When vain, ambitious men threaten to unleash noncorporeal, chaotic forces for their own destructive ends, Ananke sends her champions out to play. Who knew they'd be mathematicians.
Along the way to crashing a Yetziratic gate before a fallen Seraph is called through it, Clement Harrison discovers chaos in the person of Rev. Dr. Erin MacGregor. Never one to let a little thing like a captivating and beautiful pastor/classicist deter him from a mission, Clement has some learning to do. After his cutout urges him to cultivate the young beauty, Clement discovers that something incredible lurks behind her emerald eyes. Now and again, people are given 500 year-long lives-in Erin's case, she gets 1000 years. Keeping hold of a four-year gate crash is hard enough. Erin brings a complexity Clement just doesn't need, but has to resolve.
Volumetric manipulation is Brian Cornwall's specialty in the mathematics department of Quantum Paideia Corporation. Except for the ruthless humid summers along the Delaware River, Brian has a perfect life: a stunning wife; great job; two happy kids. Inside the few minutes between receiving a classified contract and leaving his office to get to work on it, an old friend walks in and shatters Brian's peaceful life. Legends aren't born-they're spun on the loom of fate, and if Brian can't find the legendary behind the actuary, there won't be any perfect days again.
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On Causal Shores
Palimpsest Veil and Ananke Protocol
By Soren Knox
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Soren Knox
All rights reserved.
"Beware the palimpsest, my boy," Father Basil once told me during training.
"The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!'" I quoted back before I could catch myself.
He laughed, which was good ... he only laughed in training if he was amused. Still, I regretted it two hours later when we reached the summit of Rendezvous Mountain. Basil had reasoned that if I had the energy to joke, I had the energy to run. I had enough sense of self-preservation not to tell him it wasn't a surfeit of energy, but its lack that led to my quip.
Regardless, we reached the summit as I began to sing the poem again for the last time, "Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe ..."
"... All mimsy were the borogoves, and the mome raths outgrabe," Basil said. "Recover. That's enough for now."
We walked off the effects of the run and finally settled in the shade of a boulder near the head of Corbet's Couloir. I looked out over the mountainside, north toward Grand Teton and Jenny Lake. Maybe if I had kept my mouth shut, we would have been doing deep-water reconnaissance in the lake right now.
Mountain recon was on the schedule for this morning, followed by a tutorial. The only difference was that we ran the mountain, which gave us an extra few hours for tutorial. That was all to the good since Basil was the best tutor in the program. He looked out at the mouth of the couloir, closed his eyes, and rolled his neck a few times.
"We all have pet terms for the pitfalls of our profession," Basil said. "The peculiar lurk I am about to introduce you to I call the palimpsest. Because of our unique nature and our more than peculiar application of that nature, we have deep and abiding memories that find themselves overlaid with deep and abiding memories, and so on, in good Eleatic fashion."
I thought about asking if Zeno's paradox applied to memory, and if so, whether we could truly say that we remembered deeper memory, since we could never reach the second memory from the first. Then I remembered our morning recon and kept my mouth shut.
Basil noted my near calamity with a gleam in his eye. Mercifully, he continued.
"So, we will often find ourselves on mission. A chance sensate imprint of sufficient intensity will rub out the overlying memories, thus exposing a deeper memory, which, if we are not careful, will severely attenuate operational security. In other words, beware the palimpsest, my son."
He proceeded to teach me methods to avoid the palimpsest's upwelling, or at least the exposure of that upwelling.
I availed myself of Basil's wisdom as I sat on a boardwalk with Erin, a classics professor at Centre College.
I drew my focus to the foam, left by wave-wash, as it glistened on a moss covered rock. Seaweed, dark olive and shining with the late evening sun, slipped down the backside of the rock as the last of the water flowed into the Atlantic Ocean. Three seagulls screamed at each other and circled a hot dog someone had left on the sand.
When I turned back to Erin, the look in her emerald eyes and the way she drummed her fingers on the bench told me I'd spent a bit too long getting an anchor in the now.
"I agree that Farel was overbearing in recruiting Calvin to Geneva," I said, as I grabbed for a conversational handhold, "but given how things played out, I'd say he wasn't disingenuous about being God's messenger bearing Calvin's vocation."
She almost went on, but said, "You really need to tell me how to do that."
"Do what," she mimicked. "Stare off into space like a catatonic, then pick up at exactly the right point in a conversation with exactly the right response."
"It's a tracker thing," I said, turning just enough for her slap to hit the back of the bench rather than my shoulder.
"Well, it might work in the woods, but in civilization, it's a mite weird." She drew out "civilization" nice and long, so I'd get the point.
"What would you suggest?"
"Well," she said, "stare at me. At least then people would understand."
I blushed. She started at my embarrassment, blushed, and then we both laughed. Erin grabbed my hand, and we started walking down the boardwalk before she let go.
She asked, "So where were we?"
"Diverging merrily from your thesis concerning Calvin's use of the Stoics in the Institutes to banter about whether Farel had been truthful in his insistence that Calvin would be betraying God if Calvin did not go to Geneva," I responded.
"Yes, we were," she said. Then she began revisiting Cicero's role in the popularization of Stoic doctrine.CHAPTER 2
Erin and I met during my first year at Centre, after she preached the Christ the King sermon. She was in her second year of teaching and her third year as an associate pastor at College Presbyterian Church in Danville. We knew each other formally, as she had just turned twenty-eight and, for the purposes of a long-term covert operation in the Danville area, I was posing as a thirty-year old freshman in mathematics. After the service, during Fellowship Hour, a third-year physics major had been trying, shall we say, to impress her. The clear intent of his attention was less than intellectual.
He was doing a lousy job of impressing her, but a spectacular job of making an ass out of himself. He had decided, for some unfathomable reason buried in his death drive, to play out the rebel by loudly proclaiming in private to his peers that he was an atheist. That would have been fine, given that the good Presbyterians who ran and attended Centre considered themselves sufficiently settled in their faith as to allow the occasional juvenile flirtation with 19th century thought in their students. Especially if those students were in the hard sciences and couldn't be expected to know any better.
His error was in his assumption that no one other than his few friends in the Math and Physics department knew of his atheism. Said error was compounded when he proclaimed that he would make a fool of Erin by involving himself in her life through the insinuation that he was interested in the ministry.
He thought it would be a marvelous proof of the non-existence of God to seduce Erin and then reveal his Nietzschean self. The only marvelous proof was the non-existence of his self-proclaimed brilliance, as well as the corollary existence-and-uniqueness theorem of the exponential relationship between vainglory, foolishness, and male erotic delusion.
As it turned out, one of Braindead's classmates, who was both a quiet Presbyterian in one of Erin's Bible studies and seriously considering the ministry, told Erin after Bible study one night. He was furious, and though his wrath had not set with the sun, he was angry and sinned not.
I would also assert that one other proof was given that morning: Erin's patience was proven-thanks to the informant, she had known of Braindead's intent since the previous Wednesday.
I decided to cut into the situation when her seminary-trained pleasant demeanor began to harden. Mr. Braindead did not notice that the green in her eyes had taken on the hue of a sky prior to a tornado. At least that's how I'd describe it. So I walked up, put on my best hero-worship face, and butted in.
"Hey," I began, "you're that star in the physics department, aren't you?"
He preened a bit and nodded.
"Look," I continued, "I hate to interrupt you after church and all, but I had a question about how Hamiltonians relate to Lie Groups, and you're the only person I think could give me a clear answer."
"You're first year, aren't you?"
"Yeah," I responded.
"Hamiltonians are a bit beyond you, aren't they?"
"Well, sure," I said, with just the right touch of ambition and confidence, "but I want to get ahead. I'm just fascinated by particle physics, and want to be a physicist."
He looked annoyed and flattered. The geek in him and the stud in him were clearly battling. They quickly reached an agreement: acting like a forbearing, charitable guy might increase his chances with the minister. With the best attempt at a disingenuous beatific smile I've seen in my long life, he began to answer my question.
After a bit, he turned to Erin and said, "Can we talk later?"
"I'd look forward to it," she said.
The look in her eye was less that of social anticipation and more that of a predator waiting in ambush, but Braindead didn't notice.
Later that afternoon, I was reading in the coffee shop over the bookstore. I'd found the corner seat by the south-facing window the day I'd arrived in town. Today, the ancient tree didn't provide the shade it usually provided during the summer months since the leaves were gone. It did provide beauty for contemplation, though. I was lost in thought when someone coughed. I turned around. It was Erin.
"I was getting an apple dumpling and saw you," she said. "I thought I'd stop over and thank you for this morning."
She did, indeed, have an apple dumpling. Two, in fact. Given the butter-laden, maple syrupy goodness of the dumpling, I could do no less than offer her a chair.
"I didn't want an embarrassing scene," I said.
"I was actually about to unload some embarrassing on him," she said.
She told me about what she knew of the boy.
I chuckled and said, "You looked like you were about to disembowel him."
"Well, I would have charitably dispossessed him of his delusions," she said, "but I hope I didn't look that angry."
"Not that civilians would notice," I said.
"Were you military?"
"No," I responded, "I was a search and rescue tracker."
After some small talk, we started talking about John's Gospel. I don't know if it was the November sun on her copper hair, or her evident pleasure at such Sabbath recreation, but she almost glowed. I had to check myself, because it wasn't in my nature to get infatuated on mission. I excused myself and went to the restroom. I splashed some cold water on my face and observed her more carefully as I walked back.
She did have a glow, but it wasn't physical. She had all the signs and seals of a pledged celibate in the order of Tiphereth. Worse, she had all the indications of a natural aeonic. Her pineal gland was going strong, her bones looked dense as depleted uranium, and there wasn't a sign of yellow marrow buildup. I wondered why she hadn't been located. Then I wondered if she had been located and my team wasn't aware of it. That was a variable in my mission equation that did not equal happiness.
So, as we resumed our conversation, I tested and probed, asked leading questions about her perceptions and intuitions. Just as I feared, she was an undisclosed natural aeonic.
She had been scary bright at languages and literary structures. She had taken a leaning toward the classics at an early age, and had been talent-spotted by the University of Cincinnati's classics team. With some tutoring, she had enrolled at sixteen. With some hard work, she had graduated with highest honors at twenty, with two years of graduate classes under her belt. At Princeton she had been able to do the M.Div. at the seminary and Ph.D. at the University. No wonder she was an associate professor this young.
It was also no wonder that she hadn't been spotted. Between her focus and her age, the typical signs didn't pop up on anyone's radar screen. Her insight, even the standard six-month depression with the onset of her awakening, would have been chalked up to mere genius.
Erin eyeballed my book, then asked, "Why would a first year math student be reading a text on manifold theory?"
"I wanted to see what the real work looks like," I responded, as if I really were the blueflame special I'd come across as that morning.
"You already pulled off that trick once today," Erin said, with a bit of flint in her voice.
"The I'm-so-excited-to-learn trick," she said. "I pay attention when someone subtle gets me out of a spot."
I looked out the window into the twilit gloom. I shouldn't have gotten into this deep a conversation with an aeonic. Even if she didn't know what she was.
"I was always really good at math as a kid; really, very good," I said. "I did the equivalent to a bachelor's before I was sixteen. My parents homeschooled me."
Erin was really watching now. I hoped the boy genius bit would get some sympathy. It didn't.
"So you're just getting back to it after fourteen years?"
"If it makes any difference," I said, letting an edge creep into my responses, "I left home at fifteen years."
"I make you at thirty," she said, "so you could understand differential geometry at fifteen?"
"Algebra and number theory," I said, "please try to get it right. Not all of us are happy in school. I hated it, and I was homeschooled."
She stepped down a bit, surprised, but didn't step back. I had a problem on my hands.
She asked, "So why come back now?"
"Because I learned a lesson out in the real world," I said. "No matter what you can do, people won't hire you if you don't have credentials. I don't have a trust fund, so I couldn't just spend my days running around in the woods."
She blushed a little at the trust-fund bit, so I worked that angle more.
"I can't say it wouldn't be nice, getting to choose whatever field I'd get to work in because I didn't have to worry about how lucrative my degree would be," I said. "But I'm good at math, and I'm better at tracking. So I decided I'd put the two together and make sure no one could hold a paycheck over my head."
"Look, I'm sorry," she said. "I see a gap I can't understand and I go right at it."
"Well, I'd advise you to not go at this gap," I said.
"No kidding," she said, and smiled.
No human being, well, no man, that is, with breath in his lungs could remain irritated at that smile. Not to say I wasn't watchful, but I gave her a chance to stop edging up to my bulkhead.
"I just can't believe someone with your skill wouldn't be in the academy," she said.
"Not a chance," I said. "I'm getting the degree and getting out."
She looked disappointed as we went on with our discourse about logos and light. Once she was back in her zone, though, she forgot about the other and happily continued about the Word. I swallowed a disappointment of my own. Too bad I was on mission, I thought, because it would sure be nice to get to know the Reverend Doctor Erin Macgregor.
"No!" She yelped as she looked at her watch. "Do you have any idea what time it is?"
"9:30, give or take a few minutes," I replied.
"You didn't say anything?"
"You're a big girl," I said, "and I was enjoying the conversation. May I walk you home?"
"Yeah, that'd be nice," she said. "I can't believe I let the time get away from me."
As we walked up the street, she asked, "You don't wear a watch, so how did you know what time it was?"
"Practice, practice," I said, "and more practice."
I pointed out where and when the sun set in late November, when Orion rose, how the wind shifted after twilight in the area. Then she told me a lot about Saturn, and we ended up talking about nocturnal plants and how flowers bloom at night.CHAPTER 3
As pleasant as that first conversation was, I now had a problem on my hands. I had a very specific job to do, one that required a tightrope walk for four years. It definitely didn't include relationships that went beyond the pleasantly informal. More to the point, the woman I had to go striking sparks off of turned out to be an undiscovered aeonic who had also managed to pledge herself to a celibate life dedicated to transcendental beauty-all while getting a Ph.D. and being installed as a minister by the age of twenty-five.
Instead of breaking protocol, though, I waited until the next morning, after my 8:00 am calculus class, and made an appointment with my handler. Since he was my calc prof, this wasn't difficult. I walked up to the podium after class and waited until he noticed me.
"Yes, Mr. Harrison?"
"I'd like to talk with you about limit convergence. These delta-eps proofs are a pain," I said.
"Sure," he said. "How about one o'clock?"
"That'd be perfect," I replied. "Thank you."
At one on the button, I knocked on Professor Franck's door. I felt the numb tingle of a babble box starting up. The babble box made any conversation taking place within its field sound like the most mind-numbing boredom imaginable, which, according to some opinions, would be a conversation about freshman calculus.
"Mr. Harrison," he said, "come in."
I walked in and sat down. I pulled out my calculus book and started in on a basic question about limits. The very kind of thing a first-year student with ambition would ask his professor. He answered me in kind until the babble box had enough time to spin up its static field.
Excerpted from On Causal Shores by Soren Knox. Copyright © 2013 Soren Knox. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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