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Eureka: Brain Box Blues

Cris Ramsay - Author

Paperback: Mass Market | $7.99 | add to cart | view cart
ISBN 9780441019830 | 320 pages | 30 Nov 2010 | Ace | 6.49 x 4.29in | 18 - AND UP
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Even the brightest of Eureka's residents can't read someone else's mind. Then Global Dynamics develops the Brain Box: a device capable of capturing and storing human thoughts. When the Box starts messing with people's minds, Sheriff Jack Carter will have to keep his thoughts to himself if he's going to save the town from going out of their heads.

Chapter One

"Fargo!"

The bell over the door of Café Diem jingled as Eureka's Sheriff Jack Carter stepped inside. He nodded to patrons as they turned and smiled. To his right sat the elderly android twins playing chess. Just past them sat a few men in business suits, their heads bent down, focused on their PDAs as one of the local's biomimetic dogs barked.

A step behind Carter was Deputy Sheriff Jo Lupo. She grinned down at the pooch and gave it a pat on the head.

Spotting Fargo, Carter strode purposefully toward a small group huddled around the back table. Douglas Fargo, the assistant to the director at Global Dynamics and Eureka's brilliant but accident-prone problem child, sat among friends and co-workers, including Carter's daughter, Zoe.

Home on a short break from Harvard, Zoe had offered to help bus and wait tables again at the café, only this morning she looked more like a patron than an employee.

Vincent, Café Diem's stout and ever-helpful owner and proprietor, waved at Carter as he entered. "Morning, Sheriff—hey, Jo. The Thank-God-It's-Friday Fritters are fresh."

Carter shook his head. "Morning, Vincent—maybe not today. S.A.R.A.H. says I still need to cut back on the fried foods."

"Oooh… Vincent." Jo diverted to the counter. "I'll take one, and a Bavarian Hammer."

"Coming right up, Jo. Your loss, Sheriff. They're guaranteed to make your Friday go smooth as silk."

Though the idea of having one of Vincent's delicious fritters sounded wonderful—especially to Carter's growling stomach—he really was trying to cut back a little on the rich food he'd enjoyed since moving to Eureka.

Café Diem boasted an eclectic and entertaining array of interior decor, much of which reflected the town's history, as well as her more famous scientific residents. Vincent himself held a reputation that he could fill any order asked of him, and he prided himself on having a freezer stocked to suit anyone who came through the door.

Also seated at the table with Fargo and Zoe were Julia, Fargo's girlfriend and researcher at Global Dynamic, and Henry Deacon, the town's most versatile scientist, mechanic, and mayor.

"Morning, Carter," Henry said.

"Good morning, Sheriff Carter." Julia's smile was incredibly bright and chipper for a Friday morning.

"Morning." Carter stood in front of the table, his hands on his hips. "Fargo—about this complaint against your neighbor—"

"Yes." The diminutive assistant pointed at him with the pencil in his hand. "That noise has got to stop. The lights, the yelling, the moaning…"

Carter frowned. Moaning? "You said they were making a movie." His eyes widened as he felt a smile tug at the corners of his mouth. "What kind of movie are they making?"

Julia sat up straight and pushed her dark-framed glasses up higher on her nose, blushing just slightly. "Nothing as brash as that, Sheriff. They're re-enacting Contact—making a satire out of it."

Carter blinked and frowned as he tried running as quickly as he could through the list of movie titles he could remember. "You mean like Star Trek?"

Fargo sighed, lowering the pencil and his shoulders. "Sheriff, that's First Contact. This is Contact, the beloved book by Carl Sagan, where man's first contact with extraterrestrials is—"

Carter held up his hands. "Okay, okay. Sorry. My bad. The movie with Jodie Foster—"

"Awful." Julia sniffed.

"Totally not the book," Fargo echoed.

Zoe moved from her seat beside Julia and touched her father's arm. "Hey, Dad… something for breakfast? Fritter?"

Carter smiled at her, feeling the soft affection he always had when he was with her. He was thrilled she was home from school even if it was only for a long weekend. But he was also aware of something else in her expression. Something sad.

He moved a few steps to the counter, away from the others as Zoe joined him. "Hey… you plan on telling me what's been causing you to walk around like a zombie? S.A.R.A.H. said you called her Lucas twice this morning." He lowered his voice as he watched her face.

Zoe shrugged and looked back at the others as they talked among themselves again. "It's nothing… really."

"Uh… Zoe… it's me… remember? Your dad? The one who always embarrasses you? The one who's always right but you never admit it?"

Her gaze immediately moved up to meet his, and she gave him a half smile. "I know, Dad… It's just that"—she glanced back at the group—"I look at Fargo and Julia and I feel… kinda…" Her shoulders rose and lowered. "I don't know. Sad?"

Frowning, he glanced back at them. "Well, I know it's kind of an odd pairing… but they seem to go well together." He grinned. "Kinda like spaghetti and meatballs."

"But that's just it." She sighed. "They're so happy together."

"Uh…" He sighed and straightened, now understanding his daughter's seemingly listless behavior since arriving in Eureka. "This is about you and Lucas."

She nodded. "Dad… he's just so… At first we were keeping up with each other. Texting, e-mail, calling… And then I got busy… and then he got busy… and now…" She shrugged. "Now it's so hard to even get a response out of him. I told him I was coming back to Eureka for a few days—but he never responded." She turned a pained expression to him. It broke his heart. "I miss him."

"Oh, honey." He reached out and gave her a quick hug. "I'm sorry. I should have seen this. Look, I'm sure Lucas is busy at MIT. Why don't I pick Henry's brain later, okay?" He tilted his head from side to side. "Maybe kinda see if I can get information?"

"I wish I could pick Lucas's brain sometimes. I'd do anything to know what he's thinking."

"Trust him, okay? Like I said, he's probably just a little preoccupied with school. And I'll see what I can find out for you."

"Thanks, Dad," she said in a whisper. Then she lowered her voice and said, "Just don't let Henry know I'm the one that wants to know."

Carter grinned. "I promise." He moved back to the group with Zoe beside him. "So what exactly have we got going on here? Some kind of game?"

Jo joined them, a to-go cup in one hand, a napkin-covered fritter with a bite out of it in the other. She chewed as she looked at everyone. "What's up?"

Henry was the one to answer, looking Carter directly in the eye. "Remote Viewing."

Carter pursed his lips, nodding. "Annnd… by that I'm assuming you're not talking about binoculars or like a telescope."

Jo shook her head and swallowed. "Nope. Like the Morehouse book, right?" She looked at Henry.

Julia's and Fargo's expressions slipped into surprise as they looked at the deputy, their mouths dropping.

"How did you know about that?" Fargo said. "Morehouse's book? Psychic Warrior?"

Jo's eyebrows arched high into her smooth forehead. "It's called reading, Fargo. You should try it sometime." She looked at Julia. "Though I'd always assumed it was fiction. So this Stargate thing was real?"

"Very much so," Henry grinned.

Carter looked from Jo to Henry. "Anyone care to give me a book report?"

"Remote Viewing, or RV as it's called, is the science of gathering needed information about a remote target," Henry said. "The means of the gathering is what's always been called into question because it relies on the mind and its connection to all things. The term itself was introduced by parapsychologists Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff in 1974."

"Harold Put-off?" Carter grinned at Henry, and then straightened his face when he realized Henry wasn't smiling. He cleared his throat. "So parapsychology?" Carter made a face. "Uh… so you're into psychics and tarot cards now?"

"Of course not, Sheriff," Julia piped up. "RV is actually based in science. Our own government believed so in the seventies to the tune of about twenty million. They called it the Stargate Project."

"Stargate?" Carter looked at each of them before looking back to Henry. "You mean like the TV show?"

Jo chewed on her fritter.

"Oh, hardly," Henry said. "There's always been a fringe interest in using psychics and psychic sciences in other countries. Germany was more of the leader in this research, until the United States got involved. A lot of interest in the idea of actually ‘seeing' something from a distance with the mind—without having to risk operations or teams, manpower or weapons and time—always appeals to those in charge. You just have to prove to them it works."

Carter shifted his stance and glanced down at Zoe, then over at Jo. "You two know about this stuff?"

"Not really." Zoe smiled. "I offered to help him teach it—be a test subject."

"Teach it?" Carter's gaze whipped back to Henry. "You want to teach psychic mumbo-jumbo to smart kids? You know you're gonna get laughed at, right?" He looked at Zoe. "And you're going along with it?"

"Dad…" Zoe began.

Henry frowned. "Carter—do you even know what it is we're talking about?"

Carter opened his mouth, paused, looked at each of them, then closed his mouth. "No—no, not really. I'll admit I'm thinking of crystal balls and voodoo dolls."

"Well, first off, voodoo dolls are a part of a religious practice called Voudoun." Henry shook his head. "But that's not what we're talking about. Back in the seventies, Puthoff and Targ were working at the electronics and bioengineering laboratory at Stanford Research Institute, or SRI. They were studying quantum mechanics and laser physics."

"Okay, now that sounds like real science, right? With lasers and quantum… stuff…" Carter looked from Henry to Julia to Fargo and then to Jo, who was smiling around her fritter.

Fargo made a frustrated noise and looked up at the ceiling.

"Oh, now don't you go all ‘I believe in this crap.'" Carter pointed at him. "Go on, Henry."

"While they were doing that work, the two of them also created a few experiments in the paranormal, which were funded by the Parapsychology Foundation." He smiled as he leaned over the table next to Fargo. "Puthoff found a prize subject in a man named Ingo Swann, back in 1972. Work with Swann brought in a CIA-sponsored project."

"So." Carter frowned. "What did this Swann guy do that brought in that kind of money?"

"He created the procedure used in Remote Viewing," Julia piped up. "The steps Viewers took for later, more successful experiments. He and Puthoff were able to train other gifted Viewers." She grinned.

"Procedures?"

Jo nodded. "You guys are using the SRI method? Descriptives and set-asides?"

Fargo nodded, though his expression was still confused. "Yes. But still"—he made a face at Jo—"how did you know about that procedure?"

"I took a class in Remote Viewing, Fargo. Not that hard."

Carter opened his mouth, but Henry interjected, "Swann came up with a series of motions used for better results in tapping the mind for answers. Like Jo just said"—he gestured to the blank paper in front of Fargo and the pencil in the assistant's hand—"the pad is the blank starting point, the pencil the tool."

"And the target"—Julia lifted the paper, retrieved a sealed manila envelope, and held it up—"is in here."

"See, Dad," Zoe said, and Carter looked at her. "The target is hidden from the Viewer. It can be a person, place, or thing. Let's say this particular target is—" She looked at Henry, her eyebrows raised, seeking an answer.

"Ah, this target is a thing, an item. Now what Fargo will do is close his eyes and start writing down on the pad every adjective that comes to mind. But if a noun pops into his head, then he'll write it to the side."

Carter crossed his arms over his chest and shrugged. "Why are the nouns being sent to the corner?"

"Well, what we're trying to tap into is the subconscious. That part of us that's interconnected to everyone else on the planet."

"So our subconscious hates nouns?"

"Come on, Carter." Henry half grinned. "After everything we've been through in this town, including the shared dreaming, can't you even for an instant imagine that we're all connected somehow?"

"Some more than others," Jo said as Zane walked by. She grinned and looked back at Carter. "Be right back."

Carter blinked at Henry as Jo moved off after Zane. "I believe that several of the machines you people came up with did that. But our minds?"

"Never mind." Henry waved in the air. "The point is, we want him to connect to his subconscious, but Fargo's conscious mind—like everyone else's—is going to want to help fill in the blank. The conscious is id. It's ego. And the ego always wants to be helpful. It's going to give him nouns. Items. But these nouns aren't going to be right."

Carter looked from Henry to Julia, then back to Henry. "You don't want to listen to the nouns."

"Okay, fine, leave it at that," Henry said. "But instead of ignoring those nouns, we write them down in order to appease the conscious so it will allow the subconscious to speak."

"So you're saying"—Carter rubbed at his chin—"that our conscious mind gets jealous if we ignore it and try to talk to our subconscious."

"Right."

"Uh-huh. Riiiiiight. Well… you all have fun with that."

Henry shrugged. "You'd be surprised at the results, Carter. This procedure and others like it had quite a success rate—though it's not something that was ever reported in numbers. All we know is that SRI managed its own stable of psychics for U.S. intelligence agencies, garnering information for them for years. Most notable was a description of a big crane at the Soviet nuclear research facility—an area we weren't able to penetrate with any camera back in the late seventies."

Julia nodded. "And a description of a new class of Soviet missile submarine before it even became known. They also found the location of a downed American bomber in Africa. By the eighties, the whole intelligence community was using the SRI group."

"So?" Carter held out his hands. "What happened to them? If it was so great, how come we don't use it now?"

Julia smiled. "Who says we don't?"

"Oh, now don't you go all conspiracy theory on me." Carter looked at Henry.

"Officially, when the Democrats lost the house in the midnineties, the Defense Intelligence Agency, or DIA, handed the project over to the CIA. They hired the American Institutes for Research, or AIR, to evaluate it. AIR decided that there wasn't enough documentation to prove the program was a viable asset to aid in the defense of the United States."

Carter grinned. "Bean counters."

"Exactly," Henry said. "It was declassified, the program shut down, and all research and notes sent here to GD. About four years ago one of the members of the Institute of Noetic Sciences—"

Carter shook his head, blinking. "The what?"

"The Institute of Parapsychology," Fargo interjected, his elbows on the table as he toyed with the pencil.

"Well, not the same thing," Henry said. "That institute still exists. Noetic science explores the inner cosmos of the mind: the consciousness, soul, the spirit, and its effects on the body and the world around it."

Carter looked from Fargo to Henry. "And that's different than parapsychology?"

"Well, yes." Henry frowned. "Anyway, Dr. Schmetzer started up his own study of Remote Viewing here at GD."

"He still here?"

"No, he died about two years ago."

"So was he successful at this?" Carter hesitated. "Or did he get shut down, too?"

"Dunno," Henry shrugged. "I mean yes, it was cut off. Most of the rumor at the time was that Schmetzer was successful, but he was having trouble with his subjects."

"Trouble?"

"I wish I knew. Most of the research notes are still redacted. I'm working on getting them released to me."

"Was Schmetzer a nutcase?" Carter inhaled, smelling the fritters. His stomach growled again.

"Oh no, no," Henry shook his head. "Dr. Schmetzer wasn't like that at all. He was a dedicated man of science and believed in experimentation to achieve outcome. Like the SRI program."

"What we're doing here," Julia said quickly, "is taking Targ and Puthoff's training regime and applying it to a course in noetic science. Sort of an eye-opener for the graduating seniors at Tesla. Try to make them aware that science isn't always about concrete facts and chemicals and neutrons."

"And…" Carter tilted his head as he looked at her. "You're buying into all this new-agey stuff?"

She looked at Fargo. "I'm interested in whatever Douglas is interested in."

Carter sighed. "I see. Well, that's all nice, and good but—"

"Want to see it in action?" Henry said. "Just stay right there and we'll give it a test run. I've already used this on twenty students and gotten interesting results."

Grinning at Henry, Carter said, "Interesting results. You mean it's not working like you thought it would."

"Just watch." He turned to Fargo. "Now, just like we talked about earlier, Fargo. You know it's an object. So just relax, take a few deep breaths."

Fargo nodded quickly, closed his eyes, and started deep breathing. Within seconds his breathing increased and he grabbed at his chest.

Henry sighed. "Don't hyperventilate."

Fargo held out his right hand, index finger up to indicate a second. He steadied his breathing, still keeping his eyes closed. "Okay. Sorry."

"Now let your mind go. Remember, if you get a noun, just write that word to the side."

"Got it." Fargo's breathing wasn't any calmer. When he put his pencil down it was on the table, but Julia guided his hand to the pad.

Once on the paper, Fargo paused, frowning. "Wet."

"That's an adjective. Write that down."

Fargo did, scribbling the word to the side as he wrote it sideways. He then wrote a series of words. Drippy, moist, cold, hairy, red

"Is red a noun?" he asked with his eyes closed.

"No, it's an adjective." Julia patted his shoulder.

He continued to write, and Carter leaned over to watch.

Dank, fuzzy, yellow

"Yellow? It's yellow and red?"

"Carter." Henry frowned and put his finger to his lips.

Carter nodded and took a step back. Sorry, he mouthed.

Rough, rubbery—Fargo then frowned and moved his hand away and wrote rug on the other side of the paper. He moved his hand back, and over the word red he wrote old.

The adjectives continued for a few more seconds before Henry stopped him. Two more nouns had appeared. Car and yard.

"Car… and yard?" Carter frowned.

"Well, can he see what it is now?" Fargo looked over at Henry.

Jo rejoined the group, moving in next to Carter. He glanced back to see Zane leaving the café.

"So did Fargo give it a try?" she asked. Apparently she'd finished her coffee and fritter and was ready for work.

Henry nodded and pulled the manila envelope back out. He slowly opened it and pulled out a page from a color magazine, keeping the subject image hidden from everyone. "Ready?"

"Yes, please," Fargo said.

With a sigh, Henry laid it on top of his writing paper.

Zoe laughed softly. "It's Elmo."

"Taking a bath," Carter said. "Yeah, Fargo… that's one interesting… rug. No, wait. It's a car." He snapped his fingers. "Maybe a yard?"

"I don't understand." Fargo frowned at the page. "When Julia did it, she got it right."

"You did?" Carter asked.

"Yes. Mine was an airplane engine."

Henry nodded. "She actually started drawing her target." He started to say something else just as his pager went off.

Carter's pager went off as well.

"What is it?" Julia asked.

Fargo looked at them and then pulled his own pager out. "I'm not getting a page."

Jo looked over Carter's arm at the pager. "Ooooh. Allison, 911."

Henry looked up at Carter. "Mansfield?"

"I want to go," Jo said.

But Carter shook his head. "No… you head in to the office, see what's going on there."

Jo shrugged.

Carter replaced the pager into his pocket. "Oh, this can't be good. I'll give you a ride to GD, Henry." He turned and kissed Zoe. "Trust him and talk to him. Okay?"

"Sure, Dad. Have fun."

He straightened and looked down at her as Henry grabbed his jacket and headed to the door. "Have fun with Mansfield? I'm going to wish I'd had a fritter."

Zoe nodded and pointed to the paper and envelopes in front of Julia and Fargo. "Can I try?"


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