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Bewildering Stories

Richard Thieme, Mobius: a Memoir


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Mobius: a Memoir
Author: Richard Thieme
Publisher: ?
Date: ?
Length: ?


Mobius: A Memoir is a 105,000 word novel laced with the literal truth, a truth that could not be told in any other way. Mobius — a code name — recounts the arc of his career as an intelligence professional and his personal relationship with Penny, his former lover and friend of 37 years.

It is about a spy but it is not a typical “spy novel”; it is “literary,” but it is not a “literary novel.” It is also, in a fun-house mirror sort of way, a love story of Mobius and Penny, but it is definitely not a “romance.” It is a psychological/political/spiritual study of the impact of a life of deception and professional intelligence work which culminates in Mobius’ breakdown after he is transferred to a team to conduct “harsh interrogation” after 9/11.

His self-confrontation during torture leads to a decision to confess to Penny who and what he really is after maintaining a false identity for decades and to tell the world as a whistleblower what was done under the cover of fighting terror. Is honesty really the best policy? The reader is left to judge.

Welcome to My World

Recruitment to an agency does not just happen to happen. Nothing just happens to happen. Someone decides something should happen, then there are meetings to decide how to do it, then people leave the room and execute the plan. It's not a conspiracy, it's how humans work. We meet, we decide what to do, then we do it. It's only called a conspiracy when we want to ridicule, disparage, and invalidate those describing what we do.

Recruitment means there is a door and someone must move from the outside through the door into a room inside. There is a conversation at the door and that's the last you'll see of a guy (consider the term generic please). He makes a decision and so does the other guy and if they agree, he goes through the door. Once inside, you learn there are a thousand doors, and a conversation that leads up to each one, and the gatekeepers decide again and again, often on Kafkaesque criteria, whether someone keeps moving through the doors and which ones. The doors constitute a maze, in a way, depending on which ones open and which ones stay closed. It's like a computer program in a way with millions of lines of code. There are thousands and thousands of doors or logic gates so there are billions of permutations and combinations of paths through the mazes. Every person, in a way, builds their own maze by how they behave, how well they play the game and open the doors they hope will lead to other doors at a higher level. And everyone hopes, don't think they don't, they'll find a few easter eggs now and then along the way.

You can watch someone being invited to the door, you can watch them go up to the door, not everyone goes in, some turn around and return to the everyday, you can see a conversation taking place, but you can't hear it, and if you could, you wouldn't understand what was said as it took me a bit to get what Professor Lessing was talking about, it would be like the elevator ride I happened to take yesterday when two Swedes began conversing in their native language and I had no idea what they said. I asked what language they were speaking and one said guess. I guessed Arabic, and the other said, no, it's Swedish. Oh, I said, as if that explained something. For all I know, you see, it might have been Arabic and not Swedish at all. Anyway, I was saying, after the conversation, someone disappears through the door and you never hear from them again. That's a price we pay (there are others, you will learn) for special status and the privileges that come with it. No one knows at that point they are selling their soul.

My back story was not unusual. I attended a very liberal college in Ohio that was associated in the public mind with leftist ideology - preventing right-wingers from speaking, obsessing over triggers, creating safe spaces when someone was offended (and someone was always offended), recruiting a student body as diverse as an algorithm could enable without lowering standards too much. They had fallen on hard times not long before and money flowed in from some anonymous donor (this is one mark of how we turn a school into a mostly-owned proprietary, a "center of excellence"). The moderate size of the campus allowed for several years of scrutiny, everything about me was out in the open - my talents and gifts, my academic success, my interactions with other students, professors, even maids and janitors, my sexual proclivities, my online life, how often I got drunk or smoked pot. I didn't know about that, then, of course, I thought I was just living my life. I was not yet conscious of how everything we say, every move we make, communicates who we are, and when those details are mined for patterns, we are known by others better than we can ever know ourselves. I was not yet aware that someone is always watching, and gathering the data, and mining it for profit. Now that I am on the other side, it surprises me that I hadn't guessed, but then - we don't know what we don't know, and the liberal tilt of the campus which made identification as a recruitment spot counterintuitive, the absence of overt links, the use of assets who did not have to depart from their roles and would operate on our behalf for pay or a junket to a conference, or because they were patriots - that's one more example of what I now know, that things are seldom what they seem. Professor Lessing never stopped being a professor. He was simply dual use. The complexity of modern life, systems within systems within systems, more knowledge or information or data generated than anyone can monitor or master, makes any single event hard to understand, and when its appearance is designed to mesh seamlessly with what people expect, it disappears into the familiar. We need relationship to understand context and meaning. When something is important to keep secret it is layered in cover stories, each more or less true enough to be plausible but not the whole Big Story. If people penetrate the wilderness of mirrors sufficiently to know that they don't know, they know they don't know but don't know what they don't know, so the cognitive dissonance grows without resolution and they turn to watching professional sports or become consumers of “news” or create drama in their lives by having affairs or doing drugs or pursue other distractions.

We are not amateurs, you know. We do this for a living. Our resources when we want to hide or protect an event, an event-scene, a scenario, are so far beyond the comprehension of the hump, it doesn't even pop into a humpling's head. And if it does and he starts nosing and noising about, we call him “a conspiracy theorist” and ridicule the poor bastard until no one pays attention to his ravings. Competing narratives will be advanced through doors we quietly open and his will hit the wall. Competitors too will advance through doors we quietly open while he will hit a lot of walls, one after the other, and wonders why his nose hurts.

Illusion, distraction ... and above all, ridicule ... these are the legs of the stool of deception. But the greatest of these is ridicule.

Anyway, Dr. Lessing asked me to stop by his office during my senior year, I had taken two courses from him, one in Nietzsche (loved it) and one an intro to philosophy (tedious at best) which had too much Locke and Kant and not enough Jameson, Lyotard or Derrida. I had As in both, of course, I had all As for four years, except for one damn C in labor economics (I had counted on an interview with Paul Durst, a former wobbly, to get me over the hump, but Fowler didn't see it that way). Lessing was a classic, he even wore a tweed jacket and smoked a pipe, reinforcing his image as an old school academic whose liberalism derived from parents who had joined John Reed clubs in the 30s. The milk he was fed was infused with hatred of HUAC and the black list and McCarthy and Roy Cohn and J. Edgar Hoover and Cointelpro and he spoke of them with anger long after they were historical events removed from accountability by distance and time, replaced by other bogey men and sometimes real enemies.

He asked a few questions - how was I doing, was I still dating that girl Penelope what-was-her-name (Penelope, Penelope something) from Des Moines - he had gotten a bachelor's degree at Drake before transferring to the University of Chicago for his Ph. D. so mention of Iowa perked him up - before he asked if I had thought about a career and what I might do after graduation. He didn't pay attention to my answer, he listened politely and nodded but already had his next question ready, had I considered government service, but of a special kind, a unique kind really, that would use my skills to the max and which promised adventure and a unique career trajectory over the decades, doing important work in defense of not only the nation but our very way of life? Well, sure, I said. Why not?

That's how easily a fork in the road becomes a single path. The only path. Then he said what he really meant in terms I could understand - it's a beautiful beach, the water is perfect, come on in - and offered to introduce me to a next-level recruiter, which he subsequently did. That was Neil Bynum, or so he said his name was at the time, I never learned his real name. As far as Lessing was concerned, that was the end of his role in the process. He was a spotter and when he saw someone who seemed to fit, he angled them into the next conversation and left the room, never asking how it went. But he often knew how it went, when a promising student about whom one expected to hear good things in the future was in fact never heard from again. Never had a facebook page or a twitter account or photos on instagram. Never used a cell phone one could trace. Some figured out what I did later, guessing wrong as to the organizations (most folks only know the names of one or two and when you work at several as I did, they get confused). It can take several dimensions to plot a single dot in spacetime (a location, an identity) so without the right parameters, the point of view is distorted. Then the logical conclusion to which one is led is askew, plausible but incorrect. (One of my favorite strategies is an inference attack, changing the syllogistic steps one follows, bending the trajectory like a stick seen in water, a parallax view, so people get off track, swallowing the bait and even doing our work for us, embedding links and references online to what they accept as fact, citing them in journals, social media, creating through redundancy an illusion of deep and well-dispersed support. Like Bill Arkin's fun book purporting to reveal cover names, but swallowing so many covers instead.) (Once when the development officer from my former college was raising funds and tried to contact me, she asked why she had to jump through so many hoops, not only with me but with some other alum, having to use some kind of weird code, then waiting for a call back from an unidentifiable number. Like she had a number for this alumna named Berenice Edelson and called three times, and each time someone different answered, one said no one was there by that name, another said it was an answering service, and one said Edelson was out but would call back and never did. I laughed and said, boy, I have no idea, something about technology this or that, the way they built the network, I used arcane technical terms, mentioned legacy systems, talked about add-ons for security, privacy, concern for the body politic, went off on a tangent about the fourth amendment, DARPA, giving the hapless woman explanations that fuzzed the conversation and made her change the subject herself, as if she did it of her own free will. She never did find Edelson, who had left that name behind long before. (I knew her as Jennifer Bartlin).

Rule of thumb: in situations like that, tailor your statements to the consensus reality in which someone lives, what they believe. That way, a false statement is never noticed - you can't see deer in the woods unless they move. So make sure nothing moves.

I was saying, at any rate, though, that the transition for me was relatively easy, in one way, because in my head or my heart, pick one, I already lived as they told me I had to live, once I had clearances, adopting practices reinforced with carrots (advancement, opportunities for travel and adventure, meaningful accomplishments, material rewards, positive reinforcement from colleagues, as well as the positive reinforcement that paradoxically results from keeping secrets, a smug smile inside one's own head) and the threat of sticks (termination, disgrace, shame for the family, loss of a pension, prison) when I moved up to SCI compartments.

In short, I knew how to keep secrets. I lived clandestinely by default. Growing up in the family that I did, how could I not? How could I not have learned to disassociate, to compartmentalize pangs of conscience when I did something “wrong” (the definition of “wrong” is a moving target, changing throughout our lives, but somehow always rooted in childhood transgressions)? How could I not have become hypervigilent early in life, wary of trusting anyone who wanted to engage with me, defenses ever ready which over time became more subtle and sophisticated? How could I not, with the help of the brain's famed plasticity, not grow longer and longer antennae to extend into the world from more and more neurons, dense with complexity until on a scan they look like an impenetrable thicket, the way the blind develop enhanced sensitivity in fingertips when they learn Braille, to detect changes in the environment that signaled a storm was coming, an early-warning system that grew more and more subtle until my intuition bordered on or even passed over into the psychic realm? How could I not have become empathetic, once I knew that empathy and compassion were powerful means of manipulation and control?

Our childhoods determine the paths we take, don't they? The choices we make unconsciously, the work we fall into seemingly by happenstance? The exclusion of all those roads not taken (N minus 1) because we don't see them? The context for perceiving and seeing and the things we think about and those we don't, what we think is really real, that all emerges in those early years, a context for life that determines the content of our lives. We learn to tell ourselves stories about ourselves and our families so we can live with ourselves (and our families), and we don't realize it until much later in life.

My mother never remarried after my father dropped dead when I was two years old. Resentment at his hard-headed Slavic/Germanic refusal to buy term insurance that would be effective until his fiftieth birthday was the subtext of our family life. The insurance agent begged him to buy term until he was fifty when his large whole life policy would go into effect. In the meantime, the agent said over and over again, you'll be fully covered and your family will be taken care of, regardless of what happens. It's not expensive and buys peace of mind. Peace of mind my ass, Dad is said to have said, his anger, fueled by too many martinis at lunch, ramped up every time the agent suggested that plan. My father suffered fools poorly, and anyone who tried to tell him he was wrong was a fool (apple:tree, apple:tree). Goddamn it, he said, his face flushed (I imagine) and his eyes flashing with rage, you write the policy the way I tell you or I'll find an agent who will.

The agent gave up. He wrapped up the sale and was on his way.

So when my father dropped dead less than a year shy of his fiftieth birthday, there was nothing, nothing at all between my mother and the challenge of raising me. No money. No cushion. She had been my father's executive secretary and they had an affair that led to his divorce from his first wife (“She was crazy,” my mother said. “No wonder he wanted to leave. Who wouldn't?” - leaving untouched the reason he married her in the first place) My mother returned to the only work she knew, the only work available in those days to most women, back in that office. She was an independent woman at heart but one generation too soon to have support from “the sisterhood.” She would have made a terrific feminist, too, having all of the prerequisites - aggressiveness, courage, a rejection of mores and norms of the past, a refusal to knuckle under - and she reaped the emotional consequences, disparagement by many, exhaustion at the end of long days, an increasingly brittle set of responses to whatever life brought, an inability to swing with the cycles of life. She coped by obtaining medication from the doctor who lived upstairs, a friend of the family, “Happy” we called him, although he seldom was, and she took downers to go to sleep, then uppers to wake up. Over the years the drug-induced yoyoing frayed the edges of her psyche and exposed the vulnerability of her humanity. She worked at K and K Brass and Bronze Ingots, the foundry and offices in the middle of blight on the far south side, until cervical cancer quietly arrived, a stealthy invasion unnoticed at first, and when it caused serious bleeding, it so frightened her that she didn't tell a doctor until it was too late. Did her multiple partners contribute to the onset of that disease? I can only guess. Probably, is all I can think. Regardless of the cause, she descended into a living hell for two years until she died in her fifties, a disintegrated soul, losing eighty pounds and her mind along the way, and sent me into the world, grieving and depressed and unready, at the age of seventeen.

I remember trying to make it down the hospital corridor to the elevator when they came to remove the radioactive packing from her womb. “You don't want to be here when we do this,” the doctor said. The elevator light was on, the elevator was coming, it was coming, come on come on I remember thinking, but it stopped at other floors and had not yet arrived when her screams echoed down the hallway, penetrating my skull and enhancing my sense of helplessness in the face of the horrors of the world, another factor that made me suitable to the work, suggesting that evil was real and instilling instead of suicidal despair an ability, a willingness, a necessity to punch back at reality, however frightening, however futile the fight. ("Oh yeah? Well, I'll show you.")

I was armed for combat with a great imagination, developed through reading and watching television when I returned from school to an empty apartment, and I had a great vocabulary, a gift of seeing clearly and saying clearly what I saw, a gift the world sometimes praised but did not reward. People as a rule told me more or less politely to shut the fuck up. And guilt for things done and left undone honed my conscience with a keen edge, inflecting my sensibility into a moral dimension, acknowledged if not always followed, another fact that worked beautifully in my work. Believing we were good guys doing good guy things provided a lot of wiggle room for the dubious things we really did. If a conscience was awakened after a major cluster-fuck, we simply returned to the trough for another ladle of patriotism. The moral laws of the universe and the waving of the flag fused. Everything in the environment told us that we were doing the right thing, and as Woody Allen said in Crimes and Misdemeanors (and he should know), humans can live with anything, after a bit of time. In retrospect, it might have been predictable that the conflict in my soul, after years in the work, ripened in the way it did, but it could have gone either way. But one way it did go, and not the other, and late one autumn afternoon, the world inside my head became very very still, the voice that is always chattering was still, the song I was always humming inside my mind was quiet, I tried to stand up at my desk and felt for the chair when my legs buckled and they told me later I was removed from the office on a gurney, and I woke up in our clinic with an IV drip and machinery clicking and beeping and a shrink, once they ruled out physical causes, eager to find out what was going on.

Not so he could help me so much as let my bosses know how damaged I might be so they could decide if I was safe for the job or not. And the job was what I had, the work filled my life with purpose. It all grew naturally from way back when, when I simply wanted to know what was going on. I wanted to know what was real. It sounds so simple and innocent, right?

As I grew up, I often heard my mother whispering. The telephone would ring - it was a black rotary dial phone with a coiled black cord - and she would sit on the bench in the hallway of our apartment turned toward the wall and whispering into the mouthpiece. Secrets. She had secrets. What was that all about? An inquiring mind wanted to know. I was anxious enough, anyway, and the whispering intensified my anxiety even more. I handled it by becoming a need-to-know machine. I needed to square the circle whenever there was a real or imagined threat to my well-being (and how can we tell the difference? that's why we shoot first and ask questions later), I needed to create a coherent narrative that alleviated dissonance and calmed my thumping heart. That resolution was only for a moment - my anxiety was like a bird clutching a branch and when it released one branch, it fluttered in the air for a moment, but only for the moment, before grasping another. The object of anxiety seemed to be arbitrary, a matter of availability. The need to know became a drive to build complex structures for understanding, to gather more data to integrate into a tentative hypothesis. What began as a need to control became a way of life, driven by curiosity, the relentless need to connect with others, know what was real, understand the whole shebang. Become a node in a larger and larger network.

My thinking is, as a result, some say, “out of the box,” but I know I merely make a little bit bigger box than the one in which others live. We are built to live in boxes. My littler box was, what are the whispers about? The bigger box would contain the answer. I asked for and received a Webcor reel-to-reel recorder for my twelfth birthday. The seven inch reels were huge. I said I wanted to record music from the radio. I made scratchy tapes directly from the speaker. Once that scenario was accepted, my first real cover story, I took a bus downtown and transferred to a Washington Avenue bus to go a few miles to Western Avenue where Allied Radio was located. Before Radio Shack, Allied was a mecca. I bought an induction coil to plug into my recorder, hid the recorder under the bed in which my mother slept, added a voice-activated link, adhered the coil to the bottom of the extension phone on her bedside table, and turned it on. Every time the telephone rang, the conversations were recorded. So I learned what my mother was doing, which is what she knew how to do (a useful thing to know in my work, that humans are predictable and one thing does as a rule lead to another) and she had serial affairs with married men from her office - there were only married men, after all, at the office, so what was she do? Meat markets were not the thing then, and she could not do easily in a northern city where she might be known what she did when she went to Miami Beach for vacations, sit in hotel lobbies and engage men with bursts of loud laughter and predatory energy that scared off more than a few but captured a couple. So that was how I learned what the whispering was about. My anxiety about the unknown diminished, my anxiety about sexuality increased - I was jealous of those men who I learned later patrolled the street outside our apartment, waiting for a signal that I had left, then bounded up the stairs; one time I had not in fact left, and Leonard, one of the VPs, thought I had and knocked on the door, and when I opened it he actually took a giant step back and his eyes widened like cartoon eyes that looked like saucers - and I added a brick or two to my foundational understanding of how the world worked. But I couldn't tell anyone. Keeping secrets and covering up became second nature. Besides, Leonard and his wife Helen had us to Thanksgiving dinner every year, and I couldn't jeopardize that. My mother measured her status by invitations to dinners out. The invitations did stop, of course, a few years later, when Helen learned about the affair. I asked why we weren't going there for dinner, the first time it happened, although I had guessed, and my mother said something about someone was ill and this or that. In my house, lies hung in the air like smoke after a wild fire, making it hard to breathe. Nothing important was ever discussed. Nothing real made its way into our conversations.

So keeping secrets was easy. People who talked too much scrubbed out during training. After working for a few years, it became clear to me that I wasn't the only one who grew up as I had (spellcheck corrected “only” to “lonely” but it's early to talk about that). A lot of us came from families where we learned to not tell, not feel, not trust. I never did a formal study but I believe a large proportion of the cowboy side of the organization consists of people from backgrounds that some call “dysfunctional.” We prefer to call it an adaptation rather than a diagnosis. Like ADHD and knowing how to multitask, juggling six screens on monitors at once and keeping the math straight, is a talent, not a symptom. Being high on the spectrum is a gift, not an illness. Many of us resist the attempts of the hump to cure us of our gifts. Those gifts are what we love about ourselves.

The rush we get in our best moments at work can be better than sex, depending on the rush and depending on the sex. To become an insider is to be initiated into a tribe of elites. We were allowed to pass go no matter what and collect two hundred dollars. We had get out of jail free cards that never expired. We were given permission to break the laws of every country in the world except our own, although now, that prohibition too has become a slippery slope, because laws that had seemed clear became quavery, as if we saw them on a hot summer's day above the heat of the pavement, and now they have disappeared, leaving only a footnote or two behind in some legal journal. “Foreign” and “domestic” have ceased to be meaningful distinctions, like “natural” and “artificial”. We revised our understanding of laws to make our behaviors lawful. We rewrote our understanding of the Constitution to make our behaviors defeat any challenge in the high court. We invented other courts as well that worked in the dark but sometimes we had to ignore them, like when we really really wanted to carry out a mission. Forgiveness, not permission, was the norm. We rewrote the rules, in other words, by which we all live - and when blowback began to suggest we had failed to take into account the multiple feedback loops that flew in all directions, not just at the targets we intended - our “enemies,” that is, who became harder and harder to identify, since everyone was a target, once we needed to know the Big Picture, which meant we could not exclude anyone or anything from collection, lest our understanding of the whole be skewed - we had no choice but not to tell, not to feel the dissonance, not to trust muggles who could not do magic and didn't even know that magic was real. Magicians have to protect their tricks, after all, even from friends, you never know when today's friend is tomorrows' foe, and as the deputy director of sigint said, when the liaison to the Brits tried to claim a special exemption for our special friends, ahem, he cleared his throat, excuse me? Please? Harrison (that was the liaison's name), have you forgotten? We have no friends; we have no allies. We only have targets.

So I was a noob. There was no hazing, nothing as frat boy as that. It was all done with expressions, a movement of the lips into a subtle smile when they glanced at the color of your badge, held it a minute so you knew what they were doing, then went back to your face. The color of the badge told everyone who you were. I am not allowed to tell you the color, lest the knowledge be misappropriated, but as it happens, it was green. Or blue? I don't recall.

One of my gifts was the use of imagination. It's the unifying force that makes data cohere. Scientists need facts but proceed by intuition. Imagination knits bits into a seamless meaningful weave. Then, sure, do a test, do a study, analyze shit, we need to do that too, but imagination is the key. I was good at connecting dots, including ones that weren't easily visible. I felt more like a sorcerer's apprentice than an intern at a new job, like a shaman learning to move between worlds and know the difference between them, know how to go to one and return to the other. I already knew how to create an illusion in the mind of another. I knew how to reinforce first impressions, be a friendly and engage with humor and a smile, build a bridge so to speak so we could walk back and forth into each others heads. I knew how to talk to captives stuck in Plato's cave without getting them all upset. I made them feel that living in a cave was great. I never said, hey, dummies in the dark, there's a whole world up here. You live in shadows. You think they'll be grateful if you tell them that? How ignorant they are? I don't think so, Mister Deckard. They try to kill any son of a bitch who illuminates their invincible ignorance.

And that's fine. Why tell them what they don't want to know and which makes them, if they do know, feel even more helpless? Why get them all riled up when there's nothing they can do to change the game? Remember, we do this work on their behalf, we fight on the edges of the empire while they sleep. We keep far from their dreams the nightmare that is history, from which, as Stephen Daedalus said, we never awake.

Let me be clear. I have used the word ignorance several times. Ignorance is not stupidity. To know another is ignorant is not a moral judgement. An insight can pierce the gloom of ignorance and light can explode in a blaze of inexplicable splendor.

Stupidity is different. Stupid means you will never know how to climb out of that cave. Ignorance is not knowing you are in the cave, but you may have a moment of clarity and see the cave and see yourself in it and know, because you are inside, there must be an outside too, and that awareness means you have a choice. Then insight can follow insight like a luminous ladder appearing magically in your mind. Then it's only a matter of climbing.

Stupid, though - well, life is hard, but it's harder if you're stupid. You think the solution to your problems is a different partner, a more powerful drug, a different job, living in a different place - anything but in yourself.

It's important to distinguish stupidity from ignorance because it matters in our work. We need to try to figure out if the opposition is ignorant or stupid - or more commonly, playing with us, baiting us, leaving false trails. Meanwhile, they do the same, trying to guess what we're up to. They don't know, if we do it right, and we don't know, if they do it right. That's makes it fun - or drives us crazy, the way Angleton went crazy, suspecting everyone, even himself like in a scanner darkly, right? That's how bad it can get once you slide down this slippery slope. No one tells you that, though, before you sign.

Stupid is bad. Stupid with a gun in its hand will shoot first and not even ask questions, now, later, ever. It will go have a drink, ignoring the blood. Ignoring the screams.

I carry around the names of too many friends who killed themselves. They couldn't live with what they did, what they knew. Their souls were shattered and they didn't know how to put them back together again. It wasn't just PTSD. It was the shredding of their psyches, their souls, which broke them into pieces. They didn't know how to rummage around in the foul rag-and-bone shops of their hearts. They didn't know how to find the reins when they had been lost. They didn't know how to build themselves back and reimagine a world that made sense.

Their faces haunt my restless dreams. Sometimes those faces are covered by hoods. The only way to do this work is, don't look. Do not remove the hoods.

Well. Enough of this. I do not mean to get worked up, but stripped of its masks, the false fronts, the controlling narrative, the things we do on your behalf can be, well, distressing. Medusa, right? Staring directly at reality will turn a human being to stone. It must be reflected to be bearable. I warn you now in this first chapter, choosing to know is not bliss, any more than ignorance is bliss. Neither staying in the cave nor leaving the cave brings happiness. Happiness is a sometime unpredictable event that falls on us now and then despite the data.

This work, I am trying to tell you, this work wears us down. It leads if we are lucky to the kind of collapse that I had in the office. Then - when we wake up - we have a choice. Yes, I chose to do the work, or I was chosen, pick one. They're the same thing. What matters is, when we wake up, we have a choice. Or believe we have a choice. I did, I do, I choose to believe that I can choose, and ... I choose life.

I choose life.

So ... welcome to my world. Come on in, if you can stand it.

About the author

Mobius breaks the mold and transcends familiar genres. The truth of my experience as an Episcopal clergyman for 16 years and an independent writer, speaker and consultant on technology, security and intelligence for 26 years permeates this work. It has verisimilitude and deep insight into the consequences of creating a national security state on those who advance and protect it as well as those who live in it. The world on the ground experienced by Mobius and his colleagues is the larger macro world in which we all live.

I have spoken professionally in 14 countries about the impacts of technology on the “human in the machine” and the impact of security and intelligence work on individuals, organizations, society, and geopolitical realities. I have published five books in fifteen years, fiction and non-fiction.

I returned to writing fiction when a colleague at NSA said “the only way you can tell the truth is in fiction.” That advice led to 35 published short stories, one novel FOAM and this, my second novel.

Groundbreaking speeches about the impacts of security and intelligence work have been viewed on YouTube thousands of times. See - “About Richard Thieme” - for a biography.

Copyright © 2020 by Richard Thieme

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