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Premiered August 22, 2003

Chapter Eight


The old woman was in the kitchen preparing the evening meal when Dawn came upstairs.  Alex was nowhere in sight, and the plant disaster was still very much in evidence.  Dawn smiled when she saw the undisturbed mess and quickly picked up the main bulk of the destroyed cactus.  Handling it gingerly, she carried it to the kitchen portion of the main room and showed it to the old woman.  The housekeeper looked up from what she was doing, and said, "She's a goner."  Turning back to her cooking, she added, "She had a good life, but now's the time to begin a new cycle.  There's a compost bin in the pantry."

Without asking directions, Dawn opened the kitchen door, where she found a large pantry area and access to the washer/dryer room and garage.  The compost bin was obvious enough and Dawn carefully dumped the plant, saved the broken ceramic pot, and set it on a shelf filled with odds and ends.  A broom and dustpan were hanging from a nearby wall which Dawn took and carried back into the main room.  The plant had made a wide swath across the room, but it was easy enough on the hardwood floor to round up even the most elusive particles of the debris.  Then, with her dustpan filled to overflowing, she carefully carried it all back to the compost bin, replaced the broom and dustpan and reentered the kitchen.  Washing her hands in the kitchen sink, she turned to the old woman.  "Something smells wonderful," she observed.

The old woman smiled mischievously.  "If you're hungry enough, most anything will smell great."  She looked at Dawn, who smiled and seemed to agree.  Then taking a bit more time to appraise the cleaned-up version of the recently arrived vagrant, she added, "Nice dress.  Quite an upgrade."

"Thanks," Dawn replied. "Can I help you Miss...?"  Dawn stopped for just a second.  "I'm sure you have another name besides 'Old Woman'.  What do your friends call you?"

"Down at the Sundance, I'm 'Hot Stuff.'  At the grocery store, I'm 'Cranky.'  At the..."

The younger woman laughed.  "What did Gil call you?"

The old woman stopped her chopping of vegetables and turned to look at Dawn.  "Gil called me the same as Alex Baby.  Except, of course, when he wanted to make a point.  Then it was Barb."

"May I call you Barb?"

"Sure.  If you want to make a point."  Then turning back to the vegetables, she asked, "You okay with Gil's Death?  Things like that can really catch you off guard."

Dawn stood totally still and looked at Barb for several moments.  'The old gal certainly preferred the direct approach,' she thought.  Then her eyes fell, as she tried to answer the old woman's question.  "It will take some time to deal with it.  But I'm okay for now."  Barb continued to cut vegetables, but seemed to hang on every word the younger woman was saying.  In the continuing silence Dawn added, "I'll be crying at night a lot.  But I'll make it."

Barb stopped what she was doing and looked at Dawn.  Then the old woman smiled.

After a brief moment of understanding between them, Barb turned to check two of the dishes on the stove.  As she did so, she said, "Gil had a good life.  And the truth is," she added, "it was his time.  It's hanging around when the angel of death arrives that's bad.  Not to mention futile."  Then she looked up, gazing off into space, "Still..." 

Dawn looked up, not noticing Barb's momentary reverie.  "I know he's okay.  I don't fear death -- I know there's something better on the other side.  He just made a transition.  It's the people left behind who know the pain."

"It's what we used to call 'OJT', 'on-the-job-training," the old woman said.  "People dying constitute graduate work in the art of letting go for those who are left behind.  It's the toughest part, but also the most essential.  We all have to learn to let go, particularly to let go of life."

"You're probably right."  Dawn then repeated herself, "Can I help with dinner?"

"Not much more to do," was the reply.  "Besides, it's going to be a feast, and I want full credit.  I don't want to have to share it with some lady-come-lately."  When Dawn laughed, Barb chuckled slightly herself.  "Alex Baby gave me instructions this was to be a special meal.  Sort of a 'last supper', I suspect."  Dawn flinched at the implication, but Barb was already off on another subject.  "How are you feeling about the situation?  Between you and the Patrons."

"Mostly numb."  Dawn leaned against a counter, her arms folding across her chest in a self-protective posture.  "They're clearly after me, and I can sense just how dangerous they are.  But I don't understand why.  I don't really know anything about them, or what motivates them.  It's as if I could be murdered and never even know why someone would bother.  It's a little frustrating and a whole lot scary."

"There's a lot of senseless crime going around these days," Barb replied, taking a moment from the cooking to look at Dawn.  With a hand on her hip, the old woman, confided, "The Patrons are into power and control, plus which they have no respect for human life.  If you’re even the slightest threat, or might be, then from their viewpoint, why not just get rid of you?  If they're wrong about you're being a threat, it doesn't matter.  You're still expendable.  Why take the chance?"

"But that assumes they can get away with murder."

"Apparently, it's not that hard," Barb replied, stopping her activity momentarily in order to think about it.  "There's a statistic from New York State -- something to the effect that for every 1000 homicides there are 300 arrests, and only about 160 convictions.  Even assuming that some of the convictions are for multiple homicides, the result is that fewer than 20% of homicides actually result in someone being convicted.  There are a lot of killers getting away with it these days."

"You're kidding."

"No.  Not at all.  Finding a killer is extremely difficult.  The police claim that in the vast majority of homicides, the murderer is known by the victim.  But that's only because the chances of them finding the real killer -- the one not known by the victim -- are next to nil.  Actually, it's a self-fulfilling, statistical prophecy.  They assume it's always someone close to the victim, and since they're only getting those convictions, the statisticians find that most of the solved crimes are, in fact, between related people.  But if you factor in the 80 to 85 percent of the unsolved crimes, these crimes may primarily involve unrelated killers getting away with it."

"That's grotesque."

"I agree with you, but it's also true."

"But how in the world could I be a threat to the Patrons?"

"Because of Gil and what he might have told you.  Because of the letter you gave Alex Baby.  And because of the things you might do in the future." Barb smiled, and took a long appreciate look at Dawn.  "Personally, I suspect you're not only a threat to the Patrons, but you're going to become their worst nightmare."  For a moment, the old woman simply looked at Dawn, emphasizing the importance of the message.

"That's rather hard to imagine."  When Barb only shrugged her shoulders, Dawn begin to think about how much truth might be in the statement.  But before she could come to any definitive answer, Alex entered the main room from his office, went directly to the kitchen telephone and began disconnecting the telephone, caller identification, answering machine, and computer links.  Using a single line, he then plugged the telephone itself directly back into the jack.

Dawn had been watching the whole process.  "What are you doing?"

"Disconnecting the modem and fax.  This old telephone is now our only link with the outside world, and it's too old to be of concern."

The answer wasn't sufficient for Dawn.  "I don't understand."

Alex released a heavy sigh, and then a long, slow breath.  "We don't know if they've managed to put it together yet, but it's inevitable that if a computer can link everyone with the Inter Net, then that same net, at some point, is going to be able to download everything on any individual's computer.  We do know that the central computers are already querying the individual computers for file names whenever anyone logs onto the inter net and are then checking to see if the individual is a registered owner of all of the software on their computer.  That was one of the innovations of the much ballyhooed new software a few years ago -- which included the programming to allow it query each computer without the individual computer owners knowing about it. 

There's no doubt in my mind, but that eventually, if they're not already capable of doing it, the central computer will be able to listen in on what's happening in someone's home even when their computer is off.  In fact, the new Digital televisions, which will be the only television in a few years, will undoubtedly have the capability of being a transceiver -- listening in on the household and transmitting the information as well as receiving.  This telephone, on the other hand, is old enough that it's extremely unlikely that it contains the electronics whereby anyone could electronically listen in on our conversation."

Dawn was amazed.  "You really think that's a possibility even now?"

Alex shrugged.  "Oh yeah.  Plus which, they could be doing wide scan monitoring even now looking for key words.  And I'm not exactly a wallflower when it comes to questioning authority."

"I have a better idea," Barb suddenly interrupted, "Let's eat."

Alex grinned sheepishly.  "I'll wash my hands."


The "last supper" was indeed an event.  Dawn consumed the food with a vengeance, being precise in savoring every bite, and at the same time, not allowing a single morsel to remain undisturbed on her plate.  Both Alex and Barb watched her with a certain amusement, but neither made any comments on her obvious intent to eat them out of house and home.  Barb served desert when Alex and she had finished their meals, and while Dawn was cleaning out each of the serving bowls.  Her desert, she simply added to the collection of different tastes around her.  The conversation waned to the point of extinction.

Dawn was still eating when Alex and Barb finished, and when the older woman announced, "Hate to eat and run, folks, but they need me at the Sundance!  The party really can't start until I get there."  Turning to Alex, she asked in a mock teenage voice, "Can I have the Firebird, Dad?"

Alex laughed, and going along with the gag, said, "Okay, but have it in by midnight!"

Barb almost laughed in his face.  "Yeah, right!"  With that she left through the front door.

Dawn took the moment to say, "Nice of you to let her drive your car."

Alex looked at her for a moment, surprised.  "It's her car," he replied.  "Mine's a pickup."  When Dawn looked bewildered, Alex added, "Old Woman is something of a party animal." 

Dawn smiled at the idea, readily believable, and then returned to finish off her meal.  She found exceptional comfort in the last bite of desert (a luscious Lemon Charlotte pastry), and then leaned back to savor the moment.  Watching her, Alex commented, "You must have been hungry."

Dawn smiled gamely.  "I haven't had a real meal since Lake Mach."

"Ah yes," Alex replied, "Lake Mach.  That must have been an experience."

"Strange place," Dawn agreed.  Then she looked at Alex.  "I was curious why they named it Lake Mach.  The only 'mach' that comes to mind is the one associated with the speed of sound -- Mach One."

Her remaining dinner companion smiled.  "More likely named after Machiavelli, or machination, the art of secret plotting or scheming.  Particularly the kind involving evil intent."

"Machiavelli," Dawn repeated, thinking about the connection.  "I hadn't thought about him.  He was a sixteenth century politician, wasn't he?"

"Oh yes.  The mastermind who promulgated the rules for controlling the masses."

"That would about sum it up for The Patrons.  You're right.  Very appropriate name."

Dawn silently watched the man, as he seemed to be deep in thought, trying to make connections where he had not done so before.  She was also remembering something in Gil's notes.

When Alex reached a point in his thinking where he appeared to be satisfied, Dawn asked her question.  "Wasn't there a scientist named Mach?"

"Yes," Alex answered, matter-of-factly.  Then suddenly, his eyes lit up as he made another connection.  "Of course!  Mach!  Why didn't I see it before?"

Dawn had not made the connection.  "So who is he?"

Alex returned to the conversation.  In his best professorial tone, he began to explain.  "Mach was a nineteenth century German physicist.  His argument was that acceleration, or inertia, could only be defined within a frame of reference.  It's like, in utterly empty space, how do you know you're moving?  Mach figured it was due to all of the matter in the universe, in effect, inertia being defined with respect to the distant stars.  Einstein tried to incorporate what he called Mach's Principle into his general relativity, but failed to do so.  But more recently, a fellow named Puthoff and two others have tied the frame of reference to the quantum vacuum.  Their claim was that it was the vacuum which put up the resistance to motion."

"And the vacuum is where the zero-point-energy is?" Dawn asked.

"Exactly," Alex replied.  Then he seemed to realize he was not talking to a novice in the area of modern quantum physics.  His respect for the woman sitting with him took a quantum leap (pardon the pun).  With increasing enthusiasm he added, "You could even theorize that the zero-point-energy, the source of all matter in the universe, is also the source of inertia.  It totally fulfills Mach's Principle.  Of course," he added, with considerably less intensity, "I don't know that anyone would name a place, Lake Mach, just to honor an old physicist named Ernst."

Dawn knew she had Alex on a roll, and quickly took advantage.  "Tell me about microclusters."

Alex looked at her for several seconds, appraising the stranger so confidant in asking questions.  He was impressed.  "You've been doing your homework," he acknowledged.

Dawn accepted the compliment with a smile, and added, "Also, spontaneous fission."

Alex laughed, partly surprised by her questions, and partly at his own failure to have sized her up any better.  He knew he would have to be straight with her, but there were also some things he would want to keep out of the conversation.  He would have to walk a fine line.  Fortunately for him, Alex didn't know Dawn could sense he was deciding just how much to tell.  But for the moment she was more interested in obtaining information.  Later, she would probe for more. 

"Microclusters," Alex began.  "Technically, microclusters are tiny aggregates of a material consisting of from two to several hundred atoms.  They are of interest because once atoms are freed from the influence of the other atoms that surround them they begin to reconfigure themselves in very unique and interesting ways.  More importantly, their physical characteristics change in a very fundamental manner.  For example, electrical conductivity might change dramatically as one enters the microcluster regime. It's as if as one divides and subdivides a solid, the characteristics of the solid fade away.  And instead of being replaced by the traits of liquids or gases, they seem to represent a new phase of matter.

"If you've ever taken chemistry in high school or college, you're probably operating under a misconception.  The representation for gold chloride, for example, is AuCl -- Au representing gold and Cl representing Chlorine.  But the reality is that gold chloride almost never exists in this fashion, with one gold atom attached to a single chlorine atom.  In reality, you're more likely to have Au30Cl30, that is 30 gold atoms and 30 Chlorine atoms all connected in a huge conglomeration of atoms.  Silicon atoms, as another example, tend to congregate in knobby clusters of 45 atoms, while carbon clusters comprise 60 atoms in a soccer-ball shape called ‘buckminsterfullerene’.

"The fascinating part is when you break down an element or a compound such that there is only one atom all by its lonely -- the mono-atomic state, or in small groups of 2 to several hundred -- the microcluster -- everything changes.  Gold, for example, is a yellow metal.  You've probably heard of it.  But in a mono-atomic state, for example, it's pure white."

"You're kidding," Dawn interjected.  "White gold?"

"Trust me on this one," Alex replied.  "It really exists in the form of a white powder.  The key is if it's not yellow, no one thinks it's gold.  But it is, and there are ways to show it."


"It gets better," Alex assured her.  "All atoms, sub-atomic and elementary particles, even whole galaxies of stars for that matter, move in time and space.  A portion of this movement is inevitably a spinning motion.  As a physical concept, spin is perhaps as fundamental a characteristic or physical property of matter as exists.  In turn, the spinning motion of an atom is inherently related to its stability.

"You asked about spontaneous fission of atoms.  Imagine an automobile tire which is slightly out of round.  When it starts spinning faster and faster, it will tend to wobble, even throw off chunks of tire.  At the higher rotational speeds, the tire is extremely unstable.  You're likely to be throwing rubber all over the highway.  The same is true of an atom.  And in a microcluster or mono-atomic state, the likelihood of an atom spinning and spontaneously fissioning is even greater.

"When an atom absorbs energy, there are several things it can do with the excess energy.  One way to deal with it is for the atom to increase its spin.  There are constraints on this, including the influence of the other atoms surrounding the atom in question.  But in the mono-atomic or microcluster state, some of these limitations are lifted, and the atom is much more free to spin, perhaps reaching an unstable state.

"Are you familiar with nuclear shell theory?"

"No," Dawn answered.  "Not really."

"Okay," Alex replied, accepting the additional charge.  "I'll have to back up a bit."  Then he looked at her for a moment.  "Just let me know if this is too elementary for you."

"Just keep talking," Dawn replied, as she leaned forward, her intensity at the maximum.

Alex shuddered slightly, in the manner of a more experienced Red Riding Hood meeting the Wolf in the woods.  This woman was something else, he decided.  But it was time to forge ahead.

"An atom," he began, "consists of electrons, protons and neutrons.  The protons and neutrons, together known as nucleons, are concentrated in the nucleus and represent well over 99% of the mass of the atom.  The electrons orbit the nucleus in distinct shells, at specific distances from the nucleus.  This nucleus is incredibly small in comparison to the orbits of the electrons.  If the nucleus of a gold atom was a little over six inches in diameter, the diameter of the atom would be on the order of one mile!"

Dawn let that one sink in, trying to imagine the dimensions.

Alex smiled.  He had always enjoyed the one-on-one teaching situation -- especially with a good student.  Not to mention an attractive one.  Forging ahead, he continued, "Within the nucleus, the protons, and separately the neutrons, each fill their own set of shells -- just as the electrons do orbiting about the nucleus.  Quantum physics require that each particular shell can only have a specific number of nucleons, and this maximum number can range from two to fourteen or more nucleons in a particular shell.  The outermost shells have the larger numbers, while the innermost shell is always limited to two nucleons.

"When a particular shell is filled, that is, when there is a nucleon for each available niche in that shell, physicists refer to the shell as a closed shell.  Elements which have the precise number of protons and/or neutrons to precisely fill an outermost shell turn out to be enormously stable elements.  They are, in effect, very symmetrical -- like a well balanced automobile tire.  But if an element has several nucleons roaming about in an unfilled outermost shell, they are more likely to reach a very asymmetric situation.  Given enough energy, and thus a high spin state, the asymmetric rotation can have dramatic results.  Like throwing off nucleons, just as an unbalanced tire might throw off chunks of rubber.

"Within a nucleus, there are two primary forces in operation.  One is the attractive nuclear force, while the other is the electromagnetic force.  The latter is well known and results in like charges (such as protons) repelling one another -- just as like poles of a magnet repel each other -- while unlike charges (such as an electron and a proton) attract each other.  In the nucleus, there are only positively charged protons -- neutrons have no charge -- such that the electromagnetic force in the nucleus is attempting to break the nucleus apart.  The nuclear force, however, is attempting to keep it together.

"A fundamental difference between the two types of forces is that the nuclear force is much stronger, but acts over a very short range.  If, for example, you have two protons one Fermi apart -- a typical distance within the nucleus -- the electromagnetic force is one hundred times weaker than the stronger nuclear force.  In this case nothing happens.  But if these same two protons increase the distance between them to ten Fermis -- perhaps due to the spinning motion -- then the electromagnetic force is about ten times stronger than the nuclear force.  And the protons fly apart.  Spontaneous fission."

Alex watched her for a second, trying to read her comprehension.  She seemed okay, but had a look of skepticism.  The professor decided to continue.  "Imagine a liquid drop which is spinning.  If the drop is composed entirely of nucleons, and some of the nucleons in the outermost shell begin to congregate on one side of the drop, then the centrifugal force will cause them to move away from the center of the liquid drop.  Thus the spherical drop will deform into something more the shape of a bowling pin.  The little chunk at the top of the bowling pin, once out of the range of the nuclear force, and very much within the electromagnetic force range, will fly away from the larger mass of the bowling pin."

"Let me see if I've got this right," Dawn interjected.  "An atom off by itself -- monoatomic -- or with just a few of its friends -- a microcluster -- is more likely to achieve higher spins..."

"When it absorbs energy.  Which can be from light, radiation, heat, whatever..."

"And if the atom has extra nucleons in the outermost shell of the nucleus,” Dawn continued, “then the spinning motion will result in those nucleons being more likely to off balance the symmetrical spinning motion of the nucleus.  In this asymmetrical state, the nucleons will move away from the main part of the nucleus until the electromagnetic force of repulsion overcomes the attractive nuclear force, and the nucleus splits."

"Precisely," Alex replied, pleased with his student's grasp.  "The atoms in what is called a high spin state, deform, or more accurately, reach a state of Superdeformation.  They may then spontaneously fission, or in other words, achieve what is termed, superasymmetric fission." 

"I'll just think of it as a wobbly tire or a bowling pin," Dawn replied.

"Fine," Alex laughed.  He leaned back as if he had completed a successful mission.

But Dawn was not finished.  "But how does this relate to superconductivity?"

Alex's smile faded, but he kept at it.  "High spin nuclei, in the presence of a magnetic field, have been observed to transfer energy from nucleus to nucleus without any loss of energy.  This is, in essence, superconductivity.  But superconductivity is far more.  According to one of the currently reigning theories of superconductivity, electrons combine in what are called Cooper Pairs and carry energy in that form.  But the electromagnetic force implies that electrons should repel each other and be unable to pair up.  They seem to get around this by transforming themselves from particles, which are called Fermions, into Bosons, or photons -- quantum bits of light.  In what is called Bose Condensation, one achieves what is virtually a nucleus surrounded by light instead of electrons."

"I thought superconductivity was something you encountered only at very low temperatures, like those temperatures near zero degrees Kelvin, absolute zero?"

"That's the traditional wisdom," Alex replied, "But there's nothing to prevent superconductivity at room temperatures.  Remember, the microclusters?  The internal temperatures of a microcluster of atoms are in the range of 20 to 100 degrees Kelvin.  In effect, as you proceed from normal matter into the realm of microclusters, the internal temperature of the atoms decreases.  Thus a di-atomic element -- just two atoms -- has an internal temperature of around 10 degrees Kelvin.  At the ultimate extreme, a mono-atomic element's internal temperature drops to something like 1 degree Kelvin.  And yet the external temperature surrounding these atoms is room temperature.  Therefore, you get superconductivity at room temperature."

"Oh my heavens," Dawn exclaimed.  "Going to the mono-atomic form of the element automatically implies superconductivity!"

"Not necessarily," Alex cautioned.  "You might be able to obtain superconductivity with a microcluster as well -- what some are referring to as an ORMUS.  In addition, you also need an external magnetic field in order to initiate the phenomena."  As Dawn smiled broadly, he added, "Remember we mentioned the zero-point-energy?  The zero-point refers to zero degrees Kelvin -- that's where the zero-point-energy resides!"

"Good grief," Dawn added, "It all ties together."

"But there's one more thing," Alex replied.  "One very important thing."  When Dawn gave him a look of profound skepticism, he smiled.  "Other research has shown that living systems have all the characteristics of superconductivity.  Cells quite literally communicate via superconducting means.  It may be that superconductivity is fundamental to life, allowing consciousness to tap into the zero-point-energy!"

Dawn was momentarily speechless.  Alex leaned forward to make his point even more emphatic.  "Better yet, an attribute which virtually defines superconductivity is something called a Meisner Field, a non-polar magnetic field -- in other words, a magnetic field without poles.  Meisner Fields repel all other magnetic fields, such that no other magnetic field can exist within a Meisner Field. But more importantly, Meisner Fields have the ability to instantaneously communicate with each other.  From a philosophical viewpoint, all Meisner Fields are One!"

"The holistic paradigm," Dawn whispered, hardly daring to voice the truth any louder.

"Exactly," Alex assured her.  "Superconductivity's Meisner Fields connect the universe!"

Dawn was now appearing incredulous.  "That's incredible," she said, not really believing it was indeed not credible, but that it was simply too profound to readily accept.

"There's another very important wrinkle," Alex said, with a slight twinkle in his eye.  "You're probably aware of the fact -- and there is a lot of good scientific evidence being accumulated to support it -- electromagnetic radiation from everything ranging from electrical power lines to desktop computers can be seriously detrimental to health.  At the same time, there is also a great deal of experimental evidence that the proper use of magnets and magnetic therapy seems to be capable of curing all sorts of diseases -- everything from arthritis to hemorrhoids, from cancer to Aids!  The jury is not yet in on this one, but if superconductivity does not occur initially without external magnetic fields, it seems likely magnetism and superconductivity are part and parcel of there being healthy organisms.  One might even conjecture that the earth's magnetic field is, in some fundamental manner, connected to health issues.  We do know, for example, subtle magnetic fields are often more effective than higher intensity magnetic fields."

Dawn suddenly looked perplexed.  "I've read some of what you're saying about magnetic fields and health.  But how do you tie this in with mono-atomic elements or microclusters?"

Alex became serious for a moment.  Taking more care in being precise, he replied, "Recall that elements in their mono-atomic or microcluster form are the most likely elements to exhibit superconductivity.  The scientific evidence strongly suggests that if one can acquire certain elements ideally in their mono-atomic form, these elements can be taken internally, and as they are absorbed by the body, create superconductivity between the cells.  In the process, the mono-atomic elements effectively cure most everything.  In effect, the cells of the body are being subjected to light flowing throughout; clearing out every tumor, damaged cell, and biologic flaw from the matrix of cells.  These elements could be the ultimate cure!"

"Has anybody tried this?"  Dawn was incredulous, but eager for it to be true.

"Yes, and it's been successful on a small scale.  There is even a group of researchers working with what they call the ORMUS, which has precisely these intentions.  But everyone has to be very careful."

Now Dawn was simply mystified.  "Why?  I'd think this would be incredibly important."

"It is incredibly important," Alex replied.  "But for many people, it's their worst nightmare."

Dawn suddenly recalled Barb's words, where she had suspected Dawn might become The Patrons' 'worst nightmare'.  Dawn shook her head slightly.  "I don't understand."

"Take cancer, for example.  There are now more people making a good living off treating and researching treatments for cancer than there are people dying from the disease.  From the viewpoint of the American Medical Association, the absolute worst thing that could happen would be for someone to come up with an all-inclusive cure for cancer.  Look how many people you'd put out of work!  Worse yet, the people losing the highest paying jobs would be the medical doctors and administrators -- precisely the people who are paying the dues to the AMA -- dues intended to protect the membership's interests!" 

When Dawn looked skeptical, Alex added, "Do you remember when the Salk vaccine came out?  The March of Dimes had developed itself into a huge organization, with its sole purpose to find a cure for polio.  Then, when the cure was indeed found, the extremely well paid executives of the March of Dimes found themselves in a quandary -- They were no longer needed!  They had status, power, and money from using their talents to raise funds for the search of a cure for Polio, and suddenly, they were superfluous.  It's my understanding there was a serious discussion on whether or not to disband the March of Dimes -- the argument being they had accomplished their mission and it was time to call it a day.  But in the end, they simply switched to another disease -- in this case, birth defects.  The problem of birth defects was a more all-inclusive medical problem, and thus less likely to be quickly eliminated as a fund-raising motivator.  The lesson the medical community learned from this was that one didn't really want to cure a particular disease.  They only wanted to develop expensive treatment programs."

Dawn's reaction was cautious and disbelieving.  "They would suppress a cure for cancer?"

"The medical hierarchy already has," Alex answered, matter-of-factly.  "Everything from Essiac, Gaston Naessons work, Cansema, etceteras, etceteras.  Anything that has been shown to work in thousands of allegedly terminal cases but where the people simply recovered are ignored or suppressed.  Any authoritative investigation into a promising technique is simply prohibited.  The AMA, for example, has automatically rejected any and all cures.  In this country, the AMA is, in fact, the greatest threat to our health.  They'd happily resort to murder in order to protect their incomes.  And they've done it before."

"The AMA is a murderer?"  Dawn was now blatantly skeptical.

"Well," Alex began, "there are two ways of looking at it.  On the one hand, it's the instinct for survival.  Economically, they suffer real losses if they don't suppress the cure.  Plus which, while I don't know that members or executives of the AMA have specifically ever pulled a trigger on someone who came up with a cure, the fact remains that they have associates -- other knee-jerk reactionaries, people without any moral inhibitions -- who would readily kill someone, just in order to maintain control of the status quo."

"Like the Patrons," Dawn interjected.

"Exactly.  Think of the AMA cartel as a 'wholly-owned subsidiary' of The Patrons.  The AMA, in response to the threat occasioned by someone finding a cure for cancer, may take independent action against the threat, unaware of the larger picture.  Or they may turn to someone like The Patrons -- either to inform them of their actions, or to request their assistance.  The people coming up with the cure are still subjected to death threats or actual deaths from one or more sources.

"But whichever is the case, the fact of the matter is that the AMA, by blindly resisting alternative cures for cancer, has effectively sentenced millions of people to death.  That would constitute murder in my book.  And you can bet The Patrons are part and parcel of the suppression process -- they want to maintain the status quo, which includes people dying of cancer."  Alex stopped to gauge Dawn's reaction.

She watched him for several seconds, sensing the earnest sincerity of his feelings.  Quietly, she responded, "I have some trouble with seeing such a hideous conspiracy."

Alex took a deep breath and leaned back.  "Don't think of it as a giant conspiracy.  Many people do despicable things out of personal fear, malice, just plain stupidity, or what I call 'willful ignorance'.  They may have no hint of the bigger picture, or conspiracy.  Economics, for example, plays the biggest part. 

"For example, all medical doctors have an inherent conflict of interest.  If they cure a patient, they lose the source of revenue that ailing patient represents.  The only saving grace for most of us has been that the AMA has taken extreme measures to limit the number of doctors in practice by controlling with an iron hand the medical school enrollments.  This has resulted in doctors having all the patients they can handle, and consequently, curing a few patients provides for good public relations, and at the same time does not really represent a loss of income to the still busy medical doctors and administrators.

"By the way, keep in mind I'm talking primarily about chronic illness -- everything from cancer to allergies -- diseases which just keep hanging on and never seemed to get cured.  On the other hand, acute medical emergencies -- the kind handled by emergency rooms -- are dealt with much better.  The emergency medicine in this country is really quite excellent.  They buy the time for the immune systems to do their job."

"Look," Dawn countered, "I have some doctor friends, and I really can't believe..."

"It's not the average doctor we're talking about," Alex quickly added.  "The average doctor has to contend with laws and regulations promoted by the medical establishment -- just in order to practice and not incur enormous liabilities.  It's the powers that be that are the bad guys.  It's the medical establishment that stays in power because so many people are paying so much money just to stay alive.  It's also the Patrons, the ultimate authority who view the masses as a threat to their own security, and who have no compunction in allowing millions to die a horrible death."

"But powers that be can only stay in power if the individual doctors acquiesce."

Alex frowned.  "I can't find that much fault with many of the individual doctors I've come in contact with.  Working within the medical system is difficult at best.  And they can't all be martyrs -- although many of them are very quietly going against the grain.  The problem is that if they openly balk at the garbage coming down from on high, it's over for them.  They're out of the profession, legally hounded if they even think about helping others, and end up being able to do nothing."

"What about the health maintenance organizations?  Aren't they out to save money?"

"Absolutely.  But the emphasis is on saving money and not on curing anyone.  Meanwhile, the insurance companies are ripping us off, hiding funds, and perpetuating a monstrosity."

"I'm sorry," Dawn insisted, "I don't think we can blame physicians and nurses for what is our own responsibility to maintain our health.  We can't even blame the AMA."

"I agree with you," Alex replied.  "It does sound a bit like Scapegoatology"  Both smiled, as Alex continued.  "First of all, I would never complain about nurses -- they've always been into curing people, and there's certainly never been an incentive for someone to go into nursing because of the money.  I also suspect that women, in general being less greedy than men, would make better M.D.s"

"Naturally," Dawn agreed, gleefully.

Alex smiled at the comment.  Then, he became more serious.  "I also agree that every person is ultimately responsible for his or her own health.  But when authorities such as the AMA and the Patrons go to the extreme lengths they've gone to in order to prevent people from having access to ways to cure themselves...  That's another issue entirely.  People can cure themselves, if they just have access to the truth, and if the AMA and others like them will just get out of the way."

"Be that as it may," Dawn countered, "I've never been too keen on seeing conspiracies in every turn of the establishment.  It sounds too radical for me."

"Let me give you example outside of medicine," Alex argued.  "A friend of mine, a professor at a major university, was doing work on what was at the time known as "cold fusion."

"That refers to the work by Pons and Fleischman begun in 1989," Dawn added.

"Exactly," Alex replied.

Suddenly Dawn had a thought.  "Is cold fusion for real?"

"No question," Alex replied.  "It's probably mislabeled, for there's no doubt the two chemists were tapping into the zero-point energy.  The observed, so-called fusion was just a by-product.  As of today, there are dozens of potential methods in the works for achieving unlimited energy from techniques such as cold fusion.  At the same time, most work in the area is being suppressed.  The establishment is doing everything in its power to prevent the fruition of any and all lines of research."

"But there really is all of this free energy there?"  Dawn kept struggling with the idea.

"Absolutely.  But it constitutes such an enormous threat to all the dinosaurs.  Whether they've spent a lifetime, as some have, working on hot fusion -- Tokamaks, plasma physics and the like -- or working for any of the so-called energy companies, utilities, or simply people who hate change in any form; then the implications of free energy are extremely scary."

Alex began to grow more intense -- a deep hurt beginning to surface.  "There's a friend of mine who was one of the most respected scientists in the country.  He carried the title of 'Distinguished Professor' at a nationally recognized university.  When he began his work on 'cold fusion', twenty seven of his fellow 'Distinguished Professors' at the university accused him of 'practicing Alchemy' and thus violating the taboo of transmuting elements

"That, of course, just demonstrated their ignorance.  Science has been transmuting elements -- practicing alchemy -- in a variety of ways, from nuclear fission bombs and power plants, fusion bombs, the sun, to biological transmutations, to particle accelerators -- where among other things, brand new elements can be created.  But this gang of twenty seven 'Distinguished Professors' was too stupid to even think about that!  In fact, they couldn't even adhere to proper grammar in their accusatory letter to the university's administration!  They pulled everything they could to crucify my friend, based on his so-called crime of 'practicing Alchemy'.  Even if what they said had been true, what's the problem?  'Practicing Alchemy!?'

"But they drew up a set of charges, and when those were dismissed, they managed to force audits on all of my friend's research projects over the last twenty five years.  The people who had granted the money for the research didn't care about having an audit on their funds, but these..."  Alex's voice became very sarcastic, "Fellow scientists and colleagues felt compelled to harass my friend.  It was bad enough the university conducted the audits when the grantors of the money could have cared less, but they did it with such a vengeance.  They absolutely consumed the man's time, just answering all of the inane questions!"

"Well... My friend hung in there, survived all their crap.  Until..."  Alex's face became deep and drawn.  " Until the heart attacks began..."

"Your friend had a heart attack!?"

"No," Alex answered, suddenly calm.  "It was much stranger than that.  He was presenting a paper at a scientific meeting, when a member of the audience, another scientist, a colleague of his, died of a heart attack during my friend's presentation.  Without warning, the fellow just keeled over dead.  A medical doctor was at the meeting, but he told me later there was nothing that could be done.  The man had been dead when he hit the floor.  I was there at the time.  It was incredible.  Suddenly, a disturbance in the back of the room, chairs shuffling, and then someone calling for a doctor.  Then an effort to revive him, the doctor trying mouth-to-mouth breathing, pounding his heart...  All for nothing."

Dawn flinched at the emotions she was receiving from Alex.  But she also wanted to help in some way.  "I don't really believe in coincidences, but you can't really blame your professor."

Alex turned to look at her, his expression bleak and sad.  "That was the first time.  When it happened twice more, in two subsequent presentations at two other scientific meetings, my friend sort of lost it."  Alex's face showed the effects of the emotional turmoil revisited, tears welling up in his eyes.  "There was absolutely no significant connection between him and the heart attack victims, no conceivable link between his presentation and the deaths -- but my friend still felt responsible.  For him it was a professional death.  He retired shortly after the third incident."  Alex's voice faltered for just a moment.  "I don't know how they did it, but they forced him out."  Alex pulled out a handkerchief, held it in his hand, but then seemed to forget about the small white cloth.  His head fell, as he leaned back.

Dawn was feeling his deep emotional pain, frustration, anger, and sadness.  Quietly and earnestly, she said, "I'm very sorry for your friend..."

Alex rallied as soon as she spoke.  "I'm sorry.  I'm afraid I took us off on a tangent."  Regathering himself, Alex spoke in a more abstract voice.  "My point had been that academic freedom in this country no longer exists.  It hardly exists anywhere else in the world, for that matter.  Everything is so tied to money -- for research grants, program funding, and so forth -- there's no longer any freedom.  When I left the university, it was in part because of the blinders on the so-called scholars, the holier than thou attitudes, the departmental straight jackets on what was acceptable research and what was not.  Since then there has been the politicians with extreme right or left wing agendas completely subverting the process of scientific inquiry. This doesn't even include the bureaucratic bullshit and the total inability of the vast majority of university professors to even entertain the possibility of an open mind.  My friend's crucifixion was simply the last straw."

"Do you think there ever was academic freedom?" Dawn asked.

"I think so," Alex said.  "Of course, it might just have been naiveté on my part when I was younger."  Then he turned back to her, more in command.  "The point I had meant to make was that the AMA going to any lengths to protect their interests, does not necessarily have anything to do with the lack of academic freedom and the inability of most university professors to open their minds.  In the latter case, their status is based on what they know, and God forbid they should have to learn something new!"

"Reminds me of something I once learned in a history class," Dawn replied, as she began to grasp Alex's point.  "Someone did a senior paper on whether or not history could be changed.  Her thesis was that if some new evidence was uncovered conclusively proving some part of history had to be modified, would it be changed?  In other words, would the reigning historians allow it?  I remember the idea being interesting as a concept, but then when I saw the professor in charge of the class attack the student unmercifully, attempting to destroy all of her examples and in general, humiliate her -- I realized her thesis had been proven.  History can't be changed, even if the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of it.  At least, until the next generation takes over.  All of the old guard has to die off first."

"And why do you suppose they call them, 'the old guard'?"

Dawn grimaced.  "Because they resist incursions, change, progress..."

Alex looked glum.  Then he smiled cynically.  "The Supreme Court of the United States several years back, ruled a guilty verdict could not be overturned after the fact if the only reason to overturn the verdict was that the so-called guilty person could now be proven innocent!"

"You're saying people don't change easily," Dawn replied, beginning a smile.

"Exactly."  He returned her smile.  "And of course, the Supreme Court, the AMA, the historians, the academic community... They don't have to all be in some giant conspiracy.  They merely need to be going about the task of defending their territory at all costs.  I suppose some of them might be unwitting parties to a larger conspiracy, but it's not essential.  They can just be small-minded, fearful persons., each doing his own wretched suppression of truth -- oblivious to any larger conspiracy that might exist."

"And who end up destroying others in their quest," Dawn replied, her voice now saddened.

"Or in the case of Pons and Fleischman -- the men who began the 'cold fusion' revolution in physics and chemistry -- they were eventually forced to relocate to France, in order to continue their work.  In effect, they were 'exiled'.  Somewhat more humane, but that's the best you can say of it."

"There doesn't seem to be a lot of Justice in the world," Dawn added.  "No sense of fairness, impartiality, or anything to ensure people receiving what they deserve."

"It's about education," Alex replied.  "Learning the truth.  Recognizing what's real."  His voice became serious.  "The stuff we're dealing with; the AMA will kill in order to suppress it."

"You really believe they would resort to murder to stop a cure for something like AIDS?"

Alex smiled slightly.  "Actually, they might really try to cure AIDS.  The stuff is so contagious the doctors themselves could come down with it.  And it's not the kind of disease with which you're going to make a lot of money.  Or one where you are fairly assured you'll live long enough to enjoy it.  Cancer, on the other hand, is not contagious. It's the perfect money-maker!"

"My God, but you're cynical!"  Dawn was smiling when she said it.

Alex reflected only a second.  "I'm realistic.  Experience has taught me people will commit all manner of atrocity in the name of defending themselves -- whether it be to defend the status quo, their status, power or money, or just because they fear any kind of change.  Eric Hoffer once wrote a book called The Ordeal of Change.  For a lot of people, that about sums it up."

Dawn sat still, wondering about the man to whom she had turned for rescue, trying to decide if he could be right.  "Is that why the AMA was so against Clinton's health plan?  Because they would have lost some of their income as doctors?"

"There never was a health plan," Alex corrected.  "There was a health insurance plan.  No one talked about how to make people healthier -- only how to pay for the medical procedures which claimed to help.  The medical establishment would have continued to rip off their patients."

"The whole thing is really rather depressing," Dawn commented.

Alex suddenly laughed, as he remembered something.  "I saw a statistic once which showed medical doctors had a much shorter life span than the average person in most any other profession.  It occurred to me if the medical doctors are dying a lot faster than the rest of us, why are we taking their advice?  Obviously, they don't know much about how to live themselves!"  Then he just smiled.

The two of them sat for a few more moments, thinking.  Dawn then asked one more question, partly in jest, and partly because she thought it might be important.  "Barb... Old Woman called this meal, the 'last supper'.  What do you suppose she meant by that?"

Alex looked at Dawn, his surprise at the idea, plainly obvious.  But Dawn also sensed she had struck a nerve, and that the man was now procrastinating -- hurriedly trying to come up with an answer.  Finally, he said, "I never try to understand Old Woman.  She's way beyond me."  When it wasn't clear Dawn was going to accept the answer, he deferred it.  "I have some urgent work I need to do before morning.  If you'd like to watch a video, there are several lighter-hearted ones..."

"No thanks," she interjected.  "I'm in for an early night."

"That's good," Alex replied, the relief on his face a trifle too obvious.  "Things could get busy again very soon.  You're going to need all of your energy."

With that, Dawn excused herself, said good night, and walked out of the room.  All the while, she kept wondering about the evening's discussion.  She could now see very clearly why she might be in danger.  Somehow, through her connection to Gil, she was now suspected of having information that could force a radical transformation onto an unwilling medical profession -- costing a lot of people, a great deal of money, power and status.  The Patrons, themselves, clearly would be defending the status quo -- including the medical research log jam -- and might find her existence an untenable threat.  If there was the possibility of an incredible breakthrough in medicine, her life would be very much in danger.  It was something of an ironic twist, when she thought about it:  The one with the cure was the one in danger.

Still...  Dawn could not quite believe this was all there was to it.  Her sense Alex was still holding back, was very strong.  There was a lot more to the story, a lot more yet to be told.  Then she remembered something and mentally kicked herself.  She had wanted to ask Alex about the Humanki, and had forgotten to do so.  It seemed a good bet they were also heavily involved.  Probably in everything.


It was raining heavily at Denver International Airport, and the brand new roof was leaking.  The unique, architectural wonder of the otherwise empty plains hadn't quite mastered the trick of shedding or diverting water and keeping the interior dry.  Numerous residents of the Denver metropolitan area mumbled under their breath (and a few made wry comments aloud) about the $10 billion price tag of the facility and the fact that surely one or two of those billion could have been spent on a rain proof roof.

The professor from Golden was not one of those complaining.  Such mundane matters of taxes and politics were not part of his busy schedule.  And on this particularly rainy night, he had other thoughts on his mind:  The School of Mines Professor was on hand at DIA to meet some VIP.  It was rainy and miserable weather outside; he had arrived late, and the plane was even later. The professor might have deferred the honor of playing host to the VIP, but it had been made very clear to him that his source of research funding was rather dependent upon this display of hospitality.

But all things eventually come to those who patiently wait (the unofficial motto of the airport).  The professor, weary and a little bit disgusted, was at the gate when the plane finally arrived.  When he met his party, his enthusiasm was dampened even further, as three men came off the airplane -- two very mean looking and in a foul mood to boot, and the third, a tall, dark abrupt man with a threatening smile.

"Professor Hanly, I presume," the third man said.

"Yes.  And you're Mr...?"

Kurt ignored the formalities.  "You have the information we requested?

The professor was suddenly horrified.  "No," he replied, his confusion apparent.  "I mean, yes!  I just don't have it with me.  I was only told to meet you here, and to provide anything you needed.  I didn't know I was to bring anything."  When the man looked more than a little put out, the professor added, "I can get anything you need tomorrow morning -- or whenever you need it."  The professor was uncharacteristically eager to please.

The man considered the idea.  "Perhaps it's just as well.  We'll spend the night in a hotel, and you can bring us the information first thing in the morning."  Without any fanfare, Kurt turned and began walking down the concourse, the others taking their lead from him.  The professor had enough brains to catch up with him and walk alongside, while the two, unintroduced men walked a discreet distance behind.  Kurt continued to walk as he spoke to the professor.  "We'll need a rental car to take us to Fort Collins tomorrow morning. Arrange it."

The professor said nothing in reply and only swallowed, trying to digest his hopefully temporary reduction in status.  It was going to be a long night.


Chapter Seven -- The Hermit

Forward to:

Chapter Nine -- The Moon



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