I’ve got a cold cylinder on my forehead and my North Star, Barbara McClintock, on my mind… Here she is standing next to her brother, across from a brave dog that she cares about.
Barbara single-handedly discovered genetic regulation in 1951, but to this day the empire of Biased Science refuses to credit her with the earth-shaking advance.
Her work was too complex for her day’s paradigm thugs. To them, any notion that genes were regulated by stress implied intelligent control. This was heresy to the Darwinian mainstream who felt that only simple static genes could fit their “proven” model.
The priests of that model rule us still, freezing thought in an 1859 fundamentalism that denies the radical implications of modern genetics.
Under the boot of “scientific” superstition, Barbara stopped publishing her work at the peak of her genius in 1953.
Nearly a decade later, two men uncovered the lac operon – an on-off bit of genetic regulation simple enough to grasp without rattling the chains of intelligent design. Science might have credited these men with a moon walk in their boxer shorts but Barbara’s old papers popped up in the archives.
A belated Nobel Prize came to her in 1983, but not for the discovery of genetic regulation. That would have been far too logical for the insiders.
Instead, the Nobel committee repeated the mind-boggling abuse dealt to Einstein. They gave Barbara a Prize for a lessor breakthrough, obscuring her status in history as the Founder of Genetic Regulation.
It must be difficult to forgive heretics like McClintock and Einstein. The rigid Nobel committees struggle with those who defy mainstream thought.
Here’s how Barbara sounded in 1973 — twenty years after the “objective scientists” bullied her and shut her up, and ten years before her Nobel Prize:
“Over the years I have found that it is difficult if not impossible to bring to consciousness of another person the nature of his tacit assumptions when, by some special experiences, I have been made aware of them. This became painfully evident to me in my attempts during the 1950’s to convince geneticists that the action of genes had to be and was controlled. It is now equally painful to recognize the fixity of assumptions that many persons hold on the nature of controlling elements in maize and the manners of their operation. One must await the right time for conceptual change.”
Intelligent design glows like a full moon in the light of DNA’s hypercomplex instructions.
I hear The Grudge in my head, Tool’s message to Nobel committee fundamentalists…
Clutch it like a cornerstone.
Otherwise it all comes down.
Justify denials and
Grip ‘em to the lonesome end…
Terrified of being wrong…
Wear your grudge like a crown: Desperate to control. Unable to forgive…
Saturn comes back around to show you everything.
Lets you choose what you will or will not see, and then
Drags you down like a stone or lifts you up again….
I’m not shivering anymore. “This thing works,” I say to Vedanshi, and notice tiny dark symbols all over the little cylinder. I don’t recognize them. Her mother tongue must be a dead language.
“Let me try it,” James says, reaching to take the cylinder from me. He pretends to shave his chin with it, making excellent sound effects. “Feels nice,” he says and hands it back to Vedanshi.
“Food first, then Nazca,” she says to the three of us and leads us further along the curved, descending hall, through a high doorway and into a room the size of a football field with a luminous white ceiling and rows of crops floating chest high, roots exposed. She walks in among columns of vines, gathers clusters of grapes and comes back to give us each a share.
I bite into one and wince at the pomegranate flavor.
“Help yourselves,” she says, and James disappears down a row of bananas growing in upside-down bunches to the ceiling.
Hands full, we follow Vedanshi back up to The Ganga. Its front half vanishes when we arrive, leaving the carpet protruding stiffly from the visible half of a flying saucer. We sit side by side, and before I can lay the fruit down, the granite room becomes a glimpse of an underwater landscape, followed by a shrinking triangular island, and then the approaching coast of South America. Peru expands at a blistering rate until Nazca Lines fill me with the notion of a high-tech past.
“The old woman’s ship has light-bending technology,” Vedanshi says and shakes her head in sympathy. “Look down there.” She points at the far end of a tapering runway-like thing…
As I squint at the “religious artwork” of an extinct tribe, The Ganga inserts a yellow filter and a UFO appears near the ground in the morning light about a mile away. It looks like a Cuban cigar but metallic and gray with longitudinal seams. A broad blue laser beam glares down from the near end onto the Nazca “runway” and steam rises where it hits.
“Looks like a Maui Bazooka,” James mumbles and bursts into song, “I take a toke and all my cares go up in smoke.”
“I didn’t realize this was a musical,” I tell him as an inverted funnel descends from the belly of the craft to draw in the steam. The laser creeps towards us along the runway, matching the increasing width of the artifact, probably without adjustment.
“Coherent field electromagnetics,” Vedanshi says. “You dial the wavelength to the molecular bond force of whatever you’re mining. Iridium in this case.”
“Phase shifting from solid to gas?” I’ve seen a patent on this.
Vedanshi nods. “At ambient temp.”
“Some had to,” Vedanshi says. “But the great Builders preserved the natural grain of rocks. You lose that in molds.”
“What’s wrong with wood and steel?” Maxwell asks.
“Stone spares the oxygen producers, avoids toxic hydrocarbons and gives you unlimited building materials. But the main thing is longevity. Anything that didn’t last twenty thousand years was a failure to the Builders. Iron alloys break down.”
“What was your average life span?” Maxwell asks.
“It varied. The stretch heads lived the longest. During the Reshaping, one of their families gained power and began editing their genes. A few of them survived for eighty thousand years, but in the process of tampering, they created hundreds of new diseases. Each one had to be fixed, and most of the fixes had bad side effects unless they restored the original sequences. Which they were usually too proud to do.” She shakes her head. “Average people lived only a thousand years, but without much disease.”
“How long will you live?” James asks.
“If I had my mother’s technicians, I’d be here for ten thousand years at least. But with the equipment I’ve got, I don’t know, maybe a thousand. Too much radiation gets through the Earth’s magnetic field now.”
An Aurora from a recent coronal mass ejection flashes to mind…
“I won’t live a tenth as long as you,” James says mournfully.
“Don’t worry, I won’t let you die of old age before I do.” She smiles and takes the jade cylinder out of her purse. “This doesn’t look like much, but…” Her brow furrows as she reads it. Then she looks up wide-eyed at James. “Never in my wildest dreams… You’re a poet! The real ones were all cured.”
“Huh?” James says.
“No, I don’t me cured… In my day the poets were legends. We had your music, your stories, your magic… but mostly we had the vacuum you created when you all left us. When depression was cured.” She twists the cylinder. “You have a rare music locus.”
I wish I had my phone so I could play James’ ringtones. Maybe The Ganga can access his website. I close my eyes for a second and translate www.skullcage.com into ones and zeros, but it’s ASCII, not the machine language of consciousness.
Vedanshi stares at James. “I don’t want to change you, ” she says. “Do you ever feel like killing yourself? Ever?”
He gazes out at the long slender craft with its laser beam mining an ancient Nazca Line for a prehistoric type of fuel.
“Go ahead,” Maxwell says to him, “I’m a psychologist and both of these women know more than I do about it. Let the truth fly.”
James nods and looks at Vedanshi. “You’re putting me on the spot here, but yeah, I get bummed. Like this morning I was kind of… I don’t know.” He looks at me and runs a hand over the top of his head. “Ready to fade out.”
“Really?” She leans toward him with a look of concern, and I lean back to give her room. “I don’t know what to do,” she says. “I could tweak your hypothalamus to bump orexin, but you’d probably never feel like composing again. And you’d always be hungry and struggling to cut weight.”
“I don’t think he needs brain surgery this early in the morning,” Maxwell says and looks at James. “I could show you some coping strategies.”
“Like what?” James asks.
“It all starts with yoga,” Maxwell says, “but Vedanshi’s the expert.” He glances at her legs, crossed and locked in lotus position. “Right?”
She nods. “I’ll teach you, James. We’ll wake your prefrontal cortex. Stabilize your limbic system. Help you choose your mood instead of letting it choose you.”
“Sweet. When do we start?”James says.
She straightens her posture. “For survival, the brain always favors the area controlling breathing. Normally that’s the brainstem, but when you breathe deliberately it’s the prefrontal cortex, the area of decision. The area of volition where prime causes enter the Universe from the part of you that sits outside of galactic space-time. Blood and energy shunt to this area of gray matter when you decide how and when to take each breath. And each portion of a slow breath. This is the physiology of yoga breathing. The mood elevates for two reasons. First, the left prefrontal cortex is a pleasure center of sorts. Activate it and you’re a little happier. Second, the cortex inhibits the limbic system which is where emotional pain circuits cluster and become self-perpetuating.”
“What about the kind of the stuff you’re doing with your legs?” James asks. “I’m pretty flexible from mixed martial arts.”
“The pain of stretching and isometric muscle work stops rumination and lets the endorphins wake the opiate receptors. But the opiate relief is habit-forming so you have to watch it. It can become an obsession, like cutting or too much breath holding.”
If this works, I’m going to be the happiest person on Earth.
“I’m worried about that autistic boy,” I whisper to Vedanshi and begin searching for Maxwell’s phone in his coat on the carpet between us. I find it and can’t believe it has two bars. I punch in the old woman’s number and put it on speaker.
She answers. “I almost threw this thing away.”
“What’s your name, Ma’am?”
“vaarShagaNiipútro,” she says. “Call me Vaar.”
Vedanshi puts a hand over her mouth.
“I’m not with Frameshift,” Vaar says, “but I need you in my laboratory. I wasn’t expecting to get old. My mind is fading.”
One of James’ songs plays in my head: “Get home. I just want to make you young.”
“What’s your autism study about?” I ask.
“Just a second, dear, I’m double parked.” The cigar-shaped craft shoots up from the ground. The Ganga follows and in seconds we’re stationary in near space with no bars remaining on Maxwell’s phone. But somehow I can still hear her voice. “The world is overrun by sociopaths,” she says. “The worst three percent of us controls the rest. So I’m exploring the genetics of empathy using the autism spectrum as a model. I want to cure sociopaths. I’ve been correlating loci to behavior for a long while, but it’s gotten too complex. I’m not the chess player I once was. And I’ve never had your gift for the language.”
“You infect children. Why would anyone help you?”
“This is bigger than all of us. If humanity doesn’t get beyond predation and war, we’ll soon be vestigial. I have personal contact with three sociopaths who happen to run nuclear nations. One of these men would welcome the complete annihilation of our species. Beneath these three are endless layers of similar people ready to seize power at the drop of a pulse. Someone has to re-write the genes of war.”
“You’d have to be a sociopath to hurt children the way you’re doing.”
“No I wouldn’t,” she says. “I’ll admit I can’t remember the last time I had an honest emotion. But I’m not a sociopath. I conduct my affairs on principle, not some dark desire. And the damage I do is reversible.”
“In lab mice maybe, but not in children. Can’t you see the emotional scars you’re leaving?”
“Sometimes the lessor of two evils is all we have, dear.”
Vedanshi closes her eyes and suddenly we’re inside the ancient ship, hovering near the cavernous front, looking down at an old woman alone at a large desk with a holographic monitor showing a sliver of blue Earth under space debris. She stands, scratches her head and looks up in our direction but doesn’t seem to see us. Her baggy gray pants ride high, held up by a brown leather belt I’ve seen in a thrift shop. Her sweater hangs uneven and yellowed with age. A large safety-pin holds it together in front. Stringy gray hair comes from beneath a green skull-cap and hangs to her shoulders. The back of her head is too long.
“She’s a stretch head,” Vedanshi whispers.
A chill crawls down my spine.
“Vaar, if I decide to help you, I’ll be in charge.”
“That’s not a problem.”
“You’d have to follow my instructions like a rookie, beginning with the autistic children. Your first job would be to cure them.”
“Pull the plug on seventy-five years of research?” she asks. “I’m struggling to see the sense in that.”
“Of course you are. Wisdom requires logic and emotion. A person without empathy shouldn’t try to lead. There’s a rule of thumb: the end never justifies the means.”
“We both know that isn’t true.” She switches the phone to her right hear. “You’re not a child.”
“To break the rule requires good judgement. You’re not capable of anything resembling good judgement. I’m being blunt, but I’m telling you the truth.”
“I suppose you might be.” Her shoulders slump and she looks at the floor. “I’ll comply with whatever you say.”
I feel adrenalin’s seduction corrupting me.
“I won’t rule you,” I tell her and push against the horrid euphoria I’m feeling. “If you have any free will and personhood left, you’ll transform yourself into a trustworthy person, starting with the autism you’ve created. Reverse it.”
“That shouldn’t take long.”
Vedanshi leans over and whispers in my ear. “We’ve broken her encryption. She’s infected eighty-nine children.”
“How many kids are we talking about?” I ask Vaar.
“Six,” she says.
“Sociopaths fear the truth even when it helps them. Lies are comfortable. Controlling. You claim you’re not a sociopath, but you probably are. Becoming trustworthy will be the toughest thing you’ve ever done.”
“Eighty-nine,” she says.
“That’s believable. Better get to work, then.”
“Does this mean…”
“We’ll see. Hang on to your phone and I’ll call you — if and when you’re ready.”
I hang up and watch her as a look of resolve come over her face. She squares her shoulders, takes off the skullcap and winds her long hair around her long head.
The Ganga exits her craft and moves closer to Earth.
“Something’s cloaked down there,” Vedanshi says. The outside colors shift toward purple. “Whatever it is, it’s using zero point energy.” The colors change again. “There.” She points at a black triangle…
“Let’s send out a foo fighter,” she says and chuckles.
A ball of blue-gray light comes out beneath our feet and heads for the triangle. We move within ten feet of it and suddenly we’ve got MRI vision. Two people are inside, standing like statues behind their chairs. One of them holds an index finger in the face of the other, frozen in the middle of an argument, perhaps.
“Quantum stasis,” Vedanshi says. “Slowed to a standstill by time dilation. Probably a buffer accident. I must have looked like this for millennia.”
I’m wondering if they’re solid or if space junk passes right through them.
“They look like skeletons,” James says. “You sure they’re alive?”
“Yeah,” Vedanshi says. “If we sat here twenty years, The Ganga could document a blink or something.”
“Are they from your era?” I ask.
“I’m not sure.”
We move around the triangle for a different perspective. On the back of the left chairs there’s a round design with a star. I squint to read several words that form a circle… in English! “Chief of Staff — United States Air Force.”
M. Talmage Moorehead
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