Chapter XXXI


Frank came back to the church and cleaned himself up for his date with Dr. Larson.  After that we borrowed the Catholic’s minivan and took off for the Edinburgh Airport.  We arrive a full hour early so Frank could case the joint.  We found the area of the airport where private jets come and go.  A small personal donation as Frank called it to an employee of two thousand pounds got us into the hangar that Larson’s jet would pull into. 

At 4:20 that famous Cirrus T-80 pulled into the hangar with only one human aboard.  She was helped down by her GAIC assistant who also took her bag.  She seemed surprised to see a human in the hangar.  I got the thought that she was used to being surrounded by robots rather than people.  I know at the Finnish Laboratory I did not see that many humans, but I did pick up hundreds of robot identification pings. 

“Dr. Larson, do you remember me?  Frank Huntington of the Wall Street Journal.  I have been to both Maidstone and Kittilia.  Sir Terrance has been kind enough to give me the background on your new cure for depression and I would like to interview you to get a better feel for how this amazing discovery was made.”

Her immediate reaction was just to give Frank a blank stare.  It is obviously she was wondering if she should step on Frank or turn on her human emotion chip.  Then out of nowhere came a weak smile.

“Yes, I remember meeting briefly.  How are you, Mr. Huntington?” she asked.

“I’m fine.  What is there not to enjoy in a city like Edinburgh.  Were you born here?”

“No, I did do my undergraduate work here before going to Oxford. So how would you like to handle doing an interview?”

“I thought maybe we could do this over dinner?  You have some of the finest restaurants in Scotland here. I have a minivan for transport. ”

“I wouldn’t know.  When I was a student I never had any extra money for fancy restaurants.  My mum moved up here during my second year because she said I was getting too thin.  Much of the time on weekends I would stay with her studying.”

“Well, I can ask my JAIC to find something close to your mother’s or do you have a place?”

“Actually, my mother now lives in an assisted living home.  I had her moved out of her house last Wednesday.”

“I’m sorry.  I hope she is still enjoying her life.  Where do you live?”

“12 Royal Terrace.”

“Do you have any preference – French, Italian, Japanese, Indian?”

“Just a nice Scottish restaurant.”

“Jack, send us to a well rated Scottish restaurant.  Dr. Larson, the van is just outside the hangar.”

“George, cancel our taxi” she said to her robotic assistant.

Frank opened up the back door and helped Dr. Larson in.  Then he went around and got in beside her.  That left the middle row seats for us artificial intelligence.  It only took twenty minutes to drive from the airport to the restaurant.  It was a posh place that was only two blocks down from Dr. Larson’s flat.  It was simply called Number 3 and definitely lived up to the reviews.  Dr. Larson had never been there.

After Dr. Larson’s wine and Frank’s scotch was served Frank started the interview with some soft questions.

“Dr. Larson, when did you meet Terrance Lutts?”

“I first met Sir Terrance at Oxford.  He came during my second year.  He stuck out in a class I took because of his probing questions and eager mind.”

“How did you get to know him personally?”

“I was hired as a graduate teaching assistant and he was one of my pupils.  Having him was exhausting but exhilarating.  I brought him to the attention of Professor Helmut Pattersburg who was the first scientist to win the Nobel Prize twice.  I was already on a fast track and now Terrance was as well.  We often worked together until we graduated and at the graduation ceremony he offered me a job at his new lab at Maidstone.”

“Were you involved in his research that he did at Oxford on cancer?”

“Yes, very much so.  I remember one summer I never left campus once.  I had to shower at four in the morning in the boy’s locker room.”

“It must have been an exciting time for you” Frank said seriously.  I wondered if there was a sexual double entendre buried in there someplace.

“Yes, it was.  Pattersburg was powerful enough to allow us to do whatever we wanted.  At first he let us spend the majority of his research budget until Terrance got his own funding.”

“You two must be very close.”

“Yes, we are.”


“No, we both recognize that clouds the mind.  We got our kicks above the waist.  So many of my fellows wasted time by getting into multiple affairs and sexually addicted relationships.”

I wondered if that is what Dr. Larson called love?  If I was Frank I would have asked her that.

“Do you think his getting married has slowed Sir Terrance down?”


“Are you ever jealous of Lutts’s fame?”

“Never, Mr. Huntington.  You are barking up the wrong tree.  I hate notoriety.  It gets in the way.  There is nothing so tedious as trying to explain science to a dim witted journalist.  Especially, those talking empty heads from television.”

“I hope I shan't bore you too much.  Let’s get back to the your current discovery for curing depression. What types of new understandings did Lutts and you need to learn about the brain?”

“That is a good question.  There is so much we don’t know.  For instance we just don’t know how to tell the brain to remember this fact and forget that useless fact.  Even as intelligent as I am there are times when I study a research paper and six months later can’t remember key information.  The mind seems so random sometimes in what it chooses to remember.  Humans could do a lot more if we could just pour in knowledge and make it stick.  There are some enhancement drugs you can take, but often they are only short term. 

Another example of our lack of knowledge is we cannot see the brain in enough detail.  All our instruments to probe the living brain are so coarse on the neuron level.  And as far as what goes on inside a neuron we are almost totally blind.  We guess that neurons decide what signals they will pass on or when they want to author a signal. 

For our depression discovery we needed to know how the brain decides what mood your consciousness is going to have – happy, bored, sad, thrilled, et cetera.  Nor did we understand how those feelings can change so quickly.  One minute your mind is moping, the next it is flying high on serotonin.  In order to change the emotional pallet of the brain we had to understand what triggered emotions and what suppressed them.  The big question for us was if it was possible to change the pallet to not include the emotion of depression.”

“Much of neural research involves animal studies.  Did you try to answer those questions with animal studies?”

“There were some, but most of what we did was to create better tools.  We used brains we grew ourselves and tested new equipment that was capable of sensing electrical currents both within and between neurons.  We also developed sensing tools that gave us insights into chemicals within the cell.  Not only that, but we saw that neurons could communicate with each other from anywhere on their cell walls and not just on the end of the dendrites.  They could rouse cells that were related to similar experiences to add their weight to a neural response.  This is one of the reasons we can compare similar experiences and feelings.”

“It sounds, Dr. Larson, that decoding depression would be almost a fractal task.  The closer you look at your subject the more complex it becomes.”

“I am impressed, Mr. Huntington. Fractal algorithms are very important in creating computer models on brain emotional systems.  How did you know?”

“A lucky guess.  I have always found the concept of fractals fascinating and fractal algorithms are what makes it possible for my tin woodman over there to be thoughtful,” said Frank lying through his teeth.  I was sure he was fishing for a reaction to her at the mention of the research paper we found on cellular communication and fractal algorithms.  She was a cool one, as I could denote no change in her heart rate or respiration.

Frank took a sip of his drink and then looked straight into her eyes and said, “Was the discovery of the working of the brain as far as emotions enough for you to figure out how to suppress and kill religious feelings?”

She returned her cold eyes to his and said, “Religion is not an emotion.”

“Neither is faith, but they all dwell within the brain.”

“The brain is not like the heart being just a simple mechanism to do one thing.  It has many functions and means of accomplishing those tasks.”

“So you deny that Sir Terrance is about to rid the world of the scourge of religion?”

“Scourge?  I think most of the world would disagree with that.” 

She put her fork down and then narrowed her eyes.  Again I wondered if she was deciding to step on Frank or just ignore him.

Frank returned the stare and asked, “Do you enjoy being a human being?”

“I think we are done, Mr. Huntington” and with that she got up and left her unfinished plate.  I was surprised my master did not try and get more out of her.  Perhaps it was her demeanor?  She was shut up as tight as a tomb.  Appealing to her feminine side would have been a waste of time.  Her cold utilitarian home showed she was not a sentimental woman.  She was as emotionless as – as – as me.

Frank did not get up when she stood.  He took another sip of his drink.  He was still sipping when she went out the restaurant door, but as soon as she was gone he sprang up and told me we were going to the car.

Once in the car he ordered it back to London.  While on our way he tried to call the good Monsignor, but his robotic secretary told Frank he was out until next Friday.  That visibly pissed off my master.  After that he had me send an email to the Monsignor that was rather obtuse on needing to ask him some questions about the Spanish Inquisition and that the Monsignor needed to call him as soon as possible.

The rest of the trip was rather quiet.  I had asked Frank if he wanted the car to play some music, but his mind was a million miles away.  When we were almost to London he had me send an email to the Princess saying that he missed her.  I thought that was odd as well, but maybe Frank needed to have sex with her again.  He does seem to enjoy her body.

I would have thought he would be more concerned about the destruction of religion.  I wondered if he had changed his mind about Sir Terrance's plan?  I could have asked Frank, but then part of my job as Frank’s JAIC is to know when to mind my own business.


Chapter XXXII




















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