Castle Roland

Book II - Global Explorer

by David McLeod


Chapter 41

Published: 28 Sept 15

Global Explorer II

by David McLeod

Quarks and Kids

Winter Palace, St. Petersburg
Jonathan's Journal
November 2, 2018

Mother stormed into my office. She really didn't storm in, she was very much too much a lady to do that. Still, I read anger and purpose in her demeanor. Spartak was close behind her. He took very seriously his responsibility to protect the Babushka of Russia, and was seldom far from her.

"Jonathan? The prelate has suddenly gotten some b … backbone, and has refused to evacuate the Catherine Palace so that your friends from Becker can begin renovations. He sent a message that the entire palace has been sanctified as a holy site."

The prelate was in violation of his oath to me, nor was this the first time. I decided then that it was time to make a suitable example, and that the prelate would be a suitable target for my army of Protectors … and my antipathy. I asked Mother and Spartak to follow me to the communications room.

Jaf set up the N-call between me and Colonel Ainsley, the interim commander of the Protectors.

I explained the situation, and asked that he investigate and "deal with it at your discretion." Both Colonel Ainsley and I knew what that meant. I trusted him to administer capital punishment after due process, although I suspected (and hoped) that this would not be required.

Jaf caught Spartak before he could fall. I felt Jaf's thoughts.

"That's the confirmation I needed," Jaf said. "The N-circuit isn't just unpleasant; it is harmful to the dryads. We need to tell people."

Viktoria looked puzzled.

Jaf explained. "We have enough clues to know that the dryads' power comes from something at the quantum level. Apparently, the dryads are more sensitive to something in the N-circuit than non-dryads who've been changed. Maybe they have more different genes."

"Jaf, encrypt a message and send it to Alexander," I said. I turned to Mama. "Mother, there's something about the dryads I need to tell you."

"In quantum physics
if something is not forbidden
it necessarily happens
with some non-zero probability."
—Alexander Vilenkin
Tufts University 2013
Earth Analogue III

_Global Explorer_
Norfolk, Virginia
November 2, 2018

Jaf's email came over a satellite circuit. It had the standard 1024-bit encryption, but was also encrypted with the family's one-time code sheets. I wondered why he'd not used the N-circuit, until I read the message: "November circuit interferes with dryads' powers and may be harmful to them. Do not operate in their vicinity."

I immediately called Davey on a regular phone, although I used an Anconia satellite circuit and heavy encryption.

"What can you tell me about what Jaf is saying?" I asked when Davey answered my call.

"He's not saying, actually," Davey said. "He was scared, nearly white, when he demanded I help him encode the message. I felt that his fear was real. Alex? I trust him. He'll tell us when he can."

"Did he send a copy to the Montana lab?"

"No. We didn't know if they were cleared."

"They aren't, but I'll ask Dad to tell them. He needs to know, in any case. Please tell Jaf he's ‘done good,' " I said. "Thank you."

I re-coded and sent the message to Dad, and then picked up my cell phone.

The Explorer had a swimming pool, and the pool and the sports courts were under the flight deck where a real aircraft carrier would have parked dozens of planes. Actually, that had been a good thing when we were in waters near the poles. The space could be heated.

On the other hand, there was nothing quite like a tropical resort on the ocean with both water and sunshine. We had taken over one of the hotels at Colon, and were enjoying our shore leave before heading back to Norfolk and the coming winter. My call to Davey summoned him, Nicky, Tommy, and Artie from the beach to the conference room.

Nicky still wore Speedos and a T-shirt that read: "Let's eat grandma. Let's eat, grandma. Commas save lives."

I showed them Jaf's message and explained what Davey had said. Then, I asked, "What is causing this?"

"It's not neutrinos. We are all—including the dryads—being bombarded with billions of neutrinos every second."

"What else is going on in the N-phones?"

Tommy was perhaps our best nuclear and sub-nuclear physicist, and was first to answer. "For an instant, a femto-instant at best, mirror-spin particles come into existence to rebuild the strange matter. The mirror-spin particles last only long enough to convert to normal particles … "

"Normal, as in quarks," Artie said.


"You know, don't you, that there's absolutely nothing normal about a particle called a strange quark with a charge of two-thirds and a spin of one-half," Artie said.

At first, I thought Artie was taking this too lightly; then, I realized, he was trying to draw us into the problem.

"I think some of the mirror-spin particles radiate—escape, I mean—and that is what is interfering with the dryads' power," Artie said. "By extension, the dryads' powers are—as we have thought for some time—associated with the quantum foam that the Standard Model suggests fills the universe.

"We need to know more. I mean, I know you guys invented this thing, but I'm sure your people in Montana have taken it a lot farther. Did they get the message?"

"They will, as soon as Dad can get there," I said.

"I have a headache," Artie said, and it's not from mirror-spin particles, either."

"Poor baby. Can I kiss it and make it better?" Tommy asked.

"May I." Artie said.


"May I, not can I."

"If you want a kiss, you'd better not be too picky about my grammar," Tommy said.

"Hey!" Nicky said. "Grammar be good. Commas save lives!" Then, he turned to me. "I think I have a headache, too."

"Does this have anything to do with top and bottom quarks," Tommy asked. "Do you think he was gay?"


"Whoever it was that invented quarks."

"Looks like this meeting is over," I said. "Think about this, won't you? We'll get back together as soon as I hear from Montana."

_Global Explorer_
November 5, 2018

I took a last look at the sun. It was almost as if I were someone who was agreeing to be converted to a vampire and this was to be my last sunset. I knew we were going to sail north where the sun would be lower in the horizon, and that the days were growing shorter. I was not looking forward to the darkness. On the other hand, I was looking forward to seeing my family.

Over the next month, we would be re-checking the "golf" of Mexico dead zone and wrapping up a lot of experiments and projects. The last month of our voyage would be busy, but not exciting.

Russell Senate Office Building
Senator Randolph's Office
Washington, DC
November 7, 2018

His eyes were hollow with fatigue. His skin was sallow from stress. His clothes were rumpled, and his hair was no longer smooth. His nails were chipped despite his recent manicure. How many days had it taken to reduce him to this situation? Not that many, actually. It was easier to break a façade than to disrupt a reality.

Washington Standard, November 7, 2018. Surprising Upset in Kentucky. By a margin of at least 20%, Mr. Abe Fortmain has upset incumbent Senator Randolph Macon in the race for Kentucky's senate seat. Senator Randolph was widely touted as the challenger to President Todd Hawkins in the 2020 election. At the moment, this seems problematic.

Representative Peligrini (CA), despite suggestions in the Zinio Files that she was part of a conspiracy, handily won her district in California.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the re-election of Senator "Chuck" Zinio whose name was already on the ballot, even though he died three months ago. While pundits attack the people of Wyoming for voting for a dead man, the governor of that state has strongly endorsed the vote as a statement by the people of his state that they would not tolerate corruption in government, at any level. According to the state constitution, the governor will appoint someone to fill Zinio's seat, but has made it clear that it will not be himself.

Senator Goodrem of Illinois, the likely Senate Majority Leader said that he would encourage the Senate to accept the Wyoming governor's nominee.

_Global Explorer_
Conference Room
November 7, 2018

"Alexander? The information gathered by Mossad following the Panama incident has been released, but only to the Mafia and the UFC. It will, I think, be interesting to see which acts on it first, and in what way."

Oh crap! I thought on the next day when I read of the assassination of Senator Randolph. I wasn't surprised, nor was I in any way disappointed. "Do unto others, but do it first if they are a threat," remember? However, I was worried for Macon, and went to see him immediately.

"Macon? Have you … ?"

He nodded. I looked hard, but didn't see any sorrow, any regret, any reaction at all. What had that man done to him?

"Macon, it's not healthy, I don't think, to feel so blank at the death of one's father, regardless—"

"How should I feel, Alexander?" At least he called me Alexander and not Commander.

"Macon? I really don't know. How do you think you should feel?"

"Do you really want to know?

"I really want to make sure that someone I care about isn't hurt, and isn't going to go off the deep end," I said. "If getting you to talk about your feelings does that, then yes, I really want to know."

Macon was quiet for several minutes. I knew he was thinking hard, but I didn't pry. Finally, his eyes came back into focus. He looked at me.

"I was going to be a breech birth: I was backwards in mother's womb, and according to my father, not only caused her death following the C-section, but was backwards all my life. I bet I was the only kid in 5th grade who knew what a breech birth or a C-section was, actually.

"Everything I did or was allowed to do was somehow tied to his political ambitions. The kids I could hang out with—although hang out wasn't the right word; the schools I attended; the girls I dated. Even the Sea Cadets. At first, I thought it was my idea, but figured out pretty quickly he wanted to get me aboard the Explorer for his own reasons. To spy on you, that was part of it. There was more, I think, but I don't ever want to find out what that was."

I saw in Macon's mind images of weapons training, martial arts, and—crap! Training as an assassin, with garrote, ice pick, and more. Macon thought hard about these things, but only briefly.

"I don't hate him, any more," Macon said. He stood. "Thank you, Alex. You know I love you, and I know I cannot have you, because you have a boyfriend. But always know that I love you."

Macon was gone in an instant. Okay, okay. Got to find him a boyfriend!

Washington Standard, November 15, 2018. UFC Pastor Turns State's Evidence. The pastor of the Charleston, SC UFC-mega church has testified in the DC Circuit Court that he knew of the church's involvement in politics and had participated in illegal activities under the direction of, in his words, "the highest church leadership."

A spokesperson for the UFC Washington Cathedral has told us that each congregation is ‘independent except in matters of doctrine and faith,' and that that Charleston pastor received no orders from Washington regarding his participation in politics.

_Global Explorer_
November 30, 2018

Our arrival in Norfolk was again heralded by the guns of Ft. Monroe, but the helicopter that landed held only Dad and Francesca.

We had sent messages ahead, making it easy for the Navy travel office to send the crew and supercargo home on leave. It took less than a day to empty the ship. Nicky and I, and a few core people, stayed on board for a while. We had a lot of loose ends to tie up.

Tommy was unsurprisingly demanding in his request to be part of the refit crew. As soon as I was sure he really meant that, I put him in charge—and then made sure he knew what that meant.

I really thought he was going to cream his pants, even though he knew that we'd not be replacing the reactors. They were good for another 18+ years. We would be installing an auxiliary H-powered generator, and Tommy would oversee its integration with the other ships systems. Of course, Artie insisted on staying with Tommy. I don't think it was only because of the hot showers, either.

Washington Standard, December 12, 2018: Surprise Witness at UFC Trial. A young woman, whose name is being withheld because she is a minor, has testified as amicus curae in the trial that has pitted the so-called Christian fundamentalism of the Universal Fundamentalist Church against the rest of the world. She presents herself as the daughter of one of the men who was killed in March of this year during an attack on the Navajo Monument at Window Rock. Her testimony provides additional evidence that the leadership of the UFC was behind that attack, and that the UFC is involved heavily in politics in a way that conflicts with their status as a church and a non-profit organization.

&sciencetruthnolies: duh! does anyone doubt that UFC is involved in politics?

"Timmy is getting bold," Nicky said.

"Huh?" I felt like I was missing something.

"He has two punctuation marks," Nicky said. "Usually it's all lower case, no punctuation. He must feel strongly about this."

"But what is this?" I asked.

"My guess is the surprise witness from Gallup. They can't tie her back to us, can they?"

My assurances to Nicky led to cuddles.

_Global Explorer_
Officers' Club
December 12, 2018

We had built a pizza parlor that included a game room for the kids; we'd created an officers' club for the Navy aviators, Army Warrants, ships officers and—more and more—the officers of the UNSC. There was a third club for the other crew members. There were a couple of suggestions about a separate club for the Sea Cadets, but I didn't want there to be so much separation between the cadets and the high school kids, so I vetoed that idea.

I insisted that the kids' place be named the Explorers' Club, sort of in memory of a lot of fiction books I'd read as a child. It didn't take any of the kids long to call up The Explorers movie from the ship's video library. Not quite what I had in mind.

I remembered asking the Navy guys if I could get into the betting pool on the Army-Navy game last year, and had bought a couple of squares. Didn't win anything, though. This year, on game day, they had plans for me. And Nicky helped them.

The first thing I knew was when two Naval officers and two Army warrants came to the door. And said that I had to follow them. Nicky giggled. I knew I'd been set up, but also trusted both Nicky and the pilots.

I didn't, however, have any notion whatsoever what a Jell-O shooter was. That, I think, was part of the surprise.

_Global Explorer_
Flight Deck
December 14, 2018

The Jell-O shooters were responsible for a one-day delay in Nicky and my departure for Montana.

The first thing on the agenda was a meeting with the two cousins in the N-circuit lab. When Macon arrived, I decided that he should be included, and got his promise of secrecy.

Artie had been on the right track: mirror-spin particles were being produced. They were not escaping. If they were, they weren't getting very far—they were too short-lived in our universe—but they were releasing anti-Higgs bosons. The bosons were disappearing into the quantum foam.

"Some of the anti-Higgs bosons … they're hitting the dryads' nerves with the enhanced myelin sheath, and interfering with the nerve signals."

"Why doesn't it affect the second generation—those of us who have been affected by the dryads?"

"I think part of the answer is in what Aunt Helen said. The genome is complex and most of what we are, from eye color to telepathy, is the product of more than one gene. In other words, there's more to the dryads than we know."

"Mystery solved, but why didn't anyone realize sooner?"

"The only place there were commonly dryads and N-phones was in Russia, and even there, it was rare for them to be together. Jaf's not only smart, he's observant."

It took several more meetings and a bunch of computer simulations, but finally, we were (reasonably) sure we had the answer. We could never know for sure, of course, without some experiments, but no one wanted to experiment on our friends, the boys who had become so important to us.

Washington Standard, December 20, 2018: Court Rules Against UFC. The DC Circuit Court has ruled that the Universal Fundamentalist Church and seventeen of its largest congregations have acted illegally by endorsing individual political candidates and by making unreported contributions to individual political campaigns. Some of the contributions have been tied to illegal offshore accounts.

We have been told by officials who must remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak to the press that warrants have been prepared for a number of UFC officials, as well as congressional campaign managers and lobbyists and, in at least three cases, for sitting members of the Congress.

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