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THE ILLUMINATIA NOVEL
By LARRY BURKETT
WestBow PressCopyright © 2007 Larry Burkett
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJeff Wells
* * *
The events leading up to the congressional showdown in February 2015 had actually begun two years earlier under the most unlikely circumstances. With the presidential elections coming up the next year, three probable candidates were vying for the position. Senate majority leader Mark Hunt was running under the banner of progressive leadership to stop the nation's economic slide into a major depression. Considered a radical liberal by many within his own party, he was finding it difficult to garner the support he needed to replace the incumbent president, Andrew Kilborne. Even with the economic problems, Kilborne was considered to be the Democratic party's best hope.
The wild card was the ultra-liberal Governor Jerry Crow of California. His main appeal was to the fanatics that made up the National Civil Liberties Union, the Gay Power Society, and the National Organization for Women's Rights.
In one of those strange turn of events, an incident at the California Institute of Technology would change the whole complexion of the presidential race and the country.
For decades, an enormous earthquake had been predicted for the California coast. Recent minor tremors had been interpreted as forerunners of the "big one." In a coordinated effort, designed to more accurately predict the location and intensity of the quake, a study group had been established at Cal Tech, which brought together some of the best talent available. After several weeks of exhaustive research, the group was preparing to consolidate its findings and issue a statement to the government's office of geological study at the Livermore Laboratory in California.
Most of the research group reached the same conclusions: the earthquake would hit the San Francisco Bay area with a force of approximately 6 on the Richter scale. However, one of the group, a doctoral candidate by the name of Jeff Wells, had reached a radically different conclusion. Working from a uniquely different perspective, Wells predicted that the big quake, with a magnitude of at least 8.2, would occur beneath the islands of Japan between January and May of 2013.
As Dr. Jack Rhinehart, the project leader, handed Jeff's paper back, his sarcasm was evident as he addressed his assembled team. "Well, it seems that young Mr. Wells is fallible after all. According to his calculations, or his miscalculations I should say, he has the earthquake occurring next year, and about four thousand miles west of here. Thankfully for us, that will not happen, especially since he shows the epicenter to be Tokyo, rather than San Francisco, as the correct equations show."
Jeff blushed when the entire group laughed, but he took the teasing good naturedly. Then, looking down at his calculations, he said courageously, "I'm sorry, sir, but I am correct. The other calculations are wrong."
Professor Rhinehart wheeled around, his eyes flashing with anger. "Just who do you think you are, young man? These equations came from the computer center at Livermore Laboratory. Do you actually think your program is right and theirs is wrong?"
"Yes, sir, I do. You see, I built in variables to compensate for some additional geological indicators. I believe there are signs in previous test data pointing to a major buildup in the primary plate area under Japan."
"How could you possibly know that?" the professor questioned.
"It's just that in setting up the equation," Jeff responded quietly, "I noticed there might be an additional factor that had not been taken into consideration. My equation indicates that the next major quake will be much stronger than expected and centered over the plate convergence in the Pacific. Basically that's right under the population center of Tokyo. Maybe you could have Livermore check it out."
With that, the whole group roared. The idea of having one of the premier computer centers in the world, noted for its physics in tracking and predicting earthquakes, recheck its program equation because a junior instructor said they were wrong, was laughable. Only Professor Rhinehart didn't share in the humor.
His eyes still flashing with anger, Rhinehart said, "I'll make you a deal, Mr. Master Programmer. I'll have Livermore recheck your equations. When they are proven wrong you will apologize to this group."
After a brief pause, Jeff asked cautiously, "And, what if I'm right?"
"What did you say?" Rhinehart growled as he slammed the papers down on the desk in front of him.
"What if my analysis is correct, sir? Will you notify the proper authorities so preparations can be made? An earthquake of this magnitude in Japan will generate a fairly significant tidal wave."
Rhinehart snapped back, "I will personally call the news media and notify them of your electrifying revelation. I worked on the program in question myself; that's how I know it cannot be wrong. We had nearly thirty mathematicians working with us, checking every possible iteration."
"I don't see how they missed this, then," Jeff said. "I found a paper written by Dr. Landill of the JPL space division on the influence of gravitational forces on satellite orbits. From his calculations, it seems clear that changes in the earth's gravitational forces cause variations in low earth satellites. So I factored in the variations in the orbits of these satellites over the western Pacific. I believe the results are fairly conclusive."
* * *
The meeting ended with Professor Rhinehart furiously cramming the papers into his battered briefcase. He was tired of all the talk about the genius Jeff Wells, whose IQ topped out well above the maximum 180 registered by conventional tests. Faculty gossip just added to the boy-genius myth. It was rumored that Wells had developed a complete, computerized star chart by the time he was twelve.
When one of the physics professors said he had seen a program written by Jeff that computed the orbits of all the man-made satellites, Professor Rhinehart had retorted, "So what? So has the group at the Jet Propulsion Lab." The other had countered with, "Yes, but Wells did his at age fifteen from information supplied by magazines and on a PC!"
"He had better breaks than I did early on," Rhinehart said defensively whenever he heard anyone lauding Wells' abilities in the faculty lounge. "His mother was a research scientist and adviser to Presidents Reagan and Clinton. With her as a tutor, he couldn't help but succeed."
There was but one thing Rhinehart could not begrudge the young man: Wells had a singular gift of being able to take very complex equations and reduce them to simplified programs that would run on just about any computer system to which he had access.
Rhinehart had done everything in his power to keep Wells off the geological research project. But in the end the final selection had been made by the faculty team, and Jeff Wells was the first student selected to assist the senior staff. He was resigned to the fact that he could not block Wells' appointment to the project, so the professor shifted his energy to making Jeff's life as miserable as possible-a task for which he found himself well suited.
I've got him now, Rhinehart thought gleefully as he hastened to maximize on Wells' single error thus far. He called his counterpart at Livermore, Dr. William Eison. "Bill, this is Jack Rhinehart. I need your help."
"Good to hear from you, Jack," the burly mathematician on the other end said.
There was an edge to his voice that made Jack pause for a second, but then he dismissed it. "One of our research students ran our seismology equations through the university's computers and came out with some different results, Bill. Obviously he's made an error and my equations are correct, but I'd like to have you run them through your system."
"Okay, Jack, I'll run your numbers through Gerta, but we cooked that program three ways from Sunday already. If there was a flaw, I think we would have caught it. What does your whiz kid think he's found anyway? Have we missed the blow off of Mount Saint Helens again?"
"No, but listen to this! He says his equations show the big quake will hit Japan some time early next year, and it will be about an eight."
"You're kidding! I'll be sure to run his numbers twice. If he's right, I'll move to Arizona and buy some beach-front property."
"What are you saying? You think he has a chance?" Rhinehart asked incredulously.
"Probably not," the overweight scientist said with a grunt. Rhinehart could almost see him shifting his sagging paunch under his belt. The man had always eaten entirely too much cafeteria food. "But who knows when it comes to computers? I still don't really trust 'em. One of these days we'll all be taking orders from one of 'em if we're not real careful."
"Probably so," Rhinehart agreed. "Idiot," he said aloud after he hung up the phone.
* * *
Two days later Jack Rhinehart was roused out of a sound sleep by the electronic beeping of his telephone. "Yes, who is it?" he growled into the receiver.
"Rhinehart, it's Eison. That kid who ran these numbers ... who is he?"
"He's a doctoral candidate by the name of Jeff Wells. Why? Why are you calling at six in the morning anyway?"
"We've been at these numbers for the last twenty hours and we can't find a flaw in his logic. It looks like your whiz kid has hit upon the greatest discovery in seismology since the seismograph was invented."
"You mean to say you believe his calculations?" Rhinehart shouted as he bolted upright in bed. "But that's nonsense. He doesn't know beans about earthquakes."
"Maybe not, but I can tell you this, his insight is like none I've ever seen in my sixty-two years. We need him here as quickly as possible."
"Th-that's impossible," Rhinehart sputtered.
"Never say impossible," Eison said with an air of contempt in his tone. "We're sending the jet down to John Wayne Airport to pick him up in an hour. Have him there."
Depression swept over the scrawny instructor as he heard this news. A dumb kid is going to get the recognition I should have, he thought as he slipped his heavy glasses on. "I'll come up with him, Bill."
"Sorry, we don't need more hands right now, and we're gonna be overrun with reporters and politicians when this news breaks."
After hanging up the phone, Rhinehart sat in numbed silence. Then he called one of his lab assistants and told him to notify Wells of the waiting plane. He was fuming when he slammed the phone down. "There's no justice," he shouted to his empty apartment. "No justice at all!"
* * *
That plane ride to the Livermore Laboratory would change Jeff Wells' life forever. For the next three days he was bombarded with questions about how he had devised the equations used to integrate all the billions of bits of data used in his calculations.
Jeff spent hours sitting around the big conference table in the "think tank" room at Livermore, trying to explain his equations to the top physicists at the research facility. Often in frustration they would throw up their hands and demand that Jeff diagram his concept on the chalkboard. More often than not, all this accomplished was more frustration.
* * *
"But I don't understand, Dr. Wells," one of the obviously frustrated mathematicians said gruffly as he leaned forward in his chair. "Who taught you to do this?"
"No one taught me," Jeff responded as he sat back down in his chair. "And it's not 'Doctor.' It's just plain Jeff."
The red-faced scientist sat back in his chair, careful not to notice the smirks on the faces of several of the less-stuffy scientists.
The focus of the conference shifted from questioning Jeff on his formula to why he predicted the earthquake to be imminent and centered in the Tokyo area. He explained his computations to the small group of scientists, who were transfixed at not only what they heard but what they saw.
Jeff pushed a button recessed into the table top, swinging a hidden computer keyboard into position. As he began to type in the commands that initialized his program, the only sound that could be heard in the room was the slight mechanical ring of the plastic keys as he punched in the data. As if in unison with his actions, the wall on the opposite end of the room divided and began to retract into a hidden cavity, revealing a wall-sized flat-screen display.
Dr. Eison, along with Jeff, had labored several days to convert Jeff's program to operate on the massively-parallel computer system nicknamed "Gerta."
The display screen, covering nearly the entire wall, sprang to life. A computer-generated model of the earth was displayed in full color: The oceans were painted a light shade of blue and the land masses reflected variations of green and brown. The known geological faults were displayed as red dashed lines, and small glistening satellites circled the globe at all heights and directions.
Jeff began to demonstrate his program while Dr. Eison discussed the concept of using variations in the satellites' orbits to monitor changes in the earth's magma. By the end of the thirty-minute session, those in attendance were believers.
Later that day, Jeff was asked to repeat the demonstration for the benefit of the entire Livermore scientific team and the reporters who had been invited.
"No one can be absolutely certain of the timing of a major earthquake," Jeff said as he sat down at the computer console and began initiating his program once again. "The difficulty is that the forces are released as the earth's plates slide past each other. Friction can cause the force to build up and suddenly release or skip, much the same as when you press chalk against a chalkboard. Sometimes it slides along; other times it grates and skips."
When he heard Dr. Eison clear his throat and noticed the frowns from some of the attending seismologists, Jeff realized he had committed a faux pas; he had taken a complex technical subject and reduced it to laymen's terms. That made a big hit with the press, but it rankled those who made their living by keeping things complicated.
"Anyway," he continued, "Dr. Landill of JPL Labs documented minute changes in the orbits of several satellites throughout the last two decades, which were unaccountable except for changes in the earth's gravitational field. These were thought to be random changes and largely ignored, except by the satellite trackers. I felt they might be related to earthquakes on the surface, so I programmed an equation to factor in these changes with the known epicenters of recent quakes."
"Impossible," argued one of the scientists who had missed the earlier session. "We have been trying for years to accumulate and process that kind of data."
"I believe you can now," Jeff responded confidently as he pressed the "enter" key on the big console. Instantly the full-sized screen on the wall blossomed into a scaled replica of the earth in three dimensions, just as it had in the earlier demonstration. With each stroke of the keys, more detail came into focus. Suddenly satellites began spinning around the globe, each in its own unique orbit.
As Jeff manipulated his program, the red lines began to appear once more on the earth's surface. "These represent known active faults," he explained for the benefit of the reporters and scientists who had missed the earlier session. "Notice how the orbits of the satellites crossing over the fault lines cause them to shift."
The shift in the orbits of the low-altitude satellites was the most dramatic; the high-altitude satellites had the least reaction.
Jeff explained, "I have exaggerated the orbital variations to make them more measurable. The satellite orbits you see on the screen are amplified by a factor of ten to the fourth power." Even the most stoic scientists stared in awe as they watched the computer-enhanced graphics display the orbits of several hundred satellites superimposed over fault lines in the earth's surface. Each knew that what he was seeing was as revolutionary to the field of geology as the splitting of the atom was to physics.
"How can we be sure that your program is accurately depicting these changes and not creating them?" someone in the group asked.
"I thought that might be a possibility too," Jeff replied patiently, "so I applied the equation to some past seismic activity to verify the results."
Excerpted from THE ILLUMINATI by LARRY BURKETT Copyright © 2007 by Larry Burkett. Excerpted by permission.
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