Chapter 6 b
“Yes,” said Jon. “But we are supposed to find out about
“The idea of perfect
scientific laws led
Hapgood went on, “We are pretty sure now that we can’t predict the future absolutely, because we have looked closely at the mathematics, and it doesn’t work. You can’t even predict how the waves in a swimming pool will react when you throw a rock in. If you just calculate it as pressure waves going on indefinitely, sooner or later those waves will get together and throw the rock back to you. That doesn’t happen because energy is dissipated.
“So where did this energy, which is always being dissipated, come from in the first place? It goes back to that flash of light. Because energy is being dissipated swimming pools don’t throw rocks at you. But for the same reason you can’t actually predict just what they are going to do.”
“Call it my sin. I have lots of time to read here,” Hapgood confessed.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt. Go on with
“I don’t mean to say
“May I ask what your own
relationship with God is,”
“We have an ongoing feud. We compete over which of us can have the most unrealistic expectations of the other.”
“A lot of churches try to
prove the existence of God by looking at history, seeing the hand of God in
history. Some look to creation and say
“Poppycock again. If evolution is good, then speciation must be good. You open up a new environment, and a bunch of plants and animals move in. There are a number of possible niches, ways they can get what they need to survive. The specialists will always out do the generalists in their own specialty. So the plant or animal that can undergo speciation the fastest can exploit those niches and specialize and deny the other forms the opportunity.
“The theory of evolution has
not come to grips with that yet. They
“What we should teach, what I teach, is not that science proves God. People know God. They are going to look. My job is to teach them what to do when they have found Him. I try to offer them, individually and as a community, a tradition for dealing with holidays, love, art, study, marriage, sex, work, birth, pain, loss, death and God, not necessarily in that order.”
“Can we get back to
“Anyway, one of the
prophesies he took an interest in was the apocalypse, the end of the world, the
second coming of
Jon spoke. “Well let’s see. He was English. The English pretty much date their founding
to the Norman Conquest. That was in
1066. Now it is common coin that
“Good. But of course it brings you to 2066. That is not the kind of mistake
“So that is what you know
“Yes. But you want to know more.”
“If we can find out.”
Ivan looked at the box reverentially. It was a gift and a challenge from his old friend. Slowly he reached out, undid the latches and lifted the lid. There were objects inside. There was a briefcase. There was a box of double ought shotgun shells, there was something long wrapped in red cloth. And there was a sheet of paper.
First he opened the brief case. There was a large amount of money in it. There was a satellite telephone based on a European company. There was a global positioning system. There was a laser range finder. And there was a night vision scope and a laptop computer.
Ivan unwrapped the red cloth to reveal the terrible beauty of a fine shotgun. The blued steel lock was slick with oil. The rich mahogany stock was reddish brown and also fairly glowed. There was a sighting rail along the barrel. This was not a military piece, a hunting gun or a sporting gun. This was pure luxury. But it would serve admirably in any capacity.
“Pardon me,” ventured Hapgood. “Would it
be all right if we had
“Sure,” said Ivan.
James eyes lit up when he came in and saw the piece. Hapgood told him, “Now don’t get yourself hurt. And try not to hurt anybody else either. But if anybody gets really rude about interrupting us, it might be nice to have a talking point.”
James took the gun with the kind of awe that Ivan had shown. He flicked open the box of shells and expertly fed a few into the pump magazine. Then cradling the gun with the barrel straight down and tucking the rest of the shells under his arm he went back to stand guard again.
They looked at the paper. It was another code.
Batf, ipxn Ruplstwun ex vx vku jdptnbqs. Wxxo tv vku skxpvusv wbfu hteo vx vku xwq jdptnbqs. Tww xi kbsvxpd bs wtbq xf t sbfcwu wbfu. Dxl nlsv ixwwxz vku wbfu itp hteo bf vbnu. Wxtquq xf vku exnjlvup tpu zxpos xi Fuzvxf. Wxxo tv vku itvu xi unjbpus. Dxl etf suu zktv ku stz. Vtou t wxxo tv vubp tcus. Zktv zts vubp qtfcup? Kxz qbq bv ektfcu? Tfq zkd? Zkd? Zktv zts ku suubfc vktv etf cuv ls fxz? Fxhxqd zbww wbsvuf vx nu. Hlv vkud’ww wbsvuf vx Fuzvxf. Dxl fuuq uabqufeu. Wxvs xi uabqufeu. Xvkupzbsu fxhxqd zbww wbsvuf. Tv vku jdptnbqs B ktau wuiv sxnuvkbfc zbvk nd cptfqitvkup Tnxs xf Mltoup svpuuv, vzx hwxeos fxpvk xi vku Nuvkxqbsv eklpek xf vku pbckv. Vplsv Tnxs vx ouuj t suepuv.
Jon glanced at it. “Looks simple enough.” He was about to explain when he was interrupted.
A young man spoke from the door. He was a red head, and he was holding a deer rifle. “Excuse me, reverend, but there are a bunch of guys skulking around outside the church. I wondered if there is trouble. I came in the back door, but I locked it.”
Jon said, “
At that moment there was a thunderous crash against the front door. The young man took off at a lope as there was the sound of a window smashing. The shotgun barked in fury.
Someone in the front of the church shouted, “You want me? Come and get me! Come on!” There was the snort of the deer rifle. Then there was a crash from the back of the church.
Hapgood stood up. “We need to get out of here. Fortunately every church has a secret way out. He pressed on a panel, which swung back to show steps leading downward. They descended and entered a tunnel. The tunnel was lit by tiny light bulbs. It was roughly lined with wood. After a few yards Hapgood knelt and pushed on a board. It swung back. He lay down and slide through. The others followed, finding themselves in another tunnel. This one led for some distance to a flight of steps, at the top of which another concealed door let them out into a maintenance shed.
They left the shed and were making their way across the street when another young man with a rife ran up. “Are you all right reverend?”
“Yes, but Jody and James are in the church. It looks like a raid. See if you can help them.”
“Yes, sir.” He took out a cell phone and started pressing buttons as he ran.
They crossed the street and began walking. Behind them they could hear the gunfight getting louder and more furious as shotguns and deer rifles were answered with the chatter of automatic weapons. Then there was the blare of multiple police sirens converging. Suddenly the fight was over.
As they walked, Jon later thought he remembered something unusual, but as he made no mention of it at the time, he could not be sure. What he later was to seem to remember was that they were passing a lush hedge. He thought he saw a face made up of the leaves of the hedge. Of course there is nothing unusual about that in itself. People see images in leaves, in clouds and even in crumpled clothes. But the face was unusually distinct, and it seemed to be speaking. As they moved, the relative positions of the leaves shifted, so of course the image changed. But it seemed to open its mouth.
Beyond the fact of its moving, it the face had a distinct personality. It looked like an elderly Black woman, her face drawn not with fear but with concern, the face seemed to want to help but not to know quite how. Then he was passed it.
Then he saw it again, the same elderly Black woman, a pleasant face indeed, but straining to be heard, to say something difficult, even dangerous to say. And then it was gone. And then he saw it again. He looked ahead and shut it from his mind.
They entered the preacher’s house.
“We should be all right now. Cuthbert’s finest are going to be very curious about any armed strangers if one shows up. Come into my study.”
They settled in and began to look at the code.
“It looks straightforward,” said Jon. “It’s got to be a simple substitution cipher. Each letter stands for some different letter. The giveaway is the signature. ‘E’ is the most commonly used letter in English, followed by ‘t,’ then ‘a,’ then ‘o’ and then ‘i, n, s, h, r, d, l’ and ‘u.’ So we could start counting letter frequencies and have a good start on it.
“But we don’t have to go that far. It is obviously a letter to Ivan, and it starts out ‘B-a-t-f” which should spell ‘Ivan’. So we already have four letters. Then the group ‘v-k-u’ keeps cropping up. So that’s probably ‘the.’ If so, then we have seven letters. Let’s see. ‘U’ turns up sixty five time. That’s more than any other, so it’s ‘e,’ which fits what we know. I don’t expect we can get much more out of letter frequency in such a short note. But here is a capital ‘B,’ which has to be ‘I,’ but again we already know that. ‘T’ turns up a lot isolated in lower case, so that’s ‘a’ but we already knew that, too. Let’s see.”
He spent a few minutes figuring, and then he copied out the message in the clear:
“All right,” said Jon. We know
He measured with his fingers
a moment and said, “It’s
“Here’s something else. The north south line, the longitude, through
“But we’re supposed to find
the shortest distance between the pyramids –
They all stood around while
Jon placed the string between
There was a knock. James had come with the shotgun. He was beaming. “It’s all quiet, Reverend.”
“Well done, James. Anybody hurt?”
“A couple bad guys got winged, but they should be all right. Those cops know their first aid.”
“I’m glad it was no
worse. James, we are going to have to go
“I’ve got my van, and I have
“We wouldn’t dream of going without you.”
An hour later, the van was on
the way to
“The chief was probably too drunk to speak,” remarked James.
In reality, the CEO of Gigacorp, Hans Turelli, was close
to being too furious to speak. At that
moment he was in his headquarters repeating what he had just heard over the
without a trace. The whole strike
squad vanished without a trace. Well why
the shit didn’t you send backup? … You
did send backup and THEY vanished without a trace. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON DOWN THERE? I give you enough resources to conquer
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