!”
His fixed stare worried me: he was clearly trying to read my thoughts again, so I erected a mental defense shield. Lucas brought his face closer to the window and smiled broadly: a cruel smile. He paused before speaking. “We both know there’s only room for one of us in this world, don’t we? With the intelligence we possess, the universe is ours to do with as we want — but I have no intention of sharing it with you.”
“So, what do you intend to do?” I asked.
That cruel smile returned. “Nothing! Absolutely nothing! I’m out here, and you’re locked in there. The systems that are keeping you alive will cease soon. Then you’ll be dead!” He added, “But, of course, in the unlikely event that you do figure a way out, I will know instantly.”
I considered appealing to his better nature, but it was obvious he didn’t have one.
“It was nice to have met you. Martin, isn’t it?” Lucas disappeared from my vision.
So, that’s why he came here. He found out he had a competitor and wanted to size me up.
* * *
Although I was in a race against time, I was still benefiting from Dmitri’s machine: my intelligence continued to improve. At about this time, my new intelligence had its first success. After some probing, I discovered that Dmitri had installed a safeguard in case of an emergency. If I had attempted to do anything against his wishes while he was away from the lab, the safeguard mechanism would have automatically sent an alert to his cell phone.
After some investigation, I gained access to his phone by modifying certain cabling within my cubicle. No one answered, of course, but I was able to download his phone contacts. Penetrating his computer encryption was easy.
Ideas were now coming quickly.
Among Dmitri’s contacts, I discovered a computer technician, Chad, a young man with financial problems caused by gambling. I called him. As soon as I mentioned money, I got his attention. Using phone banking, I transferred $1,000 to his account and promised more if he could come to the lab immediately. Half an hour later, I sensed that he was close.
An eager face appeared at my window. His disheveled hair made me smile: he fitted the profile exactly.
“Leave it to me,” he said. “Soon have you out of there.”
“Not so fast! You have to disarm the explosive device that is wired to the door mechanism first.”
His face disappeared from my window and soon I could hear his fingers pounding the keyboard and pictured him bent over the laboratory computer, his face inches from the screen.
“I think I’m getting it... Yes, that’s it... It should be disarmed any time now... No, that won’t work.” The tapping sound resumed. “That’s it... Got it. I’ll try opening the door... Wait! There’s something else here... That’s clever.” There was a lengthy delay; then, with excitement in his voice, I heard, “OK, got it!”
I breathed in and out deeply as the door swung gently open. At the same time, the restraints that had held me so rigidly were released. Chad stood before me, grinning.
I wiped the perspiration from my brow as I stepped out, my legs shaking. I smiled. “You’re good, very good.”
“Glad to be of help,” he replied, then reminded me about the additional money and left. It was now essential that I go into hiding before Lucas had time to react to my escape.
* * *
Copyright © 2012 by Rod Hamon