After six months the General called Kitz.
“Michael, I need to talk to you about our consultancy. I need to know if you can ask for a little more funding.”
Interesting choice of words thought Michael. Not ‘need to ask’ but ‘can ask’. This is a good sign. It probably meant he had found something that could be used to justify the continuation of the project. Certainly the Whitehouse thought his approach had merit on many levels: It could be funded covertly; it was funding spent in a potential vote winning area; and it was the only good idea they had.
“I’ll be right over.”
Kitz told his PA to postpone an appointment he had with someone called Dr Peter Ellery about anomaly trend detection analysis in social networking. He had introduced himself as representing Hadden Industries but had been quick to distance himself from the arm previously under investigation. Evidently a lobbyist. He then had a second thought and called her again to delegate the meeting to someone else. His PA, who had several calendars she coordinated, suggested Mark Beregons. He was one of John’s Signal Corpsmen who had suffered a case of PTSD. “Perfect” he had declared, and asked that only filtered calls be forwarded to his mobile.
True to his word Kitz was there in short time. The General greeted him cordially and thanked him. He first briefed him in his office.
“We have been working on a telepathic receptor system, both to interpret and to replay brain signals. For your project we initially tried simply replaying the signal through our system. It was not a big success, all the recipient recalled was noise.”
“The recipient?” Kitz looked puzzled.
“Yes, We have a quadriplegic victim of a ground mine. He cannot seem to get enough of our work, well he has little else he can do. By virtue of the regularity of his immersion he gets occasional images from the person trying to transmit. He is our best subject and is progressively learning. With 18 hours of immersion if there was any telepathic signal he would have picked it up.”
“You called me here to tell me that?” Kitz was not frustrated, he simply wanted John to get to his point.
“Follow me,” said John.
General John Meredith took Kitz to the office of one of his staff, William Thomson, a Senior Analyst, who began his explanation:
“Sir, there are several channels on this data. One is Audio and Video, another monitors temperature, there is radiation monitoring, and then, health telemetry which should contain heart-rate, breathing, and EEG signals.”
“EEG?” interrupted Kitz.
“Brainwave data sir, ElectroEncephaloGram.”
“Okay, go on.”
“Well it’s true that all the signals have the appearance of noise. But any signal also has a corresponding Fourier transform.”
Kitz was not a very patient person and just wanted to know the result. “Are you going to be long with this because I don’t have time to do a degree in mathematics here.”
John interrupted, “Michael this is actually important, just bear with him. Go on Bill.”
William went on to briefly explain that any signal in our world varies in time but that any signal can also be expressed as varying in frequency and phase. A signal’s representation in the frequency domain is obtained by performing a Fourier transform. This transform, in a sense, removes the signal’s relationship with time. The information can then be easily manipulated. The modified signal can be reproduced again in time with an inverse Fourier transform. This was performed routinely at the centre to heighten the contrast of the telepathic transmissions.
“Okay so let me get this straight,” said Kitz. “I don’t get all this stuff about domains. I do get the idea that a signal, like a heartbeat, can be squashed into a frequency universe, changed, and then thrown back into our universe to sound like the Beachboys. What has this got to do with the noise?”
John stepped in. “The way it was explained to me the first time is that this is kind of like reading a book from the side. You get the whole picture all at once in rough detail, and then you fill in the gaps.“
“Okay so where does this lead us?”
William was extremely unhappy about the oversimplified analogies being bandied about. He knew that the basic concepts provided enough clarity to persevere, and for a college graduate to validate.
He carefully went on, “Well, there are some other principles involved here. This is a rabbit hole that you really don’t want to go down that involves the prime numbers, Pascal and Sierpinski triangles, and fractals. Anyway, doing a quick forward transform gave me nothing, but when I did the inverse transform on a part of the signal I got this.”
He clicked a ‘play’ icon on his computer. What came out of the computer speakers was a series of muffled clicking sounds with noise in the background. It could have been a heartbeat.
Kitz was starting to get interested, “Go on.”
“There is something there, but the sheer computing power and storage needed to perform the inverse fractal calculation on the entire signal is extraordinary. And I don’t know what the final signal might imply based upon what you just heard.”
“Okay then,” said Kitz, “so you know the story behind this don’t you?”
“Not really sir, I’ve been told this is ‘need to know’”.
“John, you should brief him”, suggested Kitz. He turned and strolled over to look out the window while the General filled William in on the high level details.
“Well,” began John, “This signal of 18 hours was the only evidence left after something happened in the blink of an eye. You may remember the Contact event?”
The analyst’s eyes opened wide in sudden recognition. He certainly did recall the event, and the controversy that followed.
“I gather you do,” continued the General. “This is the telemetry signal of Eleanor Arroway. Our current suspicion is that it has some form of telepathic signal, so you see that it is a matter of some importance and relevance that we find the truth behind this signal.” He paused to glance across at Kitz. He then focused back on the technician. “It is also necessary to maintain absolute secrecy. I can fill you in on any further details you need.”
Kitz stepped back into the dialogue. “Quite right General. Before we release this information to civilian research we need to know the repercussions. We don’t want another fanatical sabotage. Gentlemen, what do you need to take it further?”
“Michael, there is nothing that can compute this except a massively parallel supercomputer.” John paused while Kitz absorbed this, and then continued, ”unfortunately all systems with this capacity are dedicated to other tasks.”
“We’ll see”, said Kitz.
Rachel Constantine was power rich and time poor. The feeling that the exercise of subtle nuance could somehow direct the behemoth of a multi-trillion dollar, multibillion person world was intoxicating. The collation of accurate information was the hardest part, there were simply too many human variables. There were the pressures that came from everywhere for her to use her power and influence for the ‘greater good’.
Her judgement relied upon information. This was a currency that was traded by lobbyists for funding, resources and political priority. Invariably the success of any request relied upon the ability for a champion to articulate their case. This distorted proper governance; where badly articulated cases may be more deserving of support than some well presented ones. So it was that delegation was her strength, a skill carefully honed to enable her to harvest a situational perspective.
She often resolved these difficulties by trialling seasoned champions in lost causes. She likened this to the shaking of a cereal box; it created a more homogeneous packing. Besides, sometimes a little humility helped to temper the spirit, as did the removal of comfort zones.
Kitz kept coming back to her though. If ever she felt the need to keep her enemies close it was with her former boss Kitz. He was now sitting on the chair opposite her desk. He was fighting his way back up the ladder. He feigned concern. It was that annoying look he gave when he knew you wanted answers, and also knew he was integral to them.
“Michael, please don’t patronize me. You’re saying you want access to the Square Kilometre Array computing system for an indefinite period to perform a calculation. Yet you won’t explain the problem to me. I appreciate that this is related to our previous discussions, but I imagine it will mean taking the arrays offline on systems where we have no jurisdiction.”
“Rachel, I have contacted several of my friends on this. The South African contribution to the array is floundering. They need to replicate the Australian system for their dishes and they can’t get their Project Management Office into shape. What I’m suggesting is a rescue team, they don’t have their acquisition system ready, and the supercomputing facility is all but done. I would like to perform some ‘bench-testing’ on a massively parallel calculation. In return we help with the acquisition project. Surely its in our interests to support this international initiative?”
Michael Kitz reflected upon the conversations he’d had. It was interesting how with the hint of new funding the project administrators had eagerly come on board, even under his non-disclosure terms. The SKA project needed grease, he needed their wheels, and he doubted they had given a second thought to the terms. The Memorandum of Understanding wasn’t airtight, but it didn’t need to be.
Rachel also reflected briefly; Dangerous! Kitz seems always to be several plays ahead of her. He had carefully lined up both of their ducks. He was now merely presenting the gun to her. She could now yield some assistance to a project that several lobbyists had nagged her incessantly about; there would be no loss of SKA computing time; the South Africans had probably already been sold on the idea and expectations would be already rising.
Rachel knew he had planned this meeting well in advance. She also knew the risks he was taking in calling on his friends, and now knew that he had the wherewithal to subvert civilian resources to his agenda. With his background as Security Advisor he could also not resist doing so covertly. She could have raked him over the coals for overstepping his authority, but he could possibly argue that he hadn’t. There was only one thing she could do; let out more rope. This could result in one of two outcomes: he could hang himself, or he could succeed and she would win either way. The hope was that they would learn about the nature of the signal.
Michael was no fool, he could see the reasoning behind the need. The original event had failed to send a human, or procure an alien, and the conspiracy argument had obtained no traction. The public rancour for administrations on both sides rankled and festered. The resulting boil needed to be lanced by showing a tangible result. Furthermore, the President needed to be the one to release it. The next election depended upon it. Time was ticking away.
“Okay Michael, I’ll see what I can do. But, I don’t want it to run overtime, and I want absolute assurance that you will keep me informed.”
“Of course! I’ll send the necessary documents over tonight.” He knew he was backing the Deputy Chief of Staff into a corner. He needed to give her something to make the decision as simple as possible.
“Rachel, I think what we’ve pulled out of the system so far could be a heartbeat.”
Several months passed. Kitz felt over exposed.
“John, we’ve had the computing time for several months now. How much longer do you need?” Kitz was nervous. This was taking longer than he was comfortable with, and the longer it went on, the greater the potential for him to be implicated.
“I’m told the calculation is 60% done.”
“And how much of your own jobs have you pushed through?”
“20% as we discussed.”
“They’re saying that the array is ready to feed in John, unless the array-feed gets hit with any last minute delays we have no more time.”
“I’ll surrender our 20% Michael. I’m hearing that our line of exploration is hitting roadblocks anyway. But you need to assure me that any outcomes of this other avenue of research will be accessible to our team.”
“I’ll see what I can do John but please understand that utilising civilian research avenues will reduce any opportunities to exclusively militarise the findings. You need to begin executing the contingency we discussed; partitioning off the military applications from the quality-of-life civilian applications.”
“Agreed, let’s get this done. I will separate the conjoined twins. Going forwards we will have Gemini and Sagittarius. I will hibernate Sagittarius till we know what comes of Gemini. Speak to you later.”
“Bye John. Don’t worry, it will all be okay.”
“I hope so.”
Kitz waited for the audible click and listened well after he should have hung up. Perhaps a residual habit of the wiretapping days, he only hung up after he was certain there was no secondary click.
“So do I,” he finally said, and hung up the receiver.