“Jesus, Mr. Stone, You look like death warmed over. You want me to get you some coffee of something?”
“No! I got it, you don’t mix it right anyway.”
“What ‘mix’? You like your coffee black. The only thing you like in your coffee…”
Both, together, “…is more coffee!”
“I’ve been up since ge:17 this morning. Ja’ever do that? Pop up out of a deep sleep and say ‘it’s ge:17 and there it is ge:17 right on the clock?’
“You know why that happens right?”
“Yeah, because my internal clock has Swiss precision.”
“No, more like because your eyelids have a crack in them. Your eyes wake up before you do. They open, they look at the clock and then your brain wakes up, but you’ll swear your eyes were closed.
In any case ‘wreck of the Hesperus;’ heche le café!”
“Here you go…” hanks me a tankard of blackness.
“Aike! Is this whole bean or ground? You know I hate the ground stuff.”
“If you hate it so much then you ought to be able to tell me if it’s ground or whole bean just by tasting it.
“It’s ironic; I ask you this while handing you a one liter mug of black caffeine, the first of many on the day… But… Why aren’t you sleeping well?”
“What? Are you studying for your medical degree? That way you can go from being an ABLE to being a MABLE? Move on to the next chapter and leave me out of it!”
“So it’s guilt that’s keeping you up. What are you feeling guilty about? That you’re putting the concerns of GE ahead of the concerns of the sneaker company? Or are you feeling guilty about the total lack of guilt you feel about destroying the company that allowed you to use their own project to destroy them?”
“I’d smack you on the psycho-babble degree except I can’t think of an ABLE word with the letter P in it! PLEAB, ah, damnit!
“It’s neither of those, it’s something else! This coffee is weak; you used ground coffee didn’t you?”
“No, it’s whole bean black coffee, just like usual.”
“Well it’s putting me to sleep! Lemme see this brewer, gimme those beans; no! the dark black ones. They let those ripen on the south side of the coffee bush. On the north side of the coffee bush the sun’s light makes them ripen too fast and the caffeine evaporates. On the south side the shaded shell of the bean thins out to allow the dimmer light into the seed of the coffee plant. Then, when they roast the bean the fruit turns to that deep black whole bean color.”
“Not that I doubt you but isn’t the north side the shady side?”
“North of the equator, but this is Brazilian coffee, come on get with it!”
Wait! What the hell is this? Did you let that Columbian Donkey Jockey make coffee in my machine? Look here! You see that? That’s the pressure mechanism! The electricity heats that element and causes the mechanism to create expansion pressure action which presses the beans until they crack and the oils and loose solids ooze out of them. The coffee concentrate drips into the cup along with the hot water et voile!; Perfect Black whole bean coffee.
But when Juan Valdez there uses my machine he uses ground coffee, and the grounds clog the tracks for the pressure mechanism. You’re an engineer, you know the old saying; you can’t push a string. Well you think string pushing is hard, try pushing a line of sand! Try pushing coffee grounds… There; that’s what good coffee tastes like! This tastes like fresh ground coffee smells. It’s as if grinding lets all of the flavor out of the bean.
“I feel better now.”
“Do you feel well enough to tell me what’s bothering you?”
“What are we like best friends now? I’ll make a deal with you. You answer my questions and I’ll answer yours.”
“OK You’re on. No. My turn.”
“What are you talking about, your turn?”
“That’s a double question. I’m talking about I answered your question, No we are not best friends. I said ‘my turn’ because the traditional way these things are done is after one person’s question is asked and answered the other person gets to ask a question. Now that I see that questions can be stockpiled I remove my claim to next.”
“Have you always been so literal?”
“No, I find, however that with you it is best to be so.”
“Don’t you have any questions for me?”
“Yes I have several. I’m saving them up, however. Mr. Stone, you have a talent for asking several questions in the guise of one question. Because of this propensity, I find it better to listen to what you are saying with what you presume; it is the unasked portion of the question that tells me more of what you are thinking than anything you actually say.”
“Did you let Juan Valdez use my coffee machine?”
“By which you presume I have some authority by which I may tell an employee of Messaging Communication Streams, Inc, that he may not use the equipment supplied by his employer to do the task for which said equipment was intended. This means that you value my presence more than theirs. What that means I do not yet know. You used the name Juan Valdez, which is a reference to an advertising character from a number of decades back, a time when the business that you are in was characterized by geety second vignettes designed to encourage consumer to consider a particular purchase. This reference is designed to ascertain the depth of my knowledge in this area. The answers are; ‘No’ I didn’t ‘let him;’ ‘Yes’ it was the Latin Gentleman in Research that used the machine; ‘No’ I’m not so aggressive in my position here that I would tell the Latin Gentleman in Research not to use your whole bean coffee maker for his ground coffee. ‘Yes’ I’m well versed in the history of the industry; as I told you before, my father was in the business.”
“Who sent you to tail me?”
“I’m sensing no less than the classic sax questions in this one. Who, What, When, Where, How and Why?
“Who sent me assumes that someone did. There really is no evidence for this except that I’m here, so ‘Who’ is two questions; did someone send me, and if so whom?
“What is the reason that I am here? I am here to observe and assist you in your fulfillment of this phase of the project as defined by the person or persons that sent me, assuming anyone did.
“When did I become involved in the process of monitoring you and or the project? I have been involved since the very beginnings of this project.
“Where is the nature of this monitoring going, and where is ‘the ends’ of this project such that it is being undertaken? The nature of this project is neutral it is not an assignment of mine to persuade or dissuade you from or towards any decision that is not your own. The data collected here during this process will be used to prevaluate the action and reaction of persons in similar circumstances in the near and distant future; as well as to back check against previous events of others.
“‘How am I here? I’m very well, thank you! And I would ask you the same except that I see that you are wracked with indecision and I don’t want to use one of my currently Fireteen question stockpile.”
“Fireteen? I count seventeen.”
“Yes, Fireteen, now saxteen, and a double after ‘have I counted wrong?’ and ‘what is the reason for the discrepancy?’
“‘No,’ you did not count the questions wrong, and that is the reason for the discrepancy, you are counting the questions, and I am counting the questions answered.
“‘Why’ asks if there is a motivation for whomever or whatever it is that sent me to ‘tail you’ and is that motivation malevolent? Yes, indeed there are several motivations for my presence. Those motivations are indeed malevolent and pacific. There are several entities that are compensating my time here. I will tell you of the top three in the order of compensation and whether their motivation is, in my opinion, beneficent, pacific or malevolent.
“Number one is the sneaker company with the swoosh. From their perspective they have sent me with a beneficent mission; to make sure the putt goes off without the glitch that starts the downward spiral of this company. They see it as they’re protecting the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people who are affiliated with them.
“From your perspective their intent is malevolent in that they are perfectly comfortable with the prospect of ruining your deal with GE.
“From my perspective they are pacific in that I have been observing Robert Stone and Step Stone Production for a long time and I feel placid in the faith that there will be a third alternative that will be discovered by you.
“The Second is GE.
Their instructions are for me to report to them any deviation from the plotted course. Their motivation from their perspective is malevolent in that they see the destruction of all the companies and governments on their list as evil, but a necessary evil born of the evolutionary imperative of survival of the hive.
“From my perspective they are malevolent in that evil is not necessarily the only expedient.
“From your perspective they are pacific in that the contract that GEne and GErome signed on your behalf has virtually no chance of paying you any premium in that success in your endeavor will result in a net zero gain. You are destroying their client base and causing a worldwide recession where, although GE is the last man standing, they are standing in a field with no water. Their business will not go down because they are the only game in town, and they won’t go up because they are the only game in a ghost town.
“Number ge is Messaging Communication Streams.
“My assignment from MCS is to prepare to take over Step Stone Productions. From their perspective they are pacific. They see it as inevitable that you will be destroyed by either the Sneaker Company or GE.
“From my perspective they are pacific, while their intention is actually beneficent, in that a continuation of your business will benefit your heirs. Their methods are malevolent. While they don’t want to see actual bloodshed, they have wired your home, your car, your office and they have a phalanx of paparazzi hiding in every bush and behind every chair ready to pop out to capture the event, should it happen. I am instructed to make sure my image makes it into the shot somewhere so that I am seen as continuing in your idiom.”
“Are there others?”
“No, that’s a freebie. I said earlier there were several others, 20 is the number of answered questions.”
“Well enough fun and games here, Aike. I’ve decided that I like you anyway; and you and I are going to find a way out of this mess. Why don’t we start off with you trying your hand at making some post Juan Valdez black whole bean coffee?”
“Great, but while I’m doing that, you tell me, which means you’re telling yourself, what was keeping you up from ge:18?”
“It starts with these thoughts; they seem almost random, except that there is always something that ties them together. Sometimes it’s a trick I play on myself to get myself to fall asleep. I do word association games. Let’s say that I start with the word ‘Bleat’ then I just let the word fall and I try to catch it as many times as I can before it hits the ground when I’ve run out of words that relate. So, like: bleat blat, bloat, float, flout, flour, glower, grower, blower, bloomer, groomer, groom, broom, vroom, gloom, doom, kaboom.
After I have done this a few times I find that I have quieted down my thoughts and I start to think these thoughts that sound like a Catskill Mountain comedy routine. Like a bunch of the old timers sitting around the table and kibitzing on the state of things. It’s hysterical; I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve wanted to write it down. I always say, this time I’m going to remember. Sometimes I do remember, and all day I’ll remember it, and I’m so sure that this time it’s going to stay with me. That night I’ll put my head on the pillow and I will then forget to even think about it for, probably, in most cases, forever! I always want to write down what they say, but I’m afraid that I’ll break the magic.”
“Sure, you’ve watched too many movies where there’s a catch: Your third wish can’t be for more wishes, you can’t use your powers of future sight to speculate in the stock market, or bet on sports teams, if you use your power for personal gain, then it’s gone.
Artists feel that way, ‘If I paint what people like then I’m not being true to my inner muse.’ Or “that’s the difference between rock and pop, rock is written for the artist and pop is written for the audience.’ It’s all crap. What are you going to say; that Michelangelo wasn’t an artist because he painted and sculpted what the Medici and the Popes wanted him to paint and sculpt?”
“Maybe you’re right. Thing is that I know that ‘Gloom, Doom, Kaboom’ is telling me that I just can’t go through with destroying these companies. I don’t really care about the companies; I don’t really care about the people. I care that it’s not my idea.
“I live for my own ideas. Somebody comes to me and says, ‘I want this’ and ‘I want that’ and I’ll take the work and subcontract it out. Who wants it? Sometimes I’ll stick the Stone in the event, sometimes it helps, couldn’t hurt, right? All times, that’s what the client is looking for; someone to blame if it doesn’t work out!”
“Mr. Stone; Mr. Alex is here.”
“What did you say Mabelle? He’s here?”
“Yes Mr. Stone.”
“He can’t be here.”
“Yes Mr. Stone, should I send him in?”
“Send him in?”
“Yes Mr. Stone. He says he has an appointment with you and Mr. Aike.”
“Aike? Did you have anything to do with this?”
“Jesus Christ, Mabelle, what does he have, cooties or something? Fine, whatever; send him in.
By the way, I said ge:17.”
A fastidiously attired gentleman in his mid-sixties walks into the office. He is just as tall as you would imagine him to be, which means he’s not tall at all. In fact it is safe to say that he is average height for a short guy. His style of dress is also mid-sixties. He is wearing a beautiful silk tie that is impossibly crisp against a shirt that is imposing in its threat to give you a paper cut from across the room if you look at it wrong. His hair is flawlessly cropped, neither fashionably long nor short. He looks every bit of his years and you can tell that he invests more time in keeping his look in a year than you have spent keeping yours over your entire lifetime up to this point. When you look at him you can’t help but wonder why this man is still working. Certainly a man of his discipline has squirreled away enough coins. You decide that this is a man with a story. You want to know what it is but you don’t want him to tell you what it is because you are sure that it is the CPA version of The Blues in Country Music minor.
You decide that you’ll sic Aike on him later in the story. Aike has a talent for sussing out the details of a story he didn’t even actually hear.
“Alex! Why am I surprised? No, really! Why is it that you are paying me a surprise visit? Not to mention, How?”
“No you don’t, when did you make an appointment?”
“Go back and read; by the time you find it I’ll have had time to put it in there. Then I’ll have taken it out so that I’m not confusing the readers.
Aike! Good to see you, how have you been? How is your father? Do you get to see him often?”
“Careful Alex, this guy keeps track of the questions; Quid Pro Quo, Don’cha know?”
“Hi, Alex! Good to see you too. Who did you piss off to get this assignment?
“Dad’s good, thanks for asking. I do get to see him fairly seldom.”
“Wait! I thought you said your father was dead.” It didn’t look like a question, but it sounded like one, just as well.
“You thought wrong.”
“And you know Alex? How can you know Alex?”
“Why wouldn’t I know Alex? You’re not schizophrenic are you?”
Before Stone can answer, Alex chimes in “You’re a writer… after a fashion. I’m a character in your fiction, so is Aike. We exist in your mind. Open as you’d like to believe it is, it not so big that it is unusual for characters there to know each other.
While you’re busy doing the other things you do, we might well be in the break-room. Sometimes we’re discussing plotlines and we come up with our own solutions. You can’t tell me you haven’t noticed that! I’ve heard your ‘Eureka’s echo through the chamber when you start to write about a character and as if by magic their words and actions fit like a puzzle piece into the plot.
A recent example includes the coffee pot!”
“What about my coffee pot?”
“Why are you pretending you don’t know what the coffee pot is about?” Inquires Aike.
“I’m trying to maintain the suspense for the big reveal.”
“And how’s that working for you, Bobby? Cause it’s wearing thin for me?”
“Yeah, but that’s because you’re my editor and you know where the story is headed.”
“Yes! I do. Just like you know that right now you remember yourself sitting right there and scribbling into a notebook in a dream some time. You knew at the time it was a dream because you were writing cursive, and you don’t write in cursive. But what you didn’t notice at the time was that you noted that you were writing in cursive because you could read the whole page of what you wrote. It didn’t make any sense because if you just landed at this page now, you wouldn’t understand it. You’d like to say you don’t know where this is going but you do.
“You have printed since before they stopped taking points off for printing. By that time they figured getting you to hand in homework was victory enough. Forty plus years of people commenting on how terrible your hand writing is, one day you decided to change it (agreed, it was after seeing a report that most adults revert to printing and that handwriting practically never improves) and within that one day a man saw a page you had been writing and said ‘you have very nice handwriting’ to which you said…”
“And here you are, a few months later, writing in that notebook that had been revealed to you in what you thought was a dream so long ago.”
“I’m supposed to now realize that it wasn’t a dream because it broke my own rule that a dream is known to be a dream because the writing appears and disappears as you try to read it.”
“But I don’t remember what that page said; all in all that sequence was about 15 seconds, about 5 minutes ago.”
“Putz! It said what you just wrote. He’s not getting this time travel thing at all!”
“Who are you talking to?”
“Mr. Stone, the point is that the message itself didn’t matter. You might say the message is the medium.”
“Cute Aike! But he’s right Robert. It’s like the Derby episode.”
“Why do I feel like this is turning into an intervention? Why are you two guys; figments of my own imagination, ganging up on me? Somehow this is my story, and I’m the one who’s writing it, and it’s about me and yet I still feel like I’m the third wheel!”
“You are the third wheel! This is a tricycle. On a tricycle which wheel is the third wheel? It’s the one that is different from the other two wheels. You’re the big wheel in the front of the trike; the one that supplies the power and directs the direction of the trike. We are the two wheels in the back; we provide the stability. Ironic isn’t it? Imaginary men providing stability?”
“Alright, enough! Get down to it. Mr. Stone, you are avoiding pulling the trigger here. Why?”
“When I was a young boy…”
“Robert! Eighty words; max!”
“Ralph flew off the top of the six foot hill. I rode up then I rode down the back.
Deborah, Paul and Diana ran up and jumped off the front end of the chicken coop. I sat down at the edge and then eased myself off.
Ralph and Paul swung on the boom rope of the oil docks and dropped twenty feet into the Hudson River. I didn’t want to get in trouble for swimming before Memorial Day.”
“So you’re afraid to write an action sequence. It’s ok, it’s just a little action this time, they’ll build from here and you’ll get better.”
“Yeah, Mr. Stone, this is not that crucial, just explain that it came to you and then we’ll move on from there.”
“Starting here! I’m not here, it’s just you and Aike, He’s making you a cup of Black Whole Bean coffee ….and… action.”
“Aike, remember when you told me that you made the equipment to do the 9 to swoosh conversion? Yes you do.
“The reason I have you around is to make the machine I’ve invented.”
“Why? What machine is that Mr. Stone?”
“The machine that saves both GE and the Sneaker company with the swoosh and then moves this story forward!
“And what kind of machine can help move this story forward better than a machine that allows us to peer into the past.”
“The ironing is so thick it’ll take an army of Chinamen to get through it!”
“Not bad for someone with an engineering degree.”
“I have an Arts, too.”
“Dig it; you don’t need a time machine to go back in time and reread the story of when I time traveled forward into the bar, you can just flick back the pages. What happened was that I was in the mountains and since the mountains are further from the center of Earth’s gravity as compared with sea level, which is where the bar practically is, my reality was speeded up and that was where my reality was at that future time.
“Even then I could tell that the message wasn’t the message, the event itself was trivia.
“But what has finally occurred to me is that the reverse is also true! Gravity can and does indeed bend and slow down light. Light travels at the constant speed of ‘c’ which we interpret as one hundred and eighty sax thousand two hundred and eighty two miles per second. Since gravity bends light, and since speed is distance divided by time and since a straight line is the shortest distance between two points, a bent line is not the shortest distance meaning it is a longer line but since gravity doesn’t change the distance it can only change one other thing; time!
“The greater the gravity, the slower the time. Time travels slower at sea level than it does at the top of a mountain. Increase gravity enough and you can stop time. Increase the gravity even more and you can reverse time.
“What you are going to build, Aike, is a device that increases gravity. We will build a ring of these devices and we will have a camera lens in the center of this ring. The lens will record what happened on that spot back through history.
“We will set up this contraption at the spot where the keyboard was that GE used to set the password. We will see what password was typed in and they will then have the password.
“We have solved the GE problem without having had to destroy the world’s economy. We’re burning daylight Aike; chop chop!”
“Sure! And while I’m at it would you like me to prove String Theory too?”
“No, we’ll get to that later; I don’t have time right now to find out what String Theory is.”
“I wish I was being facetious! Would you like to share with me how we are going to increase gravity?”
“Chapter two talks about the difference between atoms and solar systems and the Flat Earthers thought that proved that the solar system’s gravity was so great.”
“Mr. Stone, I really don’t like you talking about chapter two and the Flat Earthers.”
“I know Aike, and believe me when I tell you that we’ll deal with it. But I need you to be brave here. Remember, being brave isn’t convincing yourself there are no such things as ghosts in the basement. Brave is knowing, to an absolute bone marrow certainty that there are ghosts in the basement and going down there anyway!
“What we are going to create is our own little black hole. A black hole isn’t black because it doesn’t ‘let light out’. What does the Black Hole do? Keep the light in the black hall closet until Stanley Kubrick sends Keir Dulllea through it? No! The reason that there is no light coming out of a black hole is because the time has stopped, and then reversed! The light is still there, the energy still exists but it can’t move because there is no ‘second’ to be ‘per second’ of. When you see a black hole in space, you are not seeing a hole in space but a hole in time. What you are seeing is the Universe at that spot at the time that time began!
“And why is there a black hole there? Because a star collapsed and when it did it gave off its gravity. The reason atoms don’t act like solar systems and galaxies is that they have vastly more gravity than those larger iterations have.
“We’re going to use lasers to heat up carbon atoms to the point where they collapse and when they do we’ll release gravity at the rate of the square root of G = (Mass squared times the speed of light) times eight!”
“Lasers could do that. We have a ton of lasers…”
Both “… and they’re pretty light!”
Aike, “Energy to power those lasers?”
“Swoosh, dere it is!”
“Brilliant, Mr. Stone.”
“Thank you, Aike. And thanks to KEvin.”
“He invented the Black Whole bean coffee pot!”
“Well that was messy!” “It got done and that’s what matters.” “I’m telling you; this younger generation, they just don’t have what we had, am I right?” “No! You’re not right. They’ve been saying that since… I think the first guy to say it was a Chimpanzee or something.” “Yeah, far as I remember they said that about your generation. Strange thing is though, they’re still saying about your generation and brother, believe me, you are not ‘younger’ anymore!” “Bwahahahahaha… Enjoy this while you can. Now comes the hard part!”