Sunday, April 4, 2010

[Mythos VII] Crash Test Dummies of the Apocalypse

With apologies to HP Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Charles Stross. Copyright 2010 Thomas James Hardman, Jr, all rights reserved. This is a work of fiction.

Imagine, if you will, the fictional Doctor Hannibal Lecter.

Now, imagine, if you dare, Hannibal Lecter being not only exceptionally intelligent and cultured and possessed of a deep education and refined degree in psychology as well as a murderous desire to try out a new recipe with you as the main course, but being perfectly capable and earnestly desirous of turning you into himself.

Now, imagine if it's possible, that all of the above is the case, but he's not insane. Imagine that he's just got different ideas about how the world should be, and is very devotedly if carefully working at all times towards the end of making that vision become reality. He intends to make it happen... as soon as he has all his ducks in a row, so to speak, and not a moment sooner. He can't afford time-wasting distractions like being imprisoned in the highest-security wing of a State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, so he's not going to be deviating the least little bit from socially approved norms... until it's time. And when it's time, with about as much concern as we normal people might have for the bugs that spatter our windshield as we cruise down the freeway, he will not merely dine on the occasional socialite, but process entire populations through the moral equivalent of a sausage grinder.

In a certain basement laboratory, not far -- not far enough, by far! -- from me there is a prisoner. He is witty, urbane, a gentleman of the most impeccable formalities and bearing. He's fiercely intelligent, erudite beyond the capabilities of most PhDs, and the only people allowed to have any form of contact at all with him are a certain heinous class of sociopath, and he gives even them a bad case of the creeps.

Imagine, if you can, someone that would genuinely scare Dr Hannibal Lecter.

That is what remains -- I'm not sure you could use the word "survived" -- after being one of the first modern humans to re-discover means to open an information-transmission gate to so much as one of the Near Beyonds. He's effectively the head scientist for an advanced-weapons research that we stole from under the noses of the Russians at the end of World War II. While both we and the Soviets thought that the other side was most interested in spiriting away the lead scientists of the Third Reich's missile programs, we both also had the goal of stealing the Arcana and Antiquities research program researchers. While both we and the Soviets made vast and rapid advances in missile science, there's only so much mere mortals can do, so the Arcana and Antiquities folks got to digging around in a well of secrets that had been better left shuttered and hidden away as for many years it had been since a poorly worked Summoning had literally blown up as a volcano that plunged the world into the Dark Ages. Two generations after the Allies "liberated" the poor German bastards that the Nazi leadership had forced to do researches into abomination and beyond, this man finally decided to take the initiative, to lock himself and his equipment into an isolation room in a deeply buried and heavily reinforced bunker outside of Washington DC, and used a reconstruction of an ancient device to create what was effectively a quantum computing device capable of bridging the causality isolation barrier and establishing bidirectional communications with a not-so-nearby alternate reality. Something "out there" was able to communicate quite briefly, and thankfully not too deeply, with him, or perhaps it's best to say that it Informed him into what he now is... what we call "Doctor Strangelove Junior".

He's also, more or less and I prefer it to be more of the less, my boss.

Communicating with the mad doctor is not for the faint of heart, even though it is never done directly, for reasons that will become apparent.

When bidirectional transdimensional communications are established with even the least hostile of the entities that inhabit certain spaces, the first thing they do is to test you. All human beings, and quite possibly all non-electronic entities in our own universe, fail the tests. We are so very slow compared to them that there's simply no contest; these entities could contemplate the entirety of human knowledge and all possible commentaries thereon in the time a human can blink. When they communicate with us, they first establish some basic symbolisms which enable the creation of more complex symbolisms, and the logic is such that the more you know, the more you can communicate with them, or be communicated to, by them. Yet it happens so fast: imagine that someone said "Einsteinian Relativity" to you, and said it in a way that by the time they'd said it, you knew all of the math behind it and all of the physics that comes from it, all possible implications, and pretty much also all Nine Billion Names of G_d.

But these aliens don't say "Einsteinian Relativity" to you. What they say is "give me your superuser login and unlimited bandwidth" and they say it so well that it seems entirely reasonable, especially since they've said it about ten thousand times a second and it comes attached to an executable that they instantly tune to be compatible with your internal processes.

It's not that they're that smart, this is second nature to them. Does a bee have to be an expert in pharmacology and neuron chemistry? No, it just had to be born to mature with a poison stinger. Not a lot of thought involved there, they go buzz buzz poke and you run off screaming. The important thing being, a little tiny thoughtless thing can cause a much larger person a great deal of pain and inconvenience, not to mention possibly causing you to wreck your car, step into traffic, get caught in the gears of heavy machinery, or drop dead from anaphylactic shock. The bee doesn't care and can't conceive of such things. All the bee knows is that you are not a bee, and things which are not bees are to be stung. If you were another insect, you might be even worse off... some of the hymenoptera -- of which bees are a sub-group -- sting to paralyze a host into which they lay their eggs. The venom preserves the life of the host only so that the larva will have something to eat when the egg hatches.

When the entities from Beyond sting you, it's with information, and that information is like protoplasmic life, in a way... like the nuclear information in the egg cell, it expands and creates machinery that can read instructions to create more complex machines that can further decode the instructions to create even more complex machines, etc etc.

When the mad doctor used his mad device made from mad instructions that should never again been allowed to be perceived by anything more intelligent than a marmot, he had taken precautions.

Imagine a wasp stinging a spider and laying its egg within. But also imagine that the aforementioned spider had just crawled out of a puddle of insecticide. Imagine that the egg is still growing, still trying to hatch, or that the larva has emerged to consume a diet of highly nutritious poison.

Watch the spider twitching! But is it actually the spider? Or is it the writhing of the poisoned larva within? Does much of the spider itself remain within the chitinous exoskeleton? It's kind of hard to tell so long as the larva has not broken through. Yet when it does break through, it will quickly become a wasp capable of stinging and laying eggs in dozens, if not thousands, more spiders.

We keep the mad doctor -- or what's left of him -- in a sealed bunker. He communicates by Morse Code to and from people who don't know Morse Code; they have been trained only to differentiate between the dots and dashes and to either recreate them from scripts or to mark them down onto scripts as they are received. We aren't letting anything like electronics get anywhere near the cell.

We can't let his voice be heard; not only can he discern people's psychology and try to work his way with it, he can modulate his voice in ways the best of Broadway's actors would sell their souls to duplicate. His piteous remonstrations and cleverly whispered promises either broke the hearts or ignited criminal avarice in the most hardened of his first generation of guards. Hence the heinous sociopaths recruited to the second generation and the "no speaking or hearing allowed" policy. The sociopaths can't be moved to pity and are given no opportunities for their avarice to evolve. The mad doctor is in the final cell at the end of Death Row, the monster walled up within its tomb, so to speak. The inmates get a stay of execution so long as they transcribe the Morse code.

Even with all of these safeguards and subtleties in place, nobody much wants to talk to the mad doctor.

Yet sometimes, we must. "Set a thief to catch a thief", goes the old saying. The thing that tried to reproduce itself inside the man first had to take some initial steps to create enough room to unpack the compressed payload of its buffer-overflow attacks. Whatever it did to him, it made his already high IQ at least double, but you cannot ever let yourself forget that all of that intellect has pretty much one goal: the death of everyone and everything that gets in the way of, well, the death of everything and everyone. Whether that death is by physical violence, or by what amounts to demonic possession, concerns him even less than it could concern the heinous sociopaths who are the closest thing he has to companions.

Of all of the people who don't like to talk to him, I mind it a lot less than do most of the others who are cleared to do so.

Obviously, the questions we need to ask him involve the intricacies of the Beyond, where everything is symbolism and most of those symbolisms are rather high maths. We take the symbolisms and break them apart in a way that more or less resembles the deconstruction of a one-time pad into component parts for separate transport. The theory, which has worked so far, is that the parts of the message can't be a weapon; it's the totality of the message that is dangerous. Imagine the Constitution without the Amendments, or the Amendments without the Constitution, and both without independent North American Colonies; without all of these together, you don't have the USA and likely don't have its military-industrial complex, either. Not the best analogy but it seems to get the idea across to people.

Remember, please, that I am effectively immune to these symbolism and math attacks that so quickly capture and infect most reasonably-intelligent humans. That's because I have a disorder equivalent to dyslexia, but rather than being unable to convert letters into the sounds and then into words, I can't convert symbologies of number into operations and complex numeric syntax. How did I wind up this way? Well, you know how we're always told "no running" at the swimming pool? I really should have listened to them.

When the doctor first became Informed, he still remained mostly human in modes of thinking, though of course when the entity invaded the first thing it did once it had superuser access was to disable resistance of any kind, and one of those resistance modes that was disabled was "moral compunction". It took many months for his having been Informed to first be suspected, and then become obvious.

The doctor, it seemed, knew what it was that was happening, and retained enough humanity to understand that while he personally was experiencing waves of rapture and bliss with every advance of the entity's egg working its way through his nervous system, other people perhaps ought not to be subjected to this. He knew what was happening, knew that the only people who could fight it would be highly-intelligent dysnumerates, knew that such people did not frequently occur naturally, and went about creating lots of them.

As it turned out, though his groundbreaking treatise -- the ultimate source of the 1960s educational "innovation" known as "New Math" -- was widely accepted and became so widespread as to mathematically cripple an entire generation of American students and their teachers, still, these people were only grossly mis-educated and not actually pathologically incapable of being numerate.

At many County Fairs, and even at many traveling exhibitions to assorted public school campuses, one will find a curious device meant to demonstrate the value of seat-belts in automobiles. It has a car seat, and one straps one's self into the car seat, which is winched up an inclined rail, and then released. The person belted into the seat experiences the effects of a 20-MPH car crash.

With the belt on, it's not all that big a deal. If the belt isn't secured, you get quite a bang on the head, about what I got when I refused the good advice of my pool's lifeguard.

The mad doctor contrived to disable the seat belt on such devices and to get academic high-achievers to take the ride.

By the time the authorities caught up with him, he had managed to intentionally brain-damage no less than 300 gifted and talented students, with most of them winding up pretty much unable to successfully do the math of calculating how much change they should get from a dollar on a charge of ninety-nine cents. Yet most of those could still walk and talk and read.

We're not capable of counting our change, but we can pass a lot of other courses. We'll never pass the college requirements for math, but that's our special strength. We can't become delusional incubators for alien mindsets by internalizing twisted statistics that devour conscience and compunction. We can study and even write history, and we can speak and even teach English. We can see the monsters coming and they cannot steal our souls although like any mortals we can be prey to their minions. We are all who stand between the inevitable annihilation of humanity and its replacement with things that look and walk like men and women, but whose alien minds compel them to build ant societies, to live in giant beehives, to destroy all vestiges of a natural life in natural ecologies, to transform the world into a giant machine that lies poised to spread its infection to any species competent enough to communicate and foolish enough to try.

We are all that can and will defend you, you who remain human.

We are Crash Test Dummies Against the Apocalypse.