In which ENO hears a lecture about himself from the person who intiated the project of which he might be the succesful result.
The way she looked was way beyond furious, from what I could see behind Markram's back as I dropped towards the floor. Her arms retracted to normal size, one of them clipping Dr Mentz on the ear en passant, until she looked fully human again. I was falling onto a stage trapdoor which sank with gradually increasing deceleration beneath my feet and then rose smoothly again until I was at floor level facing a newly astonished, all over again for the very first time, Life Professor of CyberNeuroPhysiology all the way from Harvard, Massachusets; cue high pitched vocal harmony trio! I should have become used to these japes by now but this was over the top; "Shurely shome mishtake, shomewhere," as Bill Deedes used to say.
Then Quaternity turned back towards the Gleissner, which I now realised was effectively blind. It could see neither here in VR nor 'there' in what People who had told me anything at all had said was reality. Without its presently invisible head set IT saw only what the operator, who'd been getting a video feed direct from the headset IT had been wearing, could see through that. He, whoever was really operating it, could see only the VR feed that the Robot would have been getting from it, and it was currently at floor level and facing nowhere useful.
That was why Quaternity was able simply to walk up to IT, unseen through ITS, 'my' or 'his' Gleissner eyes by whomever was operating it. The Gleissner's own senses weren't on line to its operator. They didn't have the full band width microwave feed, even through 'Good Dog', IN HERE; in this VR 'place' OR the posited real one, because presumably there was no direct line of sight and this was only a demonstration. The android was simply the telepresence of a man in an exoskeleton operating it like a dumb machine while he himself did only what he'd been told to do... by the Merry Prankster, Trank, as it had turned out.
Quaternity gently removed the fire axe from ITS still 'only human' grasp and set that noiselessly on the end of the bench to her left. Trinity was there in the real lecture hall too, wearing a head set and therefore able to see the Gleissner and disarm it; not that the hapless technician even knew he was carrying an axe. Trank could have told him he was holding a ordinary relay baton and that the Olympic Torch for next year's Games would be CGed in when we were all in virtual, and then he'd probably hacked the VR theatre so that a ceremonial torch or baton is what the poor guy actually SAW through the Gleissner's eyes. These clowns seemed capable of anything.
In the middle of all this Henry was asking me if I was all right, calling me by my first name, telling me how brave it was to have driven all this way as if we really were both in AREA 51, which I felt fairly sure I wasn't. I didn't know about the others, but I doubted that the A-Team or Dr Young were really out 'there' either. That was if anybody involved in this was there at all... which I doubted the more completely the more I thought about it. It was preposterous. But HOW, WHO, with WHAT and WHERE really WAS being done to me? And figaard's ache; WHY, were they doing this? Then Henry said something, kindly and sincerely, which I really believed.
"Dr Carrington should never have mentioned 'aahsoo'. I can't think why she did it, in view of what she seems to think of these immature games the others are playing. Nobody here except the A-Team and their most trusted consultants like myself know anything of that and we don't care. From a professional, political or medico-legal point of view you have nothing to fear. The Unit was disbanded years ago having achieved nothing that YOU did not achieve all by yourself. No one here wants to question you about it. We are here just to see you and ask you the kind of questions one might ask anyone who has had some of the strange eggsperiences you have endured."
Here was a very, very distinguished and world famous Person, known in far too many internet places and the star of far too many elaborate videos to have been faked out of whole cloth. I'd followed his exploits on the net, in The Village, for years. This was the real thing. He was a lot older than he looked in any of the recent Youtube clips, grey hair instead of nearly black; but he had the same animated walk and speech patterns as the one I'd seen holding forth on the Blue Brain project, only more mellowed out..
Dr Mentz was apologising profusely to the academic crowd and promising that there would be no further trouble and that I had been 'road tested', as he put it, already. I thanked Markram for his concern and turned to face the audience across the lab bench and the few metres of flat floor separating it from the front row of seats. I noticed that here was a chair behind the bench which I hadn't been able to see from the other side and I stepped forward and sat in it. I then saw that I had an inset flat screen of my own, just in front of me on the bench top. It was showing a view from where I had been, up at the head of the central aisle steps; of the bench; us, including me; the lectern with Prof. Markram still behind it, and Mentz acting like Flying Officer Danby in Catch-22 as he tried to re-start the colloquium; i.e. looking at his watch and groaning! Luckily, the Secretary of State for Defence was not the General Dreedle type.
By some miracle we got under way and I listened as Henry talked, as if to a small seminar room full of friends, about the history of Blue Brain. Before he did so he warned the audience that I would think all his dates were wrong because, for operational and logistical... nay purely mathematical reasons, my adult life after the year 1975, I flinched and nearly... , up to the 'present' had had to be 'compressed'. This meant that I knew most of the things they knew about history, current affairs, what was on TV, what books you I'd 'read' and so on... ONLY THE DATES had been changed. They had been squeezed or crowded closer together, memories confabulated, the events of a decade packed into a couple years, or less.
For instance, I'd been given the impression that the winter of discontent was just after I... was at the end of 1975 and that the Iron Lady had got in immediately the year after, defeated Scargill and the NUM in '77; won the Falklands War in 1978; was ousted the following year, after the BIG Bang in the City went wrong somehow, by almost the entire cabinet including a tearful John Gummer [who he?]; Major in; defeated soon after by Blair despite brave, down to earth soap box campaign; 2nd Iraq War, 1979; Twin Towers 9/11, 1985!... etc, etc; twentieth century history dashing through its last quarter in order to let my short life catch up with the start of the 21st. By the time we'd all reached the end of his enthralling lecture about the transition from 'Blue Brain' to 'Big Brain' I had learned a huge amount that I was still digesting; including the fact that; if the Life Professor from Harvard, Henry Markram, was telling us all the truth; it was, right now, presently, in the real Outside World, the summer of year of Our Lord 2035.
I'd also learned that in the year 2016 Big Brain had been taken over lock stock and quad core parallel processors; bought and paid for by the Department of Defence for DARPA....
...and then moved in toto to a US DoD experimental AM facility in and around Hangar ONE, Area 51, near Groom Lake. All of a sudden I no longer felt entirely well.