It was a red eye back to London. I did not put us in Frank’s favorite hotel. I figured it would be best to try make whoever beat up Frank to have to find us. Granted that would not take long. I already tracked down Sir Terrance for Frank and Princess Marianne just to make sure they were in the London area. It would have been dumb to fly to London if they were in New York or Beijing. Frank did not sleep on the flight at all. He tried to watch a movie on the airline screen, but I could tell he was not very interested in it. He kept checking the time and flipping to the channel that showed the plane’s progress and speed. It took four stiff drinks to make him relax enough to fall asleep in our new hotel room. It was about three in the morning when he fell asleep. I debated if I should wake Frank up at six in order to get an early start. I had not been given any orders by Frank to get him up at any specific time, but sometimes I would do so in order to help promote whatever was high on his agenda. Sometimes Frank would thank me, but many times he would just tell me to go someplace that did not exist. Although there is a Hell, California and a Hell, Michigan but my AI guessed there was less than a 1% chance he meant for me to go to those meaningless towns. I decided to let Frank catch up on his sleep. He would need all his brain cells working at capacity to talk to Sir Terrance.
At 7:20 there was a knock on the door. In replaying the audio before the knocking I knew there was only one person outside. Since about 5:30 AM I had heard people or robots starting their day. I had ignored them as far as gathering intelligence, but with the knock I was on high alert. I had guessed it was a female by the time I opened the door.
It was the Princess.
“Is Frank awake?” she whispered.
She walked quietly in and in a whisper soft voice said, “Order breakfast. Both coffee and tea, too.” And she made her way to the bathroom. In less than a minute she came out stark naked and quietly got into the king size bed that Frank was in. She slowly kissed his arm and shoulder as Frank was facing away from her. Slowly without even opening his eyes he turned to her and sought her lips. It is interesting how humans can communicate with touch only. Most of the time they ignore the sense of touch. Most of the time they need to talk, talk, talk. I quietly busied myself getting Frank’s clothing and toiletry items ready while Frank finished being and getting satisfied. Physicality must be a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, my model does not come with any analog for that.
The breakfast came about five minutes before they were done. I did not bother to announce breakfast. They were still verbally quiet in bed. Finally, Frank rolled them to their sides and said, “Hi Princess.”
“Hi Frank Huntington,” she said with a giggle.
“How did you find me?” Frank asked while playing with her long hair.
“I have made a friend with one of my husband’s security men and he will find anyone for me.”
“I bet you never have a problem making friends” Frank said with a laugh, “Jack, I smell bacon, is Breakfast ready?
“Yes sir, Drop Dead coffee or black tea Princess?”
I served the Princess her tea with cream and Frank his usual JD and Drop Dead Coffee. They both enjoyed the eggs, bacon and toast. While they ate, Frank told the Princess about his observations of Old Jerusalem. She asked a few questions, but seemed more interested in her toast and marmalade. Finally, Frank asked her if she could help get him close and personal with her husband to ask about how this religion killing mumbo jumbo was being done.
“Sure, after I have dessert let’s head out to the castle.”
“I’m sorry, Princess I did not order any dessert with breakfast,” I told the Princess in an apologetic tone.
“Jack, she didn’t mean it like that,” Frank said with a smile. He took the Princess by the hand and led her back to the bed. I collected the dishes up and pushed the trolley back into the hall.
After they were done, they shared the shower and got dressed. As she was applying lipstick she told me to order a car. We all three headed down to the lobby and boarded our hired automated car. Frank took out his smart phone device and muttered he was going to check his emails and texts messages. The Princess must have thought that was a good idea and took out her own device. Both of them were clicking away. The next think I know Frank had texted me to ease drop [eavesdrop] on the Princess. As to who she was typing to I could not determine that as I could not see her screen. And things like menu choosing I was blind as well. By her hand moments I was able to figure out what she was typing. One must have been a text from her fashion designer because she wrote short messages that she like such and such a design or made comments such as; Raise hem. Darker blue. Ugly. Order for French party in white. Finally she gave a quick glance to see what Frank was doing and sent the following text – “On way now, just passed Folyes. Love M”. I relayed all her text verbally as Frank had on his earbud.
Finally, Frank put away his device and turned towards the Princess.
“Marianne, did you ever get a chance to talk to your husband about how or who might be doing this?”
“Yes, I did Frank. I told him about the attack at the Vatican and how it changed his Unholiness,” she said with a low laugh, “and I asked him point blank how could someone do this?”
“So what did he say?”
“To be honest he said he could think of at least six ways to accomplish what happened.”
“Did he explain any of them?”
“Only one. He said the easiest was to use a common virus that would have been immediately attacked, but could still deliver the goods to whatever part of the brain you wanted to attack or change.”
“Wouldn’t that leave some telltale sign that there had been an attack?”
“I asked him why no one would notice that and he said that if they picked the right virus most people would have the antibodies to take out the virus. It would happen so fast that the host would not have any fever or other signs of illness. He said most attacks to the body are snuffed out by the immune system and we are totally unaware of these small battles. It is only when we get something new or our bodies are weakened that we would have symptoms of being ill.”
“I wonder why it doesn’t keep spreading?”
“I don’t know. I guess you will have to ask him.” With that she pulled him to her side of the car and proceeded to seek out a kiss. I turned my head to the window to give the illusion that I was not looking, but I’m sure they both knew that was only a social convention. I had 360 degree vision. Anyway one thing lead to another and before I could recite all of Shakespeare’s sonnets they had a satisfying session of car sex. After it was over she said, they had better put themselves in order before they entered Maidstone Labs. She had quipped, “I don’t want my husband to see me just in a bra on one of his security cameras.”
I saw the security gate ahead and the car stopped for a scan. In a few second the car said it was going to continue and the gate opened. Once again we were in the lovely wooded estate of Sir Terrance. I noticed that we were not heading directly to the lab or the castle and told Frank that fact in his earbud.
Frank asked Marianne where would we be meeting her husband. She said, “I don’t know. Let’s see where the car takes us. It would have been given directions at the gate.”
“After about three minutes the car turned onto a road that headed due south. After going less than a tenth of a mile it turned again onto a short road that ended with a steel gate that was opening. We then came out onto what looked like a runway and ahead was a large jet transport plane with the front nose open and tilted up. Without hesitating the car drove up the loading ramp into the darken interior of the plane. The plane made a new louder noise and I could see the ramp and nose were moving back to a closed position.
“What the fuck is going on, Marianne?” asked Frank with a look of anger. Frank doesn’t like surprises like this. My AI was telling me this was very unusual and I raised my security level.
Marianne had a look of almost bemusement and said, “Leave it to my husband to do something impressive. He likes to show off, Frank. He had told me he had a project that he was about to announce to the world.”
Frank’s face had a sour look. He did not like to be made a sucker. He obviously believed she was probably in on what was happening. Most women would freak out if something like this happened without warning. For that matter, most JAICs and males, too. After the plane was sealed we heard what sounded like the jets engines starting up. With that the lights went on in the cargo bay. Besides the car there were many cases tied down on pallets. Coming down the side I spotted two people coming.
“Mr. Huntington, I see two people coming. One is Sir Terrance and the other is Dr. Amy Larson.”
Marianne proceeded to open the door and get out. Frank and I then did that same. By the time Frank had closed the car door Sir Terrance had arrived and offered his hand to Frank, “It is good of you to come see me again, Mr. Huntington.”
“A noisy cargo bay is rather an unusual place for an interview. What’s coming down?” Frank asked with a slight scowl on his face.
“You sound unhappy, Mr. Huntington, is there anything wrong?” Lutts asked with a look of surprise.
“Well, to be honest, I feel like I’m being kidnapped.”
“If I recall you asked to see me. The when and where was not given. My business requires me to be on the move all the time.”
We followed Sir Terrance and the Princess to a hatch at the very front of the cargo area. Once past that we were in a luxurious cabin area. There were plush seats, desks, and all kinds of monitors showing the Lutts corporate logo. By the front of the plane was the hallway to the restroom and the famous Cirrus Pods that were to be used in case of crashing. Cirrus had become famous for the concept of having an emergency parachute built in their planes, but when they started making jets as big as the one we were in it became impractical to parachute the entire plane. Their solution was to have rescue pods that would eject humans to safety. With no human pilot it was a great selling point back when people were still a little uneasy trusting their lives to a robotic pilot. Of course, such prejudice against robotic piloting was irrational. The safety record of robotic commercial planes was far superior to the old planes piloted by humans. Lutts asked his wife if she would mind being the bartender as there were no servants on the plane. Dr. Larson had gone off in a corner and was looking at a tablet.
Lutts took a seat and said, “Have a seat, Mr. Huntington. After we have our drinks we have about two hours for your interview.”
“Where are we headed towards?" asked Frank.
Princess Marianne answered as she handed Frank a tall glass of Jack Daniels, “Somewhere close to Kittila.”
“Where the hell is Kittila?”
“Lutts smiled and said, “It is in Norway above the Arctic Circle. I own 25,000 hectors there. I keep a research lab about thirty miles east of Kittila. This is where we have developed my latest discovery.”
“Can you tell me what your latest discovery is?”
“Not until we get to the lab. Marianne tells me you have some questions for me.”
Frank took a healthy swallow and then said, “As you know there have been three or more incidence where people have woken up and discovered they no longer feel religious.”
“Yes, I saw on the BBC the news about Jerusalem and your article about the Buddhists, Sir Terrance interjected.
“Those were the biggest events, but there were others as well. Until Jerusalem, however, these atheist conversions usually resulted in many of the people becoming violent or suicidal. Very messy.”
“I see.” Lutts said quietly.
“The reason I wanted to see you, Sir Terrance, is you are probably one of the world’s leading experts on biotechnology. These events are all very confined to just one location. Only those at the Buddhist temple went nonreligious. The businesses by the temple had no such transformations. Even as big an area as Old Jerusalem was confined to the area within Old Jerusalem. The ten million dollar question is how could this be done?”
Lutts did not respond. He sipped on his wine several times. Finally, he said “I would need to know more, Mr. Huntington. I would need to examine some of these people.”
“If it would help I can tell you that based on blood samples there have been found no unusual chemicals or viruses.”
“I would doubt it was a manmade virus. Most retroviruses you have to inject and I think someone would have noticed that. If you made a retrovirus that could survive in the air or water it would be impossible to contain. Also, given the size of Old Jerusalem you would run into the chance of a virus exchanging genetic material with another virus or bacteria and that could be very deadly. As to a drug, I just can’t see that as a possibility. Again, how would one administer it? Most drugs would not be easy to hide if put in a water supply or atomized into the air. Even if it broke down after a certain time period there would be some trace either in the environment or within the human subjects. Chemicals that act on the brain usually don’t change it long term. I assume this change of religious feeling is permanent?”
“From what I can tell, yes. I have been in contact with some of the converted and even after several months they have not come back to religion.” Frank said while pondering his empty glass.
“A change like that would have to remodel the brain cells that hold religious beliefs. I can’t see how that could be so specific. Most humans hold many kinds of beliefs. To just pluck belief in God along with all the other aspects of religion that you must have faith in would be almost impossible, I would think.”
“I get that, Sir Terrance, but the fact remains someone is doing this.”
“I know you are an atheist, Mr. Huntington. Why are you so anxious to know who is killing religion?”
“Because there is more to it than putting religion on the dust heap of history,” Frank said with a firm voice. “If someone can go into our heads and change a belief or a characteristic of our brains they could turn us all into slaves. They could commit genocide and never fire a bullet themselves. It comes down to being a free race. I don’t mind if someone freely decided to be an atheist or a monk, but I do mind if I am forced to be something I never would have chosen.”
“I see what you mean. Has there been any indication that whoever is killing religion is changing people in other ways?”
“Yes and no.” I haven’t seen anything like what I worry could happen. However, the first incidents of religion being killed had the side effect of the violence and suicide. Now with the latest and biggest attack these side effects are missing. Instead everyone was overly happy. They acted like those people you see on infomercials where their product will solve all your problems and life is just one big exciting time.”
“From what you say, it is obvious that whoever is doing this is perfecting their process. Again, I highly doubt it is a drug or group of drugs. If it was a virus that remodeled the areas of the brain where religion is held it would have to be one complex virus. It might even be a combination of viruses, but then they would run the risk of higher failure risks. Also, someone would be bound to have a reaction and become either sick or die.”
“Is there any new technology that could be used to do this?”
“Not that I know of and I know all the scientists who are working on biotech. It would be highly unlikely they would develop such a powerful tool and aim it at religion. There are so many flaws in the human brain. People are sent to jail because some fool claims they saw something that never happened. Also, the brain is so plastic how would they know where exactly do we have religion in our brains. Before you could take on a project like this you would have to know how the brain works. We have come a long way from thinking love resides in our heart instead of our head, but the brain is a rather big organ to go poking around in.”
“Excuse the interruption, Terry” Dr. Larson said quietly after getting up from her seat, “I have the statistical study you wanted ready for you.”
“Ah, great, Amy. Mr. Huntington, do you remember Dr. Amy Larson?”
“Yes, I do. However, you have never let me have a chance to pick her brains.”
“Sorry, she is too busy for an interview for People magazine.”
“Ouch. I didn’t know you had such a low opinion of the Wall Street Journal.”
“Marianne, can you make another drink for Mr. Huntington while I confer with Amy?”
“No problem. Maybe he will interview me," she said with a sweet smile.
With that Frank was pawned off on the Princess and they chatted about a variety of random subjects. The good Doctor and Sir Terrance seemed preoccupied with the tablet that she had been using. Unfortunately, they never held the screen towards me so I could not take a peak at it. Nor could I gather any intelligence from what they talked about. They kept their voices down, but that is no protection from a JAIC, I could instantly give you a transcript of what they said. However, they were rather circumspect by speaking in short one or two word expressions. Forty minutes later the plane landed on a single airstrip airport where the most common color was white. It must have been Lutts’s private airport as there really was no hint of civilization. Kittilia was forty miles away and I could not even verify if there was a road to this part of the arctic. Even if there was, the town of Kittilia was not very big. No more than 4,000 humans lived there. The only industry was a gold mine and that was operated by robots. Most of the humans in Kittilia earned their living on winter sports. It was freezing during part of the day seven months out of the year. We landed in a small valley surrounded by mountains. Other than the hangar there were no visible buildings. This did not look like a place Frank would like to hang out in.
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