Master PC – Mind Magi
In a harsher part of town, several very nice cars were parked in front of a rundown cinema. Michael, Sally, Mr. Gilman and I could hear shouting coming from inside as we approached. With so much going on I felt it prudent to make sure those with me were inoculated from Master PC and that those who had already suffered from the machinations of the last two days were spared further distress. So, Michael’s family were escorted to the airport by Steven and Meg.
In route to the cinema, I had passed on the names of the Dragons holding the hostages to Charlotte. It took her no time to open their profiles and free them of the commands that forced them to do what they had done. As soon as confirmation of success was received, Michael called the other House Leaders and informed them of the location of the hostages.
As we opened the door to the cinema, we heard someone inside yelling, “Where is Leland?”
“He just left sir. I don’t know where he went,” said an older man.
As I walked in, everyone turned to look. I stopped and scanned the faces. Many were relieved, both House Leaders and hostages. However, some were startled by the shouting.
Lord Greenwood was livid, his face contorted and red. “You!” He pointed at me.
I stood there, staring back at him for only a second. Then I noticed something at his feet. Jennifer was laying there, still unconscious.
Understanding hit me quickly. For whatever reason, Leland had left the scene before the House Leaders arrived and no one could wake up Lord Greenwood’s daughter.
I looked at the man he had been arguing with. He was older, with graying hair and stubble. His clothes weren’t very businesslike: a red flannel shirt and old jeans. Finishing the red-neck look, compared to everyone else gathered around, he wore worn hiking boots.
“George Fishburn,” Michael said softly next to me.
I nodded in response and stepped closer to everyone. Looking them over, I saw a lot of relieved faces. Lady Reynolds was hugging her daughter. Lord Lasarge and Victoria were watching me. However, Lord Greenwood stepped up to put his face in mine.
“Leland has done something to my daughter and I cannot wake her up. You said everyone would be fine!” he yelled inches from my face.
As calm as I could I said, “I’ll find Leland and put her right. He hasn’t done anything that I cannot undo.”
He continued to stare at me as if trying to bore through me with his eyes.
“You should prepare yourself in the meantime. Jennifer won’t be herself when she wakes up,” I said and then I turned and walked out.
“What do you mean by that?” he called at my back.
I heard Sally and Mr. Gilman asking the others if everyone else was okay. They were distracted for the moment and I didn’t think anything would come of them staying while I found Leland.
Ignoring Lord Greenwood as I left, I thought about Leland. He was walking, but not very far away. I started in his direction.
A few minutes later, I found him pacing along an alley.
Leland looked up when he heard me approach. He looked a bit scared but relief quickly swept that away. “I knew you’d come.”
“Why did you leave?” I asked.
He shook his head. “When my head cleared of all that screaming... and I saw the House Leaders arriving I knew I better leave.”
“You know who’s daughter that is, right?”
I nodded. “Yes, I do. She’s bound to me. So, if anyone’s in real trouble it’ll be me.”
“Still, I’m not going back there,” Leland said, “I don’t want to face him.”
I shook my head. “Lord Greenwood can’t hold this against you. You were under the influence of Master PC.”
“But I didn’t do that to any of the other hostages,” he said. I could tell he was very upset with the situation and his involvement.
“I think part of the influence was to get you to up the ante when it came to dealing with me,” I offered. “Sever did the same but I was able to stop her before anything truly dreadful happened.”
He shook his head again. “That’s all fine and well, but I’m not going back there.”
I held out my hand. “Then let me have the vial and I’ll take care of her.”
He just stared at me. “You said you could do what I do, but can you...”
I nodded. “When I got your memories it was like gaining your experience. Everything you know how to do, so do I.”
More tension flowed out of Leland. He must have really expected me to force him to go back. Now though, he was more than happy to hand over the vial.
As I took the vial, I grasped his wrist. “You don’t need further problems from that program,” I said as I made him immune.
Feeling the warm liquid change, Leland asked, “What was that?”
I gave him a lopsided grin. “Consider it a booster shot of sorts. You won’t have any more problems with users trying to manipulate you with Master PC.”
Leland nodded and said, “Thank you.” And with that he walked off down the street.
I watched him go and realized for the first time something else was wrong.
Looking along the street there weren’t as many people about as what I had seen the night before. I thought it might have been some major sporting event or such, but nothing to do with the Mind Magi issue.
As I headed back to the abandoned theatre, I saw a guy sitting in his car. The only reason I could make out any detail in the dark was because it looked like he was looking down at a laptop, which lit up his face.
Something about that made me stop and look at him closer. He had a faintly vacant expression but seemed was working furiously on the computer.
I moved around his car to see what he was working on. I shook my head when I noticed it was Master PC. Then I realized he wasn’t just looking at or changing one person, but opening up one after another and making changes to each of them.
Leaning closer, I pressed my face to the glass and could just make out the command he was entering on each of them: “Get to a computer. Download and open Master PC. Open everyone you know and enter this same command on them.”
He was simply opening different people, copying the command into the text box and hitting send. He was literally telling all those people about the program.
I knocked on the window. “Hey! Hey you!”
The guy stopped, looked at me over his shoulder as if he had heard something, and then went back to work.
He had looked right at me and didn’t blink.
I glanced at my watch and noticed it was two minutes past midnight.
My heart racing, my adrenaline picking up, I ran back to the Theatre. Several of the cars had gone. Inside only Lord Greenwood, Jennifer, Sally, Mr. Gillman and Michael were there.
Lord Greenwood was kneeling over Jennifer, who was still unconscious on the floor.
Michael approached me. “I don’t know what happened. Everyone just started leaving. No one said anything.”
I nodded in response, not sure how to explain what I knew.
Greenwood looked up as I approached. “Did you find him?”
I nodded and went straight to Jennifer. “I’m going to have to talk to her when I wake her. She’s not going to be herself,” I told Lord Greenwood.
“She’s not been herself for some time,” he said. “I know it’s that God-damned program.”
“It’s worse than that,” I retorted. “Others who know about the program are commanding everyone they know to get it and repeat the command for everyone they know.”
“What? Why would they do that?” Michael asked.
“That’s what I have to find out,” I said as I lifted Jennifer’s head and pulled her mouth open. Following the steps in the memories that I had gained from Leland the day before, I put her soul back into her.
Almost immediately, Jennifer’s eyes started blinking open and she looked up at me. “You took long enough.”
She nodded and sat up. “You’re too late Ral. The sub-routines built into the server have already kicked in.”
“I know that,” I said, “but why? Why would anyone want the entire world to know about the program?”
“It’s not about what they know, but how they respond,” Whisper said. “Whoever is running the server will be able to manipulate everyone who has ever been altered by the program.”
I could feel a shiver run through Sally. She stood by watching me talk to Jennifer about something she still didn’t fully understand. Mr. Gilman seemed impassionate about what was happening. Michael was astonished and Lord Greenwood seemed, if anything, to become more temperamental.
Then it hit me. “Why aren’t you being affected?” I asked Jennifer.
“I’ve anticipated something like this for over a year now. I have commands on myself that will not allow any other entries to work.”
Realizing how fast this could spread, I reached out and made Lord Greenwood immune to the program.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Making you immune to the program,” I said. “That way whatever is going on won’t affect you.”
He looked at Jennifer, who nodded at me as if agreeing with what I was thinking, and then he looked back at me. “Do the same to her.”
I looked at Jennifer. “You knew he’d make that request the instant he found out what I could do, didn’t you?”
Jennifer nodded again. “It was expected. In fact I thought you would have done it sooner but... I’m guessing you only recently figured out how to make others immune?”
I didn’t acknowledge or deny what she said. It was true and that only pointed to my lack of deductive reasoning. Ignoring her statement, I pressed on. “Where is the server Whisper?”
Jennifer just stared at me.
Lord Greenwood looked from me to her and back to me again. “Is she...”
“Whisper’s probably looking up the physical address,” I suggested.
“No, I’m trying to decide why you want the address,” Jennifer said.
“If you don’t know why,” I said, “then you’re not as good as you’d like to think.”
“I know you want the program to stop this mass control,” Jennifer returned, “but what after that? Leave it so you and I can continue using it or... not?”
“If I can stop the mass control, then maybe,” I said. “But the mass control has to be stopped even if I have to shut down the server.”
“Then I’m not sure I can give you the address,” Jennifer said.
There was a general feeling of heightened anxiety at that.
“You need to consider what this makes you Whisper,” I said. “With so few knowing about and using the program you are one of the elite, but if everyone knows about it and uses it, then you’re just like everyone else. One of the many faceless masses. No one of importance.”
“Ah, but is that what is really happening or is it something else?” Whisper asked.
“Spit it out Whisper, we don’t have all night.”
“Then I take it, like most users, you use Master PC because it works but have not taken a closer look into the code?”
“I said it before, get on with it.”
“Yes, I fall down the proverbial ladder of ‘leet should someone control the masses with the server. I wouldn’t be able to do more than any other user because of the overriding commands the server could implement.”
“But if someone shuts down the routines in mid-run, then things get even worse.”
I rolled my eyes. “How?”
“The routine is designed to infect everyone, but not allow them to remember what they did during that time. In other words, when it’s finished, the number of users will not change.”
“But someone will have access to everyone.”
“And they could influence or simply make them think or act any way they wanted.”
I nodded. Not only did I understand the sheer power the person running the server would hold, but I had a suspicion that Whisper wanted to be that person. It was starting to make some sense.
“Why do they need to infect everyone, why not just directly control them?” Sally asked.
Jennifer glanced at Sally. “I’m not sure. If I had access to the code in the server, I could verify my suspicions.”
“Just tell us what you suspect,” I said. “I can take it from there.”
Again, Jennifer sat there staring at me. I wondered if Whisper was trying to figure out how much to tell me without giving away anything of real importance, which naturally made me prematurely suspicious of what would be stated.
“I believe the server is like the consoles we use: only one subject can be manipulated at a time. I believe that the code may have been updated but something didn’t work the way the administrator wanted. Instead of having unlimited access to everyone, the code only allowed mass access to those already affected by the program.”
“So, to gain access to the entire world, or at least a vast majority,” Michael said as he nodded at me, “this administrator is running this sub-routine to add everyone else to the list.”
Jennifer nodded. “Yes.”
“So I would need to find the server and this administrator to find out their intentions,” I said.
Sally brought up another point. “If this program is causing everyone to use the program on everyone else, won’t there be major problems? I mean, think about pilots flying airliners right now. The possible catastrophes alone would indicate something massive happened. Someone would figure it out even if everyone was forced to forget what they had done over the last... however-long.”
I looked back at Jennifer. “She’s right. There will be laps in time in various parts of the world. People will still notice the change. Someone will.”
“That number would be quite small and insignificant enough to be adjusted by the server,” Jennifer said.
It was obvious that Whisper was in awe of the power the server offered. Whisper wanted that power. Of course, he would never admit to that, nor would he just give me the location unless I promised that I wouldn’t shut down the server. Why hadn’t he gone in and taken the server already?
It had to be guarded.
“Who’s watching over the server Whisper?” I asked.
“Very good,” Jennifer said, nodding. “More of your kind are watching and guarding it. Those... Mind Magi. The ones you consider dangerous.”
“Dragons,” Michael said.
I looked at Lord Greenwood. “Just how many Dragons are running around anyway?”
Greenwood seemed to have kept up with the exchange well. “Not that many. There’s usually one for each of the Houses and one more for the Council.”
“Yes, but that’s the maximum and I know we’ve not filled all those positions for about the last ten years.”
“But I thought once a Dragon is initiated they’re always a Dragon?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “After some time, they usually retire their position and status, or something befalls them. Either way, they die or are banished.”
“So they’re not above the Mind Magi Laws,” Sally said softly.
Michael nodded at her as Lord Greenwood looked over at her critically.
“Okay,” I said to pull his attention back to me, “but how many are active now?”
“Currently, only Seven,” he said.
“So, Russ, Sever, Steven, Ron, Leland, George, and Laura,” I counted off.
“Those are all of the active Dragons,” Lord Greenwood said.
I glanced back at Jennifer but asked Lord Greenwood. “Then, where are the former Dragons?”
He shrugged. “Possibly under the influence of the program, like everyone else at the moment; I really don’t know.”
“We are going to have to change the policy regarding Dragons after this is over, especially to safeguard them from this kind of manipulation,” I said.
Lord Greenwood nodded. “Agreed.”
I turned back to Jennifer. “Now, I need to know where the server is Whisper.”
“And I still need to know what you intend to do Ral.”
“I intend to stop this mess.”
Jennifer shook her head. “Not the way you’re thinking I’m afraid. You have to let the program finish the routine so that all memories are wiped as it will do.”
“How is that going to help? The damage will still be done!” Sally said.
“There is nothing that can help it,” Jennifer said. “If you had shut down the server before the subroutines implemented then this could have been avoided.”
“I have been a bit busy,” I said, rubbing my face warily. “The Dragons have had hostages and have been trying to kill me.”
“I told you what you needed to know yesterday,” Jennifer said with increasing dispassion. “Regardless of anything else going on, you should have heeded my warnings.”
“I’m not going to get into a hypothetical argument with you Whisper,” I said. “This is what we have to deal with and I will make sure all is well when it’s over.”
“How?” Whisper asked.
I had no real answer to that. There was no way I could correct all the problems caused by the disaster the Master PC server was implementing. Allowing it to wipe the memories of everyone it had infected would circumvent a good majority of the problem, but the miniscule percentage of those still aware that some time went missing would still be an issue. Obviously, the program was probably designed to force others to ignore what was happening or believe they were still doing whatever they were doing before the program took over. But what about the small percentage?
“I’ll allow the sub-routine to finish its course,” I said. “After that, depending on the situation, I may have to dismantle the computer.”
Jennifer furrowed her brow. “What situation can you possibly imagine that would call for that?”
“Well, whoever implemented this has former Dragons guarding the facility. The person responsible may be there as well and unwilling to allow me to change their mind about what they wish to use it for. Dismantling the computer would be the only way to keep them from doing what they’re after.”
Jennifer crossed her arms. “I’ll have to think on that...”
I nodded. “Okay, while you’re thinking, I’m going to release Jennifer from your control.”
As I reached for her, she pulled back. “Why?”
“You know my cell number,” I said. “You can call me to tell me an address just as easily as tell me through Jennifer. Probably easier I suspect.”
“You still don’t know the entire story. Everything that is happening,” she pleaded.
“Really? Then tell me.”
“There is more to stake here than just who uses the server, who gets to use the console version and why it should be shut down.”
“Stop all the drama Whisper. Tell me.”
“Have you not considered who all is using the console version right now?”
“That’s pretty easy...” I started.
“No, it’s not,” Jennifer interrupted. “There are more than individuals using it. Do you really think something like this could spread along the internet and certain companies and governments not notice, not look into it and not covet the full power of this thing for their own?”
I looked over at Lord Greenwood with a very dry face. “If that were the case, then the secrecy of the Mind Magi would be in jeopardy. The individuals involved would have been dealt with, correct?”
Greenwood looked down and away. That one action alone told me he knew more.
“Talk to me Greenwood. Why haven’t these offices and corporations been dealt with regarding the secrecy of Mind Magi? It is our one remaining law to protect us from the rest of the world.”
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. As he did so, he looked back at me. “The Mind Magi Council has been aware of the activities of governing bodies and corporations that have begun to use and investigate Master PC,” he said. “However, there is no direct link between the server and the Mind Magi.”
I remembered having a talk with Sandra McMillan years ago as Thomas. “I understand there are no documents regarding Mind Magi, but if they have already spoken with enough people... All it takes is one to talk.”
“What are you saying?” Lord Greenwood asked.
“This was no accident,” Jennifer said. “It was designed and is now being implemented. Master PC is too wide spread to stop. It would take something short of a miracle to reverse the damages to your secrecy, especially if any of those companies or governments gets control of the server.”
Lord Greenwood looked wide-eyed at his daughter. “Then that’s all the more reason to destroy the blasted thing.” Then he looked at me. “And it would appear that you’ve been groomed for just that feat.”
Jennifer looked at me wide-eyed then. “You can’t.”
“If what you say is true, Whisper, then I’ll have no choice. Not only will I have to dismantle the computer, but I’ll have to reverse the endowment on the components that were implemented years ago.”
Lord Greenwood said, “How? You would have to have the counter items to do that. They could be anywhere.”
I shook my head. “I’m pretty sure they were left to me. I just didn’t know it at the time.” I looked at Michael. “Have you been in touch with Sandra?”
“Yes,” he said, “but that was before everyone started losing their cognizance due to the server taking over.” He already had his phone out to dial.
“See if she’s still with us,” I said to Michael and then turned to Jennifer. “If I’m right, I may not need you to find the server after all Whisper.”
“The counter-objects will help guide me to the enhanced ones. It’s their natural course to counter each other out.” I looked at Lord Greenwood. “Isn’t that right?”
Jennifer looked from one to the other. “You cannot do that Ral. There is so much Master PC can do to improve our society.”
“Like taking over the minds of young men or women and do with them as you please?” asked Lord Greenwood.
“I have to agree,” I said.
“I have done nothing with Jennifer,” she replied. “Nothing that would harm her.”
“Wrong, Whisper. She knows she’s not in control. She’s sitting back seat to her own body, unable to affect anything she does or says. That is what Master PC has allowed you to do to her.” I reached out and gripped her upper arm. “And now it’s over with.”
Just as I made Jennifer immune to Master PC, Michael said, “Stop!”
I looked over at him as Jennifer lunged to hug her father. “What’s wrong?”
“I can’t get a hold of Sarah,” Michael said. “She may have the counter-objects, but she’s not answering.”
I looked around the room at everyone. “I’ll get the counter-objects from Sarah and then find Fiona...”
“Fiona Bennet?” Lord Greenwood asked.
I nodded. “Do you know her?”
He looked gravely past his daughter and said, “She’s been in charge of the Master PC project since we started investigating it a few years ago.”
I looked at Michael, Sally and Mr. Gillman. Looking back at Lord Greenwood I asked, “And when were you going to tell me this?”
He finally looked back at me. “You know that I didn’t agree with your instatement as a House Lord. I know... I know where you come from and how you came to have so many abilities.”
I stood up and back, just to put some distance between me and him. He had known enough background to have kept this from happening in the first place, but hadn’t done anything.