The Newton Enigma.  A novel by Linton Herbert

Chapter 10 b


Things were different on the Northern side.  They did not know for sure that the fuse had been lit until the men who had lit it had run the whole breadth of the field and reported.  Plus there was no arrangement for damping the blast.  So while Southern dirt was starting toward the sky, the shockwave was traveling along the tunnel like the charge of a cannon.  Lee’s men withdrew, waited out the explosion and then returned to their positions.  But the blast coming out the Union side produced massive confusion.  The battle commenced anyway, with a Union attack executed at terrible cost and with tactical failure.


“Well that’s one way to win,” said James with relish, ignoring as any young man might the horror of the total event.


“Whose side are you on?” asked Tracy.


“Why our side, of course.  I’m from Georgia.”


“Your ancestors fought here?”


“Maybe not here, but there were plenty of Black men fought in the Confederate army.”


“But not here.”


“Sure, here.  Who do you think dug those listening chambers anyway?  And who dug the Confederate trenches?  Black men, I tell you.  We dug well.


“And suppose two cannon are stuck in the mud, Union and Southern.  On one side they stand around and decide whose fault it is.  On the other side there are twenty men running up to help pull her out.


“Suppose two messages are sent.  Each one says, ‘Expect an explosion under the Southern line.’  On one side the messenger says, ‘Sir, yes Sir!’  On the other side he says, ‘Move ‘em out!  She’s gonna blow!’”


James paused to let it sink in.  “It was always like that.  We took good care of them.  Only one place we couldn’t help them.  We couldn’t go north.  It was that slavery thing.  They were on their own.  Even notice how bad things went for the South when they went north?  They left behind their ears and their eyes and their hands.


“It wasn’t just the white men and the Indians that fought that war.  The whole country did.”


By the time they got back to the car Jon had finished his work.  The initial “I” had been obvious.  But it was not until he tried the third “v” that he found the repeating pattern.  The message read out by taking each letter eighty seven after the last.  He held up two pieces of paper.  On each he had printed out:


Ivan, the bottom line has to be that anything that you need will kill you if you get too much.  You need a minimum mating pool size or you get inbreeding.  There must be a maximum mating pool size that civilizations always exceed.  Evidence should be everywhere.  Why do social insects and herding animals confine reproduction to select members?  Do reef animals fertilize the whole sea or just locally?  Do wild populations get too big and collapse like civilizations?  Why do tropical trees have so many species; to control reproductive pool size?  When ethnic groups combine, does fertility drop?  What is the cause of hybrid sterility?  Are great height and weight caused by the same thing?  Why is the sperm count thought to be falling?  What is the greatest known effective population size?  Do the genealogies of Iceland or the British aristocracy show families becoming infertile after much outbreeding?  What about the signers of the Magna Charta?  How long do villages survive? – check the Doomsday Book.  In Philadelphia, go to the church the hardware company built.  Ask who the master mason was who put up the stones.  


“I think we need to split the party,” said Jon.  “This car is conspicuous enough already.  With four men and a woman, we are just about a giveaway.  Hapgood and I can take the Amtrak north from Richmond.  You others can drive.”


“What about all these questions?” Tracy asked.


“I made two copies.  I’ve underlined some of the questions for you.  Hap and I will go to Washington.  I’ll call some old friends in government service and see if they can pull some strings to make it easier to find people.  You go on to Baltimore and see if you can find anything out at Johns Hopkins.  We can meet at ten in the morning day after tomorrow in front of that church in Philadelphia the message mentions.”


They drove on to Richmond, where Hapgood and Jon got out at the Amtrak station.  The others bought some supplies before starting for Baltimore.


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